Before we get into the actual rankings, let’s discuss the NL West. No, not the hapless Rockies or Diamondbacks. Let’s discuss the three-headed monster atop the division.
Throwing out 2020 due to being 60 games and having an expanded playoff field, we’ve seen the same division produce three playoff teams four times (2013 NL Central, 2015 NL Central, 2016 AL East and 2017 NL West).
As things currently stand, the Giants lead the NL West while the Padres and Dodgers would be the two wild cards. Not only that, but those three teams have the three best records in the entire National League. The last time one division had the three best records in the league was 2015, when, astoundingly, the Cardinals (100-62), Pirates (98-64) and Cubs (97-65) actually ended up with the three best records in all of baseball.
Could the NL West this season pull off a similar feat?
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The Giants have been pretty consistent all season. Since May 5, they’ve gone 19-9 and that included a forgettable weekend at home where the Dodgers swept them. They’ve been ridiculously hard to beat, otherwise. The Giants have gotten excellent work from the rotation, notably possible All-Star Game starter Kevin Gausman. They have good bullpen pieces and the offense has flexed its power muscles all year. I’ve questioned their staying power at times, but — as The Rock might say — it doesn’t matter what I think. The Giants have played at this level long enough that they’ve bought themselves some room for a downturn. They have 103 games left. If they went 51-52 the rest of the way, that’s an 88-win season. Look at the East and Central and ask yourself if the runner-up will get to 88 wins. I think the answer is no.
The Padres just suffered through one of their worst weeks of the season, record-wise, but they were facing two first-place teams. We’ve seen what kind of talent they have throughout the season. They are pitching as well as anyone. The offense needs to be more consistent, but the personnel is there. They are on pace for 96 wins and that seems about right. Also, we know general manager A.J. Preller will be aggressive in July regarding the trade market.
The Dodgers are on pace for 93 wins and that’s after losing 15 of 20 at one point. The schedule is pretty soft here for the next few weeks, so they’ll likely get hot. We know all about the talent this team has and we’ve seen what it can do when things are going right.
SportsLine right now has the Dodgers winning 100 games, the Padres 96 and Giants 93. In that projection system, those would be the top three records in the NL and only two AL teams (Rays and White Sox) are projected for more. The three top run differentials in the NL are the Dodgers (+83), Giants and Padres (both +70). Next would be the Cubs at +30 and then the Mets at +11. Every other team is in the negative. For real. That’s how big the power divide is in the NL this season between the West and everyone else.
The Ji-Man Choi loss hurts, but the Rays can absorb it. They’ve won 19 of their last 23 and are very worthy of holding down the top spot.
The biggest division lead in baseball belongs to the White Sox. They haven’t won the division since 2008.
The Red Sox went 0-7 in Yankee Stadium last year and 1-8 there in 2019. They didn’t even win a series there in 2018, when they won 108 games, going 3-6. This weekend, the Red Sox went into the Bronx and got the three-game sweep. Impressive stuff.
Evan Longoria colliding with Brandon Crawford on Saturday might be a bit costly. Longoria — like several of his teammates — was having a fountain-of-youth season. The current line is .280/.376/.516, which is good for a 150 OPS+. He’s now on the shelf for 4-6 weeks.
It feels like they really need leadoff man Trent Grisham in the lineup. He’s on the injured list right now, but the Padres are 23-13 when he plays and 13-12 when he doesn’t.
Their next four opponents: Pirates, Rangers, Phillies and Diamondbacks.
They just wrapped up a 5-2 week against the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Not too shabby.
Patrick Wisdom has had 34 at-bats this season. He has seven homers. A strong wind blowing in at Wrigley cost him one, too. It’s been quite the power surge to watch.
The A’s are only 17-17 at home, but they’ve been absolute road warriors (18-9) and that’s how they’ve held onto first place.
Heating up: In his last 11 games, James McCann is hitting .300 with five homers and 13 RBI.
They’ve won nine of their last 10 and have surged to a first-place tie with the Cubs. They don’t play a team with a winning record again until June 28 (when it’s the Cubs, naturally).
I can’t help but wonder how much not having a real home messes with them. They are 17-14 on the road while they went 10-11 in Dunedin. Maybe Buffalo helps them find comfort. They’ve gone 3-2 there so far.
Weird week. They took two of three from the White Sox to climb to within 2 1/2 games in the Central, but then lost two of three to the Orioles, including coughing up 18 runs on Sunday (three different pitchers allowed at least five runs, which is pretty hard to pull off).
The downward spiral continues. Since sweeping the White Sox, the Yankees have lost 10 of 13. They are 6 1/2 games out and sit in fourth place.
Another tease job? The Braves just took two of three from the Dodgers! It is now June 7 and they still haven’t been above .500 all year. Will three games in Philly do the trick? Maybe the three after that in Miami?
Just like that, they’ve won six of seven and are only four games out in the NL Central. The last time the Reds swept the Cardinals in four games in St. Louis was 1990 (Reds fans might fondly recall how that year ended up). Luis Castillo might be fixed, too! What a big week for the Redlegs.
The Cardinals have only won six of their last 17 games and three of those wins came against the D-Backs. Jack Flaherty is out for a while. This isn’t going well.
Right-handed starter Jackson Kowar makes his debut Monday. In Triple-A to this point, he was 5-0 with a 0.85 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 41 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings. Should be fun to see how he fares as the Royals continue to hang around in contention.
Workhorse Zack Wheeler leads the NL in innings pitched and he’s on a run right now, putting up a 1.65 ERA in his last six outings. He’s struck out 59 against six walks in 43 2/3 innings in that time. And yet, the Phillies have only gone 6-6 when he starts this year.
Justin Upton is on a hot streak right now. In his last 12 games, he’s hit .333 with four doubles, five homers, 11 RBI and 12 runs.
Jarred Kelenic has a promising future and there’s still no reason to think otherwise, but he might need a trip back to the minors to clear his head. He hasn’t gotten a hit since May 25. That’s 0 for 37 with 17 strikeouts.
Is Juan Soto getting into power surge mode? He was shockingly slugging just .385 through May 30. Since then he’s gone 8 for 23 (.348) with a triple and three homers. The slugging is now .449. If you’re curious, he slugged .695 last year and, yes, that led the majors.
Since the beginning of May, former first overall draft pick Casey Mize has pitched to a 2.13 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in 38 innings. He’s holding opponents to a .168/.241/.298 line.
Love seeing Ke’Bryan Hayes back. He’d been out since the second game of the season. Since his return he’s played four games and has gone 7 for 18 (.389) with a double, triple and home run.
The Marlins had lost eight in a row before finally winning on Sunday against the Pirates.
They just continue to squander chances and it might be too late. In order to get to 90 wins, the Twins would have to go 66-37 the rest of the way. That’s a 162-game pace of a 104-win team. Can these guys really play like that for 103 games? Would 90 wins even get them in the playoffs? I’d be pretty comfortable declaring them cooked.
Most attention is correctly on Trevor Story in terms of the July trade market, but Jon Gray is a free agent after the season and was having a great year. But then he got crushed on Friday and fell injured.
Perhaps something to watch: The Rangers have lost 15 straight road games. The record is 22. Also, see the Diamondbacks comment.
After losing 18 or their last 19 games in May, the Orioles are now 4-1 in June. It’s a comeback!
We noted the Rangers’ road losing streak. Well, the D-Backs are here to overshadow them. Arizona has lost 17 straight road games. The upcoming road opponents? The A’s, Giants, Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers, Cubs and uh oh, this could really leave a mark.