Jake Roth/USA Today

NL West a Two-Team Race At the All-Star Break

The NL West is a two-dog fight at the outset of the second half. How did it get that way?

 

TEAM

W

L

PCT

GB

STRK

San Francisco

57

33

.633

-

W4

Los Angeles

51

40

.560

6.5

W3

Colorado

40

48

.455

16

L1

San Diego

38

51

.427

18.5

L3

Arizona

38

52

.422

19

L4



To the surprise of few, the NL West looks to be pretty clearly two-tiered division as the second half of the season gets underway.  The Giants and Dodgers are likely to be strong bets for the postseason, while the rest of the division is left to fight it out for the bronze.  Outside of Dave Stewart’s mind, this is probably not a big shock, though if there is one common thread running through most of the division, it’s the role injuries played and likely will play from here on out, contenders and pretenders included.

 

San Francisco Giants

 

Runs Scored:  424 (4th NL)

Runs Allowed: 351 (5th NL)

 

What’s Gone Right:  Pretty much everything, from the big ticket acquisitions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the franchise cornerstones Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner delivering.   The Brandons became All-Stars this year, and Hunter Pence was producing at a Harper-ian level before he got injured.  Belt has been a top 5 hitter based on wRC+ and Posey’s 128 wRC+ is second for catchers in the NL. A word of caution about Belt: he’s sporting an absolutely unsustainable BABIP of .355 right now.

One part of their game that is absolutely helping the Giants right now is defense.  The advanced metrics love them.  Their Defensive Runs Above Average per FanGraphs sits at 39.3, a full ten runs better than the second-best Cubs.  Their UZR is second best at 32.3, and for those of you into the more conventional metrics, they’ve made the fifth-fewest errors in the NL.

Problems:  While they have had nowhere near the problems with injuries that have crippled the Dodgers, the Giants do have three starters on the shelf in Joe Panik, Matt Duffy, and Hunter Pence.  Duffy had been struggling, but Pence was performing at an All-Star clip. All three are on the road back, with Panik and Pence likely returning in late July. Matt Cain and reliever Cody Gearrin are also on the DL, with no set timetables for either.

The Giants bullpen has not been the clown car many have portrayed it.  San Francisco’s bullpen has a 3.96 FIP, which is sixth in the league.  Now, Bruce Bochy has also used his bullpen the second fewest innings in the National League.  They produce the most grounders in the NL, which plays right to their airtight infield defense.  That all being said, if the Giants make a major in-season move (and they will), it’s the bullpen they will likely attempt to bolster for the stretch run.

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Runs Scored: 382 (9th NL)

Runs Allowed:  329 (4th NL)

 

What’s Gone Right:  Clayton Kershaw, to the surprise of no one.  Before heading to the disabled list, Kershaw was on the way to an historic season, built upon a staggering 16/1 strikeout to walk ratio.  The second best NL Starter, Noah Syndergaard, has a 7/1 K/BB ratio.  Kershaw’s WHIP sits at 0.73, best in the league ahead of Max Scherzer and Bumgarner.

Corey Seager is an All-Star.  He leads the Dodgers in hits, home runs, doubles, and runs, and is only two off the pace for the club lead in RBI’s.  Should he lead the Dodgers in all five categories he’d be the first player to do so as a rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001.  With virtually all of the veterans around him on the Dodger infield slumping for large chunks of the season, Seager has at times single-handedly kept the Dodger offense afloat, highlighted by his three-homer game against Atlanta at Dodger Stadium on June 4th.

The Dodger bullpen has also been exceptional, especially given a workload that has been growing steadily as Dodger starters, many of whom have only been back recently, struggle to pitch deep into games.  In the seven days prior to the break, the Dodger pen logged 36 innings, most in the NL over that span. Despite the strain, the Dodger bullpen has a 3.54 FIP, second-best in the NL for the entire season.  Once more, we bring you some BABIP caution:  The bullpen has enjoyed the good fortune of a .237 BABIP so far, a number as unsustainable as Brandon Belt’s .355 BABIP as a hitter.

Problems:  Offense and injuries, pure and simple.  Veterans like Yasmani Grandal, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, and Yasiel Puig have slumped to varying degrees in the first half, and it’s hamstrung an offense that has simply not kept pace with the Giants.  The good news is that all four of those players have shown signs, sustained and in short bursts, that they are likely to perform much closer to their higher established levels.  The outfield is where the injuries and the offense have fused to really cause the Dodgers’ problems.  Left field has been a disaster, in large part because at bats that would have gone to the injured Andre Ethier instead went to a group of players who could not at all approximate Ethier’s career numbers against right-handed pitchers.  Puig spent time on the DL as well, though he has performed much better since returning.  Joc Pederson was performing at a high level until crashing into the wall in Milwaukee chasing down a bomb hit by Chris Carter.  Despite legit concerns about the starting staff and the bullpen, if the Dodger offense gets made whole again for at least a couple months, that’s the biggest step they can take towards catching and passing the Giants.

 

Colorado Rockies

 

Runs Scored:  454 (3rd NL)

Runs Allowed:  468 (14th)

 

What’s Gone Right:  Offense has not ever been a problem in Denver, and the Rockies’ run shows it’s not a problem in 2016 either. Are they getting a Coors Field boost?  Oh yes.  Colorado’s 283 wRC+ as a team is the best home mark in the NL, as is its .349 BABIP.  On the road?  That wRC+ falls to 173, 12th in the league along with a BABIP of .290.  Coors Field quite simply defines this team, for better (offense) and for worse (pitching).

Problems:  Not getting to play 162 games in Denver for the hitters, and not getting to play 162 games on the road for the pitchers.  The Rockies’ pitching staff has a 4.75 FIP in Denver, 13th in the league, and their 1.61 WHIP is the highest in the Senior Circuit.  Those numbers drop to 3.98 (5th) and 1.28 (7th) outside of Denver.  Those aren’t elite numbers, but they are decent and certainly enough to be team much closer to .500 than where they currently sit. Colorado’s defense has been essentially league average, and their bullpen has not been overtaxed.  The bats don’t leave Blake Street, and the arms can’t handle the altitude. It’s hard to see how this group changes either of those realities in 2016.

 

San Diego Padres

 

Runs Scored:  393 (8th NL)

Runs Allowed:  441 (12th NL)

 

What’s Gone Right:  Wil Myers stayed healthy and became an All-Star, and Drew Pomerantz grew into a legit ace. Myers’ .369 wOBA is 22nd overall in the NL.  Pomerantz has pitched to a 3.18 FIP, good for 8th-best in the National League. San Diego’s bullpen FIP sits at 4.08, basically average for the league, and that’s over 311.2 innings, third highest total for an NL bullpen. Yangervis Solarte has developed into a strong hitter at third.  Solarte’s 142 wRC+ would put him among the upper third in NL third basemen were he to have the requisite number of plate appearances.

Problems:  San Diego’s defense has undermined its pitching dramatically.  The Padres currently have a -21.7 Defensive Runs Above Average Rating, second worst in the National League.  This number sticks out pretty dramatically when looking at Padre woes. Based on UZR, San Diego’s biggest struggles have come on the left side of the infield.  At shortstop, the Padres have a -15.1 UZR, worst in the NL.  At third, they’ve got a -5.6 UZR, which is second worst in the league. Wil Myers has helped the Padres post the best first base UZR this year, but when short and third are setting you back so dramatically, it’s going to be hard to overcome.  A team playing in Petco Park has only itself to blame if it can’t sustain better than average pitching numbers, and that’s where the Padres sit at the break.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 

Runs Scored:  402 (7th NL)

Runs Allowed:  456 (13th NL)

 

What’s Gone Right:  In Jake Lamb (152 wRC+) and Paul Goldschmidt (142 wRC+), the Snakes have two of the best 10 hitters in the National League. Jean Segura, at 110, is also having a nice season. Other than that, it’s crickets……..

Problems:  Injuries have really hurt Arizona’s season.  A.J. Pollock has been lost for most of the season, and Zack Greinke, David Peralta, and Chris Owings are all on the DL.  All of those players are expected to return at some point in the second half.  It’s not likely to make much of a difference this year, but Arizona went on a spending spree this past offseason that did not set them up to deal with a last place position in the standings.

LIke the Padres, the D-Backs have hurt themselves defensively.  They sit at -14.8 in Defensive Runs Saved, 11th in the National League. Arizona’s bullpen FIP is also 11th at 4.29.  Their starters also sit at 11th in FIP, and 13th in WHIP at 1.44.  So combine weak pitching with weak defense, and a league-average offense has little chance to keep the team above water.  They may play in the desert, but defense and pitching have drowned the Snakes in 2016.





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