MLB: NL West First Half Recap and Second Half Preview
The National League West will be a two-team battle heading down the stretch in 2014 as three of my five preseason predictions in the division are still in tact. Check out the 1st half recap and 2nd half preview for the competitive NL West.
Recap for the 1st Half:
I had the Los Angeles Dodgers (54-43) finishing in first place and they are sitting atop the NL West at the All-Star Break. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw is having yet another stellar season as he is 11-2 with a 1.78 ERA. Kershaw pitched 41 consecutive scoreless innings at one point in the first half, including a no-hitter against Colorado in which he struck out 15 Rockies. The Dodgers are riding a 21-5 stretch into the All-Star break and currently have the best record in the National League.
My preseason NL West runner up was the Orange and Black of the San Francisco Giants (52-43) and they are one game behind the first place Dodgers. After starting out 42-21 and holding a 9.5 game lead in the division, they posted a horrendous 10-22 record from June 9 to the break. Before June 9 the Giants were averaging 4.3 runs per game, while hitting 69 homeruns, but since then they have averaged just over three runs a game and have only hit 17 big flies. The Giants are 38-15 this year when hitting at least one home run.
The third spot in the NL West is where I made my first mistake. When I wrote my preview, it was before Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks had been ruled out for the year due to a torn UCL. The third spot doesn’t belong to the Diamondbacks as I had projected, but instead belongs to the San Diego Padres (41-54). The Padres pitching has done well behind Tyson Ross and Huston Street, but their offense ranks last in the Major Leagues in runs scored, RBI, batting average, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage.
The Colorado Rockies (40-55) were my pick for the fourth spot in the West and that is exactly where they can be found. Colorado started off hot, but injuries to Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, mixed with inconsistent pitching has brought them to a whopping 15 games under .500. Colorado is the opposite of San Diego as they are pure offense. The Rockies have scored the third most runs, while posting the best batting average in the MLB. Their pitching staff has the worst ERA in the bigs and has allowed more runs than any other team.
After a 9-22 month of April the Arizona Diamondbacks (40-56) have gone 31-34. The D’Backs have been without Mark Trumbo since late-April and will hopefully have him back for the 2nd half. All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt currently leads the team with 16 home runs and 61 RBI. Continued consistency for Arizona down the stretch could push them past Colorado and San Diego.
Division Predictions for the 2nd Half:
I am going to venture back to my pre-season predictions for the placement of the five National League West teams with the Dodgers winning the division and finishing with the NL’s best record. The Giants will come in second place and win a spot in the wild-card game. The Diamondbacks will fight out of the cellar and come away with the third spot. The Rockies will remain where they are at the break in fourth place. Finally, the Padres will sink to the bottom of the division due to their inefficiency with the bat.
Clayton Kershaw will continue his dominance on the mound and will come away with NL Cy Young award for the third time in four seasons. He has 126 strikeouts and 13 walks through 96.1 innings pitched this year and will look to post a sub-2.00 ERA for the second straight year after going 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA a year ago.
Tim Lincecum (9-5) has found his old self in his last four starts of the first half, starting from his no-hitter against the Padres. He has only given up one earned run in the past 30.1 innings pitched and has only allowed ten hits in that stretch as well, while striking out 24 batters. “The Freak” will win five more games in the second half and finish with an ERA below 3.60.
Troy Tulowitzki is having a career year as he is hitting .345 with a .435 OBP to go along with a National League high 21 home runs. Trade talks have swirled around Tulo for the past couple years now, but Colorado will not trade their star player. Tulowitzki would be a favorite for the NL MVP if the Rockies had a better record. If Colorado makes a miraculous turn around in the 2nd half, Tulowitzki may come away with some hardware at the end of the season.