As an incredible and exciting All-Star week is now behind teams, fans can now prepare for the second half of the Major League Baseball season. The trade deadline is 21-days away, and teams will know attempt to put their best foot forward as they jockey for playoff positioning. Here are some key storylines for the National League West as we enter the second phase of the season.
Could This Be The Year For The Dodgers
Theoretically, the Dodgers could have the National League West title wrapped up by the end of August. They have a 13.5 game lead over the second place Diamondbacks, and have the best run differential in the Majors at +129. The Dodgers are a complete team, and have so far not been in a bad situation. Their longest losing streak came between April 8-13, where they lost six straight. They have since had two six-game winning streaks, and three four-game winning streaks. Cody Bellinger is the clear front runner for National League MVP, hitting .336 with 30 home runs and 71 RBIs. And Hyun-Jin Ryu is making a case for the Cy Young with an ERA of 1.73 and 10 wins. The starting pitching is loaded with Walker Buehler and perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw also having incredible seasons. The Dodgers have been the best team in the league all season, and are on pace to win 110 games this season. After years of “almost”, this could be the year they finally win a World Series.
Any Other Playoff Teams
It’s a long season and anything can happen, but the rest of the teams in the division will probably not challenge the Dodgers for the division crown. Instead, they will be battling for Wild Card spots. The remaining four teams are within 5.5 games of the final spot. The surprising Diamondbacks are 1.5 games back, while the Padres are two back. Colorado is 2.5 back and the Giants are 5.5 back. Don’t expect the Giants to move too much, as they will probably sell their pieces at the trade deadline and begin their rebuild. It will be interesting to see what the other three teams do at the deadline with a Wild Card spot so close. Arizona has winning records against teams in the NL Central and NL East, Colorado and San Diego are close to .500. This will make for some exciting baseball these final three months.
The Giants will be sellers and have a few intriguing pieces that they could sell for prospects. They will listen to offers for Madison Bumgarner and All-Star closer Will Smith. The Rockies will be buyers as they need starting pitching and bullpen help, and could use another bat off the bench. They may hold on looking for starting pitching to see how Kyle Freeland when he returns from his demotion. The Padres could also be buyers, as they have stayed around .500 for most of the season. Manny Machado is looking like the old Manny again, and Hunter Renfroe and Fernando Tatis, Jr. have heated up as well. The Diamondbacks could wait another week to see how they are competing still and decide if they want to buy or sell.
Rockies Pitching Woes
A bright spot for the club last season, pitching has been a disaster this season. Kyle Freeland was demoted in May as his ERA ballooned to 7.13, while Tyler Anderson was demoted as well after his ERA went to 11.76. Anderson is now done for the season after knee surgery. Only Jon Gray and German Marquez remain, while rookies fill-in the gaps. The bullpen has been just as bad with Wade Davis being shaky in the last month. Bryan Shaw started good but had an awful appearance against the Astros before the break. Scott Oberg and Jake McGee have been the only bright spots out of the bullpen this season. Should the Rockies compete for a Wild card spot, they will need to buy big at the trade deadline.
Bruce Bochy Retirement
Giants Manager Bruce Bochy announced he was retiring at the end of the season. He managed the Padres for 12 seasons, and the Giants for 13 seasons. In 25 season as a manager, he made four World Series appearances and won three. He was National League Manager of the Year in 1996 with the Padres, and won his 1,000th game as a manager this season. Bochy is certain to be in the Hall of Fame as every manager who has won three World Series titles have been enshrined in the Hall.
Featured image courtesy of The Athletic
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