Major League Baseball: Once upon a time in the NL West
In our season previews we picked out the National League West as being an exciting one to watch, and thus far it has proved to be the case.
However it has been the San Diego Padres, the consensus pick to finish in the basement, who are leading the way as June approaches.
The Padres sit in first place in the West in possession of the best record in the National League at 28-18. As you might predict from a team playing in PETCO Park, the Padres success has not been built on hitting prowess.
In most of the key hitting categories, you will find the Padres towards the bottom of the list. In average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home runs, they are 14th of 16 teams in the National League. Hometown hero Adrian Gonzalez does merit a mention here, with 9 home runs, and a near .400 OBP thus far.
On the other hand, they are playing their version of small-ball very well. They are coming up with plenty of sacrifice hits, staying out of the double play, and they lead the Majors in stolen bases. They are not scoring a lot of runs, but they are scoring enough.
Of course, it is much easier to score Ã¢â‚¬Ëœenough’ runs when your pitching has been as good as it has for the Padres over the first two months of the season. They have given up the fewest runs of any team in the Majors, with a 2.85 staff ERA, including nine shutouts.
Jon Garland has led the way with his 2.10 ERA, but the rest of the rotation have been extremely solid, with Clayton Richard, Mat Latos and Wade LeBlanc all posting sub-4 ERAs. Even the worst of the bunch, Kevin Correia, comes in at 4.03.
The Padres really are a perfect example of a team playing to its strengths. Whether they can maintain this pace remains to be seen, but the division is certainly set up for any team to make a break for the title with any kind of good run.
Around the rest of the division, things also remain interesting.
Ubaldo Jimenez continued his amazing season on Wednesday night, winning his ninth decision of the year, his ERA dropping to 0.88. The victory over the struggling Diamondbacks was their fifth straight win, and it is hard to not get that sense that if the Rockies can unite behind Jimenez in what is so far a historically-good season, they could really get on a roll.
Despite all their off-field problems, the Dodgers sit in second place, a couple of games back on the Padres. Further north, the San Francisco Giants are also above .500 and certainly well-placed to make a run at the division. The basement is currently occupied by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it’s not difficult to see why; a 5.81 staff ERA, good enough for dead last amongst the 30 Major League teams.
Star winter addition to their starting rotation, Edwin Jackson, is currently sat on a 6.28 earned run average, and the bullpen is getting crushed from top to bottom. They are not out of it yet -they have actually scored more runs than any other NL team -but unless the pitching starts to click soon, it won’t be long until they are.
Finally another division to keep an eye on will be the East division, which is shaping up to provide some great entertainment. After Wednesday night’s games, all five teams are within two wins of each other.
Even perennial strugglers Washington are sitting pretty at 24-24 -and that is before phenom Stephen Strasburg has even been called up. He is expected to get the nod in time to make his Major League debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates for a June 8th -10th series -just under a year since he was drafted by the Nats.
The Phillies hold on to a narrow one game lead, after being swept by the Mets in New York last night – failing to score a single run in the entire three game series.