The month of April had its fair share of surprises in Major League Baseball. The Milwaukee Brewers had the best turn around in the league, the Boston Red Sox struggled to regain their World Series composure, and the Arizona Diamondbacks may be one of the worst teams in baseball (more on that later).
The NL West is still one of the most complicated divisions in baseball. Every team, except maybe the Diamondbacks, is easily capable of being the last team standing in October. However, here are some interesting observations from the first month of the season:
Before the season, the Diamondbacks looked to be the team to finally take the NL West away from the Los Angeles Dodgers and/or the San Francisco Giants. However, after an error filled April, it looks as though the Diamondbacks will need a Christmas, Easter, and 4th of July miracle to get them out of the NL West Cellar. After a 3-4 loss to the Padres on Sunday, Arizona sits at an 11-23 record on the season, good for 5th in a division that did not have a team over .500 just a few years ago. Their pitching is not performing, but their defense has been the killer for them in the first month, killing any sort of rally they could come up with. Paul Goldschmidt is the one shining star that could get the Diamondbacks out of the gutter, but it may not be enough to keep his manager and general managers jobs.
Prediction: With the help of Goldschmidt, the Diamondbacks surpass the Padres and get out of the cellar. The only way they break the .500 mark is if their pitching and defense improve in addition to Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Uncle Sam pooling their money together to give the D-backs a baseball miracle.
What can I say. The Rockies may be one of the most surprising teams in baseball, behind the Milwaukee Brewers that is. Despite their 5-1 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday, the Rockies offensive power seems to have come out of no where. Former Minnesota Twins star Justin Morneau seems to no longer be hindered by concussion syndromes, and emerging star Nolan Arenado has a 24 game hit streak. The Rockies currently lead the National League in OPS, and their pitching has kept visiting teams relatively quiet in the high altitudes of Denver. There is the big, lingering question though: can the Rockies keep this up?
Prediction: If shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Morneau, and the pitching rotation stays healthy, the Rockies may be able to make a surprise run to the playoffs in 2014. However, if one of these three things falls apart, the Rockies may suddenly plunge to the depths of the division.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
What did we expect from the Dodgers? The team centered in LA and owned by Magic Johnson. Naturally, we expected drama, just maybe not in the way fans were expecting. The Dodgers have been plagued with Yasiel Puig drama on top of injuries. However, the Dodgers are still within striking distance and there is a lot of season left. With Kershaw and Grienke, the Dodgers are poised to make a run later in the season. Also, in their latest season against the Twins, the Dodgers showed fans that they still have the power to make a run for the division.
Prediction: The Dodgers have a summer surge and make things interesting in the NL West. However, if the injury bug continues to bite, they may only be good enough for a wild card position at best.
San Diego Padres:
Luckily, the San Diego Padres are exactly what many people expected them to be: bad but not terrible, good but not great. The Padres have had some victories over some premiere teams in the league, but still sit at a measly 14-18. Still, they are in 4th place in the NL West and playing much better baseball than Diamondbacks.
Prediction: The Padres will end the season no where near the playoff race. However, the race to stay out of the bottom of the West will certainly be interesting.
San Francisco Giants:
Remember that team that won the World Series two years ago? Yeah, that is who these Giants look like. The Giants are coming off a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves and are flying high at the top of the NL West. They currently hold a 20-11 record and a two game lead over the Rockies in the top of the division. It’s only May, but these Giants are certainly legit. The Giants have to be careful with star catcher Buster Posey, though, if they want to maintain their position. Posey started his 9th game in a row on Sunday, but he needs to stay healthy for the entire season if the Giants want to stay on top of the NL West.
Prediction: The Giants’s success in 2014 depends on their star catcher and the stability of their pitching staff. They have the power in the line up to play at this elite level all season, but the question remains on whether or not their pitching can keep them there. Also, the injury bug bit the Giants hard last year and severely limited their productivity. If they avoid the injury bug, San Francisco will be able to return to World Series form and make yet another run for the World Series trophy.