How quickly time flies! Less than a month ago we were taking a look at how teams were handling the craziness associated with this 2020 season. Now, as we head deeper into September, it’s time to check back in. Most teams have gotten through roughly two-thirds of their regular season schedule. We’ve also seen the trade deadline come and go. So – with all of that as a backdrop – let’s have a look at where teams stand, and where they hope to go over the final stretch of the season.
Today: The National League West
The Rockies started the season by shooting themselves out of a cannon with a hot 11-3 record. The Rockies have since come back down to earth and are now hovering around the .500 mark. But hey, a wildcard spot is still a wild card spot.
Charlie Blackmon, who was on another planet at the start of the season, has returned to his mortal status. Blackmon was hitting above .400 early on in the year, but went arctic freeze in the last two weeks of August, hitting just .143.
Raimel Tapia put together an incredible August, hitting .343 and racking up 23 hits in 21 games, up from his .154 to start the season. If the Rockies can keep Tapia hot, their lineup goes from “tough to pitch against” to “how do I pitch to this lineup?”
But as was true in the first 20 games of the season, the Rockies pitching staff is still failing to pitch at the major league level. With NL worsts in hits, earned runs, ERA, strikeouts, and the 5th worst WHIP in the entire league, the Rockies have a pitching problem. And playing half your games at Coors Field only exacerbates the problem.
The Rockies, much like their record, seem to be teetering on the edge. If things can turn around, they can stay in the playoff hunt. If things continue to get worse on the mound, the Rockies might just collapse into a pile of rubble. If they want to make a push, they need to start now.
The Dodgers continue to be what they have been for the last few years: arguably the best team in baseball.
The Dodgers are fighting to take that arguably out of the converstation, and the early reports have them at a 22% chance of winning rings in 2020.
The Dodgers are an offensive powerhouse, that’s been said before, and they continue to hold top spots in almost every offensive category. Led by the hot bats of Corey Seager and Mookie Betts, where this team becomes dangerous is in the lesser feared spots in their lineup. Over the last month, guys like Chris Taylor, Matt Beatty, and Austin Barnes showed up and showed off. This is an exhausting Dodgers lineup to pitch to, and if they can stay hot through the postseason, their bats are their ticket to glory.
Their pitching staff is equally scary. The starter with the team’s highest ERA is Walker Buehler, who sits at 3.60. There are teams in the playoff hunt without a pitcher below the 4.00 ERA mark, let alone all of them.
The bullpen has also kept up their end of the bargain. Blake Treinen has been off the charts nasty, as has Dylan Floro. Even more exciting for Dodgers fans is Kenley Jansen‘s absolute dominance in the closer role. In 19 appearances, Jansen has only surrendered seven hits and two earned runs, striking out 24 in the process. Jansen’s 24 Ks are less than a handful shy of Julio Urias and Dustin May‘s totals in almost double the amount of innings.
The Dodgers are scary. Well, they’ve always been scary, but this year they’re determined to win.
THE SLAM DIEGO PADRES ARE REAL, PEOPLE. GET INTO IT.
The last time the Padres made the postseason was 2006 when Bruce Bochy was their manager and Mike Cameron their best player. And now they’re in second place in the West, and they’re only getting stronger.
During a trade deadline that many teams slept on, the Padres executed a perfect plan to not only push for the title this year but also reshuffle their roster for upcoming seasons. Adding Mike Clevinger at the deadline adds firepower to an already potent and youthful rotation. If Chris Paddack can return to his 2019 form, this rotation is tough to beat.
At the dish, the Padres continue to rake. With the NL’s best Slugging, OPS, OPS+, it’s no wonder they lead the league in runs scored, stolen bases, and find themselves top-5 for hits, doubles, triples, home runs, walks, average and on-base percentage.
With Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Manny Machado leading the charge, this Padres team has more than earned their monicker of Slam Diego. This team is built on their explosive power, and unless there’s another Ice Age on the horizon, there are no signs of them slowing down. But then again, it is 2020, so another Ice Age might be a possibility.
The Diamondbacks would probably like to forget the 2020 season as soon as it’s over and look to the horizon for brighter days.
The D-Backs hitters find themselves in the NL’s Top-5 for doubles, caught stealing, strikeouts, hit-by-pitches and sac flies. That’s not great. That’s very much not desirable.
Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly remain the two bright spots taking the mound for Arizona this year. Who would have thought that in a year where Madison Bumgarner joins the roster, these two would be the defacto Aces of the rotation? However, after Kelly was scratched from a start due to a right shoulder nerve impingement, he was placed on the 45-Day IL. Another blow to an already rough season.
So what do you do in a shortened season with no chance of climbing out of the hole you put yourself in? Sell at the deadline.
Credit where credit is due, this was a great deadline for the D-Backs. Sending Starling Marte to the Marlins snagged them Caleb Smith, who has shown flashes of brilliance, and Humberto Meijia, who despite not playing above Single-A ball, showed up for the COVID-stricken Marlins this year.
Dealing Robbie Ray and Archie Bradley also netted the D-Backs some fresh faces, setting themselves up to reboot for the 2021 season. And at this point, that’s really all you can ask from them. Reboot and rebuild.
Well, not sure if you heard, but Brandon Belt is back in a big way in San Francisco. The Giants first baseman showed up and showed off in August slashing a solid .360/.442/.693, with an OPS of 1.135 in over the last month. Belt also smacked 8 doubles and 5 home runs in August propelling him into a hot September. But he’s not the only Brandon to return to form in August.
Brandon Crawford, historically undervalued on DraftKings, hit .312 last month, putting up a .929 OPS, giving the Giants extra firepower in the back end of the lineup.
If there’s a team to be worried about moving towards the end of the season and the playoff push, it’s the San Francisco Giants. Their offense sports the second-best average in the NL, the most hits, and are Top-5 in On-Base percentage, Slugging, doubles, triples, and total bases.
This Giants team is sneaky good offensively, it’s their pitching that could topple everything.
This Giants pitching staff is quite literally the opposite of their offense. While their bats are just below the top spot, their arms are hovering just above the worst. Their team ERA of 5.00 is 13th in the NL. The 194 earned runs they’ve given up are second-to-last, and are only better than the Rockies who play at Coors.
If this Giants team has an Achilles heel it’s their pitching staff. Except it’s less of a heel and moreso the entire body.
The Weeks Ahead
The Dodgers are going to run away with this division. That’s a fact. They’re the best team in baseball, and it’ll take a lot of luck and a drastic turn of events for them to fall off. That being said, the race for second-place might not be as locked in as we think.
The Giants and Rockies bring far more experience to the table than the Padres, who might just be playing with fire. However, if there was a problem for the Padres, wouldn’t opponents have found it by now?
And even if the Padres can hold the second spot, the Giants and Rockies are very much in the hunt for the two wildcard spots.
The fact remains that the NL West is one of the most fun divisions to watch, thanks in part to its competitive nature and the bombastic offenses it plays host to.
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