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NL West Roundup: Who Has Raised Their Game and Who Hasn’t?

Not all the key players have performed as expected in the first half.

As far as contenders, the National League West has three. But those three, while the teams expected to fill those roles, haven’t gotten there the expected way.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have established a comfortable 10-game lead over the second-place San Diego Padres thanks to terrific starting pitching and a pretty decent offense, which still could get better. The Padres have also had very good performances from their rotation and a better bullpen than last year, but the offense has misfired with underperformances and a key missing ingredient. Meanwhile, the third-place San Francisco Giants have not been able to rekindle the magic they rode to 107 wins last year.

That all means the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks are holding down fourth and fifth. What happens between now and the Aug. 2 trade deadline will determine how competitive they will be as the top three battle for the division or wild-card spots.

There are reasons for success and failure on each team, so let’s see who is stepping up and who needs to in this NL West update.

 

NL West Standings

 

Diamondbacks

 

What has worked: Four members of the starting rotation have turned in solid first halves: left-hander Madison Bumgarner (5-9, 3.83 ERA), right-hander Merrill Kelly (9-5, 3.26 ERA), right-hander Zac Gallen (4-2, 3.56 ERA) and right-hander Zach Davies (2-4, 3.94 ERA). In the bullpen, lefty Joe Mantiply earned an All-Star selection with his 2.21 ERA in 39 appearances. Lefty Kyle Nelson (1.82 ERA, 34 games) has been a surprise. First baseman Christian Walker, while only slashing .204/.319/.460, has crushed 22 homers with 46 RBIs.

What hasn’t: Six of the eight players with at least 200 plate appearances are hitting .250 or below. Three pitchers with at least 29 appearances (Noé Ramirez, Mark Melancon, J.B. Wendelken) have an ERA north of 5.00. Several have tried, but no one can hold down the No. 5 spot in the rotation, including left-hander Dallas Kuechel, who is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA in four starts.

Injuries: Right-handed reliever Ian Kennedy (blood cot in right calf) is expected to be activated after the break. Davies (right shoulder inflammation) is out indefinitely, as is right-handed reliever J.B. Bukauskas (teres major).

 

Dodgers

 

What has worked: Right-hander Tony Gonsolin has been the surprise of the rotation, going 11-0 with a 2.02 ERA, earning an All-Star nod. Left-hander Clayton Kershaw returned from a back injury and is 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA and was named the NL All-Star starter. Left-hander Tyler Anderon is 10-1 with a 2.96 ERA,  starting 15 of the 17 games he has appeared in. Lefty Julio Urías has a 2.89 in 18 starts. Right-hander Evan Phillips (1.50 ERA) has emerged and taken a key role in the bullpen. Shortstop Trea Turner is slashing .306/.354/.493 with 14 homers and 68 RBIs. Right fielder Mookie Betts has cooled off a bit after a sizzling May and has 20 homers and 47 RBIs. First baseman Freddie Freeman, who signed a six-year, $162 million contract, is slashing .321/.397/.530 with 13 homers and 59 RBIs.

What hasn’t: Center fielder Cody Bellinger continues to be a mystery, slashing .210/.270/.377 with 11 homers and 31 RBIs. Infielder Max Muncy (.160/.316/.315, 9 HRs, 30 RBIs) has seen his playing time reduced.

Injuries: Right-handed reliever Brusdar Graterol (right shoulder inflammation) went on the IL last week and it is unknown how long he will be out. Left-handed starter Andrew Heaney (left shoulder inflammation) is likely to return after the All-Star break. Outfielder Chris Taylor (broken left foot) is out indefinitely.

 

Giants

 

What has worked: Right-hander Logan Webb (9-3, 2.83 ERA) and left-hander Carlos Rodón (8-5, 2.66 ERA), signed to a two-year, $44 million contract, have been the stalwarts of the starting rotation, with right-hander Jakob Junis (4-1, 3.06 in 10 games, seven starts) has been a pleasant surprise. Right-hander Camilo Doval has been fairly solid in his late-game role, with a 2.95 ERA and converting 12 of 14 save chances, while right-hander Jarlín García (1.91 ERA) has worked his way into a more prominent role. Left fielder Joc Pederson was a surprise NL All-Star starter and has cranked out 17 homers with 43 RBIs while slashing .252/.331/.517. Infielder Wilmer Flores is second on the team with 13 homers.

What hasn’t: Shortstop Brandon Crawford, coming off a .298/.373/.522 season with 24 homers and 90 RBIs, is at .215/.297/.332 with five homers and 33 RBIs. First baseman Brandon Belt has been on and off the IL, slashing .243/.355/.426 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 52 games. Rookie catcher Joey Bart, the heir to Buster Posey’s throne, was sent down to the minors to get going offensively and is slashing .185/.307/.361 with six homers and 12 RBIs in 47 games. Would-be closer Jake McGee was so bad (7.17 ERA) that the Giants recently released him. Right-hander Anthony DeSclafani, a key to last year’s rotation, has been hurt and only started five games with a 9.95 ERA before it was determined his season was over due to right ankle surgery.

Injuries: Crawford (left knee inflammation) went on the IL for the second time this season over the weekend, less than two weeks after being activated. Right-handed reliever Mauricio Llovera (right flexor strain) was injured Saturday and is still being evaluated. Backup catcher Curt Casali (right oblique strain) and right-hander Zack Littell (left oblique strain) are both expected back in August. Left-hander José Álvarez (left elbow inflammation) is continuing to rehab his injury instead of having surgery and might be back in September.

 

Padres

 

What has worked: Right-hander Joe Musgrove has emerged as a true ace, going 8-2 with a 2.42 ERA and 102 strikeouts in 104 innings. Yu Darvish (3.41 ERA) and swingman Nick Martinez (3.62 ERA, 10 starts in 19 appearances) have provided production from the rotation, while Nabil Crismatt (2.72 ERA) has been a workhorse out of the bullpen. Closer Tyler Rogers, acquired on Opening Day, has converted 26 of 31 save opportunities. Third baseman Manny Machado has been the rock of the offense, slashing .303/.377/.513 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs, while designated hitter Luke Voit has been a secondary source of power with 12 long balls.

What hasn’t: The offense has yet to catch fire and that could be attributed to missing star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. due to wrist surgery. Tatis has resumed swinging and will need a rehab assignment before returning, likely in August. Center fielder Trent Grisham has struggled mightily, slashing .190/.292/.330 with nine homers and 33 RBIs, and second baseman Jake Cronenworth has yet to get going and is at .241/.335/.394 with nine homers and 49 RBIs. Right fielder Wil Myers has been hurt and is slashing only .234/276/.304  with one homer and 19 RBIs in 32 games.

Injuries: Myers (right knee inflammation) is on a rehab assignment and could be close to returning. Right-handed reliever Craig Stammen (right shoulder inflammation) has not resumed throwing since last pitching on July 4. Right-handed reliever Pierce Johnson (right elbow tendinitis) has been throwing bullpens but not yet hitters. Right-handed reliever Robert Suarez (right knee surgery) also has been throwing bullpens and could be back in August. Left-handed reliever Drew Pomeranz (flexor tendon surgery) has been taking it slow and throwing off the mound, possibly with a late August return.

 

Rockies

 

What has worked: There have been a few bright spots in a rocky first half for the Rockies. All-Star first baseman C.J. Cron is slashing .298/.350/.552 with a team-best 21 homers and 69 RBIs. Designated hitter Charlie Blackmon has rebounded from a slow start to get to .277/.326/.426 with 14 homers and 54 RBIs. Even shortstop José Iglesias is at .301/.340/.404 with three homers and 34 RBIs. A few bullpen arms have been solid, led by closer Daniel Bard (2.02 ERA, 20-of-22 in saves), Alex Colomé (2.86 ERA, 4-of-5 saves), Tyler Kinley (0.75 ERA), and Lucas Gilbreath (3.30 ERA). Unfortunately, Kinley’s season came to an end when he tore his right flexor tendon and needed surgery.

What hasn’t: Left fielder Kris Bryant, signed to a seven-year, $182 million contract, has been on the injured list twice and has a .302 batting average, but has just four homers in 33 games and didn’t hit his first one until July 5. Four of the five pitchers who have made double-digit starts have an ERA of 4.95 or above (Chad Kuhl is at 4.11). Three relievers (Carlos Estévez, Robert Stephenson, and Jhoulys Chacín) who have more than 30 appearances have ERAs of 5.17, 5.32, and 7.23, respectively.

Injuries: Right-handed starter Antonio Senzatela (right shoulder tightness) could be on the verge of returning, but the Rockies want to make sure he is ready after other injuries since spring.

 

Note: Injury updates from MLB.com.

 

Photo by Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Steve Drumwright

Steve Drumwright is a lifelong baseball fan who retired as a player before he had the chance to be cut from the freshman team in high school. He recovered to become a sportswriter and have a successful journalism career at newspapers in Wisconsin and California. Follow him on Twitter @DrummerWrites.

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