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Sports Then and Now

MLB Mid Season Report Card: Part 3 – NL West

Posted on July 15, 2010 by Don Spieles

San Diego Padres (51-37): A+

San Diego Padres' Adrian Gonzales watches his pop fly to Seattle Mariners' third baseman Mat Tuiasosopo in the third inning at SAFECO Field in Seattle May 23, 2010. The Padres beat the Mariners 8-1. UPI/Jim Bryant Photo via Newscom

Once predicted to be the major trade piece for later in July, Adrian Gonzales is going to stay put with the first place Padres.

There are lots of surprises in the standings right now, but none as astounding as the first place Padres. Leading in to the season, the Pads were on a lot of radar screens, but only because the general consensus was that by this point in the season there would be an on going circus of teams trying to get Adrian Gonzalez. Low and behold, here we sit, about sixteen days from the trade deadline and one this is pretty certain: Gonzalez is going nowhere.

Gonzalez is having a productive year (18 home runs, .301 average, 56 RBI) as most everyone thought he would. The thing is that, even though no one else on the team has more than 8 homers, and even though the Padres are 12th in the NL in runs scored, they are at the top of the West (closely followed by the Rockies.)

The Padres pitching is the reason. San Diego has given up the fewest runs in the NL (304), they are 3rd best in strikeouts (603) and 3rd best in bases-on-balls (279). Their bullpen has 18 wins and 25 saves to their credit, which bolsters the starting five, all but one of which (Kevin Correia) have a sub-four ERA.

The Padre’s are not too shabby on defense. Their top nine position players (by innings played) have a total of 25 errors over 88 games. (For a little perspective, compaired to the other NL division leaders, the Pads are tops. Using the same formula, the Braves have 47errors, the Reds have 27.)

Don’t be fooled into thinking that the Padres are a post season surety. If the Padres cannot stay ahead of the Rockies, the Dodgers, Met’s and Phillies would all be within 1.5 games of the wild-card – if it were decided today, that is.

Colorado Rockies (49-39): A

Where as most folks had the Padres in the cellar, many had the Rockies a top the NL West as opening day approached. They are awfully close to that right now, despite not having star shortstop Troy Tulowitski.

Colorado’s offense is doing a great job. They are in the NL top three in runs, hits, triples, bases-on-balls, average, on-base percentage, slugging, and fewest strikeouts.

From the mound, of course the big story is Ubaldo Jimenez, he of the no-hitter, 2.20 era, and 15-1 record (that’s thirty percent of their wins thus far!) No other starter has more that 7 wins (Jason Hammel), and the whole bullpen has accounted for only 12 saves so far this year. However, the record doesn’t lie.

The Rockeis have some history as a second half team and they are the favorites for taking the division, despite their current 1/2 game deficit.

Los Angeles Dodgers (49-39): B-

Why does a team with the exact same record as Colorado get a lower grade? For one thing, the Dodgers have payroll of roughly $21 million dollars more than the Rockies. For another, many of their current woes are self inflicted, such as distractions caused by divorces, on-again-off-again enthusiasm from players, and such.

July 11, 2010 Los Angeles, CA..Matt Kemp of the Dodgers in action during the Major League Baseball game between the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Dodgers defeated the Cubs, 7-0..Josh Thompson/CSM.

When Matt Kemp is in the mood, he can be a real asset to the Dodgers. Problem is, he's not always in that mood.

Another reason has to do with managers. Where as the Rockeis have Jim Tracy who replaced Clint Hurdle mid-2009, the Dodger have Joe Torre. Joe Torre could manage a group of punch-drunk monkeys to the post season, yet he can’t gt this team a top the NL West? What does that tell you? The Dodgers are, in a word, mediocre. They are in the middle of the pack in their division and in all offensive and defensive stats, they are no better than 3rd and no worse than 10th. If there was ever a team that needed a fire lit under it it is these Dodgers. Here’s the other bad news. From what MLB Network Radio was reporting yesterday, the Dodgers are financially vacant. The pending divorce has put a nix on all spending and has been doing so for awhile. Larry King, in an interview on that radio station yesterday, claimed to have it under good authority that the Dodgers were in position last year to trade for both Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell in exchange for James Loney and two minor leagers. According to King, it was the Dodgers who pulled the plug because they could not be sure they’d be able to pay Gonzalez for the 2010 season. What all that boils down to is that the Dodgers have no wiggle room to pick up anyone for a second half push. They are buyers with no bread.

San Francisco Giants (47-41): C The Giants are exactly where everyone thought they would be, in the middle with too long a climb up. The story was predictable; lots of pitching, no offense. While the Giants are among NL leaders in ERA (3.50), saves (28), home runs allowed (67), and number one in strike outs (712), their offence simply cannot cut the mustard. The Giant bats are no better then fifth in any offensive category, including bottom five slots in runs, stolen bases, strike outs, and OPS.

Arizona Diamondbacks (34-55): F

July 02, 2010 - Phoenix, ARIZONA, UNITED STATES - epa02234649 Arizona Diamondbacks Kirk Gibson newly appointed acting head manager during the fourth inning of the regular season game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, 02 July 2010.

Kirk Gibson, acting manager of the Diamondbacks.

The mirror image of the Giants is the Diamondbacks. While they are capable of putting up runs (404, 7th in the NL) and they have no less than six starters with 10 or more home runs, their anemic pitching has let them down.

Of the all the pitchers with 20 or more innings of work for Arizona not one has an ERA of less than 4.00, they are last in the NL in hits allowed, runs allowed, home runs allowed, and team ERA.

Perhaps the worst past of the whole mess is that Kirk Gibson was appointed acting manager a few weeks ago.  Gibson is a pretty substantial baseball legend and he might make a good manager, assuming his time in Arizona doesn’t ruin his chances elsewhere.

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