MLB: NL West Memorial Day Week Check-In

The NL West has been the personal playground of the Los Angeles Dodgers, at least during the regular season for a long time now. The Dodgers have had issues in the postseason—including with division rivals the last two years—but they usually dominate the 162-game haul. That’s what was expected again in 2024, and so far, that’s what’s being delivered.

Here’s a breakdown of a division that still has three additional teams—the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks—in position to get into the playoffs.

Los Angeles (33-22)
For a team with the massive payroll the Dodgers have, they are really not well-constructed. There’s significant depth problems in the outfield and the starting rotation. But they have stars that carry the load.

Mookie Betts is having one of the truly amazing years of what is already a career certainly headed for Cooperstown. The outfielder made the switch to shortstop, a seemingly impossible task. He’s done it smoothly and at no cost to his offensive production. Mookie has an off-the-charts stat line of .431 OBP/.542 slugging percentage. I don’t see how any MVP conversation doesn’t begin—and perhaps be limited to—him.

Shohei Otani has bounced back from elbow surgery and is delivering the goods since coming across town from the Angels. Able to focus exclusively on hitting, Shohei’s stat line is .403/.621.

The Dodger offense gets further augmented by Freddie Freeman, who hasn’t even really picked up his power pace yet and Will Smith, one of the league’s best offensive catchers. Teoscar Hernandez has 12 homers. L.A.’s offense, even playing in a pitcher-friendly park, ranks second in the National League for runs scored.

Pitching ranks third, although the same park qualifier has to be used as a negative here. Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinubu Yamamota have been steady, but not spectacular. The same goes for James Paxton. The one spectacular arm has been closer Evan Phillips, with 0.66 ERA.

Manager Dave Roberts gets a lot of heat for L.A.’s repeated postseason disappointments. That comes with the territory with this kind of a payroll, but don’t overlook the fact that Roberts consistently pieces a bullpen together, even with less than ideal parts. So far this year, Dodger relievers rank first in the National League. And for the rotation, Clayton Kershaw is expected back in July.

So, it looks like the typical Los Angeles team. They’re top-heavy on stars, and they have a manager who puts the rest of the overpaid scrap heap together. That spells a runaway for the division title. But perhaps does not address the playoff vulnerability. Which heightens interest among the distant challengers.

San Francisco (28-27) – San Diego (29-28)
The Giants are hanging in there on the strength of the NL’s fifth-best offense. That offense is primarily fueled by first baseman LaMonte Wade. A rare breed at his position, Wade is much more of a contact hitter than a classic power corner infielder. He hits—with a .333 batting average. And his astonishing OBP of .470 tells you he’s patient at the plate. But the slugging percentage is a more pedestrian .426. Patrick Bailey is having a good year behind the plate, batting .308.

San Francisco needs Matt Chapman and Mike Yastrzemski to start hitting, and Michael Conforto and Nick Ahmed to get healthy. In the meantime, the Giants are giving some at-bats to kids in Luis Matos and Heliot Ramos, who have some promise.

What the Giants really need though is pitching. Logan Webb and Jordan Hicks have been solid, with sub-3.00 ERAs. The rest of the staff is a nightmare. Blake Snell is continuing his roller-coaster career, again following a Cy Young season with mediocrity. Actually, with a 10.42 ERA, Blake is striving to reach mediocrity right now. Even closer Camilio Doval, while respectable with a 2.78 ERA, isn’t dominant like he was a year ago. And SF’s composite staff ERA is an unsustainable 13th in the National League. Either that gets better or the Giants fall fast.

San Diego’s an interesting team. They underperformed dramatically a year ago and went out and hired Mike Shildt, a former division-winning manager in St. Louis. The Padres are getting a good year at the plate from Jurickson Profar, who is hitting .319. They also went out and made a significant addition. The loss of Xander Bogaerts prompted San Diego to acquire Luis Arraez from Miami earlier this month. The two-time defending batting champ is churning out hits. And even with Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. not really in gear yet, the Padre offense is fourth in the National League.

The starting pitching is a problem. After Yu Darvis, no one is consistent, and Joe Musgrove is really struggling with a 5.66 ERA. The only thing holding the staff together is the great work of closer Roberto Suarez, who has saved 16 games with an 0.73 ERA. If you’re looking for a positive, it’s that it would seem Musgrove is highly likely to get better.

Arizona (25-28)
Their magical October run to the World Series obscured the fact that the Diamondbacks were just an 84-78 team during the regular season in 2023. Hence, their 25-28 record at this point can’t be considered a major shock. The biggest problem has been a pitching staff that ranks 12th in the National League for composite ERA.

Here’s the good news—new acquisition Jordan Montgomery is bound to pitch better than his 4.69 ERA over seven starts. The Diamondbacks are, at some point, going to get Merrill Kelly and Eduardo Rodriguez back for the rotation.

Arizona’s everyday lineup, while ranking fifth in a hitter-friendly park, has similar upside. Corbin Carroll is really struggling in his sophomore year, only hitting .188. While a player falling off after a big rookie season is hardly unheard of, this is really extreme and would point to better days ahead. Eugenio Suarez is off to a poor start at third base.

The positives for the Diamondbacks are the hitting of Christian Walker and Ketel Marte (10 homers apiece) and Joc Pederson (.397/.538 stat line), and the pitching of rotation ace Zac Gallen (10 starts, 3.12 ERA). And in a National League where everyone fighting for the last two wild-card spots is around .500, Arizona is still right there.

Colorado (19-34)
The Rockies were expected to lose over 100 games and are delivering as expected. Rather than dump on them, we’ll just highlight some positive performances amidst the wreckage. Elias Diaz is quietly one of several good offensive catchers in this division, batting over. 300. Jacob Stallings also gets some time behind the dish and has a stat line of .408/.508. No one in baseball has a 1-2 punch at catcher like Colorado does. Ryan McMahon has a .370/.490 stat line. And the rotation leaders, Austin Gomber (2.76 ERA) and Cal Quantrill (3.53 ERA) are doing pretty well, especially given they work in Coors Field. They just need a lot of help—or to be traded at some point during the summer.

I alluded to the conclusion already. Los Angeles has got this in the bag, even if the margin is just five games right now. The middle three teams are the ones worth paying attention to this summer, as the wild-card race sorts itself out. I’ve got my eye on San Diego to see if they can make up for last year’s flameout.