All season long, the National League West has been kind of a joke. It houses a team with the league’s worst pitching (Colorado), a team with the league’s worst offense (San Diego), and a team that has given Adam Kennedy 58 plate appearances in the fifth spot of the lineup (Los Angeles). The pre-season favorite was probably the Diamondbacks, but they were four games under .500 as recently as July 19 and have only recently started to make a run. Now that the pitching laden Giants and Dodgers have used the trade deadline to acquire much needed offensive help, the division has suddenly become very interesting, and a case could be made for any of those three teams to finish the season at the top.
San Francisco Giants (56-48)
The Giants are getting the benefit of a breakout season from Melky Cabrera (4.2 WAR per FanGraphs), and Buster Posey is always worth talking about. They added an additional capable bat at the deadline when they acquired Hunter Pence from the Phillies, and while their pitching is not as good as the Dodgers, the gap is not an especially wide one. You have to respect a starting rotation that features a trio as good as Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Tim Lincecum. Before the recent trades made by both teams, San Francisco was effectively the Dodgers with less pitching and more offense.
Los Angeles Dodgers (56-50)
Always known for their pitching, Los Angeles made a couple of savvy moves when they added Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino, two solid bats that are also capable of playing premium positions. It’s good they made an attempt to bolster their lineup, because it was just awful prior to the aforementioned moves. A.J. Ellis is having a fine season, but by and large it’s been The Matt Kemp Show with occasional guest appearances by Andre Ethier this season for the Dodgers. Even if your rotation does feature Clayton Kershaw and your closer does have a 0.88 WHIP, it’s tough to be a true contender with just two real threats in the every day lineup.
Arizona Diamondbacks (54-51)
The most balanced team in the division, Arizona features a potent offensive attack that ranks third in the National League in runs scored and overall OPS as well as an extremely underrated pitching staff. Don’t be so quick to dismiss the performance of Wade Miley or Trevor Cahill; neither one features sexy stats or a big name, but they’re serious control artists with a knack for getting tons of ground ball outs. That skill set is extremely valuable in a home stadium that’s so friendly to hitters. Ian Kennedy has established himself as a very good pitcher over the past few seasons as well, and even Joe Saunders is putting up respectable numbers this year.
It’s shaping up to be a wild finish out west. Even without the big splashes their competitors made, I maintain the Diamondbacks are the best of the three teams, but you have to appreciate the offensive-minded strings pulled by the other two playoff hopefuls. Give the Giants and Dodgers credit; they saw a legitimate shot at the post-season and made the necessary mid-season adjustments. Veteran acquisitions at the deadline, even ones that may turn out to be just rentals, are justifiable when a team has a reason to peddle win now propaganda, and both teams fall well within that category. As a result, a division I previously held little but disdain for is now looking to be a very intriguing one down the stretch.