The National League West has been quite the battle this season. This type of parity is great for the game.
It should not have been this way on the cusp of the 2018 All-Star Game but here we are. As of this writing, there are four teams in the National League West with an above .500 record and all of them are within, at least, three games of first place.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have taken over as top dogs of the NL West, leading the gritty Arizona Diamondbacks by half a game. Technically, yes, the Dodgers are where they were expected to be: first place. With that said, it was never supposed to be this close and the Dodgers have had to fight an uphill battle to get here after an extremely rocky start.
According to Fangraphs playoff odds, the Dodgers entered the season with the best World Series chances in the National League at 13.5 percent. Since the other juggernauts in the NL have experienced their own struggles (Nationals and Cubs), L.A. still has the highest World Series odds in the league. In fact, their 13.2 percent odds of winning it all are right on par with what they started out with.
It seems very likely that Dodgers will win their division and it could realistically be done pretty handedly. They probably still are the best team in the National League, despite how close the standings are on July 14th. Fangraphs gives them a 77.9 percent chance of winning the division, while the next closest team, the D’backs, has a 14.2 percent shot. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants (5.0%) and Colorado Rockies (2.9%) have very low odds of winning the NL West crown.
Even though the Dodgers chances of winning the West are so high, it was not always like this. Sure, they started out with extremely favorable odds but, after a rough April and early-to-mid May, the D’backs actually overtook them in the division odds. On May 16th, the Dodgers sunk to their lowest point (32.2 percent NL West odds) of the season but have made an admirable climb to where they are now.
While Los Angeles has played excellent baseball over roughly the last two months, some credit has to go to the Diamondbacks’ epically-bad May. Arizona went 8-19 in the month, losing their grasp on the NL West lead.
The Dodgers overtook the Diamondbacks recently, surging with a 25-12 record since the beginning of June. As mentioned, they seem poised to stay at the top with incredibly good odds to win not only the division, but the National League.
However, outside of the odds, there is a surprisingly close race happening in the N.L. West. Even if the Dodgers win the division, the Diamondbacks, Giants and Rockies could all be vying for a Wild Card spot.
Since the second Wild Card team (the Atlanta Braves) has the same record as the Dodgers, the NL West competitors find themselves the same amount of games back as they are in the West. The D’backs are a half game out of a playoff spot and the Giants and Rockies are three.
It is possible that three teams from the NL West are in the playoffs by year’s end, like last season, although you could say that about any National League division at this point. In fact, all the NL divisions have surprising parity this season, but none have four teams over .500.