Monday, August 15, 2011

The State of the NL West

Before I begin this post, I would like to apologize to all of the readers out there who waited and waited and waited for me to publish a post. I was in the middle of the wilderness with hardly any internet access, which means almost no sporting world coverage, which means that it would be generally irresponsible for me to chime in on any of the world's goings on. Or maybe it was just my mom who was waiting for months for me to publish. Whatever the case, I am now, once again, a regular contributor to The Point After! Lets get on with it...

The Wild West indeed. Well...maybe not. Looking at the standings on this sunny day from my home in San Francisco, the West is a two team story. Forget about last year's plucky Padres, or '08 and '09's dynamic Dodgers. You should even forget about the horrible Arizona Diamondbacks of last year. Why? Because the Diamondbacks went from the 3rd worst team in all of baseball to a team that is currently two games ahead of last year's World Series Champions the San Francisco Giants. And while the rest of the NL West is almost completely out of the picture (barring a minor miracle), the landscape of the NL West really comes down to two teams. The Arizona Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants.

Lets start with the Arizona Diamondbacks. After a series of moves to strengthen an absolutely wretched bullpen in the offseason, a team that always had a collection of young superstars in waiting is starting to bloom. Led by the ultratalented Justin Upton, the recently broken Stephen Drew, a resurgent J.J. Putz and a very underrated collection of starters led by former Yankee Ian Kennedy. At 68-53, the Diamondbacks have made a complete 180 from last season, already improving on their win total from last year with a month and a half to play. As a Giants fan I believed that they were a mirage a month ago. Now, with them taking the lead from the Giants, I'm not so sure.

The Diamondbacks suffered a huge blow in the losses of Stephen Drew and, more recently, Jason Marquis yesterday. Stephen Drew is the bigger of the two losses, as he plays everyday and Marquis only affects a game every five days. So far the Diamondbacks have been able to keep pace with the Giants, but as we get deeper into the dog days of the summer, will the Dbacks fade or surge past the Giants? Only September will tell.

Meanwhile, the Giants have been just awful in the last month. Their offense ranks among the lowest in the majors in almost every single statistical category, they are scoring almost a run less per game then they were during last years title run. Their big trade deadline acquisition, Carlos Beltran, hasn't played in week and has been considered a bust by many for what they gave up to bring him to the City By The Bay. And yet, they are still in middle of this race for one reason: Their pitching staff.

By pitching staff, I'm talking about the entirety of their 13 man pitching staff. The starters are well heralded, to be sure, but their bullpen is one of the best in the Majors. Brian Wilson and his beard are tied for 2nd in saves in the MLB. Sergio Romo is having an almost historical season. And let's not forget what Javier Lopez did to the Phillies left handed juggernauts in the NLCS and continues to do this season. Every single member of the bullpen is a strength. Of course there are relievers that Giants fans would prefer to have in the game at any point, but realistically, each one is having a great season and can shut the door at a moments notice.

The West is going to shape up to be an unbelievable run at the postseason once again. Wild West indeed.

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