We’re now through substantially more than one third of the regular season. The competitive picture is still unfolding, to be sure, and the trade deadline promises to bring notable roster changes as well. But the general outlines of the postseason race are at least beginning to reveal themselves.
In most divisions, there’s a yawning gap at some point that separates the still-competitive teams from those that seem too far back to mount a charge. In fact, there are spreads of at least 6.5 games present in every division … except for one.
With ~60 games in the books, the NL West has played itself to a near-standstill.
It wasn’t long ago that the D-Backs were sprinting ahead of the pack with the Rockies chasing after them like an eager young pup. The Dodgers were seemingly stuck in second gear, while the Giants were flying like a wounded duck.
If you can forgive that hodgepodge of metaphors and similes, the general picture was one in which last year’s pair of surprise NL Wild Card winners from Arizona and Colorado were doubling down. Meanwhile, the old guard California clubs were not just turning in a mediocre showing on the field, but were facing increasingly worrisome injury situations.
Wait … are we leaving someone out? Ah yes, the Padres. Despite making a big free-agent investment in Eric Hosmer and extending (rather than trading) closer Brad Hand, the San Diego organization was not even seen as a dark-horse contender in all but the most optimistic quarters. And the team’s early record reflected that questionable outlook, making it easy to assume at the time that they wouldn’t factor into the race except as a potential late-season spoiler.
And now? Well, regression has taken its revenge, and done so swiftly. The teams are lined up neatly in a row, one behind the next. Even the Padres are within 4.5 games of first — closer than all but 8 other teams chasing leaders in other divisions. There’s a rather tight spread of talent distribution, too, particularly with the Dodgers losing Corey Seager for the year and Clayton Kershaw for an as-yet-undetermined stretch.
So, with something approaching a reset in the NL West, which team do you see as the favorite the rest of the way? (Team order randomized; app users can access the poll by clicking here.)