Heading into this Tuesday’s MLB All-Star Game, the closest division battle is in the NL West where the Los Angeles Dodgers are a half a game ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks. In Major League Baseball terms, the Dodgers are about a whisker ahead of the D’Backs to the finish line.
The race between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks in the second half of the current MLB Season figures to be a huge story. Can the Dodgers maintain their whisker lead? Will the D’Backs rediscover their April form?
NL West: Dodgers vs D’Backs is the Story
Let’s first analyze the L.A Dodgers. Then, we’ll get to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers’ World Series odds on MyBookie are at double-digits. The Dodgers’ odds have risen in just the past couple of days from +875 to +1000. The reason? MLB handicappers aren’t as bullish on LAD beating Arizona for the NL West Division the way they were just two weeks ago.
The hesitation makes sense. When the Dodgers marched to the NL Pennant last season, the bullpen ranked in the Top 3 in Team ERA. This season, the Dodgers’ bullpen Team ERA is 3.80. That’s good enough to rank 13th in Major League Baseball.
LAD’s bullpen issues are a problem because the Dodgers’ rotation has a Team ERA of 3.52. That ranks third in MLB. What it means is that the bullpen is wasting great 5 to 7 innings pitching from Dodger starters.
How does the team from Chavez-Ravine hit? The Team Batting Average is a less than stellar .244. that ranks 20th in MLB.
The Arizona Diamondbacks started the season hot. It looked like they might run away with the NL West Division. But, like it always happens in baseball, teams cool off after hot starts. Arizona’s World Series odds of +1600 are higher than the Dodgers’ World Series odds.
When it comes to pitching, AZ is a contrast to the L.A. Dodgers. While the Dodgers have struggles in the bullpen, AZ’s bullpen ranks third in MLB in Team ERA. The Diamondbacks’ bullpen has a 2.85 ERA. That’s fantastic.
Arizona’s starting rotation isn’t as bad as you might think, either. The starters at Arizona have a Team ERA of 3.63. Only Houston, the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Cubs, and Boston have a better Team ERA than the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D’Backs are the third worst hitting team in MLB, though. The team batting average is a horrendous .229.
Biggest NL West Question: Will the Dodgers Find a Bullpen?
The Dodgers appear to have a better starting rotation as well as a better batting lineup than the Arizona Diamondbacks. So, the real question is whether the Dodgers will find a bullpen. If LAD manages to trade for at least one set-up man who can get them to closer Kenley Jansen, they should win the NL West.
Why only one set-up man? Dodger starters could pitch 6 innings to 7 innings a game. That leaves one inning for the bridge reliever to the set-up reliever.
If the Dodgers don’t find that set-up reliever, all bets are off. Arizona only must get their bats going to overtake the Dodgers in the NL West.
Dodger fans should be worried. No word yet on whether L.A. intends on trading for a set-up reliever. That means the likelihood of the Dodgers solving their bullpen issues are much less favorable than the likelihood of Arizona’s bats getting hot.
Unless the Dodgers find that all-important set-up reliever, the Arizona Diamondbacks figure to win the NL West Division.