Highlighting the Early Standouts of the NL West
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A week and a half into the 2013 season and the National League West is already looking to be one of the most exciting and competitive divisions in all of baseball.
Carl Crawford and Troy Tulowitzki look to be back in full form, and pitchers like Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner are already dominantly pitching like they have the playoffs in sight.
The Dodgers and their new ownership, led by basketball legend Magic Johnson, have the highest payroll in the National League.
The Giants are coming off of winning two World Series in the last three years and don't look to be slowing down or losing momentum.
The youthful Diamondbacks are currently tied for the league lead with the Giants (six wins) and look to be maturing and improving with every game they play.
And though the Rockies and Padres aren't projected to finish at the top of the league, both teams have plenty of young players that can turn heads as the season goes on.
It's safe to say that the West is the division to beat in the National League, and there's sure to be plenty of action and breakout stars as 2013 progresses.
Let's take a look at some of the early standout stars in the National League West...
San Francisco Giants: 6-3, Tied for 1st Place
Will the Kung-Fu Panda have a huge year?
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The San Francisco Giants have proven to the world that even though they don't have the highest payroll in baseball, team chemistry goes a long way toward winning games and championships.
With two World Series wins in the past three years, the Giants are arguably the favorites to win the National League West and could realistically make another run at a third title.
So who's currently putting up the best numbers at the plate?
Angel Pagan - .361/.395/.444, 13 hits, 1 double, 1 triple, 4 RBI, 8 runs scored, 1 stolen base.
Pablo Sandoval - .345/.424/.552, 9 hits, 2 home runs, 6 RBI, 2 runs scored.
And though Buster Posey got off to a rather slow start, he did go 3-for-5 today with three RBI, two runs scored, a triple, a double and was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle.
How about pitching? I already mentioned Bumgarner's exceptional start, but what about Barry Zito and the rest of the staff?
Barry Zito - 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 14 IP, 8 strikeouts, .204 opposing average, 1.00 WHIP
Madison Bumgarner - 2-0, 1.32 ERA, 13.2 IP, 11 strikeouts, .156 opposing average, 0.88 WHIP
And though a now clean-cut Tim Lincecum currently has a 4.91 ERA with 11 walks in 11 innings pitched, he also has 11 strikeouts and an opposing average of only .175. I also feel that his new look means that his focus in on baseball and getting back to the World Series.
The Giants are good. If they stay healthy, they are still the team to beat in the National League West.
Arizona Diamondbacks: 6-3, Tied for 1st Place
Can the D'backs' bats keep up their current success?
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The Diamondbacks may have lost Justin Upton to the Braves and have a relatively young team, but that doesn't mean that they won't be competitive this year in the National League West.
Led by first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and starting pitcher Wade Miley, the D'backs may not have the sexiest lineup on paper, but they sure aren't playing like a mediocre team.
Paul Goldschmidt - .343/.429/.629, 12 hits, 2 home runs, 4 doubles, 8 RBI, 10 runs scored.
Gerardo Parra - .341/.413/.585, 14 hits, 1 home run, 1 triple, 5 doubles, 2 RBI, 7 runs scored, 2 stolen bases.
Jason Kubel - .310/.355/.586, 9 hits, 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 6 RBI, 5 runs scored.
Miguel Montero - .300/.385/.433, 9 hits, 1 home run, 1 double, 7 RBI, 6 runs scored.
Aaron Hill - .294/.400/.529, 10 hits, 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 5 RBI, 5 runs scored.
The D'backs' bats are alive, and even bench players like Alfredo Marte and Eric Hinske are productively contributing to their current success.
So how about their pitching?
Wade Miley - 2-0, 2.13 ERA, 12.2 IP, 13 strikeouts, .222 opposing average, 1.11 WHIP
And though the rest of the starting staff (with the exception of Patrick Corbin) are off to a shaky start, the team's bats are keeping it in games and putting wins up on the board.
Will they win the division?
It's going to be tough competing against the powerful lineups of the Giants and the Dodgers, but anything is possible when your starting players are healthy and your position players are putting their bats on the ball.
Los Angeles Dodgers: 4-3, 3rd Place
Can the Dodgers stay healthy and win it all?
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With one of the most impressive lineups in all of baseball, if the Dodgers can just stay healthy, their lineup is as dangerous as any team.
With some monster late-season moves last season in addition to some equally huge offseason acquisitions, overnight the Dodgers become the NL squad with the highest and are definitively one of the biggest threats in the West.
But I think we all know by now that big-budget payrolls don't necessarily translate into championships. However, if this team stays healthy and produces the way many in baseball know it is capable of, the Dodgers will certainly be at the top of the division by the end of year.
Carl Crawford - .458/.519/.542, 11 hits, 2 doubles, 6 runs scored, 2 stolen bases.
Adrian Gonzalez - .435/.536/.522, 10 hits, 2 doubles, 6 RBI, 1 run scored.
Mark Ellis - .348/.400/.391, 8 hits, 1 double, 1 RBI, 3 runs scored, 1 stolen base.
Andre Ethier - .318/.348/.545, 7 hits, 1 home run, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 1 run scored.
Okay, so Matt Kemp is off to a slow start and Hanley Ramirez still hasn't had a regular-season at-bat, but just imagine when all that changes and the Dodgers have all of their starters in the lineup. It could get interesting really quick, and it's without a doubt that this team has the ability to put up a ton of runs.
Clayton Kershaw - 2-0, 0.00 ERA, 16 IP, 16 strikeouts, .118 opposing average, 0.44 WHIP
Hyun-Jin Ryu - 1-1, 2.13 ERA, 12.2 IP, 11 strikeouts, .271 opposing average, 1.18 WHIP
Zack Greinke - 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 6.1 IP, 6 strikeouts, .095 opposing average, 0.32 WHIP
Brandon League - 0.00 ERA, 3 IP, 1 strikeout, 2 saves.
So far, so good. If the Dodgers can keep this up, and most importantly stay off of the disabled list, this roster has all the makings of a team that is designed to win it all.
Colorado Rockies: 5-4, 4th Place
Is Troy Tulowitzki back?
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Is Troy Tulowitzki finally back? It sure looks like he is.
The Rockies could turn a few heads this year if their pitching staff can keep them in games and their bats continue to produce the way they currently are.
Right now, it seems that almost everyone in their lineup, with the exception of Eric Young and Todd Helton, is producing and getting on base.
Just take a look for yourself:
Michael Cuddyer - .387/.406/.677, 12 hits, 2 home runs, 1 triple, 1 double, 7 RBI, 5 runs scored, 1 stolen base.
Troy Tulowitzki - .345/.412/.724, 10 hits, 3 home runs, 2 doubles, 8 RBI, 6 runs scored.
Wilin Rosario - .333/.379/.667, 9 hits, 3 home runs, 6 RBI, 4 runs scored, 2 stolen bases.
Chris Nelson - .308/.379/.308, 8 hits, 2 RBI, 2 runs scored.
Dexter Fowler - .306/.359/.694, 11 hits, 4 home runs, 2 doubles, 7 RBI, 8 runs scored, 1 stolen base.
Carlos Gonzalez - .286/.359/.571, 10 hits, 3 home runs, 1 double, 5 RBI, 9 runs scored.
Pretty impressive numbers, right? How about pitching?
Jhoulys Chacin - 1-0, 1.35 ERA, 13.1 IP, 8 strikeouts, .200 opposing average, 0.90 WHIP
Jon Garland - 1-0, 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 2 strikeouts, .227 opposing average, 1.17 WHIP
Unfortunately for the Rockies, the rest of the starting rotation isn't faring as well as Chacin and Garland.
As I mentioned earlier, if the Rockies can learn to pitch consistently well, they'll make some noise in the National League West. I'm not sure they have the team this year to win the division, but they sure have plenty of powerful bats that should put up some nice numbers.
San Diego Padres: 2-5, 5th Place
Are the Padres destined to finish at the bottom of the NL?
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It looks like it's going to be another rebuilding year for the San Diego Padres.
With a team full of names that are mostly unrecognizable to most outside of San Diego, the Padres have very few offensive threats and one of the most questionable starting rotations in all of baseball.
In fact, the way the team is currently playing, they may as well start bringing up prospects to give them major league experience and trade away pricier players in their current lineup for less expensive, younger options.
How bad are their bats doing? Well, lets just say that the most productive players on their roster aren't even starters and are contributing off of the bench.
Mark Kotsay - .600/.636/.700, 6 hits, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 run scored.
Chris Denorfia - .462/.533/.615, 6 hits, 2 doubles, 2 RBI, 4 runs scored.
Jedd Gyorko - .269/.345/.385, 3 doubles, 4 RBI, 3 runs scored.
Pretty ugly, isn't it? The sad thing is, I don't see this trend getting any better anytime soon.
So how about the pitching staff? They can't be doing as bad as their bats are, can they?
Eric Stults - 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 5 IP, 7 strikeouts, .175 opposing average, 1.00 WHIP
Jason Marquis - 0-1, 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 1 strikeout, .250 opposing average, 1.17 WHIP
Luke Gregerson - 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2.2 IP, 4 strikeouts, .000 opposing average, 0.00 WHIP
And now out of respect for the rest of staff, I will stop talking about the Padres' pitching since the numbers are so bad it would only insult them to read about it.
The Padres did have a nice second half of the season in 2012 after a horrific start; perhaps this will be the case again in 2013. However, if they continue to play the way they currently are, don't be surprised to see the Padres at the bottom of the division if not at the bottom of the National League.