1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 1st Place, 30-14
The Good: The Dodgers pitching staff has been unbelievable top to bottom this year, and the results have showed. Their starters have lost just seven games compared to winning 14 and their ERA is 3.57.
Chad Billingsley (6-1, 2.51 ERA, 63 K) is an early Cy Young candidate and has cemented himself as a top five pitcher in the National League. As good as their pitching has been, the offense has been just as good.
They lead the National League with a .286 batting average and have driven in an NL-high 225 runs. Juan Pierre has stepped in very nicely for Manny Ramirez, batting .378 in the month of May. A quarter of the way into the season, they look like the team to beat in the National League.
The Bad: Obviously the 50-game suspension of Manny Ramirez will hurt the Dodgers while he is out, but the baggage he now carries the rest of the way may affect them as well.
Rafael Furcal has struggled mightily this year from the leadoff spot but there is hope he will find his swing. On the other side of the ball, the record wouldn’t show it, but the Dodgers have blown a league-high 11 saves this year.
Jonathon Broxton has filled in nicely in the bullpen, saving 11 of 13 chances with a 1.17 ERA in 23 innings, though. Even the bad is good with the Dodgers.
2. Milwaukee Brewers: 1st Place, 26-17
The Good: The bullpen has been nearly untouchable this year, and in the month of May has led the league in all major categories.
Trevor Hoffman has been a savior to the bullpen (just ask Charlie Villanueva how easy closing is) and Mark DiFelice has given great innings.
On the offensive side, Prince Fielder is second in the NL with 40 RBI and Ryan Braun is quietly putting up outstanding numbers. Yovani Gallardo has been a bright spot to the pitching staff and is an ace in the making.
The Bad: The Brew Crew have not hit well for average this year (.255) and have only stolen 11 bases. Losing leadoff man Rickie Weeks has hurt the Brewers but are making do without him.
The other big question mark is whether or not the starting pitching can continue their solid work.
They have a 4.42 ERA which ranks 11th in the National League and have hit a league-high 17 batters. They do rank second in quality starts but they have been quite inconsistent this year.
3. St. Louis Cardinals: 2nd Place, 26-18
The Good: Albert Pujols. Last year’s NL MVP has picked up right where he left off with 14 home runs and 38 RBI’s already to go along with a .331 batting average.
Top to bottom, the lineup hits for good average and finds ways to get runs in like Tony LaRussa likes to do.
Their starters have been at the middle of the pack to start the year and, despite injuries to Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, Chris Carpenter and Troy Glaus, their hot start has kept them afloat in the NL Central race.
Their bullpen sports a 3.88 ERA, good for third in the National League and has been key in close games. Ryan Franklin has led the way with a 1.53 ERA in 18 appearances.
The Bad: With the injuries, the Cardinals’ offense has been average at best. Their pitching has been outstanding as of late, but if the offense can not score runs, the pitching performances will mean very little.
If they can not stay healthy, the results will be the same and they will struggle to make the playoffs. Pujols can do a lot, but not everything.
4. Philadelphia Phillies: 1st Place, 23-18
The Good: Raul Ibanez has made everyone in Philadelphia forget about Pat Burrell. League leading 17 home runs and 43 RBI will do that to a fanbase. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard have been doing their thing as well, with 11 and 10 homers each.
The top of the order has been great and a main reason why the Phillies are atop the East. They also have the best fielding percentage in the majors and have committed just 12 errors all year.
The Bad: Unfortunately, there are more question marks than bright spots for the Phillies. Jimmy Rollins is batting just .233 on the year and has just three home runs on the year.
The Phillies starters have the worst ERA in the National League at 6.12 and Brad Lidge has been terrible. They are just 8-12 at home and will need Cole Hamels to regain his ace form if the Phillies do not want to be caught by the Mets.
5. New York Mets: 2nd Place, 23-19
The Good: David Wright and Carlos Beltran have led the way for the Mets on offense, but the real story has been the dominance of Johan Santana. The Mets’ ace is 6-2 with a 1.50 ERA and 75 strikeouts so far this year.
Here’s a crazy stat for you: Johan Santana has given up zero earned runs combined in his two losses this year! Closer Francisco Rodriguez is now back and he has continued to dominate this year as he leads the best bullpen in baseball.
The Bad: Jose Reyes has been just average this year but has seen his May numbers improve in most categories.
Carlos Delgado is expected to miss all of June and some of July after his hip surgery and leaves a big hole in the Mets’ lineup. Daniel Murphy has had an OK year but has still failed to live up to his high expectations.
Fielding has also been a concern this year, as the Mets have committed 35 errors on the year.