National League West suffering through injuries, bad baseball

Updated: July 23, 2008

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Russell Martin and the Dodgers are in second in the NL West but are three games below .500.

WEST AIN'T BEST

Many people thought the National League West was the best division in baseball early this season, but it has relapsed and become the worst division in baseball. So many major things have gone wrong with these teams, and the result has been some disappointing performances. The parity at the top of the division is due to a lot of bad baseball.

The Diamondbacks got off to such a great start because their young hitters were hitting. But the league made adjustments to their young position players, and those players have not been able to make the adjustment back. So they have really struggled, especially on the road. Arizona is really struggling to score runs. It's one thing to have a deep starting rotation and good arms in the bullpen, but you have to score enough runs to support the good pitching so you can win games. That is where the D-backs have had the most difficulty.

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It's interesting to me that Arizona acquired reliever Jon Rauch in a trade with the Nationals. I'm all for adding to the bullpen, but offense is the D-backs' biggest problem. The difficulty they have is they've got a bunch of young guys, none of whom they want to give up on and none of whom they want to include in a trade. So where do you put a bat if you trade for it? And that's why I think they might have figured, "We don't have much of a margin for error because we don't score many runs. We're playing so many close games, let's just make sure we have a good bullpen so that when we have the lead, we keep it."

To me, Mark Teixeira sure seems like a good fit for them. They could put Conor Jackson in left. Teixeira would give them that one consistent bat in the lineup. He is a switch-hitter, so you're going to get that consistency no matter who is on the mound. But it doesn't appear as if that is the direction Arizona is headed.

The Dodgers, well, they've had so many injuries. Their expectations for Andruw Jones have gone unfulfilled. Jeff Kent hasn't been as productive as I think they would have liked, although he is an older guy and I think on the back end of his career. The injuries have gotten to Nomar Garciaparra. Also, I think they were looking for Matt Kemp to take a big step forward this season. It looks like he's starting to heat up a little bit now, but he hasn't really carried the load offensively. Rafael Furcal going down really wiped them out; Furcal is the glue to that team. Early on, he was off to an MVP start to his season. He was impacting the game in every way possible, but his loss has been catastrophic for them.

Brad Penny has been hurt, Hiroki Kuroda was hurt for a while and Takashi Saito is hurt now. So, the Dodgers' depth has been tested.

I had concerns about the Colorado Rockies going into the year, just because you can't count on winning 21 of 22 ever happening again. I had questions about their starting pitching, and whether it was mature enough to be consistent over 162 games, which is what you need to be a playoff team. Then, Manuel Corpas blew up as the closer, and they had to move Brian Fuentes back into that role. Troy Tulowitzki got off to a tough start, and then got hurt.

I think that the team that's going to win the division is the one that dramatically improves at the trade deadline, gets healthy or turns their young players into more consistent players overnight. Otherwise, it's just going to be the team that just gets hot at the end of the season.

The Dodgers dabbled in the bidding for CC Sabathia. They've talked like they might make some deals, but pulled back. But there is something there -- if Furcal comes back, if Garciaparra can keep doing what he's doing and play third with Furcal back, if James Loney and Andre Ethier and Kemp can keep going. I know there's a lot of "ifs" there … and they just lost their closer. I thought coming out of the break that the Dodgers would be the ones to take the division, but that was before I knew Saito was down. It seemed like they were just starting to get healthy, and they were starting to hit a little bit.

It is such a tough division to predict. I think a lot of people feel Colorado will be sellers at the trade deadline. Fuentes could be dealt. Matt Holliday could be dealt. But somewhere in the back of the Rockies' minds, they have to be thinking, "Well, we did get really hot last year, maybe we should kind of hold on to things." From what I understand, they've pulled back a little bit on trading Holliday, but might still entertain some thoughts on trading Fuentes because he's on baseball's "Most Wanted" list right now. The Rockies, who are playing a little bit better now, have to believe they have a run left in them. Jeff Francis is due back. They got Tulowitzki back. After the trade deadline -- if they don't trade Holliday and Fuentes -- it may slingshot them a bit. Because when the team starts asking "Are we a contender, or not?" the manager and coaches keep saying "We're going for it! We're going for it!" and then you hear rumors that some guys may be traded, you start getting conflicting messages. It's a big hill to climb, but they could make a run.

The Giants and Padres, in my mind, are not players in this division at all. Ultimately, with Saito going down, I'd have to give the edge in the division to the D-backs right now, because they fortified the end of their game and there are now questions in the Dodgers bullpen. Is Jonathan Broxton the closer? How will the other guys handle their roles in a bullpen that's already protecting a rotation that has been impacted by injury?

Past Baseball Tonight Clubhouses: July 22 | July 20 | July 17 | July 14 | July 13 | July 10

FORWARD THINKING: THURSDAY

Jamie Moyer • Phillies at Mets, 12:10 p.m. ET: Jamie Moyer (9-6, 3.90 ERA) has not permitted more than three runs in a start since June 6, a stretch of seven starts. Still, he is just 3-3 in those outings. Oliver Perez (6-6, 4.36 ERA) has had a similar run. He has not allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past four starts, yet has gone 1-1.

Carlos Zambrano • Marlins at Cubs, 8:05 p.m. ET: Carlos Zambrano (10-4, 2.98 ERA) is coming off a wild outing against the Astros. He issued six walks, which matched the combined total from his three previous starts. After going more than two months between wins, Scott Olsen (6-4, 3.84 ERA) has won his past two starts.

Ben Sheets • Brewers at Cardinals, 8:15 p.m. ET: Ben Sheets (10-3, 2.88 ERA), who is tied with new teammate CC Sabathia for the NL lead with three complete games, has not gone more than six innings in any of his past three starts. Todd Wellemeyer is 2-0 (8-4, 4.22 ERA) has seven no-decisions at home this season.

Complete list of pitching probables for Thursday's games


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BBTN ON THE AIR: THURSDAY

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9:30 p.m. ET
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Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Buster Olney, Peter Gammons, Buck Showalter
12 a.m. ET
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Host: Steve Berthiaume
Analysts: Buster Olney, Buck Showalter

SPORTSNATION: ALL-TIME FRANCHISE PLAYERS

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BBTN MINUTE: SABATHIA 4-0 WITH BREWERS

MILWAUKEE'S BEST

CC Sabathia in Milwaukee is going well. Sabathia won his fourth straight start by tossing a complete-game shutout against St. Louis on Wednesday, putting the Brewers in position to go for the sweep of the Cardinals on Thursday.

Sabathia has been a totally different pitcher over the past six weeks. He's 7-0 in nine starts, pitching like the guy who won the Cy Young Award in 2007. And each start for Sabathia with the Brewers has been better than the one before. He allowed three runs in his first start, two in the next, one in the next and zero on Wednesday.

Most shutouts, 2008
Pitcher Shutouts ERA
CC Sabathia 3 3.30
Roy Halladay 2 2.89
James Shields 2 3.66
Cole Hamels 2 3.11
Hiroki Kuroda 2 3.98
Jon Lester 2 3.20

WEDNESDAY'S NOTEWORTHY PERFORMANCES

GOOD
Armando GalarragaArmando Galarraga flirted with a perfect game in Monday's 7-1 win against Detroit. He retired the first 18 hitters he faced before David DeJesus singled.
BAD
Eddie GuardadoEddie Guardado gave up four of the five runs the Texas bullpen allowed in the eighth inning, turning an 8-5 lead against the White Sox into a 10-8 loss.
UGLY
Kenji JohhimaKenji Johjima's miserable month continued. He went 0-for-5 and stranded six runners in Seattle's 12-inning loss against the Red Sox. Johjima is 2-for-38 in July.

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF THURSDAY'S GAMES

Will Harris examines the pitching matchups for the seven games on Thursday's schedule of games.

Fantasy Harris also looks at injuries and details player reports that could help shape your roster for Thursday's games. Daily Notes

NEWS AND NOTES

Casey Kotchman •  Casey Kotchman had five hits in the Angels' 14-10 win against the Indians. The win increased the Angels' lead in the AL West to 10 games, the first time they've held a double-digit lead since 1995.

Roy Oswalt •  Roy Oswalt threw a short bullpen session Wednesday. Oswalt, on the disabled list since July 19 with a strained left hip, is expected to throw another bullpen session Friday. If all goes well, he will start Monday against Cincinnati.

Nomar Garciaparra •  Nomar Garciaparra had a rough 35th birthday. He went 0-for-4 and hit into a pair of double plays. He also struck out once. To finish things off, the Dodgers also lost the game, falling 5-3 at Colorado.

THIS DATE IN MLB HISTORY (JUNE 24)

1961: In an unusual midseason exhibition game at Yankee Stadium, the San Francisco Giants beat their former crosstown rivals 4-1. Mickey Mantle hit a homer for the Yankees, and Willie Mays drove home a pair for the Giants.

1979: Red Sox first baseman Carl Yastrzemski became the 18th major leaguer, and seventh in the American League history, to hit 400 home runs. Yastrzemski ended his 23-year career with 452 homers.

1983: In the memorable "Pine Tar Game" at Yankee Stadium, George Brett hit an apparent two-run home run off Rich Gossage to give the Royals a 5-4 lead with two outs in the ninth inning. But Yankees manager Billy Martin pointed out that the pine tar on Brett's bat handle exceeded the limit allowed by rule. As a result, Brett was called out, giving New York a 4-3 victory. The Royals immediately protested, and AL president Lee MacPhail overruled the umpires, saying that, while the rules should certainly be rewritten and clarified, the home run would stand and the game would be resumed. It was resumed on Aug. 18.

2004: Another chapter was added to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry when a benches-clearing brawl broke out after Red Sox starter Bronson Arroyo hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch. Rodriguez had hit the game-winning homer the night before.