Over the past weeks I have been previewing the race for the postseason. On Monday, I covered the NL East, and today I will be previewing the NL West. We will organize our discussion by the current standings.
Los Angeles Dodgers
65-50 | division lead
A year after Yasiel Puig burst onto the scene to help lead the Dodgers’ improbable comeback, LA is in control of the West, sitting 15 games over .500.
On the offensive side of the ball, Puig leads the team with a .316 batting average to go along with 13 home runs and nine triples. Including Puig, the Dodgers have 5 starters (Puig, Gordon, Kemp, Ramirez, and Gonzalez) batting .257 or better. All of this combines to give LA the eigth highest batting average in the majors at .257, as well as a 12th place rank in the majors in runs scored with 472.
Over the last two weeks, I previewed the division races in the American League. This week I will be covering the National League. Up first is the NL East. We will organize our discussion by current standings.
60-49 | division lead
Following a 2013 season where they fell four games short of a wild card birth and 10 games out of first in the NL East, the Nationals have taken control of a weak NL East.
Washington’s offense has struggled recently. Denard Span has the highest average on the team at .291, and their team BA of .250 is 19th in the league. Also, Bryce Harper spent three months on the DL earlier this season, which certainly hurt their offensive output. However, there are some bright spots. The Nats traded for Asdrubal Cabrera at the deadline, who adds some much-needed power and a decent bat to the lineup (not to mention some flashy fielding). Also, Harper has been been slowly heating up sine his return to the majors, and is now hitting .260 on the season.
Editor’s Note: Dan Johnson contributed to this post.
In what is the first blockbuster trade on the trade deadline day, the Oakland Athletics traded Yoenis Cespedes and a competitive balance draft pick to the Boston Red Sox for staff ace Jon Lester, outfielder Jonny Gomes and an unannounced amount of cash.
Immediate impact for the A’s
Lester joins a rotation of the recently acquired Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, as well as Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. Jesse Chavez is currently listed as the sixth starter, so someone will likely move to the bullpen soon. It could be Hammel, if his numbers don’t improve.
Lester, 30, has had a solid year despite Boston’s turmoil, pitching to a 10-7 record and 2.52 ERA. The lefty’s career ERA is considerably higher at 3.64, and Oakland looks to capitalize in particular on his success in a contract year.
Today’s topic in my series about the race for the postseason will cover the AL West and the AL Wild Card. The content is organized by current standing:
66-40 | division lead
When this season began, the expectation was that the Oakland A’s would compete in their division and a playoff spot. Currently they find themselves sitting 26 games over .500 with the best record in baseball.
Right now everything is clicking for Oakland, their offense is the best in the majors, scoring 534 runs. They are being led by Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss, who have combined for 60 doubles, 62 HR, and 214 RBIs. But what’s scary about the A’s team is not how good their offense is, but how much better their pitching is.
The All-Star break is a great time for evaluating where a team stands. Last week, Joe looked at the long-term prospects of some cellar-dwelling teams. This week and next, we’re previewing the race for the postseason within each division. Monday I discussed the American League East; today’s topic is the AL Central. The content is organized by current standing:
55-42 | division lead
The Tigers offense is firing on all cylinders. Currently they are second in the league in OBP with a .332 mark. They rank 4th in runs scored with 453, and 2nd in batting average at .278. Victor Martinez is batting .322, and Miguel Cabrera is batting .311.
While the offense is doing its job, however, the pitching has struggled this year. Justin Verlander has struggled to find his form so far, posting a 4.88 ERA, (1.3+ runs above his career average) while the team’s 4.00 ERA is 23rd in the majors. Some of Verlander’s peripheral stats indicate he may be having some bad luck, but even his FIP (fielding independent pitching) is above 4. Also of worry is the Tigers’ home record, which is hovering around .500.