I was going to make the focus of this week’s NL West report the LA Dodgers’ series in Arizona that started last night, with the Diamondbacks looking to try and reverse course before this race gets completely out of hand. But then I figured we have plenty of time to either celebrate the Dodgers or talk about the D-Backs. But what about at the other end of the division? I didn’t expect Colorado to be good, but they’ve really stepped it up in May and have “caught” San Diego for last place coming into today’s games. What’s up in Denver?
Let’s start going after baseball’s feel-good story in Jamie Moyer. In his last five starts, he’s worked an average of five innings a pop and his ERA is 6.12. The ERA for the year is 4.99. It’s time to do the Kerry Wood thing in Coors Field—just let Moyer come in, get an out , give him a big round of applause for his career and then give these starts to younger arms. Wiley veterans good for a few decent innings and some intangible quality belong on contenders, not rebuilding staffs. Wiley veterans with ERAs over 6 belong in an ESPN analyst’s chair. Preferably the one currently being filled by Rick Sutcliffe on Monday night.
Offensively, the American League imports of Marco Scutaro at second base and Michael Cuddyer in right field haven’t panned out. Cuddyer had a decent start that’s kept his slugging percentage a decent .459, but that’s been on a downward trend of late. Troy Tulowitzki got off to a slow start, although his bat is starting to warm up a bit now. And Todd Helton is a disaster at first base. A bad season in general got even worse this last week when he got just one single in 19 at-bats. The best thing Helton can do for his team right now is just have a nice two-week hot streak, persuade some contender desperate for an extra bat that he’s still got something left in the tank and had Colorado a prospect as part of summer deal.
The bullpen has zero depth. Rafael Betancourt is handling the closer duties well, but a closer on a team that can’t hit, has no starting pitching and no bridge to the ninth inning is about as valuable as a vice-presidential choice on a third-party political ticket. He might look good, he might genuinely be good, but his actual job has no real value.
What Colorado does have is some young pitching to build around. Juan Nicasio, who goes tonight in Miami, has gradually improved as the season has gone on. Alex White has been able to shut down weak lineups in outings against San Diego and Seattle. Drew Pomeranz has shown some potential. If the team could pick up another young arm in the summer trade sweepstakes and then just keep veteran Jeremy Guthrie, they’ve got the makings of a staff. Right now though, the good people of Denver are better off focusing on the coming NFL season with Peyton Manning.
Around the rest of the NL West…
LA Dodgers (29-13): There’s been a James Loney sighting in Dodger Stadium! That might not be up there with a Brad Pitt sighting when it comes to excitement, but it means a lot if you’re a Dodger fan. Loney has an OBP of .375 and a slugging percentage of .609 over the last week, stepping up to hit just as Matt Kemp went to the disabled list. The rest of the team has followed suit, including veteran pickup Bobby Abreu who’s playing left field. The entire pitching staff is locked in, with Chris Capuano beating Arizona last night 6-1. This weekend the Dodgers swept St. Louis, last week they won two of three from San Francisco and are off to a good start against Arizona, so they’re beating the teams they need to beat.
San Francisco (22-20): As long as Tim Lincecum keeps struggling there’s going to be problems, and the ace went a combined 11 innings and gave up 8 runs in starts against Colorado and Oakland—not exactly offensive behemoths. And even Tampa Bay doesn’t need its starting third baseman back from the disabled list worse than Frisco needs Pablo Sandoval. The offense can only be carried by Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey so long.
Arizona (19-24): Chris Young is back from the disabled list, but has gone just 3-of-16 as he struggles to get back in the groove. Along with Gerardo Parra and Aaron Hill, this trio is holding down an offense and not letting solid hot streaks by power hitters Paul Goldschmidt and Justin Upton be as potent as they otherwise might. The starting pitching is struggling too, with Kirk Gibson having to give regular starts to 22-year-old lefty Patrick Corbin. He’s had his ups, but given his youthful inconsistency, surely Gibson did not want Corbin as the man on the mound last night. Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill also got hit hard in their last outings. If nothing else, after the Dodger series, the D-Backs host Milwaukee, in the rivalry of which 2011 Division Series team is a bigger disappointment early in the year.
San Diego (16-27): The Padres have started to play a little better. They survived an East Coast swing, going 2-3 at Washington and Philadelphia, then came home and went 3-2 against the Dodgers and Angels. Clayton Richards and Anthony Bass have been extremely sharp their last two starts. But the offense can’t survive on Yonder Alonso and Will Venable alone. Chase Headley has to start hitting again and they really need Carlos Quentin, who just started rehab, back from the disabled list.