This time last year, the National League West division was all but locked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were 15 games up on August 8, 2017. This time, it’s an entirely different story. The NL West is a complete dogfight right now, a battle amongst three teams- the Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Colorado Rockies.
For most of the season, the Diamondbacks held first place; 83 of their first 93 games to be exact. The 10-game stretch they were not, saw the Rockies hold first place. But Arizona took it back and held onto to it for over another month. But the Dodgers finally started to come to play and finally too first place on July 12. And they have been battling with the DBacks since then.
Los Angeles has held it for most of the time since then, but first place has changed three times between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks over the past week, and seven total times over the last month. As of this writing, the Dodgers sit in first place by just half-a-game over Arizona, with the third-place Rockies just two-and-half games behind Los Angeles.
The NL West was the best division in baseball last year, with all three teams making the playoffs. The Dodgers won it by 11 games, while the other two faced off in the NL Wild-Card game (which Arizona won).
All three team have had excellent stretches and are quality teams, which gives us reason to believe that they will stay close together for at least a little longer. As good as each group is, the deciding factor may be their remaining schedules, which can make the most talented teams falter if it’s a gauntlet of a stretch. After their current series, here’s what they all have left:
HOME (22): San Francisco (3), St. Louis (3), San Diego (6), Arizona (4), N.Y. Mets (3), Colorado (3).
Combined Opponents’ Record of 330-353 LA will face at home.
AWAY (27): Oakland (2), Colorado (7), Seattle (3), Texas (2), Cincinnati (3), St. Louis (4), Arizona (3), San Francisco (3).
Combined Opponents’ Record of 404-397 LA will face on the road.
HOME (22): Angels (2), Seattle (3), San Diego (2), Atlanta (4), Chicago Cubs (3), Colorado (3), Dodgers (3)
Combined Opponents’ Record of 417-377 Arizona will face at home.
AWAY (26): Cincinnati (3), Texas (2), San Diego (7), San Francisco (3), Dodgers (4), Colorado (4), Houston (3).
Combined Opponents’ Record of 341-345 Arizona will face on the road.
HOME (29): Dodgers (7), San Diego (3), St. Louis (3), San Francisco (3), Arizona (4), Philadelphia (4), Washington (3).
Combined Opponents’ Record of 419-390 Colorado will face at home.
AWAY (21): Houston (2), Atlanta (4), Angels (2), San Diego (4), San Francisco (3), Dodgers (3), Arizona (3).
Combined Opponents’ Record of 419-380 Colorado will face on the road.
The Dodgers are in the midst of a brutal 23-game stretch against playoff opponents, or playoff-worthy teams (Philadelphia 4x, Atlanta 3x, Milwaukee 7x, Houston 3x, Oakland 2x, Colorado 4x). All these combined have a 390-291 record, and LA is 10-8 through their first 18 games. So it makes sense that they have the easiest schedule of the three remaining, which they will no doubt take after going through this gauntlet.
The Diamondbacks still have to face Seattle, Houston, Cubs, and Atlanta while Colorado has St. Louis, Philly, and a Washington team that is starting to play a bit better. And this doesn’t include the divisional faceoffs with each other, which may have the most say on how the division turns out.
For the five past seasons, the Dodgers have ended up comfortably winning the NL West, but this may be the year that it changes. We may get a legitimate race in September.
If the Dodgers can take care of their out-of-division matchups, the pressure to win their 17 remaining games with Arizona and Colorado will be somewhat lowered. The other two need to tread water with their’s so they can use the direct matchups to win the division.
The Dodgers go to Colorado this weekend for a crucial four-game series, and playing in Colorado is unpredictable. You can bet on them splitting the series, but again, it wouldn’t be surprising if there was a four-game sweep. The Dodgers and Rockies have 17 games remaining with the other two teams, while the Diamondbacks have 14 left.
As of now, you have to give the advantage to the Dodgers, who have won five straight division titles, so they know how to get it done. They also have the best all-around team with the easiest schedule, had the most impactful trade deadline, at least on offense, and have Hyun-Jin Ryu coming back to help out the rotation. And the bullpen is getting better.
Arizona had a good trade deadline but also lost Jake Lamb, who was struggling all year. But there’s a reason he was starting. The Rockies’ bullpen being a dumpster-fire has to make you believe that they will falter down the stretch because you can’t succeed with a terrible relief corps. But they also play in the unpredictable Coors Field, where runs are never at a premium.
It’s shaping up to have an epic finish, one that we deserve. Get your seatbelts and popcorn ready, because it’s going to be a wild ride.
Featured Image via Flickr/jenniferlinneaphotography