The Dodgers’ seventh consecutive NL West title was perhaps their easiest yet, chiefly on the strength of their consistent play from Opening Day to game 162 (in which they can set the franchise record for single season wins).
But it was also made easier by the fact that no one else in the division gave them a real scare, like Colorado did last year. Thus, it’s worth taking a look at just why the rest of the NL West failed to catch Los Angeles.
Now here is the true disaster of the division. The Rockies entered 2019 with promise, with consecutive playoff appearances and a fresh extension for Nolan Arenado. Some people even predicted they would end the Dodgers’ reign at the top of the west. Instead, they’ll finish in dead last.
44% of experts asked to predict their division winners for @MLBNetworkRadio chose the Colorado Rockies, who have just been eliminated before the end of August, to win the NL West in 2019. pic.twitter.com/lU3WsAHM89
— Arrick Joel (@ArrickJoel) August 29, 2019
So what exactly went wrong? The starting pitching, despite some promising young arms, imploded. Their 5.62 team ERA ranks dead last in all of baseball, and is garish even when factoring in half the games being at Coors Field. The offense has been predictably stellar thanks to Charlie Blackmon, Arenado and Trevor Story, but it wasn’t nearly enough to salvage the season.
Especially with the Dodgers continuing their run and the Padres rising fast, the future in Denver is looking pretty grim. It may be time to start over, a decision that would center around putting Arenado on the trade market.
Of all the other teams in the division, this is the strangest to assess. The Diamondbacks had a middling offseason that seemed to signal intentions to both start over and compete. They shipped off their franchise player, Paul Goldschmidt, to the playoff-ready St. Louis Cardinals. And that’s on top of losing A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin too.
However, they still held on to Zack Greinke until sending him in a last-minute shocker to Houston at the July deadline. Yet somehow, the Diamondbacks will still finish with a winning record. Their offense was powered by Christian Walker, as well as breakout seasons from Ketel Marte and Eduardo Escobar.
However, their outside shot at a wild card was lost due to a four-game sweep by the Mets in mid-September. Perhaps they could have grabbed it with most or all of the players they traded or let walk. Now, like Colorado, it’s likely time to commit to a full rebuild. Even if they get enough great performances next season, it would take a lot of luck just to get a wild card spot, let alone the division crown.
San Diego Padres
Of all the other NL West teams, this one is the least deserving of the word “failure” given expectations. The Padres are an ascendent team with a rich farm system and the addition of Manny Machado, but even Machado himself acknowledged they wouldn’t win the division this year.
Thus, one could say San Diego basically played to expectations…at least until their second half fell apart. Seeds of promise began to blossom, chiefly Chris Paddack in the starting rotation and Fernando Tatis Jr. until his season-ending injury. But it all came undone towards the end of the season, leading to manager Andy Green’s dismissal. The injury to Tatis didn’t help, but there were other culprits, such as Hunter Renfroe’s second-half power outage.
They’ll need a smart manager, more top everyday players, and stronger starting pitching to take that next step for a playoff spot in 2020. However, if they want to bring the division crown two hours south of L.A., they’ll have to shore up their player development significantly as well.
San Francisco Giants
This one is painfully obvious. After two disastrous seasons that clearly showed the Giants were an aging team in dire need of starting over, the rebuild finally came home to roost in 2019. San Francisco’s offense was anemic, ranking 27th in all of baseball. The pitching wasn’t any better, with much of the staff posting ERAs on the wrong side of 4.00.
Then, out of nowhere, the team amassed a huge winning streak in the summer just before the trade deadline. The consensus that Farhan Zaidi should be allowed to sell was feverishly challenged, especially for the sentimentality of sending Bruce Bochy off with one more playoff run.
Thus, the Giants tried to have it both ways, selling some assets like Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon while holding onto others, namely Madison Bumgarner and All-Star reliever Will Smith. When the predictable fade happened, the Giants likely extended their rebuilding process by not capitalizing on a weak seller’s market. Not that we’re complaining.
Oh, and in case you need a reminder:
Derek Holland is now pitching. Derek Holland famously bragged that the Dodgers were not going to take the NL west if he had anything to do with it.
Narrator: He was demoted from his post and moved to the bullpen. He will have very little to do with it.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) June 21, 2019