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MLB End-of-May Check-in: NL West

The Dodgers are back on top. Should anyone be surprised?

Washington Nationals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Every day, Pinstripe Alley offers updates on what the Yankees’ top American League opponents are up to through the Rivalry Roundup. The AL East is well-trodden ground there, but with the month of May coming to a close, we’re going to take a peak around MLB as a whole and check in with each of the other five divisions. Who’s surprising? Who’s underwhelming? Who’s simply mediocre at the moment? Read on and find out.

First Place: Los Angeles Dodgers (34-22)

Top Position Player: Freddie Freeman (2.6)
Top Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw (1.6)

It was highly unlikely that the Dodgers were going to stay in second place in the division for very long, and now at the end of May, they’re back on top in the NL West. However, they’re not completely out of the woods yet with the Diamondbacks only a game and a half behind.

All of the usual suspects are leading the Dodgers back into a steady lead in first place. They have the third best record through the month of May in MLB at 17-9, and that’s due to the performances of names like Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Max Muncy, and Will Smith. Muncy in particular has been mashing the ball, sitting near the top of the NL leaderboard in home runs with 17.

And of course on the pitching side, it’s Clayton Kershaw up front, doing what he does best. The “Cooperstown curveball” is still going steady, and his 3.11 xFIP is eighth best in all of MLB. Dustin May has also been strong, pitching to the tune of a 2.63 ERA, which is 11th in MLB among pitchers with at least 40 innings pitched, though he’ll be on the shelf for a couple months with a forearm strain.

Second Place: Arizona Diamondbacks (32-23)

Top Position Player: Geraldo Perdomo (1.9)
Top Pitcher: Zac Gallen (2.8)

The Diamondbacks are owners of the eighth best total hitter fWAR in MLB. Geraldo Perdomo is continuing to perform well, while Corbin Carroll and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. also sit above the 1.0 fWAR mark and are making their presences felt in different ways (Carroll with his excellent hit package and speed along the basepaths and Gurriel with his low whiff and strikeout rates combined with power). The fun part is that some of their hitters are still trying to find their grooves, like Ketel Marte with his power and Christian Walker with overall BABIP luck.

Although some of the young pitchers have needed to work on parts of their game in Triple-A (hello there, Brandon Pfaadt, which I’m still not actually sure is a real name), there has been plenty to be excited for. And oh yeah, Zac Gallen is the best pitcher in baseball by fWAR, so that helps too.

Third Place: San Francisco Giants (28-27)

Top Position Player: Thairo Estrada (2.0)
Top Pitcher: Logan Webb (1.5)

The Giants are an interesting team, because while they sit in third place in the NL West and with the fifth-best record in the month of May (17-10), they’re also a team that is on two different sides of the aisle with their pitching and hitting.

As far as hitting goes, they sit seventh in hitter fWAR in MLB and 12th in MLB in wRC+ sitting at just 104. There are nine players that have donned the orange, black, and white who have earned a 0.5 fWAR with Estrada (2.0), J.D. Davis (1.4), and LaMonte Wade Jr. (1.3) at the front of the pack. As a whole, the team is sixth in home runs, which you might not be able to garner from the individual power numbers that some of the players have.

As for the pitching, it hasn’t been as good as many might expect it to be. They’re 21th in total pitcher fWAR, and it’s primarily because the starting pitchers haven’t been able to make up for the bullpen’s problems. They have the eighth worst reliever ERA, but xFIP actually argues they should be getting better results. Their total of 3.90 is eighth best in MLB. Whether the results filter to where xFIP says they should be is something to watch over the next month. Meanwhile, Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Cobb are doing their best to buoy the pitching staff.

Fourth Place: San Diego Padres (25-29)

Top Position Player: Juan Soto (2.0)
Top Pitcher: Michael Wacha (1.4)

The Padres continue to shock the baseball world, and not in a good way. At the end of April, they were in third place (although the margin was thin), and now they’re sitting one spot lower after contining to struggle through the month. They had a 10-15 record to this point, which is one of the seven lowest in baseball through that span.

The good news for the Padres is that Juan Soto is hitting much better now. His slashline numbers have increased and he’s leading the team in fWAR and wRC+ (156). And in addition to that development, Fernando Tatis Jr. is back! Just by looking at his numbers, there’s still some improvement that needs to happen. His BABIP is one of the lowest among Padres hitters and his walk rate (and thus, his on base percentage) is very low too. He’s hitting the ball hard, but the plate discipline needs to get better.

The pitching side of the equation has been interesting. Yu Darvish hasn’t been as good as many might have expected him to be up to this point, but while he’s getting things into gear, Michael Wacha has been excellent, posting the best numbers for the rotation. His stuff has never been anything to ‘wow’ over, but he’s getting the job done when the Padres need it. Also, the Padres just signed Gary Sánchez, so it will be interesting to see how that unfolds.

Last Place: Colorado Rockies (24-32)

Top Position Player: Elias Diaz (1.4)
Top Pitcher: Kyle Freeland (1.0)

The Rockies might actually not be as bad as some may thought. Yes, they’re still a bad team. However, as there is with most bad teams, there are some bright spots, including their 15-12 record through May, and there was also a fun little scuffle with Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies that went around the baseball universe.

Elias Diaz is still the team’s leader in fWAR due to his offensive and defensive contributions, and Brenton Doyle, a youngster that was brought in, has been stellar on the defensive end, and sits in second. However, the player I think needs to be looked at is Randal Grichuk. The 31-year-old has only played 23 games with the team, but he’s fourth in fWAR, getting on base 43 percent of the time, and leading the Rockies in wRC+ (143). He has been simply excellent.

On the pitching side, things haven’t been great. Kyle Freeland took over the lead in fWAR, although right behind him is the reliever Brent Suter, who has been excellent after being claimed off waivers by Colorado. The next two pitchers in fWAR behind Suter are also relievers, and after that it’s Ryan Feltner with just a 0.6 tally. The Rockies haven’t had lots of luck this season with injuries and other issues, but they also just aren’t very good, and that’s the way it will remain.