Hitters: F. The D’Backs slugged their way to an division title last season, but that hasn’t been the case this season. No Arizona player has more than 5 homers. Even Justin Upton has been affected by the team-wide power outage as he currently sits with a puny .373 slugging percentage. Injuries have certainly played a role in their struggles as Stephen Drew still has not yet returned from last season’s gruesome ankle injury and All-Star outfielder Chris Young missed several weeks of the season. But even considering that, Arizona has problems at several positions. They’ve gotten such poor production from their third basemen that Oriole castoff Josh Bell was just recalled to see if he can’t plug the hole. Across the diamond, Paul Goldschmidt has been a major disappointment and started ceding playing time to Lyle Overbay.
Pitchers: C. On the mound, Arizona’s fortunes have only been slightly better. Ian Kennedy has failed to come close to the Cy Young-caliber level he pitched at last season. However, Trevor Cahill has been solid and Joe Saunders is having one of those inexplicable Joe Saunders seasons where he looks awful but ends up with an impressive ERA. The biggest surprise though has been Wade Miley and his 2.14 ERA. The good news for the Snakes is that Daniel Hudson is set to return this week, which will resolve the issues they’ve had with the final spot in the rotation. The D’Backs have gotten great work from everyone in their bullpen except for closer J.J. Putz who has an ERA over 6.00, but also has locked down nine of his eleven save chances, so it hasn’t really hurt the team much… yet.
Intangibles: B-. Arizona has a treasure trove of pitching prospects waiting for their turn to get called up. If they just throw enough arms at their rotation, they should be able to patch up any remaining issues in their rotation. The same cannot be said for their position player issues, unless they decide to start dealing some of those young pitchers for some proven talent to come in and help get the lineup back to the level it produced at last year. If all else fails, Kirk Gibson can probably just scowl at the players long and hard enough that they’ll start hitting out of fear.
Overall: D. With Chris Young and Daniel Hudson healthy again, the D’Backs are set to get a shot in the arm that they have to be hoping will get them headed back in the right direction. Even with those two, this club seems like it is only ever going to go as far as their two stars, Upton and Kennedy, take them. In both cases, you have to think that both will start playing a whole lot better in the very near future, but we are also late enough into the season to start wondering if maybe something is wrong with one or both of them. Even if both of them flip the switch starting today, it might be too late since they have already fallen 10.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
Hitters: F . Carlos Gonzalez has been great. Dexter Fowler is finding his power stroke. That is pretty much the end of all the nice things that can be said about the Rockies. Colorado just isn’t getting much out of anyone else, even Troy Tulowitzki. Making matters even worse is that the Rox have been absolutely miserable in the field. They are currently at -52 defensive runs saved, which is a staggering 23 runs worse than the second-worst team.
Pitchers: F. It says a lot about your franchise when a 49-year old that can barely throw over 85 MPH not only makes your rotation but is arguably your best starting pitcher. A lot of pundits wondered what the Rockies were thinking in their off-season machinations when it came to filling out their rotation with pitchers that all pitch to contact in the worst pitcher environment in the league. The only redeeming aspect of their pitching is their bullpen, which has been very strong from top to bottom. Of course, when your starters can’t pitch well enough to hand a lead over to the bullpen, that really doesn’t count for much.
Intangibles: F. This team has a hard enough time as it is, but there are nights when manager Jim Tracy seems like he is actively trying to handicap his own ballclub. He routinely bats Fowler, who has the second-highest OBP on a team starved for OBP, in the eight-hole. He is smallballing the team to death. Really, it is just Tracy at his micromanaging worst, and that says a lot. As of right now, he is the odds on favorite to be the first manager fired, which is probably the Rockies’ best chance to salvage some respect this season.
Overall: F. Nothing is working for the Rockies. Nothing at all. The only good thing that can be said about their season is that Padres are so bad as well that they might not finish last in the division
Los Angeles Dodgers
Hitters: A-. Matt Kemp. Matt Kemp and more Matt Kemp. Even though he is injured right now, Kemp’s Bondsian start to the season has made the Dodgers the talk of baseball. His scintillating start to the season has lit a spark under the team and seems to have even provoked big years from other players in the lineup. Andre Ethier has been the biggest beneficiary of Kemp’s aura and is putting up the best numbers of his career (just in time for him to hit free agency). Lost in Kemp’s shadow has been catcher A.J. Ellis who has been getting on base at a ridiculous .446 clip. Those three have combined to carry a lineup otherwise filled with retreads (see Uribe, Kennedy, Abreu, etc.) and underachievers (see Dee Gordon’s .250 OBP) to the best record in baseball.
Pitchers: A+. Everyone knew that Clayton Kershaw would be phenomenal, what nobody saw coming was that Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly would both pitch like Clayton Kershaw too. Chad Billinglsey and Aaron Harang have been strong as well, resulting in no Dodger starting pitcher having an ERA over 4.00. Even their bullpen has been terrific. Javy Guerra did lose his grip on the closer job, but that had less to do with him and more to do with Kenley Jansen’s dominance.
Intangibles: A. While the players say that they had been ignorning the mess that Frank McCourt created in his tenure as owner, one can’t help but notice that the Dodgers have taken off now that McCourt has sold the team. McCourt’s ouster has injected new life into the franchise and fanbase and the results are being realized on the field. But the best is yet to come. With wealthy new ownership in place, the Dodgers will have the financial flexibility to take on salary and make big moves at the trade deadline for the first time in what seems like years. That’s great news for the team, even if “proven veteran” loving Ned Colletti is the one that will be calling the shots.
Overall: A+. You can’t ask for much more than the start the Dodgers are off to, with the exception of staying this good for the rest of the season. That, figures to be a stretch. So many Dodger players are wildly overachieving right now and regression to the mean is due to come along and smack this club back down to earth in a big way. However, with the rest of the division looking like they’ll all battle just to finish over .500, the Dodgers may have already built themselves enough of a cushion to cruise to a division championship when that regression hits.
San Diego Padres
Hitters: F . Stop me if you have heard this before, but San Diego can’t hit. The only two players on the roster slugging over .400 are Yonder Alonso and Chase Headley. Say what you will about the cavernous dimensions of Petco, but that’s decidedly horrible, especially since Alonso is the team leader at just .418. The real killer has been that Cameron Maybin and Nick Hundley, who both signed long-term extensions before the season, have totally cratered, especially Hundley who is hitting just .168/.233/.269. Maybin hasn’t been much better, registering a .307 OBP while mostly batting first or second in the order. The Friars also finally got fed up with underperforming Orlando Hudson and released him last week. They probably considered doing the same with his doubeplay partner Jason Bartlett, but he landed on the DL, forcing San Diego to find a whole new middle infield in the middle of May. That’s always fun.
Pitchers: B+. Playing at Petco helps a lot, but the Padres have gotten pretty good pitching despite some pretty lousy luck. Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Huston Street and Micah Owings are all on the disabled list. That is basically an entire rotation and a closer that they are currently without. Losing Luebke was a real killer as he was off to a great start and had just signed a four-year extension but is now done for the season with Tommy John surgery. Just terrible. What isn’t terrible though is what they have gotten out of reclamation project Edinson Volquez who is putting up numbers right on par with his pre-injury All-Star form. Anthony Bass has also been something of a breakout performer. Of course, the bullpen in San Diego is tremendous as always. Even with Street out and Ernesto Frieri traded away, the relief corps remains the team’s strength thanks to off-season trade acquisition Andrew Cashner joining Luke Gregerson and Joe Thatcher in the setup role as well as journeyman Dale Thayer coming out of nowhere not giving up a run all season and stepping into the closer role.
Intangibles: D. Abandon all hope ye who like the Padres. It isn’t even June yet and the Padres are already in seller mode, having traded Ernesto Frieri and cut loose Orlando Hudson. A fire sale is coming, or at least something close to it since the Friars aren’t exactly overflowing with veterans to trade. This is actually the right thing to do though since the club is headed nowhere, but still, they could’ve at least pretended to care about winning for a few weeks. Maybe that is why Time Warner Cable refuses to carry Fox Sports San Diego. Even though it is the right path, it looks like it is probably going to cost manager Bud Black his job at some point.
Overall: D+. The Padres stink, but they were supposed to stink, so you can’t be too hard on them. Then again, nobody can condone challenging for the worst record in baseball. But what really saves their grade from a straight up “F” is that they are going to get healthy (or at least healthier) at some point. Carlos Quentin, Tim Stauffer and Huston Street should all hopefully be back soon, which may be just what the Pads need to at least be competitive the rest of the way.
San Francisco Giants
Hitters: C-. The lineup has been a mixed bag for the Giants. They got Buster Posey back and healthy and he is producing as well as he did before his gruesome injury. Pablo Sandoval was having a tremendous season before landing on the disabled list. Even new outfield acquisitions Angel Pagan and, especially, Melky Cabrera have been exceeding expectations. The problem now though is the infield. They obviously miss having the Panda at third, but even with him, they still have Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff giving the team virtually no power from first base and Brandon Crawford and Emmanuel Burriss combine to form what might be the worst hitting keystone combination in recent memory.
Pitchers: B+. This is a really weird year for the Giant rotation. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have been as great as expected while Ryan Vogelsong is proving his 2011 campaing was no fluke, but that’s not the weird part. That would be Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito apparently getting into a body-swapping family comedy situation. The much-maligned Zito, who has a shiny 3.00 ERA, has been pitching like Lincecum while the former Cy Young-winning Lincecum has a very Zito-esque 6.04 ERA and is showing few signs of getting his season turned around. Meanwhile the Giant bulllpen continues to be arguably the best group of relievers in baseball despite losing Brian Wilson and his beard (and presumably The Gimp) for the season. Santiago Casilla has replaced Wilson as the closer and arguably been better in the role than Wilson was. In middle relief, Sergio Romo, Clay Hensley, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt all have ERAs under 3.00 with Romo and Lopez sporting sub-1.00 numbers.
Intangibles: C. Winning with a wimpy lineup is something the Giants know how to do, so while it may be discouraging, it is hardly crippling. What is going to hurt is the team’s apparent lack of financial flexibility to make even minor upgrades to the roster as their payroll has ballooned over $130 million. If they want to go to the next level, they are going to have find a way to get creative. At a minimum, they know that they just have to wait a few weeks for Sandoval to return and then cross their fingers that Freddy Sanchez can rejoin the club soon and give them even below average production at one of their middle infield spots.
Overall: C+. For all the problems the Giants have faced, they’ve weathered the storm well enough so far to be two games over .500 and “only” seven games back of a Dodger club that is bound to come back to earth sooner or later. If they can just hold it together for a few more weeks and maybe get Lincecum fixed, they should be able to give the Dodgers a run for their money.