Intrigue in MLB Western Divisions

West Coast baseball is full of intrigue this year. Probably the biggest story is the bust of the two SoCal spending sprees. However, my favorite story is the three-team race – and as of May 22nd, the three-way tie for first – in the National League West between the Diamondbacks, Rockies, and Giants.

Most pundits picked the Dodgers to dominate the NL West, with the Giants in their wake. A few thought – correctly – that the D-backs would be improved after delighting both B.J. Upton and the Braves by sending off arguably their best player. Turns out Arizona’s sound rotation is backed up by a dangerous lineup featuring the ever-improving power threat at first base, Paul Goldschmidt.

Goldie has power to all fields, a quick compact swing that’s easy to maintain. He has this in common with Buster Posey. Neither goes into an extended slump.

Goldschmidt also has made himself into a good fielder, progress that was far from predestined.

While noting Colorado’s improvements last year, few observers expected the Rockies to contend this year. After all, who could predict this to be the break out year for Dexter Fowler, the perennial five-tool prospect. Though his batting average remains low, when he connects he produces the long ball. Hard to pitch around both Dex and Tulo.

In the field Fowler is a solid centerfielder. He’s got to be considered for the All-Star team this year. Married life agrees with this young star.

The Angels in fourth place in the AL West and the Dodgers in fifth place in the NL West both have expensive seasons with little to cheer about. The Rangers might have already buried the .400 Angels, as the Texas pitching staff seems too good to allow an epic collapse.

The Dodgers are just as bad, but are optimistic that Zack Greinke’s return can spark the team. With potentially the best pitching staff and best lineup in baseball, the men in blue are falling down in all areas. Though they are closer to first place than the Angels, they are looking up at three strong teams at the top. Those teams have been beating each other up instead of one or two running away from L.A., but then why worry about a team that can’t yet catch the Padres?

Meanwhile, the annual Dodger Blue nightmare plays out in an unexpected way: while mired in the cellar, the Dodgers see their Halloween-clad rivals share first place despite a sky-high rotation ERA and an uncharacteristically error-prone defense. Even Giants faithful must be shocked that the Giants have driven in the third most runs in the league. This despite nagging injuries and illness in the G-men’s lineup.

I’m enjoying the spirited competition in the NL West, which I see going all the way to the wire. Meanwhile, I’m making no call as to which L.A. team comes around before it’s too late. If either.

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