I have said for many years that the National League West is one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, and I thought that was just a biased sentiment that I had. And, maybe it was at the time, but this is surely something that has shown to be true so far this season.
Baseball fans that do not really pay full attention to the NL West probably would just assume that the Los Angeles Dodgers own the entire division without much competition. Obviously, with the San Diego San Diego Padres bringing in players like Yu Darvish, and making sure to lock up Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr., you knew they were expected to compete this season. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks have fallen back in the division standings, and are currently 13 and 14.5 games back, respectively. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants have just retaken first place, with the Padres half a game back, and the Dodgers two games back.
With the Giants being the team I personally root for, I am very pleasantly surprised to see them perform at this level, still relatively early in the season. Given that the roster is a mix of older, veteran players, and other guys that are a lot younger, each of those categories bring their own pros and cons. However, one veteran player that has absolutely made his presence known more than what people (including myself) probably expected, is Buster Posey. He has 10 home runs, which is already 3 more than he hit in all of 2019. Posey opting out of the 2020 season has clearly done wonders, and, in a lot of ways, he looks like vintage Posey at times. Kevin Gausman has also proven himself to be the team’s ace, and in his last outing against the Dodgers, he pitched six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, and just two hits allowed. There have been some off-and-on injuries with Johnny Cueto, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt among others, but those players have all made their presence known with some big moments so far this season.
The Giants didn’t face the Dodgers until mid-May and got swept in the first series against them in LA. However, the Padres were the only NL West team really giving the Dodgers any kind of fight and seemed to ignite a newer sense of rivalry. Of course, the Giants have a classic rivalry with the Dodgers, but being that the Padres is the other California team in the division, it seems like they always play the Dodgers pretty tough, and this season the Padres have even more of the resources to do so. The benches have cleared during their games already this season, and the faceoffs between the Padres and Dodgers this season have, so far, been some of the most entertaining baseball I have seen in 2021. Just last week, the Padres overtook first place for a few days and had a nine-game winning streak.
If you aren’t already watching NL West games, and, in particular, games between the top 3 teams, you are certainly missing out. The NL West has been wildly entertaining so far, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of the season shakes out.