When I was in high school, our basketball team squared off a few times against Lone Peak High School from Alpine, Utah. If you search them, you’ll see just how good they were a few years ago. I’ve suffered from a chronic absence of school spirit my whole life, but I made it a point to go to these games to see one of the best high school teams in the country take it to the kids who found themselves at the cross-section of wealth and generous pituitary glands. It wasn’t even fair, and I loved it. If you were looking for a good game, this wasn’t what you wanted to see, but it was entertaining.
This is basically how the NL Wild Card race went prior to the All-Star Break. The NL West came in and acted like a gorilla in a Dole factory, and everyone just stood by and watched the destruction happen. Since the All-Star Break, however, the Wild Card spots find themselves within very reasonable striking distance for those teams further east. Let’s take a gander at the National League Wild Card race.
The Rockies currently find themselves in first place in the Wild Card. To give context to just how insane the Dodgers’ season has been, Colorado is 16 games above .500, and still finds themselves 16 games back from Los Angeles in the NL West. Good grief.
The biggest move made in Denver was the acquisition of catcher Jonathan Lucroy. Lucroy has been historically good, but has struggled relatively after his move to Texas last season. He’s currently batting .242 on the season with 327 total plate appearances. The next best option, Ryan Hanigan, is at .264 with just 101 plate appearances. Hopefully Lucroy’s experience and defense can bolster the Rocks behind the plate.
Paul Goldschmidt is a legitimate MVP candidate; no matter what east coast guys refuse to pay attention to. His stats this year are nothing new, though he is on pace to set career highs in home runs and RBIs while fueling a very good Diamondbacks team.
Third baseman Jake Lamb pairs with Goldschmidt to make the D-Backs even scarier looking ahead to next season, even if they don’t make a huge postseason splash this year. He’s currently tied with Goldschmidt at 90 RBIs on the year and just one home run short of the first baseman. Granted, Lamb also trails Goldschmidt in batting average and on-base percentage by .057 and .061, but the power is there, and Lamb is young.
The real surprise of the year is the pitching staff. It’s a tale of two Zacks, as in Zack Greinke and Zack Godley, along with a stellar Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker. Greinke leads the way with a 13-5 record and a 3.14 ERA, while Ray, who is currently on the DL, rocks a 3.11 ERA. Godley has gone 5-4 in 16 starts but boasts a 2.94 ERA. All in all, they average about 6 innings per start, and a forty-year-old Fernando Rodney has come out of the woodwork to record 26 saves so far this year.
If Arizona makes a deep push in the playoffs, it’ll be on the strength of their corner infielders and buff pitching staff. I don’t think Arizona fans should worry too much.
St Louis Cardinals
Five games behind the D-Backs are the St. Louis Cardinals. If it weren’t for a recent seven-win tear they’ve gone on, with the help of a 1-2 series for the D-Backs against Los Angeles, this race wouldn’t be as close as it kind of is right now.
The Cardinals are as lovable as any central division team can be. They’ve ridden the arms of Lance Lynn and Carlos Martinez and the bats of Matt Carpenter and Tommy Pham to be legitimate contenders in this race. That being said, the D-Backs are just one short winning streak from putting this thing way out of reach.
The Brewers are possibly the second biggest tragedy of this season after recent retiree Colby Rasmus’ neckbeard. Between their hot start and the NL West’s chokehold on the Wild Card, it looked like they’d be the team to spoil the Cubs’ chances at a repeat, crushing the hearts of bandwagon fans everywhere and leaving them to console themselves with gear bearing the logo of this year’s champion.
Eric Thames’ start was, it turns out, too good to be true. He’s cooled off in a jiff so have the Brewers. They’re staying in the race on the graces of their hot start and are actually only seven games back from the second spot, but currently find themselves in a six-game losing streak. They still have a good chance to come back and take the central, being just 2.5 games back from the Cubs.
The Brewers are still within striking distance, but don’t count on it.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will not win a Wild Card spot. Their presence in the top five of the current race is more a tribute to the absolute crappiness of the NL East rather than their own merit, though they are at .500.