The San Diego Padres can claim that, through May 27, they were the best team in the National League West according to the standings.
Before Thursday’s action, the Padres had a 32-18 record, the best in Major League Baseball.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, seen as the Padres’ biggest rival, entered the day 1.5 games behind the Friars.
Both teams are surging: the Padres have won nine of their last ten, and the Dodgers eight.
Most of the people view the Dodgers as the favorites to win the division and the NL pennant.
However, a sizable section of baseball observers have the Padres at least in the same tier.
Their current place in the standings seems to have fueled that last notion.
But are the Padres still legitimate favorites to win the NL West?
The answer is no, because the division will be too close for either team to be viewed as the ‘legitimate favorite’ in late May.
And, in addition, the San Francisco Giants have surprisingly entered the competition as well, as their 30-19 record is the same as the Dodgers’.
The Padres Are Extremely Good, But So Are The Dodgers
The Padres are an extremely talented baseball team.
If they ever get healthy Dinelson Lamet back, they could be even better.
Chris Paddack, who struggled in 2020, is also coming into his own.
In the context of the season, I can't think of many more positive developments for the Padres than Chris Paddack figuring it out and solidifying the back end of this rotation.
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) May 22, 2021
The Padres currently have, by far, the best pitching in baseball, with a 2.57 ERA.
That ERA is almost half a run better than the Dodgers’ second-ranked mark of 3.03.
When a team has elite pitching, and can call Fernando Tatis Jr. its star player, you can be sure that club is a contender.
Tatis has gone absolutely bonkers this season, with a .294/.365/.681 line, 13 home runs, and 11 stolen bases in just 33 games.
But let’s not forget that the Dodgers are the current World Champions and have an equally good roster, if not slightly better.
The Dodgers Are Getting A Key Player Back
Additionally, it’s impressive that Los Angeles has managed to keep the Padres close in the standings while playing almost the entire season, to this point, without its second-best player, Cody Bellinger.
Bellinger, who was sidelined with a foot injury for weeks, is ready to return to the active roster this weekend, according to reports.
If anything, we can expect these two teams to keep battling until the last few weeks of the season to see who gets the division.
They are, hands down, the two best teams in the National League, and perhaps all of MLB.
Run differential leaders:
1. Padres +68
2. Dodgers +66
3. White Sox +65
4. Astros +60
5. Giants +53
6. Red Sox +51
7. Rays +42
8. Blue Jays +35
9. Yankees +23
10. Cubs +15
Only one division not represented in this group of 10 teams.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 23, 2021
To say that one of them is a clear favorite over the other would be disrespecting a really talented roster and a lot of analytically-driven work behind the scenes.
Let’s just say that the Padres and Dodgers are legitimate favorites to finish 1-2 in the division and hold off a pesky Giants team.