The National League West is a fascinating division this season.
Most MLB fans expected it to be a two-horse race with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres.
But instead, the San Francisco Giants have thrown a wrench into everyone’s plans with their outstanding campaign.
At 60-35, the Giants have the best record in MLB by a long shot.
WILMER FLORES GIVES THE GIANTS THE LEAD pic.twitter.com/fobYmAyW12
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) July 22, 2021
In the context of the division, the first-place Giants have a two-game lead over the Dodgers (who are 59-38) and a 5.5-game lead over the Padres (who are 56-42).
With three teams firmly in the thick of things, it’s a great time to take a stab at predicting each club’s final record.
Let’s get started.
3. San Diego Padres – Projected Finish: 93-69
It feels insane to say that a team as talented as San Diego might somehow be the third-best team in its division, but that looks like the truth right now.
The Padres are currently in a 5.5-game hole in the NL West, and while that deficit isn’t insurmountable, there are tons of factors working against San Diego’s hopes of winning the division.
For one, the Padres have the ninth-toughest remaining schedule in all of MLB.
Making up ground in the division is going to be a tall task when the team has to face lots of quality opponents from here on out.
Two, if the Padres want to win the thing, they’re going to need to leapfrog two teams, not just one.
San Diego will have a chance to make up ground during head-to-head matchups with the Giants and Dodgers, but there will be very little margin for error.
In all likelihood, the Padres are going to land in the NL Wild Card Game this season.
2. San Francisco Giants – Projected Finish: 100-62
The Giants are a great story, but it’s going to be a battle from here on out.
We mentioned that the Padres have a tough remaining schedule, but the Giants have an even more difficult slate the rest of the way.
San Francisco has the sixth-toughest remaining schedule in the Majors.
That said, the Giants have gotten themselves into such a favorable position already that it would not be surprising to see them crack 100 wins even if they slow down from their current pace.
Their current .632 win percentage has them on pace for 102 wins at the moment, so even if they regress slightly over the next few months, they could still hit the century mark.
The trade deadline is going to be a pivotal time for San Francisco.
With the other teams in the division likely to be active, the Giants will need to keep up.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers – Projected Finish: 101-62
A one-game margin at the top of the division—wouldn’t this be something?
The NL West is bound to come down to Game 162 this season, and there could be all sorts of scenarios on the table entering the final day of the regular season.
Right now, the Dodgers still seem like the favorites to win the division crown.
The Padres and Giants have two of the toughest remaining schedules in the league, and the Dodgers have one of the easiest.
More specially, L.A. has the 14th-easiest remaining schedule in the Majors, and it’s only a matter of time before the club should start to capitalize on it.
Further, the Dodgers have somehow managed to stay afloat with just two or three legitimate starting pitchers over the past couple of weeks.
With Clayton Kershaw set to return soon and the trade deadline approaching, there is almost certainly help on the way in that department.
The Dodgers are ridiculously well-rounded.
When healthy, they’re able to roll with a lineup where every player but one has an above-league-average OPS+.
In the bullpen, L.A. has eight players who have made at least 20 appearances, and all of those players have ERAs of 3.65 or lower.
The Wild Wild (NL) West!
— MLB (@MLB) July 21, 2021
And as mentioned, when it comes to starting pitching, the Dodgers are about to get some much-needed reinforcements.
Everything is setting up nicely for Los Angeles to claim the NL West for the ninth consecutive season.