Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NL Central

So my weekend break became basically a week and a half off. That shouldn't happen over the summer as there will actually be baseball that counts being played.

To get things going again, lets talk about the NL Central. Here are my predictions:

Nothing ground breaking here, but I think the Cubs will win the NL Central again. I'm not sure that Dempster repeats his outstanding season, but the starting pitchers are either consistent, or at least flashes of great (Zambrano). D. Lee isn't getting any younger, nor is Aramis Ramirez, but their lineup is consistent throughout. The biggest question mark may well be how Fukudome and Soto deal with leaving the sleeper status because of their breakout 2008 seasons. The only other major question is whether the game board (Milton Bradley) is able to just rake, or whether he continues to be a head case (see being traded from Cleveland because of a fight with Wedge, blowing out his knee while arguing a call at first).

The rest of the Central is much closer than it should be. First the order




The Brewers have a hearty lineup (good for NL standards, a little light compared to most AL teams). I think they are able to finish the season above .500 based on slugging and speed, but lack of pitching and pitching depth leads to missing the playoffs.

The Reds might be another year off, because of their overall youth. The big question I have about the team is whether or not they will cast off their swing for the fences image and go with the speed they have all around. I know they play in a bandbox, but I think the team as currently built would have more success hitting singles and stealing bases and letting the homers come to them. If they continue to use the Dunn 3 outcome philosophy (homer, walk, strikeout), then I will have overestimated their record and place. If they focus on their good to great rotation and hit just enough, the can make a run at the Brewers for 2nd, possibly for a wildcard spot (assuming some great breaks along the way).

Cardinals: Without Pujols, they are 5th or 6th in the division, with him, they are in the mix for anywhere from 2-4th. There's Pujols and a bunch of other guys who are either past their prime, waiting for a prime, or Ryan Ludwick (who will not repeat his awesome 2008, but will continue to look productive because he will be the 2nd best hitter on his team). The big question is how Carpenter finally comes back. If he can be a staff ace again, maybe the rest of the rotation feels less pressure and performs adequately to the tune of a .500 record. I don't see it though and expect to see them in the 70 - 75 wins area.

Astros: I should have them higher, and I can think of a lot of reasons to have them higher, but in the end, I have them finishing 5th. Their starters after Oswalt are decent, though not great (I'm not completely on the Wandy Rodriguez bandwagon). But their lineup seems to be Berkman, Carlos Lee, and a bunch of players who are known for what they might do (Pence, Bourn) or what they used to do (Tejada). Nothing great here, lots of adequate and in a 6 team division, that translates to a low finish.

The Pirates are the clear scum of the division. Enough said about that.

I would be very surprised if the wild card comes out of this division because I see very little separation between teams 2-4, maybe even 1-5. And unlike other divisions that gravitate towards being very good (AL East, AL Central) or bottom feeders (NL West), this division is all huddled around 81-81.

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