2010 Divisional Previews & Predictions: NL Central

Today it is time for the NL Central predictions. This division features the most teams out of any division in baseball. The central contains a young Reds squad who has a lot of promising players. It also features the Cardinals who are looking to repeat and a Cubs team who is trying to recover from an injury plagued 2009 season. The Brewers are also looking to get themselves back into contention. There is not going to be that large of a gap from the teams in the middle of the pack which could make this difficult to predict.

1. St. Louis Cardinals
Key Departures: Mark DeRosa and Joel Piniero
Key Arrivals: Brad Penny and Felipe Lopez

The Cardinals are clearly the best team in this division. They have the best rotation in a division where rotations are really weak. Their offense will flourish not only because they have one of the best duos in the game in Pujols and Holliday, but because they will be facing below-average pitching more than other teams would. The Cardinals filled holes this off-season in acquiring Penny and Lopez. Expect the Cardinals to be just as good as they were last season. The only question about the Cardinals is whether or not Ryan Ludwick will be able to give the Cardinals production similarly to in 2008. Chris Carpenter will probably be the X-Factor for the Cardinals. He is their best pitcher but he must find a way to accumulate 25+ starts for the Cardinals. If the Cardinals can keep Carpenter healthy and if their offense can help out Pujols and Holliday, expect them to win this division easily.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
Key Departures: J.J. Hardy, Mike Cameron, and Felipe Lopez
Key Arrivals: Carlos Gomez, Randy Wolf, and Doug Davis

Out of every team in this division, the Brewers probably lost the most value this off-season. They lost key defensive players at the most important defensive positions. Hardy, Cameron, and Lopez were all above average defenders. However, the Brewers acquired Carlos Gomez who is a very good defender. He won’t provide the offensive value that Mike Cameron would have, but he will make up for the defensive value lost in center field. I am banking on the Brewers to have a wOBA close to the .335 they had in 2009. They did this despite Rickie Weeks being injured and a down year from J.J. Hardy. I expect Rickie Weeks to have a very good year that will catch people by surprise. The lineup is not the issue that the Brewers have to worry about. Their rotation was one of the worst in the league last year when it had a team ERA of 4.84. Only that Nationals, Orioles, and Indians had a worse team ERA. However, the Brewers brought in Randy Wolf and Doug Davis. They are two serviceable starters that will give them a nice 1, 2, 3, along with Yovani Gallardo. In a division that has some very weak staffs, the Brewers lucked out because their staff should improve and they have a good offense that can feast off the pitching in the rest of this division.

3. Cincinnati Reds
Key Departures: None.
Key Arrivals: Orlando Cabrera and Aroldis Chapman

The Reds have some very nice, young talent. Expect breakout seasons from Joey Votto and Jay Bruce. The Reds triple slash (batting average / on-base % / slugging%) of .247/.318/.394 is quite deceiving because Joey Votto was injured for a good part of the year and Jay Bruce struggled. The Reds have a very strong bullpen but their rotation lacks consistency other than Aaron Harang. If the Reds can get some help in the rotation from guys like Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto then they might have a chance to challenge the Brewers for second place in the central. This team has tremendous upside and I love to watch them whenever they are playing the Braves. They also played great defense last season and they showed it by posting a UZR of 52.6 which was behind only the Mariners and Rays.

4. Chicago Cubs
Key Departures: Rich Harden and Milton Bradley
Key Arrivals: Marlon Byrd, Xavier Nady, and Carlos Silva (LOL)

Oh, the Cubs. I do not understand how in the world Jim Hendry still has a job. I liked the Marlon Byrd move and I think it was one that was needed but I don’t understand why they did not re-sign Rich Harden. Their current rotation consists of Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny, and Silva. Looks like they could have used Harden since Lilly is going to start the season on the DL and Randy Wells probably won’t be nearly as good as he was last season. Their offense and bullpen does not make up for their troubled rotation. They have a lot of players that seem to be exiting their prime and you have to question how much they are going to provide for the Cubs this year. I expect Geovany Soto to have a bounce back season. If the Cubs struggled with health like they did least season, it could be a rough year in the north side and we could end up seeing Starlin Castro sooner than expected.

5. Houston Astros
Key Departures: Jose Valverde and Miguel Tejada
Key Arrivals: Brandon Lyon, Pedro Feliz, Brett Myers, and Matt Lindstrom

When I look at the Houston Astros off-season moves, I am left scratching my head. They ship Valverde to Detroit only to pick up and spend about 6-7 million on Lyon and Lindstrom. Their pitching provided 10 WAR and their lineup provided 12.5 WAR. Both were in the cellar in the league. To make matters worse, it looks as if Lance Berkman is going to start the year on the DL. Not only are the Astros in trouble this season, but it looks like they could be in trouble for years to come because their best players (Lee, Berkman, and Oswalt) are all nearing, or are already in their mid-30’s.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Key Departures: None.
Key Arrivals: Akinori Iwamura and Octavio Dotel

Remember when I said that the last placed teams usually consist of teams looking to rebuild? Well, we stumble across a team that never seems to stop rebuilding in the Pirates. Throughout the 2009 season, the Pirates lost Jack Wilson, Nate McLouth, Nyjer Morgan, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Ian Snell, and Tom Gorzelanny. How can a team expect to win when they are constantly unloading their best talent? They unloaded 3 of their top 7 batting leaders in WAR. Andrew McCutchen will most likely be their best player. If the Pirates still had Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and the players I mentioned above, then they would probably be moved up a few slots. However, they don’t. They will remain in the cellar this season.

Twac00’s NL Central Predictions:
1. Cardinals
2. Reds
3. Brewers
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates

JeffMac’s NL Central Predictions:
1. Cardinals
2. Brewers
3. Cubs
4. Reds
5. Astros
6. Pirates

Dougbies NL Central Predictions:
1. Cards
2. Brewers
3. Reds
4. Cubs
5. Astros
6. Pirates

YC’s NL Central Predictions:
1. Cardinals
2. Cubs
3. Brewers
4. Reds
5. Pirates
6. Astros

Disco’s NL Central Predictions:
1. Cardinals
2. Cubs
3. Brewers
4. Reds
5. Pirates
6. Astros

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