Back again with another MLB division preview, this time with the NL Central, home of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs(?). Don’t really expect the standings to look a whole lot different this season, so let’s dive right in. As always, win projections from Atlantis Casino Resort.
What else can you really say about this team? Last year they put together one of the greatest seasons ever: Best pitching staff in the majors by ERA+, second in the National League in runs, one of the greatest defenses of all time, and had the best record in the league. And they’re adding Kyle Schwarber and Wade Davis? Won’t be long until the only curse associated with the Cubs is the Curse of the Pink Hats that has afflicted the Red Sox since 2004.
Centerfield is pretty much the only question mark. Losing leadoff man Dexter Fowler hurts, but 22-year-old Albert Almora is a good prospect, and if he ever finds a position, Schwarber’s offensive upside is far higher than Fowler’s. This is the best roster in the (National) league, and they should roll to another 100+ wins this year.
Over/Under 95.5 Wins: Over
Key Offseason Move: Trading for Wade Davis
Burning Question: Can the Cubs survive Theo’s next soul searching journey?
Bold Prediction: Jason Heyward sets the record for grounding into 50 double plays
St. Louis Cardinals–
The Best Fans in Baseball are probably excited for this season, but that’s mostly because smelling their own farts for so long has dulled their already limited cognitive abilities. This team just feels like it’s in no man’s land. They’re definitely not good enough to contend for their own division (let alone the World Series), but they’re not really that bad, not that the proud Cardinals would ever fully commit to a rebuild. I realize counting out the Cardinals is always foolish, but I really don’t see much when I look at this team.
Listen, they’re still gonna be decent. Their offense was good last year. Fourth in the majors in runs, most home runs in the National League, fourth in slugging, and they’re adding Dexter Fowler, who will add to their already solid team on base percentage. He’s not going to help their lousy defense, though. Or their middling pitching staff (rookie Alex Reyes is nasty). Or their lack of top-end talent. But hey, they have “great” fans, so what does any of that matter? They’re like the Atlanta Hawks of baseball. Good enough to finish above .500, not good enough to do anything else.
Over/Under 87.5 Wins: Under
Key Offseason Move: Signing Dexter Fowler
Burning Question: Who’s going to break the news to Cardinals fans that Yadier Molina sucks now?
Bold Prediction: Cardinals fans will turn on Dexter Fowler for his beliefs by May. Oh, wait, it already happened?
After a million straight Wild Card Game exits, the Pirates took a serious step back last year. To gear up for the comeback season, they went out and added…Ivan Nova? That’s it? I know the Pirates aren’t a traditional free agent hot spot, but surely they could have done a little more.
It’s actually kind of amazing they even won 78 games last year. They weren’t good at anything. Their pitching was trash, led by a down year from presumed ace Gerrit Cole. The offense was trash, led by a career worst year from star Andrew McCutchen. The defense was absolute trash, led by everybody (so McCutchen finishes dead last among all centerfielders in UZR and he wants to complain about being moved to right? Makes sense). They have a lot of really good individual talents: Cole still has good stuff if he can get right mentally. Jameson Taillon is a promising young pitcher. Starling Marte had a great year last year, and longtime top prospect Gregory Polanco showed some signs. I think McCutchen still has something left in the tank. I mean, this is a pretty boring team, but I think their record will probably be a few games better this year.
Over/Under 85.5 Wins: Under
Key Offseason Move: Signing Ivan Nova
Burning Question: What’s really the point of anyone in the NL Central trying for the next few years?
Bold Prediction: They will add to their recent run of success by not winning a playoff game again this year
Once I got to the Cardinals, I kind of started to regret doing this division. Because outside the Cubs, this division stinks. I foolishly thought the AL Central was the most boring division, but by the time I realized I was wrong, it was too late. Cubs could win 120 games going against these teams.
The Reds, in laymen’s terms, are very bad. They might have the worst pitching in the league (third lowest strikeout percentage combined with a league high walk percentage), and outside Joey Votto and Adam Duvall the lineup is terrible. They’re going to be bad again this year. Book it.
Over/Under 73.5 Wins: Under
Key Offseason Move: Signing Drew Storen I guess?
Burning Question: Do Reds fans exist outside of Cincinnati?
Bold Prediction: Joey Votto will request a trade before taking it back because he’s Canadian and doesn’t want to ruffle any feathers
God, what’s the point of this team? Seriously, what are the Brewers playing for? Maybe they can get their prospects some playing time? Is that it?
The Brewers are soooooooooooooo bad. They’re the worst non-Padres offense in the league, their defense is traaaaaash, their pitching was…somehow okay? The Brewers are wasting a great team gimmick by sucking so bad, and I’m sick of it. I’ll start a petition to become the GM of the Brewers. It’s about time someone steps in and makes the Brewers decent again. I know I could do a better job than the people in charge now. I’ll do the impossible and turn Milwaukee into a destination.
Over/Under 72.5 Wins: Under
Key Offseason Move: Trading for Travis Shaw
Burning Question: Did Aaron Rodgers ever donate his salary when Ryan Braun was proved to be a liar?
Bold Prediction: They will sell at least twenty times more Miller Lites in the home opener than the number of games they’ll win this season