NL Central Predictions

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By: David K.

17 of the 21 “experts” on ESPN.com predicted the Cubs to take home the NL Central for a third straight year.  The other four “experts” think the Cardinals will dethrone the Lovable Losers.  I say “experts” because one writer actually picked the Reds to represent the National League in the World Series.  Really, Enrique Rojas?  Anyway, here are my “expert” predictions on how the NL Central will play out this year.

1. Chicago Cubs
I am not convinced the Cubs are going to run away with this division like everyone seems to think.  Chicago led the National League in runs last season and the much needed addition of Milton Bradley’s left handed bat in the middle of the line-up should help them maintain their offensive output   What concerns me is the starting pitching.  Most talking heads are predicting a down year from Carlos Zambrano.  Can Rich Harden stay healthy?  Will Ryan Dempster be able to re-create his career year from last season?  Is Sean Marshall truly the answer as the number five starter?  Maybe it is just the cynical Cub fan coming out of me, but there are concerns with this team.  And let’s be honest; after being swept out of the Playoffs in the first round the past two post-seasons, just winning the Central will not be enough this year.

2. St. Louis Cardinals
Injuries really plagued the Cards last season, especially on the mound.  If their rotation can stay healthy and rookie closer Jason Motte can successfully fill that role, St. Louis should keep the division close.  The Redbirds will start the year with a pair of rookies in their line-up, LF Colby Rasmus and 3B David Freese (until Troy Glaus returns from the DL), but the rest of the order knows how to produce.  It is very unlikely that the NL Wild Card team will come out of the Central, so winning the division will be essential for any team wanting to see October.

3. Houston Astros
The ‘Stros have pop in the middle of their order with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, and Miguel Tejada returning.  The continued growth of young outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn should only add to the line-up.  Ivan Rodriguez, who signed a one-year deal with Houston, could be the x-factor.  If Pudge can be productive at the bottom of the order, this team may surprise some people.  Pitching will likely be the downfall in Houston.  You know Roy Oswalt will be solid and Wandy Rodriguez should continue to develop, but the health of Mike Hampton and production of veterans Brian Moehler and Russ Ortiz are certainly question marks.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers waited 25 years to make the post-season; one year later, they are trotting out Jeff Suppan as their opening day starter.  Can any team really feel good about their starting rotation when Sup’ is taking the bump on Opening Day?  With CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets both gone, Yovani Gallardo will likely be the true ace of this staff, but he only has 24 career starts.  40-year old Trevor Hoffman was brought in during the off-season to solidify the bullpen, but he starts the ’09 campaign on the 15-day disabled list, leaving a major hole to be filled early in the year.  Offensively, Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun will put up major power numbers, but the Crew need Bill Hall, Mike Cameron, and Rickie Weeks to get on base (which was not a strength last season as they all hit below .245.)  Sorry Brewer backers, do not expect to re-live the magic of 2008.

5. Cincinnati Reds
Dusty Baker’s team is certainly an up-and-coming group, but is probably a year or two away from competing for the top spot in the division.  Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez are young, live arms in the rotation and should build off solid 2008 seasons.  A lot of people are excited about youngsters Jay Bruce and Joey Votto in the middle of the order, and deservingly so.  But outside of Bruce, Votto, Brandon Phillips, and maybe Edwin Encarnacion, there really is not a lot of pop in the line-up.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates
Before I looked up the Pirates roster, I could only name three guys.  Seriously, try it.  It should be another typical season of cellar dwelling for the Bucs.  Their starting rotation is pretty much a mess and the position players are a bunch of over-achievers.  I hear their new stadium is really nice though…

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Wow no repsect for the Brew Crew at all. cold.

    if any team ever had as many pitching injuries over the course of a couple years as the cardinals, i dont think that’s possible. im surprised they were as competitive as they were, and didnt drink themselves to death and get duis and stuff….oh wait

  2. paulmbanks says

    who’s enrique rojas?

  3. some scrub who writes for espn.com and thinks the Reds are going to the World Series

  4. Melissa W. says

    I can’t see how Rojas can justify getting a paycheck predicting rubbish like Reds and Division Champs being even semi-related, but I will give him this: there are some dudes on the Reds I think we’ll all enjoy watching, like Cueto and Votto – I know some don’t agree, but…

    On the other hand, no love for the Brewers here Dave. Fourth? Third, fine, but fourth? It’s fine, I get it with our ridiculously bottom-barrel pitching rotation, however we’ll just have to prove we can get the job done despite the pitching, not thanks to it.

  5. It’s not so much hating on the Brewers as much as I think the Cards and Stros will be a little better this year… oh, and Jeff Suppan is still the Crew’s opening day starter

  6. Peter Christian says

    Who were the three Pirates that you knew before looking at their roster?
    How sad is it that I came up with the Pirates entire opening day starting lineup plus two more starters, a reliever, their closer and Craig Monroe without looking? I know David has been submerged in college basketball, but only three? Really?

  7. Paul Schmidt says

    I am with you Pete….I actually really like that Pirates team. A lot. Plus Andrew McCutcheon comes up this year, and he’s a freaking stud. Between him and Steven Pearce, they’ve got good young offensive talent to go with the pitching.

  8. paulmbanks says

    Wow that Rojas guy is a retard! I heard Skip Bayless did the same thing- what a shock.

    I cant name 3 Pirates- Tike Redman? Ian Snell? Randall Simon?

  9. David K. says

    Capps, Duke, McLouth… that was all I had… granted, I also took a total of 1 minute to think about it…

    Paul… Pirates have the pitching???? Really???? Outside of Maholm, who can they count on besides maybe Snell????

  10. David K. says

    By the way, they are blacking out the Cubs game in Madison. WHY???? we don’t get comcast chicago… it’s not on WGN… why can’t they play it on ESPN 2… I’m raging pissed about this…

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