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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

2005 NL Central Preview 

The MLB’s largest division is also its most mysterious. There are lots of variables, lots of X factors at work.

Proj. Standings:
St. Louis Cardinals
Chicago Cubs
Houston Astros
Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers
Cincinnati Reds

Peter Gammons likes the Cardinals and thinks they’ll be better than last year’s 105 win jauggernaut. Do I agree? I think the ’05 Cardinals will be stronger in terms of pitching with Mark Mulder on staff, which is a fearsome thought to consider: a team with tremendous hitting and fielding now with better pitching? I think they’ll win 100 games and win the Central in a walk … I think the Cubs will be a good team in 2005. I’m tempted to give them the edge in their battle with the Cards. I like their rotation (Wood, Prior & Maddux ... provided they are all healthy), and I think losing Sammy Sosa will improve their team chemistry (addition by subtraction and all that), but the Cards are far too talented to lose out to the Cubs. The Cubs don’t play good team defense, and they don’t have enough OBP guys. They are a team built on power: power pitching (best team FIP in the NL in 2004: 3.84, 0.46 better than the rest of the NL) and power hitting (their .190 ISO was better than any other NL team). I think they can contend, but they are badly built. If they emphasized defense and getting on base more, I think they could be very good … Poor Astros. Will Petitte be healthy? How much will losing Beltran hurt them? Will they miss Jeff Kent? This team is less talented than the one that came within a game of the World Series in 2004. Even with Roger Clemens mowing down batters left and right, I can’t see them having much success. They don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Cubs or Cards … I’m intruiged by the Pirates. They have a good core of young pitchers and some good bats. Jason Bay had a sterling year and eased the pain of dealing Brian Giles. That said, this team has some major problems. They might be the worst defensive team in baseball (and that’s saying something with Jack Wilson manning short), and they don’t pack much of a punch at the plate (-.019 behind the NL average in ISO, and -.012 in OBP). I think Perez could have a fantastic season for them, but their decision to deal Jason Kendall was terrible: they got a mediocre pitcher and a an outfielder who is an absolute disaster defensively for an OBP machine and one of the best catchers in the game. Awful. Simply awful … Did you know that Milwaukee ranked third last year in Fielding Independent Pitching in the NL? Their 4.01 FIP was better than everyone except the Cubs and Astros. The Brewers have a very good pitching staff developing in Milwaukee and could actually make some noise in the NL Central … in 2006. This team is awful at the plate. If they could add some bats, they’d start to have a pretty decent team developing up there, but I don’t really see that happening. Still, if they continue to build their pitching and improve on defense, the Brewers could be dangerous some day soon … What really can you say about the Cincinnati Reds that hasn’t already been said? I thought they were going to the World Series in 2000, with most of their core, 96 win 1999 team intact and Ken Griffey Jr batting. I was stunned to see them collapse these last few years. They really have little-to-know hope. Their big free agent signing was to bring in a pitcher (Eric Milton) who surrendered an MLB high 43 home runs in 2004 into a stadium that ranked a 110 Park Factor in 2004 (i.e., it was 10% easier to homer at Cincy’s Great American Ballpark than at a neutral park). Catastrophic doesn’t even begin to describe the decision. This team is below average defensively, below-average in terms of pitching, and they don’t score that many runs. The ’04 Reds out-performed their pythagorean win-loss record by 9 wins, and they still won just 76 games! This team will be lucky to win 70 and stay out of last place. Might be the worst in the NL.

Tomorrow: NL West.

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