Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preview/Prediction: N.L. Central

Looks like Manny is going back to the Dodgers, but I'm going to be safe and stick with the least likely of his landing spots.

The N.L. Central is a little easier to predict than the A.L. Central, where like the N.L. West, anything can happen.

Last year I got the bottom two right...the top four, not so much. I put too much faith in the Cardinals (4th place), picking them to finish first. I had the Cubs (1st) in second, the Brewers (2nd) in third, and the Astros (3rd) in fourth.

The Cubs retain the best all-around team, including the best starting rotation in the division, and probably the league. They didn't exactly get better, but as if they needed any extra help, the division got much, much worse.

For the Cubs not to win this division by 10 or more games, some young kids are going to need to step up somewhere and make a huge impact.

1) Chicago Cubs (99-63)

I won't give them triple-digits, but I'll give them a 14-game pad when things are said and done. The rest of the division has absolutely nothing. The biggest question for the Cubs is the bullpen, where Bob Howry and Kerry Wood both left town. Carlos Marmol is currently the closer, but with the acquisition of Kevin Gregg, things could change quick. Aaron Heilman would like to compete for a starting spot, but he's more likely to end up a closer, as is the case with fellow Notre Dame Alum Jeff Samardzija.

The Cubbies picked up Milton Bradley (eh.) and Aaron Miles (eh.), but more importantly, likely won't be starting Kosuke Fukudome. Now that I've trashed him, he'll have a great year. But now that I've said he'll have a great year, he'll suck. And now that...nevermind.

The rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, Ryan Dempster, and Ted Lilly will be fine, even if there are some minor injuries. They've got enough to put the division away early, and it won't even be competitive.

2) Houston Astros (85-77)

This is kind of a "by default" second place pick. Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee are each a year older, and Mark Loretta and Ty Wigginton each bounced in free agency. The best news for the Astros? They still have Roy Oswalt. The bad news? The offense can't produce enough to even guarantee him another 17-win season.

3) St. Louis Cardinals (83-79)

If Chris Carpenter were to ever become healthy, the Cardinals organization might feel a little more confident. Jason Isringhausen headed to the Rays, Aaron Miles to the Cubs, and Felipe Lopez to the D'Backs. Without any decent pitchers in the rotation or the bullpen, there will be a lot of pressure on the Pujols, Ludwick, Ankiel combination. The big three will get it done on offense, but it won't be enough due to lack of production from the surrounding cast.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (80-84)

Trevor Hoffman, Eric Gagne, Jorge Julio. What the hell are the Brewers doing? Braden Looper is apparently their big replacement for Ben Sheets and C.C. Sabathia. Yovani Gallardo is their ace. The youthful sluggers, Cory Hart, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder, will win them some games, but not enough to make any significant noise in the division.

5) Cincinnati Reds (72-94)

The Reds picked up a plethora of free agents, none of whom will really make a huge impact. Willy Taveras will be roaming center in Cinci, and David Weathers was retained to "help out" in the pen. Teams will be ready for Edinson Volquez this year, and without a left-handed starter, it's going to be a long season for Reds fans. They'll be lucky not to finish in last.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates (70-92)

The Pirates didn't get much better, but maybe a little bit. They picked up Eric Hinske in free agency to come off the bench. The rotation is iffy, but they'll have Jeff Karstens from the starting line. 70 wins isn't too much to ask, is it?

Coming soon: Most likely the A.L. West...but no promises.


Eric said...

I pick the Cards to win the central.

Travis Miller said...

I just think it's gonna be tough because Carpenter hasn't shown the ability to come back effectively from injury yet, AND they don't have a closer.

Can Manny please sign? I need to get this going.

Eric said...

I was just throwing a pick out there. Idk about Manny.. You know, the Dodgers have to "start from scratch" now. Ridiculous.

Travis Miller said...

Still want him? What would you pay?