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NL Central Preview - Mid Summer Classic Update

2010WL2011 PredictionsWL
St. Louis8676y-Milwaukee8874
Milwaukee7785St. Louis8379

Opening Day Questions
Is Cincinnati ready to repeat?
  • All Star Break - Just 4 games out at the moment, they have the talent to win it
How many games will Grienke/Gallardo/Marcum combine to win?
  • All Star Break - 24, so far so good
Is St. Louis going to trade Pujols?
  • All Star Break - Def not since they are the division leader
Will Matt Garza dominate the weak NL Central?
  • All Star Break - No, 2-3 with a 5.28 ERA in 7 starts; just 39.2 innings
Can you name the Astros starting rotation?
  • All Star Break - Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, JA Happ, Brett Myers.........
Plenty of talent on offense, but where is the pitching in Pittsburgh?
  • All Star Break - Yeah, completely flipped the script on us
Second Half Questions
Can Dontrelle Willis be a factor in leading the Reds to the Playoffs?
Can Fielder and Braun keep up their MVP seasons?
Will Pujols, Holliday and Berkman stay healthy?
Will the Cubs have a fire sale?
Will this be the worst season in the Astros franchise history?
Can the Pirates prove the first half was legit?

Cincinnati Reds
Red Reporter

Key Additions: Fred Lewis, Edgar Renteria, Dontrelle Willis

Key Losses: Orlando Cabrera, Aaron Harang, Micah Owings, Arthur Rhodes

Outlook: The Reds were the National Leagues best offense in 2010, and should stay near the top as their offense pretty much stayed the same, as they lost Orlando Cabrera and now Paul Janish will be the everyday shortstop.  We all know this team can hit with the power of Bruce, Gomes, Rolen, Stubbs, Phillips who might be the best second basemen in the NL and of course the MVP Joey Votto.  Janish will provide a much better defensive middle infield, and the Reds won 3 Gold Gloves last year so overall their offense and defense will be at the top of the league, which is a nice combo.  The rotation is filled with talented pitchers, but the Reds don't have a true ace in their staff.  Edinson Volquez will most likely be the opening day followed by Bronson Arroyo a #3 at best.  However Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, Travis Wood and Mike Leake are all very young talented pitchers with a lot of upside.  Because this team did not really lose anybody in the off season it's hard to imagine they won't win this division again.  They should win around 93 games in 2011.

Milwaukee Brewers
Brew Crew Ball

Key Additions: Zach Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yuniesky Betancourt, Takashi Saito

Key Losses: Alcides Escobar, Lorenzo Cain, Trevor Hoffman

Outlook: Look out for the Brewers in 2011, as they made big noise in the off season going out and getting Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum, two guys who will help solidify the Brewers rotation, making it one of the best in the MLB.  We've all seen what Greinke can do when he's healthy and playing at 100%, in 2009 he won the AL Cy Young on an awful Royals team, still managing to win 16 games.  Now add him with Gallardo (14-7, 3.48 ERA) and that's arguably one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball.  But now put Marcum as the #3 whose 37-25 with a 3.85 ERA for his career in the AL East and you wont want to face this team in a playoff series just based off their pitching.  Not only will this team limit opponents from scoring a lot of runs, but when you have an offense consisting of Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Casey McGehee, they can provide enough offense to win games for a below average pitching staff.  This team has the right ingredients to making a playoff push in 2011. I'll be shocked if this team wins less than 86 games.

St. Louis Cardinals
Viva El Birdos

Key Additions: Lance Berkman, Ian Snell, Ryan Theriot

Key Losses: Brad Penny, Brendan Ryan

Outlook: A huge blow to the Cardinals at the start of training camp, finding out they have lost their ace Adam Wainwright for the year.  Veteran Chris Carpenter is really going to have to step it up this year and take control of this staff.  He's battled injuries his whole career and the Cards cant afford to lose him at any point this year, because after him its Jamie Garcia, Jake Westbrook and Kyle Loshe.  No word yet on who takes Wainwright's spot.  The offense is going to have to do their job this year and earn those paychecks if they want to keep the Cards in the playoff hunt with their now lack of pitching.  Pujols can't let the contract talk get to his head, which I don't think it will, and he has to put up MVP numbers like he has done for his first 10 seasons in the big leagues.  Matt Holliday will also have to put up MVP numbers as he'll be a big part of the offense.  The team has battled injuries over the past few seasons but will need guys like Rasmus, Freese and newly acquired Lance Berkamn to stay healthy. With the loss of Wainwright, and the pitching staff very weak behind Carpenter, I can't see this team winning more than 83 games.

Chicago Cubs
Bleed Cubbie Blue

Key Additions: Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, Kerry Wood

Key Losses: Tom Gorzelanny, Xavier Nady

Outlook: The Cubs offense was not very good in 2010, and the only real splash they made was bringing in Carlos Pena to take over for Derek Lee at first.  Pena should provide the power for this team but if he hits below .230 (which he has the past 2 seasons) than do the 30-35 home runs really matter? Youngster Starlin Castro is going to have to be the catalyst for the Cubs and really get the offense going.  If Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto can stay healthy and Marlon Byrd can put up the numbers he did last year then this team should be able to put up runs especially if Soriano finds his power stroke.  One downside to these guys is that not one of them ranked in the top 10 for fielding at their position, so don't expect the pitchers to get a lot of help behind them.  Speaking of pitching, the Cubs acquired Matt Garza and brought back Kerry Wood to the organization.  Dempster, Zambrono, Garza, Wells and Silva look like the starting 5 this year for the Cubs and although it isn't great, they should be able to get by with it.  There are a lot of IF's for this team in 2011, and because of that this team will be lucky to get back to .500.

Houston Astros
The Crawfish Boxes

Key Additions: Bill Hall, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Clint Barmes

Key Losses: Geoff Blum, Tim Byrdak

Outlook: The Astros offense ranked second to last in the NL in runs scored and brought in Bill Hall and Clint Barmes to help fix that problem.  Not a great solution.  They have an aging Carlos Lee who should be the leader of this team, and the play of the young guys Charles Johnson, and Bret Wallace should keep fans interested.  Myers, Rodriguez, Happ, Norris and Figueroa round out of the rotation which is average at best.  Playing in a talented offensive division, the Astros will have trouble competing with their below average offense and average pitching staff.  They probably will end up around 76 wins again in 2011.

Pittsburgh Pirates
The Bucs Dugout

Key Additions: Lyle Overbay, Matt Diaz, Kevin Correia, Scott Olsen, Joe Beimel

Key Losses: Zach Duke, Lastings Milledge, Chan Ho Park, Andy LaRoche

Outlook: This team will be awful once again in 2011, but they should be entertaining to watch and see the development of their young guys like Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Pedro Alvarez.  Other than that their pitching will probably rank dead last again in ERA, as a rotation of Maholm, Ohlendorf, McDonald, Correia and Lincoln scare absolutely nobody.  For all you Pirate fans out their, I hope your not expecting big things, but you should enjoy watching the young talented offensive players you'll have out on the field this year.  I'll be nice and say the Pirates get 60 wins this year.

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