NL Central Predictions

By: Will Martin Email
By: Will Martin Email

Can someone explain to me why the Monday after the Super Bowl is not a national holiday? Would anyone complain if they had an extra day off? It’s a night that everyone is up late watching the game, overeating, and escaping from the realities of having work the next day anyway, so why not just have the next day off? Also, I think it would cut down on drunk driving accidents on that night if people didn’t feel as if they had to get home that night to get up for work in the morning. But most of all, it should be treated as a day of rest. Recuperating from the 5 months of tirelessly cheering your favorite team on and finally winning the Super Bowl (Ravens fans) or falling short yet again (every other team). I’ll shoot an email to Obama and see what I can get done for next year.

Anyway, as I’m sure you know if you’re reading this, the Ravens held on to beat the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII last Sunday. It was an exciting game that I didn’t care about one bit, other than wanting the Ravens to cover the spread. The Ravens pulled away for an early 28-6 lead, then the power went out for about 35 minutes totally turning the momentum and allowing the 49ers to come back only to ultimately fall short 34-31. More importantly than the game itself was the fact that I went 9-2 against the spread in the playoffs which gives me some huge momentum heading into next year’s regular season. The bad news after all of this is that we’re a full 6 months away from football starting up again, but on the bright side, baseball is right around the corner! Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in just 3 days and the Rangers vs. Astros opening night game is in a mere 51 days away (or 1224 hours / 73440 minutes / 4,406,400 seconds)! I’m going to use most of that time to either eat, sleep, or talk about baseball so I better get started. Today we are previewing the NL Central:

Chicago Cubs: When the Astros were a member of the NL Central, the Cubs were my most hated team for a couple of reasons – 1) I got sick of hearing their fans whine about being bad and 2) They were usually just as bad as the Astros so Houston had a realistic shot to beat them. Mostly the latter. But now that rivalry is over so I’ll try not to be biased anymore. Regardless of my past feelings, the Cubs aren’t a good team. Yet. They’ve got a couple young studs in Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, and some guys still developing in their farm system (most notably Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler) but pitching remains a major question. Jeff Samarzdija (yeah, I did have to look up the spelling) is their ace heading into this season and while he’s a solid #3 on a contender, he isn’t going to lead this team to the playoffs. Maybe they’ll be there in a couple of years, but I think they finish somewhere around 70-92 this season.

Cincinnati Reds: As the reigning NL Central Champion, the Reds don’t have many weaknesses. I love the addition of outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland, and as long as Joey Votto is still manning first base, the Reds won’t be far out of first place. Johnny Cueto anchors the pitching staff that is solid 1-5 and we might finally get to see what fireballing right-hander Aroldis Chapman is capable of as a starter. I think they’ll finish with a record very similar to last year at around 94-68. Making the playoffs shouldn’t be in question; it’s how deep of a run they’ll make.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are currently in the “middle-of-the-pack” position that the Astros were in for the 2006-2010 seasons. Not bad enough to get a high draft pick, but not good enough to make the playoffs. It’s not a good place to be, but with a weak farm system and few international signings, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change in the near future. They still have one of the top-5 players in the MLB in Ryan Braun (assuming he isn’t suspended for PEDs) and a very solid outfield, but I think that Corey Hart missing the first couple of months due to injury is going to hurt them a lot. Pitching is okay, not horrible but definitely not great, and will be able to win a few games for the club this year but the Brewers won’t be contenders. I think they’ll finish 1 game over .500 at 82-80, and either need to rebuild their farm system or shell out some big money on free agents soon if they want to avoid doing what the Astros are doing now.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are a relatively young team with some guys that can singlehandedly change a game (Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez) but behind those two guys there’s not much. I don’t trust anybody in the bullpen and A.J. Burnett isn’t a pitcher I would want starting a must-win game. The Pirates surprised some people for the first half of the season last year, even having a 1 game lead in the Central over the Reds as of July 12, but fell off dramatically as the season wound down and finished 4 games under .500. I don’t think that Pittsburgh will collapse like they did last season, but I also don’t think that they’ll get off to as hot of a start. I like the Pirates to finish 81-81 this season with potential to be better if their pitching staff outperforms my low expectations.

St. Louis Cardinals: It’s got to get boring being so good year in and year out, right? What is winning if there isn’t losing? That’s the beauty of being an Astros fan – the wins mean so much more because they are so rare. I wouldn’t trade it away for anything (ok, that last statement isn’t true at all but I’ve already signed my fandom away to the Astros so I’m going to keep telling myself that to make me feel better). It sickens me how the Cardinals manage to be in contention every season, and this year doesn’t look to be any different. They did get some bad news this week though, as it was just announced that Chris Carpenter is going to miss the whole season with a shoulder injury. On the surface, this looks like a big blow for the Redbirds, but it opens up a spot in the rotation for potential rookie-sensation Shelby Miller to get a chance. The outfield looks good, the infield looks good, and the pitching staff should be fine even with the Carpenter loss. This is another season where this team really doesn’t have many weaknesses and looks to contend for another NL Central title. I like the Cardinals to finish 89-73, win the Wildcard behind the Reds for the second year in a row, and make yet another run at the World Series.

Regular Season Final Standings:
1) Cincinnati Reds (94-68)
2) St. Louis Cardinals (89-73)
3) Milwaukee Brewers (82-80)
4) Pittsburgh Pirates (81-81)
5) Chicago Cubs (70-92)

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