Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NL Central Preview

There shouldn't really be any surprises in the Central this season as you might as well already hand the division championship to the Cubs.

Best hitter for 2009 in the NL Central/MVP: No doubt on this one, it's St. Louis 1B Albert Pujols. Pujols will be 29 this season and already has 319 HR in 8 ML seasons. He's the reigning NL MVP after batting .357 with 37 HR and 116 RBI last year. He also had a ridiculous OBP of .462. Expect another huge year out of Pujols.

Best pitcher for 2009 in the NL Central: There are a lot of people to choose from here with Edinson Volquez from Cincinnati, Roy Oswalt from Houston, and Carlos Zambrano from Chicago. But the best pitcher in the Central this year is Rich Harden from the Cubs. The problem with Harden is going out there every 5th day and pitching. But boy when he is out there, he is almost unhittable. Harden started 25 games last year, the most since 2004, and was 10-2 with a 2.07 ERA. In his 12 starts with the Cubs, he was even more impressive, going 5-1 with a Playstation-like 1.77 ERA. Imagine his if he can start 30+ games. It's scary.

Here are my predictions on the order of the NL Central with a little about each team.

1) Chicago Cubs - This team has spent too much money to be anywhere but here. Their rotation with Zambrano, Harden, Lilly, Dempster, and Marshall is the best in the division. And with offense being provided by Derek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto, Milton Bradley, and others, they should breeze through the division.

2) St. Louis Cardinals - Tony LaRussa seems to squeeze out 85-90 wins out of this club every single year even when they don't loook good, so there is no way to see that not happening again this season. The man can flat out manage baseball. I personally don't like him, but I can respect him for what he accomplishes. He could be the best manager in the game. The team also has some pop with Pujols, Ludwick, and Ankiel. The rotation isn't looking to be one of their strong suits, however.

3) Milwaukee Brewers - The team will be able to score. With hitters aplenty in Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, and Corey Hart, they will try to outscore you. However, with the losses of Sabathia, and Sheets, the pitching staff is not nearly as good. When Jeff Suppan is your opening day starter, you know there is something wrong.

4) Cincinnati Reds - This is a team that can surprise some people, but could also totally flop. A lot of pressure will be on the shoulders of this pitching staff to see if everyone can actually come together at the same time. Harang will have to pitch like the Harang of old, Volquez will have to continue what he did in the 1st half of last season, Arroyo will have to have a strong year, and Cueto will have to build on an impressive spring. The offense will also need to overachieve after losing Dunn and Griffey last season. A lot of weight will be put on phenom Jay Bruce to carrry the load.

5) Houston Astros - I think GM Ed Wade might be losing it. I mean, you look at this roster he put together and you just have to wonder what the man is thinking. They have a few guys who will impress with Oswalt, Lee, and Berkman, but this team is full of old guys past their primes for the most part. Out of the guys still in ML camp, 5 will be under 30 this year. Expect Wade to not have a job by the end of the season.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates - Well, this is my team, and I'm not showing much faith. Click here for my Pirates Preview. This team is destined to make history. Just not the good kind. Look for their record 17th straight losing season this year. If that does not happen it will only be from a miracle, and I'm not even using that term loosely.
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