View Full Version : State of the NL Central

03-23-2006, 12:59 PM
Has anyone else noticed how wide open the NL Central is this year? IMO, this division is significantly weaker than in year's past.

The Cardinals have Spivey at second now, and Bigbie, Taguchi (among others) vying for starting outfield spots. Those guys are replacing Larry Walker, Reggie Sanders, and Mark Grudzialanek (spelling?). They've also lost Matt Morris, and have Sidney Ponson starting in the rotation (ouch). Granted, they still have Mulder, Carpenter, Pujols, and if Rolen is healthy, then Rolen, but they're a weaker team than past years.

The Astros are depending on Preston Wilson's knees to last a whole season to help boost their anemic offense, the Bagwell controversy has been some of the biggest news at their camp, and Clemens will be of no help to them until at least May, if at all.

What can I say about the Cubs? Prior and Wood are battling health issues again (surprising), Greg Maddux is nearing his 80th birthday, and besides Lee and Ramirez, the lineup is rife with question marks. Also, can Dempster have a full successful season as a closer?

The Brewers actually look very good for the future, but what about this year? Sheets is starting the year on the DL yet again, they have some young positional studs, but all are very young, and they're also relying on a very young closer. All of which can be good, but also bad, things. I like what I see in this team, but with a team as young as they are, anything can happen.

The Pirates are better, but still not very good. In the WBC, Oliver Perez was throwing 88 mph heaters, not exactly a good sign for them. Kip Wells had surgery to correct a clot and will miss significant time, and their lineup lacks any pop at all. As much as I love Casey and Randa, they're not going to supply much power, and other than Jason Bay, I just don't see where any power will come from on a consistent basis. They're a team with long term potential, but for the short term, I don't see much.

Everyone here is aware of the Reds situation, so I'm not going to waste anyone's time by going over it. But there is not one team in this division that I look at and say they're the absolute favorites. The Cardinals, with Carpenter and Mulder at the front of their rotation, look like they'll probably win it again. They at least have some offense to back those guys up, whereas Pettitte and Oswalt could be in trouble with the Astros. I've just been looking at this division all winter and saying "If enough things go right, why can't we finish in the top half?" I don't think we're as bad a team as the national "experts" make us out to be, and with the division being weaker at the top, maybe we'll be able to pull a few extra divisional victories out of our hat. Granted, this post doesn't go that far in depth, but it at least shows on the surface that the division is weaker than in years past. Does anyone else agree with this? Disagree with this? Let me know how you feel. I didn't go very far with this, so feel free to expand on any points you'd like to make.

03-23-2006, 02:08 PM
You are correct in that the division is weaker than usual. Hopefully with our improved pitching the Reds can earn a few more victories at least. Krivisky is showing signs that he is trying to improve the team. That is at least a sign of life in the front office for a change.

03-23-2006, 04:05 PM
I don't know if I'd say it's wide open, but the gap between the Cardinals and everyone else has definately narrowed. I might go as far as to say it's a 4 team race for 2nd place (leaving the Pirates in the basement again). I think with a rebound from Milton (wow he looked good last night!), the addition of Arroyo, continued improvement from Harang and Claussen, we could see close to 80 quality starts from that foursome. No one likes Williams but he did win 10 games last year with the Pirates offense supporting him. That has to speak for something more than just luck.

I like what I see from Hammond (good addition), Coffey and Belisle looked strong on tv last night. If Wagner can be consistent the bullpen could also be much improved. I think there's a chance we could all be surprised.

Jr's Boy
03-23-2006, 04:22 PM
Its better I would think for a team to be written off before the season.Means their more motivated to prove the naysayers wrong.The pressure is on the Cards and Stro's to excell.

Falls City Beer
03-23-2006, 05:47 PM
Yeah, people say the NL Central gets worse every year, but by the end of the season it's the Cards and Stros butting up against 100 wins.

03-23-2006, 06:19 PM
Yeah, but neither of those teams are getting any younger. The Astros are counting on Clemens making a return, and a full healthy season from Pettitte, neither of which can be assumed. And IMO, Jim Edmonds is on the decline in St. Louis. Is he still a good player? Yes. But if last year is any indication of things to come, the days of Edmonds being able to carry a ballclub with his bat for any extended stretch are over. Both clubs are again the top two teams, but as the years go on, more and more questions pop up. I tip my cap to both teams, but sustaining 100 win success isn't as easy as the Braves and Yanks make it look. Sooner or later, one, if not both of those teams will run out of luck, and that may very well be the case this year. I'm not predicting that these teams will fall from the top this year, but on the same hand, I wouldn't be shocked if one of them wound up with 80 wins. Not too long ago the Astros went from perennial division champs to a 70 win team, which goes to show that from year to year anything can happen. And wasn't 1996 the year the Cardinals were in the NLCS with a 3-1 series lead over the Braves? Then by 1998, even with Big Mac's historic year, they were awful. Maybe the Reds won't contend this year, but I don't think things are as bleak as some might believe. Maybe the phrase "wide open" is a bit too optimistic, but I do think the top of the division is weaker. But, on the same hand, it can be argued that the bottom of the division is stronger, with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh both improving talent wise. So even if St. Louis and Houston stumble a bit, there's no guarantee that division play will be any easier