Who will win the NL Central in 2011?

There’s a lot of talk about the Brewers now being as good as or better than the Cardinals and Reds in the last few days.  I can’t say I disagree with that, but I don’t think enough is being made about Shaun Marcum.  I do think Zack Greinke was a huge pickup.  I doubt he’ll ever come close to his 2009 stats, but I also doubt he’ll ever have an ERA close to his 4.17 of 2010. But then again, it’s hard to say on Greinke, because he has had some Khalil Greene problems.  He was formally diagnosed with Severe Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and depression back in 2006, had to quit baseball for 6 weeks, and still struggles with the disorder.  For the people who don’t feel the problems are real, I would ask you if you really think someone like Greene who had the chance to make millions of dollars, was in the prime of his career, would really give that up if the problems didn’t exist.  So with Greinke, I guess you never really know.  His new surroundings, teammates, and a slow start may derail him.  Then again, Milwaukee may be a perfect fit for him.

As for Shaun Marcum, his upside is scary.  He put up good numbers for Toronto in the AL East before and after Tommy John Surgery and just turned 29 years old.  Last year in 31 starts, he was 13-8, had a 3.64 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and had 165 strikeouts in 195.1 innings.  His numbers were similar before TJS in 2008 as far as WHIP, ERA, and SO/9.  I’ll put it this way, if he were coming to the Cardinals, I think most fans would be jumping for joy and pointing to the fact that being in the NL would make him a potential CY Young Award contender.  Maybe not, but I see it that way if he stays healthy.

When you add Marcum and Greinke to Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf, I think you have to put the Brewers staff up there with among the top five in the NL.  I think what makes the Brewers staff so scary is that they have the backing of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee.  By the way, I don’t think McGehee is going to be overlooked too much longer.  Also, if John Axford continues to be solid closer, the Brewers have a strong team for 2011.

So, where do the Brewers rank among pitching staffs in the NL?  If you rank them just by the talent of the pitching alone, I would put them 4th.  As of right now, this is my top 5 rotations:

  1.  Phillies
  2. Giants
  3. Cardinals
  4. Brewers
  5. Dodgers

The Braves would be next on my list.  I flip flop when I think of how the NL Central will play out now.  A lot of what happens with the Cardinals depends on the health and success of Kyle Lohse and David Freese.  You can throw the offensive success of Ryan Theriot, Skip Schumaker and Lance Berkman in there as well.  If Theriot, Schumaker and Berkman don’t hit, the Cardinals are in trouble, because their defensive problems will be that much more magnified.  I want to think the best, and I do like our chances for 2011.

The NL Central will now be a 3 way fight.  The Reds aren’t going away, and the Brewers are going all out.  I hope the team chemistry the Cardinals have pushed for pays off.  I think there’s more to team chemistry than most of us realize.  Having another legit team in the division may actually help the Cardinals with their sense of urgency.  A lot of things have to go right for the Cardinals to win in 2011, but a lot of things have to go right for the Reds and Brewers as well.

This entry was posted in December10 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply