Did the Cubs just join the discussion for the NL Central Title, Part II?

I did the projected starting pitching staffs yesterday, comparing the 4 teams that should compete for the NL Central Title.  Here’s a look at the Cards, Reds, Brewers and Cubs by position.  I used 162 averages for the stats.  For Wins Above Replacement, I’m using their 2010 total along with their WAR/650, which is average WAR for every 650 AB’s.

Player/Pos.AVGOBPOPSHRRBIWAR/6502010
WAR
Molina
STL-C
.268.327.6888652.383.1
Lucroy
MIL-C
.253.300.628956-0.5-0.2
Hernandez
CIN-C
.265.329.74718812.672.4
Soto
CHC-C
.268.360.83123843.693.2
Pujols
STL-1B
.331.4261.050421288.037.2
Fielder
MIL-1B
.279.385.919371042.913.8
Votto
CIN-1B
.314.401.958321064.696.2
Pena
CHC-1B
.241.351.84135982.311.1
Schumaker
STL-2B
.291.349.7326401.340.4
Weeks
MIL-2B
.253.355.78422671.813.7
Phillips
CIN-2B
.267.316.74620800.892.3
DeWitt
CHC-2B
.259.335.7139622.070.0
Theriot
STL-SS
.284.348.7044441.15-0.8
Betancourt
MIL-SS
.272.296.6899610.741.3
Janish
CIN-SS
.226.308.6345361.170.3
Castro
CHC-SS
.300.347.7554530.510.4
Freese
STL-3B
.299.360.7739804.061.7
McGehee
MIL-3B
.288.342.812221013.103.5
Rolen
CIN-3B
.284.369.867261045.423.9
Ramirez
CHC-3B
.282.340.839311092.21-0.7
Berkman
STL-RF
.296.409.954331094.381.4
Hart
MIL-RF
.275.329.81224882.523.6
Bruce
CIN-RF
.257.327.80031822.254.3
Fukudome
CHC-RF
.259.368.77813592.401.6
Rasmus
STL-CF
.263.334.78622663.52.9
Gomez
MIL-CF
.246.293.6426451.600.0
Stubbs
CIN-CF
.258.328.77025794.834.1
Byrd
CHC-CF
.282.341.76412692.612.2
Holliday
STL-LF
.317.388.931291114.125.5
Braun
MIL-LF
.307.364.918361183.704.8
Gomes
CIN-LF
.247.330.79025790.38-0.4
Soriano
CHC-LF
.277.326.83435932.221.4

As I said yesterday, Matt Garza does not make the Cubs a playoff contender by himself.  However, he will be a force in the rotation.  He has had an ERA of 3.70, 3.95 and 3.91 in the last 3 years over 94 starts in the AL East.  Also, a player not in the table is Tyler Colvin.  Colvin is a player that neither the Cards, Brewers or Reds have coming off the bench, and it’s not close.  The Cubs are a little more loaded than I originially thought, and with health, and mental health (Zambrano), they should make it interesting.  They have a lot of potential.  If Fukudome is used properly for his OBP skills, they could be dangerous.

I think the Cubs will find a way to fall apart.  The problem with the Cubs being better is that I think the Cards will feel it the most because of how the Cubs “get up” to play the Cards, no matter what the standings are.  Let’s just hope that the Brewers, Reds and Cubs play each other tough each series, and keep the Cards in contention.  If the Pirates somehow land Carl Pavano, they will probably deal him to the Cubs for a can of chew or a bag of baseballs.

The NL Central, on paper, now has to be the at least the 2nd most difficult division in baseball.  The pitching in the division is like no other, including the AL East.  Off the top of my head, I can name many #1′s and #2′s.  Wainwright, Carpenter, Garcia, Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum, Wolf, Zambrano, Dempster, Garza, Cueto, Volquez, Arroyo, W. Rodriguez, Myers, etc.

Like I said, I like the Cardinals on paper, and I believe in Dave Duncan.  I think Lohse will rebound, and we will be strong.  Berkman and Freese might not make it over a full year, but if these 3 pitch, field and hit, with health from all others, we should be in the mix.  As you can see from yesterday’s article, the Brewers have some dominating strikeout pitchers, when combined with their run support, scare me the most.  However, Vegas has the Cards ahead of the others, and that’s a sense of relief so far.

Jack’s Take:

The Cubs usually find a way to blow it, but they are in the mix now.  My main concern is Cincinnati, as I still think they are the team that are the biggest threat to the Cards.  If Berkman stays healthy and hits like he did in Houston, it’s all but over.

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