Friday’s NL Central Review

18 04 2008

St. Louis Cardinals (11-5), — GB

The St. Louis Cardinals still hold onto the NL Central. The Cardinals have their backs against the wall, as no one is giving them a chance, and they are churning out win after win. Their pitching has remained fantastic. Kyle Lohse pitched seven innings of scoreless ball before running into trouble in the eighth against the Brewers. How is he doing it? He’s really not that good. I expect his performance to regress towards the mean, but it has not happened thus far. Perhaps St. Louis is the home he’s been looking for? Skip Schumaker, on the other hand, has risen from the dead. After starting the season in a 0-16 slump, he has broken out in a big way. He personally killed the Milwaukee Brewers this week, and he’s hit over .400 since that slump. I just don’t understand…

The Cardinals will take on the San Francisco Giants again this weekend, as Todd Wellemeyer will take the mound against Matt Cain. I never thought I would be cheering against the Cardinals this early in the season, but go Giants!

  • Viva El Birdos has a man-crush on Kyle McClellan. He did look good yesterday, I must admit. Those three breaking pitches against Joe Dillon made Joe look just plain silly. Sure the third pitch was a bit high, but you have to pull the trigger on that one. K-Mac, as he is known as, seems to be developing into an absolute workhorse in St. Louis.
  • This is certainly after the fact, but C70 at the Bat has some good statistical analysis concerning the Brewers-Cardinals series. I did not know Braden Looper had struggled so much against the Brewers. Too bad that did not last.

Chicago Cubs (9-6), 1.5 GB

The Cubs start today tied for second place in the Central with your Milwaukee Brewers. They have had an up and down week. They did beat the Cincinnati Reds in two out of the three games at home, which is more than the Brewers were able to do last week. All in all, the bullpen is looking good. Kerry Wood has rebounded from his performance against the Crew on Opening Day. His velocity is up, and he is consistently getting outs. He and Carlos Marmol will be quite difficult at the back-end of the Cubs bullpen. Alfonso Soriano injured his calf this week and is on the DL. He seems to get hurt every year now.

Rich Hill will face Ian Snell tonight to start the series against the Pittsburgh Pirates. I think everyone in both organizations is hoping that there are not two extra-inning games this time. The Cubs will most likely take care of business, but Ian Snell is quietly performing like a stud. He could surprise Chicago tonight.

  • Do you want to know how classy the fans at Wrigley are? These blatantly racist t-shirts are the most popular items being sold out side of the stadium. I understand that we should not judge all Cubs fans by events like this, but it makes it rather hard. How does anyone think this is a good idea? Kosuke Fukudome is a class act and deserves to be treated as such.
  • The View from the Bleachers is calling for Ted Lilly to be removed from the starting rotation. Well, it does not take long for Cubs fans to forget the successful season he had last season. Then again, I believe everyone knows last year was a fluke. This is the true Ted Lilly.
  • Everyone believes that Alfonso Soriano hurt his calf on his annoying little hop he does before catching a fly ball. I will ignore the fact that Soriano is one of my least favorite players because of his cockiness (there is a difference between cockiness and supreme confidence). Apparently, this injury was not caused by his little hop. He injured it in Pittsburgh, but he tried to play through it. That plan obviously did not work.

Pittsburgh Pirates (7-8), 3.5 GB

The Pittsburgh Pirates are toying with the hearts of the Pirates faithful. They go out and take the series against the Cincinnati Reds, yet they turn around and lay an egg against the hot Los Angeles Dodgers. Players like Nate McLouth and Tyler Yates have been wonderful surprises, but one wonders if they will be able to keep up their current pace. Then again, players like Paul Maholm and Jason Bay continue to disappoint. Pirates fans assume that they should be pessimistic about the entire season, but the optimism cannot be held down. I’ll look at that more in a second.

As stated above, Ian Snell will lead the Pirates against Rich Hill and the Chicago Cubs this afternoon at Wrigley Field. It should be an interesting match-up. These two pitchers have the potential to be studs. You could even argue that Snell already is.

  • The Pittsburgh Lumber Co. addressed the exact topic that I mentioned above. Are there reasons for optimism? Matt Bandi seems to be a little confused. He knows that Nate McLouth will not be able to keep up his current pace, and he calls Tom Gorzelanny an arm injury waiting to happen. I tend to agree with Matt about that one, by the way. The Pirates pushed Gorzelanny far too hard last season, and they may have to pay the repercussions for that strategy. Matt believes that Ryan Doumit is a positive for the team, but I would tend to disagree. His defense is terrible.
  • How about something that is a little more pessimistic about the Pirates? Bucco Blog does not believe that the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the right track. Not even a little bit.
  • The Bucs Dugout takes a closer look at the Pirates bullpen. It is not a pretty sight for the most part, but it does have some bright spots. Like I’ve said numerous times, Tyler Yates has been lights-out thus far. Evan Meek is a promising young pitcher that needs more time for development. Unfortunately, he is Pittsburgh’s Rule 5 draft pick, so he must stay on the big league roster. I tend to agree with the author here. Give him more time. It’s not like the Pirates are playing for anything right now anyway.

Cincinnati Reds (7-9), 4.0 GB

The Reds did not have an enjoyable week.  They lost five straight road games since the last time we checked in with them.  Getting swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates must have hurt incredibly badly.  There are some positives though.  Ken Griffey Jr. is starting to heat up at the plate.  He is chasing the elusive #600, but he is getting much closer.  Young first baseman, Joey Votto, has made his arrival known the last couple days.  He had a big day yesterday with a home run and five RBI.  Nothing like demanding playing time!  Hopefully he cools off a bit as Milwaukee comes to town, but the kid can legitimately hit.  He’s a big leaguer for sure.  Francisco Cordero has struggled a bit, on the other hand.  I know Brewers fans especially like to see that, but it has hurt the Reds.  He’s even struggled in mop-up roles like yesterday.  He’ll have to turn it around for the Reds to improve.

Bronson Arroyo will welcome Ben Sheets and the Milwaukee Brewers to town tonight.  The game will be the beginning of a three-game weekend series at the Great American Ballpark.

  • Red Reporter takes a look at the first 10% of the season for the starting pitchers.  Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, and Aaron Harang have all pitched well.  In case any of you are living under a rock, Harang owns the Brewers.  He will take the mound against the Crew on Sunday.
  • Josh Fogg is out of the rotation.  That should not be overly surprising.  He is average at best.  With all those power, young arms that Cincinnati has at their disposal, it would be foolish to keep Fogg in the starting rotation.  Will he remain on the team?  That has yet to be decided.  All I know is that Dusty Baker did not want Fogg on the team in the first place.  In fact, he was only told about Fogg coming to Cincy after the deal was already finalized.  Classy move by the management there.

Houston Astros (6-10), 5.0 GB

The Houston Astros put their first series victory on the board this week against the Philadelphia Phillies.  Roy Oswalt looked like he found what has been missing the entire year.  Doug Brocail has quietly been one of the best signings of the off-season for the Astros.  Lance Berkman is also starting to heat up at the plate.  There are lots of positives coming out of the last couple days, but all is not sunshine and roses in Houston.  Jose Valverde is beginning to look like the 2006 version, not the shut-down 2007 version.  He has been wild and giving up lots of runs.  Perhaps that trade is not working out like everyone thought.  Hunter Pence has been dreadful this season too.  Just dreadful.  He’s too good of a player to go through such a stretch.  He’ll break out of it.

The Astros will play hosts to the Colorado Rockies this weekend.  Chris Sampson will take on rookie Franklin Morales tonight in Game 1.  It is a match-up of rather disappointing teams this season.  We’ll see who can get it going.

  • There is still a lot of cynicism and sarcasm floating around in the Astro world.  Take the article from The Astros Dugout.  The headline is about Geoff Geary getting a 1-2-3 inning.  That should not be such a big deal.  I guess it is, however, when no other Astro pitcher in the game did that.  At least the Dugout is celebrating the achievements of its team…
  • It turns out that Miguel Tejada is older than everyone thought.  That’s just silly to me.  That happened with Wandy Rodriguez and now Miggy.  I cannot help but laugh a little bit.
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2 responses

18 04 2008
BJ

Great Round-Up! Thanks for the post!

18 04 2008
Dan

Awesome again with the wrap…. I heard on Baseball Tonight that the Cubs might try to pick up Coco Crisp from the BoSox to cover for Soriano.

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