Friday’s NL Central Review

2 05 2008

St. Louis Cardinals (18-11), — GB

The St. Louis Cardinals continue to impress early this season. Since last week, they simply went out and won two home series against the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds. It is a mark of a good team if they can go out and beat the teams they are supposed to beat. The Brewers didn’t do it last weekend against the Florida Marlins. The Cardinals did. Their pitching staff is still throwing strikes. They have let up the least amount of walks in the entire league. That is impressive. Their offense is also near the top of the major leagues in walks taken as well. That is a good combination to have. Mike McClellan and Ryan Franklin have been great so far this season as well. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up this week.

  • Viva El Birdos takes a look at the 2008 Cardinals compared to past teams that had similar starts. Out of the 11 teams on the list, 8 of those teams won the division. I have to believe that the Cardinals are not a total fluke this season after this start. I keep calling for them to fall off, but they do not. In 2006, the Cardinals went 18-12 in April. You remember what happened that season. Cardinal fans should be feeling good about this start.
  • Rockin’ the Red takes a look at Kyle Lohse. I wanted to see something like this. Lohse has frustrated me so much. Common sense tells me he is not good. I then look at his ERA for this season, and I see it is 2.36. Then, I just get confused and upset. Rockin’ the Red says that this is the same Lohse that played last season, just in a different place. His projected ERA is almost identical. If he makes $10M next season, I’ll just be so confused. Kyle Lohse, you are the bane of my existence right now.

Chicago Cubs (17-11), 0.5 GB

The Cubs had a rough week. They stumbled against the lowly Washington Nationals. That series loss was almost as bad as the series loss Milwaukee had against Florida. At least the Cubs were on the road… Anyway, we all know what happened the last couple days. The Cubs outscored the Brewers for the series, but Milwaukee won the series 2-1. Chicago is now 2-4 against the Milwaukee Brewers this season. Alfonso Soriano is back in the lineup (even if everyone is concerned about that), and the offense is hitting the ball very hard lately. Geovany Soto beat the Brewers Wednesday by himself. That was cool. The Cubs have another big series this weekend, as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals.

  • Critics, fans, and sports writers have been freaking out about Alfonso Soriano and his poor play this season. Perhaps the Cubs are better without Soriano? Perhaps he should not be batting lead-off? Bleed Cubbie Blue makes a great point about Sori. He may be struggling in the lead-off spot this season, but his replacements have collectively done worse. That’s hard to do, considering Soriano is batting .175 from the one spot.
  • This story probably does not matter at all, but I found it incredibly interesting. The Cubs have signed Korean high school standout Lee Hak-ju. He is a lightning-fast lefty that plays the middle infield. I’m pretty sure the Cubs already have plenty of those players. Ronny Cedeno comes to mind. This signing will probably come out to nothing, but it is still interesting.

Houston Astros (13-16), 5.0 GB

The Astros were beginning to get hot the last time we checked in. How did they follow it up? Ummmm….not well. They have lost four out of the last five games, and they lost the last two series. Their offense has gone cold. Michael Bourn is slumping. He may be stealing many bases, but he has had troubles getting on base. I really thought that Hunter Pence looked to be getting back on track after his slow start. It does not look that way any longer. I have not watched too much of the Astros in the past week, but he looks rather lost at the plate. His feel of the strike zone is a little off. I still expect it to get better though. He’s a good player. The Astros will welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to town this weekend. Hopefully, their losing streak will continue.

  • The Crawfish Boxes takes a look at what is going on with the Astros. Houston appears to have no starters that can make the All-Star team. Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada have been solid, but not the best at their position. The Astros seem to be heading in a different direction every week. We will check in again next week to see how they’re doing.
  • I know this has been well played out, but Camden Chat has a nice article about Miguel Tejada and his “age problem.” It is from the point of view of an Orioles fan, and we all know the headaches Tejada gave Oriole fans with his trade demands. It’s an interesting read. Give it a look, even if you already know the story.

Cincinnati Reds (12-17), 6.0 GB

An interesting week for the Reds. After firing former GM Wayne Krivsky, the Reds went on to win the series against the lowly San Francisco Giants. Then, they went to St. Louis and took the first game from the Cardinals. All looked up for the Reds during that three game win streak. It was not to last, however, as they went on to lose the series in St. Louis. Johnny Cueto got shelled in his last outing. Dusty Baker must be a little worried about the young fireballer. Baker called up Cueto’s Triple-A pitching coach to come up and give him some pitching advice. The kid has a special arm, but you have to figure he will go through some growing pains. Best not to get too worked up about this whole thing. The Reds will try to turn it around against the Atlanta Braves this weekend.

  • Red Reporter has a great article that analyzes the Reds’ plate discipline. It looks at the number of pitches in the strike zone, how many pitches they swing at and make contact with in the strike zone, and it analyzes the same type of thing for balls outside the strike zone. Adam Dunn does not get very many good pitches to hit, but he also has problems making contact with those pitches he does get. Brandon Phillips seems to be too aggressive at the plate. How about Jeff Keppinger? Going into yesterday’s game, Keppinger has swung and missed at only ten pitches all season! Wow. I’m pretty sure no one on the Brewers could even come close to that number.
  • Ryan Freel, the little sparkplug that plagued the Brewers last season, is upset with Dusty Baker. Baker says that Freel told him in the off-season that he did not want to play every day this season. Now why would Ryan Freel say that? Dusty Baker is clearly grasping for straws here. He is fueling the fire by lying about what Freel said to his face. This is just a stupid argument by Baker.

Pittsburgh Pirates (11-17), 6.5 GB

More of the same from the Pirates.  They lost the series against the Philadelphia Phillies and split the series 1-1 against the New York Mets.  Pittsburgh has performed much better in day games this season, scoring almost 2 runs more per game without the lights on.  Nate McLouth no longer has his hit streak going anymore, but he still is showing a surprising amount of power.  The pitching has still been a little suspect, but the team is rolling along, losing 2 out of 3 fairly consistently.  The Pirates lost to the Washington Nationals yesterday, and they will continue the series for the rest of the weekend.

  • Bucco Blog Tom Gorzelanny is struggling, both with producing and his release point.  Many people in the Pirates organization are concerned that Tom has an injury that he is hiding.  It seems that there is nothing wrong with his shoulder that was sore in Spring Training, but his velocity is still not where it should be.  His control has gone away, but that has never been stellar in the first place.  Experts have been concerned about Gorz since last season, when his amount of innings pitched increased exponentially from 2006.  They said that he is an arm injury waiting to happen.
  • The team released Matt Morris last week, and he retired on Wednesday.  Matt seems to be content with where he is in his life.  The Pirates needed to release him, and I hope Matt is happy in retirement.
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