Friday’s NL Central Review

30 05 2008

UPDATE 05-30-08 2:35pm – Mark Mulder of the St. Louis Cardinals says that he will retire if another surgery is required on his ailing shoulder.  I was very interested in how Mulder was going to bounce back once he made it back to the big leagues, but it is looking more and more unlikely.  Best of luck to you, Mark.


Chicago Cubs (33-21), — GB

The Chicago Cubs now have the best record in baseball. It makes me a little sick to say that, but the Northsiders have been playing some fantastic baseball. The week started out a little rocky in Pittsburgh, as the Cubs lost two out of three to the lowly Pirates. The team then welcomed the Los Angeles Dodgers to Wrigley and greeted them with a sweep. They made it four in a row by beating the Colorado Rockies yesterday. Goat Riders of the Apocalypse has a funny article thanking the NL West for being so bad and allowing the Cubs to take up the mantle as the best team in baseball.

One thing Chicago fans should be concerned about is their lackluster performance on the road thus far. They are a very average 10-13 on the road, while posting a great 23-8 at home. As you can see, the Cubs have played many of their games at home. It will be interesting to see what Chicago can do when they are away from the friendly confines of Wrigley for an extended period of time. With that said, the Cubs are getting fantastic pitching right now. Sean Gallagher pitched great this week, earning himself a few more starts in the fifth spot of the rotation. Ryan Dempster is still defying logic (meaning…he’s pitching well), and Carlos Zambrano is still chugging along nicely. He went 8.0 innings and gave up only one run against the Dodgers this week.

  • This is an interesting article from Another Cubs Blog. It doesn’t really pertain to the Cubs, but it does indirectly address the Brewers. The article is making the case that it is impossible to tell if a team is overachieving or underachieving based on what a manager does in the dugout. I understand the point here. It is valid. The problem is when a team lays a collective egg when the expectations are high. This article makes the situation a little too simplistic.
  • The View From The Bleachers is wondering whether or not the Cubs should try to sign Kenny Lofton. Are the Cubs honestly going to sign every outfielder possible until one sticks? Reed Johnson has not been spectacular, but he’s been solid and instrumental in numerous Cubs wins. Not to mention he’s a big reason Yovani Gallardo is injured for the season (no, I’m not bitter). All in all, Lofton would be an upgrade for many teams, including the Cubs. There’s no reason to mess with the chemistry right now, however.

St. Louis Cardinals (32-23), 1.5 GB

The St. Louis Cardinals are still plugging along, winning series after series. They now have won four straight series after taking care of the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers this week. The pitching has remained a strong point for the Cardinals, and the offense is producing because of the big bats of Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick has been the biggest surprise on the offensive side of the ball for St. Louis, and he’s made Chris Duncan expendable. I don’t believe the Cards will move Duncan any time soon, as they would be selling low at this time, but the point remains viable. The team has some pieces it can move to make the team better for a late-season pennant run.

  • Speaking of having pieces to move, Viva El Birdos wants the Cardinals’ organization to take a stand. Do they want to continue to contend this season? If they do, the front office should attempt to package a deal (including Chris Duncan) to get Brian Roberts from the Baltimore Orioles. The lackluster players in the middle of the infield for St. Louis has been reported here many times, so I will not delve into that too much. Brian Roberts would be a dangerous trade for a team that does not have a deep farm system, but they do have the money and will to get a move like this done. It would certainly augment the offensive in a big way.
  • In one of my favorite posts of the week, C70 At the Bat has an article that breaks down what every Cardinals t-shirt means. My personal favorite is the #15 Jim Edmonds jersey (the Cubs version). The article says that this person is “either obsessed with Jimmy Radio or just mentally deranged. Either way, please seek professional help.” Nice work.

Houston Astros (30-25), 3.5 GB

After taking two out of three from the Chicago Cubs last week, the Astros have played rather lackluster baseball. They split the series with the Philadelphia Phillies at home, but got absolutely blown out in the series finale. In fact, the bullpen gave up 11 runs in 2 innings that game. That’s hard to do, even if you were trying to do that. If you read St. Louis’ review above, you would know that Houston also lost two of three to the Cardinals on the road. I thought they had a chance to prove they were the second best team in the division in that series, but it was not meant to be.

Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence are still lighting up opposing pitchers at an alarming rate. Berkman is making a run for the midseason NL MVP award, and Pence has officially shaken off his April slump. Michael Bourn is even starting to come around a bit. Kaz Matsui is not, however. I’m still concerned as to what is wrong with Roy Oswalt. He has not pitched like the ace Houston needs him to be, and until he does, I do not believe the Astros will make a serious push for the playoffs. Time will tell, however.

  • The Crawfish Boxes analyzes the schedules thus far for the Cardinals, Cubs, and Astros. The Cardinals have had, by far, the easiest schedule of the three. The Cubs have played a majority of their games in 2008 at home. The Astros are right in the middle of the pack. This would suggest (admittedly on a very rudimentary level) that the Astros have a good chance to gain ground in the final 2/3 of the season. The article does mention that the Brewers have had the 2nd hardest schedule in the majors, so they may be able to make a run in the second half.
  • The Houston Astros have also made a few roster moves. SP Fernando Nieve has been sent down in favor of Jack Cassel. Cassel has dominated hitters in Triple-A in 2008, so it could be a nice move for the Astros. Dave Borkowski has been DFA’d in favor of Geoff Geary. I don’t want Dave Borkowski, and neither will any other major league team. Astro fans, you’ll still have your pitcher at the end of the day. Don’t worry.

Pittsburgh Pirates (25-28), 7.5 GB

The Pirates are still toying with the hearts of their fans. They go out and take care of business against the first place Chicago Cubs. The team then loses two out of three to the last place Cincinnati Reds. Granted, the series against the Reds was on the road, but it must still be frustrating for Pirates fans. Pittsburgh travels to St. Louis next and will try to right the ship against the second place team in the Central. The Pirates seem to play well against good teams, so it could be a good series.

The offensive forces of Jason Bay and Xavier Nady cannot be stopped. Pittsburgh has some nice trading chips if they would like to move them come July, which I believe they will. The organization has to save face somehow after some of the bad moves they have made (Matt Morris anyone?).

  • There has not been much going on in the blogosphere regarding the Pirates, but they did activate Jack Wilson from the DL. The light-hitting Brian Bixler was optioned to Triple-A to make room for Jack. Wait, I think I just implied that Jack Wilson is not a light-hitter. I apologize. They both cannot hit a lick.
  • Bucco Blog is always good for a nice little rant regarding the Pittsburgh Pirates. This week, the site takes up the 2008 draft. The article says that Pirates fans are already organizing a revolt against the team if the front office does not open up its pocketbooks and pay for a supreme talent in the draft. The team has consistently overdrafted players, so they wouldn’t have to pay a big signing bonus. The ramifications have obviously been seen in the lack of talent in the farm system in Pittsburgh. If fans are crying out against the management, I believe the team will have to draft a high-profile player with the second pick. Why wouldn’t they?

Cincinnati Reds (25-29), 8.0 GB

The Cincinnati Reds are still on the brink of contention in the NL Central. They are only four games under .500, and they are beating the teams they should beat lately. The Reds split a four-game series with the San Diego Padres (on the road) and took two out of three against the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. For the Reds to be successful, they need to be .500 on the road and just above .500 at home. It’s just that easy, right?

I have been a little concerned that Aaron Harang has been hit around fairly hard in his last couple outings. Perhaps he needs to face the Milwaukee Brewers, as he absolutely owns Milwaukee hitters. It is most likely just a slump that he will work out of, but it’s something to keep an eye on. Edinson Volquez has been fantastic this entire year, but Dusty Baker is still pushing his arm too much. Do the Reds really want to injure the kid?

  • The biggest news of the week is that the Reds called up CF Jay Bruce. The Red Reporter runs down some of his minor league numbers so you understand just how good the guy is. He’s someone the Brewers are going to have to face for the next decade or so. He has power, hits for average, plays solid defense, and has speed. The offense just got exponentially better with Bruce in the lineup.
  • Do you like the new trend of Sabermetrics? The Red Reporter has a nice article that analyzes the swing tendencies of Brandon Phillips. What does he swing at? How often does he make contact? It’s all here. Brandon is very much like Ryan Braun. He swings at anything and everything, especially the low and outside pitches. When the pitch is right down the middle though, Brandon (like Ryan) absolutely crushes the ball.



One response

30 05 2008

the cubbies have to get on a losing streak eventually right? their pitching is not that good…

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