Friday’s NL Central Review

13 06 2008

Chicago Cubs (43-24), — GB

The Northsiders had another good week, pulling farther and farther away from the pack in the NL Central. After a rare split with the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend, the Cubs returned home and swept the Atlanta Braves, who are just awful on the road. The team is still getting great pitching from Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, along with stellar work from the bullpen.

The biggest news of the week has been the injury to Alfonso Soriano. The Cubs’ left fielder was hit by a pitch in the hand and broke his pinkie finger. You would think this would be a bigger concern to Cubs fans, but they seem to have an unnatural dislike for Alfonso. The reemergence of Jim Edmonds in Chicago has eased the pain a bit too. Last night, Edmonds hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning off of Manny Acosta. Fans change their minds according to the weather, and right now, Cubs fans are singing Edmonds’ praises. I wonder how long that will last.

  • The View from the Bleachers has some interesting observations from the past week. Take a look at the post to see some of the thoughts from yesterday’s game. One interesting thing…Reed Johnson is now tied with Chase Utley for the most HBP in the league. At least he’s good for something, right?
  • Another Cubs Blog discusses whether overusing the bullpen is actually a problem. That is, can you overuse the bullpen? The article concludes that you cannot, which is good for the Cubs. They are riding Carlos Marmol incredibly hard this season. The article suggests his arm will be okay because he used to be a starter. That’s an interesting argument. The problem is that a starter has five days to rest in between starts. Marmol doesn’t have that luxury anymore. The issue is whether his arm can bounce back and allow him to pitch effectively on short rest, not if his arm is used to throwing a bunch of innings.

St. Louis Cardinals (40-28), 3.5 GB

No doubt the biggest news of the week in Cardinal-dom is the injury to Albert Pujols. The slugging first baseman scuffled out of the batters box after making contact, but strained his calf muscle. Doctors are saying he’ll be out for about three weeks. That’s a big blow to the Cardinals. It’s also a big blow to Cardinals fans, as they’ll have nothing to talk about for three weeks. All my friends that are Cardinals fans never talk about anyone else on the team, just Pujols. It’ll be a boring three weeks.

While the media harped on the Pujols injury, the Cardinals kept on rolling this week. They were on the road against the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds this week, and St. Louis took both series. That’s impressive with how poorly the majority of teams in baseball have played on the road this season. In fact, the Cards are one of the only teams that have a winning record on the road. The Phillies and the Angels are the only other two teams to have a winning record on the road this season.

  • Rockin’ the Red is panicking over the Albert Pujols injury. They throw out some options as to what the Cardinals should do to make up for his absence. They make some good points. Josh Phelps could be the answer. Chris Duncan has played first base before. Why do I say Rockin’ the Red is panicking? They advocate signing Barry Bonds. Oh my…
  • Viva El Birdos has one of the best posts of the day in the blogosphere. A couple weeks ago, the site advocated trading for Brian Roberts. That is looking less and less likely as the season progresses. Instead, the site has set its sights on Ray Durham. This would be a great pick-up for the St. Louis Cardinals. San Francisco would likely not ask for much in return, and the Cards would get a valuable and productive veteran to play in the middle infield. And…this just in…Troy Glaus has found his home run stroke again. Not good.

Houston Astros (33-34), 10.0 GB

The Houston Astros are slowing imploding, even if they do have the offensive firepower to stay with anyone. Houston has now lost five straight series, two of them to the Milwaukee Brewers. Lance Berkman is still getting it done at the plate, while Carlos Lee and Miguel Tejada have continued to get in on the act. The middle of this order can flat-out hit, and they showed that consistently against the Brewers this week. The Stros can certainly put up some runs.

The problem has been their pitching. That is, their pitching besides Roy Oswalt this week. Roy absolutely dominated the Milwaukee Brewers, busting them consistently on the inside part of the plate. He struck out ten batters and pitched quite efficiently. The Astros could use Oswalt returning to his old form. Besides Oswalt, however, the starting pitching has been atrocious. Neither Brian Moehler or Brandon Backe could get through the fifth inning against the Crew!

  • Speaking of poor pitching performances, The Astros Dugout laments over the fact that the Houston Astros have given up more home runs than any other pitching staff in baseball. Even Oscar Villareal has given up 11 homers in 2008. That’s right. A reliever has given up 11 home runs in just over 30.0 innings of work. It probably doesn’t help that the team plays in a one of the best hitters parks in the league.
  • Houston Astros Baseball has a great recap of Day 1 of the MLB Draft for the Astros. In a surprise move, the Stros took C Jason Castro over 1B Justin Smoak. Money demands may have been an issue, but Smoak has the ability to be an elite player in the big leagues. Castro has the potential to be only average, in my opinion. Give the post a look. It’s a great recap. Their sandwich pick was even more off-the-radar than was Castro…

Pittsburgh Pirates (33-34), 10.0 GB

Who would have thought the Pirates would be only one game under .500 at this point in the season? Pittsburgh is playing pretty good ball right now in the Steel CIty, as they split the series with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks last weekend and took care of the Washington Nationals at home over the past few days. This team has overachieved the whole season, but it’s been a fun ride to watch them succeed relative to their talent.

Ryan Doumit returned from the DL this week and has been raking since that point. In Washington Nationals series, Ryan hit four home runs to go with a couple doubles. That’s one way to announce your return to the line-up. Meanwhile, Jason Bay, Xavier Nady, and Nate McLouth continue to produce in the middle of the batting order. Adam LaRoche, on the other hand, is struggling mightily at the plate. He’s always been a second-half player, however, so he could begin to heat up this month.

  • Ken Rosenthal from FOX Sports says that the Pittsburgh Pirates may consider a Jason BayMatt Kemp trade. Here’s what I have to say about that: DUH! Bucs Dugout likes the idea too. They see Kemp as being a potential All-Star down the road.
  • Here’s a great post from Pittsburgh Lumber Co. on the job Doug Mientkiewicz pulled on Randy Johnson. Doug kept stepping out on Randy, who wanted to work fast. It frustrated the big lefty, and eventually caused him to lose composure on the mound. The Pirates ended up winning the game. Little things matter to opposing pitchers, so hitters shouldn’t be afraid to throw off their rhythm. I never understood why more hitters don’t step out of the box on Ben Sheets more often. Break his rhythm!

Cincinnati Reds (32-36), 11.5 GB

The Reds have had a very up and down week. They split the series with the Florida Marlins, where Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run in his career. That’s the good. The bad? Cincinnati just lost two of three to the St. Louis Cardinals at home. That has been the type of year the Reds have had. They cannot keep a winning streak going for very long, which is why they are under .500 at this point.

One of the major problems for Cincy has been the performance of Aaron Harang. After being a stabilizing force in the rotation for the majority of the year, Aaron has imploded over his past few outings. He will need to solve his problems tonight against the Boston Red Sox if the Reds want to succeed. The Reds also called up Homer Bailey from the minors, and he’s been nothing but underwhelming thus far. They young man cannot find the strike zone consistently enough to be effective. He has a special arm, so he will get every chance to succeed. That is, until Dusty Baker gets annoyed with him.

  • The Red Reporter has a post on Ken Griffey Jr., or should I say, Mr. 600.
  • A bright spot for the Reds organization has been the play of Jay Bruce since being called up from Triple-A. He’s hit for power, for average, and has played solid defense in the outfield. His play has given Cincinnati fans something to be excited about, even if the team is not performing up to expectations. The young man is the real deal, and I’m not looking forward to the day when the Brewers have to face him. He’s another big, left-handed bat in a powerful Cincinnati line-up.
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2 responses

15 06 2008
frank

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1 11 2010
Matt Kemp

[…] Friday's NL Central Review Posted in Sports | Tags: Matt Kemp Contract, Matt Kemp Salary, Matt Kemp Trade […]

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