What the Hell is Up with the NL Central?

Seriously though…what’s going on here? Does anyone want to win the Central? Anyone??

 

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Outside of our friends in Cinncinati, the NL Central crown remains severely and ridiculously up-for-grabs. Consider that on July 4th, it was our Chicago Cubs who were 3.5 games back and in second place. Now, not only have things flipped to have the Cubs in first with a 1.5 game lead on the once first place Brewers, the Cardinals and Pirates have come from 4.5 and 7.5 games back (respectively) to within striking distance.

I did not see that coming.

But simply going on wins/losses (which you should almost never do, but whatever. We’re going to do it right now), the division isn’t bad. I’m not saying it’s good. But it’s not bad.

The “problem” is that we have almost every average team in one division (again, sorry, everyone in Cincinnati). Want to know who has the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th best record in the National League? Yeah, it’s the Cubs, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates. That’s about about as middle of the pack as it gets, while still being in contention somehow.

Doesn’t it make sense now why (at least from the outside looking in) the Cardinals and Pirates were seemingly struggling on what to do at the trade deadline? BECAUSE THEY COULD/CAN STILL WIN THE NL CENTRAL! 3.5 games. That’s all that separates 4 mediocre baseball teams right now.

The more I think about it, the more nervous I get. You see, because on paper, the Cubs are the favorite. And I think, collectively, that’s driven us all to repeatedly put on a helmet and hit our head against a wall (or maybe you went without the helmet if you watched the game last night).

Collectively the NL Central is the shrugging emoji. And the Cubs are hanging by a thread.

tenor

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  • Interesting division for sure...

    Speaking of interesting: Today's lineup is out...
    Zo-RF
    Albert-CF
    Bryant-3B
    Willson-1B
    Happ-2B
    Javy-SS
    Schwarbs-LF
    The other AA Alex Avila-C
    Hendricks-P

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Albert in the 2-hole is interesting. But the kid mashes against lefties. He should have a big night tonight in a massive ballpark as long as he can get to MadBum.

  • It's interesting alright and even moreso all the teams are different. The Cubs are the most talented but are underachieving, the Brewers are overachieving, the Cardinals are well I have no idea as they look poorly constructed but have been winning for awhile now, and the Pirates should be in a nearly closed window (close to a new one but still) but are still competing. I still think the Cubs win this thing by 4-5 games but that's no sure thing. When a team like the cubs struggle it definitely helps with the confidence of other, should be lesser, teams. Let's hope it doesn't drive one of them to the top.

  • Nice article Myles. I like the funny exasperation. A lot of us feel exactly the same way. Here's some good news though. I think the next 30-35 games for the Cubs are mostly against mediocre, or worse, teams in the league. They just might be on the verge of a good run. At least we can always hope for more Jekyll and less Hyde from our guys.

  • In reply to HefCA:

    Thanks for the kind words!

  • Well, both Central divisions stink. I also see that despite moving to the other side of town, Quintana is back to "I don't get any run support." Some things don't change, although they were supposed to in his case. On the other hand Derek Holland gets 8 runs of support vs. Keuchel. Baseball is a strange sport. So what with analytics.

  • Two years ago the NL West stunk, and the NL Central had three teams with 97+ wins. What does it mean? To me, it means forget this theory that you should "just try and get in every year and one year you'll win it!" Go for it that year, because the next season is not guaranteed.

    I have been pretty optimistic this season, despite the Cubs poor play. But I gotta tell you, watching the Nationals, they just have a better team than the Cubs. The lineup is solid, and their top three pitchers (Scherzer, Strasburg, Gio) are good.

  • In reply to Cubswin09:

    The Nationals have a great lineup but it remains to be seen if getting three really good bullpen pitchers instead of a lockdown closer is the answer for them. I'm also not much of a Baker fan but it's tough to reconcile how much of that is intense dislike for the man and how much is baseball related. There's quite a bit of both in there so that one's hard for me. That said they are a very good team but if it's not the Dodgers going to the World Series I think it's the Diamondbacks who I like matching up with LA a lot and I think match up well with the Nats or the Cubs. I still think the Cubs win the division in the end but how far after that is questionable.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I think the Cubs win the division too. But they just aren't playing that well. Of course, there is a risk that a teams like the Dodgers and Nationals could win with weeks to go and get rusty, while the Cubs fight to get in, and that helps. But outside on Contreras, just about everyone on the team is having a down year.

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    In reply to Cubswin09:

    The cubs hopes of being the NL central champs will come to an end when the cubs play that 4 game series vs the cardinals in st Louis in late Sept. I can see the cardinals and their fans going nuts celebrating the cardinals eliminating the cubs.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I always wondered why the Giants were so eager to get rid of him, when he got them to the WS in 2003.

  • In reply to jack:

    2002

  • In reply to jack:

    Freudian

  • In reply to jack:

    It didn't take me long to figure out why that was. 2003 was a thrill ride while it lasted and ultimately disappointed but 2004 was the most unlikeable Cubs team I've ever experienced. They were surly, excuse making players lead by an "aw shucks" excuse making manager. When people talk about Maddon making excuses, I actually think he gives reasoning not excuses, I point them to Dusty circa 2004. Is he a good manager? Yeah, I mean you don't win that many ballgames if you aren't, but I think his view of the game is dated and not very sophisticated, all which came out when he was a TV analyst.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'm not sure being a good manager is what won Dusty all those games. Every team he has been hired for has already been built - Giants - Cubs - Reds - and now Washington, and yet he has failed to take any of them all the way. Interesting fact is that he hasn't taken any team to the playoffs two-years in a row, except for the Reds who got the second wild-card the first year it was available. Unless there's a collapse, it looks like this might be the year to change that with Washington, but he's had a pitiful amount of success despite being handed great lineups on every team he's managed.

  • I've been pretty down about the Cubs chances this year because they have underachieved so badly thus far. I expected a lesser performance becuase it seems to happen to nearly every team that wins it all. However, a friend who happens to be a Dodger fan (no one is perfect) told me he was worried about the Cubs beating the Dodgers (especially in a short series) and is hoping that anyone else in the Central wins it all. I was intrigued so I asked him why and he felt that way. He said that the Dodgers only weakness this year is good left handed pitching (to be honest I think he may be grasping at straws here but he follows the Dodgers and I do not). This something the Cubs potentally have if guys pitch well - and this advantage can be huge in a short series. He also felt that the Cubs offense and defense were good enough to play with anyone but they just haven't been consistent this year. In the playoffs you just have to find that consistency for a month and that with nearly everyone on the Cubs having had playoff experience they just might have an advantage here. Finally he pointed out how rare it is for the team with the best record to win it all... and last year's Cubs were one of them.

    It's strange but after talking to him I'm more worried about the Cubs making it into the playoffs. If they make it in, I like their chances (at least more than I did before) because let's face it - Baseball is wierd. Strange things happen. So fasten your seatbelts... we're in for a bumpy ride.

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