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MLB Preview: NL CENTRAL

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MLB Preview: NL CENTRAL
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

HOUSTON ASTROS

 

LINEUP

1. Michael Bourn | CF | .229 | 5 HR | 29 RBI

2. Ivan Rodriguez | C | .276 | 7 HR | 35 RBI

3. Lance Berkman | 1B | .312 | 29 HR | 106 RBI

4. Carlos Lee | LF | .314 | 28 HR | 100 RBI

5. Miguel Tejada | SS | .283 | 13 HR | 66 RBI

6. Hunter Pence | RF | .269 | 25 HR | 83 RBI

7. Geoff Blum | 3B | .240 | 14 HR | 53 RBI

8. Kazuo Matsui | 2B | .293 | 6 HR | 33 RBI

9. PITCHER

 

PITCHING STAFF

1. Roy Oswalt | 17-10 | 3.54 ERA | 165 K | 1.18 WHIP

2. Wandy Rodriguez | 9-7 | 3.54 ERA | 131 K | 1.31 WHIP

3. Mike Hampton | 3-4 | 4.85 ERA | 38 K | 1.42 WHIP

4. Brian Moehler | 11-8 | 4.56 ERA | 82 K | 1.35 WHIP

5. Russ Ortiz | 2-3 | 5.51 ERA | 27 K | 1.57 WHIP (2007 Stats)

CL Jose Valverde | 44 SV | 3.38 ERA | 83 K | 1.18 WHIP

 

KEY BENCH PLAYERS

Jeff Keppinger | .266 | 3 HR | 43 RBI

Darin Erstad | .276 | 4 HR | 31 RBI

 

For some reason, I like the Houston Astros. I think their pitching is decent with Oswalt and Rodriguez at the top and Valverde closing. Their lineup is bolstered by Berkman and Lee and they have versatile players like Bourn and Pence. The one hole this team has is depth: whether it be their pitching or their bench, they do not have much depth. We will see what is in store for them in 2009, but if Hampton, Moehler, and Ortiz can step up and pitch well for an ENTIRE season, keep your eyes on the Astros.

 

OVERALL GRADE: C+

 

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

 

LINEUP

1. Rickie Weeks | 2B | .234 | 14 HR | 46 RBI

2. J.J. Hardy | SS | .283 | 24 HR | 74 RBI

3. Ryan Braun | LF | .285 | 37 HR | 106 RBI

4. Prince Fielder | 1B | .276 | 34 HR | 102 RBI

5. Corey Hart | RF | .268 | 20 HR | 91 RBI

6. Mike Cameron | CF | .243 | 25 HR | 70 RBI

7. Bill Hall | 3B | .225 | 15 HR | 55 RBI

8. Jason Kendell | C | .246 | 2 HR | 49 RBI

9. PITCHER

 

PITCHING STAFF

1. Yovani Gallardo | 0-0 | 1.88 ERA | 20 K | 1.25 WHIP

2. Dave Bush | 9-10 | 4.18 ERA | 109 K | 1.14 WHIP

3. Jeff Suppan | 10-10 | 4.96 ERA | 90 K | 1.54 WHIP

4. Manny Parra | 10-8 | 4.39 ERA | 147 K | 1.54 WHIP

5. Braden Looper | 12-14 | 4.16 ERA | 108 K | 1.31 WHIP

CL Trevor Hoffman | 30 SV | 3.77 ERA | 46 K | 1.04 WHIP

 

KEY BENCH PLAYERS

Craig Counsell | .226 | 1 HR | 14 RBI

Tony Gwynn Jr. | .190 | 0 HR | 1 RBI

 

The Brewers’ lineup did not take a hit in the offseason, but their pitching staff took two big hits. Losing CC was probable and unfortunate, but Ben Sheets is the real loss even though Sheets will be out until June or July. I would look for the Brewers to sign him back if they struggle in the first few months. Hoffman is going to be their closer, but not for the first few week which I don’t think will hurt them a lot, considering Villanueva slipping into the role. I still like the Brewers in 2009, but I think that their pitching needs to step up if they are going to compete with the Cards and Cubs.

 

OVERALL GRADE: B-

 

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

 

LINEUP

1. Skip Schumaker | 2B | .302 | 8 HR | 46 RBI

2. Yadier Molina | C | .304 | 7 HR | 56 RBI

3. Albert Pujols | 1B | .357 | 37 HR | 116 RBI

4. Rick Ankiel | CF | .264 | 25 HR | 71 RBI

5. Ryan Ludwick | RF | .299 | 37 HR | 113 RBI

6. Chris Duncan | LF | .248 | 6 HR | 27 RBI

7. David Freese | 3B |

8. PITCHER

9. Khalil Greene | SS | .213 | 10 HR | 35 RBI

 

PITCHING STAFF

1. Adam Wainwright | 11-3 | 3.20 ERA | 91 K | 1.18 WHIP

2. Chris Carpenter | 0-1 | 1.76 ERA | 7 K | 1.30 WHIP

3. Kyle Lohse | 15-6 | 3.78 ERA | 119 K | 1.30 WHIP

4. Todd Wellemeyer | 13-9 | 3.71 ERA | 134 K | 1.25 WHIP

5. Joel Pineiro | 7-7 | 5.15 ERA | 81 K | 1.45 WHIP

CL Jason Motte | 4 H | 0.82 ERA | 16 K | .73 WHIP

 

KEY BENCH PLAYERS

Brendan Ryan | .244 | 0 HR | 10 RBI

Colby Rasmus |

 

The St. Louis Cardinals of 2008 surprised a lot of people with the success they had without pitching ace, Chris Carpenter. This season, the Cards have Carpenter back to presumably full strength. The Cards have two young guns that could start for the bulk of the season. Colby Rasmus and David Freese are being raved about and could be a key part of this team. With Freese taking Glaus’s spot, the Cardinals look to maintain the mojo from last season and challenge the Cubs for the NL Central.

 

OVERALL GRADE: B

 

CHICAGO CUBS

 

LINEUP

1. Alfonso Soriano | LF | .280 | 29 HR | 75 RBI

2. Ryan Theriot | SS | .307 | 1 HR | 38 RBI

3. Derrek Lee | 1B | .291 | 20 HR | 90 RBI

4. Milton Bradley | RF | .321 | 22 HR | 77 RBI

5. Aramis Ramirez | 3B | .289 | 27 HR | 111 RBI

6. Geovany Soto | C | .285 | 23 HR | 86 RBI

7. Kosuke Fukudome | CF | .257 | 10 HR | 58 RBI

8. Mike Fontenot | 2B | .305 | 9 HR | 40 RBI

9. PITCHER

 

PITCHING STAFF

1. Carlos Zambrano | 14-6 | 3.91 ERA | 130 K | 1.29 WHIP

2. Ryan Dempster | 17-6 | 2.96 ERA | 187 K | 1.21 WHIP

3. Rich Harden | 10-2 | 2.07 ERA | 181 K | 1.06 WHIP

4. Ted Lilly | 17-9 | 4.09 ERA | 184 K | 1.23 WHIP

5. Sean Marshall | 3-5 | 3.86 ERA | 58 K | 1.27 WHIP

CL Kevin Gregg | 29 SV | 3.41 ERA | 58 K | 1.28 WHIP

 

KEY BENCH PLAYERS

Aaron Miles | .317 | 4 HR | 31 RBI

Reed Johnson | .303 | 6 HR | 50 RBI

Micah Hoffpauir | .342 | 2 HR | 8 RBI

 

The 2009 Chicago Cubs are the most talented team in the NL Central and arguably the best team in baseball. The Cubs seem to have no holes in their team. They have a strong lineup with depth and they have a quality pitching staff with depth in the rotation and bullpen. What can wrong? Well, let’s not forget, it is the Chicago Cubs. A big key for the Cubs is starting pitcher, Rich Harden; if Harden can stay healthy for most of the season, the Cubs are going to win the NL Central without much contest. I look for Aramis Ramirez to have a big season and Big Z to have an ace-like season (also I see a few broken bats over his thigh).

OVERALL GRADE: A-

 

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

 

LINEUP

1. Nyjer Morgan | LF | .294 | 0 HR | 7 RBI

2. Freddy Sanchez | 2B | .271 | 9 HR | 52 RBI

3. Nate McLouth | CF | .276 | 26 HR | 94 RBI

4. Ryan Doumit | C | .318 | 15 HR | 69 RBI

5. Adam LaRoche | 1B | .270 | 25 HR | 85 RBI

6. Andy LaRoche | 3B | .166 | 5 HR | 18 RBI

7. Brandon Moss | RF | .246 | 8 HR | 34 RBI

8. Jack Wilson | SS | .272 | 1 HR | 22 RBI

9. PITCHER

 

PITCHING STAFF

1. Paul Maholm | 9-9 | 3.71 ERA | 139 K | 1.28 WHIP

2. Ian Snell | 7-12 | 5.42 ERA | 135 K | 1.76 WHIP

3. Zach Duke | 5-14 | 4.82 ERA | 87 K | 1.50 WHIP

4. Ross Ohlendorf | 1-4 | 6.46 ERA | 49 K | 1.87 WHIP

5. Jeff Karstens | 2-6 | 4.03 ERA | 23 K | 1.34 WHIP

CL Matt Capps | 21 SV | 3.02 ERA | 39 K | .97 WHIP

 

KEY BENCH PLAYERS

Eric Hinske | .247 | 20 HR | 60 RBI

Craig Monroe | .202 | 8 HR | 29 RBI

 

Oh, dear. The Pittsburgh Pirates will begin yet another losing season on Monday. Although it seems like they are beginning to get better, they still have lots to do to get this team back to the playoffs, or even a winning record for that matter. They have a young, young pitching staff and young players in the field. The emergence of Nate McLouth helps the Pirates somewhat, but the problem is he has no help. Sadly, it looks as though the Pirates will finish dead last in the NL Central yet again.  

 

OVERALL GRADE: C-

 

CINCINNATI REDS

 

LINEUP

1. Willy Taveras | CF | .251 | 1 HR | 26 RBI

2. Jay Bruce | RF | .254 | 21 HR | 52 RBI

3. Joey Votto | 1B | .297 | 24 HR | 84 RBI

4. Brandon Phillips | 2B | .261 | 21 HR | 78 RBI

5. Edwin Encarnacion | 3B | .251 | 26 HR | 68 RBI

6. Ramon Hernandez | C | .257 | 15 HR | 65 RBI

7. Chris Dickerson | LF | .304 | 6 HR | 15 RBI

8. Alex Gonzalez | SS | .272 | 16 HR | 55 RBI (2007)

9. PITCHER

 

PITCHING STAFF

1. Aaron Harang | 6-17 | 4.78 ERA | 153 K | 1.38 WHIP

2. Edinson Volquez | 17-6 | 3.21 ERA | 206 K | 1.33 WHIP

3. Bronson Arroyo | 15-11 | 4.77 ERA | 163 K | 1.44 WHIP

4. Johnny Cueto | 9-14 | 4.81 ERA | 158 K | 1.41 WHIP

5. Micah Owings | 6-9 | 5.93 ERA | 87 K | 1.39 WHIP

CL Francisco Cordero | 34 SV | 3.33 ERA | 78 K | 1.41 WHIP

 

KEY BENCH PLAYERS

Jerry Hairston Jr. | .326 | 6 HR | 36 RBI

 

OVERALL GRADE: C+

 

It is easy to see that the Cubs have complete control over their destiny. They have the best lineup, the best pitching staff, the best bullpen in all of the Central, arguably of course (but not really). The experts are keeping their eyes on the Reds in '09, which I can see. It is possible for the Cubs to falter down the stretch, so it isn't a shoe-in that the Cubs will win the Central, but i believe the only team that can beat them is indeed the St. Louis Cardinals.

 

1. Chicago Cubs (98-64)

2. St. Louis Cardinals (86-76)

3. Milwaukee Brewers (82-80)

4. Houston Astros (79-83)

5. Cincinnati Reds (78-84)

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (69-93)

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