UCB Roundtable Question–NL Central Predictions!
Last week, I participated in the United Cardinal Bloggers’ first roundtable discussion of the year. Here’s the drill: Each day, a member of the UCB forwards a Cardinals-related question to the rest of the group and posts the answers in his/her blog. Well, true to form, I’m a little late with my post. But I also didn’t receive as many replies as I expected. I think maybe I picked a question that preempted a post that most of the bloggers out there plan for a more in-depth look later in the preseason. But the responses I did receive were good ones. Here’s my original question:
With Spring Training games under way, it’s officially prediction season. The Cardinals are in the unique position of being defending World Champs without being defending Division Champs. The Reds and Brewers underwent significant changes in the offseason. Ryan Braun–perhaps now the best overall player in the division–won’t miss 50 games after all. And the Pirates could be a dark horse for even longer in 2012. But the NL also gets an additional playoff spot this season. What are your predictions for the NL Central’s representation in the postseason in 2012? You can go so far as to give detailed write-ups on each team’s chances or simply list your 1-6 positioning with an X next to the team you think will make the playoffs. Does only one NL Central team get in? Two? Three? Who’s in, and who’s out?
Cardinals – Division winners with around 95 wins
Brewers – NL Wild Card 2 with 91 wins
Reds – 85 wins
Pirates – 76 wins
Cubs – tied with the Astros with a record of 0-162
Astros – see Cubs
–Dennis Lawson, Pitchers Hit Eighth
I still think the Cardinals are the team to beat this season. The addition of Wainwright, a good bullpen instead of Franklin/Batista, all of that makes me think they can finish first. I’m not sure between the Reds and Brewers who comes next.
At the bottom, I’m wondering if Pittsburgh can’t make a move into fourth, with the rebuilding Cubs and the struggling Astros bringing up the rear.
Would not be surprised to see the NL Central provide the wild card again, either.
–Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat
Either the Cardinals or Reds will win the NL Central championship. Either also could qualify as a wild-card team. Reds seem to have the pitching and lineup to give the Cardinals plenty of competition. Cubs, Pirates and Astros likely are non-factors. Something seems off about the Brewers.
–Mark Tomasik, RetroSimba
Cardinals will win the division. I could see both wild cards coming out of NL East or one from NL East and one from NL West. Reds have an outside shot, but I wouldn’t give anyone else from the division much of a chance.
Three years from now though, I think the division is going to look completely different. The Pirates spent 17 million on last year’s draft before the new CBA agreement kicked into effect. The Cubs will be a team to contend with under Epstein leadership. The Reds will stay competitive if Jocketty keeps buying veterans that produce.
We could see a power shift in the NL from East to Central, it just won’t be in 2012.
–Chris Mallonee, Birds on the Bat 82
Cardinals get second place with 88 wins but get a Wild Card.
–Tom Knuppel, Cardinals GM
Predictions? Ah, nothing better than making predictions and being completely wrong at the end of the season. Hey – I guess we could always deny it right? Oh wait, you guys keep all this stuff :) Uh oh!
Here we go:
1st – St. Louis Cardinals
I just see the Cardinals pitching being the key. Wainwright and Carpenter stay healthy and St. Louis wins 90 games. 90-72 wins the division.
2nd – Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have a nice staff, and their offense is solid. They are coming at the Cardinals this year, but I think they will fall a bit short. Though, I think they get the wildcard, because I have no faith in Atlanta, and not sure Miami is ready quite yet. Reds finish 86-76
3rd – Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers finish above .500, but not enough to make the playoffs. Milwaukee gets another good year out of Braun, but Marcum falls apart and Gallardo gets hurt. Milwaukee comes away with 83 wins. 83-79.
4th – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates feel like they are going to be able to compete. They come up short again, and once again finish under .500. Of course, in August we hear about how they may get to .500 for the year. The Pirates win 77 games. 77-87.
5th – Chicago Cubs
The Cubs go young and do not win the World Series in 2012. That’s nothing new. Chicago competes early in the season and gives some teams some problems. Including the Cardinals. In the end, Chicago wins 75 games. 75-89
6th – Houston Astros
The new GM has a positive attitude, but a bad team in his first season. The Astros come away with 69 wins. Houston goes 69-93.
Let’s play BALL!
–Rodney Knuppel, Saint Louis Sports
I think the Cards will win the division and the Reds will get a wild card. The Brewers are not quite as good without Fielder and I don’t think Mr. Technicality will have another MVP season. The Pirates will be a little improved from last year and the Cubs and Houston will battle for the division championship…er, I mean the cellar championship.
–JE Powell, STL Fear the Red
Always easy to be optimistic at this time of year, but I do think the Cardinals will win the NL Central. The Reds will be much improved over last year, in my opinion, and I think they’ll make it as a wild card—hopefully losing their one-game play-in.
And, maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I see the Cubs finishing last in the Central and the Astros fifth. (Could just be hoping that Jeff Luhnow does well in his first year as a GM too — and that all the Cub fans and their “Yeah, but we have Theo now” talk will finally just shut up.)
–Christine Coleman, Aaron Miles’ Fastball
The NL has even more parity this year. I’ll predict a close 1-3 finish, which won’t be as exciting as it should be, of course, given not one but two wild cards. As long as Mike Matheny doesn’t bunt or try to steal too much, the Cardinals and the Brewers will flip last-year’s places:
With the Marlins and Braves, I don’t think that the Central will be able to provide two wild-card teams.
“Pretty conventional: STL-CIN-MIL-PIT-CHC-HOU…(regarding the number of playoff teams that come from the Central) 1.5? Seriously, very hard question. I think one WC comes from East. No, honestly, I’d guess two…I think the softer underbelly of the division will help, relative to teams trying to make it from the east.” –Matthew Leach
“in order Cards-Reds-Pirates-Brewers-Cubs-Astros” –Jeff White
Not surprisingly, almost everyone picks the Cards to win the division. I can’t break away from the pack on this one; top to bottom, I believe the Cardinals are the best team in the NL Central and should win the division if everyone stays healthy and plays the way they should. Of course, all of these opinions were formed before Chris Carpenter’s neck issue surfaced, so that could throw a wrench in the works. But it appears that injury isn’t as bad as it could be. Second place in the division is up for grabs between Cincinnati and Milwaukee. The 2012 Reds should be improved over last season, and the Brewers probably lost a little steam compared to their Prince Fielder-led 2011 squad. I expect both to be in the 84-88 win range, with one of them claiming a Wild Card spot. If Carpenter’s injury develops into something that lingers or other injuries plague the Cards, it would not be surprising to see this division race turn into a 3-team battle royal. The Pittsburgh Pirates appear to be headed in the right direction—meaning not backwards—for the first time in years. I said it last year and they fell about 10 games short, so I don’t have a problem going out on a limb again and predicting a .500 finish for the Bucs. The Cubs and Astros will still flounder around near the 95-loss abyss, give or take a few for either team. But the Cubs are on the right track with dumping their old, bad contracts and re-stocking with young talent. This year is not their year…but they could be a team that overachieves from time to time and proves to be a tough beat.
That will do it for my contribution to this UCB Roundtable. For all the questions and answers from the project this time around, check out all the posts here.