The National League Central has emerged as likely the most competitive division in baseball this season. Here are the top 8 stories that have developed thus far during the 2015 season.
An investigation into the Cardinals’ hacking into of the wait for it… Houston Astros personnel database. I’m not sure which is the bigger surprise the fact that this actually happened or the fact that of the 29 other teams in baseball the Cardinals chased the knowledge of the perennial 100-game losers. I guess the Astros are better this year but still wouldn’t think of one of the all-time winningest organizations to be trying to copy off the kid who never seemed to show up for class.
2. Todd Frazier’s Incredible Start
This guy is one of the best players that no one talks about. The 29-year old third baseman is third in the league in homers with 23. Not only has he shown the ability to hit the long ball but he also possesses a .292/.356/.636 slash line that puts him in the top of the league in most offensive categories. The main reason the Reds still find themselves in the realm of relevance is thanks in large part to Frazier.
3. Cardinals still one of the best teams in baseball.
They just win. Doesn’t matter who’s hurt, who’s having a bad year or if the FBI is investing them. Mattheny always seems to find a way to pull of W’s day in and day out. The Redbirds are currently 45-24 (.652) have a five-game lead… on the title of best record in baseball. Their 26-7 record at home is something that would make most NFL teams jealous. All they do is win.
4. Cubs Showing Signs of Life
The one-time joke of the league is now propelled itself to at least mid-June relevance. The Cubs sport a 37-30 (.552) record and currently find themselves seven games out of first. However, if placed in either the NL East or West the club would be in first with that record. Jon, Lester, the organization’s first big-time signing since Alfonso Soriano, started his career with the North Siders a little slow but has since hit his stride in May posting a 1.76 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 41 innings of work. If the pitching staff can maintain and the veterans such as Rizzo, Castro and Fowler can help the young players mature this quite possibly could mean a wild card and some October baseball at Wrigley Field.
5. The depth of the division
The top three teams in the division Cardinals, Pirates and Cubs would all be in first place in any other division in the National League. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, but the Buccos are also just one game back of being able to be in first in any other division in the league. Every other National League Division’s third place team is currently under .500. While in the NL Central the Cubs who are currently in third are seven games over. The Reds have a roster that makes teams have to bring their best everyday as well. Granted the Brewers are one of the worst teams in baseball, but the other four all are forces to be reckoned with.
6. The Pittsburgh Pirates
Russell Martin left for Canada in the off-season, Fransisco Liriano is on the 17th green of his career, their third baseman had never played in the United States and McCutchen the team’s best player batted a mean .194 in April. Yet, the Pirates find themselves at 39-30 and the top current wildcard team. The pitching staff ranks second in all of baseball with a 2.88 ERA which has carrier the way thus far as their offense has yet to truly hit its’ stride. If their bats start to warm then this team could be dangerous down the stretch.
7. Cubs’ Youth Movement Paying Dividends
Bryant, Russell, Soler, Schwarber have all seen time in the big leagues this year and all with the oldest one being Soler at 23 years old. Bryant has been a monster since being called up mid-April. He leads all rookies in runs (38), hits (62) and RBI (39) while also ranking in the top-five in several other categories. Schwarber just experienced his first stint with the Cubs, serving as the team’s designated hitter during interleague play. The 2014 first round pick hit .364 with a homer, six RBI and six runs scored in 22 at bats. If he can stick at catcher his value to the organization could be on par with Bryant’s and again make Theo Epstien look like one of the best draft minds in recent memory. With Russell (21 years old), Schwarber (22), Bryant (23), Soler (23),Castro (25) and Rizzo (25) at the core for Chicago division dominance could shift north in a year or two.
8. How bad the Brewers are
They are bad. Although their roster isnt terrible with names like Braun, Lucroy, Segura, Ramirez this team should have a respectable record… but they do not. On the backslide of April the Brewers have 25 wins second only to the Phillies (24) for fewest wins in baseball. No one expected the Bewers to contend by any means, but I didn’t see this coming.