Tagged: NL Central

Today until July 6th will tell much about the NL Central

July 6th will be the makeup game between the First Place Brewers (36-32 as of Friday 6/16) and the Chicago Cubs (32-33 as of Friday 6/16).

The Brewers just completed a very tough schedule by winning 3 out of 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals which historically has been a tough place to play for them.

From now until July 6th, not one team at or above .500 will play Milwaukee. This includes San Diego, Pittsburgh, @ Atlanta, @ Cincinnati, Miami, and Baltimore (19 games).

The Cubs only have one series at home series from now until July 4th (14 games).

The reason why I say this is because there is a pretty eye opening reason why the Cubs are underachieving this year.

The Cubs before Friday’s game have a road record of 13-18. It seems like every time they turn a corner and look to go on a run, they negate it with a loss. They have NOT won a road series since April 24-26 at Pittsburgh.

The Brewers on the other had have the 3rd best road record in the NL at 19-13.

What these two teams do before July 6th might be telling. Hopefully for the Brewers, they can begin to separate themselves from the pack of the NL Central.

The kids from AAA (Brett Phillips, Lewis Brinson, and Josh Hader) have arrived already.

People say it’s still early but July 6th won’t be so early anymore. The Brewers have the best of both worlds. First place during a rebuild season. This has been the most fun I have had watching this baseball team since 2011.

Sit back and enjoy the ride!!

Advertisements

At 2-11 and its worst start in Franchise History, the Brewers are pretty bad….. and I am kind of happy they are

You probably read that and scratch your head. What?? Aren’t you a Brewers fan? Why would you be happy at how bad they are playing. Well here are several points as to why I am happy:

  • For those of you who are still upset at Ron Roenicke, he may not make it to June. Heck, he might even resign as it looks like already he is running out of ideas on how to fix this anemic offense. Do not be fooled by the 1 year extension they gave Roenicke before the season. That was all PR so that he was not a lame duck coach going into this season.
  • Doug Melvin is in the last year of his contract. At this point if this keeps going the same path, he will not be in the same role. There is talk he may retire from the GM job. This poor start might accelerate that talk or give management a reason to part ways with him.
  • Carlos Gomez injured his hamstring last week in St. Louis, Scooter Gennett hurt his hand in some freak shower accident Sunday in Pittsburgh, and Jonathon Lucroy got hurt in a freak broken toe injury Monday night in Milwaukee. All are on the DL. Is that bad? Yes. However how can you get upset when none of these players mentioned were setting the earth on fire offensively? It is not like they were hitting right now. The entire team can’t hit minus two or three players. And even so, the entire team including those two players can’t hit with RISP (Runners in scoring position). The team is last in many offensive categories where that is supposed to be the strength. The players on the DL forces you to bring up players from AAA to not only spark this pathetic offense, but you can now see what you have for pieces next year and beyond. This leads me to:

The Brewers have $54 million coming off the books after this season. Why I liked the status quo in the off-season despite many fans being angered by it, is that you have the same pieces to be competitive in a tough NL Central. Now that it looks like early you are not going anywhere, you get a great head start trading all these players in the last year of their contract for prospects on other teams. This includes Aramis Ramirez, Kyle Lohse, Gerardo Parra, Jonathon Broxton, and Neal Cotts (43 million right there). And if nobody wants say Aramis Ramirez, you can plan his retirement party early by releasing him.

(If you can’t tell already I never ever really like the signing of him coming here. Leadership was a major issue last year and not once did I think he offered any when the team was scuffling even though he has that experience).

Source: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19_X7mxIemDFBYNQ-FW7-5TwC12AFZTNZzZh07XiJ6Ao/pub?output=html

You see some people who do not watch a ton of baseball will react and say the team sucks, I am done, and will never go to another game. However if you watch as much baseball as I do, you realize that EVERY franchise has a year(s) where nothing works out as planned. The Cardinals did in the late 90s and the Yankees (who are a favorite to finish last in the AL East) are possibly going through that now. Brewers actually look like they will be quickly eliminated due to bad offense and major injuries if they do not start turning this around immediately in the next 2-4 weeks. Heck, they may be double digits games back in their own division before April 30 due to a early heavy all NL Central schedule!

In these cases, it is essential for the long term success of the franchise to blow it up and start over. You see, the Brewers are in a better position than say the Philadelphia Phillies or New York Yankees. Those franchises are kind of stuck. Bad contracts and aging players that nobody wants.

The Braves are more like the Brewers. While they sort of threw in the towel before the season started, they realized they had players to make them competitive but not enough talent to make the playoffs this season. So they decided to trade some of their talent who was expendable and will build around prospects they got in return and franchise players.

The Brewers have aging players but all their aging players are at the end of their contract. So it is more likely for a team in the playoff hunt to call you for a rent a player come June or July. In turn, the Brewers will most likely get prospects. That is a weakness in the franchise currently.

Now these prospects may not turn out but it looks like long term if Jean Segura’s last season was not a trend, they got a good return for Zack Greinke in 2012. Ironically that was the last time the Brewers were buried by a poor 1st half start. And while I heard the same comments in 2012, the Brewers played much better after these trades to finish above .500 that year.

Young guys were brought up with something to prove and once the pressure of winning was relaxed, they played much better as an entire unit. Right now you can read the pressure on most of the team that they have to play perfect baseball in order to have a chance to win. Don’t let the post game comments fool you, The team is playing with no confidence.

Additionally the Brewers are the smallest franchise in baseball market size. Ryan Braun’s 105 million extension does not even kick in until next year and looks like a terrible contract now. The Brewers will be able to sign a major free agent or two next year, but they have to balance their team with team friendly contracts. So to be bad now, you get to audition players you get via trades and move minor players up to audition them for next year. The Brewers did that in 2012 and 2013 which set them up for a much better 2014.

The past several years from 2007 to 2014 was a great run. The core players of Braun, Hardy, Fielder, Hart, Gallardo, and others that came up provided two playoff appearances, a year where the franchise went all in winning 96 games, and appeared to have tons of fun taking the fans on an incredible ride. However it almost seemed with the Gallardo trade that era of Brewers baseball has now come to an end. Now would be the time to start over, make some popcorn, and enjoy the prospect call up war that your rivals the Cubs and Cardinals appear to be starting.

Plus there is always the joy of hearing Bob Uecker call games in the summer!

Milwaukee-Brewers-Retro-Logo

September 2014: I declare “war” in the NL Central

Hank

 

Happy Labor Day!

This is the last sprint of the marathon called the baseball season. I write this ironically as I am leaving the comforts of home in Milwaukee back to Chicago where the Brewers are about to play again in a little over an hour.

Now the wannabe ultra critical sports fans that don’t watch the league as much as a die-hard like me can watch NFL football and that “Cheese team” while the most emotional part of the year is upon us.

Before I get into anything else, this has been a great Brewers season! The media and some glass half empty fans make it sound otherwise, but back in March, NOBODY ever thought we would be where we are at right now. If you told me in January that we would be 73-63 tied for first with the St. Louis Cardinals, I one would have thought you were crazy and two would have said I loved if that happened.

Here is some articles that gave us not chance back in March:

MLB.com 2014 Staff Precitions

ESPN Predictions

CBS Sports.com Brewers Preview

So here we are. The Brewers proved so many people wrong and their talent is developing faster than expected while the Cardinals best young talent in many ways never materialized to their potential this season. This highly touted starting pitching they had needed to get Justin Masterson and John Lackey in July in order to tie with us on September 1st.

Personally, I am happy that we are tied with the Cardinals for 1st. In order for the Brewers to ever exorcise that yellow Cardinal beak that has been hovering over this franchise like a vulture since 1982, we need to prove that we can beat them. Personally I think the Cardinals and some of their fans have assumed that at any point they will take over first and win the division that we have been keeping warm since April 5th. It’s time for the Brewers to pick themselves up off the infield dirt, dig down and finish these last games on a high note.

 

Here are my grades on my trends from August:

1) Schedule C+

If this was mid August I would have given the team an A+. To go to LA and sweep that team after playing Kershaw and Greinke back to back was the most proud moment of the season. It sent a statement that this team is for real and here to stay.

Then the disaster in San Diego and San Francisco happened.

I am kind of glad it happened. Sometimes having a team beat you left and right like the Giants did will show what type of team you really are. It’s why today’s game at the Cubs may be one of the defining moments of the year. How will this team bounce back?

2) Wily Peralta Future ACE B-

Wily is struggling as we head into September. However 15 wins for the season and competing with the likes of Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw for most NL wins shows how far he has come. He is still only in his 2nd full year. He will get better. The best thing about how he loses is his demeanor. He used to get upset when he did not have his stuff last year. This year he has learned to take it with a grain of salt.

3) Waiver Claims A

Baseball is one of the few sports where people that don’t follow the game stick out like sore thumbs. I heard everyone blame Doug Melvin for not getting Justin Morneau when they don’t even know the waiver process. The Rockies probably were never really serious about dealing Morneau and wanted to see if a team would be stupid enough to give away too much.

Then Doug Melvin under the radar gets another bullpen guy in Jonathon Braxton.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates

Melvin does not get enough credit. Here is the 8th inning guy who not only is reliable but could even close if needed. He also has a contract through next season should K-Rod leave. Brilliant waiver deal!! Mevlin is smart enough not to mortgage the farm for this season and then get pieces that help now and will benefit later.

4) Injuries B

Matt Garza went on the DL and Mike Fiers pitched better than anyone ever expected. Carlos Gomez it was revealed has been bothered by a sore wrist (day-to-day) and Gerrardo Parra can instantly fill in. Another under the radar move by Melvin.

For the most part injuries have not hurt this team. Let’s hope it stays this way.

5) West Coast Woes D

I knew when the Brewers had to travel to California two times in the last two weeks and have to be in Chicago also two times in the last three weeks that might have been trouble.

The Padres are playing better lately and gave the Brewers fits and then the Giants decided they know how to hit again. The only reason why this is not an F is because of the Dodgers sweep in LA.

 

So now why did I call this a war? Because it is more PC than a blood bath.

Here is the Brewers schedule in September

1-3 @ Chicago

4-7 vs St. Louis

8-11 vs Miami

12-14 vs Cincy

16-18 @ St Louis

19-21 @ Pittsburgh

23-25 @ Cincy

26-28 vs Chicago

Only 4 games vs a non NL Central team

Cardinals

1-3 vs Pittsburgh

4-7 @ Milwaukee

8-11 @ Cincy

12-14 vs Colorado

16-18 vs Milwaukee

19-21 vs Cincy

22-24 @ Chicago

26-28 @ Arizona

6 games vs a non NL Central team

Pirates

1-3 @ St Louis

5-7 @ Chicago

8-11 @ Philadephia

12-14 vs Chicago

16-18 vs Boston

19-21 vs Milwaukee

22-25 @ Atlanta

26-28 @ Cincy

11 games vs a non NL Central team

And while I think the Reds playoff hopes are dwindling, I will put their schedule down for sake of argument.

2-4 @ Baltimore

5-7 vs New York Mets

8-11 vs St. Louis

12-14 @ Milwaukee

15-17 @ Chicago

18-21 @ St Louis

23-25 vs Milwaukee

27-28 vs Pittsburgh

6 games vs a non NL Central team

The math is simple for the Brewers. For them to win the NL Central, they have to beat their rivals. Pittsburgh might have the edge there or it might be a curse. They have the least chance to control their own destiny since they play 11 games vs non NL Central teams, the most out of the competing teams.

Also, the Chicago Cubs who have nothing to play for and have players who are out to prove they can be major league talent, will have plenty of say in this NL Central.

Additionally, don’t believe for a second they are not licking their chops trying to bypass the Reds for 4th place which would be considered a major success.

September 4-7 is probably the biggest challenge of the year for the Brewers to start this month. They can prove they belong and are better than the Cardinals this year, or they can be down for the first time looking up. The Red birds have that circled on the calendar. Expect a war. Heck I even expect a bench clearing incident to occur. However this is what as a fan we live for. Let me quote the great wrestler Ric Flair as saying:

“In order to be the man, you have to beat the man”

And let me add for everyone that wants to rip this franchise for not getting David Price or Jon Lester.

September 1st the Tigers after acquiring David Price are in 2nd place chasing the Royals and have the 2nd wild card.

How about the Athletics going for it this year? They are 5 games out of first and have the first wild card.

It is not even guaranteed one or both teams may keep that as Seattle and Cleveland are hot on their trail.

To make a July blockbuster move can backfire.

It is time to let the chips fall where they may and just the enjoy the ride that this season has given Brewers fans! Can they make it to the end of the road celebrating what would be the best division title since that 1982 season?

We will find out soon. Until then, I declare war!

Berniefred birdPirate birdReds famCubs mascot

 

 

 

 

 

A perspective on the Brewers July struggles

Before I get into the Brewers July, let me recap June:

1) MLB Draft/Kendrys Morales (A for the draft: B for eventually not getting Morales)

The Brewers according to several of the media covering the draft did pretty well for themselves. All top 3 players are officially signed and into the system. The potential is high for all three players.

http://milwaukee.brewers.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20140614&content_id=79745550&vkey=pr_mil&c_id=mil

This is important because while Morales for reasons only he knows signed with Minnesota after the draft, an already good farm system may become even better. The Brewers are in a unique situation where they are competing quicker than many realized while still building up the farm system. Win-win strategy.

2) Pitching Depth: A

Brewers have shown their pitching depth by being one of the only teams in baseball to use the fewest starters. Minus Jimmy Nelson start back in May, all five starters in the rotation did not miss any starts. Also until Wily Peralta’s bad outing earlier in the week, all starters have pitched more than 5 innings each start minus the Matt Garza injury. Pretty good.

Even better? You have the ability to call up Jimmy Nelson while moving Marco Estrada to the bullpen. That is almost as good as an in season trade. It will be interesting to see how Nelson does vs Cy Young potential candidate Adam Wainwright.

Nelson is known for being a bulldog so I don’t have any concerns with him being nervous. I kind of get goosebumps with him and Peralta back to back in the rotation potentially.

3) Jonathon Lucroy A+

First of all, congrats to Lucroy on making his first all-star team. He due to Yadier Molina’s injury is going to start for the NL and if voting for the All-Star game was not treated as a king and queen homecoming contest, he should have started the game anyway. He is stats wise having the best season among top catchers in the major leagues and should be in conversation for NL MVP. Let’s start up the MVP talk for this guy as he deserves any and all accolades this year. It’s great to see.

4) Lineup B

Minus the last 10-15 games or so, the Brewers lineup was hitting on all cylinders. I will get to their struggles recently, but I can’t solely base that on the offense.

5) Kyle Lohse A

Lohse has been everything the Brewers had hope. A calming vet who has influence on the entire pitching staff. Most games when Lohse takes the mound, you have confidence that the Brewers will at least be in the game. Kyle has had a wonderful season and let me throw this out there. Perhaps you could talk extension in the off season as he will be in the final year of his contract.

IMPORTANT Dates/Series

Since I started my July blog late, I will mention all series up to this point with the results:

July 1-2 @ Toronto (Both losses)
July 4-6 @ Cincinnati (lost 2 out of 3)
July 11-13 vs St Louis (lost Friday night)
July 18-20 @ Washington
July 21-23 vs Reds

July 31st Trade Deadline

Now that my review of June out of the way, let’s talk about July.

Let me take a moment to talk to the segment of Brewers fans who are saying the following:

“Brewers suck”
“I knew this was going to happen”
“The sky is falling”
“I told you they are not good”

Calm down……

Is the last 10-15 games the Brewers have played this season concerning? Yes. Absolutely. Does it mean they are not a good team? No.

The Brewers as of Saturday morning July 12th are currently 52-42. 10 games above .500, 94 games into the season and still in 1st place.

Baseball is 162 game marathon. ALL teams will have times when they struggle. Let me repeat that, ALL teams will have times when they struggle.

This was always a three team race between St. Louis, Cincy, and Pittsburgh going into this season. The Brewers being better than anyone including I expected have now made this a 4 team race. For reference here is a previous blog that talks about it.

http://brianthab.mlblogs.com/2014/01/29/matt-garza-is-more-than-just-a-big-signing-for-2014/

Go back to March/April. Most baseball analyst had this Brewers team finishing 4th at best while some even had them predicted to finish last behind the Cubs!

If you are saying you knew this Brewers team on July 12th would be 10 games over .500 back in March, you are lying. I watch a ton of baseball and I never thought that would ever happen!!! On that statement alone, this has been a successful Brewers season!

The Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates all made the playoffs last year in the NL Central. They had their troubles and their slumps earlier in the season for various reasons while the Brewers went off to a hot start.

Now those teams are getting hot and playing better and the baseball law of averages appear that the Brewers were due to have this.

Remember the talk about the Giants and how hot they were back in June? 9.5 game lead over the Dodgers at one point.

They as of Saturday morning are deadlock with the Dodgers in the NL West at 51-42. At one point before the Brewers slide, they lost 9 out of 10 (June 9-15) after being 42-21. Yes the Giants have only won 9 out of 30 games from June 9-July 12 (.300 winning pct)!! That includes a Tim Lincecum No hitter during that stretch.

How about the Atlanta Braves who looked good earlier in the season and was poised to run away with the NL East. Well they had a slump too and are in battle with the Nationals for first place.

It’s July. This baseball season  races are just getting started. If I had a choice for the Brewers to struggle now or struggle in September, I would want it to happen now.

Remember: The Braves slide in September of 2011 is how the Cardinals took the Wild Card and we know how that turned out.

Let me explain:

Baseball is a strange game if you only casually watch it. For diehards like me, this type of stuff happens all the time!

It’s unexplainable how the Brewers are losing some of these games with 4 run leads or more early on. Thursday July 10th’s meltdown vs the Phillies defies reality. A potential no hitter turned to a blowout by the team that was being no hit for several innings? Crazy!

The Brewers also were not going to run away with this division because their competition is too good and too talented to play the way they have been playing.

To add some perspective, I will detail the current and final standings the last two years the Brewers have not made the postseason:

July 12, 2012

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/standings/?tcid=mm_mlb_standings#20120712

 

The Yankees, White Sox, and Rangers were leading the AL with the Angels and Orioles for the Wild Card.

The Nationals, Pirates, and Dodgers were NL Division leaders with the Reds and Braves as the Wild Card.

Final playoff teams were:

AL: Yankees, Tigers, A’s Wild Card: Orioles and Rangers
NL: Nationals, Reds, Giants Wild Card: Braves and Cardinals

The White Sox, Angels, Pirates, and Dodgers did not make it from July to September (40%)

 

July 12, 2013

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/standings/?tcid=mm_mlb_standings#20130712

The Red Sox, Tigers and A’s were AL division with the Rays and Rangers as Wild Cards

The Braves, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks were NL division leaders with the Pirates and Reds as Wild Cards

Final Playoff teams were:

AL: Red Sox, Tigers, A’s Wild Card: Rays and Indians
NL: Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers Wild Card: Pirates, Reds

The Rangers and Diamondbacks did not make it from July to September (20%)

I know this is just quick numbers,  however based on the last two seasons the Brewers have a 60-80% chance of making the postseason.

This is still a good team. They are having a great season. For those who may not be huge baseball fans like myself, this is advice I always remind myself going into every season.

When a team is playing terrific, never get too high. When a team is slumping, never get too low.

Baseball is one of the hardest sports to follow because it can be an emotional roller coaster. It is also why I feel it is the best sport out of all the professional sports. You can’t get too emotionally wrapped in the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a 162 game season.

Hopefully I have taken you off the ledge and given you some tips on how to cope with this division race. I do think this is going to go down to the wire. The NL Central top to bottom has some of the best talent in all of baseball!

Here are my trends for July:

1) Jimmy Nelson

Jimmy Nelson

So many Brewers fans were asking for him to be called up again and you now have your wish. Personally, I still would go with the people that got you to this point giving him a little more time to develop, however I do agree that it got tiring watching Marco Estrada throw batting HR practice against opposing batters. At least the Brewers appear to have a pulse on the fan base.

Nelson I do believe is here to stay barring major struggles. The Brewers had this move planned since they went past the 90 days Rule 5 rules to keep Wei Chung Wang on the major league roster. He is suddenly on the DL with “left shoulder tightness.” I am sure the Pirates are amused.

2) Jean Segura

jean-segura-batting

We really need to get Jean Segura going at some point. He is in a huge slump. They tried putting him towards the top of the lineup and that did not work as it affected the entire lineup. I believe he is a good hitter just struggling right now. Judging by his sample size in the bigs, he should get out of it. I think he is too good of a hitter not to.

3) Trade deadline

Some people are saying the Brewers should get pitching. I would like to see them get another bat. The pitching re-enforcements of Jim Henderson and Tyler Thornburg will hopefully come off the DL soon. I would like to see the Brewers acquire someone who is a utility guy that can play anywhere in the field and get on base. I truly believe the Brewers will get someone like this if not by July 31st, in August through waivers. Doug Melvin has been on the record saying nothing is cooking at the moment, however, he is the same GM that surprised everyone by signing Matt Garza and who shocked the baseball world acquiring CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke. He NEVER plays his cards.

4) Platoons

I get that you want to platoon guys due to pitching match ups, however can we stop the 2B and 1B platoon!!

I am not saying it is the sole reason why the Brewers are struggling but could be one of the factors. At this point in the season, you put you best players on the field.

Scooter Gennett has proven that he can play 2B and hit. He should be playing the majority of time there no matter how the pitcher throws. Weeks is Weeks and he is on his way out whether the Brewers can sucker someone for a trade, put him on waivers or if he cleans out his locker when the season ends.

Also Mark Reynolds is your better overall player option at first over Lyle Overbay. I like Overbay however I just don’t have the confidence that he can hit or get on base as much as I do in Reynolds.

5) Fans/Media

Please see above. I know Brewers fans are not used to what a division race is like every year but you are in one. Have faith. This team is good. As much fun as this season has been, they still have not played their best baseball yet and are 52-42.

I have dealt with some adversity personally this year and unfortunately by last night’s sad news the team is facing adversity that makes baseball not seem so important.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2014_07_11_slnmlb_milmlb_1&mode=recap_home&c_id=mil

This team has great chemistry and will get through the funk that they are in.

Brewers Rappers

Keep the faith Brewers fans!!

Update: 7/12/14 12:20 pm. Condolences to Jean Segura and his family on hearing the unfortunate news the team found out last night.

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/eye-on-baseball/24617678/jean-segura-leaves-brewers-after-nine-month-old-son-passes-away

 

2nd Half Preview: NL Edition

Here is my 2nd half preview of the NL Races in baseball:

NL East

Atlanta

The Braves early in the season was the best team in baseball record wise. To end the 1st half of the season they struggled going 5-5 in their last 10 games. Coupled that with a below .500 away record (23-36) and their projected outfield either battling injuries or on the DL and you have to wonder if this team is prepared for the long haul. Also Washington and shockingly Philadelphia are hanging around. Minus a 3 game series with St. Louis, they start the 2nd half playing a favorable schedule of the White Sox and Mets. Still they have to get healthy if they want to win the division.

Prediction: 2nd (2nd Wild Card)

Washington

I would have been totally wrong if someone would tell me the Nationals would be one game over .500 at the All-Star break. However with the Braves struggling recently, they have let Washington back in this race. If the Nationals are to win this, they need the man below to get hot and to do well with upcoming series vs the Dodgers, Pirates, and at the Tigers. They also need Stephen Strasburg to be consistent like they know he can. Still right now I feel they are better prepared to take over the division lead over the Braves. Fear the beard my friend.

Image Jayson Werth

Prediction: 1st

Philadelphia Phillies

It’s hard to know what to do if you are the Phillies. Ryan Howard is on the DL still for several weeks, Roy Halladay is gone for the year, Cole Hamels is hot and cold, and Ben Revere is out for several weeks with a broken ankle. Still they are amazingly 6.5 games out. Do you trade pieces to build for the future or try to trade for pieces and go for it this year? Glad I am not the Phillies GM as that is a tough decision.

Prediction: 3rd

New York Mets

The Mets have been playing better lately. Matt Harvey and David Wright are great pieces to build around. They should look to move salary by the deadline and achieve the goal of reaching .500 by the end of the season. It is almost hard to believe that I am picking both New York teams to finish fourth in each of their divisions, but I am!

Prediction: 4th

Miami Marlins

Image

Their owner Jeffery Loria is getting everything he deserves. If I am Jose Fernandez or Giancarlo Stanton I am playing my rear end off for the rest of the year. Cause if history tells us anything, the better player you are for this owner, the quicker he wants to get rid of you. And somewhere on his couch Ozzie Guillen is still laughing at how much he is still owed!

Prediction: 5th

NL Central

St Louis Cardinals

As much as it pains me to admit it, the Cardinals have played well and earned the top spot in the NL Central up to this point. Yadier Molina is arguably the MVP of the National League. The reason why I don’t think they will finish first is the starting pitching. While they lead the league in the most number of starters used due to injury after injury, you can only plug a hole so far before it leaks. If Chris Carpenter comes back and can pitch anywhere near he use to, that will be a huge lift. After playing the Padres, they have a challenging schedule playing the Phillies (who are still in the playoff chase), Braves, Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, and Cubs (who lately have played the Cardinals tough).

Then they play a helping of the some of the same teams (mainly NL Central) again in August and September. Ouch.

Prediction: 2nd (1st Wild Card)

Pittsburgh Pirates

So you may be asking the question, at what point will the collapse begin again. Not this year. The Pirates remind me of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. They were good all year then went on a unbelievable 2nd half run where I can’t remember a time being a fan expecting the team to win every night and they did losing only 8 times from after the All-Star break through August.

This Pirates team I feel may do that this year. They lead the league in team ERA recently (3.07), have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and have a fan base that has returned to PNC Park, filling it up every home game. With their 25-15 record vs the NL Central, they obviously don’t fear anyone in the division. Their 2nd half schedule is easier than the Cardinals and I am sure they have July 29th-August 1st (vs the Cardinals) circled on their calendar as one of the most important home series since maybe 1992. I will go out and say it, the Pirates will win their 1st division title in 21 years!

Image

Prediction: 1st

Cincinnati Reds

Homer Bailey is turning into an elite pitcher before our eyes. That’s good for the Reds as he and the other starters need to hold the fort until Cueto comes back from the DL (if he does). Saying that, the Reds play the Pirates and Cardinals at the beginning of the 2nd half. What is sandwiched in between? A long west coast road trip. And due to a rain out, on July 23rd, the Reds get to be the home team playing at San Francisco!

This team has looked like they are good but not at  the same level of the Cardinals and Reds. I look for them to fade slowly out of the race rather than stay competitive.

Prediction: 3rd

Chicago Cubs

Surprise the city by being playing better than the Sox? Check

Get rid of awful Carlos Marmol? Check

Be within single digits of .500 at the break? Check

Light a fire under Alfonso Soriano rear end? Are you kidding me? Check

Let me tell you another stat you will not believe. The Cubs are only 10 games out of the wild card. While that is still a tall order to jump through all the teams to move up, they are a hot streak away from being considered for…. (I won’t say the P word as to not jinx it).

Prediction: 4th

Milwaukee Brewers

Have you ever seen a team that has 3 players in the lineup batting above or near .300 for the season and they be one of the worst teams in baseball? Or how about a team that has one of the best bullpens in baseball be one of the worst teams in the league? Me neither but congrats to the Brewers for accomplishing that.

Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez may overtake Ryan Braun as the core to build around along with Jonathon Lucroy. Injuries have hurt this team, however starting pitching has been way too inconsistent. The good news is some of their young players have come around and actually have pitched better. Namely Wily Peralta

And whoever told me Aramis Ramirez was a good signing please tell me why now? Having to baby the guy twice a week for hurting his knee in spring training and re-injuring it again thinking he is in his 20s trying to stretch singles into doubles proves I can still call him a bum! What a bad signing!

Prediction: 5th

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks

At one point the D-Backs were rolling. Then came a slump. Then came an entire NL West collapse to allow the Dodgers back into the race when they have no business being there.

If only the Diamondbacks were in the NL Central. That is the only division where they have an above .500 record!!!

Prediction: 2nd

LA Dodgers

This team has an outrageous payroll and up until Puig Mania was a losing streak away from firing its manager Don Mattingley. Now because the whole division collapsed and fell down to them, they are at .500 and smell snake blood.

It pains me to say this however the only reason why this team will win this division is by default because they bought their talent. It also does not hurt to have most likely Cy Young Clayton Kersaw and Zack Greinke at the top of your rotation. At least I can look forward to Vin Scully calling the playoffs!

We also get to see more of the legend of Puig Mania

Image

Prediction: 1st

Colorado Rockies

This is one of the teams in the NL West that are just average. I am glad that Michael Cuddyer is having a breakout season and made the All-Star game. Still there is nobody really on this team who you look at that can carry this team. The series with the Cubs, Marlins, and Brewers should at least keep them in the conversation of the division at least until August.

Prediction: 4th

San Francisco Giants

What happened to this team? Early July they were at or near the top of their division and have taken a nose dive. Since about mid May I ready somewhere that they have one of the worst records in baseball with only 17 wins. I saw this team play in Milwaukee in late April, get easily swept by them, and thought to myself something is not right here. The pitching is there, however they go many games where they can’t score runs. See Homer Bailey’s no hitter as example A.

They will be better than the Rockies, however I think they will go from World Series champs to watching at home in October.

Prediction: 3rd

San Diego Padres

On Saturday June 29th, this happened and I could not believe it.

West W L PCT GB WCGB L10 STRK HOME ROAD LAST GAME NEXT GAME
Arizona 42 38 .525 5-5 L2 21-16 21-22 6/29 @ ATL, L 5-11 6/30 @ ATL, 1:35 PM
Colorado 41 41 .500 2.0 5.5 4-6 W2 25-18 16-23 6/29 vs SF, W 2-1 6/30 vs SF, 4:10 PM
San Diego 40 41 .494 2.5 6.0 4-6 L1 25-18 15-23 6/29 @ MIA, L 1-7 6/30 @ MIA, 1:10 PM

Now forward back to the NL West all falling apart and the Padres are sitting at 8.5 games back. This team I don’t think was going to compete this year, however they should be commended for playing hard all the time. These times that they were near the top of the division show me that they are turning the corner and will be better next year.

Prediction: 5th

Final Standings

Division Champs: Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers

Wild Card Winners: Cardinals, Braves