First and foremost, I think I speak for all of us at the CCO, our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Josh Hancock and the entire Cardinals organization. For the second time in 5 years the Cardinals have lost a pitcher in a tragic fashion. I think Jim Edmonds put it best when he said there are times when we think we are invincible, but unfortunately it takes situations such as this to really put it all into perspective. You are in our prayers….
With one day to go the first month of the season is almost complete and I think we can all say this is not what we were expecting from our Cubbies. Getting out of the gate hot and letting the NL Central know there is a new team in town would have been a lot better, right? But 300 million later and we are still faced with the same old struggles. Whether it be the staff ace losing his mind in the 5th inning to blow a lead or the bullpen walking in the go ahead run. Every struggle makes us put our hands to our face and say, why, why can’t it just be easy. Why can’t our #1 off-season acquisition get off to a hot start, like he has done the last 10 years? Things aren’t easy when you are a Cub fan or on the major league roster, that’s just the way it is. And after the first month of the season I have learned to deal with it, and I hope you have all done the same. But let’s not forget we are in the NL Central and there is hope. Ladies and gentleman we have a long road ahead of us, five months to be exact and this thing we call a division crown is far from settled. If we get hot, we will settle it real quickly, but if we stay luke warm I guarantee you I will be completely bald by the middle of September. Let’s take a look back at the last month in the NL Central…. As of right now the Cubs are in 4th place looking up at the Brewers, Reds and the Pirates….just by writing that I think I threw up a little in my mouth. But it is a reality, as of right now this division is up for grabs and the team to beat is the Milwaukee Brewers.
They have a great young team with a ton of enthusiasm. With a team ERA of 3.92 and a batting average of .267 they have all the tools to win. But this team is doing it with the long ball; they lead the NL Central in jacks with 29, which is 10 more than our Cubs. And lets get something cleared up, Prince Fielder is listed at 260, c’mon that guy is just a double quarter pounder with cheese shy of 3 bills. But he can hit the long ball and loves to do so against the Cubs. He put his team on his back and beat the Cubs during the last homestand. As of right now, and not just because they hold the top spot, they are the team to beat going into May in the Central.
After the Brewers the rest of the division is within a game and half of each other. Talk about parity. The Pirates are very surprising, they have a team batting average of .238 and rank 20th in the bigs in ERA. But could they be doing it with their glove? They Bucos are 6th in the league in fielding percentage with a .987, not bad. The Pirates have been playing good on the road and at home, to be successful you have to find that common ground regardless of the location of the diamond.
The Reds are in the same boat as the Pirates, they play .500 ball on the road and at home. I don’t think .500 is going to win the division but it is going to take you deep into the season. The Reds haven’t been hitting the ball that well, with a .246 team batting average that’s good enough for 21st in the majors. But they are right behind the Brewcrew in the longball category with 26 on the year. Aaron Harang is very upset, he was an afterthought in the Cy Young voting last year and is taking it out on every team he faces. He has a 4.23 ERA but is 4-0 on the year, and that is all that matters. He has 36 punch-outs which is good enough for 6th in the league.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are not playing Cardinal baseball right now and with the unfortunate incident I am sure things aren’t going to get any easier for the WS Champs. Everyone thought pitching was going to be an issue for the Cards and I think they might be right. The Redbirds have a team ERA of 4.02, and are in the bottom five in the league in strikeouts. Teams are putting the ball in play against the Cards. With gold glovers at the corners (not this year Pujols, D-Lee is healthy and wants his shiny gold glove back) that is not necessarily a bad thing, but it will get old. The Cards are not the same team, and I think they have a tough road ahead.
And finally the Astros, they were the hottest team in the league two weeks ago. But they have won two of their last ten games, and that will put you in the cellar. The Astros have yet to gel with the addition of Carlos Lee. El Caballo was brought in to hit the ball hard and give some protection in the lineup to Lance Berkman. Berkman is hitting .253 with 22 K’s, he will come around but as of right now is not holding up to his end of the deal. The Astros are never out of the race….we all know that.
As for the Cubs, the team that just can’t make it easy on their loyal fans. We all knew it wasn’t going to be the hitting on this team, well we were right. They are #1 in the central and 6th in the league with a BA of .271. So we got that right, all good when it comes to the batting average. But everyone said our fielding was going to be mess, especially the outfield. Sweet Lou made some changes for the better and we lead the NL Central in fielding percentage with a .987, good enough for 4th in the league….not bad. And the number one problem coming into this season was our starting rotation. I have heard it all, “Home Run Marquis”, “Old Man Lilly”, “Wanna-Be-Zito Hill” and “Put em’ in a Straight Jacket Zambrano”. But once again we are #1 in the Central with a team ERA of 3.61. With the exception of the Wade Miller Project and Z being off his meds for a while our rotation has been fergielicious —- F-E-R-G, you know what I mean. So we are #1 in most of the major categories, what does this mean? Absolutely nothing….right now. I know I have said the division can be won or lost in April, well I lied. Back and forth up and down, back and forth up and down….I hope your hair can handle it.
NL Central Division Standings
- Brewers – 15-9/.625
- Reds – 12-13/.480, 3 1/2 GB
- Pirates – 11-12/.478, 3 1/2 GB
- Cubs – 10-13/.435, 4 1/2 GB
- Cardinals – 10-13/.435, 4 1/2 GB
- Astros – 10-14/.417, 5 GB
Until Next Time….Go Cubbies!!!!