Predictions Roll in from SOE

Andrew McCutchen and Jason Heyward (3rd and 4th from L, respectively)

Andrew McCutchen and Jason Heyward (3rd and 4th from L, respectively)

Cardinals uber-fan Will Leitch has posted his predictions for both Central divisions and the Senior Circuit version plays out as follows…

1. St. Louis Cardinals (93-69)
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (90-72)
3. Chicago Cubs (88-74)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (79-83)
5. Cincinnati Reds (74-88)

Personally, I’m thinking the Cubs are being routinely hyped a little too much. I’m a little more cautious with them than most prognosticators seem to be. Somewhere between 82 and 85 wins feels about right to me.

Pirates are a real wild card to me. I can’t get a good feel on them. If they won 75 games, I wouldn’t be surprised. If they won 95, I also wouldn’t be surprised. There’s a pretty wide gap there.

Yes, I concede the Cardinals to be the best in the division. They always are, right?

The Brewers and Reds? I think they’ll be even worse.

Listening to some Brewers radio this week and routinely hearing positive things being said about them and it feels like a broken record. Last June I was heading about how great they were when it was pretty clear that they had one hot streak to open the season and nothing else – after the first two weeks of the season they consistently played below-.500 ball. There’s not much talent there and no prospects on the horizon.

It’s going to be bad, people.

Ditto for the Red Legs, who would probably do well to commit to a rebuild sooner rather than later and shed what little talent they have over there.

Anyhow, we have 9 more nights until Cardinals at Cubs and I can’t wait for it.

Read the whole thing here.

Cingrani to Pen; Arrieta Slider

Jake Arrieta's Slider Grip

Jake Arrieta’s Slider Grip

Good stuff on Fangraphs today, covering Tony Cingrani’s move to the bullpen and the movement(s) on Jake Arrieta’s slider(s).

We’ll also get our Depth Chart link updated.  (Were you even aware that this existed?)

Read about Cingrani here and Arrieta here.

Leitch’s “Most Compelling NL Central Players”

nlcentralcompelling_6ftt6ov7_kqxd42t5St. Louis Cardinals Fanboy, Will Leitch, has a look at the NL Central’s Most Compelling Players over at Sports On Earth.

Hey, I’ll give him credit.  He did name two players from each team in his list of ten.

So either each team has compelling reasons to watch them, or Leitch was being purposefully balanced.

Either way, here’s his list:

Chicago Cubs: Javier Baez (“someday he’s going to hit the ball 600 feet”), Anthony Rizzo (“only 25, he took a major step forward last season, and not just in power: His average leapt up 53 points and he even struck out less… and also plays a mean first base”)

Cincinnati Reds: Jay Bruce (“every year is the year that Bruce is going to break out”), Joey Votto (“a healthy Joey Votto is one of the best players on the planet”)

Milwaukee Brewers: Carlos Gomez (“whether you like it or not, you can’t take your eyes off him”), Ryan Braun (“the Brewers and their fans want to be able to fully cheer for Braun again, and they’re going to need to”)

Pittsburgh Pirates: Gerrit Cole (“[he] is the first super Pirates prospect to arrive, and now he has to show he’s the best”), Andrew McCutchen (“you’re looking at a Hall of Famer, folks”)

St. Louis Cardinals: Matt Carpenter (“if you’re the sort of baseball fan who obsesses over every detail of every at-bat… then [he] should be your favorite player”), Jason Heyward (“fast, strong, athletic, has an impeccable batting eye and plays right field like the position was invented specifically for him”)

Read the whole she-bang over here.

 

Pirates Spring Training

Well, Pedro Alvarez got off to a nice start in spring training, for whatever that’s worth.

Alvarez “went oppo”, although against a right-handed pitcher.

And new acquisition Jung Ho Kang took one out to right-center.

All in all, it was just nice to be able to pop open a window on my PC with a live baseball game going on.

I can only manage so much excitement about March baseball, but still…

Fangraphs on Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

Pedro Alvarez

Owen Watson took a nice look at Pedro Alvarez’s 2014 season over at Fangraphs.

Watson makes a point for Alvarez being a key player to watch for the Bucs this season, especially as I’ve seen prognosticators picking them anywhere between 1st and 3rd in the division.

Where they end up could have much to do with the free-swinging lefty, who might be platoon player at this point in his career.

Alvarez has been moved across the diamond to play full-time at first base as a result of numerous throwing errors from the hot corner.

Last season he led Major League Baseball with 25 errors at third base.  In 2nd place was the Oakland Athletics’ Josh Donaldson, who made 23.

Here’s the interesting thing, though.  Donaldson made 23 errors in 150 games at 3B.  Alvarez’s 25 came in just 99 games.

His fielding percentage was an abysmal .924, a smidge below the Tribe’s Lonnie Chisenhall (.931 in 114 games) among players with a significant amount of playing time.

Although his homer totals were cut in half (down from 36 to 18), the trend on his plate discipline numbers suggest he could rebound this season.

You can see Watson’s full article here.

Grantland’s “The 30″ Debuts

Grantland

Grantland

Your favorite Canadian, Jonah Keri, made his first list of “The 30″ for the 2015 season yesterday and here’s where you find your NL Central teams.

#25 Milwaukee Brewers

I saw a report on MLB Network this weekend where the Brew Crew still plans on using Adam Lind at first base against lefties.  Really?

Career slash line for Lind:

vs RHP: 293/349/510
vs LHP: 212/257/331

And I know as a good Sabermetrician I shouldn’t consider striking out to be quite the bogey man it used to be, but against righties he is striking out in 17% of all plate appearances, but 26% versus lefties.

Last season he went 2-for-33 (you read that right) against lefties.  But this reporter was talking about how Lind hit .275 against southpaws in 2009.  Ya, as recently as six seasons ago.  Since then you’ll find a lot of seasons where he was .240, .210, and worse.  It’s a bad idea, guys.

Keri’s interested in seeing how Mike Fiers does in the rotation for Milwaukee, but it could be a long season for Brewers’ fans.

Couple this with a farm system that most have ranked among the five worst in baseball, being in the same division with those that rank either best (Cubs) or in the top 10 (Pirates) and you have the makings of a rough back half to this decade.

#21 Cincinnati Reds

Keri is all about the comeback candidates – Tony Cingrani and Joey Votto.

I admit I’m finding it hard to get too amped up about watching games involving either the Brewers or Reds.

These next three teams, however…

#11 Pittsburgh Pirates

What?! Jonah, seriously? I’m hearing lots of folks who have pegged the Bucs to win the Central, but Keri has them third in the division. What gives?

Keri praises them in some regards, noting how far ahead of the curve they are in using analytics and routinely out-performing expectations as a result, but ultimately points to the Rise of the Cubs as something they will be unable to keep up with.

Me? I’m not so sure.  Not in 2015 anyhow.

#9 Chicago Cubs

Hard not to be excited about Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler this season.  The rotation is as solid as they come, 1 through 5.

But Lester’s putting miles on that arm, and it’s hard not to be at least somewhat concerned that something will befall him.

Keri is impressed with the Cubs’ overall depth.  There’s not necessarily an MVP candidate on the team, but there’s enough here where the whole could be greater than the sum of the parts.

Or something…

#6 St. Louis Cardinals

This is how I feel about the Cards as well: “they always seem to find a way”.

I used to look at the Cards every season and just think “No”.

Either they weren’t talented on paper or they were injured or they lacked depth or Tony LaRussa had problems with alcohol.

Yet every year you find them in the race come September.  So I finally gave up and decided that, every year, I will expect them to win the division.

Sure – there are questions.  Wainwright’s elbow and Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina’s birth certificates (they’re really old…), but it just seems like something always comes together for St. Louis in the end.

If you’d like to read Keri’s full list, it’s right over here.

Followed by McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen

Andrew McCutchen

I can’t shake Andrew McCutchen.

It seems like every time I turn on the TV or open up my RSS reader, there’s Andrew McCutchen – front and center.

Which is actually fine by me.

Regarding pure talent on the field, it’s hard for me to name a player in the division who I enjoy watching play the game more than McCutchen.

At the risk of turning into one of those “get off my lawn!” types, I appreciate the way he goes about his job.  I don’t see him taking it easy at any point during the game.

He’s focused.  Locked in.

And when I see him interviewed or read something that he’s written or spoken about, I come away ever more impressed.

I still can’t believe he signed a long-term contract to remain with the Bucs.

I don’t mean that in an incredulous way.  More so I mean that I’m highly impressed that he was willing to take “enough” money to stay with the team that drafted him, developed him and believes in him rather than eyeing the big pay day with a larger market franchise down the road.

And honestly, if you’ve ever been to PNC Park, why would you want to play anywhere else?  It’s a gorgeous field.

The thought of bringing a championship back to the Steel City for the first time since 1979 seems pretty exciting as well.

It should be an interesting season in Pittsburgh.  They’re considered by many to be the favorites to win the NL Central.

Like McCutchen, I’ll have my eye on them throughout the season.

Injuries Abound

Adam Wainwright

Adam Wainwright

As we head towards the first games of spring training for the 2015 season, I can’t help but notice that injuries are already dominating the headlines.

In some cases, recent injuries.  In others, injuries carrying over into camp.

The lead story for the Cardinals is Adam Wainwright’s abdominal strain.  There is a focus on whether or not he’ll be ready to go on Opening Night.  Or, for that matter, if he should go on Opening Night.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of the new-look Cubs trotting out Jon Lester to face Waino at Wrigley Field the night of Sunday, April 5th had me pretty giddy.

Lester versus Lance Lynn?  I mean…  baseball will be back, so that’s nice and all.  But it’s a little less thrilling.

More battered pitchers with Homer Bailey throwing 20 pitches in recovery mode for Cincinnati.  And young Pirates starter Jameson Tailon is also recovering from Tommy John surgery.

For position player injuries, look no further than Milwaukee, where Ryan Braun’s thumb is getting a lot of attention.

We still have five more weeks of every team having a 0-0 record and yet we’re already focused on how these teams are being affected by injuries.

It’s a little discouraging.

Bleacher Report’s Top 5-Tool Prospects

Bleacher Report has a look at what they consider each team’s top “5-Tool” Prospect headed into the 2015 season.

Their nominees include Cubs SS Addison Russell, Reds OF Yorman Rodriguez, Brewers MI Luis Sardinas, Pirates 2B Alen Hanson, and Cardinals OF Stephen Piscotty.

From Mike Rosenbaum’s projections for each:

Addison Russell – High on-base guy who will hit doubles and triples. May be a 20/20 guy. Great at charging grounders with a plus arm.

Yorman Rodriguez – Strong arm. Destroys fastballs, but weak on breaking stuff. Might be a 4th outfielder.

Luis Sardinas – Switch-hitter with plus speed. Solid in the field.

Alen Hanson – Switch-hitter with extra-base power, more from the left side. Good fielding, but arm strength limits him to second base.

Stephen Piscotty – Plus arm in right, but lacking the power expected of a corner outfielder. Nice approach at the plate.

30 Clubs in 30 Days

30 Clubs in 30 Days

30 Clubs in 30 Days

“MLB Tonight” (over there on the MLB Network) begins it’s annual “30 Clubs in 30 Days” feature on March 3rd.

Throughout the episode you’ll get feature stories on the focus team for the day, interviews, previews, yada yada yada.

Here are the dates and times for the NL Central:

Wednesday, March 4th @ 7 PM (ET) – Milwaukee Brewers
Friday, March 6th @ 7 PM (ET) – Chicago Cubs
Saturday, March 14th @ 10 PM (ET) – Cincinnati Reds
Thursday, March 19th @ 7 PM (ET) – St. Louis Cardinals
Saturday, March 28th @ 7 PM (ET) – Pittsburgh Pirates

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