2009 NL Central Preview
The National League Central Division is the largest division in MLB. It has some of the best managers and general managers in either league. There are three teams that should stay in the playoff hunt to the end and two others with post-season potential. Only the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates will definitely be out of it early.
The Chicago Cubs, who are managed by the cranky Lou Piniella, look to be the top performers in the NL Central. Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano is a quality hurler. Four pitchers had double digit win seasons in 2008. The hitters on this team are also excellent. The quality Cubs look to school this division again. Watch them claw their way to the World Series in 2009.
Manager Tony La Russa of the Cards is simply a quality manager. With 30 years in the big leagues, he has proven that he can indeed win. Albert Pujols is one of the best all around players in MLB. It is virtually impossible for a pitcher to strike him out. He is the best of many excellent bats that define this team's offense. If starting pitcher Chris Carpenter can come back from his injuries, the Cardinals will have a dynamite rotation.
The third best club in the division would be the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew made a playoff appearance last season for the first time in a long time. The Brewers have the intelligent and seasoned Ken Macha at the helm. There's a lot of long ball in this team's bats and some decent pitching. But the club will have to deal with not having the talented CC Sabathia. That will be extremely difficult.
The Cincinnati Reds could possibly be in contention if every single part of this club falls into line. But the chances of that happening are unlikely. One of the best GMs in the majors, Walt Jocketty, starts his first full season with the team. There's some good pitching but the offense is weak and will hold this club back.
If you're thinking the Houston Astros have a shot, then you're likely to be disappointed by where they finish in 2009. It will help if their number one starter, Roy Oswalt, can stay healthy. Very little depth in the starting rotation and precious little firepower on offense are chronic problems for Houston.
Last place will once again go to the Pittsburgh Pirates. A new management cadre has decided to start all over with the Bucs. It will be quite a few years before this once proud franchise can get out of the cellar. The bullpen needs to be upgraded and some of the everyday players are lacking.
This is the way it pans out for the National League Central. There are three top teams, two middle-of-the-road clubs and one dismal franchise in search of a new identity. Five of the six clubs have the potential to be in the game through September. The deepest pitching staff and best offense will take it all.
2009 National League Central Predictions
Projected Order of Finish:
Click on team name for individual team preview.