2007 NL Central Preview
The national league central should be highly contentious. The St. Louis Cardinals won it all last season, playing great ball throughout the playoffs. But they are no longer a shoe-in for the NL central division championship, let alone the World Series. Onto to Maddux's 2007 NL Central Preview.
The Cardinals possess a fine pitching staff, one of the best hitters in the game in Albert Pujols and one of the smartest managers in Tony La Russa. But the starting rotation has some holes in it with both Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis moving on. Still, the odds and Maddux agree that the Cards will be the team to beat in the 2007 national league central division race.
A surprising baseball pick from Maddux would be Pittsburgh second in the central division. The young Pittsburgh Pirates could certainly be a contender, especially with the bats of Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay and the fine talents of a developing starting rotation that boasts of three left-handers. If the club can start coming through in close games and find a go-to closer, the Pirates have a chance to post a winning season.
The Cincinnati Reds looked good last season and should be even better this year. But will they be good enough? Major questions plague their third through fifth starters, while the team’s hitting leaves much to be desired. Ken Griffy Jr. has a lot of heart and talent but hasn’t had an injury-free season in years. This baseball team is developing but not as quickly as the Bucs.
The two new guys on the block in Chicago are manager Lou Piniella and outfielder Alfonso Soriano. These are definitely improvements. But there’s probably still not enough hitting or depth in the Cubbies’ pitching ranks to take this team to the post-season.
The Milwaukee Brewers are much like the Cubs—improved with some fine talent in all areas but not enough depth. Once again, like many teams, the starting pitching has some real holes and in the long baseball season that can mean trouble.
Finally, the Houston Astros have RHP Roy Oswalt, one of the best in the National League. And closer Brad Lidge has the potential to be spectacular. Carlos Lee’s big bat has been added too. But in 2006, Houston posted the worst batting average of any team in the NL and Lee is probably not enough to change that. Additionally, much of the starting rotation is questionable.
National League Central Predictions
Projected Order of Finish:
Click on team name for individual team preview.