This division is going to be so much fun to watch! I think both central divisions will be amazing this year and we will start with the senior circuit. Last year the teams lined up like this...
Brew Crew: 77-85
Pirates: 57-105 (ouch!)
The Cincinnati Reds, as storied a franchise as any, are fresh of their first taste of October baseball in.....uh.....too long! I was thrilled to see them win the division. I have been to Great American Ball Park and it is a beautiful place to watch the greatest sport in the world. The fans are amazing and deserve their team to be successful. I was so thrilled to see Joey Votto win the N.L. MVP. He is a phenomenal player and very deserving. Everyone can argue for King Albert but Votto was playing in October and Pujols was watching. Go Joey! With the emergence of young star Jay Bruce and the cocky attitude and production of Brandon Phillips that line up will continue to score runs. The rotation may be a little hit and miss. Volquez and Cueto are impressive when they are on but both can be a bit wild and we'll have to see if Volquez can bounce back from his suspension last year. Also since 2008 in which Volquez won 17 games and had an ERA of 3.21, a great season, he has made only 21 starts in 2009 and 2010 combined. Hard to rely on a full season from him. Bronson Arroyo has been solid the last two season having back to back years with an ERA under 4.00 and should be able to do it again. The young arms of Mike Leake and Homer Bailey will look to round out the rotation with break out seasons. At the back of the pen well you have 105 mph.....AROLDIS CHAPMAN! I believe he is being called the Cuban Missile? Seems appropriate to me. I would love to see him in the closer role this season. I think the Reds will compete very hard for the division title looking to continue October Baseball.
All is not well in St. Louis. They were unable to sign Albert Pujols to a contract extension and Adam Wainwright is now done for the season. It could be a long year for the Red Birds. These may be the greatest fans in all of baseball and its hard to see these things happen, but that's how the game goes. Another beautiful ball park, which I have been to also, the fans will come and support their team. Albert Pujols will do what he does, especially since he will most likely be testing free agency, I think we can expect a great year from him. He will be supported by some talent in the form of Colby Rasmus and Matt Holiday. The Cardinal line up should be relatively unchanged and will score runs. Will the pitching be able to give them a chance to win? We will have to wait and see. Chris Carpenter should still have a few good years left and I love the youngster Jaime Garcia but without Wainwright, who, without Roy Halladay coming over, would probably be the best pitcher in the N.L., it will be tough to win enough games to compete with the Reds and new rotation up north. Ryan Franklin will save what games get to him but there won't be enough. I see the Cardinals falling to third this year. Sorry St. Louis.
"The Ax-Factor!" Sorry I've been excited to say that since I decided to do this. The Hoff is out, the Ax is in! John Axford will have the job of finishing off the games in Miller Park (I've been there too, this division has really nice yards). The leads he will be defending will belong the a revamped rotation that may be the best in baseball not from either coast. Hard to argue with the arms in San Fran and Philly but the Boys in Brew...city will have something to say. Newly led by Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum this rotation along with Randy Wolf and Yovani Gallardo should pwn! Prince Fielder is probably in his last year as a Brewer and will want to put up numbers that will show him the money so expect big things from him. Ryan Braun and a couple of very underrated players in Corey Hart and Casey McGehee will support Prince and they score an insane amount of runs. This team wants it bad. They will win this division.
The Houston Astros......I just don't know. Wandy Rodriguez is pretty good. Every team has to rebuild. Good luck!
Wrigley Field! If you haven't been there.....go...now! It is a fantastic place to watch a game. I think the team will have a better year than their 2010 campaign but not enough to compete against the Reds or Brewers. If Ryan Dempster stays healthy and Matt Garza can thrive in the N.L. I think they will win some games and Stralin Castro could add a nice spark at the top of the line up but I don't think they have the depth to compete in an improved division.
"If you build it....they will come!" As far as the Pirates are concerned this applies to a good team! Ray Cansella plowed under his corn to build a field your ownership plowed under your team to build a beautiful park. The setting is there, now keep some good young players and win some games! This is another historical franchise that deserves to be good. The talented youth is there you just have to keep it and add some veteran arms! If Andrew McCutchen is still there in two years I will say the team is turning around. It is time for this team to be good again and it can be if the front office will put the fans on top of their priority list. As for right now, they are looking at another bottom of the pile finish.
The final standings will be.....
Reds: 92-70 (N.L. Wild Card)
Should be so much fun to watch!