National League Central
Breakdown & Prediction
Welcome to one of the wilder divisions in Major League Baseball. The title for this division has been won by three different teams the past three seasons. The National League Central is made up of: Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs. Three of these teams have a legit chance to win the title in 2021, the other two – not so much.
Chicago won last year, finishing 34-26 in the shortened season. St. Louis won year before with a 91-71 record. Milwaukee finished on top in 2018 with 96 wins and 67 loses. Basically, 2021 division title could be had for any of the above mentioned. As far as, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh – well they will continue to ‘rebuild’. Fans of Pirates and Reds continue reading at your own risk!
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been a part of the NL Central since 1993 and have yet to win the division title. They are certainly packed with young raw talent, however; I feel it will be a while until they truly compete year in and year out. Tyler Anderson signed as a free agent to bring some leadership to the rotation. He has a 4.65 career ERA and 1.34 career WHIP. The real name to keep an eye on is Ke’Bryan Hayes. The 24 year old third baseman finished 6th in Rookie of the Year voting and shows tons of potential to be a legit stud. He finished 2020 with a .376 batting average, 5 bombs, 11 RBIS and .442 On Base Percentage. It will be a long season for the Pirates, and I predict another last place finish.
The Cincinnati Reds finished third in the division last season with the help of NL Cy Young award winner, Trevor Bauer. The team is solid. The staff can roll out Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle which will keep them in most games. Sean Doolittle was added to the bullpen with a career 3.07 ERA and .968 WHIP. Joey Votto is an absolute beast. You would think at age 37 he would be slowing down, not the case. He is a career .304 hitter and shows up to play first base – everyday. Reds will take a step back this season and I see them sliding down to 4th in the division.
Milwaukee Brewers are an interesting team to follow. They won the division in 2018 with a record of 96-67. In 2019 they were runner up to St. Louis and last season finished 4th but still found themselves in the post-season. Hands down the face of the franchise is left fielder, Christian Yelich. The 2018 League MVP makes the Brewers a team that will compete every day. Kolton Wong signed a two-year deal this off season to step in and play second base and provide some much-needed offense. The pitching staff lacks that ace arm but is made up of solid big-league talent. Brandon Woodruff and Brett Anderson are a good 1 -2 combo. Corbin Burnes was a bright spot last season with a 4-1 record and a 2.11 ERA. Josh Hader is one of the best 9th inning guys in the league. Get him the ball with a lead in the last inning and it is lights out. I expect the Brewers to finish middle of the pack in the division and possibly get into the playoffs.
Fly the W! The bleacher creatures have a lot to be excited about. The Chicago Cubs won the NL Central last season going 34 and 26. This team is absolutely loaded from top to bottom. Pederson – Happ -Heyward in the outfield and Rizzo – Bryant – Biaz in the infield, hard to find six positional players on the same team to match that much mixture of glove work and pop off the bat. Pitching staff is also strong with 31 year old Kyle Hendricks leading the way. His career 3.12 ERA and 1.10 WHIP brings ACE stuff every 5th day. Also, Chicago adds a familiar face back into the rotation, Jake Arrietta. Last season he went 4 – 4 with a 5.08 ERA. Cubs are in for a fun year with lots of ‘Flying the W’!
St. Louis Cardinals will win the 2021 NL Central division. It will be a very tough race all year long with the Cubs. However, trading for 5x Allstar third baseman Nolan Arenado this offseason makes them the favorite. Arenado brings his 8 gold gloves, 4 silver sluggers and 4 platinum gloves to a talent rich team. The production will be abundant by plugging him in the line-up with Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong. Goldschmidt has a good bit of hardware he has earned like Arenado. The 6x Allstar, 3x Gold Glove and 4x Silver Slugger will be a great threat along with Arenado. This pitching rotation has the potential to be real good. Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright and Carlos Martinez are three studs who can win you every game they take the bump. ‘Uncle Charlie’ Wainwright is 39 years old but still pumping strikes with a career 3.38 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. I see this coming down to the end with possibly one game separating 1st place and 2nd.
I am anxious to see this division battle play out all season. With three teams having an actual chance to win the division and all make the post-season, the NL Central will be a thriller! Who comes out on top? I have the Cardinals taking the top spot.