Sunday MLB Insider: Central emerges as NL's best division

  • Updated: June 29, 2013 - 7:41 PM
hide

Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen is among the reasons Pittsburgh, which has not had a winning season since 1992, is among the surprise teams in baseball.

Photo: Ted S. Warren •Associated Press,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Dodgers’ buildup. The Braves’ wheeling and dealing. The Nationals’ improvement. The most interesting story lines were expected to play out in one of the National League’s coastal divisions this season.

But the National League Central is the must-watch division right now.

When the week began, the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds had the three best records in baseball. Three teams in one division finishing that way would be historic. In fact, the Wall Street Journal pointed out last week that, since 1969, the same division has had the TWO best records only seven times.

Since Monday, the Reds have lost a couple of games and no longer have the third-best record. But the powerful NL Central needs to be respected.

The Cardinals were expected to be a factor all season long. First baseman Allen Craig has a higher OPS than the man he replaced at first base, Albert Pujols. Righthander Adam Wainwright is at the peak of his career. Yadier Molina might be the best catcher in baseball this season. Righthander Shelby Miller is a candidate for rookie of the year.

The Reds also were expected to be a factor all season long. Joey Votto is one of the best, and most cerebral, hitters in the game. Shin-Soo Choo was an excellent addition at the leadoff spot. Cincinnati has battled injuries to key relievers and some blowups by closer Aroldis Chapman but should contend to the end.

Then there’s the surprising Pirates, who won’t talk about how well they are playing because they have collapsed the second half of the past two seasons. Pedro Alvarez is hitting home runs. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen is a fine player — and really hasn’t turned it on yet. Jeff Locke is pitching out of his mind. And former Twin Francisco Liriano is pitching like his former team wanted him to. Pittsburgh also entered the weekend with the third-best home record in baseball.

“They are really a different team here,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said when the Cardinals visited Pittsburgh in April. “They’re a good team away, but they are particularly tough to play in this ballpark.’’

Pittsburgh entered the weekend 48-30. They haven’t been that far over .500 since they ended 1992 with a 96-66 record — which is also their last winning season.

What looms in the distance is the possibility that two of these three teams will have to face each other in a one-game playoff to move on in the postseason, putting even more emphasis on winning the division. Prospects could make a difference; the Pirates have called up righthander Gerrit Cole.

As baseball heads toward the All-Star break, and more attention is placed on pennant races, the NL Central race should be the center of attention.

Central Intelligence

The Twins were interested in righthander Brett Myers during the offseason but decided to take another route in rebuilding their rotation. Myers signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Indians.
Myers’ stay in the Cleveland rotation has been short.

He made three starts, four appearances in all, going 0-3 with an 8.02 ERA before being shut down with elbow soreness. He’s made minor league rehabilitation appearances and will return to the Indians as a reliever. That’s a lot of cash for a bullpen guy, and a setback for a team with playoff dreams.

•••

What a difference a year makes. The White Sox led the majors in fewest unearned runs last season with 30. This year, they already have allowed 34. Shortstop Alexei Ramirez’s mistakes have been glaring. He has 13 errors, including six in a 13-game stretch earlier this month. Those errors are one of the reasons the White Sox are in last place in the AL Central.

•••

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
8:10 PM ET123456789RHE
ArizonaA. Chafin (0-0)000
MinnesotaK. Gibson (12-11)000
@theBallpark
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets - B. Colon 6:05 PM
Washington - T. Roark
Baltimore - U. Jimenez 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - B. McCarthy
Kansas City - Y. Ventura 6:05 PM
Cleveland - D. Salazar
Seattle - F. Hernandez 6:07 PM
Toronto - R. Dickey
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll 6:08 PM
Detroit - D. Price
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 6:10 PM
Miami - H. Alvarez
Pittsburgh - G. Cole 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Wood
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - J. Cueto
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb 6:10 PM
Boston - C. Buchholz
Houston - B. Oberholtzer 7:05 PM
Texas - N. Martinez
St. Louis - S. Miller 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
Arizona - A. Chafin 7:10 PM
Minnesota - K. Gibson
LA Angels - W. LeBlanc 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke
Colorado - J. De La Rosa 9:10 PM
San Diego - R. Erlin
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New England 9/29/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Carolina 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
Columbus
Boston 6:30 PM
Montreal
Nashville 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Philadelphia 6:30 PM
Toronto
Detroit 7:30 PM
Chicago
San Jose 8:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Vancouver 9:30 PM
San Jose
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which struggling team is in the worst shape?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close