Who will win the NL Central?
I’m not sure, but I’ll give you a capsule look at where each of the five teams stands on this Friday afternoon.
Strengths, weaknesses, and needs.
All statistical rankings are among the 15 National League teams. The Fangraphs odds list each team’s chance of winning the NL Central. All records and stats are as of Friday morning, June 23.
REDS: 40-35, 1st place
Fangraphs odds: 20.2%
Why they can win it: the Reds have an abundance of young, athletic talent that scores plenty of runs with blazing speed and bold and aggressive baserunning. They can generate offense without relying on home runs.
Why they won’t: The Reds rank 14th in overall ERA (4.68) and starting-pitching ERA (5.74).
What they need: Starting pitching + bullpen reinforcements.
BREWERS: 38-36, 2nd place
Fangraphs odds: 44.5%
Why they can win it: Despite a debilitating blitz of injuries, the Brewer starting pitchers still rank 5th with a 4.04 ERA and are 4th in quality starts. Devin Williams is the best closer in the division. Milwaukee leads the NL with 33 defensive runs saved.
Why they won’t: The Crew has the worst offense in the NL ranking 15th in runs per game, batting average, onbase percentage, slugging percentage and OPS+. And they’re 8th in homers.
What they need: Impact bats. Milwaukee’s 2-3-4-5 hitters have combined for a .217 average and a .663 OPS. Terrible.
CUBS: 36-38, 3rd place
Fangraphs odds: 19.6%
Why they can win it: The Cubs have the best starting-pitching ERA (3.77) and the highest quality–start percentage in the NL, have improved significantly on defense, and have the fewest blown saves (6) among NL bullpens.
Why they won’t: The offense is up and down, and the Cubs are 7th in runs per game, 9th in slugging, 9th in homers and have a below-average OPS+ that ranks 10th.
What they need: More relievers. The Cubs haven’t squandered many saves but rank 11th in bullpen ERA.
PIRATES: 34–40, 4th place
Fangraphs odds: 3.4%
Why they can win it: an underrated starting rotation that ranks second in the NL in quality-start percentage.
Why they won’t: The offense ranks 12th in the NL in runs per game and is 13th in OPS+, batting average, slugging and onbase percentage. A below-average defense is 12th in the NL in runs saved.
What they need: Patience. And more talent. Through Thursday the Pirates had lost 10 consecutive games, and in the 0-10 crash they batted .177, averaged 2.4 runs per game, and were belted for a 6.52 ERA.
CARDINALS: 31-44, 5th place
Fangraphs odds: 12.4%
Why they can win it: A collapse by the other four NL Central teams and hope for a more consistent offense that relies too heavily on homers.
Why they won’t: Shaky starting pitching, an increasingly vulnerable bullpen that ranks 14th in save percentage, and a stunning collapse in defense and baserunning under the watch of manager Oli Marmol and his staff.
What they need: The pressure is on a complacent front office to add a true quality starting pitcher and an impactful arm for the bullpen.
Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.
For the last 35 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.
While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.
Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.