Why the NL Central is the hardest division in the MLB

Bradley Piros, Sports Editor

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It’s now April 3, and that means it’s time for NHL and NBA Playoffs but more importantly, baseball. The MLB consists of six divisions: the AL East, West and Central as well as the NL East, West and Central. I’m here to argue, or convince you, that the NL Central is the toughest division in baseball right now.

The NL Central consists of five teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. None of them are bad. Three of them are really good and the other two are on a steady rise. Let’s break down each team and then regroup.

We’ll do this alphabetically and start with the Chicago Cubs. As hard as it is to admit as a Cardinals fan, the Cubs are good again. Good for them I guess, they deserve a ring. Currently they are last in the Central after four games going 1-3 with 8-6 and 11-10 losses to the Texas Rangers and an 8-0 shutout to the Atlanta Braves. Of course the Cubs won it all back in 2016 and have most of those players returning yet again. Javier Baez leads the team now with a .389 batting average, two home runs, 6 RBI’s and 7 hits. This team has depth in the batting order including: Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Ben Zobrist and Willson Contreras. And then there’s their two aces Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, both of them with a start and a win on the season. The Cubs overall have the pieces to make another deep playoff run, that is if they don’t crash out in the NL Wildcard game again. First they have to make it out of the Central.

Onto the Cincinnati Reds. Led by a .400 batting average from Tucker Barnhart along with his .455 OBP, they have no problem hitting the ball. They also have Joey Votto at first base and Jose Peraza at second to holster down the infield. Then there was the blockbuster trade over the off-season. The Reds acquired starting pitcher Alex Wood and outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp for right-hander Homer Bailey from the LA Dodgers. Cincinnati also received $7 million as the Dodgers were clearing cap space and praying for a Bryce Harper landing. In the end, the Reds came out on top of this deal as long as Puig and Kemp can swing their bats. They’re currently second to last with a 1-2 record after their game earlier this week was postponed against the Pirates.

Moving right along is reigning NL Central champions, the Milwaukee Brewers. I’ve decided that the Brewers are going to be my least favorite team while the Cubs have my least favorite fan base. The Brewers have this guy, his name is Christian Yelich, and he’s pretty good. He won the NL MVP award last season. He hit 36 home runs, had a .326 batting average, 110 RBI’s, .402 OBP and 187 hits. He was also a Golden Glove runner-up. They also have depth going down the batting order with the likes of: Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, Jesus Aquilar, Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw and Yasmani Grandal. Cain leads the team with seven hits and Yelich has already put four over the fence, also batting a .412 average. He’s got the potential to win back-to-back MVP’s, and I really only have one guy in mind that might stop him. Milwaukee currently sits in first place in the division, winning three games out of four against the Cardinals and picking up a fourth win against the Reds.

The eastern-most team in the Central is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Last year they were led by left fielder Corey Dickerson with his even .300 batting average. Right fielder Gregory Polanco raked 23 home runs, 155 hits and 81 RBI’s. First baseman Josh Bell led with a .357 OBP. The good news is, all of them returned this season and some other players are looking to step up. Stepping up is: Adam Frazier, Erik Gonzalez, Francisco Cervelli, Colin Moran and Starling Marte and all of a sudden they also have some depth. They sit third in the Central at the moment with a 2-1 record.

Last and certainly not least are the St. Louis Cardinals. Trading for six-time All-Star and three-time Golden Glove winner Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cardinals finally have that big name player to finally fill the void that Albert Pujols left after the 2011 season. He’ll definitely give Yelich a run for his money for the NL MVP. Jose Martinez led last season with a .305 batting average and had 163 hits. Matt Carpenter led the NL with his 36 home runs (tied with Yelich) and had a .374 OBP. Marcell Ozuna had 88 RBI’s, leading the club. Once again, all of these players are returning. “Goldy” already has four homeruns in five games and Kolten Wong is batting .500. Let’s not forget about nine-time Golden Glove winner, catcher Yadier Molina. I’ll be at the game when the Cards retire the number four, paying respect to arguably the greatest catcher of all time. Lastly, with Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neil, Paul Dejong and Yairo Munoz looking to have breakout seasons, the Cardinals have a shot at capturing the Central.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, that’s fine. Just go watch a series between the Cubs and Cardinals, or the Brewers and Pirates and you’ll understand just how hard fought every single win in this division is. It’s honestly a toss up and we’ll just have to wait and watch the absolute dog fight that is the NL Central through 162 games.

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