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UCB Prediction Week, Part III: National League Central

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 2:30 PM
Filed Under: Chicago Cubs | Cincinnati Reds | Houston Astros | Milwaukee Brewers | Pittsburgh Pirates | St. Louis Cardinals | United Cardinal Bloggers
As you know by now, this is the week for predictions from the United Cardinal Bloggers.  We peak here in the middle of the week with the division we all know and care about, the NL Central.  (Means it's all downhill from here, folks.)

Plenty of activity around this division, with free agents leaving, free agents signing, trades being made, and injured players returning.  Who will wind up at the top of the heap?  Keep reading and find out!


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National League Central

1) St. Louis--You expected something different?  Sure, the offense is going to take a hit with last year's first baseman, but the addition of Carlos Beltran and (hopefully) a full season of David Freese should help offset that some.  The defense, especially up the middle, is stronger than it was last year and the bullpen isn't likely to blow 10 games in the first two months.  Factor in the return of Adam Wainwright and, even with Chris Carpenter starting the season on the shelf, I think this is the team to beat.  (Feel free to use the hometown bias discount on that, though.)

2) Cincinnati--It seems the Reds are a trendy pick to take back the divisional crown and, honestly, it makes sense.  Losing Ryan Madson for the year hurt and if Mat Latos's calf--injured today, day-to-day--becomes any sort of nagging injury, that could be a problem.  However, a starting staff of Johnny Cueto, Latos and Aroldis Chapman backed by an offense with Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Phillips....well, let's just say it may be time for another throwdown in Great American.

3) Pittsburgh--See, I really have painted myself into a corner here.  I said on the NL Central preview show this weekend that my gut was telling me that the Pirates would win 82 games this year and break their long-running sub-.500 streak.  Well, there's no way four teams in this division are going to finish above that mark, so I've got to put the Pirates third.  Hopefully Andrew McCutchen and A.J. Burnett can help me look smarter than I actually am.

4) Milwaukee--It seems to me that the Brewers could be really good this year, but with one false step they could slide quickly.  The rotation after Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo is pretty iffy and there is a big Prince Fielder sized hole in the lineup that Aramis Ramirez can't quite fill. I just have a feeling that things are going to get away from this team and we'll be stunned at the end of the year to see how far the mighty have fallen.

5) Chicago--The Cubs are really going to miss Houston next year, as that's what's keeping them out of the cellar currently.  Theo Epstein has a major chore to do and he knows it, with the likelihood that he'll move Alfonso Soriano and possibly Matt Garza sometime this year.  What's left in Chicago is young and not necessarily highly regarded.  There's no doubt that Theo could build this team into something, but it's going to be a few years down the road.

6) Houston--It seems unlikely that their National League farewell tour is going to be a rousing success.  Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez may be on different teams by August and the minor league system doesn't have obvious replacements for them.  It continues to look like the Cardinals sold high on Brett Wallace, a move that has to look better on John Mozeliak's record now than it did then.  The Astros may consider this season a success if they can avoid 100 losses.

There's my look at the NL Central.  We'll do the West tomorrow with the postseason stuff coming on Friday.


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The Brewers 3-5 of Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Lance Lynn really is a gigantic question mark heading into the season. *cough*

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Heroes
Carlos Beltran (6)
Yadier Molina (5)
Matt Holliday (4)
Jon Jay (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Pete Kozma (3)
Shelby Miller (3)
Adam Wainwright (3)
Allen Craig (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Tyler Lyons (2)
Edward Mujica (2)
Jake Westbrook (2)
David Freese (1)
Joe Kelly (1)
Seth Maness (1)
Trevor Rosenthal (1)
Michael Wacha (1)
Ty Wigginton (1)

2012 Top Hero: Matt Holliday (17)
2011 Top Hero: Lance Berkman (24)
2010 Top Heroes: Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols (24)
2009 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (28)
2008 Top Hero: Albert Pujols (25)

Goats
Jon Jay (6)
David Freese (5)
Mitchell Boggs (4)
Joe Kelly (4)
Pete Kozma (4)
Matt Carpenter (3)
Allen Craig (3)
Daniel Descalso (3)
Jaime Garcia (3)
Yadier Molina (3)
Matt Adams (2)
Carlos Beltran (2)
Matt Carpenter (2)
Matt Holliday (2)
Lance Lynn (2)
Seth Maness (1)
Shane Robinson (1)
Fernando Salas (1)
Adam Wainwright (1)
Jake Westbrook (1)

2012 Top Goat: Rafael Furcal (11)
2011 Top Goat: Ryan Theriot (12)
2010 Top Goat: Brendan Ryan (14)
2009 Top Goats: Rick Ankiel and Todd Wellemeyer (13)
2008 Top Goat: Troy Glaus (13)

Cardinal Nation Approval Ratings (March 2013)
Yadier Molina 96.2% (up 8.8%)
Chris Carpenter 89.8% (down 0.3%)
Derrick Goold 89.1% (up 6.3%)
Matt Holliday 88.4% (up 0.9%)
Allen Craig 88.3%
Adam Wainwright 88.2% (down 3.7%)
Jose Oquendo 87.1% (up 2.4%)
Jason Motte 86.9%
John Mozeliak 86.5% (up 1.1%)
United Cardinal Bloggers 85.2% (up 6.3%)
Bill DeWitt 85.1% (up 5.3%)
Mike Shannon 85.1% (down 0.2%)
John Rooney 84.5% (up 3.0%)
Mike Matheny 84.4% (up 3.3%)
David Freese 82.9% (down 2.6%)
Jon Jay 81.8% (up 10.7%)
Lance Berkman 80.6% (down 8.0%)
Jenifer Langosch 79.5%
Lance Lynn 79.5%
Dan McLaughlin 76.0% (up 8.0%)
Jim Hayes 73.0% (up 1.1%)
Ricky Horton 65.5% (down 2.0%)
Jaime Garcia 64.1%
Albert Pujols 59.2% (up 4.3%)
Ballpark Village 58.3%
Joe Strauss 54.3% (down 13.4%)

2012
Tony La Russa 88.2% (up 17.4%)
Mark McGwire 82.6% (up 20.1%)
Skip Schumaker 73.3% (up 9.2%)
B.J. Rains 69.5% (down 0.9%)
Kyle Lohse 68.9% (up 13.8%)
Al Hrabosky 66.4% (up 3.2%)
Colby Rasmus 46.5% (down 35.3%)

2011
Dave Duncan 87.9% (up 0.9%)
Matthew Leach 85.5%
Pop Warner 76.7%
Ryan Franklin 72.8% (up 3.1%)
John Vuch 68.9%
Jeff Luhnow 66.4%
Dan Lozano 58.7%

2009
Rick Ankiel 83.9%
Chris Duncan 69.1%


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