By Bryan Stauffer
A year after being the only division with three 90-win teams, the National League Central is currently one of two divisions”the other being the AL Central”with only one team at or above .500.
Yes, it’s early, but with just over one-fifth of the season in the books the only team within the division posting a winning record is the Milwaukee Brewers, who failed to make the postseason last year after finishing 14 games under .500.
During the 2013 season, the NL Central was the only division to have three of its teams make the playoffs, with both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds earning wildcard berths.
So, what gives thus far?
The reigning division champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, sit at a mere 15-16 and are tied with the Reds for second place in the division.
The Pirates, whom many thought were poised to have an even bigger season than they did a year ago”myself included, are currently holding down last place at 12-19, just 0.5 games behind the Cubs for fourth.
What stands out most within the division thus far is the lack of offense from top to bottom. The Brewers, who lead the division and held the best record in baseball at the time of print, have scored just the 19th-most runs in the majors. The remaining four teams rank between 22 and 27.
On the contrary, three of the major league’s top 10 pitching staffs in terms of total earned run average reside in the division”St. Louis (2), Milwaukee (3) and Cincinnati (9), which could play a factor in the low offensive outputs we’ve seen up to this point.
St. Louis and Pittsburgh have both struggled defensively, ranking among the bottom 12 in the majors in errors and fielding percentage, while Chicago and Milwaukee sit among the middle of the pack.
While there is still over 125 games to be played, this isn’t the type of start the division, or either team within it, had envisioned.
Ultimately, it’s hard to win games when you can’t put runs on the board. But what hurts most is when a pitching staff holds the opposition to few runs and the team still can’t pull together enough runs to win”hello, Cubs fans.
There’s no reason for any team to fret at this point in time with still so much to be decided, but, nonetheless, it looks like it will be another competitive season in the NL Central.
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