NL Central breaks down to be a battle this season

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon

By Matthew Petrovitch, Staff Writer

The National League Central is the hardest division to win in all of baseball. There is the Chicago Cubs, a team who has proven they are a threat since 2015 and will continue to be with their star powered lineup. You have the young rising Milwaukee Brewers who have been trying to play catch up to the Cubbies for a few years and finally broke through in 2018 behind their MVP, Christian Yelich. The St. Louis Cardinals who seem as if they are starting a new era and there is no better time than 2019. A Pittsburgh Pirates team who will show signs of fight, but cannot seem to pull it all together. Last but not least the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds who have shown most of the off season that they want to win now.

Here is my view of every team’s chance to win the Division:

* The Chicago Cubs look to keep their winning ways heading into the 2019 season. They have made the postseason the last four years and the first three years making the national league championship series. They fell short of their goal last year as injuries took their toll. People want to write off the Cubs and say their window for a championship is closing.

This could not be more wrong. The 2019 Cubs will once again show the world they are here to stay. One local Cubs fan Jeremy Smith said: “I think the Chicago Cubs will win the central. I believe the Cubs have the strongest pitching staff in the division.

“If they stay healthy they will be unstoppable. They have countless number of all stars up and down the lineup. There is not one weakness on this team, as long as they can stay healthy. They have Joe Maddon who has proven he can win and is a great manager. I believe he will lead this team to get another division title and a deep playoff run.”

All of Chicago is hoping for more October baseball and they will get just that.

* The reigning NL central division champions Milwaukee Brewers will try to defend their title and make another deep postseason run. In 2018, the Brew Crew made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and showed the rest of the league that they will be at the top for a while.

But it just so happens that they play in the hardest division in baseball and maybe sports for that matter. They have been chasing the Cubs since 2017 and will not hold back.

With their MVP, Christian Yelich leading the way along with their pitching staff. Josh Hader shines in their bullpen and to prove his worth in the 2018 postseason, he recorded 16 strikeouts and 10 innings pitched with an earned run average of 0. He can help lead the Brewers back into the playoffs, but it will fall short of the Cubs for the top spot in the division.

* The Cardinals have been the most consistent team in the central. Since 2000, they have made the postseason 12 times and have reached the World Series 4 times winning two titles in this span. But they have not made the postseason since 2015 and they are looking to change their ways this season.

They made a splash this off season by acquiring Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks. This starting first baseman has finished either second or third in MVP races. The Red Birds finished the 2018 season 88-74 and are looking to give the Cubs and Brewers a run for their money. They could possibly battle with Milwaukee for the second spot, but would have to settle for a Wild Card game if they made the postseason.

* The Cincinnati Reds will one up the Pirates this season. They have shown during the off season they want to win now with trades for Kyle Framer, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, and Alex Wood and on top of that they got cash to go get another weapon when needed. These players bring depth that the Reds need and maybe down the line a postseason berth. They are coming from a Dodgers team that makes the playoffs and last season played in the World Series I would not be surprised if they take over the leadership role and give the Reds a fighting chance.

* Pittsburgh has not made the playoffs since losing to the Cubs in the Wild Card game in 2015. They had a 3-4 year span of promising teams, but could never get it together when they needed it the most. After trading away former franchise player Andrew McCutchen in the 2017 offseason and starting ace Gerrit Cole, the Pirates were thinking rebuild time until they went after Rays ace Chris Archer. They never went after any star player while McCutchen was in Pittsburgh and ultimately it cost them a chance to make a deep run in the postseason.

Now it seems too late. Yes, they have rising stars on the team, but it will take the years to fully develop into the players they can be and by then, the vets on the team will be gone. This could lead to the Pirates missing the postseason for years to come if they do not break the cycle. They will and have shown signs of fight, but they cannot seem to finish off games.