2010 National League Central Predictions Groupthink

by on March 31, 2010 · 4 comments

In an effort to put a new spin on making preseason predictions this year, we decided to get outside input from those who know the division best – other folks writing about the NL Central.  It just so happens this falls in line with the United Cardinal Bloggers’ 2010 Predictions project as well, so two birds – one stone!

We were very lucky to receive feedback and responses from a varied group of writers and bloggers, such that we hope you enjoy the results and their comments.

Below are the results of that mission – a groupthink project resulting in a wide array of viewpoints and ultimately producing a predicted order of finish for the National League Central division in 2010.

CHI CIN HOU MIL PIT STL
Mike, Stan Musial’s Stance 2 4 6 3 5 1
Josh, Pitchers Hit Eighth 2 3 6 4 5 1
Ryan, Prose and Ivy 1 4 5 3 6 2
Andrew, Pitchers Hit Eighth 2 4 6 3 5 1
Drew, Rotoworld 3 4 6 2 5 1
Brian, Bullpen Brian 2 3 5 4 6 1
James, Astros County 3 2 4 5 6 1
Pat, WHYGAVS 2 3 5 4 6 1
Will, Are We Winning? 3 2 6 4 5 1
Bill, Baseball Digest 4 2 6 3 5 1
Daniel, C70 At The Bat 3 2 6 4 5 1
Jim, North Side Notch 2 3 5 4 6 1
Eugene, Inside Pulse Sports 3 4 5 2 6 1
Dayn, daynperry.com 2 3 5 4 6 1
Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth 2 3 6 4 5 1
2.4 3.07 5.47 3.53 5.47 1.07

We took the average for each team’s votes, by order of finish, and came up with our prediction for the 2010 NL Central:

St. Louis Cardinals 1.07
Chicago Cubs 2.4
Cincinnati Reds 3.07
Milwaukee Brewers 3.53
Pittsburgh Pirates 5.47
Houston Astros 5.47

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So the group chooses, in pretty definitive fashion, the order of finish.  The Cards were the choice to win running away, with the only close race being a tie for fifth place between the possibly on-the-way-up Pirates and the treading-water Astros.

Some comments from the folks on their lists:

Mike Metzger, Stan Musial’s Stance

1. Cardinals 93-69. Best overall team in the division.

2.  Cubs 88-74. Above Average starting pitching, suspect bullpen, average lineup. I don’t think they improved from the 2009 version much if at all. However not having the Milton Bradley sideshow is addition by subtraction.

Josh, Pitchers Hit Eighth

1. St. Louis\ 90 wins – Cardinals did what they needed to do in the off-season to put a division winning team back on the field. The injury bug so far this spring worries me a little, but TLR knows how to do more with less better than any other skipper in MLB. Pujols now has a bunch of potent bats behind him, and I think the bullpen will end up stronger than most predicted going into this campaign.

3. Cincinnati \ 82 wins – Walt would love nothing better than to take the re-built Reds and challenge for the top spot in the Central. The problem is that he doesn’t have enough depth on the pitching side of the house with Dusty Baker still in control. I am higher on this club than many others, but I’m looking towards 2011 and a coaching change for Cincy to be more competitive…um, let’s all hope if a STL coach goes to Ohio it is the Secret Weapon!

6. Houston \ 65 wins – Has any team regressed more than the Astros? They are now looking at a long rebuilding process and the cupboard is bare of much if any help. Oswalt and Berkman must stay off the DL for there to be any chance of a surprise summer run, but even those two may not be enough to keep Washington in the NL cellar.

Ryan Maloney, Prose and Ivy

Why?  I believe the Cardinals Cy Young contenders in 2009 will not return to the same form for 2010.  I believe the Cubs usual contributors who tripped up in 2009 will not do so again in 2010.  I believe the Brewers are the only team with the pitching and offense to contend otherwise and even then I feel like they are about 5 games off the pace still.  The Reds are still a few years away from being serious contenders in the Central, the Astros are simply just not good enough and the Pirates are practically an off day.  I cherish nothing more on a Cubs schedule than the days that show we play the Pirates on any given day.  Like I’ve said after a number of good whoopings handed out to the Pirates by the Cubs, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  And so it ONCE AGAIN, ends up being a two team race.  Seeing that I’m a Cubs fan and we’re getting to old and fragile to seriously contend past this season in my opinion, in a tight race with our division rivals, if for no other reason than to stop voting with my head and start voting with my heart, I have to get behind my Cubs for the champions of the NL Central.

Andrew, Pitchers Hit Eighth

St. Louis Cardinals (95-67) : St. Louis is the clear cut favorite this year for a number of reasons, but the most significant one lies beneath the fact that this division isn’t very good. Don’t be surprised if they actually overachieve their projected high 80s to low 90s wins because of the weak division around them that they will be competing against on a regular basis.

Chicago Cubs (83-79) : Chicago’s front office is making steps in the right direction. Sort of… I liked that they got rid off Milton Bradley. I didn’t like that they brought in Carlos Silva in return. I like the idea of teaming Marlon Byrd up with his old hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo. I didn’t like the fact that they gave him three years. This give and take of good and bad decisions will cost them for another year at least, but they still have enough talent to finish in second place.

Drew Silva, RotoworldHardball Talk

1. Cardinals

The Cardinals have Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the same lineup, which is the reason they are the best team in the division.  Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright heading up the starting rotation is why they will compete for the World Series crown.

2. Brewers

Milwaukee did a good thing this winter in adding Randy Wolf, and Ryan Braun paired with Prince Fielder can be deadly at times.  They’re not a deep team, but they’ll contend well into the summer.

4. Reds

If Joey Votto plays 160 games and Homer Bailey builds on his late-2009 success, the Reds have a shot at finishing with a better record than the Cubs.  But that’s probably Cincinnati’s ceiling this year.

6. Astros

Aging veterans and no clear direction for the future.  Lance Berkman’s knee could blow out at any time.

Brian Corbin, Bullpen Brian

2. Chicago – Will compete for division, but bullpen is too thin.

3. Cincinnati – Will post first winning season in 10 years.

James , Astros County

4) Houston

There are so many “Ifs” for the Astros that they may be able to surprise some people. With Lee, Berkman, and Pence in the lineup, and another big year out of Bourn, the offense may carry them. The biggest Ifs are in the rotation, and I don’t think losing Valverde and Hawkins will hurt that much.

6) Pittsburgh

I hope the Pirates can succeed, I really do. But I don’t necessarily think they’ll do better than 6th. Floating realignment would really help here…

Pat Lackey, Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?

3.) Reds – The Reds have sort of become a favorite sleeper pick for 2010, but they’re still relying on better-than-normal performances from veterans to contend. It could happen, but when you need Aaron Harang AND Bronson Arroyo AND Scott Rolen AND Orlando Cabrera to all revert to some kind of earlier career form while counting on a breakouts from Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman AND needing Johnny Cueto to match his 2009 form, well, that’s a whole lot of variables. I’m not saying it can’t happen for the Reds this year, just that there are a lot of dominoes for them.

5.) Astros – Honestly, I think this might be the year that someone throws the curtain wide open on Ed Wade’s Astro charade. Lance Berkman is already hurt and I figured their offense would already be terrible with him. Their pitching staff could be decent with Roy Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, and Bud Norris, but Oswalt and Wandy are both on the wrong side of 30.

6.) Pirates – As a Pirate fan, I like this team’s roster a lot more than previous iterations. Simply put, I’d rather watch young guys who may or may not perform than old guys who perform at a level we know isn’t good enough. Unfortunately they’ve got a brutal early-season schedule (April and May series against the Dodgers, Arizona, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Houston, Milwaukee again, the Dodgers again, the Cubs, St. Louis, Cincinnati again, the Cubs again, Philadelphia, Milwaukee again, Atlanta, Cincinnati again, Atlanta again, and the Cubs again — given their history against the Brewers and the NL Central in general, they could conceivably only win one or two series in the season’s first two months) and there’s a good chance they spend the rest of the season bailing water just to get to 70 wins.

Will Leitch, Are We Winning? Fathers and Sons in the New Golden Age of BaseballDeadspinNew York Magazine

1. St. Louis Cardinals

I find the optimism understandable but disconcerting, considering everywhere I look, there are pitching worries. But I don’t remember a Cardinals bench this deep. Lopez really does answer a ton of questions.

2. Cincinnati Reds

These guys have a TON of young talent, and certainly have the motivation. Eventually they will get it together: There’s too much goodness here. If they’re close, Jocketty will pull out every stop to catch us.

6. Houston Astros

It’s going to be nice not to have worry about these guys for the next decade.

Bill Ivie, Baseball Digest

1 – St. Louis Cardinals

I don’t think there is a ton of debate here.  The Cards are the team to beat in the central in 2010.  Barring a run of horrendous injuries, this team is stacked top to bottom.  With arguably the best 1-2 on a pitching staff and in a lineup, The Cards should cruise to well over 100 wins and finish as the top team in the National League this year.  Anything less than a World Series appearance is a disappointment.

4 – Chicago Cubs

Ah, those loveable losers.  So many are predicting a number 2 finish for this club, but I just don’t see it.  They are getting older (Derrek Lee will turn 36 in September, Aramis Ramirez 32 in June, Alfonso Soriano just turned 34), they simply don’t have the firepower, and they are under new ownership that may start rebuilding this year.  If they can break .500, I would be surprised.

Jim Rosati, North Side Notch

3) Cincinnati Reds – There are a ton of “ifs” with this team. If Homer Bailey can pitch like everyone thought he would. If Scott Rolen can avoid his annual trips to the DL. If Aaron Harang can get back to “ace” status. If the Reds have a lot go right for them, they could make a run at a playoff run.

6) Pittsburgh Pirates – There will be improvement from last year and the trades they have made will finally start to show some wins at the ML level, just not enough.

Eugene Tierney, Inside Pulse Sports

1. Cardinals – Probably the most complete team in the division.  Only question really is closer.

6. Pirates – Once they see dividends from most of their trades, they’ll move up in the standings.  That won’t be until next year at the earliest.

Dayn Perry, daynperry.comFoxSports.comReggie Jackson: The Life and Thunderous Career of Baseball’s Mr. October

I picked the Cards to finish in third place last season, so the above isn’t a product of abject homerism. Things that could complicate expectations? Injuries within the Cardinal rotation or a bullpen that turns out to be demonstrably worse than anticipated. Elsewhere, I’ll take the “over” on almost every Colby Rasmus projection I’ve seen.

Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth

I expect the Cardinals to win the division, but perhaps more importantly than that, if they do not make the playoffs in some form in 2010 the season should be considered a failure.  The division just isn’t strong enough to be an excuse for not winning another NL Central title or Wild Card.  As it seems is the case with the Cardinals every season, health of the team they take north from Jupiter will be the key.

The largest challenge to the Cards will come from either the Cubs or the Cincinnati Reds.  Milwaukee just doesn’t have the pitching necessary to get it done, despite perhaps the best offense in the division.  Pittsburgh is well, Pittsburgh – and Houston might be worse than them.

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As you might expect from PH8, we weren’t satisfied with just leaving it at that.  Check back later for a few answers to questions we posed about the teams in the division.

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A big, big thanks to all who participated. Visit their blogs, read their stories, and buy their books. Follow them on Twitter. Thanks to all of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance members who took part, I hope this is a good example of what that community can do in collaboration.

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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