As mentioned at the end of our big NL Central Predictions project, we followed up the original request for predictions and comments with a set of questions about the teams in the divisions.
Here are the questions, and the responses that we received, for your enjoyment on this 2010 Opening Day:
1. The St. Louis Cardinals appear to be clear favorites among you. Outside of a catastrophic injury to Albert Pujols, what would have to happen for the Cards to lose the NL Central?
2. What is the lightning in a bottle that the Chicago Cubs must catch to win this division?
3. Can the Cincinnati Reds win the Wild Card? Which player is the key to their season in 2010?
4. Most folks commented on a strong lineup and weak pitching in Milwaukee. How many runs do you expect the Brewers’ to score on average in 2010? How many runs do you expect their pitching to allow per game?
5. Many of you feel the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the right track to finally building a team from within. Make a projection: what year will the Pirates win the NL Central?
6. Do you expect the Houston Astros to finish the season with Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt still members of the team?
Bill Ivie, BaseballDigest.com
1 – Funny thing with this question, I don’t think a “catastrophic injury to Albert Pujols” would stop this club. They aren’t as good without Albert, but there are still good and in a horrible division, so I think they would survive. What they would not survive is injuries to Carpenter AND Wainwright. That would derail this train quicker than anything.
2 – The easy answer here is, “simple. Change their names and leave Chicago”. Sorry, couldn’t resist. The Baby Bears have to avoid injury and get seasons from their key players that are equal to their capabilities. More than anything, this team needs out of the Soriano contract.
3 – Cincinnati is good, but I don’t think they are Wild Card good. We step outside the division to see that answer and run into solid teams all around the senior circuit. If they are going to compete at that level, they need their pitchers to produce. Their season rests on the sholders of Harang, Arroyo, and Chapman.
4 – I really like this young club. I think they are going to score 4 – 5 runs a game, on average. The pitching staff is horrific, though and will have an ERA as a team that will push 6.
5 – I’m not sure they will. The Pirates and the Royals just don’t seem to understand how to utilize the younger talent and bring in the veteran leadership. If they win the division, or even compete, it will be a change in leadership and executives that provides it. Maybe in 2016 or so.
6 – Berkman will stay in Houston simply because it is hard to trade a player on the DL. Oswalt may stay, may go, depends on how much they will look for in return. The better question here may be Wandy Rodriguez. I don’t think he finishes the season in Houston.
Brian Corbin, Bullpen Brian
1. The Cards’ pitching falters–Ryan Franklin flops at closer, Brad Penny and Rich Hill in the rotation.
2. Simple, the young bullpen arms figure things out quickly!
3. Possible, yes. Likely? No. Joey Votto’s endurance is essential.
4. These guys are loaded offensively and could easily score 800-plus runs. The runs scored may outweigh what the entire staff allows, but the overall pitching is too thin to make for a winning difference.
5. The Pirates are no where near a winning record. They’ll again finish dead-last in the Central and extend its consecutive losing streak to 18 seasons. Projected record (67-95).
6. Yes and yes. The ownership loves Oswalt and if they were going to trade him that would’ve already happened. Berkman stays, too.
Jim Rosati, North Side Notch
1) Two other teams have legitimate shots at the division, the Cubs and the Reds. One of those two teams would have to simply have to win at least 90 games.
2) The Cubs just need to stay healthy. If that happens, and their players play as much as their paychecks say they should, then they could pull it out.
3) The Reds can definitely win the wildcard. In order to do so, though, Aaron Harang needs to regain his form, Homer Bailey needs to reach his potential, and Jay Bruce needs to bounce back from a poor and injury plagued sophomore season.
4) I could see the Brewers averaging around 5 runs a game, with their pitching giving up around the same.
6) Knowing Ed Wade, he’ll probably sign each to 10-year extensions.
Daniel Shoptaw, C70 At The Bat
1. It’d be pretty surprising if they lost with everyone healthy. Carp or Waino going down, though, would make for a tough hill.
2. Basically almost everyone play at the top of their game all year and stay healthy.
3. Wild card is reasonable, though I don’t think they’ll beat out Colorado/LA. They need Homer Bailey to pitch like he did down the stretch last year.
4. Score 5, let in 6.
5. Win the Central? Assuming AP stays in SL for another 10+ years, it could be a while. Let’s say they sneak in once in 2014 before falling back.
6. Yes. McLane is loyal to his players. They probably shouldn’t, but they will.
1. Things I’m worried about this season (some of these are legitimate fears, and some of these are the result of the captive embrace of pessimism) … An injury to Carp, complete collapse of the rotation behind Carp and Wainwright, systemic bullpen failure, replacement-level production from all comers at third base.
2. Health for Aramis Ramirez, bounce-backs from Soriano and Soto, no regression from Marlon Byrd, adequacy at the back of the rotation, some surprises in the bullpen.
3. They can, but I don’t they’re on the level of the Braves, the eventual runner-up in the West and other teams in their own division. Their key player, I think, is whoever replaces Volquez in the rotation. So long as that spot is capably manned, this could be a surprisingly strong rotation.
4. A healthy Rickie Weeks helps this lineup. I’ll say they get close to 800 runs and allow 750 or so.
6. Yes. They should probably go, but Drayton McLane seems pathologically opposed to the rebuilding process.
Nick, Pitchers Hit Eighth
1. Failure by Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright to make a full complement of starts, losing too many games after the seventh inning, complete defensive breakdown behind a pitching staff that relies on pitch-to-contact.
2. A Fountain of Youth?
3. Yes, they can – but things must fall right for them. The pitching staff will be the focus, and hopefully for Reds fans Joey Votto and Jay Bruce stay healthy.
4. I tend to agree with Daniel above – score 5, allow 6.
6. Berkman and Oswalt will both retire Astros, perhaps to their own chagrin. Oswalt has seemed resigned to a trade, if not specifically welcoming it, in past seasons – but still no moves. Berkman’s value in any trade may be quickly evaporating anyway.
Thanks again to all who participated, let’s PLAY BALL!