Baseball predictions for 2017: Central
Another season, and once again I have to make the sad prediction that the Chicago Cubs are most likely going to have a better season than my St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs are coming off their best season in 108 years, and not much has changed to suggest that this year will be any different. Despite losing Dexter Fowler to the division rival Cardinals, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo still lead a lineup that remains as explosive as ever.
A wild card spot seems a likely fate for the St. Louis Cardinals this season after they missed that spot by a single game last year. They added a key piece by snatching up Dexter Fowler from free agency.
He will provide consistency that the Cardinals have lacked at the top of the lineup for years. Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha have been the top pitching duo in the league when at their best, but the back of the rotation isn’t strong enough to keep St. Louis in the division race against Chicago this season.
After you leave the top two teams in the Central, none of the other three have much of a chance at making the playoffs this season, barring some unforeseen development by an unheard-of player.
The team that should sit comfortably in the middle of the division is the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates had one of the biggest fall-offs in recent baseball memory. They fell flat last year just a few seasons after finally becoming relevant to the pennant race and holding that position for multiple successive years.
Despite the disappointing season, their offseason was rather calm. They made few moves to bring talent into the team to compete this season. Instead, they re-signed a few important players, but that will not help them improve over last year. Look for a close to five-hundred season from Pittsburgh.
The NL Central will have two teams competing to avoid the bottom place this year, and it appears to be a toss-up as the season approaches. Both the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers will be bad. Very bad. There is little need to separate the analysis for these two teams, as they both did very little to impact their immediate success. As a result, don’t be surprised if either or both of them hit the triple digit loss mark this year.
Last season, only one team was relevant from the AL Central, and we could see that same scenario this year. That’s not to say that one team wasn’t good, however. In fact, they were very good.
The Cleveland Indians won their first division title since 2007, and carried that momentum to a World Series appearance. Their big addition this offseason was slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who bolsters an already strong lineup. The Indians should take an even stronger hold of the division this year.
The Detroit Tigers are the only other team in the Central that could possible surprise people and compete for a playoff spot, but that still isn’t likely.
Justin Verlander is still elite, but he lacks a strong rotation behind him. The lineup is in a similar situation, with a beast in Miguel Cabrera and a supporting cast that can be good at times but lacks consistency. Expect a mediocre season, but don’t be surprised if they click at the right time and make a push for a wild card spot.
Two seasons ago, the Kansas City Royals won the World Series. Last season, they went five-hundred. What can we expect this year? Looking at last season, they started off the defense of their title with a great first few weeks.
Immediately following that was a terrible string of inconsistency, which leveled out into a mediocre season. When they won the World Series, they did it with solid players in every position, instead of relying on a few stars to carry them through. Their roster still looks like they are trying to emulate that, but the players can’t quite reach that same level. The Royals probably won’t break even this season.
The bottom of the AL Central is in a similar situation as the bottom of the NL Central- two teams that aren’t going to amount to anything this year.
Both the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins are going through rebuilding processes, so they won’t be putting up much of a fight to claim a playoff spot and could possibly hit the 100 loss mark.