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NL Central Division Looks Like a Year of Looking Over Your Shoulder

Posted By Cliff Eastham On Apr 28 2011 @ 1:35 pm In Cincinnati Reds | No Comments

Photo by Jeffrey Phelps/AP

After 25 games or so, only 2.5 games separate the top five teams in the Central Division of the National League.

What began looking like a wire-to-wire run as the top team, the Cincinnati Reds have faltered and won only four of their last 11 outings.

They had lost two of three games to the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend, and found themselves in third place in the division.

After taking two of three from the Brewers in Milwaukee, the Reds salvaged a .500 road trip, and put them just ½ game back of the leading Cardinals.

Of course the most serious contenders are defending champs, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Milwaukee.

They all have formidable lineups and each boast at least one possible MVP candidate.

The Cards have, in my opinion, the best 3, 4,5 hitters in baseball with Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman. Berkman is the “Killer Emeritus” to the Reds. He always was when he was with Houston and he still is, as evidenced over the weekend. His career line against them looks like an MVP season: .323/442/49/137.

The Reds have a young team that is lead by reigning NL MVP, Joey Votto. Gold Glove winner Brandon Phillips is arguably the best second-baseman in baseball. Right-fielder Jay Bruce has been compared to Mickey Mantle. That is high praise indeed and thus far the only resemblance statistically is in strikeouts.

He is loaded with promise, having 40+ HR power and a cannon arm that helps in making him one of the best defensive right-fielders in the major leagues.

Throw in Drew Sutton, Scott Rolen and Jonny Gomes and you have the nucleus of a perennial pennant contender.

The Brewers are not to be pitied with the ammunition they have. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Casey McGehee and Corey Hart provide a 4-man punch that is perhaps unequaled. Second-baseman Rickey Weeks has All-Star power, especially from an interior infield position.

Pitching could prove to be the difference at the end of the season. The Cardinals received the first blow when CYA runner-up Adam Wainwright was out for the season before it started. Ace, Chris Carpenter is joined by second-year man, Jaime Garcia and Jamie Westbrook to lead a rotation which currently consists of Kyle Lohse and Kyle McClellan.

The Brewers made some off-season deals that made them look good on paper. CYA winner Zack Greinke, obtained from the Kansas City Royals was promptly put on the DL to start the season. Another acquisition, Shaun Marcum fell in line behind Yovani Gallardo to bolster a rotation that includes southpaws Randy Wolf and Chris Narveson.

The Reds have more prospects on the mound than the Cards and Brewers put together. The only problem is keeping them healthy and happy. When 2010 returnees Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto return from the DL things will look up for the “home made” duo of Travis Wood and Mike Leake and veteran workhorse Bronson Arroyo.

As the division contenders beat each other up all season, don’t look for the Wild Card to come from these parts. The winner will be the only representative to the playoffs in 2011.

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