Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura (18) is tagged out at home by Colorado Rockies relief pitcher DJ Johnson (63) in the 11th inning at a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Leyba)

NL Central: a race to mediocrity

With Opening Day turning the corner and heading for home, it’s time to talk baseball.

To be completely honest, the NL Central does not look competitive outside of its division. Within the division, the competition stiffens, but don’t look for any of these teams to win the Series anytime soon.

Pittsburgh Pirates – the team to beat?

As in, everyone is going to beat the Pirates. GM Ben Cherington has his work cut out for him as he comes into his second year but buddy, things do not look good so far. Standout third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes does look good, though. He just hasn’t signed an extension to his contract, probably cause he wants to win SOMETHING in the next four years. If you’re a Pittsburgh fan, consider looking into alternative programming this season.

Cincinnati Reds – there’s nothing clever to write here.

And there’s nothing clever going on in this organization either. After a solid 2020 regular season, Cincinnati and its pitching staff looked surprisingly not bad. The coin-flip offense was fun to watch when it was on. And when it was off, so were televisions in the Cincinnati area. As far as moves made, the Reds traded away two key pitchers on the roster in Trevor Bauer and Rasiel Iglesias. It also shuffled the infield around and while it doesn’t look bad, it also doesn’t look good. And neither do the Reds.

Milwaukee Brewers – actually the team to beat.

FiveThirtyEight predicts the Brewers have a 45% chance to win the division. Their pitching staff looks pretty good. The starting rotation with Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff is solid. The bullpen has some really, really good closers.

The biggest question is if the Brewers can get some sticks going. If power hitter Christian Yelich can get back into form, Milwaukee can rest a little easier knowing it has firepower coming into the 2021 season. Otherwise expect the division to be a slugfest with no clear contenders.

Chicago Cubs – Stuck between a rock and a front office

The Cubs are actually kind of interesting. On one hand, they are projected to win 82-80. On the other, they made a lot of conflicting moves that seem to indicate the future is lukewarm. Yu Darvish was traded away which indicated a rebuild (although the prospects Chicago received in the trade haven’t shown any real promise). But then they signed 34-year-old Jake Arrieta to the pitching staff and threw 28-year-old Joc Pederson in the outfield. Are they trying to win or look toward the future? Nobody knows, and a self-implosion is just as likely as 82-80.

St. Louis Cardinals – An extra-medium t-shirt

After stealing third baseman Nolan Arenado from the Rockies, St. Louis can be described only as: whelming. Underwhelming when looking at the entire league, but certainly not overwhelming when looking at the NL Central as a whole. I am whelmed with the Cards. The same team that placed second in its division made no real changes besides the Arenado pickup- the struggling shortstop and ace pitcher have only gotten older. Is Arenado enough? Will the Cards break through a slump or fall farther into the mediocrity that is the NL Central?

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