Two weeks into the season, the NL Central is shaping up about how was expected, with the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Pittsburgh Pirates occupying the top three spots of the division, in that order.
In fact, outside of the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers being flip flopped at the bottom, my preseason prediction is looking pretty on point so far. Standings two weeks into the season almost always hold up in a six month marathon, so, may as well chalk my predictions up as golden now.
All jokes aside, let’s take a brief look into how each team performed in the young seasons second week:
Chicago Cubs: 9-3, 1st place in the NL Central (4-2 last week)
The Cubs swept their first home series of the year against their division foe Reds before losing 2 of 3 to the Colorado Rockies over the weekend.
Overall it was a good week for arguably the most impressive team in baseball to date. Kris Bryant hit his first 2 HR’s of his 2016 sophomore campaign, the club got Javier Baez back from injury, and Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester combined for 3 quality starts (albeit only with 1 win).
Intriguing stat line of the week: Lester combined to go 1-2 at the plate with a double, he even drew a walk. The impressive week at the plate brings his career batting average to an above replacement level .050. The double was Lester’s first career, regular season, extra base hit.
Player to Watch: With Kyle Schwarber now out for the season Jorge Soler logged starts in 5 of the Cubbies 6 games this week. He hit 2 HR’s and was even batted cleanup on Saturday against the Rockies.
St. Louis Cardinals: 7-5, 2nd place in the NL Central (4-2 last week)
After a rough start to the season that saw them get swept in their opening series against the Pirates, the Redbirds did what the top 3 teams in this division will do perceivably all season, beat up on the Brewers and the Reds.
The Cardinals managed to get 2 series wins against their divisional counterparts en route to finding their way back to familiar territory above the .500 mark.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Jaime Garcia logged a complete game, one-hit shutout against the Brewers on Thursday while racking up 13 K’s. The oft-injured Garcia is off to a great start to the season and could play huge if he manages to stay healthy.
Player to watch: With Jhonny Peralta currently on the shelf, Aledmys Diaz is making the most of his opportunities at SS. The 25 year old could be your classic Cardinal standout, with the chance to come seemingly out of nowhere and become a productive regular.
Pittsburgh Pirates: 7-6 3rd place in the NL Central (3-4 last week)
The Pirates had a rough go of it in a home and home series against the Detroit Tigers, winning the 1st of 4 only to lose the last three. Then the trend continued, as the superior teams in the division once again prevailed with the Pirates taking 2 of 3 from the Brewers over the weekend.
3-4 is not exactly a week that will stand out to you at the end of the season, but, treading water in stretches is important in the long baseball season. Even without a winning record it should be viewed as a solid week for the Bucs.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Josh Harrison swiped 3 bags this week without being caught. Last year Harrison only stole 10 bags, while being thrown out 8 times.
Player to Watch: Hailed as Ray Searage’s next prodigy, Juan Nicasio struggled in his 2-start week, giving up 7 earned runs in 10 innings. The most alarming number for Nicasio was the 7 walks he issued, a problem he has battled his entire career.
Cincinnati Reds: 6-6, 4th place in the NL Central, (1-5 last week)
Coming off a promising 5-1 start to the season, the Reds mirrored that performance this week going 1-5 and falling back to .500 at 6-6. The Reds got swept by the Cubs before dropping 2 of 3 to the Cardinals.
With some veterans scattered across their lineup, if the Reds want to have some shot at contending in 2016 they are going to have to put up more of a fight against the Cubs and Cards.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Billy Hamilton hitting a HR against Jon Lester and the Cubs. This is part of the problem with Hamilton, he puts the ball in the air far too often when that isn’t the strength of his game. Hamilton’s disappointing start (.185 BA with only 1 SB) will keep him at the bottom of the Reds lineup and may even eventually cost him his starting job.
Player to watch: Devin Mesoraco was missing in action for almost all of 2015 and again missed time last week with a lower body injury. Despite it being his right leg keeping him out of action it is a situation worth monitoring as Mesoraco is struggling at the plate after returning from left hip surgery last season.
Milwaukee Brewers: 5-7, 5th place in the NL Central (2-4 last week)
Much like the Reds, the Brewers ran into trouble with the top 3 teams in the division, dropping 2 of 3 to both the Cardinals and the Pirates.
The Brewers have the look of a rebuilding team, and although anything can happen in baseball, the Brewers need to put up more of a fight in their inter-division games to have a shot.
Intriguing stat line of the week: Ryan Braun and his monstrous performance on Friday against the Pirates. The former NL MVP went 3-5 with 2 HR’s and 4 RBI’s
Player to Watch: Domingo Santana continue to hit atop the Brew Crew’s lineup and is proving serviceable so far with a .261/.370/.413 slash line. Perhaps most impressively he has drawn 8 walks through 12 games. The youngster acquired from the Astros last July flashed big power in the Major last year and could play huge for the Brewers in 2016.