As of the All-Star break, the National League Central is about as close as it gets. The last place Reds are just 4 and 1/2 games back from the division-leading Cubs. To give a perspective of how close that is, no other division has a second place team within five games as of the all-star break. With the NL Central being so tight, each team has given a reason as to why they can come out on top of the division. Here is why each team can still win the National League Central:
1.) Chicago Cubs (47-43, 0 GB)
A lot of players on this Cubs team have played with one another for multiple seasons. In fact, six of this year’s everyday starters were on the World Series team in 2016. This team chemistry is very helpful and is a big reason why the Cubs have been so successful over the past few seasons. The veterans on this team are also used to playing in tight division races and playoff games, so they likely won’t let the pressure get to them.
The Cubs also have something every MLB team desires: deep pitching. Their starters, like most of the team, include a lot of veterans who have played in these situations before. Their bullpen also has some solid arms, including the addition of hard-throwing Craig Kimbrel.
2.) Milwaukee Brewers (47-44, 1/2 GB)
They have Christian Yelich. Yelich has become more than a household name these past few seasons in Milwaukee, and he’s doing a great job leading this club. He’s part of an offense that’s been fairly consistent this season that features All-Star Yasmani Grandal.
Grandal is having one of the best seasons of his career thus far, slashing .259/.372/.525 as he headed to Cleveland for the All-Star game. The Brewers’ backstop is also exceptional behind the dish, making him a well-rounded catcher.
The Brewers may want to look for a starting pitcher prior to the trade deadline. They currently have a team ERA of 4.61. This is definitely a number they’d like to decrease, and adding a pitcher may just do that.
3.) St. Louis Cardinals (44-44, 2 GB)
The Cardinals split the first half of their season at 44 games apiece. This team had high hopes going into the season, and they are a little behind the pace their fans wanted to see. A major reason for this is because some of their leaders are struggling at the plate this year. One that sticks out is Paul Goldschmidt, who is having one of the worst seasons of his career. At the break, his line is .254/.343/.426. The Cardinals expected a lot more when they acquired him from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Veteran Matt Carpenter is struggling as well as he’s slashing .216/.325/.381. If these guys can start hitting and help their solid pitching staff, they can definitely make a run this season.
4.) Pittsburgh Pirates (44-45, 2 1/2 GB)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have quietly stayed in this tight NL Central race. This is possibly because they don’t have many big-time names. Other than Josh Bell and maybe Starling Marte, there aren’t many names that are heard by the average baseball fan on the Pirates. They have two rookies in Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds that are red hot for this Pittsburgh offense.
A concern for this team is their inconsistent offense. This team went from scoring 25 runs at Houston against one of the best rotations in baseball to scoring five runs in a three-game set against Milwaukee’s mediocre pitching staff. If they can spread out their offense more, this team can be turning heads come September or maybe even October.
Lastly, Jameson Taillon could come off the injury list in August and help the teams rotation.
5.) Cincinnati Reds (41-46, 4 1/2 GB)
These dudes are just going out and playing the game they love. They literally went into the All-Star break by playing a game without sleeves. Almost any baseball fan knows that if you’re having fun playing, the rest can take care of itself.
Even though the Reds play at one of the leagues most hitter-friendly stadiums, they have the third lowest ERA in the league. Again, the fact that they play at Great American Ball Park makes this even more impressive. If this team can start using their home field to their advantage, they’ll give themselves a shot in this division.
Joey Votto also needs to heat up. He’s brought his line up to .268/.360/.411 heading into the break. The 35-year-old veteran is running out of time for a World Series run, so he’ll want to use that as motivation in the second half of the season.
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