Sep 25, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielderAndrew McCutchen
(22) hits a two run single in the eighth inning of their game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
The St. Louis Cardinals have been a thorn in the side of the entire NL Central for the better part of the decade.
They’ve plundered, pillaged, and left a trail of destruction in the league nearly every year for 14 straight years. They have been the bully on the playground for far too long, but the cruel fact remains that they have had their way with the NL Central and they have not been gentle about it.
Since the year 2000 those good ole Cardinals have won the NL Central 8 times. That’s a current division win % of .571. And don’t exactly feel bad for them for the 6 times they haven’t won the title. During that 14 year reign of terror they have only had one losing season. They have been in the hunt for the title in 13 of the last 14 years.
It’s true. I can’t make that up.
But 2015 is going to be different. This is going to be the year that the Pirates not only pass the Cardinals but I predict that this will be the beginning of a holistic shift in the executive leadership of the division. The Cardinals will not just finish second in the NL Central, but they won’t be wild card either.
The tyrants of the NLC are aging and their iron fist is beginning to rust. The heart and soul of the team, Yadier Molina, missed more games last year due to injury then he ever has in his hall of fame career and there is no denying that the team is not the same without their superman behind the plate.
Molina missed 41 games last year from July 10th to August 30th. During that beautiful stretch of baseball the Cardinal’s record was a very ordinary 21-20. How sweet it was. Take into consideration that Molina will be 33 in 2015 and the chances that he misses time again this year are very high.
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In addition to Yadier, the cardinals have 5 other starters that will be over the age of 30 this season. Johnny Peralta, Matt Holiday, John Jay, Adam Wainwright and John Lackey. I guess you could say that wouldn’t be so much of a problem except that the success of the Cardinals in 2015 is largely going to depend on the health of these key players. You throw a 29 year old Matt Carpenter and a stress fracture to the scapula of their number 2 pitcher Michael Wacha and that adds up to a massive amount of question marks entering the spring. The Pirates won’t have to beat the Cardinals, because the Cardinals will beat themselves. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I think the Cardinals are going to be a losing team. They won’t. I just believe that they will break down just enough to give the Pirates that elusive crease they’ve needed to finally win the division outright.
They will still be the main competition for the Buccos this upcoming season and Pirate fans should brace themselves for another race to the finish as the NL Central will most likely be one of the best, if not the best, division in baseball.
The Pirates won’t have to beat the Cardinals, because the Cardinals will beat themselves.
The Brewers have a talented young core of players that will undoubtedly have them in the mix again but the health ofRyan Braun
is in doubt and the trade ofYovani Gallardo
leaves Milwaukee forced to fill the 4 and 5 slot in the starting rotation with unprovenJimmy Nelson
and Mike Friers. The starting rotation was a huge strength for the Brewers last year which directly attributed to their red hot first half of the season, but I don’t expect a repeat performance because the pitching is downright suspect at this point.
The Reds are on the decline and will continue to slide downhill this season. They lost two major pieces in their starting rotation in Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon, Homer Bailey will be coming off a torn flexor tendon in his forearm that ended his season early last year, and Tony Cingranni had a disaster 2014 that saw him demoted to AAA and then eventually shut down with a shoulder injury. Joey Vatto only played 62 games due to injury, Jay Bruce underwent knee surgery early in the year, and the rest of the lineup doesn’t exactly ‘overwhelm’. As if it couldn’t get worse for the Reds, aside from the acquisition of Marlon Byrd, they did next to nothing in the offseason to account for the losses and what is expected to be another year of an injury plagued lineup.
The Cubs are on the way up and are a young and talented team that will be drastically improved. However, the lack of any real ‘pennant race’ experience on the team will have their knees shaking come August. Look for them to start strong and then fade in the late months of the season.
The Pirates are by far the most complete team. They are deep in the starting rotation and even deeper in the bullpen. They have arguably the most talented outfield in baseball and are loaded around the infield. Pittsburgh literally has a reasonable chance to play 5 all-star caliber players every day in the field. (Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Neil Walker, and Josh Harrison).
2015 will be the year of the Pirate. They are the most talented team in the league and their competition is aging or just not aged enough. This year the pludering is going to go through Pittsburgh.
Raise the Jolly Roger.