NL Central: Starting Pitching

chrisb
Sep 15, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) exchanges base balls with catcher Chris Stewart (19) against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 15, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole (45) exchanges base balls with catcher Chris Stewart (19) against the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Since I have already previewed this years team, I thought it would be fun to expand my writing. The National League Central was the best division in baseball last year.  The St. Louis Cardinals won the division last year and eclipsed 100 regular season wins. Pittsburgh had an outstanding season as well, by compiling a 98-64 regular season record.  However, the Chicago Cubs proved to be the best of the three as they advanced to the NLDS. It was a great division full of energy, fun, and competitiveness. Every time Pittsburgh would play Chicago, I literally would be nervous about every pitch. I look for the Cubs to be the frontrunner to win the division and world series.
Starting pitcher is key to success in the sport of baseball. The Cardinals signed Mike Leake, but they lost John Lackey.  Since they lost Lance Lynne to Tommy John surgery, I still think their rotation is solid. Leake, Wacha,  Garcia, Martinez and Wainwright are all quality starting pitchers that will help keep St. Louis close in ball games.  Cincinnati has ace Homer Bailey, but not a lot after. Reds fans could be in for a long season. Believe it or not, the Milwaukee Brewers have pieces to have a decent starting rotation. Wily Peralta looks to be the ace, but Nelson, Garza, Jungmann and the younger Davies should be the starting rotation. Milwaukee can find some success, but they need to stay healthy and find continuous offense.  What about Jake Arrieta? Arrieta had a remarkable 2015 season and knocked the Pirates right out of the playoffs. I think people forget about Jon Lester and the signing of John Lackey. If Arrieta can produce numbers like last year, I think everyone should be concerned. Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks should close out the rotation for the Cubs. Our beloved Pittsburgh Pirates took a big hit this off season. We lost AJ Burnett, J.A. Happ, and Charlie Morton. Gerrit Cole is back as the ace of the rotation but the rotation needs to be more than him. Liriano is so inconsistent that I don’t know what to think. He is going to give the Pirates innings but I haven’t been sold on him since the Pirates signed him. Jon Niese will hold down the 3rd spot in the rotation. Niese had a decent year with the Mets, but he was also surrounded by the best starting rotation in the majors. Niese is a ground ball pitcher, and that is exactly what we will need. I really like Jon Niese, and I think he can help us win some ballgames.  Other than the Reds, I think the Pirates lack depth with starting pitching. Jeff Locke and Ryan Vogelsong are penciled in as the other two starters in the rotation. Locke annoys me with his inconsistency and the fact that they continue to trust him and start him. I have always said Locke is a 5 inning pitcher.  Locke has a career record of 26-30 with a 4.16 ERA. Vogelsong comes to back to Pittsburgh after spending 5 years in San Francisco and winning two world series. He will be the Pirates fifth starter, but he also only signed a one year deal, so what do they have to lose? Maybe we will get a clone of AJ Burnett and everyone will fall in love with him.
It’s fun comparing things before anything actually happens. I think the Cardinals have the best overall starting rotation followed by Chicago, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Pitching has played such an important role in this division, and that is why guys like Leake, Lackey, Niese, and Lester signed to join the NL Central. I would be lying if I didn’t say I think the Pirates are in trouble. Cole is awesome but what else? Who is going to step up in the rotation and get us some wins? I just don’t know. Other than the Reds, we have the worse back end of any rotation. Hopefully we can find ways to score runs and let the bullpen finish out games. It’s been fun previewing the National League Central starting pitching.
Thoughts: Wainwright comes back better than ever and wins 15+.  Cardinals will win the division if it is  solely based on pitching.
Remember, we have many quality guys waiting in the minors. Let’s give it some time and see what happens with this season.
LET’S GO BUCS!

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