01/24/2005: Prognostications: 2005 NL Central
Chris De Luca of the Chicago Sun-Times weighs in on what's in store for the National League Central Division this season. Cutting to the chase:
CARDINALSFairly safe prediciton. One has to expect some regression to the mean (i.e., no 105 wins), but it's not like there's been some stunning off-season breakthrough in the rest of the division. Right now, it looks like we've got to keep the bullpen and hitters (especially Prince Albert) healthy--last year's success had a lot to do with the injury breaks pretty much falling our way--then keep the ball down on the ground (i.e., in the park) and hope that our defense doesn't fall off too terribly badly.
Outlook: The pressure is on Eckstein, who hit .276 with two homers, 35 RBI and 92 runs and was the second-hardest player to strike out in the AL, with 49 in 566 at-bats. The most dangerous hitters in the lineup (Larry Walker, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds) return, though Pujols is troubled by chronic pain in his left heel. Promising Yadier Molina, 23, replaces Matheny behind the plate.
Bottom line: The Cardinals have a deeper rotation than the Cubs, a better lineup and a legitimate closer. They won't win 105 games again, but they should rule the Central even with 10 fewer victories.
CUBSGotta love them odds.
Bottom line: This is a weaker team than what the Cubs opened with last season.
Len on 01.24.05 @ 07:17 AM CST