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HBT Extra: Previewing the NL Central

Mar 20, 2012, 9:23 AM EDT

So far I have picked the Yankees in the AL East and the Phillies in the NL East.  Am I so unoriginal to pick the defending World Series champs in the NL Central.

Dudes: you gotta watch the video to find out.

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  1. proudlycanadian - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    Tiffany seems to be much more animated and self confident this year. These discussion could be fun this year.

  2. justinreds - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Cards? I think not.

    • salvomania - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:12 AM

      Birds lost Pujols, replaced him with Berkman.
      Berkman moves to 1b, replaced in right by Carlos Beltran.
      (and when Berkman/Beltran need time off, or get injured, there’s Alan Craig).
      All of the above is a net drop in offense from 2011, but barely—Beltran actually had better numbers than Pujols in 2011).

      Then you have Freese at 3b for a full year.
      You have Furcal at SS, rather than Ryan Theriot.
      Both of those are potential huge offensive upgrades from 2011.

      You have a healthy Adam Wainwright, which is a HUGE lift to the rotation.

      And you have a full season of young power arms anchoring the bullpen, which is another HUGE upgrade from 2011.

      This team, even after losing Pujols, should be stronger than the 90-win World Series champions of 2011.

      They’re deep, experienced, and balanced on offense and pitching.

      Their weaknesses are defense (as it was last year), and age/injuries, the latter being the only thing standing in their way of a division title.

      • justinreds - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        All of that is 100% correct and I don’t dispute that. The one thing they lack big time is leadership, both on the field from Pujols and the head coach obviously. Last year’s team was good, but under almost any other manager that team does not win the World Series. La Russa is going to be a huge shoe to fill and I just don’t see this year’s team winning the division under a rookie manager.

      • salvomania - Mar 20, 2012 at 11:47 AM

        I hear you—it’ll be interesting seeing how the team responds to someone besides LaRussa for the first time since 1995. And don’t forget the loss of Dave Duncan.

        But Matheny isn’t some guy plucked from the usual pool of recycled managers or just some random guy. Matheny was a starter for three division winners in his five years with the team, he’s known and respected by the organization as an extremely smart baseball guy who is tough as nails. Two of the team leaders, Chris Carpenter and Yadier Molina, were his teammates on a World Series team. I think he’s a great fit, and I think this team could flourish with a less-neurotic/psychotic manager than LaRussa.

        I also think he’ll be more willing than LaRussa to embrace advanced analytics and less willing to favor scrappy veterans over deserving but unproven youngsters, both of which should be to the team;s benefit.

      • paperlions - Mar 20, 2012 at 1:13 PM

        Give me a small break. Last year’s team winning had little to do with the manager (just like every winning team) and everything to do with the quality of the players on the field (also, just like every winning team).

        There is a reason that manager records go up and down with the talent they have…it is because they have little ability to effect outcomes in baseball.

        One could also argue effectively that LaRussa and Pujols are not particularly good leaders, each can be brooding and short-tempered. The team has plenty of guys capable of taking on leadership roles as effectively (or better) as those guys that left. The biggest losses for the Cardinals this past off-season were Lunhow and Duncan (yes, Pujols was a big loss, but not spending $250M on him makes it a net gain).

      • forsch31 - Mar 20, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        While losing both Pujols and LaRussa will probably affect the team, the idea that the thing the Cardinals “lack big time is leadership” completely ignores Carpenter, Molina, Holliday, Berkman, and others on the roster who were as important. Players point to the Cardinals’ run for the playoffs beginning when Berkman and Carpenter stood up in the locker room and reset the attitude. Those guys are still there, and are now backed by a rookie manager who carries a huge amount of respect in the locker room among veterans and young players alike and is backed by most of the old manager’s coaching staff. There is no shortage of leadership in St. Louis.

        I also dispute the idea that LaRussa is the reason they got to the playoffs. They got to the playoffs because the players did the job on the field and because the managment addressed major weaknesses at the trade deadline, blostering the rotation (Jackson bumping Westbrook to fifth starter and McClellan to the bullpen), the bullpen (the additions of Scrabble and Dontel and, from the farm, Lynn), and the middle infield (Furcal replacing the woeful Theroit, who went into a platoon at second with Nick Punto, thus bumping Shumaker to the bench). Those three pieces that dragged down the Cardinals for most of the season aren’t issues going into this season.

        The guy they’ll probably miss the most is Dave Duncan, but the coach replacing him filled in during the Cardinals’ run for the playoffs and used to coach many if not all of the Cardinals’ young pitchers in the minors. The Central will be tight this year, with the Reds making much-needed improvements to their pitching, the Brewers still with a lot of talent despite losing Fielder, and the Pirates improving every year, but the Cardinals did not lose so much as to dismiss them as division favorites. They’ve replaced Pujols’ offense with Beltran and more playing time for Craig (who now may make Opening Day), Wainwright is healthy and has his old velocity and command, and they don’t have the weaknesses they had most of last season.

      • paperlions - Mar 20, 2012 at 3:21 PM

        What Forschy said.

  3. jakpsu1 - Mar 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Pirates perform a miracle and almost finish .500 Let’s Go Bucs!

  4. stex52 - Mar 20, 2012 at 12:45 PM

    I think what the Cards may miss most along the course of the season is Dave Duncan. Don’t underrate his influence on the young pitchers.

    I also think that they may be pleasantly surprised with how quickly Matheny steps into the role.

  5. paperlions - Mar 20, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    So….the Cardinals will really really really miss LaRussa….but win the division? Hmmmmm.

  6. tonyc920 - Mar 20, 2012 at 2:36 PM

    OK, You guys have it all figured out in the N.L. Central. Apparently the Brewers moved to another division or league. Let’s revisit this come July 1st. I think my Brewers will be doing just fine. Fielder was undoubtably a hit to our power lineup, but we cleaned up at 3rd and SS where we had such an issue with dependable fielding and Ramirez has a pretty decent stick too. Gamel will be adequate at 1st and our starting rotation looks pretty much the same. I’m just saying, don’t count us out. The Cards and Reds will be excellant competition and I think Pittsburgh will be much improved. The Cubs and Astro’s er’ Colt 45’s will suck.

    • stex52 - Mar 20, 2012 at 3:38 PM

      We don’t have it all figured out, you just stumbled into a nest Cards fans.

      As to the Astros, I am just hoping Luhnow has some serious rabbits to pull out of his hat.

    • paperlions - Mar 20, 2012 at 4:12 PM

      FWIW, I think the Brewers are still better than the Reds, but that the Cardinals are a deeper/better team than the Brewers are right now.

    • cintiphil - Mar 20, 2012 at 6:29 PM

      You have to be kidding about the Brewers. They will miss Fielder more than you know. And, I think Braun is going to come down more than a notch. He had a career year last, and now he will be under the microscope after the drug stuff. You had better hope that staff can repeat or you will be fighting the Cubs for fourth place. It is obvious that the Reds take it all.

      • paperlions - Mar 20, 2012 at 7:52 PM

        The Reds won 79 games last year. They added Latos, a little bullpen depth, that’s it. That should get them to….what 83-85 wins?

  7. cintiphil - Mar 20, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    Paper Boy:

    You are not paying attention. Homer Bailey is strong this year. They signed a very good closer (Marshall-Cubs) and another good reliever from the Phils, and they have a phenom at catcher (40+ HR in last two AA & AAA seasons). They will all forget about Bench in Cinti after this guy. They also have a good looking SS who hit and fielded last year until he was hurt for the season. He is back. And, Cueto is back and strong. And, Leake is improved, and on and on. Watch your backs, the Reds are coming after the birdies.

  8. eightysixisback - Mar 21, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    This is the year for the Cubs!! You heard it here first.

  9. foreverchipper10 - Mar 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Did I miss the NL East preview? Damn it. Time to scroll back a bit…

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