The National League Central Division is shaping up as the most competitive division in Major League Baseball
Only two games separate the Milwaukee Brewers, who lead the division with a 19-13 record, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are fourth with a 17-15 mark. The St. Louis Cardinals are half a game behind the Brewers at 17-12 and the Chicago Cubs are a half game behind the Cards at 16-12.
National League Central Division has tightest race in Major League Baseball
It’s the closest grouping in the majors, a far cry from the AL East where the fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays (13-16) are eight and a half games behind the Boston Red Sox (22-8).
The question, though, is how much of the closeness in the NL Central is due to mediocrity. All four teams have had their ups and downs in the early going with none of them being able to show any real consistency.
The Pirates have the second highest team batting average in the National League at .257 but the 11th highest team ERA at 4.27. The Brewers have the second lowest ERA at 3.19 but the the 13th lowest team batting average at .237. The Cards have the third lowest team ERA at 3.32 but the eighth highest batting average at .235. The Cubs have the fifth highest team ERA at 3.48 but the seventh highest team batting average at .244.
Meanwhile, the Cincinnati Reds (7-24) have the highest team ERA at 5.29 and the 12th lowest team batting average at .242.
Teams take advantage of weak teams
The Cardinals, Brewers and Pirates have all benefited from playing the hapless Reds, who have the worst record in the majors. Against the Reds, the Cards are 7-0, the Pirates are 4-0 and the Brewers are 5-1.
The three teams also been able to beat up on some of the other weaker teams in MLB. The Cards have taken the two from the Chicago White Sox (8-20), the Pirates have won four from the Detroit Tigers (13-16) and two from the Miami Marlins (11-19), while the Brewers have beaten the San Diego Padres (11-21) three times, the Marlins four times and the Kansas City Royals (8-22) twice.
The Cubs, meanwhile, who have played the fewest games of any team in the division thanks to numerous weather-related postponements, have yet to play the Reds. They’ve beat the Marlins twice, but they’ve been dominant against the Brewers, winning all seven games between the two teams. However, they’re only 7-12 against the other teams they’ve played.
This could be a year where the strength of schedule is a major factor for the four teams.
More weak schedules for everyone but Brewers
Consider that after playing the Brewers three games this weekend, the Pirates play the White Sox four games, the San Francisco Giants (16-15) three games, the Padres four games and the Reds three games. No matter what the Pirates do against the Brewers this weekend, they should at least remain in contention with Padres, Reds and White Sox on their schedule for the next month.
It’s much the same for the Cards and the Cubs. After playing the Cubs this weekend, the Cards play four games against the Minnesota Twins (10-16), four games against the Padres, four games against the Philadelphia Phillies (17-13) and three games against the Royals.
So, it will go for the rest of the season for teams all across Major League Baseball. But tightest race for now anyway is in the National League’s Central Division where every game is being watched carefully.
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