The NL Central From ’08 to ’09

Instead of going team by team this off season, I will review the divisions as a group. And whereas last year, I used a version of BaseRuns, with some modifications for strength of schedule and the like thrown in, to determine the ranking of teams’ true talent levels, this year I will use WAR as provided here on FanGraphs.

Part One: The NL Central

The ranks last year had the Cubs as one of the better teams in baseball, at third overall. The Brewers followed at a respectable 7th place with the Cardinals also above average, in 12th. The dregs of the division were Houston in 22nd, the Reds at 26th and the Pirates a lowly, but not quite lowliest 29th.

For all the preseason talk about the western divisions being boring and lacking good teams, it turned out to be the two central divisions that were the real purveyors of lackluster baseball in 2009.

The Cardinals tied the Twins for 11th place overall at 38 WAR and after them, much as in the real standings, nobody appeared for quite awhile until the Cubs show up with 31 WAR, in 20th place. Then comes the rest of the division; Milwaukee at 22nd with 29 WAR, Cincinnati at 24th with 25 WAR, Pittsburgh at 26th with 22 WAR and the Astros at 27th, also at 22 WAR.

For the Cubs, the collapse was hitting and fielding based. Just 13 wins out of their position players had them near the bottom in baseball as outside of Derrek Lee, they had no player above three wins. It was the opposite for the Brewers, who had the sixth best collection of hitters and fielders in baseball but the absolute worst group of pitchers. Loads of innings to Braden Looper, Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung did them no favors and as a group the Brewer pitchers amassed a staggeringly low three wins. Yeah, three wins total.

Here’s a summary of the ranks for the NL Central teams, with 2008 first.
CHC: 3, 20
MIL: 7, 22
STL: 12, 11
HOU: 22, 27
CIN: 26, 24
PIT: 29, 26

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

9 Responses to “The NL Central From ’08 to ’09”

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  1. The cubs should rebound next season. Bradley and Soto were affected by low BABIP, while soto and ramirez also had power zaps due to oblique/shoulder injuries (which, next to wrist injuries, do the most damage).

    If Hendry doesnt pull a hendry and keeps bradley around and signs a low risk, high reward Bedard pitcher or buys low on lets say Derek Lowe (getting the braves to eat some salary…), they will be in plenty of position to compete for a WS title in 2010. They have Castro in the minors as well as a few good Rps in the wings.

    The cubs really just need a good middle of the rotation starter and relief pitcher. Not a new OF or a lefty, etc.

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  2. Chun says:

    Please take Derek Lowe from us. You can pay him his 15 million when he’s 39.

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  3. Lowe is durable and generally gives quality innings. He’s not worth $15 mil per, but you could do so much worse. I’d pay him 10.

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  4. AthleticsBraves says:

    Is there a way to sort total WAR on the team pages? I can get pitchers and batters, but not total. Thanks.

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  5. nick m says:

    to nueter your dogman: Cubs aren’t that close to competiting for a WS as to just add another mid-rotation starter and arm like Matt Capps. As a Cubs fan I know and can admit that, but when your squad hasn’t won in a century the only appeal in being a fan sometimes is to dream big.

    I wouldn’t mind the Cubs taking a chance on Bedard though. Lowe no thanks though. It’s not even the salary as much as how long it runs for. 3 more yrs at 15 per. Even if they eat some of that, the benefit to clogging your rotation with Derek Lowe is not worth it. It’d be one thing if it was a pitcher who could put them over the top, but it’s Derek Lowe, who is now 36 and seriously faded down the stretch last year.

    I want the Cubs to try and sign Capps (if the interest level doesn’t drive his price up too much– already know he wants 2 yrs and the Rockies have a lot of interest, but Capps himself has said he wouldn’t mind playing in Chicago and I know there is mutual interest there as well) to act as a potential set-up man/safety net for Marmol, and then rotation depth that will come cheap with some upside (that’s a no to Looper). Then when/if this Bradley debacle is sorted out obviously CF/RF (depending on whether Fukudome is gonna slide over or not, Reed Johnson re-signed.. etc) is going to be dealt with one way or another. I don’t think the 2010 club is in world series contention coming out of the box, so I’d rather sit back and wait than break the bank with another 3-year deal to a guy like Joel Piniero or Marlon Byrd. Some crap will slip through like every year, that’s what the Cubs need to be focussing on. With a tighter budget due to moves on Soriano/Fuku/Milton and every other marquee signing from the past few seasons, I hope there are some bargains in the coming weeks (i.e. Abreu w/ Angels, Hudson Dodgers in ’09…). Actually, I think Piniero could wind up slipping through and landing somewhere for 1 or 2 yrs. I’m not confortable starting the year with Zambrano, Dempster, Wells, Gorzelanny and a recovering Lilly… feels like they have to add someone to toss in there, no?

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  6. nick m says:

    And I left Samardzija out of the suggested 5-man equation, because I have a very hard time believing that he’ll wind up in the starting rotation out of the gate save a boatload of injuries…

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  7. ralf says:

    Brewers pitching was extremely painful to watch all year, especially with the high hopes coming into ’09, but this is the first time I’ve seen all that anger and frustration boiled down to one number. 3 WAR? Really? For the whole staff? I hope the entire organization is appropriately ashamed.

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    • baschman says:

      As a Diehard Brewers fan, it was very painful to watch. The offense kicked butt and the pitching failed us. I kept checking Fangraphs during the season and kept figuring where we would have been if only our pitching was at 0 WPA instead of negative. Yeah, 3 WAR for the whole season. Looper had 14 wins and was one of the worst as far as stats go. Yovanni Gallardo was a 2.7WAR by himself. The whole rest of the staff was .3 WAR! When Melvin didn’t make a pitching move at the trade deadline the normal commentors and bloggers on were ripping him. I could see what he was doing, based on Fangraphs numbers. Making a trade for a starter then wouldn’t have helped this staff out enough to make it worth the price in regards to the talent we would’ve had to give up. BTW, those same bloggers were complaining that we let Looper go, “He won 14 games for us last year, what is Melvin thinking?” That right there shows how uninformed fans are sometimes.

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