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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