Thursday, July 10, 2008

Adjust Your Clocks to Central Time

That's where the excitement is. Thanks to a couple of major trades this week the already competitive NL Central got a little more interesting. As recently as a few weeks ago I had pretty much written of the Brewers chances of contending for a playoff spot. With the addition of reigning Cy Young winner CC Sabathia, however, the Brewers are in a position to make some serious noise. With Ben Sheets and Sabathia the Brewers now have one of the best starting tandems in all of baseball. Combined with a potent offense and substantial young talent this is a team that is going to win a lot of games.

With the media frenzy focused solely on this deal, a somewhat overlooked fact is that the Cubs are still the team to beat in the NL Central. Evidence for this claim is as follows: the Cubs managed to maintain a 3 game lead in the Central despite losing their best pitcher and best hitter to injuries. The Cubs probably have one of the deepest rosters in baseball, and despite lacking their best offensive and defensive weapons were able to play .500 baseball. Even if the Cubs continue to play .500 ball from here on out they will win at least 90 games, usually enough to win a division. But the Cubs will most likely play +.500 baseball. The return of Zambrano and Soriano will be huge boosts. Additionally, the pickup of Rich Harden who, when healthy, is one of the more dominant starters in the game, should help the Cubs to maintain their hold on the division lead. While the Brewers have the Sheets-Sabathia tandem, the Cubs now have the Zambrano-Harden-Dempster trio that is pretty damn intimidating. If Jason Marquis gets his shit together then you're looking at arguably the best rotation in baseball. Add to this formidable assault the bullpen combo of Howry-Marmol-Wood and the Cubs look rock solid. All three have control issues occasionally, but I'd still take any one of them over Eric Gagne. Oh and let's not forget the Cubs still have the highest run differential in all the majors.

Years of disappointment have made me extra cautious about making early predictions, but it's hard to see how any team can compete with the Cubs down the stretch, especially if they figure out how to win on the road. The Sabathia trade will definitely make for more exciting division play, but ultimately I don't think it will have a huge impact, with the exception that the Brewers are now more likely to win the Wild Card than the Cardinals.

By: Brizz

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