From Last Night:
- R.A. Dickey, David Price, Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Stephen Strasburg all get hit hard in losing efforts
- Will Middlebrooks hits 3 HR in 13-0 thumping of the Jays
- Dayan Viciedo walks off on Kameron Loe in the 10 inning as the White Sox beat the Mariners
- Marlon Byrd wins it for the Mets in the bottom of the 9th against the Marlins
- The Twins silence Chris Davis and beat the O’s
- Rockies beat the Friars 9-1, improve to 5-1 on the season
- Darvish and Weaver surrender runs early in Arlington
What I’m Watching Today:
- The Reds and Cards square off in an early NL Central showdown (4p Eastern)
- Matt Harvey faces Roy Halladay in a battle of pitchers going in opposite directions (7p Eastern)
- The Marlins play their first home game after the winter firesale against Paul Maholm and the Braves (7p Eastern)
The Big Question:
- Was Halladay’s weird outing last week a sign of things to come or blip on the road back to dominance?
Sunday was not a good day for the College of Aces as Dickey, Price, Hamels, Cain, and Straburg all gave up 6 or more earned runs in relatively short outings. As I’m writing this, Darvish and Weaver have given up five runs between them in just two innings, so either one of them could join the party. Sabathia shut down the Tigers and Verlander was good against the Yankees save for one bad pitch. It’s hard to imagine that on a day in which so many of baseball’s best starters took to the hill that so few good pitching performances occurred. I toyed around with the idea of developing an AceStart% statistic that measured what percentage of aces pitched on a given day, and I would guess that Sunday would be the highest non-Opening Day of the season as far as that goes, but it sure didn’t look like it. 148 runs were scored in the 14 games that are final at this point. It was not the day of great pitching I hoped for, but hey, that’s what makes baseball great. On any given day, any team can make a great pitcher look silly.
In a shocking turn of events, however, it was not Chris Davis who won New English D’s “Race to 1.0 WAR,” but rather the A’s shortstop, Jed Lowrie. Mr. Lowrie has 30 plate appearances in his team’s first 7 games and has 3 HR and a .500/.567/1.000 line to go with his .645 wOBA and 326 wRC+. If you had Jed Lowrie in the first to 1.0 WAR pool, come claim your prize. It’s a unicorn. Lowrie, at this moment, is on pace for 23.1 WAR. That would be a record, if you’re curious, topping Babe Ruth‘s 1923 season (.393/.545/.764) by a full 8 wins. Lowrie is a good player, but I’m willing to take the under on that one.
Over the last couple weeks, you’ve seen the STT Seasons in Review for each of the six NL Central teams that gave brief overviews of each team’s biggest contributors and how their seasons went. I gave each club a letter grade for 2012 and a rough projection of how I see them stacking up in 2013.
Today, I want to review the division as a whole and paint a broad picture about what it looks like going forward (See you never, Astros!).
This is how things went in 2012:
And here’s how the Baseball Prospectus Playoff Odds looked from April to October.
The Reds took over by July and the Cardinals pretty much stayed in Wild Card position for most of the season. Each of the Brewers and Pirates made a run at it at different points, but neither could really close the deal. Needless to say, the Cubs and Astros did not really factor into the race.
The NL Central is one of the lesser divisions in the game, but the offense from the Reds, Cards, and Brewers was pretty good. Match that with a Pirates club on the rise and some good pitching from a couple of these teams, and what we really have is a division dragged down by the bottom feeders.
The Reds and Cardinals are good teams. The Brewers are talented but have damaging holes. The Pirates are becoming competitive, but still haven’t become a threat. The Cubs and Astros are a mess. One of these teams is leaving next year, so the division as a whole might get a little better by subtraction.
My bet is that the division will look pretty similar in 2013 when it’s all said and done. Here is my early projection, which is subject to change throughout the offseason:
The key variable here is that these teams have to pick up some wins that normally came at the expense of the Astros in order to keep these win totals up. I guess I’ll have to look at this more closely as I fill in the sheet with the rest of the divisions.
The NL Central MVP goes to Ryan Braun over Yadier Molina and the Cy Young belongs to Johnny Cueto.
Here’s a final summary of the NL Central 2012 Grades and Win totals:
All and all, another fine year in the pitcher-bats-9th Midwestern United States led by the Reds and Cardinals.