We are a few weeks into the 2019 MLB season, and the time is here to start an in-depth weekly update on each division. First out: the NL Central.
This was a very difficult division to predict before the season started, although most fans and journalists imagined the Cubs, Cardinals and Brewers to fight it out for the top spot. Some might have even made the case for the Pirates. There was a lot of questions about this division going into the season, only one thing was absolutely clear: the NL Central is extremely competitive.
A few weeks into the season and the standings are as follows:
Pittsburgh Pirates – 12-8
STL Cardinals – 13-9
Milwaukee Brewers – 13-11
Chicago Cubs – 10-10
Cincinnati Reds – 8-13
We are still very early into the season and thus too much should not be read into the standings as they are, but they are all we currently have to go on and at least a (fairly) accurate representation of current levels.
Right off the bat, there are a few surprises compared to pre-season expectations. The Pirates have been on fire and are sitting pretty on top with 12-8 and a +1 differential. The Cubs, on the other hand, find themselves barely being a .500 team.
But it seems fair to say that the Cubs have been a bit unfortunate – especially if you look at their +17 differential and 6-9 record against .500 teams – and it is equally plausible that some good fortune and preferable matchups have helped the Pirates. As mentioned, Pittsburgh currently have a +1 differential, they also have a 3-5 record against .500 teams. It is definitely a possibility that the Pirates will start sliding down once they encounter harder opposition. The Cubs need to sort out their bullpen if they are going to have any hope of entering the playoffs this season.
Both the Cardinals and Brewers have had an acceptable opening to 2019. The Cards have a differential of +29 and a beautiful 12-8 record against .500 teams. The Brewers have a slightly less impressive differential of -10, but can still show off a nice 10-8 .500.
At the bottom of the table, we find the Cincinnati Reds, a team that no one seemed to believe in before the season started, and it doesn’t look much better for them now. The Reds are 8-13, meaning that only the Marlins have a worse record in the whole of the NL. A +4 differential might be a hint that things could eventually sort themselves out in Cincinnati, but as of right now, it looks like the Reds are the only team not in contention for the NL Central crown.
It is of course too early to make any proper prediction at this stage of the season, but it remains as crystal clear now as it was before the start of 2019: the NL Central is going to be unbelievably exciting, and it will probably go down to the wire.