Chicago Cubs: NL Central weekly recap and preview


by - Staff Writer -
Contreras and the Cubs are in first place in NL Central (Kamil Krzaczynski - USAT)
Contreras and the Cubs are in first place in NL Central (Kamil Krzaczynski - USAT)

The MLB is undergoing one of the most difficult to execute plans in the history of the game. The season has been cut short from 162 games to 60, and the league has also made changes to infield protocol and even multiple rules as both an experiment for the future and to keep its players’ safe.

To combat the fact that some teams may get off to a slow start, the MLB raised the number of playoff teams from 10 to 16, meaning over 50% of the teams will earn playoff berths in 2020.

But the biggest hurdle, especially without the construction of a safety bubble, is keeping the players’ healthy and clear of coronavirus — and should a player or staff member get infected, protecting the rest of the team from a potential outbreak.

Thus far, that has been a disaster. The virus has slammed both the Marlins and the Cardinals. Nearly half of the Marlins roster was infected at one point as they try to climb back to playing baseball. The Cardinals have had 13 players and staff members test positive as well.

This, in turn, has affected the schedules of eight teams now. The Orioles, Nationals, Yankees, Phillies, Brewers, Cardinals, Marlins, and Tigers have had games postponed due to Covid-19 related concerns.

But the fact of the matter is that the game has gone on and made the necessary changes to schedules and various protocols to help combat these challenges. Most teams have played about 9-10 games this year, meaning about 17 percent of the season is now in the past.

At this point in a season, it is vital to get a grasp on how the teams in your division and league look as a push to a potential playoff berth is underway. So let’s take a look at the week that was in the NL Central and the week that will be.

Cubs 8-2: The Cubs are off to a red hot start thus far and are arguably playing their best team baseball since the 2016 season. The effect of David Ross on this team can not be overstated, as the Cubs’ attitude, effort, and energy on a day to day basis have been both excellent and consistent since the new manager took over. But in terms of on-field success, the Cubs have been aided by fantastic starting pitching and an offense that is putting up nearly the most runs in the MLB, with high rankings in home runs. The weakness for this team is the bullpen, but the group has managed enough thus far not to have blown any games.

The Cubs took two of three from both the Milwaukee Brewers at Wrigley and the Cincinnati Reds in Cincy. The Cubs rounded out the last week with a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates at home. The Cubs play the Kansas City Royals for two at home and two on the road this week before heading to St. Louis to hopefully play the Cardinals, who are still battling their outbreak.

Brewers 3-4: According to WAR thus far, the Brewers have been able to manufacture enough runs to win half of their games despite their superstar Christian Yelich being the least valuable player in the league. The Brewers pitching has held up as well thus far, having the 13th best team ERA in the MLB and the 6th best in the NL.

The Brewers lost two of three to the Cubs and took two of three from the Pirates. Their third series of the year between the Cardinals was postponed due to the Cardinals’ Covid-19 outbreak. This week the Brewers take on the White Sox for a home and home and then host the Reds for a weekend set in Milwaukee.

Reds 5-5: The Reds were a team that was widely improved over the offseason and carried lofty expectations into this season. Offensive additions of Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas have been noticeable, Castellanos so much so that he took home NL player of the week honors this past week. The rotation for the Reds has excelled as well, with Sonny Gray leading the way and the majors with three wins.

The Reds opened the season against the Detroit Tigers and lost two of three. After that series, the Reds lost two of three to the Cubs before taking on the Tigers again and taking two of three this go around. This week the Reds take on the Indians in the battle for Ohio for a two-game series home and away, and then over the weekend, the Reds head to Milwaukee to battle the Crew.

Cardinals 2-3: As I am sure you can tell, the Cardinals have played considerably fewer games than the rest of the teams in this division. That is because a few of their players reportedly went to a casino and contracted Covid-19, which led to an outbreak of cases within the Cardinals clubhouse. In the five games, the Cardinals have been able to complete, Paul Goldshmidt and Jack Flaherty have been the main reasons for the success. Once the Cardinals are healthy and back on the field, they are certainly contenders for the NL Central.

After opening the season by taking two out of three from the Pirates, the Cardinals lost two in a row to the Twins, and then the influx of positive tests have come back. The Cardinals had their weekend set with the Brewers postponed and will have the next four games against the Tigers postponed as well. MLB plans for the Cardinals to return to action this weekend at home against the Cubs.

Pirates 2-8: This team was expected to be the worst in the division and among the worst in the league and are showing it early one. Despite Colin Moran near the major league lead in home runs, the Pirates have struggled to get much going offensively and have lost a bunch of close games. I suppose in a rebuilding year, you would rather have a 60 game season to limit the damage, but the Pirates could still potentially sneak into the larger playoff field.

The Pirates started the season losing two out of three to the Cardinals, then lost two of three to the Brewers and were just swept out of Wrigley by the Cubs. As they look forward, this week brings a home and home with the Twins and then a weekend series with the Tigers at PNC.

And since the only teams these five will play include the five in the American League Central, we thought it best to update you how those five teams are doing record-wise.

Twins 8-2

White Sox 6-4

Indians 5-6

Tigers 5-5

Royals 3-8

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Tags: David Ross
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