Sunday, March 25, 2007

WCT Baseball Preview of the Week
Baseball season is approaching fast, and we here at WCT can’t wait. In order to prepare for the upcoming season (and so that in October we can brag about how right we were in the spring) we will preview each division, and predict the order of finish of the teams.
Today: The totally jumbled National League Central

St. Louis Cardinals - The world champs come into the 2007 season once again as the favorites in the central division. They have a bonafide MVP in Albert Pujols in the lineup, and a bonafide ace in Chris "soul patch" Carpenter in the rotation. However, the most interesting thing about the Cards is the fact that they have decided to turn Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright into starters. Wainwright we guess we understand. He has at least two excellent pitches in his repotoire, and with the return of Jason Isringhausen, he is probably more useful to the team in the rotation rather than coming out of the pen. But Braden Looper? He was a disaster as a closer for the Mets two years ago, and average performer as the set-up man for the Cards last year. What is it with this team and bizarre position changing? Between these moves and the whole “Rick Ankiel as an outfielder” experiment, it makes you wonder if the manager of this team is drunk. Sorry, too soon?

(Quick aside: what is it with teams taking failed closers, i.e. Looper, Byung-Hyun Kim, and making them starters? What is the thinking there? “This guy can’t get hitters out when he only pitches one inning at a time, so let’s send him out there every fifth day and see if he can get hitters out pitching five or six innings at a time.” We have never understood the logic there.)

Milwaukee Brewers – the Brewers have seemingly become the trendy pick to challenge for the wild card, if not the NL Central division title. If that is the case, call us trendy. The Brewers have a lot of young players who are maturing at the same time and are poised to have breakout seasons in 2007. Ben Sheets and Chris Capuano are becoming a powerful 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, and the addition of Jeff Suppan, if he can pitch all year the way he pitched in the playoffs last year, should add depth. Prince Fielder and Bill Hall in the middle of the lineup should be able to provide good run production, and how can we forget the “grittiness”, “guttiness”, “scrappyness,” and “grind-it-out-ness” that they acquired when the picked up Craig Counsell.

Chicago Cubs – The Cubs, or as we like to call them, the Redskins of baseball, once again won the off-season by overpaying for what we think will be an ill-conceived and ultimately disappointing lineup. Alfonso Soriano will be the everyday centerfielder for this team. We do not see that ending well. The Cubs also acquired Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis in the free agent market. Do you know what their combined records were last year? 29-29. And Marquis had an ERA over 6 and didn’t even make the postseason roster for the Cardinals. The bad new is these guys are scheduled to be the #2 and #3 starters for this team. The good news is this team's disappointing season should produce plenty of this

and maybe, if we are lucky, some of this

Cinci-Tucky, er, Cincinnati Reds – Aaron Harang has got to be the most underrated pitcher in the National League, and we think he will be a solid #1 on a surprisingly decent rotation. Did you know they are switching Ken Griffey, jr. to right field? That has got to be a shot to the ego. We have no idea who is going to close games for this team, so we can’t quite make them a wild card contender.

Houston Astros – The only hope for the ‘stros is Roger Clemens returning. Carlos Lee will provide some much needed pop in the middle of the lineup, but we just don’t think this team has enough depth in the rotation or bullpen to compete over the course of the season. They will also miss Willy Tavares.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Jeez, how many teams are in this division?! Jason Bay is a stud, and Adam LaRoche and Xavier Nady should provide good production, but this is a 90-100 loss team.

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