How Do You Manage a Season Like This? The NL Central is a Nice Mix

I’d imagine answering that question you really have to see the question from the perspective of who happens to be asking. As someone who writes about the Pirates, it’s hard to not get tunnel vision but every team has a unique set of problems.

Let’s talk about how teams in different situations might be thinking today. Understanding what’s going on out there with other clubs can sometimes help us understand our own. The great news in the NL Central alone has a representative of a wide range of situations.

Already Out of the Race
The Pirates, we might as well start at home. We all know the record 4-14, it is neither pretty nor unexpected, ok, THIS bad was a little unexpected, if not partially fueled by injury.

Trade Deadline – Pretty clear this isn’t a team just suffering from hard luck, they’re pretty bad. Making some trades would be nice but it really needs to be the right deal. We won’t get extra credit for moving someone right now, far better to get the right return. What we owe ourselves is to be open to listening to anyone about just about anyone.

Goals for the Remainder of the Season – Answer questions. Seems simple but finding out what you have is pretty hard when most of your questions involve pitching, yet this area is where you’re suffering the most. I want to avoid specifics in this piece but suffice to say it would have been really nice to see more of what Mitch Keller has to offer. You hate to head into a second straight season wondering if he can hold down a spot.

I can’t say the Shelton feels the same, but part of changing the culture is learning how to win, that doesn’t always require winning games as backward sounding as that may be.

Still in the Race
The Brewers, and Reds, technically we could toss the Cards in here, but I have a special section for them. The Brewers are about where many expected at 9-10, while the Reds are underwhelming the league darling projections many assigned them at 9-11. Regardless both are firmly in the hunt and even a sub .500 record will probably do to make the playoffs.

Trade Deadline – Even though these clubs have similar records, they probably break on this one. The Reds might be open to bringing in a rental, most likely in the bullpen, while the Brewers need pitching, specifically starting pitching and I suspect they won’t be upset if that pitcher has an extra year or two attached.
I can’t imagine the Reds have much more to spend but I get the impression they bought the hype, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

Goals for the Remainder of the Season – Playoffs. Both of these clubs have survived the first third of the season and sitting right under the .500 mark the playoffs are a very real possibility. The Brewers have to actually feel pretty good, they’re in this thing and Christian Yelich has been damn near invisible hitting only .176 thus far. The Reds have endured some injury, none bigger than Mike Moustakas but their biggest problem is probably Eugenio Suarez, hitting .123 with two homeruns. They can make it to the dance without him, but they won’t get far if he doesn’t return to form. Unless of course Jessie Winker is more than just on a hot streak.

Barely Started the Race
The Cardinals, very technically speaking they’re in second place, but how can you really consider them in the hunt? At 4-3 they’ve scarcely done anything. They have enough to be there at the end but also face a gauntlet of double headers, starting pitching won’t help navigate all that.

Trade Deadline – If I’m the Cards and want to make the playoffs, I’m probably on the hunt for relief pitching, specifically long relief. Not that I want to see it but a Chris Stratton could be a perfect fit.

Goals for the Remainder of the Season – Finish it. At this point I’d imagine playing even close to 60 would be a win. If they can manage to make the playoffs too, swell.

Setting the Pace
The Cubs, have probably started off better than even they expected, but they have just about everything you could want at 13-5.

Trade Deadline – They’ve tried to fill this void, but the Cubs still need back end of the bullpen help, Keone Kela could really make an impact on that club. An interesting twist could be the Cubs moving a big piece, specifically Kris Bryant. He has one more year of team control, but he’s started the season hitting .196 and the Cubbies could feel pretty good about moving him since they’ve built this record to this point largely without him contributing.

Goals for the Remainder of the Season – Win it all. There aren’t a ton of teams who can really have this as a goal but Chicago certainly is one.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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