Since weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve covered the foundation the 2015 St. Louis Cardinals are built on and how their offense and pitching are shaping up, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to think about the bottom line: What are these Cardinals going to do this season?
Nick Kirby kicked this whole thing off with a full division rundown at the start of this week, Jeremy Conley analyzed the new faces on the North side of Chicago and whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s projected for them, Jeremy Forbes took a hard look at the BrewersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ ability to score, while Nick Carrington analyzed how theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll prevent runs, and Grant Freking took stock of the PiratesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ pitching and hitting. Now IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll attempt to tie all their hard work together by musing on what could happen this season amongst the RedsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ division mates.
Like Nick mentioned in his article, every team in the NL Central can make a compelling argument that they can finish the season in first place. The Cubs have potential on their side, the Brewers have their dalliance with last seasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s division title to motivate them, the Pirates have some of the most talented young outfielders and pitchers in the game under their employ, the Cardinals are the establishment, and the Reds have two of the biggest breakouts from 2014 entrenched alongside the smartest hitter in baseball and one of the least-appreciated (outside of the Greater Cincinnati area) aces in the game.
From what IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve noticed while researching and writing todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s articles, St. Louis isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as much of a lock to win the division as I assumed before. The offensive numbers from last year arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that impressive, a cloud of regression looms over the middle of their lineup, and Kolten Wong and Jason Heyward will be counted on to improve upon their 2014 performance to keep this team competitive. The pitching alone may keep them near the top of the division all year but, as User1022 commented in the Kirby article, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s going to be a dogfight.
Regression fears apply to players on every team, whether itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s because of age, a recent career-high, or seemingly unsustainable performance (Walt, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re reading this, re-read that last sentence while thinking to yourself Ã¢â‚¬Å“Marlon Byrd. Marlon Byrd. Marlon Byrd.Ã¢â‚¬Â). WhatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so fun about the National League Central this season is how much youth is presentÃ¢â‚¬â€regression be darned, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so much new blood on all of these teams each of their fanbases are justified in some optimism.
So, enough Ã¢â‚¬Å“ifÃ¢â‚¬ÂsÃ¢â‚¬â€what can we expect in 2015Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s NL Central? The Brewers will hit better than people think. The Reds will, too. The Cardinals will get a season from Jason Heyward that catapults him back into superstardom and a season from Matt Holliday that will remind everyone heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s almost 36. The Cubs will need this year to learn how to win in 2016. The Pirates will have a player who either wins the MVP, Cy Young, or Rookie of the Year, with two other players finishing in the top five in the voting for the other awards.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot of conjecture, I know. When it comes to casually prognosticating about division results and individual seasons, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not much more than educated guesswork. The thing is, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be wrong about most of these statements, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure of it. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the fun partÃ¢â‚¬â€seeing what happens in reality. LetÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s get this season started already.