There are only eight weeks left in the baseball season. The Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs all would be in the postseason if it started today. The NL Central has been very impressive in 2015, as the Cardinals, Pirates, and Cubs having the three best records in the National League.

Entering play of Sunday, the Cardinals have a 99.8% chance of reaching the postseason (81.3% chance of winning the division), according to Fangraphs’ playoff odds. The Cardinals have a 5.0 game lead in the NL Central, and have a 12.0 game cushion on the second wild-card spot.

The Pirates also have great playoff odds, as they have a 93.6% chance of reaching the postseason. Their odds of the winning the division are small at 5.8%, but at 5.0 games back they certainly are still in the hunt. The Pirates have a 7.0 game cushion for the second wild-card spot.

The Cubs have been hot of late, and now have a strong 89.9% chance of reaching the postseason. They have a 3.5 game lead over the Giants for the second wild-card spot. The Cubs chances of winning the division are slim, at just 2.9%.

St. Louis Cardinals 71-40 –
Pittsburgh Pirates 65-44 5.0 GB
Chicago Cubs 62-48 8.5 GB
Cincinnati Reds 49-60 21.0 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 48-65 24.0 GB

Chicago Cubs

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The Cubs are on an absolute roll, as they have won 10 of their last 11 games. The Cubs offense has been impressively consistent over the last week and a half, as they entered Sunday having scored at least 4 runs in 9 straight games.

Kyle Schwarber has been starting just about every game since July 20th (mostly at C, but some at LF), and he has not disappointed. Schwarber has hit an unbelievable .352/.436/.625 with 6 HR, and 193 wRC+ through his first 27 games in the big leagues. Miguel Montero just returned from the DL on Saturday, and has found that his role as the Cubs everyday catcher is gone. It will be very interesting to see how Joe Maddon will deal with an overload of talent.

Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune wrote about what Maddon’s plan is with Montero returning:

“I’m not ready yet, specifically, to tell you what the plan is going to be,” Maddon said before the game. “Once Miggy comes back, I want it to be in place so there are no gray areas, that everyone knows what’s going on. So those conversations are actively going on.”

The return of the left-handed hitting Montero could result in rookie Kyle Schwarber playing left field more frequently in games that pitchers Jon Lester and Arrieta don’t start. Chris Coghlan, who normally starts in left field against right-handed starters, spent some time fielding grounders at second base during the early part of batting practice and can play third.

Those latter two positions currently are occupied by rookies Addison Russell and Bryant, whom Maddon has wanted to give ample rest this month to preserve their strength for September.

Russell also can play shortstop and made three appearances there last weekend. The Cubs are keeping a close watch on Triple-A Iowa infielder Javier Baez.

The Cubs also have an interesting dilemma with Starlin Castro. He is hitting just .236/.271/.304 with a 55 wRC+. The Cubs still could trade Castro via the waiver wire, and move Addison Russell to SS, and call up Javier Baez who is raking at AAA. They have also reportedly had Chris Coughlin take grounders at 2B. Most likely the Cubs will wait until the off-season to make a decision on Castro. He may however see his playing time rapidly decrease, especially when Baez gets called up.

Who’s Hot (last 30 days): Kyle Schwarber: .348/.449/.636, 5 HR, 202 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 30 days): Starlin Castro: .175/.214/.213, 0 HR, 8 wRC+, -0.7 fWAR

This Week:

  • Tues (8:05), Wed (8:05), Thurs (2:20) vs Brewers
  • Fri (4:10), Sat (7:10), Sun (2:10) at White Sox

Milwaukee Brewers

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The Brewers did take 3 of 4 from the Padres, but overall they have really struggled recently. The Brewers have lost 13 of their last 19 games.

Brewers staters Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann have been on a tear of late, as both pitchers rank in the top 5 of the NL in fWAR over the last 30 days. Nelson has a 0.79 ERA and 2.51 FIP, while Jungmann has a 2.08 ERA and 2.18 FIP over the last 30 days.

Who’s Hot (last 30 days): Jimmy Nelson: 34.0 IP, 0.79 ERA, 2.51 FIP, 12 BB, 31 K, 1.1 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 30 days): Kyle Lohse: 23.0 IP, 5.87 ERA, 5.84 FIP, 7 BB, 13 K, -0.2 fWAR

This Week:

  • Tues (8:05), Wed (8:05), Thurs (2:20) at Cubs
  • Fri (8:10), Sat (7:10), Sun (2:10) vs Phillies

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates started the season 18-22. They are 47-22 since. The Pirates now have the third best record in all of baseball, and are only 0.5 behind the Royals for the second best record. The Pirates had a very impressive three game sweep at PNC Park against the Dodgers over the weekend.

The Pirates offense has been on fire of late. They have scored 31 runs in the last 4 games. Over the last month, McCutchen, Kang, Polanco, and Cervelli all have wRC+ of 136 or higher. Starling Marte is also at a 111 wRC+, and Neil Walker is at 117.

The Pirates will have a very tough week. They will play six games on the road against the NL Central leading Cardinals, and the NL East leading Mets.

Who’s Hot (last 30 days): Jung-ho Kang: .376/.436/.624, 4 HR, 199 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 30 days): Pedro Alvarez: .219/.286/.375, 88 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR

This Week:

  • Tues (8:15), Wed (8:15), Thurs (7:15) at Cardinals
  • Fri (7:10), Sat (7:10), Sun (1:10) at Mets

St. Louis Cardinals

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The Cardinals are having to deal with the hot Pirates and Cubs in the rear view mirror. The Cardinals did their part this week, taking care of business by taking 2 of 3 against both the Reds and Brewers.

The Cardinals pitching continues to be the best in baseball, and it isn’t even close. The Cardinals 2.58 ERA is quite a bit better than the second best 3.22 ERA by the Pirates.

The Cardinals have a bunch of guys getting somewhat close to returning. Matt Holliday, Matt Adams, Jon Jay, Jordan Walden, and Matt Belisle are all listed as returning at some point in August.

The Cardinals will have a chance to possibly put the NL Central race out of reach. They play three games at home against the Pirates. A sweep would increase their lead to 8.0 games, while being swept would decrease their lead all the way down to 2.0 games.

Who’s Hot (last 30 days): Randal Grichuk: .341/.396/.682, 7 HR, 197 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 30 days): Yadier Molina: .247/.277/.303, 0 HR, 60 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR

This Week:

  • Tues (8:15), Wed (8:15), Thurs (7:15) vs Pirates
  • Fri (8:15), Sat (7:15), Sun (2:15) vs Marlins

 Nick’s Power Rankings

  1. St. Louis Cardinals

  2. Pittsburgh Pirates

  3. Chicago Cubs

  4. Cincinnati Reds

  5. Milwaukee Brewers


Players of the Week

Pitcher: Charlie Morton, Pirates: 7.0 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K 0.3 fWAR 

Batter: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: .538/.667/.923, 1 HR, 1 SB, 312 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR 

 

All statistics include games played through 8/8/15, and used courtesy of Fangraphs, ESPN Stats and Info, and Baseball-Reference (including Baseball-Reference Play Index). 

One Response

  1. Tom Gray

    STL and CIN have similar offensive output (in terms of R scored).

    STL at 2.58 ERA (wow!) has considerably better P results than CIN.

    P still wins in MLB with decent offense.