Central Intelligence

Week 1: Reds and Cubs lead the way early

We are one week into the 2016 season, and every team in the NL Central is .500 or better. The surprising Cincinnati Reds are tied at first with a 5-1 record. They swept the lowly Phillies, and then took two of three against the Pirates over the weekend. The Cubs are also off to a 5-1 start and tied for first, but they have already suffered a key injury.

The Pirates swept the Cardinals to begin the season. The Cardinals recovered by sweeping the Braves in Atlanta over the weekend. The Brewers surprisingly took two of three over the weekend against the Astros.

Cincinnati Reds 5-1
Chicago Cubs 5-1
Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 1.0 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 3-3 2.0 GB
St. Louis Cardinals 3-3 2.0 GB

Chicago Cubs

Schwarber

The high expectations haven’t been a problem for the Cubs early in 2016. The Cubs began the season by sweeping a short two game series is Los Angeles against the Angels. The Cubs outscored the Angels 15-1 in the two games. The Cubs then went into Arizona and won three of four against the Diamondbacks.

The Cubs suffered a major blow on Friday night. Kyle Schwarber will miss the entire 2016 season after suffering a complete tear of the ACL and LCL is his left knee. Schwarber collided with Dexter Fowler going for a fly ball in Arizona. Schwarber was projected hit 32 home runs in 2016. The Cubs entered 2016 with good depth, and it will best tested right from the beginning of the season.

Last year’s Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta is off to a strong start. Through his first two starts, he has a 1.93 ERA (14.0 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 12 K).

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Dexter Fowler: .526/.625/.895, 1 HR, 7 R, 281 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Jorge Soler: .118/.167/.118, 2 for 18, 5 K, -19 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR

This Week:

  • Mon (8:05), Wed (8:05), Thurs (8:05) vs Reds
  • Fri (2:20), Sat (2:20), Sun (2:20) vs Rockies

Milwaukee Brewers

scooter

The Brewers got off to a rough start to 2016. They lost 12-3 to the Giants in front of their home fans on opening day. Then, Johnny Cueto dominated the Brewers in the second game of the series, but the Brewers were able to win the final game against the Giants. The Brewers were then able to take two of three over the weekend against the Astros.

Scooter Gennett is off to a big start for the Brewers. He has already hit three home runs on the young season. Gennett figured to be a big part of the Brewers last season, but struggled last year (.675 OPS).

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Scooter Gennett: .412/.524/.941, 3 HR, 259 wRC+, 0.5 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Wily Peralta: 10.80 ERA, 8.75 FIP, 8.1 IP, 6 BB, 6 K, -0.2 fWAR

This Week:

  • Mon (4:15), Wed (8:15), Thurs (1:45) at Cardinals
  • Fri (7:05), Sat (7:05), Sun (1:35) at Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates

The Pirates started the season off with a bang by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals. The Pirates pitching dominated the series, and they got two great starts from Francisco Liriano (6.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 5 BB, 10 K) and Juan Nicasio (6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 K).

The Pirates won their fourth straight game to start 2016 by coming back from an early deficit to beat the Reds on Friday. Starling Marte hit a grand slam in the 8th inning to turn a 5-2 deficit into a 6-5 lead. The Pirates would however lose the final two games of the series. The Reds pitching held the Pirates to just two runs over the final two games.

The Pirates outfield is off to a hot start. McCutchen (119 wRC+), Polanco (192 wRC+), and Marte (117 wRC+) look to be one of the best outfield trios in baseball this season.

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Gregory Polanco: .357/.545/.571, 4 R, 183 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Josh Harrison: .250/.238/.250, 5 for 20, 31 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR

This Week:

  • Mon (1:10), Tues (1:10) at Tigers
  • Wed (7:05), Thurs (12:35) vs Tigers
  • Fri (7:05), Sat (7:05), Sun (1:35) vs Brewers

St. Louis Cardinals

leake

The Cardinals didn’t start 2016 off the way they would have liked. They were swept by the Pirates in Pittsburgh. The Cardinals scored just two runs in the first and third game of the series. The Cardinals then went down to Atlanta and swept the Braves. The Cardinals offense came alive in the series. They scored 31 runs in the three games.

The Cardinals offense has come from some unlikely sources. Going into Sunday their six home runs had come from Jeremy Hazelbaker (2), Aledmys Diaz, Greg Garcia, and Stephen Piscotty.

Adam Wainwright is off to a slow start to 2016. Wainwright has a 6.65 ERA over his first two starts, including allowing 5 ER on Sunday against the Braves. He is coming back from an Achilles tendon rupture that cost him most of 2015.

Who’s Hot (last 7 days): Jeremy Hazelbaker: .400/.417/1.000, 2 HR, 1 SB, 254 wRC+, 0.3 fWAR
Who’s Cold (last 7 days): Mike Leake: 8.31 ERA, 5.66 FIP, 4.1 IP, 3 BB, 1 K, 0.0 fWAR

This Week:

  • Mon (4:15), Wed (8:15), Thurs (1:45) vs Brewers
  • Fri (8:15), Sat (2:15), Sun (2:15) vs Reds

 Nick’s Power Rankings

  1. Chicago Cubs

  2. Pittsburgh Pirates ↑1

  3. St. Louis Cardinals ↓1

  4. Cincinnati Reds

  5. Milwaukee Brewers


Players of the Week

Pitcher: Raisel Iglesias, Reds: 11.2 IP, 2.31 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 2 BB, 12 K, 0.3 fWAR

Batter: Dexter Fowler, Cubs: .526/.625/.895, 1 HR, 7 R, 281 wRC+, 0.7 fWAR

 

Most statistics only include games played through 4/9/16, and used courtesy of Fangraphs, ESPN Stats and Info, and Baseball-Reference (including Baseball-Reference Play Index). 

28 thoughts on “Week 1: Reds and Cubs lead the way early

    • Hmm, I was thinking what happens when Votto and Mesoraco start hitting and about adding a Number 1 starter in a month, how we should be 6-0, how our bullpen will improve with Lamb and Lorenzen back and that we get 3 games versus the stupid cubs… I think Finnegan is going to step up again tonight.

      I am not even talking about Winker, Reed and Peraza joining the team at some point this year.

      If Jay Bruce is going to have the season that I keep thinking that he is, we are going to be in this thing at the All Star Break.

      My prediction is that we will not be sellers this year at the break and that we will be in this thing.

    • Well it’s obviously a great start for a team that was expected to have triple-digit losses according to some “experts”, it comes down as to whether the team will be consistent– and that will be determined in the week(s) to come. If we somehow take two of three from the Cubs and two of three from the Cardinals, then we may be looking at something much bigger and better than we expected.

      Although I will say that I didn’t believe we were going to be as bad as people predicted, but to say that I thought we’d be atop of the division would be a lie.

      And we’d actually be sitting at 6-0 if it weren’t for Hoover’s outing as our freshman closer, but hopefully he gets everything sorted out to that regard. Other than that though: Bruce, Suarez, Cozart, Schebler, Phillips, Iglesias, Simon, Finnegan, Melville, among others seem to be off to reasonable or great starts.

      Hopefully you’re right though, I’d love for us to still be competing come July.

      • Hoover grooved that gopher ball that is J J Hoover he has the “stuff” if you will but he is so prone to “oops there goes another one” . he lone loss lays squarely at Prices feet, that has to be one of the worst jobs of “managing in the history of the game. I will give him his due he has made some “questionable” moves with this roster that have been productive. He is however over these past 2 plus years been so “terrible” it makes me miss dusty and that is an accomplishment in itself.

  1. Some pretty wide swings in performance for the Cardinals and Pirates. I wasn’t that impressed with the Pirates to be honest. I mean, you go around the diamond and compare each position, we win or tie. Our pitching isn’t as good……yet. It’s just hard for me to buy into them winning as many games as last year. They seem more like a team battling for a wild card.

  2. It is odd that there is an off day in the middle of a 3 game series with the Cubs. Three night games in April in Chicago doesn’t make a whole lot of sense either. Wicked collision Schwarber was in.
    I hate to sound like Dusty Baker, but winning as many series this year as they can should be a main goal. It would be nice to take 2 of 3 from both the Cubs and Cards on the road this week.
    The offense is still lagging. Did Joey Votto leave his wallet in Arizona? It seems as though he has lost his wallet again.

    • Biggest injury concerns in the OF are collisions with the wall or another fielder. The risk is higher when you have a guy out there who hasn’t done it a whole lot. It’s one of the reasons that I wasn’t so sure about Mes in LF. Of course that said, there is still a higher injury risk for catchers.

      With such a nasty knee injury, you’d have to think that Schwarber’s time behind the plate may be even more limited or there is a small chance they’ll remove him from back there completely and permanently.

      • The Cubs lose a whole year of service time now while they were trying to determine if he was their LF or not. Tough brake for Schwarber, but for the Cubs I shed no tears. He might be more of a 1B/DH now and no room with the Cubs there. Theo may help Boston get a new DH to replace the retiring Papi next winter. And that big pitcher Boston has, what his name Rodriguez, on the return to Chicago.

  3. Jorge Soler must have known he was going on your cold list. He homered yesterday in AZ!

    Quick! Whip up a post about how cold Joey is!

  4. Lets see if we’re still over .500 when we get Disco, Homer, Reed, etc back in the mix? This current hodge podge collection of arms can only take us so far! This could be a fun year but either way there is no reason we can’t be legitimate contenders next year if they figure out everyones roles. The pieces are definitely there except for a closer and a leadoff man

  5. Excellent synopsis of the 1st week. I hate to draw any conclusions from a few early games, especially games played under horrendous weather conditions, but right now the Bucos and Birds do not look like the stalwarts everyone predicted. Both those teams have questions in their rosters. Another serious injury to the Cubs and their depth will be tested. Both the Reds and the Birds beat up on the NLED cellar dwellars, while the Reds handled the Bucos and the Bucos handled the Birds.

    The early season test continues with upcoming series against the Cubbies and Birds. The end of the 2nd week should provide a good early-season gauge for the Reds in the NLCD. I’m still shooting for a .500 record through the 1st 2 months of 2016, then let the chips fall where they may. The Reds play during the 1st week has been encouraging and fun for their fans. Going forward, the Reds need less of Hoover’s HR in high leverage situations and less of Melville’s smoke and mirrors in order to continue their competitiveness within the division.

    Remember, the Reds have not yet fielded a true starting rotation and their two best hitters have yet to show up.

    • ….at the same time, Phillips/Cozart/Bruce/Suarez will eventually cool off. Hopefully things balance out.

      Let’s just keep whistling past the graveyard until we get healthy. Nothing to see here!

  6. I am always dubious of “power rankings”, especially when they fly into the face of recent head to head competition.

    The Reds are 5-1, the Pirates 4-2, the Cards 3-3. The Pirates swept the Cards then dropped 2 of 3 to the Reds. Meanwhile the Reds swept the Phils and the Cards swept the Braves in interdivisional play; there is little to choose from there in terms of relative value.

    Given the closeness of the three games between the Reds and Pirates, I can see a case for putting the Pirates a whisker ahead of the Reds on the basis of their sweep of the Cards versus the Reds sweep of the Phils. However I don’t see any basis at all for putting the Cards ahead of the Reds seeing as how the Cards were swept by a team that then dropped 2 of 3 to the Reds.

    .

    • I don’t think anyone would actually agree that the Reds are a better team than the Cardinals right now. I’m as thrilled anyone by the Reds start…..but it is 6 games. The Cardinals are clearly the better team, hence why they are higher in the power rankings.

      • Once the season has started, such things as better teams are decided on the playing field. That’s why they play the games. Based on the results of the first week of the season, The Reds are the better the better team when compared to the Cards. although I agree it is not likely to stay that way for very long.

  7. If Votto and Mez join the offensive ranks, this is going to be interesting. So far, looks like Philips, Suarez, Bruce and Duvall are on it. My concern is Votto’s position at the plate looks awkward lowering too much his knees and grabbing shorter the bat.

    • I haven’t been able to put my finger on it, but I also think Votto has looked a bit different at the plate. Different from last year and different from spring training, that is.

      • Votto has been choking up from the 1st pitch rather than just after he gets 2 strikes. I can’t understand that approach at all unless he feels that’s the best way he can deal with pitchers busting him inside with every pitch. It just doesn’t seem like a sound strategy or approach.

        • I noticed him choking up on every pitch too. It generally helps with contact but it robs power… Not sure why Votto is doing it. Makes me think there’s a problem with him being uncomfortable or, I hate to say, injured… I suppose it’s possible he’s just working on things too. He hasn’t made a lot of hard contact so far this year and considering his spring training, I am more than a little surprised. Let’s just hope this is a rare slump and he’s fine.

        • It certainly hasn’t been every AB, but yeah I think you’re right. He’s doing that somewhat often. Will be interesting to see what he does tonight against Lester.

  8. As we stand right now, Eugenio Suarez is tied for the MLB lead in fWAR (0.7), Raisel is 4th in pitcher fWAR (0.4), and Jay Bruce is 2nd in MLB in WPA (0.80).

    Suarez’s number is propped up by the fact that defensive value isn’t included yet (only positional adjustments), but its still fun to see!

  9. I love the start. Will it keep going? That’s something else. But, I love the start. Just don’t lose the fact, this is a “rebuilding season”. If we win the division, so be it.

    Suarez, Bruce, BP, and Cozart with the bats. How about that?! I can’t help thinking, we will need Votto. I remember last season. But, I would like him around here right now.

    The starting pitchers are going to have to be able to go longer in games. But, again, this is still early.

    Many said this is going to be a fun season to watch. I’ve enjoyed watching the style of play for the last 2 seasons, honestly. I haven’t enjoyed the results, obviously. But, they have been a much more enjoyable team to watch, I believe. I mean, seriously, essentially one AB from being undefeated.

    • I wonder about Cingrani a bit, also. I mean, from a starter to a LOOGY? That wouldn’t make sense. And, being the only lefty in the pen, we are going to need him.

  10. I think Votto is a professional hitter and ardent student of the game. Looks to me like he is trying to speed up his bat while holding in the zone as long as possible. Just trying to adjust to the inside stuff.. He will be fine!

  11. Agree, the use of Cingrani is a puzzler to me. Price has him on such a short leash
    and he is no longer considered a starter.I don’t hear his name in trade talks so
    maybe he’s not coveted by other teams.So, is it a personality clash or does
    Price think something is missing?

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