Final Look: Cubs on top of NL Central Division
|Wednesday, September 30, 2020, 8:05 AM- -|
The 2020 MLB regular season is now over, and it feels like it just began. There were bumps in the road to getting it underway, but once a 60 game season was put in place, it was full speed ahead for the league.
There were bumps in the road and positive Covid tests, protests, weather, the lack of fans, and the introduction of new rules for this odd and shortened season.
But we got baseball, and for that, we are extremely thankful. And now, we get postseason baseball — between 16 teams.
60 games have come and gone, so let’s take one final look at the NL Central as the season has come to an end, and the postseason begins.
The Cubs have now clinched their third NL Central title in five years. It was a hot start, followed by a bumpy middle and an above-average finish for Chicago. After a 13-3 start, the Cubs went 21-23 the rest of the way. However, the Cubs had a reasonably strong September. A few come from behind wins, a no-hitter, and six 8-run or more outputs from the offense gives the Cubs solid momentum to build off of. Ian Happ and Jason Heyward picked up slack for a Cubs team that missed the typical star-studded performances from Willson Contreras, Javier Baez, Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. However, Contreras, Rizzo, and Bryant are coming off some strong series and looking to build on that come playoff time.
Last week the Cubs struggled with the Pirates, losing three of four to Pittsburgh. Over the weekend, the Cubs took two of three from the White Sox. This week the Cubs host the Marlins in a best of three series, and if they win, they will advance to a best of five series in Texas against the winner of the Braves/Reds series.
Despite the ongoing battle, the Cardinals underwent a clubhouse outbreak of Covid, and the Cardinals did enough to earn a postseason berth as the NL Central’s second-place team. A strong season from Paul Goldschmidt and a collective effort from a pitching staff that needed to cover over ten doubleheaders is what has allowed the Cards to return to the postseason.
Last week the Cardinals dropped two of three to the Kansas City Royals and won three of five against the Brewers over the weekend. This week the Cardinals take on the San Diego Padres in a best of three series, and if they win, they will advance to a best of five series in Texas against the winner of the Dodgers/Brewers series.
A strong September was enough for a disappointing season to be turned around, and a postseason berth to be earned by Cincinnati. The Reds have been carried by the three-headed monster of their rotation in Cy-Young favorite Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo. The offense that has been anchored by Nicholas Castellanos, Joey Votto, and Eugenio Suarez did enough for the pitching to carry. Look out for the Reds to try and ride that rotation throughout October.
Last week the Reds won two of three from the Brewers and then took two of three against the Twins. As a wild card team, this week the Reds head to Atlanta for the best of three series with the Braves. If they win, the Reds will take on the winner of the Cubs/Marlins series for a best of five series in Texas.
Although the Brewers finished the season below .500 and in fourth place, the Brewers will represent the NL Central as the fourth team in the playoffs. Despite injuries and being one of the worst statistical offenses in the league, the pitching led Brewers team has found a way into the postseason. Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes in the rotation and Josh Hader and Devin Williams out of the bullpen have carried Milwaukee.
Last week the Brewers lost two of three to the Reds and lost three of five to the Cardinals, including the final game of the year — but were able to make the playoffs. This week, as the last seed, the Brewers take on the top-seeded Dodgers for the best of three-game series in LA, and if they win, they will take on the winner of the Cardinals/Padres series for a best of five in Texas.
The Pirates are the only NL Central team not to make the playoffs this year, and that was expected. However, the Pirates are the first team in MLB history to be the only team to go an entire season beating only playoff teams. The Pirates got some strong performances from young players like Ke’Bryan Hayes and JT Brubaker, to name a few. Colin Moran performed admirably, but a lot of players had underwhelming seasons, and the team struggles as a whole.
Last week the Pirates took three of four from the Cubs and lost two of three to the Indians. Now it’s back to the drawing board as the rebuild continues for Pittsburgh.
Now let’s take a look at the AL Central, the division the NL Central has matched up against all year.
Minnesota Twins 36-24 (Division winner)
Cleveland Indians 35-25 (Second place)
Chicago White Sox 35-25 (Wild Card)
Kansas City Royals 26-34
Detroit Tigers 23-35