In one word the National Central is “terrible” but by some magic from the baseball gods, it still isn’t the worst division in Major League Baseball. The worst division in the sport is either the National League East or the American League Central, but these are 680 words dedicated to how bad the NL Central is.
The division wasn’t expected to be very good this season, but few expected it to be as bad as it currently is. Many expected the Cardinals to win the division before the season started, especially after they traded for All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado, but that hasn’t really panned out well for St. Louis this season. The Cardinals are 47-47 after taking the first game of a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
Meanwhile, the Brewers appear to be on the verge of running away with the division. Entering play on Tuesday, the Brewers held a 56-39 record with a 7.5 game lead over the second-place Cincinnati Reds, who the Brewers swept in their first series post All-Star Break.
The Cubs looked like they might be a legitimate contender to not only win the division earlier this season but to maybe threaten a team from the National League West in the playoffs come October. That’s so far in the past that the Cubs have already started their firesale of tradable assets with their trade of power-hitting outfielder Joc Pederson to the Atlanta Braves for Class A first baseman.
In fifth place are the Pittsburgh Pirates, at least we all got this prediction right at the beginning of the season. Pittsburgh is more than 20 games under .500 and that’s likely to increase when they make the move to trade second baseman and outfielder Adam Frazier to a contender.
Entering Tuesday, just two teams — the Brewers and Reds — had records over .500 and Milwaukee was the only team with a positive run differential at plus 62, so why is the division so bad?
NL Central | They Don’t Score Runs
Four of the five teams in the National League Central rank in the bottom-11 of Major League Baseball in the sport in OPS. The Reds rank 12th in the sport in OPS at .740, but the Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates all rank 20th or worse in the stat. The Cubs rank 19th.
In terms of run production, The Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates all find themselves around the bottom third of the sport in runs scored while the Brewers rank 14th and the Reds rank eight in Major League Baseball in runs scored.
It’s easy to see why the division is so bad when you see that the Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs and Pirates are among the worst offenses in the sport. While the Reds have a good offense, it’s boosted by playing in a home ballpark that is notorious for producing more home runs than nearly any stadium across the sport than Coors Field.
NL Central | They Don’t Prevent Runs
Three of the five teams in the division — the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates — rank in the bottom half of the Major Leagues in ERA, and all have an ERA of at least 4.18. The Cubs rank 13th in the sport with a 4.10 ERA, so they’re not much better than the Cardinals, Reds, and Pirates.
Meanwhile, the Brewers have been one of the best pitching staff in the sport this season. Behind the trust arms of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, the Brewers own the third-best ERA in the sport behind the Dodgers and Giants.
The Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and Pirates all rank in the bottom half of the National League in runs against this season.
With four of the five teams in the division not scoring very many runs and only one team in the division limiting runs, it’s not a surprise to see that the National Central isn’t very good this season. While teams have had to battle injuries, the division should still be better than it currently is.