The Times West Virginian

Sports

July 14, 2014

NL Central race should be fun

FAIRMONT — If you’re a baseball fan, you’re going to want to watch the race for the National League Central division in the second half of the season.

Only two divisions in Major League Baseball have three teams with 50 or more wins and one is the NL Central. The race for first place in the division is also the tightest in all of baseball, the top four teams being separated by just three and a half games.

And in the NL as a whole, the NL Central has four teams in the top eight when looking at overall records.

As if that wasn’t enough, you can just look to the stat sheet.

In the list of National League leaders, you’d be hard pressed to find a category that didn’t include a member of the NL Central in the top five.

St. Louis’ Matt Adams, Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen and Milwaukee’s Jonathan Lucroy sit in the top five in terms of batting average in the NL; Chicago’s Anthony Rizzo and Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier rank in the top five in terms of home runs; McCutchen is up there in terms of RBIs; St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright and Cincinnati’s Alfredo Simon lead the NL in pitching wins; Wanwright and Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto are near the top in earned run average; and St. Louis’ Trevor Rosenthal and Milwaukee’s Francisco Rodriguez rank in the top three in saves.

Either way you look at it, the NL Central has some top-notch athletes, making for exciting games. This past week of play proved that the Central can provide excitement, with 11 games being decided by three runs or less since July 6.

What’s more, four of the five teams in the NL Central have at least 21 wins against division opponents, one of only two divisions to boast such a feat, showing the parity in the division.

Last season’s late-season race proved to be one for the record books, with Pittsburgh finally making it over the regular season hump and soaring into the playoffs, playing the Wild Card play-in game against a division rival in Cincinnati and then falling out in the first round against yet another divisional foe, losing the series to the Cardinals.

Of the five teams to make the playoffs in 2013, three came from the NL Central. Now if that doesn’t say something, I’m not sure what will.

Going beyond that, the NL Central had two teams in the playoffs in 2012 and 2011 and has had a team reach the National League Championship series in each of the past three seasons. Combined, the NL Central has 46 World Series appearances with a total of 22 World Series Championships since the Cubs won in 1907, meaning in the last 107 years, the NL Central has won 20.1 percent of the World Series’ since 1907.

As we head into the All-Star break, four NL starters, seven NL pitchers and five NL reserves hail from the NL Central on this year’s National League All-Star roster.

Once the All-Star festivities come to an end later this week, the second half of the season will get under way and the race for the Central division will begin to heat up.

Keep your eyes peeled for some good baseball.

Email Matt Welch at mwelch@timeswv.com or follow on Twitter @MattWelch_TWV.

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