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Monday, March 28, 2011
National League Central Nuggets to Know


Chicago Cubs
From August 14 until the end of the season, Carlos Zambrano went 8-0 with a 1.24 ERA and allowed just one home run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only pitcher (minimum 50 innings) who had a lower ERA than Zambrano over that span was the American League Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez (1.07 ERA).

Carlos Pena was one of four players last season (along with Mark Reynolds, Jim Thome and Russell Branyan) with at least 25 home runs despite having fewer than 100 hits.

Cincinnati Reds
There are only three pitchers who have thrown at least 200 innings in each of the last six seasons: Mark Buehrle, Dan Haren and the Reds' Bronson Arroyo. He's made 169 starts since coming to the Reds in 2006, tied with Haren for the most starts over the last five seasons.

In 2010, Joey Votto became just the fourth player in franchise history to hit .300 with 30 home runs and 100 RBI and the first since George Foster in 1977.

Houston Astros
Three pitchers tied for the major-league lead in starts of at least six innings pitched; Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez and Houston's Brett Myers each made 32 such starts.

The Astros actually had a better record after the trades involving Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman (34-27) than when both were on the roster (42-59).

Milwaukee Brewers
Much has been made about their offseason additions of starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. But with Greinke came Yuniesky Betancourt, whose -21 Defensive Runs Saved ranked last among shortstops in 2010. Betancourt's an addition to an infield that already wasn't the best defensively: Rickie Weeks was -11 (tied for worst among second basemen) and Prince Fielder was -13 (third worst among first basemen).

One reason the Brewers offense -- which ranked in the top four of the National League in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, runs and home runs – could improve is that Ryan Braun posted career lows in OPS, slugging percentage, home runs and stolen bases.

Pittsburgh Pirates
They have finished with a losing record every year since 1993. The 18 consecutive losing seasons is the longest streak ever among the four major sports.

Andrew McCutchen is widely considered to be one of the best young centerfielders in the game. However, he cannot escape the fact he was one of the worst "leading men" in baseball last year. Among position players who led their teams in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), McCutchen’s mark (3.3) was the fourth-lowest in the league.

St. Louis Cardinals
Not only was the combined 14.2 WAR of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday the best in baseball last season, but they were the only duo with a combined WAR above 12.5.

Pujols finished second in the 2010 National League MVP voting, the eighth time in his career that he's finished in the top three. The only player who has had more top-three finishes in MVP voting (since BBWAA voting began in 1931) is Barry Bonds with nine.

-- Justin Havens contributed to this report