Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Updated: March 27, 1:04 PM ET
Previewing the NL Central
By ESPN.com and ESPN The Mag
Editor's note: ESPN.com has teamed with ESPN The Magazine and the SweetSpot Blog Network to produce this year's preview capsules.
Baseball has become so unpredictable
that we needed to invent an entirely
new way of guessing what will happen
next. Below you'll find ESPN Insider Dan Szymborski's projections
for the likely range of every team's wins, based on projections for every
player on every roster. Why Dan, why now?
Because since he started doing this 10
years ago, Dan's median prediction has
been accurate within 6.5 wins, on average.
We also asked Szymborski to create a
new metric, the unpredictability index,
which gauges what version of hope fans of
every team should have. The metric is an
offshoot of Szymborski's ZiPS projection system -- a
sabermetric standard-bearer that factors
in age, injury history and statistical highs
and lows going back four years, and
makes its projections based on database
comparisons across MLB history. With it,
he sums up the volatility from 0 (what you
see is what you get) to 2 (who knows).
Meanwhile, Tim Kurkjian predicts division standings,
including wild-card teams, and offers up
the breakdowns that show how Szymborski's
best- and worst-case scenarios will play out.
Click on the links below to go directly to a capsule for each National League Central team:
St. Louis Cardinals | Cincinnati Reds | Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers | Chicago Cubs
Information courtesy of Fungoes
- 90 wins if ... Young gun Trevor
Rosenthal (average fastball: 97.4
mph) throws more heat out of the
bullpen than he would've as the fifth
starter and closer Jason Motte (10.8
K's per 9 IP) keeps the whiffs coming.
Shortstop Pete Kozma (.383 OBP in
26 games) makes fans forget Rafael
Furcal, while Allen Craig, Carlos
Beltran, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina
and David Freese help the team match last season's .759 OPS.
- 83 wins if ... Prospect Joe Kelly isn't ready and the club can't replace Chris Carpenter, and
Beltran or Holliday gets hurt again.
With a short bench, the Cards,
who scored once in the final three
games of the National League Championship Series, really miss new
Ranger Lance Berkman.
- Unpredictability score -- 0.21: With a roster of
the Redbirds are
career is over
and Jaime Garcia (7-7 last
Lohse as a solid
No. 2, the team
still has enough
depth that it
a spot for a
starter for a
year or two.
Information courtesy of Redleg Nation
- 97 wins if ... Joey Votto keeps up his
MLB-best .338 road BA ('10-12), new
starter Aroldis Chapman's fastball is
close to as good as it was out of the
bullpen (98 mph average) and Jonathan
Broxton tops his career-high 36 saves.
- 87 wins if ... The Reds lack
leadership without Scott Rolen,
Chapman can't throw strikes for
more than an inning and Broxton's
dwindling strikeout rate (career-low
7.0 per 9 IP) hurts in the ninth.
- Unpredictability score -- 1.29: The rotation could
be scary with
Chapman at No. 5.
Ludwick and Todd
locks to repeat
their combined 45
HRs and 147 RBIs.
brings a career
.381 OBP, he has
played just five
games in CF
Information courtesy of David Schoenfield
- 82 wins if ... Andrew McCutchen
gets off to another great start
(.362 first-half BA), 2B Neil Walker
keeps up his .770 OPS of the past
three years and C Russell Martin,
who has gunned down an MLB-high
216 runners since '06, sparks the D.
- 72 wins if ... Jason Grilli (five saves
in 10 years) can't replace closer
Joel Hanrahan, new arm Francisco
Liriano has more injury trouble and
the bats sputter around McCutchen.
- Unpredictability score -- 0.57: Pedro Alvarez and
Starling Marte are
tricky to predict,
but vets Wandy
are all too
familiar. For two
been nothing but
new: Their farm
system is stacked.
Information courtesy of Disciples Of Uecker
- 84 wins if ... Ryan Braun again
shrugs off PED whispers and goes
50/130, Rickie Weeks hits all year
(not just in the second half) and
speedy shortstop Jean Segura,
acquired for Zack Greinke, takes a
step toward stardom.
- 74 wins if ... The rotation is barren
after ace Yovani Gallardo, while
NL pitchers figure out phenom
Norichika Aoki (.288 BA, 30 SBs) and
again pitch around Braun (15 IBB).
- Unpredictability score -- 0.66: The Brewers have
core in Braun,
Corey Hart. We
know what they'll
we also have a
pretty good idea
of what the rest
of the roster
will do, which
won't rise much
Information courtesy of View From The Bleachers
- 80 wins if ... Anthony Rizzo
continues where he left off (.805
OPS in 87 games), Jeff Samardzija
shows the stuff of a true ace and
wins 15 games, and SS Starlin
Castro (529 hits before age 23)
finally puts it all together.
- 72 wins if ... RHPs Matt Garza and
Scott Baker enter June on the DL
and vets Carlos Marmol and Alfonso
Soriano are traded for kids, letting
the Cubs continue the big rebuild.
- Unpredictability score -- 0.30: Chicago figures
to be more
year, especially if
pays attention on
every play. But
with a bunch of
No. 4 starters in
the rotation, the
North Siders' win
total is likely to
remain in the 70s.
next year, right,