The Cardinals haven’t gotten off to an ideal start, which leads many fans to take a look around the division. It might be early to be scoreboard-watching, but it’s not too early to check in on the division rivals.
Cincinnati Reds (8-5, 1st)
Perhaps the biggest surprise in baseball, the Reds have gotten off to a hot start in their first two weeks. Shortstop Zack Cozart has been a catalyst for a high-powered offense that leads the MLB with 60 runs scored.
On the other hand, the Reds have received some unexpected contributions from guys like Amir Garrett and Scott Feldman leading to a team .216 batting average against.
While Feldman’s early season successes are likely an aberration, Garrett may have the ability to be a solid contributor all season. The Reds are admittedly a long shot to stick around the top of the division, but a successful return from oft-injured catcher Devin Mesoraco would give an important jolt to their offense.
So far, not many people around baseball are convinced by the Reds early season successes. Despite currently holding first place, Baseball Prospectus gives the Reds a 12.1% chance at making the playoffs, while FanGraphs is even less optimistic in giving them a 1.2% chance at playing in the postseason.
Milwaukee Brewers (7-6, 2nd)
As another team expected to cellar-dwell for much of the season, the Brewers have held their own so far. Eric Thames was a real wild card heading into the season, but he has impressed so far with 5 home runs through 10 games.
Despite losing Opening Day starter Junior Guerra to a calf strain, the Brewers’ pitching staff has a 3.72 team ERA behind strong performances from Wily Peralta and Jimmy Nelson.
If the Brewers are going to continue to contend, they’re going to need their young outfielders, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, to take big steps forward.
Again, the Brewers performance hasn’t done much to affect their playoff probabilities. FanGraphs has them at 2.8%, while Baseball Prospectus has them at 18.6%.
Chicago Cubs (6-6, 3rd)
While it pains us to admit it, the Cubs were widely expected to run away with the division for yet another year. So far, though, that hasn’t been the case.
The Cubs are playing .500 baseball two weeks in, and underwhelming performances from Kyle Hendricks and Kris Bryant are part of the problem. While everything that could have gone right did go right for the Cubs last season, they’re running into some issues early on in 2017.
If Chicago returns to the top of the division, it will be because their pitching remains healthy and Joe Maddon effectively shuffles his bats in and out of the lineup to keep everyone rested.
Despite the slow start, FanGraphs gives Chicago a 96.2% playoff probability, and Baseball Prospectus says they’re 85.4% likely to make the postseason.
Pittsburgh Pirates (6-6, 3rd)
Forced to enter the season without their third baseman, Jung-Ho Kang, the Pirates have stayed afloat in the early goings. Former Cardinals hero David Freese has filled in quite admirably, posting a 1.082 OPS in 11 games, while Adam Frazier has been an early surprise hitting .344.
On the other end of things, Josh Bell, a highly acclaimed first base prospect, has struggled in his first full season in the bigs. For Pittsburgh to stand out in the division, they’re going to need to shore up their bullpen and think about calling up their top prospect, outfielder Austin Meadows.
The Pirates have always leaned on their legendary pitching coach Ray Searage to fix their pitchers, and while he’s worked his magic on Jameson Tallion, Tyler Glasnow hasn’t benefitted as much.
As a team stuck in a crowded division, Pittsburgh’s playoff probability stands at 17.7% and 24.8% according to FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus, respectively.
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