Reds or Cards for the NL Central?

4/1/13 in MLB   |   jvardaman   |   3 respect

Opening Day is finally here, and as every team in the MLB starts off on the marathon that is a 162-game season it is time to take a look at the NL Central. Two teams are favored to battle for the title: the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. So, who appears to have the upper-hand?

Cincinnati Reds:
The Reds were the class of the Central last season, and they appear to be the logical pick to be at the top again. They return close to the same lineup, with Joey Votto and Ryan Ludwick holding down the power in the middle. The addition of Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason gives them a viable leadoff guy that only helps to give them more balance top to bottom. What makes the Reds one of the best teams in the National League, though, is their tremendous pitching. Their rotation was fourth in the league in quality starts last season, and Aroldis Chapman gives them one of the best closers in the game. If they can again escape costly injuries, look for the Reds to be towards the top of the National League for the entire summer.
Lineup: Choo- CF, Phillips- 2B, Votto- 1B, Ludwick- LF, Bruce- RF, Frazier- 3B, Cozart- SS, Hanigan- C, Pitcher
Rotation: Cueto, Latos, Arroyo, Bailey, Leake

St. Louis Cardinals:
Last season was a very weird one for the Cardinals. They were one of the best teams in the NL based on statistics, but scoring the second-most runs and having the sixth-best ERA only led to 88 wins. The Red Birds had to make a big late run to make the postseason where they fell to the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Injuries have already plagued them this season, with Rafael Furcal and Chris Carpenter being shut down for the season. David Freese and Jason Motte are also starting the season on the DL, but both are not scheduled to miss too much time. Once Freese is put back in the lineup, this is one of the best in the majors. The staff has a good mix of veterans and young guys, and if they can stay healthy they should be able to limit teams enough for the offense to win games. Watch for the Cards to be in the mix at the end of the season.
Lineup: Jay- CF, Beltran- RF, Holliday- CF, Craig- 1B, Molina- C, Freese- 3B, Carpenter- 2B, Kozma- SS, Pitcher
Rotation: Wainwright, Garcia, Lynn, Westbrook, Miller

Picking the winner out of these two is close to impossible this early in the season. If the Reds are able to stay as healthy as they were last year they will be one of the best teams in the NL thanks to their pitching. Likewise, if the unhealthy Cardinals can suddenly avoid getting bitten by the injury bug, they will also be at the top. Both have outstanding bullpens that could determine the winner at season's end, and the series record this year could be very similar to last years, which was led by the Cards, 8-7.
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