Baseball Reflections

NL Central Predictions for 2022

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Well, it’s that time of year again when hope springs eternal as Major League Baseball opens up with another season of our national pastime.  If you took a long nap and woke up suddenly this weekend and watched a National League game, don’t panic, you’re not on a strange island where baseball rules have been rewritten. Well, they actually have since we now have the DH rule in the National League and further rules to make baseball more “watchable.”  What that means in layman’s terms is that the younger generations of sports fans need faster games, more action and constant movement around the diamond.  For older fans, grin and bear it – you’ll get used to it; for better or worse, we get to be eleven years old again and cheer for our favorite teams and dig out the bubble gum and chew it more just like we were out there playing again.

One of the easiest divisions in the MLB to predict this season will no doubt be the NL Central.  Unless crazy (and I mean truly crazy) things happen, the order from first to least should be fairly consistent across the board from the 2021 season.  Yes, things could happen and teams can collapse and other teams go on a hot streak, etc. but in reality, this division brings us little surprises for 2022.  I predict the following order for the NL Central:

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (predicted finish 92-70.)  Let’s face it, with one of the best pitching staff in the Show, why wouldn’t the Brew Crew be poised to head back to the playoffs this season and drive deep into October?  With NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes anchoring the pitching rotation and Brandon Woodruff along with Freddy Peralta adding depth, the Brewers should be repeat winners of the NL Central again this year.  The biggest question I have to ask about the Brewers is Christian Yelich, where are you?  Hopefully for Yelich, a .248 batting average with few homers in ‘21 was just an aberration and he will in the words of Pedro Cerrano “have to wake up bats.”
  2. St. Louis Cardinals (predicted finish 87-75.)  The Cardinals always seem to find a way to make it to the playoffs year after year and 2022 shouldn’t be any different as the Redbirds will probably wiggle into a Wild Card spot.  It was great to see Opening Day as Old Timers Day . . . wait, that was the starting lineup for the Cardinals.  With 40 year old Adam Wainwright leading the pitching rotation and Yadier Molina reunited with Albert Pujols once again, the Cardinals greats are aging with grace and should find another winning season this year.  To add to the senior discounts in the Cardinals clubhouse, they went out and signed John Lester in the offseason as well.  At least there’s a youth movement in the outfield with Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson not qualifying for Social Security for quite a while.
  3. Chicago Cubs (predicted finish 80-82.)  Gone are Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez as the ghosts of the 2016 World Series days have parted ways with the Friendly Confines.  The 2021 Cubs were Jekyll and Hyde as they led the NL Central in late June but basically slid backwards after the All-Star break.  Maybe with recent signees Marcus Stroman and Japanese star Seiya Suzuki they can at least get to .500 this season.  The Cubs will be in rebuilding mode for the next couple of seasons and if they make a Wild Card run it will be a minor miracle in 2022.  I know my grandfather is looking down at me from Heaven as I write this with scorn for his beloved Cubbies but let’s face it, it took them 108 years to win a World Series and it may take them another 108 to win another one.
  4. Cincinnati Reds (predicted finish 72-90.)  For the Reds this year, it’s all Joey Votto.  Whatever he does, the Reds should and could follow.  Votto, who’s 39 years old now, had a great 2021 with 36 homers in 129 games and if he’s on his game this year and stays healthy, the Reds have a chance to move closer to .500 but that’s it.  The Big Red Machine lately looks more like the Big Dead Machine.  I grew up with Bench, Morgan, Foster, Rose, Griffey (the dad, not Jr.) and Seaver and old Sparky Anderson and know the Reds have a long history – like the longest in the MLB.  However, history is exactly that – what have you done lately?  The 2022 Reds seemed locked in to mediocrity and that’s a shame for this proud, storied franchise.
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (predicted finish 65-97.)  We are Fam-il-lee hasn’t been sung since the days of Three Rivers Stadium (now you can guess how old I am!) and there won’t be any signing in Pittsburgh again this year unless you call wailing and the gnashing of teeth as music.  Yes, the Pirates just signed KeBryan Hayes to the biggest deal in franchise history with a 8 year, $70 million dollar extension which beats Jason Kendall’s deal that was worth 6 years/$60 million dollars (and brought multiple NL Pennants and World Series championships back to Pittsburgh, right?) The Pirates are another team I grew up with as a kid and always thought they should be one of those franchises that should do better each year but the Bucs always find a way to disappoint and if you like consistency, the 2022 Bucs won’t let you down as the will renew their annual lease on the NL Central basement this year.

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