NL Central Intelligence: A Look Around the Division for the Week of April 22

There was a lot of movement from a certain team this week in the Central. Any guesses on which one I’m talking about? Here’s a look back on what the past week held…

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • The Pirates are just hanging around. They currently sit in first place after a 4-2 week, boasting a 16-11 mark that is good enough to lead the division.
  • Trevor Williams looks to be on the verge of a breakout season. His 2.29 ERA is the best among the rotation.
  • No matter where Corey Dickerson goes, he just keeps hitting. His current slash of .323/.356/.505 is pacing the Bucs. Dickerson hit a walk-off home run on Thursday against the Tigers. What a steal after the Rays decided to move on.
  • Francisco Cervelli’s career high in home runs is seven. He already has four in April and is on pace to shatter that high.

Chicago Cubs

  • Just like that, the Cubs are back near the top of the division (14-10), just a half game behind the Pirates. Funny what a little 5-1 week will do
  • Brandon Morrow has yet to blow a save or even give up a run and has been everything the Cubs have asked for.
  • Albert Almora Jr. sure can play center field. If there were any doubts about that…ask the Rockies.
  • Kris Bryant was hit in the face last Sunday and missed four games as a result. He somehow avoided a concussion, though, and returned on Saturday against the Brewers. Cubs fans breathed a sigh of relief.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • The Cardinals are at 15-11 after going 3-3 on the week and are now in a virtual tie with the Cubs and Brewers, just a half game behind the Pirates.
  • Mike Matheny must get his bullpen situation figured out. First there was a loss in extra innings against the Mets. Then on Friday, Greg Holland blew a three-run lead without recording an out and the Redbirds lost in extras. The bullpen was handed a 2-1 lead on Saturday and lost 6-2. Bud Norris is the only reliable arm right now, which does not bode well in the long run.
  • On the bright side, prospect Jack Flaherty returned from the minor leagues to start on Saturday and looked pretty decent. Five innings, three earned on just four hits.
  • Tommy Pham is showing last year’s breakout was not a fluke. He is slashing .353/.461/.529 at the top of the Cardinals’ order. That’s good, right?

Milwaukee Brewers

  • The Crew went 3-3 and, you guessed it, are now tied with the Cardinals and the Cubs, just a half game behind Pittsburgh. The Brewers are 16-12.
  • Eric Thames had surgery on his thumb during the week. Thames tore the UCL in his hitch-hiking finger during Tuesday’s game in Kansas City and is expected to be out 6-8 weeks.
  • Milwaukee’s bullpen had a streak of 32 straight innings without allowing an earned run snapped on Saturday when the Cubs pushed two across in the 7th inning.
  • The Brewers have lost six of seven to the Cubs, four of which have been shutouts.

Cincinnati Reds

  • Cincinnati went 3-3 this week, but they still have the worst record in baseball at 6-21.
  • Good news, Reds fans: Joey Votto is heating up. He  has raised his average 37 points in a week and launched his first four home runs of the season on consecutive days from April 24-27. Over his last seven games, he is slashing .346/.500/.486. He’s back to terrorize the rest of the league again.
  • It’s time to worry about Luis Castillo. After being the Reds’ best starter last season, he has pitched to an eye-opening 7.85 ERA this season. In 28.2 innings, Castillo has surrendered six home runs and a .304 opponent average against.
  • It appears Amir Garrett has found his role. Since moving to the bullpen, Garrett has pitched to just a 1.84 ERA and .235 average allowed with a 0.89 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 14.2 innings. The real key, though, is the lack of walks. Last season, Garrett walked 40 in 70.2 innings as a starter. This season, he’s handed out just one free pass in 15.2 innings. His talent is finally showing through.
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