NL Central Intelligence: A Look Around the Division for the Week of July 30

Trades, and more trades

Happy Trade Deadline Week! The deadline passed a few days ago and there are some new faces on teams in the Central. Here is a look at those and the other goings-on in the division over the past week.

Chicago Cubs

  • The now-first-place Cubs went 3-3 this week, but there is no shame in that, since they went up against the Diamondbacks and Nationals. The Cubs sit at 58-51 on the season.
  • The Cubs finished the trade deadline by adding Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to go along with the acquisition of Jose Quintana in early July. To get the pair of Tigers, they traded Jeimer Candelario, Isaac Paredes, and a player to be named later/cash considerations.
  • The unthinkable has happened: Jon Lester hit his first career home run in a game Tuesday against the Diamondbacks. See? Here’s video proof.
  • Willson Contreras is turning into a superstar before our very eyes. A hot streak since mid-June has him hitting .279/.347/.514 (.861 OPS), with 19 home runs, tops among catchers in the majors. The kid is getting better by the game.

Milwaukee Brewers

  • The Brewers went 4-2 this week, cutting the deficit in the division to just a half-game, and their current record is 59-53.
  • The Crew bolstered their bullpen prior the deadline, acquiring Anthony Swarzak from the White Sox. Milwaukee didn’t make any dynamic, impact moves, though.
  • There was a scary moment in Saturday’s game, as Travis Shaw got drilled in the face while trying to steal a base and had to leave as a result. Thankfully, it is only a neck contusion and he is day-to-day. We wish him a speedy recovery.
  • The Brewers have done something vs the Rays that is hard to accomplish, and that is pitch two shutouts in a row (2-0, and 3-0). Milwaukee has pitched 18 shutout innings the past two games. Not too shabby.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • “Forever hovering around .500” should be the 2017 Cardinals’ motto. They went 3-3 this week, of course, and sit at 54-56 headed into Sunday’s action.
  • The Cardinals didn’t make any moves at the deadline, which could be responsible for the dissension in the clubhouse, if you want to call it that. First, Yadier Molina called out Mike Matheny in an Instagram post. Then there are other players like Tommy Pham and Jedd Gyorko simply saying the team isn’t any good. The topper of it all was John Mozeliak mentioning how it was “it’s tough to justify going out and solely playing for this year,” a few weeks ago.
  • Paul DeJong is such a weird case. The dude mashes the ball…when he hits it. DeJong has 15 home runs in under 250 at-bats, which is a good pace. But in that time, he also only has eight walks and 70 strikeouts (31.5% K, 8.75 K/BB).
  • One of St. Lou’s top pitching prospects, Luke Weaver, is in the Cards rotation and looking good through two starts. Most recently, Weaver pitched 6.1 innings and gave up just five hits, with eight strikeouts, two walks and two earned runs. Nice “audition,” so to speak, for maybe the 2018 rotation?

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • The streakiest of all teams, the Pirates went 3-3 this week and sit at 53-57.
  • The Bucs added Joaquin Benoit from the Phillies, and then brought back Sean Rodriguez in a waiver trade with the Braves, also claiming George Kontos on waivers from the Giants.
  • Adam Frazier has burst onto the scene this season and has kept up his production. Frazier is slashing .285/.354/.384, a .739 OPS. He joins a long list of current Pirates players that can just hit and don’t display much power. Josh Harrison, Francisco Cervelli, Adam Frazier, David Freese, etc…
  • Chad Kuhl looks to have straightened himself out. Since July, he has pitched to a 2.70 ERA and has really become an anchor in that Pirates’ rotation. That’s an intriguing team to watch in 2018 if all these pitchers progress properly.

Cincinnati Reds

  • The Redlegs had the best week in the division, tying the Brewers and going 4-2. But their overall mark stands at an underwhelming 45-65.
  • Employing a strategy that isn’t exactly ideal in a rebuild, the Reds made just one trade. One. They moved not-so-great reliever Tony Cingrani to the Dodgers. Come on, Redlegs, ya gotta restock that farm!
  • In an interesting stat that came across the Pirates broadcast as it was on the television screen, the Reds actually have a winning record against the Central division this year. That record is 22-19. 8-2 against the Pirates, 8-4 against the Cardinals, 3-6 against the Cubs, and 3-7 against the Brewers.
  • Jesse Winker, one of Cincy’s top prospects, hit his first two career home runs this week against the Pirates. The second one was crucial, giving the Reds a 3-2 lead in the top of the 7th in a game they won 5-2.
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