Sitting 3.5 games back of the Brewers in the standings, the Cubs will look to pick up some ground in the NL Central race before the All Star Break hits and, more importantly, get their star slugger back in Aramis Ramirez.
Until the third base slugger comes back on Monday, the day after the Brewers series ends, it looks as though the Cubs’ offensive struggles will continue.
The Cubs will enter the series batting .244 as a team, ranking 28th in all of the the major leagues. Ryan Theriot leads the team with a .286 batting average on a team that has struggled with consistency all year.
Despite one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball in terms of ERA this year, the Cubs still sport a record under .500 at 37-38.
When trying to break down the team’s issue, all problems seem to lead back to leadoff man Alfonso Soriano. With a batting average of .230 and an on-base percentage under .300, his stats are less than stellar for the top spot in the batting order.
While he has only had eight at-bats away from the leadoff spot (1-8 as the three hitter), his struggles at the plate warrant a drop in the order that everyone but manager Lou Piniella seems to agree with.
Milton Bradley and Kosuke Fukudome are probably the most expensive .239 and .260 hitters in all of baseball but are heading in directions as we enter the month of July.
Fukudome, who ended April with a .338 average, has seen his average dip all the way down almost 80 points, including a .169 average in July.
For what it’s worth, Bradley hit .273 in June but still has less RBI (17) than Bill Hall, Casey McGehee, and Jason Kendall. To put his year in perspective, Aramis Ramirez had 16 RBI in his first 18 games before injuring himself.
As a team, the Cubs are batting .216 with runners in scoring position which is easily dead last in the MLB, but also rank just 23rd in at bats with RISP.
For a team that has struck out 580 times this year, the Cubs also have the worst batting average in the league when behind in the count (.173).
The woes of the offense have been exposed this year and because of financial restrictions, benching or sending down everyday players just isn’t an option.
Players like Micah Hauffpauir and Jake Fox have seen inconsistent at bats because of it and their progress has been flawed some because of it.
For as much as the North Siders have struggled on offense, the Brewers’ starting pitching has been almost as bad. When C.C. Sabathia and Ben Sheets bolted for free agency, the one unit that needed to step up was the starters.
Yovani Gallardo’s time has arrived and can now be considered the ace of the staff as he sports an 8-5 record with a 2.75 ERA, 114 strikeouts, and a .193 BAA.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, Gallardo will not face the Cubs after going up against the Mets on Wednesday.
On the year, Brewers starting pitching ranks 25th in all of baseball with a 4.88 ERA and has walked 183 batters, fourth most in the majors.
After a stellar month of April and half of May that saw the starters lead the league in quality starts, Manny Parra has been sent down, Dave Bush is now on the DL and the pitching is in shambles.
Seth McClung, set to pitch the opener of the series, will make his second start since coming out of the bullpen to take Bush’s place in the rotation.
McClung was on a 75-80 pitch count in his first start this year (he ended up throwing 77 in four innings) as he works to stretch his arm out as a starter.
He has been one of the better pitchers in the bullpen this year, but questions arise whether moving him to the rotation will throw off his rhythm.
He will make his first career start against the Cubs, where as a reliever he is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in 10 appearances against Chicago.
While McClung has not contributed to the starting rotation’s poor stats this year, Braden Looper sure has. Looper has been extremely inconsistent this year but has found himself pitching well against poor offensive teams.
However, Looper has struggled mightily on the road with a 2-3 record and a 6.67 ERA, compared to a 4-1 record and 4.03 ERA at Miller Park.
In his first start of the year, Looper pitched five innings of one-run ball against the Cubs in a game the Brewers would win 4-3.
It will be evident very early which Looper Brewers’ fans are going to see and, with a 6.06 ERA in June, it might not be the one they want.
Jeff Suppan showed signs of a turnaround early in June with four straight starts pitching five or more innings and giving up less than three runs.
However, his last three starts have been just as bad, giving up 12 runs in 16.2 innings, going 0-2. One thing going for the Brewers is that Suppan is 4-1 away from Miller Park, but is 0-2 against the Cubbies this year with a 7.45 ERA.
The Brewers are really counting on Suppan to turn things around as a second workhorse will be necessary as August and September come upon us.
The struggles for each team will collide starting tomorrow, and something is going to give for one of them. The Brewers will look for more consistency from their pitching while the Cubs continue to try to get on the right track from the plate.
Odds say the Brewers’ pitching is more likely to come around because it has been there.
Aramis Ramirez will be a huge lift for the Cubs’ lineup, but until he comes back it will be more of the same in Wrigley. However, if there was a series for the North Siders to get back on track, this would be it.
As of today, the National League Central is the closest division in all of baseball as all six teams are within four and a half games of first place. Leading the way are the Milwaukee Brewers with a 35-29 record followed by the Cardinals, Reds, Cubs, Pirates, and finally the Astros. As we are about a third of the way into the season, each team in the division has a flaw that will need to be fixed if they are to have a shot at winning the division.
Milwaukee Brewers, 35-29, First Place
Flaw: Starting Pitching
What’s Wrong: Yovani Gallardo has pitched very well this year and has picked up the slack that the rest of the rotation has failed to do. With a 6-3 record, the 24-year-old has the best record on the staff and has been dubbed the team’s ace.
However, after Gallardo things become extremely foggy as to who will step up for the Brewers. The rest of the rotation (including the recently demoted Manny Parra) has a 16-18 record with a 5.42 ERA. As a whole, the rotation ranks 22nd in innings pitched and 23rd in ERA. While some of the blame for the fluctuated stats can be blamed on Parra, the starters have not been good at all as of late.
Dave Bush started the year off very well and looked like a number two pitcher the Brewers could rely on, but recently has struggled mightily and not given the innings expected of him.
The Brewers’ bullpen ranks third in ERA and if it were not for their lights out performance this year, the Brewers would be a .500 team at best. Also, their offense continues to be led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, who leads the National League in RBI.
How To Fix It: The Brewers sent Parra to AAA Nashville last week and, with two off days in the near future, will not need a fifth starter until June 27th. It is not clear whether or not he will rejoin the team when his turn in the rotation comes around, but he is just the beginning of the problem.
Trade rumors have been swirling all over the place involving J.J. Hardy or Corey Hart going to the American League for pitching, but that is more than likely not going to be the case. As for the starters on the team, they need to start throwing strikes and pitching longer. Their starters rank fourth in the league in walks allowed and, as said above, are not pitching late into ballgames.
Jeff Suppan has settled down after a rough start and Braden Looper is slowly becoming more consistent. It is almost a matter of time before the bullpen can not keep covering up the below-average starting pitching.
Seth McClung might be asked to move to the rotation when a fifth starter is needed, and last year he fared decently in his new role. With no option in the minors (other than Parra), it will be very interesting to see which route general manager Doug Melvin takes to fixing the fifth spot in the rotation.
Can It Be Fixed?: Fortunately, the woes of the starting rotation look like they can be fixed. Gallardo continues to impress and give the Brewers a great chance of winning every five days.
The rest of the rotation will need to continue to throw strikes and not give up free passes, something that every starter (OK, maybe not Parra) is capable of doing. If a trade were to occur, it would almost certainly fix the problems for the rotation, but Milwaukee’s top offense might suffer.
St. Louis Cardinals, 34-30, Second Place
Flaw: Offense outside of Albert Pujols
What’s Wrong: For as many years as slugger Albert Pujols has been in the majors, he has been one of the top hitters in the game. Many argue he is the best and I would be one in his corner on that argument. This year has been no different, as the 29-year-old has a .324 batting average, 22 home runs, 57 RBI, 50 runs scored, and an OPS of 1.131, all leading the team.
Manager Tony LaRussa has never had to worry about the third spot in his lineup, but the rest of the order has been an issue this year. As a team, the Cardinals rank 22nd in batting average with a .254 mark. Not counting Pujols, they have one everyday player hitting over .280 and just two players that have hit more than four home runs.
Even with Pujols in the lineup, the Cardinals’ offense has been average at best this year.
How To Fix It: From an offensive standpoint, no team in the league has been hit harder with injury than the Cardinals. Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel, two of St. Louis’ best hitters, have both missed significant time with injuries and the offense has clearly struggled because of it. Both have since returned to action but still do not seem fully comfortable in the lineup just yet.
In other spots, Troy Glaus has yet to play this year recovering from shoulder surgery and Khalil Greene has done nothing while battling anxiety-related problems. The Cardinals need to fix this problem by getting and staying healthy because, as good as their rookies have been filling in, the offense (and no offense for that matter) can not survive with all these injuries.
Pujols will continue to hit like he always has but the rest of the lineup will need to step up. This also means being more selective at the plate, as the Cardinals rank 22nd in walks and 21st in on-base percentage.
Can It Be Fixed?: Last year’s Cardinals team was pretty much the same and ranked 12th in runs scored, so the ability to score runs is there. Ankiel and Ludwick need to start hitting and get the Cardinals back to last year’s form.
As good as the Cards’ pitching has been, the lack of support from the offense has kept them from pulling away in the division. Glaus, who hit 27 home runs and drove in 99 runs last year, could be the X-factor in the lineup when he eventually comes back.
Cincinnati Reds, 31-31, Third Place
Flaw: Hitting for average
What’s Wrong: On paper, the Reds have a very good ballclub and were the darkhorse to contend for the NL Central this year. However, very little of that potential has carried over and the Reds stand at .500, a place that they should be very happy to be at. Their pitching has been outstanding this year as they hold a 3.89 team ERA, but the offense has struggled mightily.
As a rookie, Jay Bruce enjoyed a fantastic season hitting 21 home runs and driving in 52 in just 108 games last year. This year, the story has been much different as Bruce is batting just .213 with an on-base percentage of .298. While he has 15 home runs already, the Reds were expecting him to be more than an Adam Dunn replica (Bruce has 49 strikeouts in 60 games).
Paul Janish and Ryan Hanigan are the only position players batting above .275, but neither have an on-base percentage over .400. If the pitching falters even just a hair in games, the Reds have a tough time staying in ballgames.
How To Fix It: The main problem for the Reds has been the loss of second-year first baseman Joey Votto. On the year, Votto is hitting .357 with 45 hits in just 32 games. However, he has missed the last 15 games for the Reds while he battles stress-related problems.
Because of the seriousness of his condition, there is no timetable for his return and the Reds have moved on without him for now. At the time of his injury, he led the National League in hitting and was a huge key to the Reds’ success. Without him, their offense has struggled mightily and will continue to do so until he comes back.
The Reds have to hope that Jay Bruce can turn things around and that leadoff man Willy Taveras, who is mired in an 0-32 slump, can begin to hit again and help a pitching staff that has carried the team thus far.
Once Votto comes back, the lineup should be manageable and the number in the hit column should increase.
Can It Be Fixed?: Unlike the first two teams, it doesn’t seem like the Reds are ever going to hit for average. They place in a big-time hitter’s ballpark, so power numbers will always be up.
Unfortunately, for a team batting .243 on the year, it doesn’t matter how many home runs they hit. If the pitching continues to be stellar, they might be able to stay in the NL Central race, but I am not counting on it.
Chicago Cubs, 30-30, Fourth Place
What’s Wrong: Heading into the year, the Cubs were the sure-fire frontrunners to win the NL Central. Not only did they score more runs than anyone in the National League, but they were also bringing in a big bat in Milton Bradley that was only going to add to the offense.
Fast forward two and a half months and the Cubs’ hitting coach has been fired, the Cubs rank 26th in batting average, 28th in runs scored, 21st in slugging, and 8th in strikeouts. Not exactly what fans pictured entering the year to say the least. The Cubs’ starting pitching has been as good as anyone’s over the last month but the offense has failed to give them any help.
The Cubs have a 2.08 team ERA in the month of June and their record is 5-6…something is wrong with that. No starter on the Cubs has a batting average over .285 and Derrek Lee leads the team with 27 RBI.
To put that in perspective, Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder had 31 RBI in the month of May. Simply put, the team is not hitting and until they do, they will struggle as a team.
How To Fix It: Like Cincinnati, the Cubs are also missing their best hitter in Aramis Ramirez. When he was injured May 8th against the Brewers, he had a team-high .364 batting average with four home runs and 16 RBI’s in 18 games. He is expected to miss time up until the All-Star Break and a week or two after that, but the Cubs desperately need him back.
Leadoff hitter Alfonso Soriano has seen his batting average drop to .229, Kosuke Fukudome’s is down to .266, and Geovany Soto, last year’s Rookie of the Year, is batting just .223.
There really is no remedy or something that the Cubs can be doing to improve their hitting other than putting the ball in play. Soriano will come around soon enough and Lee has heated up in a big way to keep the offense alive.
Fukudome should see his numbers stay around where they are right now and as for Soto, the sophomore slump has hit him extremely hard.
The Cubs proved that they are not deep enough to survive an injury like Ramirez’s and until he comes back, the offense will struggle. When he comes back, hopefully the protection he gives to hitters in front of him will pay off.
Can They Fix It?: The Cubs offense is not getting any younger and it seems like their offense’s window of opportunity is closing faster than general manager Jim Hendry expected it to. Slumps will happen over the course of a 162 game season but there might be reason to worry in Chicago if this constant struggle continues.
A re-evaluation will be necessary when Ramirez comes back, because the offense is completely different with him in it.
Pittsburgh Pirates, 30-33, Fifth Place
Flaw: Batting for Power
What’s Wrong: Most of the time, a team that whose main problem is hitting for power would not seem like a huge deal. However, with the Pirates it is a definite problem and one that needs to be addressed.
On the year, the Pirates have hit just 36 home runs as a team and are slugging .392 as a team. They actually rank 15th in the league in extra-base hits, but power is still an issue. Adam LaRoche leads the team with eight home runs and only one other player, Freddy Sanchez, has hit more than five homers.
The Pirates also recently traded away their best power hitter in Nate McLouth who has nine home runs on the year. While it seems that the Pirates are below average in just about every category, their inability to hit the long ball makes it very hard for them to come back in games when they trail.
They rank 11th in the majors in batting average but just 18th in runs scored.
How To Fix It: For a team that is having trouble hitting for power, trading away your team leader in home runs was an interesting start. As always, the Pittsburgh front office explained how they were trying to build a championship team and not a .500 team.
After a while, fans get tired of hearing this because nothing ever pans out for the Pirates. A way to fix this power outage would be to make a trade at the deadline that would provide a big bat in the middle of the lineup, but it seems like there is no way that happens.
It’s hard to think of the last time the Pirates were buyers, not sellers, at the trade deadline.
Can They Fix It?: Pittsburgh ranked 21st in home runs last year with 153 round trippers, but that was also including McClouth’s 26 homers.
Last year’s rank does indicate that there is room to believe this team can start hitting for more power, but the question is whether or not that will be enough to compete in the NL Central. There are more flaws here than just power that also need to addressed.
Houston Astros, 29-32, Sixth Place
What’s Wrong: The Houston Astros, at 30.4 years old, have the oldest team in the major league. While it might be confusing to see this as a flaw, it’s more of a problem than a flaw.
Year in and year out, the Astros have a great team on paper with a lineup that includes Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, and Hunter Pence. Even Michael Bourn has done an excellent job this year and stepped up into a lineup that should produce. In the rotation, Roy Oswalt is always a reliable starter and Wandy Rodriguez has finally broken through as a top lefty in the game.
However, the pitching staff ranks 23rd in innings pitched and, outside of Michael Bourn, they have stolen just 21 bases.
How Do They Fix It: It’s impossible to fix being the oldest team in the league without trading for younger players, but that is what the Astros have been rumored to be doing. Tejada has been rumored to a few teams including the Cardinals, who have some of the best young players with a ton of potential.
The ‘Stros need some youth and rejuvenation to their team that they clearly are not getting with their current lineup. Until they do that, they will always be in the mix but run out of gas at the end of the year.
An old team will do that to you and that is exactly where the Astros stand.
Can They Fix It?: The Astros realize that, despite being just 4.5 games out of first place, they probably are not contenders in the NL Central this year.
Because of that, they are looking to get younger by putting Tejada on the trading block in return for some youngsters. If they can hit on a few draft picks and develop some young pitchers, the outlook is bright for them.
As for this year, Tejada has been their best hitter so getting younger will come with a price in that sense. Still, depending on who they get back it might give them that energy that they need to make a push.
Alright everyone, get your payroll jokes and your “Where’s your World Series Championship trophy?” jokes out of your system before you start reading. Yes, since the Milwaukee Brewers came to be in 1969, they have not won a World Series and have won just a single pennant in that span. And of course, living north of Chicago, we all know the Cubs are the greatest thing since sliced bread. “Wrigley North” is a cute little joke for Cubbies fans who drive up to Miller Park to watch the Cubs play, even though they are jealous that we have a giant “TV” in center field that most 21st century stadiums call a jumbo-tron. But enough on that and the jokes that Brewers fans take when they talk to Cubs fans. My question is this: are the Brewers quickly closing the gap on Chicago’s loveable losers?
The Cubs opened the 2009 season with the third highest payroll in baseball at $134,809,000, good for second in the National League behind the New York Mets. The Brewers on the other hand, began the year with a payroll of $80,182,502, good for 8th in the National League and 16th in the Majors. So much does does $54,626,498 buy? Apparently not a whole lot. I went ahead and broke down each position from both teams to see where this $54 million is being spent.
Cubs: Geovany Soto, .188 BA, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 0-5 SB, 4.84 CERA, $575,000
Brewers: Jason Kendall, .222 BA, 0 HR, 11 RBI, 4-17 SB, 4.19 CERA, $5,000,000
Geovany Soto is by far the better catcher than Jason Kendall and comes at a cheaper price. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year has not done much at the plate this year and has failed to throw out a baserunner, but odds say that he will come around as the season progresses. Behind the plate, Kendall gets the easy nod. Talked about as one of the best catchers to pitch for in the league, Kendall calls a great game and has really improved his defense. Still, based on the belief that Soto will turn things around, he gets the easy nod over Kendall. *CERA = Catcher’s ERA
Cubs: Derek Lee, .194 BA, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 0 E, 2.948 ZR, $13, 250,000
Brewers: Prince Fielder, .273 BA, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 0 E, 2.957 ZR, $7,000,000
I know Cubs fans love their man Derek Lee, but the fact of the matter is Prince Fielder has overtaken him in line behind Albert Pujols for the next best first baseman in the Central. Lee has been awful at the plate this year and, at 34 years of age, this might be a sign more than a slump. As for Fielder, he is finally putting some batting average to add to his early season RBI total. He ranks third in the National League in RBI’s and, surprisingly enough, has had better range than Lee in the field. Fielder has trimmed some weight down and become much faster as well, and the results have showed. *ZR = Zone Rating, (The percentage of balls fielded by a player in his typical defensive “zone,” as measured by STATS, Inc., via ESPN.com)
Cubs: Mike Fontenot/Bobby Scales: .252 BA, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 2 E, 4.16 RF, $430,000
Brewers: Rickie Weeks: .282, 9 HR, 24 RBI, 6 E, 4.77 RF, $2,450,000
A no-brainer here as Rickie Weeks has finally broken out this year for the Brew Crew. After five years of mediocre play, Weeks has finally defined himself at the plate thanks to hitting coach Dale Sveum and Willie Randolph. Fontenot has been cold as of late and Scales is more of a fill-in than anything else. One of the two will be optioned to AAA when Aramis Ramirez comes back, but either way Weeks is the easy choice here. His defense is still shaky at times but he has made more great plays in the field and has covered a lot more ground then he did in the past. *RF = Range Factor, ((PO + A) * 9 divided by innings)
Cubs: Ryan Theriot: .297 BA, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 4 E, 3,32 RF, $500,000
Brewers: J.J. Hardy: .224 BA, 5 HR, 19 RBI, 3 E, 4.02 RF, $4,650,000
Theriot is probably having a career year right now, while Hardy is breaking out of an early season slump (to put it nicely). If Lou Piniella had a brain, Alfonso Soriano would be batting third and Theriot would be on base for him, rather than the other way around. Theriot is a great slap hitter and while his defense is shaky and he doesn’t have a huge arm, it gets the job done. Hardy is batting .359 in the month of May after a .156 April and has started to turn things around. Both of these players are perfect for their lineups and I give this matchup a push due to Theriot’s numbers at the plate and Hardy’s performance in the field.
Cubs: Aramis Ramirez: .364 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 1 E, 9.279 ZR, $16,650,000
Brewers: Bill Hall: .278 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 3 E, 8.0 ZR, $6,925,000
While Bill Hall is having one of the best years of his career both in the field and at the plate, it’s hard to deny the best all around player on the Cubs the win here. Ramirez, on the DL currently, was playing great baseball for the Cubbies and was keeping them afloat in the NL Central. The loss of his bat in the lineup has been huge, but hopefully they can regain it sooner rather than later. Willie Randolph has worked with Bill Hall in the field and it has really paid off for him.
Cubs: Alfonso Soriano, .271 BA, 11 HR, 23 RBI, 4 A, 13.862 ZR, $17,000,000
Brewers: Ryan Braun, .322, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 1 A, 14.228 ZR, $1,032,500
Sorry Cubs fans, Braun is becoming one of the best left fielders in the game and it has showed this year. It’s hardly a knock on Soriano who has had a great year thus far, but it’s hard to argue the numbers against Braun. Both are pretty good in the field, with Soriano having more assists and a better arm but Braun having better range getting to balls.
Cubs: Kosuke Fukudome, .340 BA, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 2 A, 2.58 RF, $12,500,000
Brewers: Mike Cameron, .304 BA, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 2 A, 3.13 RF, $10,000,000
If I am going to give Geovany Soto the benefit of the doubt on improving, I have to do the opposite with Fukudome. We have all seen this story before: Fukudome comes out on a tear and hits everything in sight. If Fukudome keeps this up, I will retract my statements but I just don’t see it happening. As for Cameron, he is having a career year at the plate and has played Gold Glove defense. Cameron takes Fukudome in every stat but batting average, but Cameron’s .303 average is pretty good. Advantage goes to Cameron here.
Cubs: Milton Bradley, .194 BA, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 1 A, 14.594 ZR, $7,000,000
Brewers: Corey Hart, .264 BA, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 0 A, 14.293 ZR, $3,250,000
Something that wasn’t put in the stats was the fact that Hart is sixth in the National League with 27 runs scored. Hart played 156 games last year and has only missed one game this year, due to rest. Bradley has had a terrible start to the year and has already missed 14 games this year. While he is currently riding a seven game hitting streak, Hart has done just fine and is playing better than Bradley. Even if Bradley picks up his game, Hart will put up similar numbers.
Cubs: Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Harden, Sean Marshall, $48,200,000
Brewers: Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Manny Parra, Dave Bush, Braden Looper, $22,340,000
Cubs: 16-8, 4.13 ERA, 188 SO, 73 BB, 1.29 WHIP
Brewers: 13-10, 4.24 ERA, 166 SO, 79 BB, 1.31 WHIP
There’s no question that the Cubs have the better starting rotation and it is the Cubs best argument to why they are better than the Brewers. Gallardo is pitching the best of the ten starters mentioned above, but after that the Cubs probably take the next three or four starters before mentioning Dave Bush. The Brewers lead the league in quality starts, and by no means have the Brewers starters been bad, but rather that the Cubs live and die by their starters.
Cubs: Neal Cotts, Carlos Marmol, David Patton, Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman, Kevin Gregg
Brewers: Mark DiFelice, Todd Coffey, Jorge Julio, Mitch Stetter, Carlos Villanueva, Trevor Hoffman
Cubs: 4-6, 5.21 ERA, 97 SO, 67 BB, 1.58 WHIP
Brewers: 8-4, 3.87 ERA, 87 SO, 46 BB, 1.31 WHIP
As good as the Cubs starters are compared to the Brewers, the opposite can be said when it comes to relief pitching. Part of the reason the Brewers have been so good this year has been the work of the bullpen. Mark DiFelice has been unhittable and Trevor Hoffman has eight saves on the year with a 0.00 ERA. On the other hand, the Cubs two main bullpen pitchers have been less than stellar. Carlos Marmol has a 4.24 ERA and has 17 walks in as many innings. Kevin Gregg, the team’s closer, has been average with a 3.86 ERA and just six saves.
What It All Means
As much smack talk as Cubs fans would like to talk about the Brewers and how they will never compete, the fact of the matter is that Doug Melvin has assembled a team that is full of young, talented, and experienced players that are ready for the long haul this year. The Cubs have a shot to win the NL Central, just as the Cardinals, Reds, and Brewers do. They are still one of the most talented teams and have one of the best rotation in the National League. But the Brewers are putting the pieces together and seem to have finally arrived, and if they can stay healthy, a Division Championship is not out of the question.