Ramirez ducks under a pitch from Matt Cain in the 7th inning at Miller Park. (Benny Sieu-US PRESSWIRE)

Checking Out the NL Central


From time to time, it always makes for some good reading when trying to get a glimpse of the other teams that reside in the NL Central. I have come across a few good reads from our fellow writers on the FanSided Sports Network.

Chicago Cubs

If you recall, Carlos Marmol was removed from the role of Cubs closer. He was replaced by Rafael Dolis. Now, Dolis has been demoted from the role. Some felt Dolis has earned the right to obtain the role. That “some” includes Jordan Campbell of Cubbies Crib.

How did Dolis earn, or shall I say, deserve the demotion? They are a few factors, one of which is mainly just being ineffective.  Here’s Jordan to tell us of Dolis and his reason why we will see someone else in the closer’s role for the Cubs.

“The trouble with Dolis comes when compare his strikeouts to his walks. Dolis has 11 strikeouts on the season, but the reliever has walked 15 batters. A strikeout to walk ratio like the one that Dolis has is certainly not acceptable. For that reason, Sveum announced on Sunday that Dolis is no longer the team’s closer.”

But there’s a theory here that holds water and Jordan elaborates on it within his post.

Jordan also informs us that Cubs manager Dale Sveum has let it be known the the Cubs will turn to Shawn Camp and James Russell.  He also says that he believes Marmol will have an opportunity to regain his spot as the closer.  We’ll find out soon.

Houston Astros

Raise your hand if you felt the Houston Astros would be only two games under at this point of the season.  Put your hand down because you know you’re fibbing.  I’m not sure even the most diehard Astros fan would have confessed such a thing prior to the season’s beginning.

Alex Sandoval of Climbing Tal’s Hill admits he didn’t believe that was the case either.  There could be an issue on the horizon.

“By playing so well it has kept the Stros a factor but also increased most of the veterans’ trade value to very interesting levels. Would the Astros consider going for the division at this point in their rebuilding plan or stick to the script? If they move most of the primary suspects, they will indeed load up on high quality prospects. The farm system would get another shot in the arm to an already improving core but it would be at the cost of contending for something special in 2012.”

Ahh. The “if” factor. And that is usally preceded by “what”. “What if” the Astros are relevant come the beginning of July? What will the Astros front office do?

I know there’s still a lot of baseball between now and then.  I will say one thing.  If the Astros can stay afloat within the division, the decisions will become extremely difficult to make.  With veterans like Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez and Carlos Lee having good years, the phone calls will be coming regardless of where the Astros stand.

Teams know they need talent.  Teams know they have veterans they may be willing to deal.  That combination can produce a deal or two.  The difference between this Astros regime in comparison to the previous is that GM Jeff Luhnow is in the driver’s seat.  He doesn’t have to trade anyone if the team hangs around.

It’s what could happen if they don’t.  All one has to do is look at what happened to the Pirated last season.  They made a run and the wheels fell off shortly thereafter.

Milwaukee Brewers

The first person you might think of when the Brewers are brought up in a conversation is Ryan Braun.  Well, this isn’t about him.  This is about how the Brewers are being hit…by opposing pitchers.  Did you know that Brewers batters have already been plunked 29 times this season?  By contrast, Reds batters have been hit 11 times.

And this situation is not sitting too well with the Brewers either.  For the record, Brewers pitchers have hit only 10 opposing batters.  Even more of a reason the Brewers feel a slight.

Reviewing the Brew’s Colin Bennett looks into this.  He presents an interesting and not-so-typical reason why this is the case. Colin has some great quotes from Aramis Ramirez in this piece.  Very telling quotes, I might add.  And if I’m correct, Ramirez is listed as “day-to-day” because of a plunking.

I will offer this and take this for what you will.  There are a couple of players that have the ability to rub opponents the wrong way due to their on-field antics.  One would be Nyjer Morgan (who’s been hit four times) and another is Carlos Gomez (twice).  It should be no surprise the Braun leads the team with five.

Retribution?  Possibly.

Pittsburgh Pirates

At one time, current Cubs pitcher Paul Maholm wsa a member of the Pirates.  That was just last year actually.  Maholm did not have his option picked up by the Bucs, thus making him a free agent.  Heck, some touted Maholm as a possible pick up for the Reds.  Well, we know where he is now, Chicago.

If you think Maholm misses his old stomping grounds, think again.  And you know something.  His former fans don;t miss him either. Just ask Rum Bunter’s Tom Smith.  He’ll tell you how much Pittsburgh misses Maholm.  Here’s a taste.

We don’t miss how he departed from the club. Especially when one considers that in his last seven starts, Maholm allowed eight hits, seven hits, ten hits, six hits, nine hits, ten hits, and nine hits. The Pirates lost all seven of those games. Maholm pitched just 42.2 innings, and allowed 59 hits and 26 earned runs.

And that’s one of five reason Smith presents to us.

Yes, as is always the case with Tom, this is well worth your time to read. I cannot read anything he writes and not chuckle at least once.

St. Louis Cardinals

If there is one team that has utilized the disabled list more than it would have liked, it’s the Cards.  Lance Berkman (knee), Chris Carpenter (neck, shoulder), Allen Craig (hamstring), Jon Jay (shoulder), Matt Carpenter (oblique), Kyle McClellan (strained flexor, torn UCL) and Scott Linebrink (shoulder) all currently reside on the DL.

Holy crap!  That’s a lot of birds that are dinged up!

To get the lowdown on when most of these players will return, check out this piece by Chris Ferguson of Redbird Rants.  But that’s not the real reason I included this post.  This is…

“I wanted to take a minute to honor those who have selflessly served our country. Memorial Day is a time that we as a nation pause and take the time to recognize those who have made countless sacrifices to secure our freedom.”

I don’t believe it could be said any better, Chris.

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