The St. Louis Cardinals are back into the swing of the 2020 season. How do they stack up against their AL and NL division rivals so far?
As crazy as this year has been for the St. Louis Cardinals, we’re now approaching the halfway point of the 2020 baseball season. The nine teams on the Cardinals’ schedule have had interesting seasons as well.
The AL Central has been about as strong as advertised, while the NL Central has become an odd mixture of middle-of-the-road teams and double-headers.
Before the season started, I took a shot at ranking the Central division teams. The standings through August 23rd reflect that I was a little too low on the Cubs and Indians, but right on track with the arrival of the White Sox.
How do the teams rank now that we’ve seen them play for a month? Where do the Cardinals grade out? Here we go with round two:
NL/AL CENTRAL DIVISION POWER RANKINGS
10. PITTSBURGH PIRATES (Previous Ranking: 8), 7-17 record
The Pirates are really, really, really bad. Josh Bell has had a brutal year. Nobody on the team seems to remember how to pitch. Hang in there Pirates fans.
9. DETROIT TIGERS (10), 11-15
Here’s what I wrote about the Tigers back in July:
"“For me, the Tigers are last because excluding Miguel Cabrera, there is no reason to watch them play. All their top prospects still need time before they will reach big leagues, and practically everyone else is way past their prime.”"
That did not age well. The recent debuts of top prospects Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize have been exciting. Spencer Turnbull has been solid on the mound. Most importantly, the Tigers have 10 wins and are actually only a few games out of the last playoff spot! They are still a year or two away, but hope is alive in Detroit.
8. KANSAS CITY ROYALS (9), 11-17
The Royals are just barely ahead of the Tigers on this list, by virtue of the legitimate star power of Whit Merrifield and the resurgence of former Cardinal closer Trevor Rosenthal. Expected sellers at the trade deadline, the Royals might take a few steps back over the next two weeks. That being said, opposing teams still have to fight to earn every victory against this underrated Kansas City squad.
7. MILWAUKEE BREWERS (7), 11-15
This team seems to be the definition of “eh.” Nothing about them really stands out right now. Christian Yelich has struggled most of the year, and their assortment of platoons hasn’t been strong enough to support him. The pitching staff is decent, but the lack of an ace has haunted them just as I predicted it would.
Even with all of that, I still don’t feel comfortable doubting the Brewers. They could make an interesting move at the trade deadline next week, Yelich could turn it around at any moment, and the bullpen is a real weapon. Time is running out in Milwaukee, however, and there has been no signs that improvements are coming soon.
6. CINCINNATI REDS (5), 11-15
The Reds could be the number one team on this list. Between Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo, they are one of a few teams with three legitimate Cy Young contenders. The Reds’ offense is scary, too. Joey Votto is back, Nicholas Castellanos might be one of the best hitters in the NL, and they are getting great production out of guys like Jesse Winker and Freddy Galvis.
Cincinnati is one of only six teams to be top ten in the MLB in team ERA and home runs- yet of those six, they are also the only one of those six teams to be under .500. Between the elite pitching and high-powered offense, the Reds should be better than their record. I don’t know what it is, but something is missing, and like the Brewers, they better figure it out real soon.
5. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (2), 9-8
Somehow, some way, the Cardinals are above .500. They have a daunting schedule ahead of them and plenty of areas they could improve, but at this point of the year after what they have gone through, you can’t be disappointed with where they are in the standings.
Great pitching and strong depth have been the saviors for this Cardinals team. Fatigue is bound to set in soon with their intense remaining schedule, but the bench mob has stepped up big time and the front office has done a great job shuffling players back and forth from the alternate site in Springfield. They’ve managed this challenge well so far, and that will be key moving forward.
Until one of the young outfielders can claim an everyday job, the offense is going to be inconsistent– Harrison Bader and Dylan Carlson both had a great Sunday, so hopefully that is a step in the right direction. As the starters build back up and begin pitching deeper into games, I feel the Cardinals will prove that they have earned this spot in the power rankings.
4. CLEVELAND INDIANS (6), 17-11
After trading away Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber in the offseason, I didn’t expect the Indians to have enough firepower to succeed this season. Is it too late now to say sorry? Shane Bieber is not only leading the Cleveland Indians, he’s been the best pitcher in all of baseball this year.
Jose Ramirez is back to his slugging ways of two years ago, Francisco Lindor is still incredible, and Carlos Santana has about a million walks on the year. Despite having one of the worst outfields in baseball, this lineup is legit.
One thing to watch for is what happens with Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac– both are key members of the starting rotation, but after breaking team quarantine rules, they have been sent to the alternative site indefinitely. I have the utmost respect for the members of the Indians who are standing up for what they believe, but from a baseball side of things, the loss of Clevinger and Plesac might hold this team back from a big postseason run.
3. CHICAGO CUBS (4), 17-10
I hate to admit it, but the Cubs are pretty good this year. Ian Happ has done nothing but hit and he’s leading a resurgent team that hasn’t really changed much from last season. Talent abounds at Wrigley Field, and so far, the results have been just as good.
Injuries are worrying me in evaluating the Cubs this year. Kris Bryant is on the IL along with Tyler Chatwood. Jose Quintana also has yet to debut this season. What the Cubs boast in high-level players, they lack in consistency and depth. Pretty much everything has gone well so far for Chicago this year– as they have stumbled in a series against the White Sox this weekend, let’s see if that can continue.
2. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (3), 17-12
After a slow start in July, the White Sox have gone 13-8 in August. Tim Anderson is on an absolute tear, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert look like they might own AL All-Star game outfields for the foreseeable future, and Jose Abreu has made all of them look bad by hitting .533 with eight home runs in his last eight games. Maybe we should give Roel Ramirez a chance against a different team.
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The key for the White Sox is their starting pitching. Dane Dunning had a fantastic debut this week, and Lucas Giolito has established himself as a true ace, but the Sox don’t have much behind that. Dallas Keuchel is solid, and Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon are coming back from injury soon, but a trade might still be necessary.
The White Sox are young, talented, and exciting to watch. If it weren’t for the defending AL Central champs, this squad might have claimed the top spot in the entire American League.
1. MINNESOTA TWINS (1), 19-10
There isn’t really too much to say on the Twins. They’ve hit as well as last year, their pitching has improved, and the wins are beginning to pile up. Minnesota got bounced early from the playoffs in 2019 and you can tell that they are determined to get further this season.
This is another team that might trade for some starting pitching depth. The ageless wonder Nelson Cruz is anchoring the lineup, but until Jose Berrios starts performing more consistently, the one weakness of this team is their current overreliance on Kenta Maeda to carry the rotation. The Twins were the favorites to begin the year, and so far, they’ve shown why they are one of the most dangerous teams in all of baseball.
Even with the expanded playoffs, the path to October will be difficult this year. The difference between first and third is less than five games in both divisions, so as the trade deadline (unfortunately) approaches, even the smallest moves might make the difference. The St. Louis Cardinals are right smack in the middle of these rankings– consistent offensive production will vault them to the top.