The Cardinals are the class of the National League Central
The first 43 games of the regular season have proven the St. Louis Cardinals are the class of the National League Central.
The start of the regular season usually leads to hot takes and overreactions. But the Cardinals have now played 43 games, which is more than 25 percent of the regular season, so we have a general idea of what this team is.
And it has become increasingly clear that these Cardinals are the class of the National League Central.
Entering the season, the Milwaukee Brewers were expected to be their stiffest competition. That held true for the first 25 or so games of the regular season. But they have scuffled in recent weeks, watching a pathetic offense ruin what has been dominant performances from the pitching staff headlined by Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes, and fall to 21-22 on the season.
The Brewers are vulnerable and the Cubs, who are in second place in the NL Central, look the same way. They have been a dominant home team (16-9) and look vulnerable away from Wrigley Field (6-12). Kris Bryant looks like his MVP self and has helped the Cubs rank 12th in runs scored (198) in baseball, but their team ERA (4.20) is in the bottom half in the league.
The Cubs look like an average-at-best team and the Cardinals, who have established stars such as Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt and a budding superstar in Jack Flaherty, should have no problem separating themselves from the pack come October.
The Cardinals’ team ERA is 3.85, which is 12th best in baseball. They have scored 193 runs, which ranks 13th. That they have done this with Carlos Martinez and Miles Mikolas missing in the rotation, as well as the offense dealing with a plethora of injuries, and still lead the division by three games, bodes well for their long-term outlook.
Martinez and Mikolas will improve the rotation and give the pitching staff crucial depth. Harrison Bader looks like a new hitter and Tyler O’Neill looks like a potential 30-home run hitter. Paired with Arenado and Goldschmidt, along with Rookie of the Year candidate Dylan Carlson, the Cardinals have a potent lineup. And that does not include Tommy Edman, who looks more than capable of replacing Kolten Wong at second base.
It’s early and a lot can change, of course. But these Cardinals are dangerous and not only will compete for the division title, but have a real chance of advancing deep into the postseason.