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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Could the 2021 NL Central Be the Most Underwhelming Division Ever?

In fact, the NL Central’s average team wRC+ was the worst for any division in the six-division era (since 1994)—and that was with a universal designated hitter. The 15 worst divisional wRC+ marks before last season all came from National League divisions with pitchers batting. Of course, the small season sample and schedule strangeness contributes to this anomaly—the two best divisional wRC+ marks in this era belong to the 2020 NL East and 2020 AL East—but that’s an ignominious record in any context.

Given the siloed geographical play, it’s possible the Central divisions just had much better pitching than the other regions—but the playoffs saw the seven Central teams that qualified lose every matchup in the wild-card round, once again bringing up the rear at the plate.

At least some of the AL Central clubs took steps to course-correct during the offseason. The Twins signed Andrelton Simmons; the White Sox signed Liam Hendriks and traded for Lance Lynn; the Royals and Tigers completed a host of mostly under-the-radar acquisitions. Yet while the NL Central was already—probably—bad, during the winter, it got a lot worse. This graph shows the combined projected 2021 WAR totals for every player who changed divisions this winter, according to FanGraphs’ projections and transactions tracker. Guess which division comes in last!

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 10, 2021 at 09:42 PM | 21 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: national league central

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   1. The Duke Posted: March 10, 2021 at 10:37 PM (#6008185)
When you have the leaders, Dewitt and Ricketts “signaling” their spending intentions it let’s everyone else lineup behind them. It’s like a CEO telling investors on a conference call that they intend to raise prices 5% and then everyone in the industry raises prices 5%.

During the season these teams look competitive until they have to go off and play Houston or LA. Then you see how lopsided it really is. This offseason was amazing - everyone tanked salary. Chicago and Stl will step-function down in 2022 with tons of salary coming off the books so this trend will continue. Brewers will trade Hader and the reds will sell off their non-votto high-priced assets.

Even picking up full freight on Arenado and the cards will still drop 30 million more in salary. More if they drop Molina and wainwright.
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: March 10, 2021 at 10:43 PM (#6008187)
Perhaps, but the 1994 AL West is a pretty low bar to unclear.
   3. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: March 10, 2021 at 11:01 PM (#6008190)
How soon we forget the tire fire that was the 2020 NFC East.
   4. sanny manguillen Posted: March 10, 2021 at 11:57 PM (#6008196)
Within the Pirates general crappiness, they've discarded the guys - Musgrove, Taillon, Bell - who might have caused the team to surprise in a mild way.
   5. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: March 11, 2021 at 08:37 AM (#6008215)
Does it look any worse than the 2006-07 NL Central? 2005 NL West?
   6. depletion Posted: March 11, 2021 at 01:37 PM (#6008257)
1973 NL east. There were only 2 divisions and the champion was only a few games over .500
   7. Rally Posted: March 11, 2021 at 01:39 PM (#6008258)
Perhaps, but the 1994 AL West is a pretty low bar to unclear.


That's what I was thinking. Angels were 47-68, the worst team in the American League. That pitiful record gave them the right to make Darin Erstad the #1 overall pick the following season. They were only 5.5 games out of first.
   8. AndrewJ Posted: March 11, 2021 at 01:41 PM (#6008260)
Isn't the prospect of the 2021 NL Central reason enough to return to a two-divsion setup, with an unbalanced schedule and the top 2-3 teams in each division advancing?
   9. Walt Davis Posted: March 11, 2021 at 04:07 PM (#6008282)
I assume this means an NLC team will win the WS.

We're not far removed from the 2018 ALC which Cle won by going 20 games over 500 ... which they did by going 22 games over 500 in the ALC and a bit under against the rest of MLB. Three of the teams lost 98+ games. Or the 2016 ALC where the Indians finished 27 games over by finishing 23 games over in the ALC but at least the rest of the division other than the Twins held their own against the rest of baseball.

So back to the 2018 ALC. By WAR/WAA they had 4 of the 6 worst teams in the AL. Nobody was as bad as the Os but those 3 teams were all around -18 WAA ("true" 99-loss teams) and the Twins checked in at a solid -9.

Now, in 2020, Pitt practically re-defined crappy with -14 WAA in a mere 60 games ... and they look like they've gotten worse! They might single-handedly make the NLC the worst division. The NLC also took up 3 of the next 4 worst and lost an average of about 3 WAR per team so that 2018 ALC is within reach in 2021.

Add in Baltimore, KC, Det, Texas, maybe the Rox and the Red Sox and we're in for a lot of bad baseball in 2021. Can we come to some agreement to contract half the teams for 2021?
   10. Walt Davis Posted: March 11, 2021 at 05:48 PM (#6008301)
lost an average of about 3 WAR per team this past offseason that is.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 11, 2021 at 05:52 PM (#6008303)
Isn't the prospect of the 2021 NL Central reason enough to return to a two-divsion setup, with an unbalanced schedule and the top 2-3 teams in each division advancing?

If they must add playoff teams, two divisions is the way to go. Two division winners and four wild cards (two per division, or best four). Division winners get a buy. WCs play a three-game series to advance to the division series.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: March 11, 2021 at 07:03 PM (#6008317)
I think that this is a weird article/premise, the NL Central has three to four teams that are .500 in any division in baseball, just no dominant team, but the fourth place team in the central is likely third place in the nl west, likely third in the nl east, likely 2nd in the al west, the real story is how good the al central has gotten over a fairly short time.

I'm not sold on the Reds to be honest, so I really do think it's a three team race in the central, and if any one of them wins 90 games, it would pretty much give them the division title. But all three of the contenders do have some solid upside, based upon things going just right. Whatever team wins the NL central, will end up being probably the fourth best team in the NL in a final power poll. It's not great, but it's not like they are bad teams.
   13. gef the talking mongoose, peppery hostile Posted: March 11, 2021 at 07:10 PM (#6008320)
1973 NL east. There were only 2 divisions and the champion was only a few games over .500


My immediate thought as well. The Mets won the division at 83-79, outdistancing the 81-81 Cards.

And then defeated the nascent Big Red Machine (99-63) by 3-2 in the playoffs & took the A's (94-68) to 7 games in the Series.
   14. SoSH U at work Posted: March 11, 2021 at 07:34 PM (#6008323)
1973 NL east. There were only 2 divisions and the champion was only a few games over .500


Sure, but all together the division's teams only won 30 fewer games than they lost. The 1995 AL West's three best teams exceeded that (36 more losses than wins - add in the Angels and it was -55), and they did it in fewer than 120 games.

   15. AndrewJ Posted: March 11, 2021 at 07:39 PM (#6008325)
The '73 Mets closed the regular season by going 24-9 (as did the '69 Mets). They had home-field advantage against the Reds in the playoffs -- which certainly didn't hurt -- because HFA alternated every year.




   16. bfan Posted: March 11, 2021 at 09:36 PM (#6008348)
Top tier records in the division start off well when you are 12-6 vs the Pirates.
   17. cardsfanboy Posted: March 11, 2021 at 09:58 PM (#6008353)
Top tier records in the division start off well when you are 12-6 vs the Pirates.

In the NL West there is the Rockies, that is clearly going to have probably the worst record in baseball, in the al east you have the red sox, you have the Rangers, Mariners, Marlins, Tigers, Orioles... all teams that are just going to completely suck and help add win totals to every quality team in their division.
   18. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: March 12, 2021 at 06:40 AM (#6008392)
the 1994 AL West is a pretty low bar

The other West Division was no prize, either; the Dodgers were the only team in either West division to make it to .500, and just barely (58-56). In fact, only five of the 14 NL teams (LAD, MON, ATL, CIN, HOU) had winning records...and you can't blame interleague play, since it wouldn't start until 1997!
   19. bfan Posted: March 12, 2021 at 08:15 AM (#6008397)
Marlins, Tigers, Orioles... all teams that are just going to completely suck and help add win totals to every quality team in their division.


The Marlins? Are you reading from a 2018 publication? Didn't they make the play-offs last season? That might not put them in a powerhouse status, but I do not think you get "completely suck" on that team. I would also guess the Pirates will be worse than the Rockies, but the Rockies get the Dodgers and Padres for 36 games, and the Pirates get, well, their division, so maybe the Rockies will edge them for the worst record, but I do not think that is that clear.
   20. cardsfanboy Posted: March 13, 2021 at 06:07 PM (#6008533)
Didn't they make the play-offs last season?


26-34 pyth record last season, third worse pyth record in the nl, short season sample size I know, but in this instance, I think it more accurately reflects their quality.

I agree with the rest of your comment that I didn't quote. I think Pirates are worse than the Rockies, and that the Rockies might end up with a worse record while being a better team.
   21. TomH Posted: March 15, 2021 at 08:57 AM (#6008622)
So here is a large difference in team projections; FanGraphs has the Brewers for 79 wins. BBProspectus (PECOTA) has them for 90. That is 11 wins.

While BP has their run prevention as 3rd best in the NL and FG has them 6th, the larger difference is in run scoring, where BP has them 80 runs better over the season than FG.

FG has Yelich to be great (4.3 WAR, 11th best in the NL) but their next best players outside the top 90 (Kolten Wong and Lorenzo Cain).

BP ditto on Yelich, but they also see Jackie Bradley and Dan Vogelbach as solid contributors. It seems they still have the DH happening in the NL, since they project lots of PT for Vogelbach.

BP is also very high (ERA in the 2s) on Brent Suter.

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