The National League Central Division is tightly contested at the top and the bottom. As of this writing, one game separates 3rd through 5th place in the standings:
Cincinnati Reds (44-63) 15.5 GB
Pittsburgh Pirates (44-62) 16.0 GB
Chicago Cubs (43-64)16.5 GB
All three teams offloaded top contributors at the trade deadline to lean into the tank, er, acquire assets. The Cubs were not entirely successful. Ian Happ and Willson Contreras remained with the team even after fans were virtually assured of their departure by the in-house television broadcasting innovation from Marquee Network described as “trade porn” coverage by Jon Greenberg of The Athletic.
The stakes will be high for the NL Central race to the bottom, as the winner should be practically assured of a top-five pick in the 2023 draft.
Let’s take a closer look at our 2022 last-place hopefuls.
Record: 44-63 (3rd place in the division)
Games Behind: 15.5
Last Ten Games: 6-4
Total SP fWAR: 5.5 (20th in MLB)
Total RP fWAR: -0.1 (30th in MLB)
Total Position Player fWAR: 5.8 (26th in MLB)
Remaining Schedule Strength: .476 (25th on Tankathon)
Record: 44-64 (4th place in the division)
Games Behind: 16.0
Last Ten Games: 4-6
Total SP fWAR: 5.0 fWAR (24th in MLB)
Total RP fWAR: 1.9 fWAR (16th in MLB)
Total Position Player fWAR: 3.6 (28th in MLB)
Notable Departure: José Quintana (2.1 fWAR)
Remaining Schedule Strength: .518 (8th on Tankathon)
Record: 43-64 (5th place in the division)
Games Behind: 16.5
Last Ten Games: 3-7
Total SP fWAR: 4.6 (26th in MLB)
Total RP fWAR: 1.8 (20th in MLB)
Total Position Player fWAR: 9.8 (21st in MLB)
Remaining Schedule Strength: .474 (27th on Tankathon)
All three teams have performed similarly in terms of starting pitching, while Cincy relievers have achieved the feat of accruing negative WAR.
There is significant space between the Cubs offense and its rivals for the divisional toilet bowl in terms of performance above replacement players. The Northsiders should continue to have some pop in the lineup for the remainder of the season as Happ and Contreras survived the deadline.
3rd – Cubs
Happ and Contreras will remain in the Cubs lineup, spelling doom for this year’s tanking effort.
4th – Pirates
Bad, but not bad enough.
5th – Reds
The Reds unloaded two valuable starting pitchers. This, combined with an exceptionally bad relief corps and anemic offense, means they have what it takes to finish last.
All three Central Division basement-dwellers play tonight, starting with the Reds at the New York Mets at 7:10 pm ET (preview). The Cubs will host the Washington Nationals at 8:05 PM ET (preview), followed by the Pirates against the D-Backs in the nightcap at 9:40 PM ET (preview).