Tuesday, May 25, 2004

On one of the radio shows I was listening to one day, a writer for a Cincinnati paper was being asked, "How are the Reds doing it?" referring to their awesome start where they sit atop the NL Central, and he mentioned the hitting, and the just-enough pitching, and then he mentioned that the Reds have had an easy schedule so far. Well, they just swept the Astros, so it could be considered more than a fluke at this point. The hitting, I believe, has always been there, it's just a matter of who was going to do it. When Griffey and Casey weren't entirely up to par, you had Kearns, and Encarnacion, and Jose Guillen coming out of nowhere to provide the punch. The pitching is still rather subpar, but maybe it IS just enough...now, just enough won't get you a World Series ring, but it certainly can contend for a playoff spot. It's a matter of if it can hold up in the very tough central, where all of the teams are around .500 or better (even the Pirates!) I've read the change-of-philosophy thing with the pitchers, about throwing strikes early to induce contact instead of going for strikeouts, and that has in part helped the ERA to drop a run from last year--it's still rather high, though.

I'm looking forward to seeing this thing play out, especially when the Cubs get back Prior, and now they have to get back Wood and Sosa too. The Cubs are 1/2 game back without those players--the main reasons being the re-emergence of Moises Alou as a truly feared hitter, and the maturation of Carlos Zambrano--same performance as last year and the Cubs are likely looking at last, I'd say.

What I can't figure out of all of this is, why don't the Astros run away with this division year-in, year-out? They have all the offense in the world, and their pitchers are generally some of the best the game has to offer. They are a riddle wrapped inside a mystery inside an enigma.

There's always the Cardinals, and now we're seeing some big-time play come out of Milwaukee and Pittsburgh...man, they might ALL be in it come September.


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