As pitchers and catchers arrive in Florida and Arizona, Baseball Prospectus will be previewing every division in MLB. Friday: the NL Central and AL Central.
The St. Louis Cardinals coasted to the National League Central title last year, finishing a full seven games in front of the Chicago Cubs, who were considered the heavy favorite to three-peat as the division champs coming into last spring.
The Cardinals will have an even easier time of winning the division this season, according to PECOTA, Baseball Prospectus' proprietary formula that predicts player performance. If the system is right, the Cardinals will be the only NL Central team to even have a winning record.
The Cardinals are projected to win the division by nine games, which would give them plenty of time after the clincher to set up their postseason roster in an attempt to erase last year's disappointment of being swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series. Yes, it's certainly a case of putting the cart in front of the horse to predict September champagne-popping days in February, but that's what makes this time of the year so much fun for baseball fans.