Last season the Cincinnati Reds might not have been the World Series champions but they certainly made a strong grab at the National League Central division. The St. Louis Cardinals wound up accepting the second wild card playoff slot and faired pretty well. This season their goal is the same as always, to win the NL Central. To do that, they will have an even tougher time than they had last season.
The Reds are part of the problem as they are still very good and certainly a team to beat. They are not alone however. The Pittsburgh Pirates were the class of the Central division for more than half of the season and look to be improved in 2013. The Chicago Cubs are improved but won’t contend. The same cannot be said of the Milwaukee Brewers however. Their move to bring in Kyle Lohse solidifies them as a contender.
With all of that facing them, do the Cardinals have a real chance at the Central? I think they do. Possibly, they have an even better chance than they did last year. Mike Matheny is probably one of the best young managers in the game and his team responds very well to his leading. They have a decently powerful line-up and though they will suffer some without starting shortstop Rafael Furcal, they still should be able to score some runs.
In the end it will all come down to the combination of pitching and timely hitting that they wind up with. They aren’t going to blow people out but you don’t need to in order to win a division. One former manager once said that if you focus on winning each series throughout the season, you will find yourself having a great season by the time October comes. This should be the Cardinals focus this year instead of looking at the big picture. Focus on the small things, listen to Matheny and do what he says. They’ll be just fine.