Jun 27, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
|Photo by USA Today|
By Steve Roney
The National League Central division is ruling baseball like never before, with the two best teams in the majors and a third (Cincinnati) not far behind. How many divisions throughout history boast have boasted a third-place team that would be atop many other divisions? The guess here is few.
Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:
1. St. Louis Cardinals (48-30; LW: 1) – Roney: Prince Albert has been gone for a while now, so it's no surprise that they don't miss him…but I'm still a little surprised. Allen Craig, Jon Jay, and especially Swiss army knife Matt Carpenter are an offensive force themselves.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates (48-30; LW: 7) – Roney: Former No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez is finally cultivating an average (currently .242) that's at least vaguely acceptable when paired with his light tower power (19 HRs so far, 30 last year).
3. Boston Red Sox (47-33; LW: 3) – Zuckerman: Jacoby Ellsbury is 32-for-35 in stolen base attempts. And he hasn't even faced the Nats pitching staff!
4. Texas Rangers (45-33; LW: 9) – Hughes: Their pitching has been questionable over the last month, but they're still winning. Having Yu Darvish pitch every fifth day doesn't hurt.
5. Cincinnati Reds (45-34; LW: 2) – Roney: Every starter on the team has a sub-4.00 ERA, and none better than Mike Leake, who has rebounded from seasons past to be the Reds' most effective starter (7-3, 2.61).
6. Oakland Athletics (46-34; LW: 5) – Hughes: As a team, Oakland has drawn the most walks in the majors. For comparison's sake, the Nats have four players with 20 or more walks while the A's have ten.
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