It seems the more you go toward the middle of the country, the more likely you are to see a competitive MLB division. The NL Central is a two-team race between the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. While the two teams enter the week of August 8 separated by 1.0 game in the standings, does it really matter? We’re going to take a look at the NL Central race and how first place may not be a huge deal.
MLB playoff picture: AL Central standings
- St. Louis Cardinals: 60-48
- Milwaukee Brewers: 58-50 — 2.0 GB
The rest of the division is at least 15+ games out of first place. With just under two months to go in the regular season, that’s likely too many games to make up for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. All three teams were sellers at the deadline, though the Cubs weren’t able to accomplish everything they needed to. Still, all three teams will likely go through the motions and head into the offseason with good draft stock and plenty of money to throw around.
The race in the NL Central may not matter as much in the grand scheme of things. If we look at the new format for the MLB playoffs, six teams get in and three are Wild Card teams. One team will win the NL Central, the other will have to fight for a WC spot. But getting the 3-seed means playing the last WC team, which could be the Brewers. Otherwise it’s likely to be the Phillies or Padres. There isn’t much separation between those teams. You’d want to avoid the Braves in this scenario as the defending champs. Even the Padres could be a handful with Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury.
So really there may be more incentive for the Cardinals and Brewers to ensure they go into the playoffs healthy. St. Louis has a team that feels built for the postseason. Adam Wainwright and Miles Mikolas are a solid 1-2 and now you have Jordan Montgomery, who should be motivated. Plus, two MVP candidates in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado.
The Brewers made some interesting moves at the deadline and have struggled since. The top end pitching for Milwaukee is strong with reigning NL Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, Eric Lauer and Brandon Woodruff. Adrian Houser is also going to be back before the playoffs. Trading Josh Hader to free up Devin Williams to close will be worth monitoring. The Brewers also have a balanced lineup that has plenty of HR threats.