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2019 MLB preview: A look at Cubs’ and Sox’ Central Division opponents

NL CENTRAL

CUBS

2018 finish: 95-68, second (1 GB)
2018 vs. Central: 41-36

BREWERS

2018 finish: 96-67, first
2018 vs. Cubs: 9-11
Manager: Craig Counsell
Did you know? Led by NL MVP Christian Yelich, the Brewers won their first division title since 2011. They have basically the same team back that was one victory better than the Cubs in the regular season. But the only time the Brewers have reached the postseason in consecutive years, they were still in the American League (1981-82).

CARDINALS

2018 finish: 88-74, third (7.5 GB)
2018 vs. Cubs: 10-9
Manager: Mike Shildt
Did you know? Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson called the Cardinals’ offseason acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt the “steal of the century.” Then Mr. October said something that should haunt Cubs fans. “He’s the guy that will make the Cardinals 10 to 15 games better because he gives you presence in the clubhouse,” Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

PIRATES

2018 finish: 82-79, fourth (13 GB)
2018 vs. Cubs: 9-10
Manager: Clint Hurdle
Did you know? Mention Starling Marte to most fans, and Kris Bryant likely doesn’t come to mind. But the Pirates’ Gold Glove outfielder has something in common with the 2016 NL MVP. In 2019, Marte hit .277 and Bryant hit .272. And each had a .460 slugging percentage. Marte had 109 strikeouts, Bryant 101. But Marte had 606 plate appearances to Bryant’s 457.

Milwaukee Brewers' Christian Yelich talks with the home plate umpire before batting in the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

REDS

2018 finish: 67-95, fifth (28.5 GB)
2018 vs. Cubs: 8-11
Manager: David Bell
Did you know? The Reds haven’t won a division title since 2012 (heck, they haven’t had a winning record since 2013), but they made the Central’s most aggressive push in the offseason, adding Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Tanner Roark, Sonny Gray and Alex Wood — just in time as they celebrate 150 years, the first professional team in baseball history.

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AL CENTRAL

WHITE SOX

2018 finish: 62-100, fourth (29 GB)
2018 vs. Central: 30-46

INDIANS

2018 finish: 91-71, first
2018 vs. White Sox: 14-5
Manager: Terry Francona
Did you know? The Indians were the only AL Central team with a winning record in 2018. This is a team that relies on solid starting pitching and a slick-fielding infield that swings big bats. Indians infielders — paced by Jose Ramirez — led the majors last season with 121 home runs, but their outfielders — another expected weak spot in 2019 — hit just 43, tied for 25th in the majors.

TWINS

2018 finish: 78-84, second (13 GB)
2018 vs. White Sox: 12-7
Manager: Rocco Baldelli
Did you know? Once nicknamed “The Piranhas” by Ozzie Guillen, the Twins have lost their bite, notching winning records just twice since 2011, Guillen’s last season as Sox manager. But the Twins were the division’s most aggressive team in the offseason, adding Marwin Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, Martin Perez and Blake Parker.

TIGERS

2018 finish: 64-98, third (27 GB)
2018 vs. White Sox: 12-7
Manager: Ron Gardenhire
Did you know? The rebuilding Tigers failed to homer in 72 games last season, the most in the majors and their most since failing to do it 74 times in 2002. Their most famous power threat is Miguel Cabrera, who turns 36 on April 18. Cabrera, a future Hall of Famer who was limited to 38 games in 2018, is 36 home runs shy of reaching 500.

ROYALS

2018 finish: 58-104, fifth (33 GB)
2018 vs. White Sox: 8-11
Manager: Ned Yost
Did you know? Since winning 95 games en route to a World Series title in 2015, the Royals have failed to post a winning record. The Royals showed how to do a rebuild right by reaching the World Series in 2014 and 2015, but their top prospects in the current rebuild are likely two years from the majors, meaning another potential triple-digit-loss season.