Birdhouse '07 NL Central Division Predictions

The stlcardinals.scout.com staff provide their fearless 2007 National League Central Division predictions.

Although we cheerily admit that we are an almost-completely consistently biased source, once again the staff of stlcardinals.scout.com provides our fearless predictions for the outcome of the 2007 regular season in the National League Central Division. After all, a World Championship does a lot for anyone's confidence!

Here are the individual rankings with the consensus on the left. Commentary follows.

 

2007

Brian

Pete

Jason 

Ray

Leonda

Brady

 

Points

Walton

Khazen

Scott

Mileur

Markee

Holzhauer

Cardinals

7

1

2

1

1

1

1

Cubs

15

2

1

2

2

4

4

Astros

18

3

3

3

4

3

2

Brewers

21

4

5

4

3

2

3

Reds

29

5

4

5

5

5

5

Pirates

36

6

6

6

6

6

6

Either I am consistent, or stuck in my ways as I note my prediction is identical to last year, starting with the Cardinals on top. I take solace in that Jason Scott agrees with me and our votes swung the consensus vote to align with us, too.

Ray Mileur and Leonda Markee are more bullish about the Milwaukee Brewers than the others, but Leonda joins Brady Holzhauer in seeing the Chicago Cubs as remaining a second-division club.

One thing about which we all agree is that the Reds and the Pirates are expected to sit in the lower reaches of the Central Division stack.

For the second consecutive season, only our St. Louis-based Cubs fan writer Pete Khazen did not pick the Cardinals to win. Last season, Pete also picked the eventual-sixth place Cubbies to take the Division. Well, they did finish with more wins than Tampa Bay and Kansas City, at least!

In the spirit of full disclosure, despite his country-mile miss with the 2006 Cubs, Khazen still finished in the middle of the pack of our predictors last season (see bottom line of the table following).

 

2006

Brian

Pete

Leonda

Joe

Rex

2006

 

Points

Walton

Khazen

Markee

Mammy

Duncan

Result

Cardinals

7

1

2

1

1

1

1

Cubs

19

2

1

2

5

3

6

Astros

19

3

3

5

2

4

2

Brewers

21

4

4

4

3

2

4

Reds

29

5

6

6

4

5

3

Pirates

31

6

5

3

6

6

5

Pred Rank

 

2

T3

5

1

T3

 

2007 Predictions

Brian Walton

1. St. Louis: It hardly seems a coincidence when one division represents the league in the World Series for three consecutive seasons with one club doing it twice. That is the situation in which the 2007 Cardinals find themselves. In recent years, the Redbirds haven't been as reliant on young arms as this version, with the season as dependent on Adam Wainwright and Anthony Reyes as Chris Carpenter and Jason Isringhausen. A mid-season return of Mark Mulder could be a huge shot in the arm. Sophomore Chris Duncan and the level of return of Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds will key the offense. Still the best among this lot until some other club proves more worthy.

2. Chicago: I am sorry, but despite spending $300 million in the off-season, the Cubs are coming off a 96-loss season, finishing 17.5 games back of the poorest regular-season division-winner in MLB. That is a huge hole from which to dig out. Coming off injury, Derrek Lee will be looking to rejoin Albert Pujols among the best first-sackers in the NL and Carlos Zambrano is always worth the price of admission. Newcomer Alfonso Soriano is an excellent player, but can he be a winning one? I think this new group under volatile Lou Piniella will take awhile to gel. Despite all the hype, I may be leaning into the wind picking them second.

3. Houston: People worry about the Cardinals rotation, but a similar situation exists in Houston. Can Roy Oswalt do it without Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Brandon Backe, the latter out after Tommy John surgery? If "it" is winning the Cy Young Award, maybe, but forget about taking the division. Starter Jason Jennings came over from Colorado and Woody Williams returned home to end out his career. Newcomer power bat Carlos Lee will be drooling over those circus-like Crawford Boxes. This club will score runs with Lee and holdovers like Lance Berkman, but the biggest question remains the same for the second consecutive season. No, not Clemens – color him gone. Will closer Brad Lidge return to "lights out" status or fall back further into the pack of ordinariness?

4. Milwaukee: The Brew Crew remain the trendy pick of many to ascend to the heights of the division for at least the third year in a row. I just don't see this club having done much of anything to improve, seemingly having left it all to the hope of maturing youth. Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, Bill Hall and gang still represent unrealized potential. Dependable Doug Davis is gone as is the aforementioned Carlos Lee, traded at the deadline, but Chris Capuano is back to try to right a second-half swoon. Ben Sheets remains a huge "what if?" for the third straight season. Jeff Suppan was the only notable free-agent addition and he won't be enough to keep his new team out of the second division unless the Cubs stumble or the Astros prematurely show their collective age.

5. Cincinnati: Wayne Krivsky's honeymoon as general manager is over and amazingly, his first year trades almost make predecessor Jim Bowden's look passable. Former troubled Tampa Bay prospect Josh Hamilton does look intriguing in the outfield, but there isn't much to go with Adam Dunn on the offensive side unless you count the yearly Ken Griffey injury lottery. The rotation remains considerably below average except for Aaron Harang and like seemingly always, there is no dependable closer to give the Redlegs a fighting chance to win the prevalent 10-9 slugfests at Great American Ballpark. Call it Colorado Central-style baseball, but humidors won't help this bunch any more than it does the Rockies.

6. Pittsburgh: The young Buccos added first baseman Adam LaRoche from Atlanta, but gave up arguably their best pitcher, closer Mike Gonzalez, to get him. Jason Bay remains a fine young hitter and second baseman Freddy Sanchez took the NL batting crown. Ian Snell is a pretty good-looking starter, but the depth just isn't there and the kids aren't ready. Manager Jim Tracy won't find a combination that works because he doesn't have the parts. With the resurgence of the Cubs, I expect the Pirates to again battle for the cellar and seem certain to post their 15th consecutive losing season. That's futility!

Pete Khazen

1. Chicago: Surprise, surprise. The Tribune Company put advertising in the holy ivy at Wrigley Field and opened up the pocket book this offseason. The Cubs finally figured out the business strategy of banking on Mark Prior and Kerry Wood just wasn't working. With a healthy Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and potential 40/40 man in Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs are going to score plenty of runs – perhaps even enough to support Jason Marquis on a regular basis. It'll be an ugly division once again, but Carlos Zambrano will lead the club with a Lou Piniella swagger, and those Cubs will eke the division out en route to quenching a 99-year thirst.

2. St. Louis: Injuries and a changing of the guard in the starting rotation will prove costly as the season begins and throughout. The Cards clicked at the right time, and the perfect storm just isn't going to form again. So enjoy the season as defending World Champions while you can (and you've earned it). But Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan will be missed more for their ability to soak up innings than anything else. And while the Cards have Chris Duncan and the best player in baseball in Albert Pujols, the rest of the Cardinals slugging offense might just be near the end of their rope.

3. Houston: Jason Jennings and Woody Williams are not Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. It's just that simple. The power of Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman will keep the Astros in the battle for the division, especially if Luke Scott busts out this season. If Clemens comes back, he won't be a difference maker in who wins the division, unless the Astros play spoiler.

4. Cincinnati: There's just not enough consistent offense or pitching in Cincy for 2007. This is no more evident than the closer position, which likely will be filled by David Weathers or Mike Stanton. Either way, the Reds might be looking to re-sign Danny Graves before you know it. If you're looking for the feel good story in the division, though, keep your eyes peeled on Josh Hamilton, who could just be the surprise of the season.

5. Milwaukee: While he pitched phenomenally well in the playoffs last season and is consistent over his career, Jeff Suppan is not the answer to the Brewers getting over the .500 hump. And though you just need to creep over that hump in this division to compete, the number of strikeouts the Brewers batting order racks up will be their ultimate demise.

6. Pittsburgh: Until Major League Baseball institutes a salary cap or the Pirates get some new owners interested in spending some money, this team just isn't going to creep above fourth in the NL Central. And it doesn't matter if Freddy Sanchez and Jason Bay are healthy or sitting out.

Jason Scott

1. St. Louis: The starting rotation is clearly the Cardinals Achilles' heel, but it shouldn't be hard to replace last year's production from the their three, four and five starters. With Kip Wells, Braden Looper, Adam Wainwright and a full season of Anthony Reyes, the Cardinals are adding four potential power-arms to the rotation. It should be another exciting season in St. Louis.

2. Chicago: Even though the Cubs spent nearly $300 million over the off-season, the Cardinals remain the better team and the team to beat in the NL Central, especially when $61 million of that money went to Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly. However, that should make for an exciting home run race on the North Side this season; who will allow the most?

3. Houston: The Astros did spend $100 million on Carlos Lee, but they also lost Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, replacing them with Woody Williams and Jason Jennings. They should, however, provide the Cubs with a good competitor for second place in the division.

4. Milwaukee: The Brewers have a lot of young exciting talent, and with the acquisition of Jeff Suppan over the off-season, they might finish above .500 for the first time since 1992. However, I still don't see them finishing higher in the standings. Potential concerns include the outfield production and the bullpen.

5. Cincinnati: Despite being in the race for most of last season, the Reds lost their best hitter, Rich Aurilia, and made no significant improvements. However, they still have a very formidable lineup and a good 1-2 punch in the rotation, so they do have the potential to surprise.

6. Pittsburgh: This really shouldn't be a surprise. When a team finishes with a losing record for the 14th consecutive season and they make just one significant off-season move (Mike Gonzalez for Adam LaRoche), you almost have to wonder if they are competing for last place. After all, they did finish second to last to the Cubs last season.

Ray Mileur

1. St. Louis: The starting rotation is improved with the addition of Kip Wells, a more experienced Anthony Reyes and an emerging star in Adam Wainwright. Whoever starts the season as the club's fifth starter only has to hold the job down until Mark Mulder returns around mid-season, giving the Cardinals the best starting rotation in the Division. Adam Kennedy is an upgrade at second, Scott Rolen is healthy for a change and Chris Duncan continues to improve, throw in Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds, Yadier Molina and David Eckstein and you have the makings of another National League Central Division championship team, if not more.

2. Chicago: After finishing the 2006 season with a 66-96 record, 17.5 games back of the Cardinals, the Cubs went out and spent more than $300 million in an effort to quickly build a contending team for 2007. As the old saying goes, you can't buy as much for $300 million as you used to. The hiring of manager Lou Piniella is a step in the right direction, as well as the addition of OF Alfonso Soriano, 2B Mark DeRosa and SP Ted Lilly, but that isn't going to be enough to overcome an average at best, starting rotation.

3. Milwaukee: The club hasn't had a winning season since 1992 but that is likely to change this season. The addition of Jeff Suppan in the offseason and a healthy Ben Sheets gives the Brewers two solid starters at the front of the rotation, to go with a couple of inning eaters behind them in the arms of Chris Capuano and Dave Bush. If the club can get the game to him with a lead, Francisco Cordero is a quality closer. Their offense is a question mark, but the team has the potential to contend deep into the season.

4. Houston: It's over - Jeff Bagwell has retired officially and aging Houston Astros C Brad Ausmus (38) and 2B Craig Biggio (41) aren't far behind. SP Roy Oswalt is the club's staff ace, but once you get past him, the rotation is filled with guys best suited for the four or five hole. There certainly isn't the one-two punch that they had with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte that can keep the club in contention. A team you can't take lightly with bats like Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee in the lineup, but there are just too many holes in his ballclub to make it to the finish line.

5. Cincinnati: Quality prospects in the form of RHP Homer Bailey, OF Jay Bruce, 1B Joey Votto and OF Drew Stubbs are waiting in the wings for their chance to play for the Reds. So, better days are ahead for this once proud franchise, but unfortunately it won't be in 2007. A team that finished two games below .500 last season didn't do anything in the offseason to make up any ground in the National League Central Division.

6. Pittsburgh: Finished the second half of last season with a 37-35 record that was better than the St. Louis Cardinals' 35-39 record, so the Pirates may not be as bad we think. They have a couple of exciting players to watch in OF and All-Star Jason Bay, SS Jack Wilson, the former Cardinals ninth round draft pick in 1998, and NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez who can play second, short and third. In spite of a solid second-half last year, the Pirates finished with a dismal 67-95 won-loss record. A club that shows some promise but will likely have problems moving up in the standings this season.

Leonda Markee

The 2007 National League Central should be as competitive as it has been in awhile. I think there are four contenders, a real long-shot and a pretender with the gap between the contenders being pretty narrow. However, each of my top four contenders has question marks.

1. St. Louis: The rotation has been overhauled and a youth movement is afoot with Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright expected to become full-time starters. 2007 will be their first full season in a major league rotation. Carpenter is an Ace of Aces but Kip Wells is a question mark due to his health history. Skeptical as I am about Looper in the rotation, I do have faith in Dave Duncan's assessment of pitchers so hope Duncan is right and I am wrong. With Wainwright in the rotation and Kinney and his minor league closing experience lost for the season, Jason Isringhausen needs to get healthy, stay healthy and produce. The return of Mark Mulder and his subsequent effectiveness is yet another question for St. Louis. I doubt if Mulder provides much of a positive impact. The offense rotates around Albert Pujols and I expect Rolen to have an excellent year offensively. Jim Edmonds is in the decline phase of his career but should be able to improve on his mediocre 2006 offensive numbers while providing his quality defense. The Cardinals' lack of off-season flashiness in the free agent market means they have the financial flexibility to make a mid-summer move. In the end, the Cardinals' proven track record of success gives them the nod in the Central.

2. Milwaukee: Milwaukee has one of the most balanced rotations in the Central with Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush and Claudio Vargas. The key here is for ace Ben Sheets to be healthy and pitch as he is capable. Another key is which Jeff Suppan will show up. Suppan is a smart pitcher that knows how to maximize his average stuff but he was a career journeyman pitcher before signing with the Cardinals. His superb post-All Star numbers in 2006 made fans forget his horrific pre-All Star performance. Offensively, Milwaukee upgraded at catcher by acquiring Johnny Estrada to replace Damian Miller. The Brewers have young bats with lots of upside in Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. However, their outfield could stand improvement. The biggest question defensively is in center where Bill Hall will get the nod if a better option does not arise. Hall has played a total of seven Major League games, or parts thereof, in center. Overall, look for the Brewers' rotation to give them a chance to win most games and that should keep them in the hunt for a division title.

3. Houston: Houston boosted their offense with the Carlos Lee signing but it is not likely to be enough to overcome their overall offensive woes. The Astros were in the bottom five in the majors in 2006 in a number of key offensive categories. Pitching remains their strong suit with ace Roy Oswalt anchoring a rotation that lost Andy Pettitte but gained Jason Jennings in a trade with the Rockies. That trade was costly in that Houston lost their centerfielder, Willy Taveras, plus two up-and-coming arms in Jason Hirsh and Taylor Buchholz. The pitching wild card remains Roger Clemens. He would give the Astros' rotation a real boost if he signs with them. However, I think Clemens will go back to the East Coast and my prediction is based on that idea. Defensively, Houston must fill the hole in center while hoping Carlos Lee does not butcher too many plays in left. Overall, the rotation is a bit weaker than in 2006 and the offense will not be able to make up the difference. Still, the Astros will contend.

4. Chicago: Chicago certainly spent the money in the off-season but I do not think it will be enough for them to reach the top of the division. They lost a whopping 96 games in 2006 and that is a great deal of ground to make up. On the pitching side, Carlos Zambrano is an ace who has survived the Dusty Baker meat packing plant. Exactly which pitcher becomes their number two is not entirely clear. Ted Lilly comes over from the American League so should see his numbers improve. However, he had more flyball than groundball outs in 2006 and that is not a good sign if you regularly pitch in Wrigley. Rich Hill, like the Cardinals' Reyes and Wainwright, has yet to spend a full season in a major league rotation. Jason Marquis should improve on his 2006 performance, it would be difficult to do worse and continue to receive a major league paycheck, and I actually expect him to listen to Larry Rothschild and be competitive; at least in the short-term. The Cubs' biggest off-season moves were to sign Alfonso Soriano and retain Aramis Ramirez. But neither improves Chicago's on-base percentage and that still impacts on their ability to score runs. Centerfield is a big question mark as Soriano has no prior experience in that position. The Cubs will need to have a good defense for a groundball pitcher like Jason Marquis to succeed and that is a question as well. Yet, the Cubs could be in the thick of the race if things break their way. But when does that happen for the Baby Bears?

5. Cincinnati: Cincinnati mirrored St. Louis' off-season in that neither team signed any flashy names. The problem for Cincinnati is that their core is not as good as the Cardinals'. Therefore, a lack of moves means that they are less competitive. The Reds play in a hitters' park so must either try to bash their opponents into submission or improve their pitching. They did neither during the off-season. It is a real question as to whether Bronson Arroyo can duplicate his 2006 performance which was a career best for him. Signing Alex Gonzalez improves the middle infield defense but his bat will not cause many pitchers to lose sleep. The Reds' offense took a hit when Rich Aurilia took his bat back to San Francisco while Junior Griffey is another year older and managed to injure himself wrestling with his kids during the off-season. The Reds are a real long-shot.

6. Pittsburgh: It appears to be more of the same for Pittsburgh. They have too many holes and a cheap owner. The Bucs did acquire a lefty power bat in Adam LaRoche but that cost them closer Mike Gonzalez. LaRoche should provide Jason Bay some protection and the Bucs do have batting champ Freddy Sanchez. But that is about it for the batting pluses and it remains to be seen if Sanchez can come close to duplicating the career year he had in 2006. Pittsburgh needs starting pitching and their biggest off-season acquisition was Tony Armas, Jr. It is a sad state of affairs for one of baseball's oldest franchises.

Brady Holzhauer

1. St. Louis: The St. Louis Cardinals have every reason in the world to finish first in the National League Central Division in 2007. The defending World Series champions have almost the exact same lineup (only the switch of second baseman Ronnie Belliard for the incoming free agent, Adam Kennedy) and the pitching staff looks to be fine, despite worries about experience and alent. Albert Pujols is entering his prime (hasn't he already reached the peak of performances?) and Chris Carpenter is a true ace. David Eckstein was World Series MVP and Chris Duncan hit 22 home runs in limited at-bats. Anthony Reyes retired 17 straight batters in his first career World Series start (as a rookie, nonetheless). Adam Wainwright has dominated so far in Spring Training. Braden Looper has pitched fairly well so far in the Grapefruit League and Brad Thompson has pitched extraordinarily so far and could take his spot in the rotation. Scott Rolen is 100% healthy for the first time in quite a few seasons, and he can now fully swing without any problems. Yadier Molina is coming off an amazing postseason at the plate. If these guys can play this well in the postseason, they sure can play this well during the regular season. When the Cardinals' biggest question mark in the lineup is Jim Edmonds, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. The Cardinals should repeat as NL Central champs.

2. Houston: The Houston Astros are in my opinion the most improved of any of the other five NL Central teams. No matter how much the Cubs spent on free agents, the Astros were able to pull off moves to bring in the right players. Perhaps the two biggest additions were outfielder Carlos Lee and pitcher Woody Williams. Lee, who played with both the Milwaukee Brewers and Texas Rangers last season, is a prolific home run hitter and an amazing presence at the plate. Williams, a former St. Louis Cardinal himself, is a pitcher with great command and swagger on the mound. His record may not support that, but under the right coaching staff, he can succeed. Dave Duncan probably got the best out of Williams when he was with St. Louis, but he still has the pitches to be a number four or five starter in the pros. The Astros are still led by pitcher Roy Oswalt, and first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman. These two players can have consistently led this team to at least being in the hunt for first by the end of September. The Astros should give the Cardinals a run for the money again, although not as close as it was the past season.

3. Milwaukee: The Brewers made one of the better moves of the offseason in signing starting pitcher Jeff Suppan from the Cardinals. Suppan, an inning-eating type of pitcher with excellent command, has long been one of the vastly under-appreciated starters in the National League. His performance in the 2006 NLCS with the Cardinals was good enough to warrant a series MVP award, and he should carry his success into Milwaukee. The Brewers were more of an offensive team in 2006, at least up until Carlos Lee was traded to the Rangers. This year, the Brewers are a pitching team, and they will rely mainly on four pitchers: Suppan, Chris Capuano, Dave Bush, and the underachieving Ben Sheets. If those four pitchers play to their abilities, the Brewers could switch places with the Astros in the Division. The Brewers' lineup is led by second-year infielders Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. If those two stay healthy, they will contribute greatly. Bill Hall should continue to do produce at the plate from the outfield. I think the Brewers finish third as injuries plague their pitching rotation once again.

4. Chicago: The Chicago Cubs spent the most money of any team in the Majors this past offseason, bringing in several players and a new manager, Lou Piniella. Piniella's personality does not "differ" from that of former manager Dusty Baker. The two are worlds apart. Baker, one of the most laid-back managers in baseball, did not find success with the Cubs. Piniella, a proven winner and a fiery competitor, hopes to make his scheme work in Chicago. The Cubs' GM Jim Hendry went to work immediately on building a team that can win starting in 2007. They brought in Alfonso Soriano, currently one of the most well-rounded players in the sport. They brought in Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis to pad the rotation - although I do not see how these two can improve their team (Marquis failed to even make the Cardinals' World Series roster). The Cubs do have a great lineup though, with third baseman Aramis Ramirez back and a healthy Derrek Lee (first base). Catcher Michael Barrett is a good, clutch hitter, and offseason addition Mark DeRosa should provide more stability at second base. Cesar Izturis is a great player at shortstop, although his bat didn't quite come alive in 2006. The Cubs' rotation relies mainly on Carlos Zambrano, who has already guaranteed he will win the Cy Young award and that his team will be crowned World Champions. Mark Prior is attempting yet another comeback, but most do not expect him to be able to contribute much to this team. Although the Cubs bought players with talent and some who they "think" have talent, there are already rumored reports about lack of intensity - something that Piniella most likely is not likely happy about. The Cubs have talent, but I do not believe they can put it together.

5. Cincinnati: The Cincinnati Reds season in 2006 was defined by an April 16th game against the Cardinals. Most of the St. Louis fans remember this Easter Sunday game very well. Albert Pujols hit three home runs, including a walkoff homer off Reds' reliever David Weathers. This game clearly symbolized what the Reds season was to be in '06: close, but no cigar. The Reds and Astros were in the race to take over first place at the end of the season, but once again, they came close and failed to reach their goal. 2007 should not be a season of close finishes for the Reds, as they should fall all the way to fourth or fifth place in the NL Central. The Reds are led by a pitching staff including Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Kyle Lohse, and Eric Milton. Arroyo and Harang are the two most dependable starters, although Harang still compiled 11 losses to go with his ten wins. Arroyo finished with a low ERA of 3.29 but only won 14 games while also losing 11 starts. The rest of the Reds pitching staff is up in the air. As for their lineup, they will rely on left fielder Adam Dunn to continue his hitting success. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion should be healthy again, and second baseman Brandon Phillips should be able to continue his contributions to the team (.276 average, 17 home runs, 75 RBI). The outfield still has Dunn, who hit 40 home runs the previous season. Dunn also had his second highest career strike out total (194; his previous high was 195). Ken Griffey Jr. was able to put up fairly good numbers in only 109 games last season, hitting 27 home runs and reaching 72 RBI. As of now, Griffey Jr. is injured from an offseason accident with one of his children. The team should underachieve in '07 mainly due to an unreliable rotation and an aging outfield that should fail to produce as they have in the past.

6. Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh Pirates were not the lowest of the lows in '06, finishing just ahead of the Cubs in the Division. This team has been the worst team of the Central for some time now, but they are on their way up. Of course, when you are at the bottom most of the time, up is the only way to go. The Pirates lean on left fielder Jason Bay, center fielder Chris Duffy, and right fielder Xavier Nady for most of their production, although the infield began to pick up the pace last season with third baseman Freddy Sanchez's .344 batting average. Unfortunately for the Pirates right now, Sanchez went down with a leg injury during a Spring Training game back on March 6th. As of right now, there is no word on when he will return. Now, the Pirates will rely on ex-Braves first baseman Adam LaRoche for a hefty chunk of their offensive production. LaRoche hit 32 home runs in 2006 to go with 90 RBI and 89 runs scored. The Pirates pitching staff is comprised mainly of Tony Armas, Shawn Chacon, Zach Duke, Paul Maholm, and Ian Snell. Last season, Zach Duke had perhaps the best season of any Pirates pitcher, winning 10 games while losing 15 with a less-than-stellar 4.47 ERA. The Pirates pitching staff will have to improve for this team to make any noise in 2007, and many consider them to be the weakest team. I think the Pirates have the potential to move up a few spots in the division, but I do not see it happening this year.

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