Today, August 8, the St. Louis Cardinals sit at 60-51, a game ahead of the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central. It appears as though it's going to come down between those two teams, so I present you with five reasons why it's going to be the Cardinals winning the division.
1. Starting pitching
The Cardinals have a 1-2 punch of Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. The only NL team that can even compete with that dynamic duo is the Philly tandem of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Carpenter is currently in the running for the NL Cy Young, while Wainwright would be an ace on almost any other team. The Cubs, meanwhile, just put Carlos Zambrano on the DL. He's not the only one either, as he is joining Ted Lilly. While we're on the subject of pitching ...
2. The Closer
The Cardinals have had one of the best closers in all of baseball this season. Ryan Franklin is tied for fourth in the NL in saves with 25, and is sporting a 1.27 era. Gregg has 21 saves on the season, but has blown five opportunities. He also has one of the worst eras of all closers in the NL at 4.09.
3. The lineup
After acquiring Matt Holliday, Mark DeRosa and Julio Lugo, the Cardinals now field one of the scariest lineups in the league. The 3-4-5 of Pujols, Holliday and Ludwick can scare the best pitchers in baseball, and once they're worn out from having to face them, they have to try to get DeRosa, Yadier Molina and Brendan Ryan out. That's a tough task for any team. While Chicago has a good 3-4 combo of Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano has been heating up batting in the six hole, it still doesn't rival what the Cardinals have to offer.
4. Albert Pujols
In previous years, Albert Pujols would have been No. 1 on this list, that's how deep this St. Louis team is. Pujols is undoubtedly the best player in baseball. He's hitting .327 on the season with a .447 on base percentage. He leads the league in both home runs and rbis with 36 and 97, respectively. With the bat of Matt Holliday now hitting behind him, that makes the man who has absolutely no holes in his swing even more dangerous, something no one thought was possible.
The Cardinals have one of the most storied histories in Major League Baseball. They have 10 World Series Titles (would be 11 if not for Don Denkinger), most in National League history and second only to the New York Yankees, who have 26. The Cubs have a lot of history as well, unfortunately for them most of it goes against their favor. Chicago has been brought down with everything from goats to cats to guys named Bartman. The Cardinals also have 17 NL pennants and 10 division titles (seven NL Central, three NL East), while the cubs have 16 NL pennants (none since 1945) and five division titles (three NL Central, two NL East).