National League Central
MLB National League Central 2022
Last season, three teams in the NL Central finished with a record over .500. The Brewers (95-67) won the division, while the Cardinals (90-72) won a Wild Card spot. The only other team with a winning record was the Reds, who finished 83-79.
Aside from those three, the Cubs (71-91) and Pirates (61-101) each struggled with consistency.
Entering 2022, the Brewers have the best odds in the division of winning the World Series, and the Cardinals are also expected to be competitive.
Despite trading away Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez last season, the Cubs also seem poised to try to compete as they have already signed Marcus Stroman and claimed Wade Miley to aid their pitching staff.
Unfortunately for Reds and Pirates fans, it appears that the Reds are looking to scale back payroll while the Pirates are still in the midst of a rebuild.
Still, the NL Central should be an extremely competitive division in 2022 and one that could surprise a few people when it comes postseason time next year.
MLB National League Central History
In 1969, Major League Baseball first introduced the concept of divisions within the American and National Leagues with the East and West divisions. Before that point, the winner from the AL and NL simply faced each other in the World Series.
However, in 1994, the divisions were realigned again, this time adding a Central division to both leagues. It was at this point that the National League Central was born.
When the NL Central was introduced in 1994, there were five founding teams:
- The Cincinnati Reds (moved from the NL West)
- Houston Astros (moved from NL West)
- Chicago Cubs (moved from NL East)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (moved from NL East)
- St. Louis Cardinals (moved from NL East)
In 1998, the Milwaukee Brewers moved to the NL Central from the AL Central. Now with six teams, the division was the largest in MLB. However, in 2013, the Houston Astros were moved to the American League West, leaving all six divisions in baseball with five teams each.
MLB National League Central Championships
From its inception in 1994, it took a decade before any team in the division reached the World Series. In 2004, the St. Louis Cardinals became the first, although they lost this World Series to the Boston Red Sox.
Since then, six NL Central teams have played in the World Series, with three eventually being crowned champions. The St. Louis Cardinals have won the World Series twice as part of the division (2006 and 2011), while the Chicago Cubs won it all in 2016.
In terms of NL Central titles, the Cardinals have had the most success in the division. In total, they have won the NL Central 11 times, with their most recent being in 2019.
Aside from the Cardinals, the Cubs (six), Astros (four), Reds (three), and Brewers (three) have also had some success in the division. To this point, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the only team that has not won the division.
The NL Central has also had 17 teams get into the playoffs via the Wild Card. Of those 17, both the Houston Astros (2005) and St. Louis Cardinals (2011) made it to the World Series as a Wild Card team. The Cardinals won their Wild Card appearance in 2011.
MLB National League Central Top Players
Since first being introduced in 1994, many outstanding players have played in the NL Central, some of which have gone on to be inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame.
Some of the most exciting players in division history include Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner, Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Matt Holiday, Yadier Molina, Jeff Kent, Joey Votto, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Carpenter, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Trevor Hoffman, Barry Larkin, Ken Griffey Jr., and several others.
A player from the division has won the NL Most Valuable Player award 11 times. Jeff Bagwell of the Houston Astros won it in 1994, the division’s first year. The Cardinals have the most MVPs, with three, all of which were won by Albert Pujols.
The most recent NL MVP came from the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, when Christian Yelich won the award.
In terms of the NL Cy Young Award, five pitchers from the division have won the award. Each of the six teams that have played in the NL Central at one point or another (including Houston) has won the award once, with the exception of the Pirates.
The division has won the award in back-to-back years in 2020 and 2021, with Trevor Bauer of the Reds winning it in 2020 and Corbin Burnes of the Brewers winning it in 2021.
Today, the stars still shine bright in the NL Central. Here are just a few of the stars from the division this past season:
National League Central Star Players:
- Brewers: Avisail Garcia – .262/.330/.490, 29 HR, 86 RBI, 68 R
- Cardinals: Nolan Arenado – .255/.312/.494, 34 HR, 105 RBI, 81 R
- Cubs: Patrick Wisdom – .231/.305/.518, 28 HR, 61 RBI, 54 R
- Pirates: Bryan Reynolds – .302/.390/.522, 24 HR, 90 RBi, 93 R
- Reds: Joey Votto – .266/.375/.563, 36 HR, 99 RBI, 73 R
MLB National League Central Top Managers
While the NL Central has not been around for even three decades yet, it still has seen several significant managers throughout its years. Managers like Joe Maddon, Tony La Russa, Dusty Baker, Lou Pinella, Larry Dierker, Jack McKeon, and Clint Hurdle have been some of the best in the business over the years.
Starting in 1983, Major League Baseball began to recognize outstanding jobs that managers have done with the Manager of the Year award. Since its inception, the NL Central has had a manager win the award seven times.
The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals lead the division with two award winners apiece. The most recent Manager of the Year winner from the NL Central was Mike Schildt, who won it with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2019.
Today, the division still has a strong lineup of managers. Oliver Marmol will be entering his first season at the helm for the Cardinals in 2022. Aside from him, David Ross (Cubs), David Bell (Reds), Craig Counsell (Brewers), and Derek Shelton (Pirates) will be returning to their respective teams.