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Comparing the offenses of the NL Central contenders

Would you rather have the position players of the Pirates, Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds for the rest of the season?

Of the contenders for the NL Central, which team's position players would you prefer to have the rest of the way (sorry guys)? Rest-of-season ZiPS Projections can help us figure out the answer. You can play with them over at Fangraphs, as they constantly update what to expect from now until the end of the season for individual players. You can also play with the "Updated Projections" tab, which just adds together performance so far plus rest-of-season to see what the most likely case is for each player by the end of the year.

Each team 5,624 plate appearances the rest of the season (that's based on an average of ~38 per game over 148 games). I cut the lowest performers from each team until we were right around that figure, and excluded negative WAR bench players, essentially only including anyone who figured to get significant playing time of the bench and a positive WAR (your Martin Maldonado, John Jay, Clint Barmes types). We just assume that the rest of the benches are going to even out to replacement level. Then I stacked up the projected WAR the rest of the way for each squad, and broke it down by position for your viewing pleasure.

If you don't know much about WAR, each unit on the x-axis represents one extra win for the team over starting an entire lineup of Jeff Bianchis at each position. Also remember, this does not include just hitting, but defensive value as well-- but no pitching.

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That puts the Pirates position players as best in the division by about a half win over the Brewers, 2 wins over the Cardinals, and about 3 over the Reds. That's not a huge gap, but it is something. This is probably most concerning for the Reds, who just about everybody picked to finish ahead of the Brewers this year. They really need the pitching to come around if they want to compete for this thing. As of yesterday, the Brewers and Reds had a roughly equal probability to make the playoffs this year, with the Brewers gaining about 15% and the Reds falling 15% since the start of the season.

For a bonus comparison, switch it up and check out where the division's strengths are:

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Molina and Lucroy are a big component of the catcher domination, but you're also seeing a fairly strong crop of backups who get factored in here because they are projected for significant playing time and fairly solid production. McCutchen and Gomez lead the center fielders to second place.