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St. Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers

Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig hits a three-run homer in the Sept. 15 game against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Puig homered three times in LA's 17-4 win. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Much was made here — and in Chicago and Milwaukee —about the success new Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has had against the National League Central opponents he will now face regularly.

For good reason.

Goldschmidt's career batting line reads a wildly impressive .297/.398/.532.

Against the National League Central, though, it jumps up to .305/.416/.562.

And Goldschmidt absolutely clobbers the Cubs (.353/.471/.699) and the Brewers (.366/.478/.652).

No player with more than 150 at-bats against the Cubs since 2012 has a higher OPS against them than Goldschmidt's 1.170.

No player with more than 200 plate appearances against the Brewers since 2012 has a higher OPS against them than Goldschmidt's 1.130.

The six-time All-Star, clearly, is a noted NL Central basher, but he's no longer the only one new to the division.

Let's take a quick look at the Central's newest notable hitters — they are all former Dodgers, so far — and  see what kind of threat they could become to the Cardinals, if history holds.

Puig's power pops against Cards

Yasiel Puig has been known to make a stop by Mike Talayna's Juke Box after games in St. Louis.

He usually has something to celebrate.

His trade to the Reds means more opportunities for late-night dancing, and in-game bat-flipping.

Puig's batting line since his attention-grabbing debut in 2013 reads .279/.353/.478.

It jumps to .308/.376/.523 in games played against NL Central teams.

Puig, who sometimes licks his bat between pitches to show his love for it, tends to feel that affection returned when he plays the Cardinals and Cubs.

He averages .340/.409/.524 against the Cubs. He has slashed .350/.451/.550 at Wrigley Field.

He averages .305/.385/.558 against the Cardinals, thanks in large part to the five homers he smashed against the Redbirds last season. His Busch Stadium batting line reads a bonkers .364/.463/.795.

Another way too look at it?

No player with more than 50 plate appearances at Busch Stadium since 2013 has a higher OPS than Puig's 1.258.

Puig's numbers during Cardinals home games make his career .508 slugging percentage at his hitter-friendly home in Cincinnati look tame.

Watch out for Grandal at (new) home

The National League Central champion Brewers made a splash by signing power-plus free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal to a one-year, $18-plus million deal that could wind up looking like a steal in the end.

Grandal is a .240/.341/.441 hitter on his career, with three consecutive seasons of 20-plus home runs.

He has had less success against National League Central teams than clubs outside the division.

He's a .171/.310/.257 hitter against the Cardinals in 105 at-bats. He's hit just two home runs and no doubles in 66 plate appearances at Busch.

But Grandal should enjoy his new home. Miller Park's hitter-friendly conditions have helped him slash .296/.367/.556 there since 2012. That .922 OPS is the best Grandal has at any park he has more than 50 at-bats in.

Kemp heating up?

At first glance, new Reds outfielder Matt Kemp, like his former Dodgers teammate Grandal, lacks the history of NL Central mauling that Puig relocated to Cincinnati after Kemp and Puig were traded to the Reds.

A closer look suggests the seasoned veteran should not be overlooked.

Since 2016, Kemp has averaged .300 and slugged .533 against Cardinals pitching. During that span, he has slugged .633 in 30 at-bats at Busch Stadium.

Using players' past success, or lack thereof, against teams is not always a reliable tool. The pitchers change, you know. But there is enough evidence to suggest Goldschmidt will not be the only new arrival entering 2019 with confidence that his bat will do damage in its new division.


Ben Frederickson

@Ben_Fred on Twitter

bfrederickson@post-dispatch.com

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