MLB: NL Central Quarterly Report Card

Brewers Lead the Way, Cardinals Hanging Around

The MLB National League Central is a top-heavy division that may lack some drama as the summer wears on. Perhaps not for the bettor, however, there’s always something to consider as it relates to the sportsbook. Let’s look at the NL Central Quarterly Report:

Milwaukee Brewers

After a 95-win season fueled by a dominant pitching staff, oddsmakers established the Milwaukee Brewers as the top of the class in the NL Central. The action on Milwaukee drove the team’s expectations even higher, and even with the St. Louis Cardinals breathing down their neck, the Brewers have seen their division-winning odds plummet to -350.

That quality pitching has been there again, although it’s comes with Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta struggling to a degree. Both have seen their sub 3.00 ERAs from a year ago soar to 4.76 and 4.42, respectively. Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes is at it again and Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer have stepped up for Woodruff and Peralta. Closer Josh Hader has yet to allow a run in 15 dominant save opportunities.

Behind Rowdy Tellez, Hunter Renfroe, and Willy Adames – each of whom have nine home runs – the Brewers lead the National League with 55 blasts and impress in several other MLB team stats. Well over half of their homers (34) have come at home, where Milwaukee is 14-6 and is paying out hoards of cash on the moneyline at Miller Park – a weighted $100 bet on just Brewers’ home games would have netted a bettor $162 profit.

If Adames comes back from the IL (ankle) and keeps raking, and if Christian Yelich can move a bit closer to the form he flashed in his remarkable first two years with the Brewers, the lineup will be even better. A power bat, power pitching combo should continue to draw action on a team on pace for 100 wins – only the Dodgers and Mets have better pennant odds than Milwaukee’s +550.

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals seem to finish first or second in this division every year, but that didn’t stop preseason markets from pushing them down. They took a bunch of money on the under for their regular-season win total, dropping it a game to 84½. Their division odds floated as money came in for the Brewers instead — opening at +175 and moving to +225 before Opening Day.

Behind MVP-caliber starts for Paul Goldschmidt (fifth in majors with .976 OPS) and Nolan Arenado (team-high nine homers), expectations are looking up. St. Louis entered Tuesday’s play just two games behind the Brewers and on pace for 93 victories. Still, its division odds remain the same as they were when the season started.

Perhaps some are noting that the Cards have played a relatively easy schedule (sixth-easiest in the majors, to be precise). But guess who’s played an even easier one? That’s right, Milwaukee, which has had more opportunities against division lightweights Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. St. Louis has a better run differential at +49 after Goldschmidt’s walk-off grand slam Monday. That’s the third-best mark in the NL, yet the team’s odds to claim the pennant remain at +1400, worse than seven other teams in the senior circuit, two of which have losing records.

If you’re a believer in Goldy, Nolan, Adam Wainwright and the rest at the NL Central Quarterly Report, you might have some pretty good payouts down the road.

Chicago Cubs

Despite posting a losing season for the first time in seven years in 2021, bettors came in hot on the Cubs and bet them to go over the number — enough to push it two full games to 75½. Perhaps some are second-guessing themselves, as Chicago is on pace for just 67 games and it still has 32 matchups with the Brewers and Cardinals remaining.

The Cubs are almost the opposite of Milwaukee. They don’t hit a lot of home runs and the rotation has been less-than-stellar, posting a 4.53 ERA. If not for some fine work by a bullpen that boasts four pitchers with sub-2.00 ERAs and at least 10 appearances, the idea of hitting that 75½-win mark would be laughable.

There are some potential fixes here. Veteran Wade Miley, who very quietly has posted a 31-15 mark and a 3.46 ERA since 2018 (excluding a stunted 2020 campaign), recently returned from the IL and posted quality starts in two of his first three outings. And Justin Steele is emerging as a soft-contact specialist – he tops qualified pitchers with the lowest percentage of barrels per plate appearance (0.7%).

The Cubs have cost bettors a good amount thus far, losing $474 on the year for weighted $100 bets. And they may cost bettors who liked them to win 76 games or more. But if Miley and Steele can continue their trajectory and get some comparable results from veterans Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman, the staff could round into form.

It still may not be enough for Chicago to be a profitable team the rest of the way.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The best thing you can say about Pittsburgh is that they are in position to snap a string of three straight last-place finishes. And they may make some money for those that took the over on their 64½ win projection, as they are now on target for 67.

Don’t hold your breath, the schedule holds no favors from here on out. They play the seventh-most difficult slate the rest of the way, with the usual collection of games against Milwaukee and St. Louis, as well as seven vs the New York Mets, an upcoming six-game road trip vs the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego, plus a host of contests against the powerful AL East.

This team can’t hit. The lowest-scoring team in the majors last season is 29th in 2022, saved from last place by only the lowly Detroit Tigers. This team can’t pitch. The squad with the worst ERA in the majors last season has a rotation in 2022 that is 2-18 with a 5.25 mark.

Pittsburgh’s expected win-loss record is 11-30, which is, the worst in the majors. The Pirates have cost $100 daily bettors more than $300 in losses, and anyone sticking with them while their results normalize could be in for some painful summer nights.

Cincinnati Reds

When the Reds had a fire sale moments after the lockout ended and club owner Phil Castellini posted, “Where are you gonna go?” to frustrated fans, it had the look of a real dumpster fire in Cincinnati. When the team endured a brutal 1-20 stretch that spanned parts of April and May, that fire seemed as if it had spread far beyond the bin out back.

All those that rushed to bet the under on a 73½-win projection have been whistling all the way to the bank, but they can’t get in line just yet. The Reds have suddenly put forth a 9-7 stretch that included a series win over Milwaukee at home, against Cleveland on the road, and hit the NL Central Quarterly Report in better shape.

The pitching has been so poor that there had to be a slight correction at some point. Veteran Luis Castillo is healthy again, rookie fireballer Hunter Greene is figuring some things out, and Tyler Mahle at least has a good track record.

That massive slump earlier in the year was the primary culprit in the Reds costing bettors an astonishing $1,148 on weighted $100 daily wagers, easily the most in the league. The +35000 odds to win the division reflect the getting-struck-by-lightning feel to such a scenario, but there could be some mildly competitive ball in Cincinnati this season, or at least fewer 1-20 stretches.

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