We got an early surprise leader in this division and all three of last year’s playoff teams from the NL Central have been unable to catch them. Can Milwaukee continue to beat the betting odds?
With all three clubs showing improvement of late, the task will not be easy, but almost half way through the season, the Brewers have been the kind of team we told you about back in Spring Training and have avoided deep slumps. Here is a peek into the future for all five clubs in the division.
Be honest, every time Milwaukee losses a couple in a row or two out of three, you start to think “here they go”. It’s almost July and even the most optimistic person making sports picks had the Brewers as high as third place in the division, not at the top.
The Brew Crew has the best record in the National League and is the most profitable for baseball handicappers and those devising MLB picks at +13.9 units.
With Aramis Raimrez back, Milwaukee is as strong as any NL team in the heart of the batting order and they rank second in runs scored in the senior circuit at 4.5.
With five good starting pitchers, the Crew can take this act on the road and they are a Major League-best 27-15 (+14.6 units) away from home. After Colorado this weekend, they head to Toronto and Cincinnati and one can presume the winning continues.
St. Louis Cardinals
In the early stages of June, it looked like the Cardinals were going to take flight with a 7-1 record. But since then they are 4-4, playing the same inconsistent baseball they have all year, plus now they are down a couple of starting pitchers due to injury.
Pitching has been the only aspect keeping St. Louis respectable, listed 1, 2 or 3 in every major pitching segment. Any drop in production here further exposes the 24th rated offense in the game at 3.8 runs per contest.
No simple solution for the Cards who continue their road trip with four games at the Dodgers followed by a three at San Francisco.
Cincinnati has not put together any winning streaks; however, they are churning and defeating the MLB odds in winning six straight series.
With the return of Mat Latos, the Reds have a formidable rotation and they have already moved up to the fifth slot in the NL in ERA and are second in OPS allowed at .676.
With this kind of pitching, the offense has finally heated up like southern Ohio summer; averaging 6.2 RPG in their last 14 tries.
If Cincinnati can finish their road trip with a 4-3 record versus San Fran and San Diego, they head back home for an important 10-game homestand against three division rivals which could propel into the thick of the NL Central race.
The Pirates have taken a similar path to Cincinnati with a recent 4-1 series record to reach .500. The Pittsburgh offense continues to be spotty and too reliant on Andrew McCutcheon to generate every big hit. However, we should not lose sight of the fact last year’s 94-win playoff team averaged 3.91 RPG and this season they are modestly improved to 4.09.
For Pittsburgh to make a legitimate move, their starting pitching has to improve on their No. 13 ERA and No. 12 OBP ratings in the NL. Having Gerrit Cole should help, but more importantly Francisco Liriano and Charley Morton have to step up.
The Bucs are slightly above average at PNC Park at 21-18 (-0.1) and have a terrific opportunity to advance themselves playing three losing clubs in the Mets, Arizona and Keystone State partner Philadelphia on this homestand.
You look at the Cubs starting pitching and three of their five guys in the rotation have an ERA under three, not many teams can say that. The bullpen has kept this team from winning more with a save percentage of 58 percent. What really hurts Chicago is an offense scoring 3.8 runs per contest.
Outside of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, the Cubs have nobody else that produces. Given the North Siders run differential, with a better bullpen and clutch hitting, their run differential of -13 suggests they should be four games better on their record.
This proves when the Cubs swing the bats; they can win and are 15-13 in contests determined by four or more runs, which is an anomaly for a bad team.
Unfortunately for them right-handed opposing pitchers chew them up which is why they are 24-39 (-13.2) against them, scoring a mere 3.5 RPG.
Expect Chicago to face a steady diet of righties facing Washington and Boston the next 10 days and for the losing to continue against the sportsbooks.