The NL Central is evolving, as the St. Louis Cardinals are moving up and the Milwaukee Brewers are slowly slipping. Let examine if this will continue in the NL Central, and what the rest of the teams in the division look like.
After a 20-8 April, Milwaukee is 9-14 in May. Neither scenario is a complete surprise, because the Brewers were never as good as they played last month and this month has simply been a correction. The most visible signs of weakness are three of the four corner positions. Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay have been on more than one team the past several seasons (mostly because of low batting and on-base percentages), playing positions generally regarded as places where hitters should occupy. Many MLB baseball handicappers like left-fielder Khris Davis’ power potential, nonetheless, having an on-base percentage under .300 cannot compensate for two other poor hitters. While this cannot be described as a liability yet, the Brew Crew’s bullpen which at one time was second in the National League in ERA, has been creeping upward, and now sits at No. 6.
After finishing the series with Baltimore, the Brewers should bounce back with five contests at Miller Park against the Cubs and Twins, and should do no worse than break even on the road at Minnesota, Pittsburgh and the New York Mets.
St. Louis Cardinals
It is not going to be like a boat ride down the Mississippi River for bettors backing St. Louis, however, brighter days look to be ahead for the Cardinals. The Redbirds are not hitting the baseball so hard it’s coming apart at the seams, but since May 11, they are averaging 4.6 runs per game, which has taken them to 3.9 for the season. A combination of the bottom of the batting order being more productive and Allen Craig coming around has improved the offense. One huge concern is this team lack of power, with only 28 home runs with the major league average at 47 (40.5 percent below normal). The St. Louis pitching will always provide them a chance to win and they need to take advantage of this homestand against the Yankees, Giants and Royals before heading out on seven-game road trip.
Pittsburgh is showing signs of life as they are approaching being a .500 club again for the first time since April 18. If the Pirates are going to get back in the division or wild card race, it starts right now, away from the Steel City.
The Bucs are 7-15 (-8.2 units) on the road, and are finishing up at the Mets before traveling to SoCal to take on the Dodgers and Padres, seven total times. While the offense remains an issue, the starting pitching has been improving, and the bullpen is no longer a weakness. Pittsburgh is not out of the woods, since Francisco Lirano and Charley Morton need to start hanging more numbers in the win column, and manager Clint Hurdle can only hope Brandon Cumpton is better than the departed Wandy Rodriguez.
It is starting to setup as a long season along the Ohio River for Cincinnati fans. Sportsbooks expectations for the Reds were close to a 10-game fall, coming off a 90-win campaign. At the start of the season, the offense figured to struggle. The bullpen was a shell of its prior self, due to injury, and the starting pitching was a question mark without Mat Latos.The first two assumptions were on the nose, but the Cincy starters have exceeded expectations thanks to Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon. However, the Cincinnati offense is like a parked car, going nowhere: they average 3.5 runs a game, which is made worse playing in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. It is difficult to imagine that the Reds are going to turn things around on their trip to the Dodgers and Arizona, before returning to Ohio to take on the San Fran, and the same L.A. club with Philadelphia stuck in the middle.
Despite having the worst record in the NL, the Cubs are actually doing surprisingly well, seeing from the perspective of a computer program, that breaks down several team factors to determine their chances of making the playoffs. The Cubs current chances according to this program are better than the five other teams in the league! If Jeff Samardjiza can finally win a game, anything is possible.
If you are making sports picks, you realize that Chicago should be very close to a .500 team, because the run differential is close to dead even. What has held them back is a no-clutch offense plating just under four times a game, and a 3-10 mark in single run outcomes.The Cubs are almost done in Frisco, and will spend the weekend in Milwaukee before making the short jaunt south to play two winnable series versus the Mets and the Marlins. However, in spite of the apparent good news about betting on Chicago, just remember these are still the Cubs, who have two fewer World Series titles in 105 years than Miami... who came into existence in 1993.