The Cincinnati Reds started 2015 right with a three-game sweep over Pittsburgh. But Friday’s MLB odds have the Reds as home dogs when the St. Louis Cardinals come to the Great American Ball Park.
That’s the ol’ pepper. Not much is expected from the Cincinnati Reds this year; they’re 40-1 World Series outsiders on the MLB Odds list at Bovada. But the Reds have started their 2015 campaign in fine style, sweeping the Pittsburgh Pirates in three games to collect a quick 3.12 betting units for their supporters. Maybe they’ll make some noise in the NL Central after all.
Not if the St. Louis Cardinals have anything to say about it. The Cardinals are the defending Central champions, they’ve won the division nine times since the 1994 realignment, and they’re 12-1 at press time to claim their third World Series of the new millennium. The baseball odds also have St. Louis pegged at –125 to win Friday’s road game (7:10 p.m. ET) over the Reds.
Marquis de Sad
Here’s how poorly people think about Cincinnati’s chances this year: Only 15,616 of them showed up for Thursday’s 3-2 win over the Pirates (–110 away). They missed a hell of a ball game. Joey Votto (.799 OPS last year), who was shut down last July with a distal quad strain, hit a 2-run homer in the sixth to tie the game. Then Pittsburgh RF Gregory Polanco committed a walk-off error on a line drive by Marlon Byrd (.757 OPS for Philadelphia).
Byrd is one of the new arrivals expected to make a difference in Cincinnati – a difference of 1.6 WAR in left field, according to Neil Paine’s reading of the advanced stats at FanGraphs. A full season from Votto should also be worth another 2.2 WAR at first base. And if Jay Bruce (.654 OPS) bounces back from similar quad issues as well as projected, that’s another 1.9 WAR in right field. But once you add all the plusses and minuses, the Reds are only expected to improve by 0.5 WAR this year via their position players.
The pitching rotation is where the bigger problems lie. Friday’s starter, Jason Marquis, didn’t play in the majors last year, and only made the team because Homer Bailey was put on the 15-day DL to begin the season. Marquis needed Tommy John surgery in 2013 after tearing his UCL while pitching for the San Diego Padres. He threw 46.2 innings for the Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate and posted a 4.30 FIP before getting cut.
WAR, Huh, Good Gawd Y’All
The Cardinals can smell the blood in the water. They were only No. 18 in hitting last year with a .689 OPS, but that should improve in 2015 with the arrival of Jason Heyward (.735 OPS) in right field, who’s also one of the best defensive players in the game today. Heyward is expected to add 33.1 runs to St. Louis’ total with his bat, plus another 20.8 in the field and 9.5 more on the basepaths. It all adds up to a 7.0 WAR upgrade for the Cardinals, more than any other player in the majors this year.
As for pitching, Friday’s starter is John Lackey, who made 10 regular-season appearances for the Cardinals in 2014 after coming over from the Boston Red Sox in the Allen Craig deal – which conveniently opened up an outfield spot for Heyward. Lackey was good for 1.90 units of profit on a team record of 6-4, even though his FIP went up from 3.85 with Boston to a career-worst 4.71 in St. Louis. Regarding your MLB picks, expect better now that he’s had his first taste of the senior circuit.
Given that Marquis will be throwing his first official big league pitch in nearly two years, we recommend putting some Cardinals in your lineup. Marquis is a right-handed pitcher, so if you’re looking for a waiver-wire pick-up, CF Jon Jay (.750 OPS) is only 10% owned at Yahoo. He’s a left-handed batter with not a lot of power, but enough contact to hit .303 last year.
Free MLB Pick: Take the Cardinals -135 at YouWager