MLB Picks: Looking at the Unpredictable NL Central

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, May 7, 2014 2:01 PM UTC

Wednesday, May. 7, 2014 2:01 PM UTC

About the only thing in the NL Central which has played out as expected is the Chicago Cubs are in last place. Otherwise, for those making sports picks it has been a little topsy-turvy and not gone to form. How do we see these teams fairing in what remains of the season?

Other than Milwaukee, each team has been exposed with warts and each has produced negative numbers to those riding them with MLB picks.

Milwaukee Brewers
In our Cactus League reports this spring, we emphasized Milwaukee appeared to have many likeable qualities and they could be one of those teams which turn heads. 

This has certainly been the case with the Brew Crew, who has been one of the best bets at sportsbooks all season. 

Back in March we thought the Brewers had very good starting pitching depth, with five hurlers giving them a chance almost every game. If these pitchers performed as expected, this made manager Ron Roenicke’s job easier in setting up the bullpen. The relievers have been a great complement, which is why they are 2nd in on-base percentage conceded and third in ERA before Tuesday night.

The offense has been fairly pedestrian, not helped by Ryan Braun being on the DL and eventually the lack of corner infield offense is likely to matter. But for now, backing the Crew is fun and profitable, especially as underdogs where they are 11-4. 

St. Louis Cardinals
Most assumed like we did St. Louis would just pick up where they left off after being National League champions. However, MLB baseball handicappers are finding flaws with an offense which is either underachieving or not as good as first thought. 

You can go down the line and see names like Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta, Allen Craig, Peter Bourjas and now Mark Ellis all not helping the offense. If the bats heat up like a St. Louis summer, the Cardinals have more than enough pitching to string together a simmering month of baseball and play as expected. 

Right now the question is will they?

Cincinnati Reds
With the changes in dugout and in personnel, the Reds MLB odds for season win total sunk to 85 wins for the upcoming season. To this point, unfortunately for Cincinnati backers, their team is making them look right. 

The Reds bullpen was a mess to start the season due to injury and only recently is showing signs of coming together. With Mat Latos and now Tony Cigrani on the DL, the starting pitching is further depleted and Homer Bailey has been a no-show for five weeks. 

Cincy does not have enough offense to pick up the slack, especially with Jay Bruce having knee surgery. Where can the Reds turn to find answers, this is what everyone in the Queen City is wondering. 

Pittsburgh Pirates
After decades of futility, the Pirates finally climbed above .500 last season with an astonishing 94 wins and while a certain degree of regression was presumed, the start of 2014 was not part of the deal. 

The place people will look at is the Pittsburgh offense which is averaging just 3.9 runs per game, here is a funny thing; this is EXACTLY what they averaged last season in runs scored, so this is not as big an issue as perceived. 

What has changed is the pitching. Last year the Pirates were third in run prevention in baseball at 3.6 per contest, that figure is up to 4.4, nearly a 19 percent increase.

The failure has been on multiple levels, with starting pitchers having the second highest ERA in the NL at about 4.5 and though the pensters have good 2.88 ERA, they have blown nine of 14 save chances, easily the worst in the senior circuit. 

While the pitching has not been as strong, if they were not under constant pressure because of the lack of runs scored, they might improve. 

Chicago Cubs
Of all the teams seen in Spring Training, the Cubs were the worst and had the lowest expectations. Thus far, Chicago has been right on target with a feeble offense (3.6 RPG) that just lacks the ability to score runs, having scored three or less runs in 16 of their first 31 tries. 

The pitching overall has been half bad, especially Jeff Samardzija, who has the second-best ERA in the NL at 1.62, yet has not won a game and has three losses.

The North Siders are strictly play against the betting odds material.  

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