It's starting to look like the sportsbooks futures odds were accurate, having the three of the Top 6 teams from the National League Central as possible league champions for 2015.
St. Louis has been the best bet in baseball virtually the entire first half, but Pittsburgh has been the best club in the majors for seven weeks and a favorite among baseball handicappers and those making MLB picks alike. And let's not discount the Chicago Cubs who have talented youth, but veteran pitching and look like they might be a factor to the end. How will this division shape up, let's dig and seek answers.
St. Louis (56-33, +18.6 units)
It feels nit-picky to find fault with the best team in the big leagues, but facts are facts and the Cardinals have lost eight of their first 13 games in July. The offense without Matt Holiday is not the same and as the second half commences they are averaging less than four runs a game. Plus, Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez both has more innings pitched in 2015 than they thrown in their still young careers. This is still a dominant club who has all the elements to win, with a decided home field edge (31-11) and is 46-18 as a favorite. With the rest, you might want to take a real close look at the Cardinals MLB betting odds over the next several weeks. From July 17th thru Aug. 2nd, the Redbirds only play two away games and over their next seven series, only one team has a winning record (Mets). For MLB picks, St. Louis has to be looked at daily.
Pittsburgh (53-35, +10.8)
Since May 22nd, the Pirates have played like pirates in taking money from wagering outlets with their 35-13 record. The method has been the same as the past two-years, win the games you are supposed to and Clint Hurdle's squad is 46-25 as favorites this season. The confidence they gained helped take three of four over St. Louis, which included two sensational comebacks. Pittsburgh's pitching has been outstanding on all levels and they have closed the gap even in that category with the Cards. The Bucs schedule is much harder than the Cardinals. After being in Milwaukee it is off to Kansas City, followed by four home tilts with Washington before heading to Minnesota.
Chicago (47-40, +2.1)
The Cubs organization realizes they are in position to make a splash and go after the making the playoffs after five dismal seasons. However, Theo Epstein has a process and any players brought in or traded for have to not only be useful this season, but at least for the next two. Chicago is going to need more out of Jon Lester and despite his ugly 4-8 record, at least they are 9-9 in all his starts, still, the Cubs did not give that kind of cash to be a .500 pitcher. Joe Maddon has to find ways to get his young hitters to relax as runs have been scarce since a 17-0 clobbering of Cleveland on June 17th, averaging just 2.8 runs per contest. If the Cubs offense ignites, they could keep pace with St. Louis as their first five series after the break are all against losing teams, though three are on the road. Chicago's worth a look versus the MLB odds.
Cincinnati (39-47, -9.3)
Most baseball insiders think Cincinnati will be among the most active teams before the trading deadline. It is clear the Reds postseason window with these players has been shut and it's time to move on. It is just a matter of how many go and what Cincy wants in return. If you are using Heritage sports, playing against the Reds looks to have value as they take on rival Cleveland, the Cubs, Colorado, St. Louis (six times), Pittsburgh and then go on a 10-game West Coast trip. See ya Cincinnati!
Milwaukee (38-52, -13.7)
Having won 10 of 14, the Brewers moved up from pitiful to morose. Milwaukee is not going to get better in the foreseeable future and they honestly need to move their two most tradable assets, Carlos Gomez and Jonathan Lucroy, who are both 29 and in position to bring maximum return. As for Milwaukee's prospects, depending who sells quicker, the Brew Crew could hang on to this pair and surpass Cincinnati, but not sure what that means. Just playing better at Miller Park would be a positive given their moribund 16-28 record (-15.9 units). Milwaukee has quite a few home games the next month and unless they begin playing better at home, the schedule is stuffed with clubs better than the Brewers.