The National League Central is best described as a cluster, with three teams basically together and one right on the fringe. Those making sports picks have their hands full sorting through this.
Let’s attempt to remove some of the clutter in trying to beat the sportsbooks with their MLB odds and find winning situations to profit from in this division.
Back during spring training I stated Milwaukee was a Play On team for season win totals at 81 or 82 victories. The Brewers came storming out of the gate at 20-8 and since the latter part of May have been a .500.
For Milwaukee to win this division and return to true Play On status with MLB picks, they have to be more stout at Miller Park, where they are just 31-27, -5.5 units at the Sportsbook Review standings page. Because the Brewers are no longer a force on the road at 31-25 (+10.3 units), they need to raise their level of play at home.
How this occurs is going from average in pitching numbers to closer to the Top 5 in the league and Ryan Braun and the rest of teammates start scoring more than 4.2 runs a game in their own ball yard.
The Brew Crew’s schedule is not favorable against the MLB betting odds, but if they are playoff material, they will find ways to improve.
St. Louis Cardinals
We have talked all year about the Cardinals lack of offense and more than two-thirds of the way into the season, it is unlikely to improve. Instead, St. Louis has to rely on pitching and coming thru with big hits when necessary.
To repeat as NL Central champs, the starters have to go deep into games, giving manager Mike Metheny all his options with the bullpen and maintain if not improve upon 76 percent save rate.
The Cards .317 on-base percentage is a respectable fourth in the NL, thus what they need is more clutch hits to score runs. The addition of A.J. Pierzynski has brought toughness and a winning attitude and the same is true of John Lackey.
The Redbirds slate is much easier than the Brewers this month and if they do the right things, St. Louis could be in first place with a month left in the season.
If you were wondering like I was how Pittsburgh got back in the NL Central race, they took advantage of opportunity. Since early June, the Pirates have played 37 games against teams below .500 and are 26-12, good for +11.3 units.
Unfortunately, due the buffoonery of Arizona manager Kirk Gibson, Pittsburgh will be without arguably the best player in the NL in Andrew McCutchen, for at least three weeks and who knows how much longer with a fractured rib.
It doesn’t matter, you subtract the best player off any team, the future results will not be positive, especially at such a critical point. The Pirates have to try and maintain their current position in the standings, hope McCutchen returns 100 percent, since they still have six games each with the Brewers and Cardinals.
As a baseball handicapper, I have to admit I misread Cincinnati. When Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips were first injured, I did not know they would be out this long and for the most part; no amount of pitching can overcome deplorable run production.
Of course I never thought Jay Bruce would be a non-factor in the lineup and that is just too many missing pieces. Nevertheless, this division can still be taken because the Reds are not out of it and their schedule is soft in the immediate future and an 8-2 spurt could make this a four-team race down the stretch. Based on how Cincy has played, you would not think this would happen, but it is baseball.
The Cubs have been easy pickings most of the season, but this might not be the case the rest of the way. Since their five-game losing streak was halted on July 22, Chicago is 8-7 (+1.65) and the front office is starting to bring up the prized pieces like Junior Baez from the farm system, which will generate excitement around this team, particularly if they perform.
Let’s take the Cubs off the Play Against list and see how they perform with their new toys.