The Chicago Cubs are the favorite to win the National League Central coming out of the All-Star break and heading into the home stretch of the MLB season. In one of the closest divisions in baseball, the Cubs success against second place Milwaukee has been the difference so far this year. Chicago are 8-3 against the Brew Crew with eight head-to-head games remaining, five of them at Wrigley.
Sportsbook MyBookie has Chicago as a -300 favorite to win the NL Central, meaning a $300 bet on the Cubs is required for $100 in profit.
Cubs a Big Favorite With a Small Division Lead
The NL Central is intriguing as Milwaukee (2.5 GB), St. Louis (7.5 GB) and Pittsburgh (9 GB) are all within 10 games of the Cubs. St. Louis and Pittsburgh have the best records against the division and have had success against division leading Chicago so far this year. The landscape of the division will be much easier to predict after the July 31 trade deadline, when teams decide if they are in or out of the race.
Chicago plays eight of its next 12 games against the Cardinals. St Louis has won five of the first eight meetings between the two rivals this season. The Cardinals (+1600 to win the division) have their playoff fate in their hands going into this stretch immediately out of the break. The teams will close the regular season against each other in Chicago.
Chicago is currently 21-19 vs the NL Central while St. Louis is 26-18 vs division opponents.
Brewers Just 2.5 Games Back
Milwaukee has floundered lately, losing six straight heading into the break including a five-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates. Despite the recent tough stretch and secession of the division lead to Chicago, Milwaukee are +200 to win the NL Central in 2018.
A banged-up Milwaukee squad has been looking for good news of late but it seems like when it rains it pours. Once considered a front runner to acquire Manny Machado from the Orioles, it now looks like the Baltimore shortstop is headed for the bright lights of Los Angeles and the Dodgers.
On top of an apparent failed bid for one of the best players in the game, during Tuesday’s All-Star game some old tweets from pitcher Josh Hader surfaced. The tweets contained racist and homophobic slurs and Hader was immediately confronted after the game. He admitted to the tweets from his teenage years saying that he was immature and said some inexcusable things. He had a meeting with MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem Tuesday night.
Here are the complete odds to win the National League Central in 2018:
|St. Louis Cardinals||+1600|
Odds as of July 18 at MyBookie
The Chicago Cubs were the heavy odds-on favorites to reign over the National League Central before the first pitch of the 2018 MLB season took place, but after two months of play, another team has launched itself into the conversation at sportsbooks.
The Cubs remain the +110 faves to win the division at Bovada, with the Milwaukee Brewers (+140), St. Louis Cardinals (+325), Pittsburgh Pirates (+4400) and Cincinnati Reds (+50000) behind them. At the beginning of the campaign, the Cubs were massive -275 chalk, while the Brewers were available for a preseason price of +550. The Cardinals were initially available at +375, while the Pirates (+3000) and Reds (+4000) were obvious long shots.
Brewers look like they’re built to last
The Brewers were considered a dark-horse candidate by many MLB pundits before the season started, but they’ve been far and away the best team in the NL Central so far and held a two-game lead on the Cubs at the top of the division with a SU record of 37-23 as of June 5. Coming off an 86-win season, the Brew Crew look primed to contend in the National League for the foreseeable future.
The Brewers aren’t the flashiest team in the majors, but they have excelled in categories like fielding, relief pitching and baserunning while employing a brand of small-ball similar to the 2015 World Series-winning Kansas City Royals. At this rate, expect the Brewers to easily surpass their projected season win total of 84.5.
After an inconsistent start, is a return to form on tap for the Cubs?
Like last year, the Cubs didn’t have the best start out of the gate but appear to be getting it together with the calendar turning to June. Chicago (33-23 SU) has won eight of its past 10 as of this writing.
Javy Baez (14 home runs, 45 RBI) has paved the way for the Cubs offense, with Kyle Schwarber (11 HR, 28 RBI), Kris Bryant (8 HR, 28 RBI) and Anthony Rizzo (8 HR, 36 RBI) chipping in at the plate. Jon Lester (6-2, 2.44 ERA) continues to evade Father Time, while Jose Quintana (6-4, 4.30), Kyle Hendricks (4-4, 3.19) and Tyler Chatwood (3-4, 4.02) have fared much better in the last few weeks.
|St. Louis Cardinals||+325|
Odds as of June 5 at Bovada
The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals have dominated the National League Central over the past five years, and according to the early National League Central futures market, it’s the Cubbies who have the best chance to win the division in 2018.
At Bovada, the Cubbies are the -275 favorites to win the division for the third year in a row. The Cardinals (+375), Milwaukee Brewers (+550), Pittsburgh Pirates (+3000) and Cincinnati Reds (+4000) are all available in plus-money.
Here’s a betting breakdown of each NL Central team:
Chicago Cubs -275
On the heels of their World Series win, the Cubs couldn’t recapture the magic of 2016 and meekly bowed out of the playoffs to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS. It’s hard to call the 2017 campaign a complete failure for the North Siders considering they snapped the longest World Series championship drought in history the previous year, but it certainly wouldn’t be considered a success either.
It took a while, but the Cubs finally landed their man when star pitcher Yu Darvish signed a six-year, $126-million contract with the team. The Darvish signing helped fill a vacancy created by the departures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and closer Wade Davis, while starter Tyler Chatwood, reliever Steve Cishek and new closer Brandon Morrow will also make their debut in the Windy City in 2018. Overall, it was a successful offseason for Chicago.
St. Louis Cardinals +375
For the first time since 2007-08, the Cardinals missed the playoffs in consecutive years.
For the first time since 2007-08, the Cardinals missed the playoffs in consecutive years. In the end, a mediocre 83-79 SU record simply wasn’t enough to get the Redbirds over the top. With a new focus on 2018, the Cardinals find themselves chasing the Cubs yet again before Opening Day.
Pundits and fans of the Cardinals have widely described their offseason as a largely disappointing one. The club has a payroll of over $121 million but there are holes across the roster. If general manager Mike Girsch can pull off a midseason trade for a superstar like Josh Donaldson or Manny Machado, it could be a different story, but right now the Cardinals aren’t scaring anyone.
Milwaukee Brewers +550
Compared to the Cards and Cubs, the Brewers are often forgotten in the NL Central. Considering the Brew Crew have only made the playoffs four times since the franchise relocated to Milwaukee from Seattle in 1970, it’s understandable why they’re perennially overlooked. The Brewers finished one game behind the Colorado Rockies for the second wild-card spot in 2017, but an 86-76 SU record provided plenty of optimism for baseball fans in Wisconsin.
Rather than be patient with its young group, Milwaukee decided to go for it in the offseason by sending top prospect Lewis Brinson and other young players to Miami in exchange for all-star outfielder Christian Yelich. The starting rotation could use another talented arm, but there’s no reason to expect Milwaukee to regress in 2018.
Pittsburgh Pirates +3000
In back-to-back years, The Pirates haven’t won more than 78 games.
In light of the Pirates’ underwhelming 2017 campaign, Pittsburgh’s front office found itself at a crossroads. The club’s three-year stint as a force in the NL Central was fading into the rear-view mirror, evidenced by 78- and 75-win seasons in back-to-back years. General manager Neal Huntington decided to hit the reset button and go all-in on a rebuild, and the Pirates will likely stay near the basement of the division for the time being as a result.
The trade of face-of-the-franchise outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants was a tough pill to swallow for Pirates fans, as was the decision to send ace pitcher Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. Pittsburgh’s prospect cupboard has been restocked, but the on-field product won’t be increasing ticket sales in the Steel City.
Cincinnati Reds +4000
Cincinnati has been the doormat of the Central Division for years, and when you take a look at the 2018 edition of the Reds, it’s likely going to be more of the same for the historic franchise. The Reds’ 68-94 record in 2017 featured the club going 29-52 SU on the road and 39-42 at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds made a few minor signings to shore up the bullpen in the offseason with Jared Hughes and David Hernandez joining the squad, which will help a unit that put up a bloated 4.65 ERA a year ago. Cincy has stressed the importance of giving its young guys playing time, so it’s no surprise to see the Reds avoid any major free-agent veteran signings.
|St. Louis Cardinals||+375|
Odds as of March 28 at Bovada