Fresh off their first World Series win in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs are on top of the baseball world. When it comes to National League Central Division futures, oddsmakers aren’t expecting that to change any time soon.
The Cubs are huge -500 chalk to win the Central in 2017, with the St. Louis Cardinals (+550), Pittsburgh Pirates (+850), Cincinnati Reds (+3300) and Milwaukee Brewers (+3300) all listed in plus-money.
Truth be told, it’s going to take a miracle for any of those teams to knock off the Cubbies. Chicago completed one of the most dramatic comebacks in World Series history last year, erasing a 3-1 deficit to win a Game 7 thriller in extra innings over the Cleveland Indians. With the monkey off their backs and morale at an all-time high in the Windy City, the Cubs should be even better in 2017 — a scary thought for the rest of the National League.
Year in and year out, the Cardinals always seem to be in the mix, and they deserve to be ranked behind the Cubs in Central odds. St. Louis suffered through a difficult injury-plagued campaign last year but still finished only one game out of a wild-card position. Longtime slugger Matt Holliday is gone, but the front office replaced his offensive production with ex-Cub Dexter Fowler. The Cards never stay down for too long, so don’t count them out just yet.
Pittsburgh finished a disappointing 78-83 a year ago, which caused many pundits across the league to wonder if the Pirates’ contending window was closing. This is going to be a big season for the Bucs to prove they’re still a threat in the Central, but fans in the Steel City firmly believe they can make another playoff push with the current roster.
|St. Louis Cardinals||+550|
Odds as of March 30 at Bovada
Well, it’s not official – but the Chicago Cubs have all but locked up the NL Central with the Cardinals and Pirates being written off by almost everyone.
Online sportsbook BetOnline has taken note of that and tagged the Cubs with a -1600 line as favorites to take the division title. At +1200 and +1800 respectively, the Cardinals and Pirates are not completely out of it. Last season, the Toronto Blue Jays sat eight games back on July 28 and came back to win the AL East by 3.5 games.
The value here probably exists in the +1800 Pirates who at the break are 7.5 games back. They did, however, win eight of their last 10 games and have recently called up stud rookie prospect pitcher Tyler Glasnow. They will have to get some better starting pitching from the likes of Francisco Liriano, but if you’re looking for a long shot, it might be the Pirates.
In a similar situation are the St. Louis Cardinals. They are just seven games back of the NL Central leaders despite the fact they have been horrific at home (19-26). If they can correct this trend, but keep winning on the road, the Redbirds could also challenge for the division crown.
The Brewers and Reds have fallen off the map completely at 14.5 and 21.5 games back respectively. Adam Duvall has been the only bright spot for Cincinnati as he has been a breakout star, crushing 23 home runs in baseball’s unofficial first half.
|St. Louis Cardinals||+1200|
Odds as of July 13 at BetOnline
There’s some real value in National League Central division odds, but it comes with a major catch — you have to bet on the Pirates or Cardinals.
With an MLB best 35-15 record entering June, online sportsbook Bovada has the Cubs as massive -1400 division favorites — easily the biggest favorite among any MLB division leader. Led by Jake Arrieta, the Cubs top the league with a 2.65 ERA, and they’re no slouches on the offensive side either, ranking third overall in runs scored, and second in on-base percentage.
With a 6.5-game division lead to start the month, the Cubs have the biggest lead of any first place team, but it can’t be forgotten that the two teams chasing them in the standings — the Cardinals and Pirates — won 100 and 98 games respectively in 2015.
The Pirates, who are currently in second in the division, have odds of +900 to win the division. Pittsburgh currently leads the National League in hits and batting average, but trail three other NL teams in total bases. They’ll need a boost from their pitching staff to compete for a playoff spot, as they currently rank second to last in strikeouts with a 4.01 ERA.
Last year’s division winner, the Cardinals, have been hampered by poor play at home but a 15-10 road record partially makes up for it. The Cards’ odds to repeat as division champs stand at +1400.
As for the Brewers and Cubs, forget about it because they’re not even listed. Milwaukee is currently 13 games out of first, while the rebuilding Reds are 19 games behind the Cubs.
|St. Louis Cardinals||+1400|
Odds as of June 1 at Bovada
When glancing at National League Central Division futures, one thing is quite clear: it’s the Chicago Cubs and then everyone else.
At Bovada, the Cubbies are massive -475 favorites to win the division. Chicago (18-6 as of May 3) was -150 before the season began.
It’s safe to say if you’re looking for value in backing the North Siders, that ship has sailed. But the St. Louis Cardinals (+500) and Pittsburgh Pirates (+525) are extremely intriguing options if you believe the Cubs will fall out of first place.
At the time of writing, the Pirates were only four games back of first place at 15-11, while the Cards sat six back at 13-13.
If you’re into extreme long shot value, the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds are on the board at +10000. It would take a small miracle for either of those teams to win, but in the words of Kevin Garnett: “Anything is possible.”
|St. Louis Cardinals||+500|
Odds as of May 3 at Bovada
Due to a lacklustre history, the Chicago Cubs have consistently been tabbed (and lived up to) their nickname as the Lovable Losers. But if you’re buying into the preseason hype, the Cubbies appear set to flip the script on that dubious past and could be primed to transition from the Bad News Bears to World Series contenders. When glancing upon divisional futures, sportsbooks are clearly buying what the Cubs are selling as well.
The Cubs are presently a -150 favorite to win the National League Central Division at Bovada. Building on what was already an extremely strong core, the North Siders added Jason Heyward, Ben Zobrist and John Lackey to the mix. A young, talented roster got a taste of the postseason but will be out for blood this year after getting swept by the Mets in the NLCS, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Chicago cruised into the playoffs representing the NL Central.
Much to the chagrin of their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals have been one of the most consistent teams in baseball in recent memory, and that includes nine division titles since 2000. The loss of Heyward stings, as the Cardinals outscored just six teams in the league last year with the slugger in the fold. If St. Louis can get their bats going they should be in contention, and the sportsbook is offering them with a price of +250 as a result.
The other team with any realistic shot of upsetting the Cubbies is the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Buccos may have recently snapped their ugly postseason drought, but they haven’t taken the next step when it comes to making some noise once they get there yet.
Major questions surround the rotation due to the retirement of A.J. Burnett, the trading of Charlie Morton and the free agency departure of J.A. Happ. Ace Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano remain, however, it’s rocky after that. Pittsburgh is +300 to win the crown, which may be too tall of an order due to the sheer talent on the aforementioned clubs.
After the big three, the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers come in as +2500 long shots at the book. The Reds are in full rebuilding mode in light of the Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Marlon Byrd, Aroldis Chapman and Todd Frazier trades and figure to be bottom feeders all year long.
The Brew Crew aren’t following in Cincy’s footsteps by throwing in the towel, but there just isn’t enough firepower and depth on this roster to contend anytime soon.
|St. Louis Cardinals||+250|
Odds as of February 22 at Bovada
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