2020 MLB Over/Under Win Total Picks, Futures Odds – NL Central

Paul Goldschmidt of the St. Louis Cardinals (photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

Last updated: July 3, 2020

If baseball eventually returns for the 2020 MLB season, it’ll be important for all bettors to understand the landscape of each division. That includes the NL Central, where it’s the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, and Pittsburgh Pirates battling for the division crown. In this article, we’ll review the win totals and futures odds for the teams in the NL Central.

Last season, it was the Cardinals winning the division with a record of 91 wins and 71 losses. The Brewers finished second at 89-73 and played in the NL Wild Card Game against the Washington Nationals and lost. The Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series but then lost to the Nationals in the NL Championship Series.

Entering the 2020 season, the Cardinals are the most favored NL Central team to win the World Series, but the betting odds paint the picture of a tight four-team race for the division between the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and Brewers, with the Pirates not likely to be a contender.

*Odds from FanDuel Sportsbook as of July 3, 2020, and subject to change.

World Series odds for NL Central teams

St. Louis Cardinals

The St. Louis Cardinals look to repeat as NL Central champions and make a deep playoff push after a 91-71 record ended by being swept by the Washington Nationals in last season’s NLCS. The Cardinals lost more talent than they gained this offseason, saying goodbye to outfielders Marcel Ozuna (29 HR in 2019) and Jose Martinez. The team’s biggest signing was a 12-year veteran of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) named Kwang Hyun Kim.

The Cardinals were 10th in the National League in runs scored last season and losing Ozuna and Martinez puts more pressure on Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill to produce. At least one of their younger position players will have to emerge into a legitimate power threat to increase production.

The hope for the Cardinals is that Carlos Martinez will move back to the rotation after a stellar stint in the bullpen last season (24 saves/1.18 WHIP). Martinez could pair up with emerging ace Jack Flaherty (3.68 SIERA, 6th in NL) to make a formidable one-two punch. Low-strikeout arms such as Miles Mikolas, Dakota Hudson, and Adam Wainwright provide much-needed depth.

St. Louis relievers racked up a 1.22 WHIP, which was second-best behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League. The bullpen might be able to keep the Cardinals in the mix even if Martinez moves to the rotation. Jordan Hicks is expected to contribute although he’ll begin the season on the IL after Tommy John surgery cut his 2019 short. Giovanny Gallegos (0.811 WHIP in 2019), Andrew Miller, and John Brebbia fill out the pen. While the division is a weak one, I think the Cardinals offense will keep this team from repeating as division champs.

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said in the offseason that there could be a sell-off if the club does not show well in the first half of the season. Epstein’s evaluation will be in hyperdrive with the trade deadline on August 31.

There are wholesale changes to the team, starting with their new manager, David Ross. Along with a new manager, the North Siders signed three veteran relievers including former Milwaukee Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress, as well as adding an outfield body in Steven Souza Jr. They lost Cole Hamels, two pieces of the bullpen, and Nick Castellanos, who played 51 games with the Cubs after a trade from the Detroit Tigers.

Chicago’s offense had six of its eight regular starters hit at least 21 home runs, led by Kyle Schwarber’s 38 and they hit 256 team home runs, second to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League.

The starting rotation is poorly constructed. Thirty-six-year-old Jon Lester faces a steep decline in K% and Jose Quintana averaged 5.35 strikeouts per nine innings last season, the lowest of his career, and will likely start the year on the IL with a thumb laceration. Yu Darvish looks to be on the upswing 31.3% K Rate 2019). In the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel and Rowan Wick form a formidable back end, but I’m looking for more depth with a proven track record and I don’t see it. I’ll be targeting the under on Cubs wins.

Cincinnati Reds

The Cincinnati Reds are the most intriguing team in all of baseball after adding power to the lineup, talent to the bullpen, and depth in the rotation. The Reds are a team that expects to dramatically improve its win percentage from last season when the team finished 75-87 (.463).

The Reds signed sluggers Mike Moustakas and Castellanos, who smashed 35 and 27 home runs, respectively. They added Wade Miley (4.51 FIP in 2018) to the rotation and Pedro Strop to the bullpen. These moves are upgrades from the light-hitting Jose Peraza and Jose Iglesias, as well as struggling veteran pitchers Alex Wood and Kevin Gausman, who left this offseason.

The rotation could be the strength of this team with Sonny Gray (3.42 FIP, 10th in the NL), Luis Castillo (3.70 FIP), and Trevor Bauer, who looks to bounce back from a horrendous 2019 campaign. The bullpen is loaded after signing Strop. Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, and more talented arms round out what could be the perfect mix to get through a short season. The Reds feature power at the plate with Eugenio Suarez (49 HR in 2019), Joey Votto, Aristides Aquino, Castellanos, Moustakas, and more.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Milwaukee Brewers decided to makeover the whole team after back-to-back playoff appearances. Milwaukee said goodbye to sluggers Yasmani Grandal, Eric Thames, Moustakas, and Travis Shaw. They also jettisoned pitchers Zach Davies, Chase Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, and Jeffress.

Milwaukee did bring in three hitters that reached the 20-HR plateau last season as they gained catcher Omar Narvaez, right fielder Avisail Garcia, and first basemen Justin Smoak. When combined with Christian Yelich, Keston Hiura, and an aging Ryan Braun, this offense slots just behind the Cubs and Reds in the NL Central offensive pantheon.

The rotation gets thin after Brandon Woodruff (3.01 FIP in 121.2 innings in 2019) and Adrian Houser (9.5 K/9). “Guys” like Brett Anderson and KBO standout Josh Lindblom help round out a sub-par rotation, but the bullpen looks to be the greatest strength on this team. The Brewers’ bullpen led the NL with 10.2 K/9 and a 16.5 K/BB%. Josh Hader and Brent Suter are nasty in the back end, while the club hopes to get Corey Knebel back to 100% after missing 2019 with Tommy John surgery. This is a team that will struggle to get to .500 because of their lack of starting pitching.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pittsburgh Pirates are starting all over again after hiring former Boston Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington to lead the club’s personnel decisions and they hired Derek Shelton to manage after a 69-93 last-place finish in 2019.

The rotation is a disaster. Chris Archer continues his decline (5.02 FIP in 2019) while Joe Musgrove is a slightly above-average pitcher (3.82 FIP). Look for one or both pitchers to be mentioned in trade talks come August 31. I do want to mention Mitch Keller, who struggled in 11 starts last season as a rookie but is also one of the best hard-throwing prospects in the game. Pittsburgh has a good closer in Keone Kela (1.01 WHIP in 2019) but outside of him, younger and less tested arms will need to earn roles.

Offensively, players in their 20s like Josh Bell (27), Gregory Polanco (28), Bryan Reynolds (25), Kevin Newman (26), and Ke’Bryan Hayes (23) will try to help the club improve upon scoring the fifth-least runs in the National League last year. It will be a long 60 games for Pittsburgh.

2020 NL Central picks and predictions: 

Chicago Cubs under 31.5 wins

The two things that the Cubs have going for them is the team’s offense and the fact that they play in an awful division. The rotation is aging, and Quintana will likely miss the start of the season and that leaves Darvish and Kyle Hendricks as the only two Cubs starters that I trust.

The bullpen needs Brad Wieck (2.71 WHIP) to have another good season and even then they’ll need three to four other arms to succeed in various roles.

The offense will have to carry this team which is why I have the Cubbies pegged for a .500 season.

Milwaukee Brewers under 30.5 wins

The success or failure of the Brewers 2020 season comes down to starting pitching. The revamped offense should be good enough to finish in the top half of the NL in runs and the bullpen is strong, although, like a lot of other teams, they’re looking to find more arms to get through a tight season where starting pitchers could take a month to stretch out to a normal innings load.

Last season, the Brewers won 89 games, eight more than their Pythagorean win-loss record (81-81). This year’s team is weaker on paper and closer to .500 than any other number.

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