MLB Betting: 2009 NL Central Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/09/2009
There are six teams in the National League Central, a.k.a. "The Worst Division In Baseball", so I'm going to keep this introduction brief. I mean really brief. As in the only thing that I have to say is this:
The Cubs aren't going to win the World Series this year either.
Sorry to spoil the ending for you. In the meantime, the Pirates stink, the Cardinals should be better but who really knows, Milwaukee is a house on fire, and the Reds and Astros will again be two of the most maddeningly inconsistent teams to play on or against in all of baseball.
So without further ado, here is Doc's Sports 2009 National League Central preview:
2008 Record: 97-64 (+1545)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 92.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Central: 1-to-2
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 3-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 5.5-to-1
Hey, just because the Cubs aren't going to win the World Series AGAIN this year, that doesn't mean that we can't turn a buck off the Lovable Losers. Prior to their monumental flameout in the first round of the playoffs, the Cubs were the third-best moneymaker in the National League and fifth best in the entire league. In my eyes their season was a rousing success!
Unfortunately, the Cubs are going to be a difficult team to make a buck on this season. They still have a great team and, barring injury, should be penciled in for 93 wins, easy. However, they are such a public team and they boast such "name" arms in their starting rotation that we're going to be hard-pressed to find any value on these guys this season.
Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden, and Ryan Dempster offer as good of a 1-2-3 as any team in baseball. And because the Cubs play in the pathetic Central it's going to be tough to get any of those arms at less than -175. And count me among those that believe that Jeff Samardzija and Carlos Marmol are both going to be train wrecks at the back of the bullpen this year.
I really like the Milton Bradley signing for this team. I think he brings some nastiness that they'll need come October. But I don't understand why they let Mark DeRosa get away. And if they try to get Bradley to play more than 110-120 games this year in the outfield he's going to get hurt and they'll be right back where they started.
St. Louis Cardinals
2008 Record: 86-76 (+990)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 81.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Central: 3.5-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 8-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 18-to-1
Stats can be deceiving. If you just look at the numbers you would have thought that the 2008 Cardinals were an incredibly clutch hitting team. They led the Majors in batting with runners in scoring position and two outs and were 10th overall with RISP. They also had the No. 2 batting average in the entire league.
However, if you were to ask a Cards fan what their biggest problems were last year they would say, in order, No. 1 was the bullpen and No. 2 was not enough clutch hits.
Despite all of the favorable numbers, the Cards were second in batting but just 12th in runs scored. And that says nothing of all of the runners left on base in clutch games against the Cubs and Brewers. And when you compound that with a league-leading 31 blown saves you can see why one could say St. Louis was one of the league's biggest underachievers.
The Cardinals still do not have a closer and that is a tremendous dark cloud over an otherwise sunny outlook for this year. Chris Carpenter is back and the Brewers, a team the Cards struggled with last year, are significantly weaker. This is an undervalued team at the moment and I think that they could be poised as a spoiler to rain on the Cubs' parade.
2008 Record: 86-75 (+2240)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 73.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Central: 14-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 20-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 40-to-1
No team was more schizophrenic last year than the Astros. They were a half-game behind the Angels for the best record in baseball after the All Star break (42-24). But unlike the Angels, that means that the 'Stros were just 44-51 prior to that run. Regardless, Houston was the biggest moneymaker in the NL last year mainly because their poor start lowered the odds on them so when they finally got hot it brought a windfall. Mainly, they were sandbaggers.
Houston has a lineup full of big poppers. But they have a really awkward team in the field. Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejeda, Kaz Matsui and Lance Berkman are all below-average fielders that don't cover much ground at their respective positions. That, in turn, puts a lot more pressure on their shaky starting rotation. But apparently their big bats canceled out their slow feet; even though this club finished just 22nd in runs scored and 22nd in on-base percentage.
Besides Roy Oswalt their starting rotation is pathetic. On one hand that's good, because it helps give you great plus-money odds on Houston. But on the other hand you can never really make a big play on them because you can't really trust guys like Brandon Backe or Brian Moehler to come through for you. They brought in Mike Hampton to compete for a spot - but I wouldn't hold my breath on that guy.
Houston's a tough team to figure out. I am not thrilled about the roster, but this franchise has only finished under .500 once in the last three years. There is potential here. But with no money to upgrade at certain positions I'm not thrilled with their overall outlook.
2008 Record: 74-88 (-1600)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 79.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Central: 10-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 40-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 80-to-1
I know I said it last year and it didn't quite work out, but I'm going to say it again this year anyway - beware the Reds. Cincinnati has a quality starting staff with some guys that can be dominant when they are on. They have some good young talent in the field. And this is a team with low expectations playing in a division full of question marks. All in all, this team could be ripe for a profit.
I love that Cincinnati was able to cut the cord with Griffey Junior and Adam Dunn. Those two players were minus-defenders, clogged the bases, and were way too strike out prone. Their names and home runs might have put some people in the seats. But with the up-and-coming crew that they have going this team could be a contender within a few years. And just ask the Brewers what that can do for attendance.
Jay Bruce and Joe Votto are homegrown talents at the heart of the youth movement. Brandon Phillips is a blue chipper and there are several guys with a lot of potential just waiting to contribute. Their starting staff could use a lefty. But Aaron Harang, Ed Volquez and John Cueto have all have flashes of being a staff ace. Further, this club has finally addressed the bullpen, which had been a major drain on this franchise for years.
General Manager Walt Jocketty is the man who put together the St. Louis Cardinals and before that that Oakland A's. He is teamed up with manager Dusty Baker to form the foundation of a solid organization. This team doesn't have the talent to compete with the big boys just yet. But this is going to be a team to keep an eye on this year.
2008 Record: 90-72 (+590)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 81.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Central: 5-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 15-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 30-to-1
Well, it was fun while it lasted. The Brewers finally were able to satisfy their desperate fan base last year by making an incredible run to the Wild Card on the sturdy left arm of midseason pickup C.C. Sabathia. The Brewers were one of the league's most exciting teams last year and didn't clinch their playoff berth until the final day of the season. Of course, they were swept in the first round, but it sure was enjoyable getting there.
Unfortunately, I think that by July that playoff fervor is going to be a distant memory for this year's team. The Brewers lost their top two arms - including the unstoppable C.C. - and their closer. Their new No. 1 is coming off major knee surgery and the rest of the starters had moments (long, long moments) where they looked like Double-A hurlers.
Fundamentally this is a terrible baseball team. Their infield is one of the worst fielding defenses in the Majors. This team strikes out too much, doesn't hit that well or get on base very often, and they don't do the little things that good teams do. To be frank, they are an anomaly. They do have some nice individual pieces. But when I look at this roster I really don't feel optimistic about their prospects this season.
The Brewers posted a .622 winning percentage in games decided by one run, which was best in the Bigs. They also scored a league-high 28 wins in their last at-bat. Now, some of that is heart and skill. But some of it is just luck. I think the Brewers are going to come back down to earth in a big way this year and I don't think they will be much competition when it comes to the division title.
2008 Record: 67-95 (-1200)
2009 Wins Over/Under: 69.5
Odds To Win 2009 NL Central: 40-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 NL Pennant: 75-to-1
Odds To Win 2009 World Series: 125-to-1
Jesus, what a mess. Seriously - there isn't much more to say about the Pirates than that. They are the worst team in baseball right now and I'd be stunned if they topped their 69.5 win total odds.
Pittsburgh sold off just about anything decent they had to build around last summer. They went 7-21 after dealing Jason Bay and Xavier Nady and they had six losing streaks of four games or more after the All Star break.
This year they are going to rely way too heavily on retreads and young players that either aren't ready to perform or aren't good enough to carry this team to .500. Their bullpen is a strength but their starters had an N.L. worst 5.36 ERA last year. Most of those same stiffs are back so I have no idea how this team expects to improve.