MLB Betting: 2010 NL Central Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 3/12/2010
Here is Doc's Sports 2010 N.L. Central preview:
St. Louis Cardinals
2009 Record: 91-71
2010 Wins Over/Under: 88.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 3.5/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 10/1
The last time that the Cardinals won more than 90 games (they actually won 100) they suffered a precipitous drop of 17 games the next year…but still won the division. Three crowns in five years and, as the overwhelming favorite in 2010, it looks like St. Louis has as tight of a stranglehold on their division as any team in baseball.
While big bats like Albert Pujols and Matt Holiday get the love on this team the Cardinals actually weren’t a good hitting team last year. They were No. 14 in batting, No. 18 in runs and No. 17 in total bases. That’s completely mediocre and I would think a cause for concern. I mean, when you have Albert’s 47 homers and 135 RBI in the middle of your lineup you’d think you’d be in business. But Pujols’ RBI total made up 20 percent of their total offense.
St. Louis wins with pitching. And as good as the Pujols-Holliday duo is with the bat the Carpenter-Wainwright duo is even better with the ball. Those are two of the best in the N.L. and posted second-half ERAs of 2.06 and 2.10, respectively, last season. There are always durability issues with Carpenter. But if he’s healthy this team is the best in the division by a lot. Kyle Lohse needs to have a bounce back season and the Cards took a flier on Brad Penny. I think the Penny move was a fantastic one and could pay huge dividends. It also appears that the Cards have their bullpen finally set. They were No. 5 in pen ERA and No. 4 in batting against, as well lowering their blown saves total from an MLB-high 31 saves in 2008 to an excellent 14 last year.
The only thing that can sidetrack the Cardinals is the unforeseen. If Carpenter gets hurt (and Penny can’t step up) or if the bullpen regresses than it’s an issue. But there’s no way to predict that. I have never been a fan of Tony LaRussa’s style of playing all of his players, all of the time, with a constant shuffle of players and different lineups every day. It hasn’t been working. I think if he settles on a lineup and let’s everyone do their thing then nothing will keep this team out of the postseason.
2009 Record: 83-78
2010 Wins Over/Under: 83.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 8/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 16/1
The Cubs aren’t going to win the World Series. Just had to get that out of the way for all the delusional Cubs fans out there.
Last year the Cubs had 14 different players hit the disabled list for a total of 584 missed games. No player’s absence had a bigger impact than Aramis Ramirez’. Without their stud at the hot corner the Cubs lost out on defense and watched their offense completely and utterly fall apart. And with consistently inconsistent Alfonso Soriano posting a meager year this team just couldn’t score despite Derek Lee’s best efforts. The Cubs just can’t get Lee, Soriano and Ramirez to ever produce all in the same season. And they don’t have enough supplemental offense to make up for that. Either those three get on the same page or it will be another low-scoring year in Wrigley.
Rich Harden had a real nice year for Chicago and will be missed. However, I expect a big bounceback season from Ryan Dempster. Dempster was pretty bad last year but was dealing with the amazing stress of his first child’s birth and subsequent struggle with a life-threatening disease. Think he cared about baseball? I don’t. If he comes back strong he’ll reform with Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly to give Chicago a strong corps of arms. This team is gambling that Randy Wells and Tom Gorzelanny can hold down the back end. I don’t think that they will.
Chicago enters this year hoping that less is more. And by that they have to be thinking that less drama will mean more cohesion and clubhouse unity and, hopefully, more wins. But while the roster shakeup may have helped their karma it hasn’t made them a more talented team. This team needs to keep its key guys healthy and have those players perform up to their abilities – all of them. And even then I doubt that it will happen for Chicago. The reality is that while they have some good pieces its pretty obvious to me that the current mix simply isn’t good enough to win a championship. If you look at a team like Philadelphia and a then the Cubs the talent disparity isn’t that wide. But the chemistry and attitude is completely different and that explains why one franchise has a ring in the last 100 years and one doesn’t.
2009 Record: 80-82
2010 Wins Over/Under: 80.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 31/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 80/1
The Brew Crew is just two years removed from one of the best years the organization has had in the last 20 years. But after witnessing significant turnover in the last 18 months this team looks like a group that is clinging to that fleeting glory as opposed to building something to sustain success.
Milwaukee has been a team that can hit the ball and hit the ball hard. But they have been completely undisciplined. They strike out too much, they don’t advance runners, and they don’t do the little things (working counts, sacrificing, etc.) that good teams do. It has caught up with them. They have the requisite one-two punch with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. And there are some nice, albeit streaky, hitters surrounding them. They dumped J.J. Hardy and Bill Hall and will give rookie Alcides Escobar and sophomore Casey McGehee a shot at short and third, respectively. It’s a gamble.
Plain and simple, the biggest offseason move was bringing in pitching coach Rick Peterson. Peterson is a guru. And with Milwaukee’s feeble rotation they’ll need every boost that they can get. The Brewers were No. 27 in ERA last year (their bullpen was terrible) but their starting unit isn’t devoid of talent. Yovani Gallardo is entering his prime. Randy Wolf is a pro lefty capable of some 15-win years. Manny Parra, Dave Bush and Jeff Suppan are all pretty weak but have all shown signs of success in their careers. Perhaps Peterson can coax solid years out of them.
Milwaukee’s season is going to be all about whether or not they get good starting pitching. If they do then I think they have enough to be a nuisance and be primed for a run if the Cardinals or Cubs are overcome with injuries. If they have to take on the top two straight up I don’t think that the Brewers play good enough baseball to win the division. But this team could be a nice value play and could earn a bounce back season.
2009 Record: 78-84
2010 Wins Over/Under: 79.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 19/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 60/1
The Reds are a team that I’ve been waiting for a breakout season from for the past two years. So excuse me if I’m a little pessimistic heading into 2010. But that said, I don’t see any reason why they can’t make some noise and be a surprise team in a mediocre division.
Cincinnati really has the makings of an electric starting staff. Aaron Harang needs to have a bounce-back season and return to form as the workhorse of the staff. Johnny Cueto looks like a guy on the verge of putting it together and Homer Bailey quietly took some strides and could take a step forward. Micah Owings can be a serviceable No. 5. And all of the buzz in camp is about lefty Aroldis Chapman and his 100-miles-per-hour fastball. If he can break through (and if they get Ed Volquez back in August) then this group has a chance to be special.
So now the Reds need to hit. And it was absolutely pathetic watching this popgun offense struggle just to put base runners on last year. But with a healthy Jay Bruce and if Joey Votto can match last year’s production than this team is getting somewhere. Brandon Phillips is going to hit and if Scott Rolen can readjust to the N.L. then all of a sudden the Reds are in business. The main problem is that they lack depth and they don’t have much past those four guys. Unless a few players come out of nowhere with some career numbers this team just won’t have enough offense to be a consistent threat.
Don’t sleep on the Reds. They could make a move into the upper tier of the division with that pitching. But unless they recruit some sticks there’s going to be a lot of 2-1 games in the Queen City and – like the last several years – I suspect the Reds will be on the wrong end of it.
2009 Record: 74-88
2010 Wins Over/Under: 74.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 40/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 70/1
Houston enters this season under a shroud of uncertainty. They have a new manager, the team is for sale, and the roster has been turned over around their three aging (and nearly untradeable) stars. It’s a tough spot and makes this an unpredictable team.
One thing that is predictable is that their pitching stinks. Roy Oswalt is, in my mind, still a stud with great stuff. But after two unsteady seasons, with injuries sabotaging last year, he is becoming less of a sure thing. After that they have up-and-comer Wandy Rodriguez, who is still unbeatable at home and can’t win on the road. After that – nada. Brett Myers? Who knows? Bud Norris? You have to be kidding. Felipe Paulino or Brian Moehler? I’m not buying it. The bullpen is improving but still isn’t good enough. And if Oswalt is trade bait in July this team is going to fall hard.
When you think of the Astros offense I’m sure the first image that comes to mind is the power and skill of Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee dominating the middle of the lineup. But the issue is that they don’t have anything around them. Hunter Pence is a nice piece but isn’t elite. Michael Bourn had a nice year but is far from a certainty. And Pedro Feliz was a pro hitter in Philly without any pressure or expectation. The bottom half of this order is pretty weak. And mixing in Kaz Matsui and the pitcher’s slot and you’re talking about a lot of 1-2-3 innings. They were No. 25 in total bases last year and No. 27 in runs scored. And that was with worse fielders and better hitters.
The “new” Astros are a team that wants to be built on pitching and defense. The trouble is that they have little of either. The defense will be improved but it’s not up to snuff with the type of ball that they want to play. The offense, outside of a few choice guys, is weak. So without consistent pitching, defense or hitting this team doesn’t have a ton going for it besides some big names. But this isn’t fantasy baseball.
2009 Record: 62-99
2010 Wins Over/Under: 69.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Central: 69.5
Odds To Win 2010 NL Pennant: 60/1
Odds To Win 2010 World Series: 100/1
I really wish I had more of a preview for you but the fact of the matter is that the Pirates stink. They stink and they are headed for about their 43rd straight losing season (actually it would be their 18th).
The Major League’s farm team is restocked with young talent. Andrew McCutchen is going to be fun to watch and some guys like Garrett Jones, Ryan Doumit and Lastings Milledge might be nice surprises for your fantasy team. But in reality this team is terrible and is strictly fade material. They were among the bottom three in just about any major offensive category and they didn’t get any better in the offseason.
As for the arms, I just don’t know how many more times they can keep trotting out guys like Paul Maholm and Zach Duke and expect anything significant. Those guys are back-enders, not frontline starters. The bullpen is thin and will likely be overworked.
If in doubt: bet against the Pirates. Need a “slump buster” pick? Bet against the Pirates. In fact, you don’t really need a reason: just bet against the Pirates.
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