2021 NL Central Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
For my money, the National League Central is the most competitive division in baseball. It is definitely not the best division in the Major Leagues. It isn’t even the second-best division. But with four legitimate contenders for the N.L. Central crown, this division could provide us with one of the best races of the season.
Last year, the Central had four teams finish within two games of .500 or better, the most in the Majors. They also sent three teams to the playoffs, the most in the National League. So even though this crop of teams has serious limitations – their three playoff teams combined to go 1-6 while being outscored 32-17 – at the very least they should give us an entertaining fight for the Central crown.
Further, with plenty of talented players toiling for mediocre franchises, there are a lot of potential trade chips in this division that could be moved and have serious ramifications on the World Series race.
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Here is Doc’s Sports 2021 National League Central preview:
2021 Wins Over/Under: 79.5
Odds To Win 2021 NL Central: +450
Odds To Win 2021 NL Pennant: +2100
2021 Chicago Cubs Odds to win World Series: +3900
Outlook: The Cubs aren’t just one of the most interesting teams in the N.L. Central, they are one of the most important teams in the Majors this season. Not because the Cubs are a realistic threat to win the pennant or another World Series championship. But because how Chicago decides to play things at the trade deadline – sellers or buyers – will have ripple effects that will help shape the 2021 season.
Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Joc Pederson, Jake Arrieta, Trevor Williams, Austin Romine and Brandon Workman will all be free agents following the 2021 season. Obviously, these players will all be motivated to have big seasons to cash in on the open market next offseason. However, if they play at their peak, then the Cubs could dominate this division this year. And if they are in first place at the trade deadline the Cubs will have a major decision to make: go for broke or sell all their assets while they are still Chicago’s to sell.
The Cubs have a mediocre-at-best pitching staff. So if their impending free agent bats don’t produce, then things could go sideways quickly for this squad. However, a hot start from the lineup could help shield their pitching staff and give David Ross and Co. some cover.
2021 Wins Over/Under: 83.5
Odds To Win 2021 NL Central: +280
Odds To Win 2021 NL Pennant: +2000
2021 Milwaukee Brewers Odds to win World Series: +4400
Outlook: The Brewers have seen their winning percentage drop in each of the past two seasons. However, they have made the postseason three straight seasons and are a definite wild card in the Central race.
Former MVP Christian Yelich was a total disaster last year, and Lo Cain played in only five games before getting hurt. The fact that Milwaukee finished above .500 with essentially nothing from their two best players bodes well for a Brewers bounce back. However, where is the support going to come from? Even if Cain and Yelich have All-Star seasons, I still don’t see a lineup that will crack the Top 20.
Milwaukee’s pitching staff was No. 28 in strikeouts and No. 20 in quality starts. Yet they finished No. 11 in ERA and No. 9 in WHIP. Something has got to give there, and a full season is going to expose the lack of depth and high-end arms in Milwaukee’s stable.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
2021 Wins Over/Under: 86.5
Odds To Win 2021 NL Central: +140
Odds To Win 2021 NL Pennant: +1100
2021 St. Louis Cardinals Odds to win World Series: +2700
Outlook: St. Louis made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, bagging Nolan Arenado from Colorado for a song. The big-hitting third baseman should inject some life into one of the flimsiest lineups in baseball, and his presence has made the Cardinals the odds-on favorite to win the Central this season.
The Cardinals hit just .234 last season and were No. 24 in total runs at 4.14. They also combined to hit just 51 home runs, or eight fewer than Luke Voit, Jose Abreu and Marcell Ozuna combined for last season. St. Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is another big bad. But beyond that, the Cards have a host of below-average MLB hitters filling out their lineup every day.
That means it is all about pitching for the Cards. And that also means that St. Louis will be relying on aging 30-somethings Adam Wainwright, Kwang Kim and Miles Mikolas to lead that way. That’s not a great wager. The X-factor for this team is Carlos Martinez. But unless they get more help from the offense, it really won’t matter what the Cards pitching staff produces.
2021 Wins Over/Under: 81.5
Odds To Win 2021 NL Central: +350
Odds To Win 2021 NL Pennant: +2400
2021 Cincinnati Reds Odds to win World Series: +5900
Outlook: The Reds were a big buzz team heading into last season. They were also one of the biggest disappointments in the Majors. Their big acquisitions, Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos, didn’t pay off even a little bit, and this was one of the worst offensive teams to ever make it to the postseason. Cincinnati was No. 30 in the league in batting, posting a team average of .212, and they barely averaged four runs per game. I don’t see much of an improvement this year.
Cincinnati’s pitching staff did most of the heavy lifting last season. Sonny Gray is already hurt, though, and they have a gaping hole at the top of the rotation now that Trevor Bauer has moved on. The back end is decidedly below average, and there is no way that the pitching will cover for another god-awful effort from the lineup.
Cincinnati’s 2020 effort was about the 1,456,743rd example of why you never jump on the bandwagon of teams that “wins the offseason”. Now we’ll see what they do after getting slapped in the face with reality.
2021 Wins Over/Under: 59.5
Odds To Win 2021 NL Central: +7400
Odds To Win 2021 NL Pennant: +245000
2021 Pittsburgh Pirates Odds to win World Series: +100000
Outlook: I’m not going to waste any time on a team that is going to threaten 110 losses. These guys are pathetic, and their opponents will likely be -180 or above for 90 percent of Pirates games this season. A soft division and a soft crossover schedule (against the feeble A.L. Central) are the only things providing Pittsburgh with at least a glimmer of hope. This season is going to be ugly.
2021 National League Central Picks and Predictions: Predicted Order of Finish
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Chicago Cubs
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Robert Ferringo is a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the top MLB cappers in the country and has turned a profit in three of four baseball seasons (and six of his last eight). Robert exploded for an incredible +$13,100 profit run in 2019 from mid-April to late July and he plans on doing it again this year. Robert has posted four of six winning years on the diamond and is looking for another big season. Click here for more information on his MLB picks.
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