MLB: NL Central Season Preview Mar 24th, 2008
By: Sportsbook.com MLB Handicapping
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MLB: NL Central Preview
The NL Central is the only division with six teams, and each one is a proud franchise with good fans. Chicago and Milwaukee are clearly at the top of the heap but you can’t forget about Cincinnati, St. Louis or Houston.
Check out all the future odds at Sportsbook.com and figure out who you like the best.
Chicago is 5:6 to win the NL Central, 7:2 to win the National League, and 8:1 to win the World Series. Their Over/Under win total is 87.5 games.
The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908, but fans in the Windy City are optimistic after watching the White Sox and Red Sox both break their jinxes in recent seasons.
Part of the optimism is due to a down year in the division. The other part is that the Cubs are fielding a very competitive team. The offense is bolstered by the addition of Japanese star, Kosuke Fukudome and the pitching staff is underrated and good enough to win a pennant.
If the players can withstand the immense pressure to win a title, then it could finally be the Cubbies’ turn to shine.
Milwaukee is 9:4 to win the NL Central, 6:1 to win the National League, and 20:1 to win the World Series. Their Over/Under win total is 85.5 games.
Milwaukee is still comprised of a lot of unknown players but there is a lot of talent on this squad, especially in the batting lineup.
Ryan Braun moves from third base to left field and manager Ned Yost hopes the move doesn’t affect his bat. Bill Hall is now at the hot corner and Mike Cameron will be at center once his league suspension ends. The Brewers would love for ace Ben Sheets to stay healthy all year as that would away some of the pressure from Jeff Suppan and Yovani Gallardo.
If new closer, Eric Gagne can pitch like he did in Texas last year and not Boston, then the Brewers are a great team to consider for the division and the pennant.
Cincinnati is 7:1 to win the NL Central, 20:1 to win the National League, and 60:1 to win the World Series. Their Over/Under win total is 77.5 games.
The next tier down in the NL Central has Cincinnati lumped in with St. Louis and Houston. Each of these teams has similar odds and expectations.
Cincinnati hit the third most homers in MLB last year although that only translated into 14th in runs scored. They must do a better job manufacturing runs in other ways. The starting pitching is a big question mark after Aaron Harang as Bronson Arroyo has been inconsistent, and there’s a lot of youth behind them.
If the kids pan out along with newly acquired closer, Francisco Cordero, then things could be interesting in the ‘Queen City’.
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis is 8:1 to win the NL Central, 30:1 to win the National League, and 75:1 to win the World Series. Their Over/Under win total is 76 games.
St. Louis won the World Series just two years ago, but they have fallen back to the pack as their roster has slowly eroded.
Gone are Cardinals’ legends Scott Rolen, Jim Edmonds and David Eckstein and they can’t count on last year’s mediocre offense to improve. The starting rotation is also in shambles with Chris Carpenter not expected until the All-Star break and other major health concerns with Mark Mulder and Matt Clement.
From the looks of things now, the 8:1 odds to win the division seem optimistic.
Houston is 11:1 to win the NL Central, 30:1 to win the National League, and 75:1 to win the World Series. Their Over/Under win total is 76.5 games.
Houston won 89 games in 2006, 82 in 2006 and just 73 last year. That’s not exactly the trend you’re looking for as a fan.
The Astros did add Miguel Tejada to the middle of a lineup with Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman, and there’s some excitement at the top with Michael Bourn and Kaz Matsui. The Astros will need that extra run production with a starting staff that is unreliable with the exception of Roy Oswalt.
If the pitching can somehow hold together, Houston can break their Over/Under win total of 76.5 wins, but that’s a big if.
Pittsburgh is 25:1 to win the NL Central, 50:1 to win the National League, and 70.5 to win the World Series. Their Over/Under win total is 70.5 games.
The Pirates franchise has had some great moments in their history, but the stark reality is they haven’t had a winning season since 1992.
The offense finished 23rd in MLB in runs scored last year, but that could improve if Jason Bay can return to his 2005-2006 form when he had 33 homers and 105 RBI’s. The starting pitching didn’t fare any better last season although there‘s plenty of young talent starting with Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell.
While it’s tempting to say this franchise is improving, they must show it on the field first to warrant that optimism.
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