Skip to content

NL Central pennant chase

Milwaukee and St. Louis have it to themselves

The National League Central Division match between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals could be something special. The teams are separated by just a half-game at the break. There’s a significant gap after that, with Pittsburgh 11 games behind Milwaukee.

There are plenty of stars in the division. St. Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the current leader in the MVP race and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes is second in the odds to win the Cy Young Award. according to the MLB picks. Nine of the top 14 players in the current NL Rookie of the Year odds play in this division, so there are young players worth watching on the five teams.

Lachlan Cunningham / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Here’s a breakdown on how the NL Central teams fared during the first half of the season.

Milwaukee Brewers

Those making the MLB predictions were on target with the Brewers. Odds to win the division moved slightly from -160 to -200 since the start of the season, odds to capture the World Series moving the needle (+1800 to +2000).

It’s not surprising reigning Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes is leading the way with a 7-4 record, 2.18 ERA and 144 strikeouts. Eric Lauer and Brandon Woodruff are a combined 13-6, getting the quality outings from the No. 4 and 5 starters has been an issue. Recent struggles of closer Josh Hader is an even larger cause for concern here. He’s surrendered 13 hits, 12 runs and five home runs in 5⅓ innings during the month of July.

Christian Yelich came into the season seventh in the NL Most Valuable Player odds. He’s only hitting .251 with eight home runs. Willy Adames has 19 home runs, but just a .220 average after batting .285 in 99 games with the team a season after his acquisition from Tampa Bay. Veteran outfielder Andrew McCutchen is starting to hit.

First baseman Rowdy Tellez had 19 home runs in 151 games over the previous three seasons. He has 18 in the first 88 games of 2022.

Grade: B+

St. Louis Cardinals

Entering the season, Nolan Arenado was the corner infielder garnering much of the MVP buzz. Arenado had a pretty solid first half with a .291 average, 18 home runs, 40 extra-base hits and 59 RBIs, continuing to play at a Gold Glove level at third. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is the current leader (-110) in the MVP race after a .330 average, 28 doubles, 20 home runs and 70 RBIs. Arenado is ninth, priced at +3300.

Table setter Tommy Edman has slowed down a bit after a strong start to the season, though he does have 64 runs scored and 20 stolen bases.

Rookies Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman are making an immediate impacts this season.

However, the starting pitching has been mediocre at best, with Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright and Dakota Hudson a combined 19-20. It hasn’t helped that Jack Flaherty, who came into the season with the ninth-best odds to win the Cy Young, was limited to eight innings in the first half with an injured shoulder/dead arm.

Eleven different pitchers have started games for the Cards, and the search for hurlers to produce at the end of the rotation is continuing.

Ryan Helsley (0.69 ERA, eight saves, 57 strikeouts in 39 innings) has been tremendous out of the bullpen, while Genesis Cabrera another key reliever for the Cardinals.

As with the Brewers, odds to win the division haven’t changed. St, Lous was +200 when the season started, +150 at this writing. Odds to win the World Series increased, from +2000 to +3300, according to the MLB betting lines.

Grade: A

Pittsburgh Pirates

It was a very rough start to the season for star outfielder Bryan Reynolds, hitting just .212 going into June. He did begin to trend in a positive direction (.333 batting average and eight home runs) in June. However, that surge has been delayed due to an injured oblique. Among the players with at least 100 at-bats, Reynolds leads the Pirates with a .261 average.

Oneil Cruz came into the season favored (+325) to win the Rookie of the Year. A stint in the minors hurt that, as he’s currently third on the board at +900. Cruz has 10 extra-base hits in 26 games, hitting only .204. Teammate Jack Suwinski comes in at +4000 in the Rookie of the Year odds. Suwinski has 14 home runs, hitting just .198. They strike out 36 percent of the time, so obviously making contact is the next step in development. Third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes is not a rookie, but the 25-year-old is another member of the young Pirate nucleus. He is hitting .251.

Closer David Bednar has struggled recently. He’s been a bright spot on the pitching staff, his 16 saves to go with 57 strikeouts in 43⅓ innings. It hurts Pirates fans to see former Pittsburgh starting pitchers Joe Musgrove, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon with a combined record of 27-6, considering that Pittsburgh’s top four current starters are just 10-26.

Rookie Roansy Contreras is 3-2. He has shown some promise, although he has struggled lately. The Pirates have seen their odds to win the division increase from +5000 to +25000. The World Series odds are at +200000.

Something of interest to those who bet online, Pittsburgh has covered in eight of its last 10.

Grade: C+

Chicago Cubs

Brennen Davis was in the NL Rookie of the Year mix at the start of the season, but it’s Seiya Suzuki (+1200) who’s the team’s top rookie candidate, with Christopher Morel at +2200.

Catcher Willson Contreras was an NL All-Star starter (31 extra-base hits with 13 homers) in 78 games to date.

Patrick Wisdom has 17 home runs, hitting just .220. Ian Happ has bounced back from a tough 2021 season, batting a career-best .274 this season. Shortstop Nico Hoerner is an exciting youngster for the Cubs, He is batting .307, playing some top-notch defense at shortstop.

Other than Keegan Thompson (7-4, 3.43 ERA), the starting pitching has been a work in progress. Veterans Kyle Hendricks, Marcus Stroman and Drew Smyly are a combined 8-16 with just seven quality starts between them. Closer David Robertson (13 saves, 1.93 ERA) has been a bright spot on the staff.

Also, the friendly confines of Wrigley Field have been anything but, as the Cubs are only 18-32 at home.

The Cubs came into the season at +1200 odds to win the division, and that number has ballooned to +25000. The World Series odds torpedoed from +10000 to +200000.

Grade: C

The NL Central pennant race between the Brewers and Cardinals will be fun
Chase Agnello-Dean / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati finished four games over .500 a season ago. That’s ancient history with the way the Reds have struggled now. It hasn’t helped that catcher Tucker Barnhart, third baseman Eugenio Suarez, as well as outfielders Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker, all departed and are elsewhere this season. For those scoring at home, that is 96 home runs and 298 RBIs gone now, The club has just 84 home runs this season. Among National League teams, only San Diego and Washington have hit fewer homers.

Having infielder Jonathan India limited to 40 games hasn’t helped. Brandon Drury (.278 average, 18 home runs, 52 RBIs) has been the leader on offense. Nick Senzel is hitting .341 in July, so that’s a positive.

Nine pitchers have started at least four games in Cincinnati, but only Graham Ashcraft (4-2, 4.45 ERA) has a record north of break-even. Luis Castillo deserves better than a 3-4 record, He has quality starts in nine of his 13 outings and a 2.77 ERA.

Hunter Greene came into the season with the fourth-best odds to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. He is now at 13th in the wagering, going from +800 to +12500. Greene has elite stuff, 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. However, his 23 home runs allowed has led to a 5.78 ERA. Alexis Diaz has been the best rookie pitcher on the club, 2.16 ERA in 32 games out of the bullpen.

Odds to win the division, once at +1000, are now +50000. Odds to the World Series at +200000. Much of the issues have to do with not holding onto so many key players on the roster, Cincy’s on pace for 60-61 wins after coming into the season with a projected win total of 74½. That doesn’t result in a good grade for the Redlegs.

Grade: C-

Did you find this article interesting?

Comments (0)

Featured MLB Picks
Related News