National League Central Win Total Betting Guide
After two consecutive division titles and a World Series championship for the Chicago Cubs, Christian Yelich and the Brewers won 96 games in 2018 to take over the top spot in the National League Central. However, splashy offseason moves have catapulted St. Louis to the top of the win total offerings from FanDuel Sportsbook.
This division projects to be a close race, albeit with no elite teams. Our model likes Chicago and Milwaukee to compete for first place once again, but each team is projected to win between 78 and 86 wins. It seems as though every team got better this season; even the lowly Reds signed potential contributors in Tanner Roark and Yasiel Puig. That’s not necessarily the case with every team in our model’s projections, though, so let’s take a look at one over bet and one under bet that does align with our model.
|Team||FanDuel Total||numberFire Projected Wins|
|St. Louis Cardinals||88.5||82|
Pittsburgh Pirates – Over 78.5
Last season, the Pirates won 82 games in their first full year without former superstar Andrew McCutchen. They finished in fourth place, only ahead of the atrocious Reds, but they made a surprising move at the trade deadline. Pittsburgh acquired pitcher Chris Archer from the Rays after trading their ace, Gerrit Cole, to Houston before the 2018 season.
As a result, the Pirates seem in limbo. They’re stuck between contending for a playoff spot and completely scrapping their roster and rebuilding. The heart of their order returns to the lineup this year, which includes Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Josh Bell. There were minor changes over the offseason, but bettors can expect the Pirates to be similarly offensively equipped, so any anticipated improvement will likely come from their pitching staff.
Pittsburgh didn’t make any major changes, but there are two factors that play into the Pirates’ pitching being better than expected. The first is a full year of Archer, and the second is the continued development in Jameson Taillon. Our model projects both of them to pitch upwards of 180 innings with ERA under 4.00, two of only 26 such pitchers that meet these criteria.
The Pirates are no playoff contender, but with their one-two punch in Archer and Taillon, and a respective middle of their batting order, they should be around or just under .500 in 2019. They’re only projected to win 79 games according to our model, but that’s enough for a lean to back the Pirates in going over their total.
St. Louis Cardinals – Under 88.5
Now that St. Louis has a bat as dangerous as that of Paul Goldschmidt in the heart of their lineup, the Cardinals are the favorite to win this division. However, St. Louis winning fewer than 88.5 games is one of our model’s best bets. The Cardinals won the same amount of games (88) as their Pythagorean win total, but their record is slightly inflated due to unsustainable situational pitching.
The Cardinals were third in the majors last season in opponent runners left in scoring position per game, according to TeamRankings. For the most part, there’s no rhyme nor reason to how well a team’s opponents hit with runners on base; these situations typically favor the hitting team anyway. Thus, bettors can expect the Cardinals to revert toward the mean in this category, likely allowing more runs.
The addition of Goldschmidt should improve the Cardinals’ offense, but as a whole, St. Louis is only due for a slight improvement hitting-wise. Matt Carpenter had a career year last season, but at age 32, he’s more likely to regress to his career average than to continue to improve. For instance, Carpenter had 4.9 wins above replacement (WAR) last season, but he’s only projected to amass 3.8 WAR this year, according to FanGraphs’ Depth Chart projections.
St. Louis has a similar example of a player with career best numbers that is bound to regress on their pitching staff as well. Miles Mikolas burst onto the scene in 2018 at age 29 with 4.3 WAR, but he’s only projected for 2.9 WAR per FanGraphs this season.
If the Cardinals’ best players revert back toward their career averages this season, even the addition of a superstar like Goldschmidt won’t help them improve much. Our model sees the Cardinals winning 82 games, far below the FanDuel total, so bettors should fade St. Louis.