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NL Central Division Betting Preview - The Year of the Cubbies


NL Central Division Betting Preview

There’s a dark cloud over the Chicago Cubs coming into the 2009 MLB betting season. It’s as if two consecutive disappointing postseason exits has everyone fading the Lovable Losers, even if the Cubs should be every bit as good as they were last season.

The Milwaukee Brewers should regress, while the Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals are primed to push Chicago for the division lead and earn some funds for backers in the process. The same can’t be said for the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, who barring a miracle will be out of the race by the end of May.

Listed in order of 2008 finish.

Chicago Cubs (97-64, +15.45 units)

The Cubs were very profitable last season considering their public status, preseason expectations, and excellent record in the standings. With the losses of closer Kerry Wood and the versatile Mark DeRosa, you would think Chicago is set to take a step back, both in the division and at the window.

That’s true – but only to an extent. The Cubbies have arguably the best offense in the National League to go along with a formidable starting rotation. If Carlos Marmol can finish games at all, handicap Chicago to stay in the 90-win range and cash its +275 ticket to win the division outright.

Milwaukee Brewers (90-72, +5.89)

If the Cubs can tread water after their minor roster moves, the Brewers might need a lifesaver. No CC Sabathia or Ben Sheets means Yovani Gallardo is the new ace, and he didn’t throw after early May last season following a torn ACL in his knee.

Trevor Hoffman is the new closer, and here’s to another solid season from the ageless master of the changeup. The batting order remains virtually intact from a season ago, meaning as Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun go, so go the Brew Crew. The dynamic duo needs to be at its All-Star best for Milwaukee to remain valuable for baseball bettors.

Houston Astros (86-75, +22.38)

The Astros were one of the best wagers in MLB in ’08. Houston got off to a slow start before characteristically making a late push for the postseason, as sharps who saw it happening made a killing before the public caught up.

A look at the roster says Houston can’t play over the 74.5-win total this season, but that’s what cappers said last spring before the Astros came within a few games of a wildcard berth. Roy Oswalt is likely the most underrated ace in the league, while Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman in the middle of the order is nothing to sneeze at.

St. Louis Cardinals (86-76, +9.87)

St. Louis had a better record last season than it did when it won the World Series in 2006, but those are the breaks. Finishing back in fourth last year is a blessing in disguise for Cardinals backers, who will see better MLB odds this season because of it.

The key is the return of Troy Glaus from his shoulder injury. If he can come back and combine with Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick to give Albert Pujols some protection, St. Louis becomes a very intriguing play at +1000 to win the division.

Cincinnati Reds (74-88, -16.02)

Not having Adam Dunn around for the entire season hurts the Reds, who needed his 40 homers just to keep the team afloat. Without him, Cincinnati is hard-pressed to score enough runs to make up for what the pitching staff will allow in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.

It’s too bad the stadium kills the rotation, because it isn’t bad on paper. Aaron Harang is a legitimate top-of-the-rotation arm and Edinson Volquez was lights-out during the first half last season. Take the Reds to finish under the 80.5-win total currently listed by oddsmakers.

Pittsburgh Pirates (67-95, -11.96)

If it weren’t for beautiful PNC Park, would there be any reason to keep playing baseball in Pittsburgh? Nate McLouth is a nice young player, but so was Jason Bay, and now he’s in Boston.

The best reason for baseball in the Steel City is the Pirates can potentially make money for bettors, which have to hope the Bucs overachieve to stay ahead of public sentiment. For that to happen, Pittsburgh needs better pitching from top-to-bottom. The Pirates ranked last in almost every defensive category last season, including team ERA (5.08) and BAA (.286).


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