MLB – NL Central Preview, Betting Picks, Predictions: Drinks On The Brewers

Christian YelichThe NL Central has kind of been like the middle child of the National League in recent years. While everyone touts the accomplishments of the NL East’s recent line of success and sees the immense potential of the growth of what is quickly becoming one of the baseball’s top units in the NL West, the NL Central has just been kind of there.

No respect, even though that division has near always been the most exciting to watch come the playoff stretch. Unlike the NL West and East, the Central has been known for having up to four teams in the conversation and in the contesting of arguably baseball’s most evenly matched division.

Sure, the Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t been good in decades, but the other four Central teams are constantly jockeying for that top position. 2022 looks to be no different as projections currently have the second through fourth projected teams, separated by just under six games. This is a division when at its best, can produce three playoff teams. So just a little PSA before we get started, look forward to another exciting year from the teams in the Midwest.

Can the Brewers Go Back-To-Back?

  • + 1500 to Win World Series
  • +550 to Win National League
  • -190 to Win NL Central

One of baseball’s youngest divisions, the NL Central has only been around since 1994 and in that time, they’ve only had a team win back-to-back titles five times. The most recent came in 2016 and 2017 when the Chicago Cubs did it. The Milwaukee Brewers, who prior to last season last won the Central in 2018, are looking for their first-ever back-to-back title wins in this highly competitive division. It won’t be easy – repeating never is. But the Brewers are returning almost their entire roster from last year’s campaign, and actually added to their depth with the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen. Milwaukee boasts a deep team with versatility throughout the lineup, led by one of the finest players in baseball in Christian Yelich. Yelich had a pedestrian season by his standards last year, but before 2021 he was averaging 40 home runs and a .327 batting average in his first two years in the league. Last year feels more like an outlier for the outfielder who can pretty much do it all with the bat and glove.

And their pitching staff, led by 2021 NL Cy Young winner, Corbin Burnes, isn’t exactly bottom of the barrel either. Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, Freddy Peralta are all capable arms behind Burnes. Combined with their bullpen, the Brewers project to have one of the better all-around pitching groups in baseball. And when it comes to the playoffs, pitching is what tends to seal the deal.

From Winning Streaks to Sustained Success, what is the Realistic Outlook for the Cardinals?

  • + 2000 to Win World Series
  • + 1200 to Win National League
  • +225 to Win NL Central

The Cardinals are good, right? Last year certainly seemed to solidify that point as St. Louis responded to an uneven start to the season by becoming the hottest team in baseball when it counted. The slow start ultimately prevented the Cardinals from winning the NL West though. That said, 2022 is a new year and all eyes are on the Cardinals to see if they can pick up where they left off. St. Louis looks like a fine team on paper, though there are certainly some questions. The team brought in Steven Matz to help fill the void left by ace Jack Flaherty, who could miss time with a recurring shoulder issue, and brought back Albert Pujols, though that largely could be for sentimental reasons. St. Louis’ core is aging, with Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright all on the wrong side of 40. Age hasn’t caught up to them yet however, and if the three can stay healthy in 2022, the Cardinals stand a chance.

St. Louis’ biggest strength however might be one that is often overlooked when talking about the glamorous side of baseball in the hitting and pitching. But much like special teams plays an undeniably vital role in the NFL, defense is that unheralded aspect of baseball that could make or break a team’s season. Lucky for the Cardinals, they don’t have to worry in this department as they have five gold glovers shoring up the infield and outfield.

Will Cubs Make the NL Central a Big Three Once Again?

  • + 10000 to Win World Series
  • + 6000 to Win National League
  • +1200 to Win NL Central

When predicting how the NL Central could be decided, most are looking at just the Brewers and Cardinals. But call me an optimist when it comes to Chicago because I believe this team is better than many are expecting them to be. Of course, the biggest reason why people don’t seem to be high on the Cubs is because of all the players they have lost in recent years through massive and unexpected sell-outs at the deadline. Gone is much of the core that brought this team their first World Series in over 100 years. Wilson Contreras is the last one holding down the fort and even his name has surfaced in trade rumors as of late.

At least going into this season, Chicago is trying to compete with the top of the Central. Their firepower isn’t what the Cardinals have and their pitching is certainly a few notches below the Brewers on a good day. But it’s the NL Central and if ever there was going to be a division that didn’t come to plan, it would be this one. Look for the Cubs to stay competitive as they introduce top Japanese product Seiya Suzuki to MLB.

Best of the Rest: The Reds and Pirates

I hesitate to lump the Cincinnati Reds in with the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates but in some ways, these are now two teams seeming to be on a more level playing field. In fact, the Pirates could arguably be taking steps forward whereas it seems the Reds are directionless having lost seven key contributors from last year’s + .500 team.

But let’s face it, the Pirates are still the Pirates. One day, something will give in Pittsburgh but until then, fans should look on the bright side that Pittsburgh is not projected to lose 100 games this year.

Final Pick

As much as I want to back the Cubs as competitive, the reality of the situation is they aren’t on the level of the Brewers and Cardinals. Both St. Louis and Milwaukee have strengths they can rely on heading into the 2022 season but ultimately, everything feels like it’s falling into place for the Brewers to enjoy a sustained run on top. Back the Brewers to repeat as NL Central champions.