Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:49 AM

2021 National League Central Baseball Betting Predictions

Mar. 18, 2021

MLB Expert

NL Central Betting Odds & Forecast

MLB Futures Market

2021 NL Central Division Odds

  • St. Louis Cardinals +105
  • Milwaukee Brewers +300
  • Cincinnati Reds +330
  • Chicago Cubs +425
  • Pittsburgh Pirates +6500

For the second time in three years the St. Louis Cardinals went shopping for roster upgrades in the NL West and came back with a superstar. It was 1B Paul Goldschmidt from Arizona a couple of years ago, and this winter it was 3B Nolan Arenado from Colorado.

That addition is a big part in the given edge to the Cardinals on paper in this marketplace, as the margins for error in the NL Central is going to be razor thin for everyone. Unless you're the Pirates. Expect plenty of errors from Pittsburgh this year.

But for as deep and balanced as the Cardinals appear to be, I'm not sure the rest of the division is as far behind St. Louis as these prices (and the season win totals) seem to suggest.

Milwaukee adding Jackie Bradley, Jr. is no small thing for them even if the bigger payoff is in defensive runs saved with him, and the Reds did lose Trevor Bauer and his Cy Young winning effort, but they were everyone's preseason darling in that 60-game season for more reasons than just having Bauer and Cincinnati probably underperformed; especially early on.

The Cubs actually won the NL Central in 2020, and when you can have a lineup like they can with Rizzo, Bryant, Baez, Heyward, Pederson, and others like Chicago can, 4-1 on Chicago to repeat can appear a little disrespectful.

Whether or not the Kris Bryant free agency after this year ends up becoming a biggest distraction than it should is always a concern with the Cubs, as is the idea that they had been sliding south before last year's division crown in the sprint of a season. For how good Chicago's lineup appears to look, they are priced as the worst of the bunch for other reasons.

So I believe any division breakdown here has to start with two questions. The first being whether or not a bettor sides with the idea that the Cardinals are the clear cut favorite in this division. If you do, it's pretty straight forward how to react, but if you don't selecting between the other three probably comes down to such a slim margin in the end that any argument for any of those three teams can be viable at this point.

2021 National League Pennant Odds

  • St. Louis Cardinals +1050
  • Milwaukee Brewers +2500
  • Cincinnati Reds +1500
  • Chicago Cubs +2200
  • Pittsburgh Pirates +10000

Same conceptual idea generally exists here on whether or not a bettor agrees with the market assessment on St. Louis. There are four teams with better odds with the Dodgers (+175), Padres (+390), Braves (+500), and Mets (+525), but only three NL Central teams have made the World Series since 2008 as well (St. Louis in 2011, 2013, Chicago 2016).

More interesting in this futures market has got to be the Reds being priced as high as they are, pushing them as a clear cut favorite to go further than Milwaukee which helps paint a potential picture for Reds plays in other markets.

But if there are questions about the Cardinals being worth the price that they are listed at, that doesn't appear to be the case with Cincinnati.

I don't see how the Reds are worth this price for the whole NL even if they did underachieve by as big a margin as possible last summer. Cincinnati's price is much more likely to grow to +2000 and higher as the weeks get played in the season, and that's part of not seeing any interest in the Reds right now.

That's not to say Cincinnati can't be a good price to win the National League this year, but the likelihood of getting them at a better price to do so is rather high in my view that even those who have the most positive outlook for the Reds this year would be prudent to wait and let the season play out a bit first.

Finally, we can't leave out the fact that the Cubs have the better price than Milwaukee in this market, despite the Brewers owning that honor for the division. The idea that the Cubs are a streaky team is nothing new and definitely has to be expected to a degree, but again, seeing how the Cubs open up the year and get a few weeks under their belt isn't a bad idea.

Remember, with all these NL Central teams, they are still competing with the likes of the Dodgers, Padres, and NL East leaders in this market, all of whom come into the year with much better prices. If those teams start the year on a roll, prices on the other teams have no choice but to climb.

The Cardinals upgraded their lineup with the acquisition of 3B Nolan Arenado from the Rockies. (AP)

2021 World Series Odds

  • St. Louis Cardinals +2500
  • Cincinnati Reds +3300
  • Chicago Cubs +4000
  • Milwaukee Brewers +4400
  • Pittsburgh Pirates +25000

It's the same hierarchy of prices in relation to the teams again here, with Milwaukee being the worst of the bunch in the Top 4. Don't think that matters as much here as any run by any of these teams through the entire league this year would be worthy of being priced in the 3000 to +5000 range.

Cincinnati may not be worth 11 points on Milwaukee, so from a pure price perspective it might be an option to take Milwaukee now and see what kind of other opportunities open up down the road.

2021 NL Central Win Totals Odds

MLB Win Totals Odds

Win Totals Odds

  • St. Louis 86.5
  • Milwaukee 82.5
  • Cincinnati 82.5
  • Chicago 78.5
  • Pittsburgh 58.5

So what do you do with the NL Central win total prices in a division that should be quite congested at the top?

Well, to start, every NL Central winner (outside of last year) has finished with at least 90 wins since 2008, so get the division winner correct and the 'over' should be an easy cash as well.

Seven of the last eight have either been the Cubs or the Cardinals in that regard, but I still like the chances of one those two teams sitting at 82.5 wins. Still believe the Reds are much better than they showed last year offensively, and that it's still more than enough to make up for losing the reigning Cy Young winner.

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