2022 MLB NL Central Division breakdown: Odds, predictions and best bets

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I'm an NFL handicapper here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up. For Andrew Ortenberg media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.
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It’s almost that time of year. With the labor dispute officially in the rearview mirror, the 2022 MLB season is right around the corner. Here at Pickswise we have a ton of content coming to get you primed, so make sure to keep an eye on our MLB news tab. With Opening Day rapidly approaching, we are breaking down each MLB division and today we’ll be talking about the NL Central.

Last year the Milwaukee Brewers came out on top with a 95-67 mark, followed by the Cardinals — who finished at 90-72 and earned a wild-card berth. The Cincinnati Reds came in third, with the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates bringing up the rear. The Brewers are favorites to repeat as division champs. It looks like the Reds could be entering a bit of a rebuild, and some are expecting the Cubs to bounce back after a disappointing year. It’s going to be a lot of fun, now let’s break it all down and make some wagers.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers are coming off a successful season in which their dominant pitching staff carried them to a division title. They allowed only 623 runs as a team, which was the third-lowest number in all of MLB. Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, Adrian Houser and Eric Lauer all started at least 20 games, and all of them had ERAs of 3.22 or lower. All five of those guys had career years, pitching much better than they had in previous seasons. I’m not saying they were total flukes, but that’s going to be tough to repeat. The offense was just middle of the pack, and I’d expect a bit of regression from the starting rotation. As such I’ve got to fade the hype and look under on their win total.

Best bet: Under 89.5 wins (-106)

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cards came up short in the division last year but still got into the playoffs, losing to the Dodgers in the wild card. Oddsmakers seem to think the NL Central is a two-horse race, as the Brewers are -170 to repeat as champs, the Cardinals are +240, and everyone else is 11/1 or greater. If nothing else we’re going to have a fun story to monitor in St. Louis this season, as they brought back future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols for a farewell retirement tour. Pujols is obviously past his prime, but with guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Tyler O’Neill, this team still has a ton of pop in the lineup. The Cardinals’ rotation was a bit of a mess that fluctuated a lot due to injuries last year, and they still made the playoffs. They should improve there, and I think their offense will be the best in the division. Give me them at even money to make the playoffs again.

Best bet: To make playoffs (+100)

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs sure did unravel in a hurry. Their World Series days now seem like a lifetime ago, and the roster has officially been blown up. Pretty much all the key cogs are gone and on new teams now. Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javy Baez were all traded midway through last season, telling you everything you need to know about the team’s state of mind. Patrick Wisdom was a pleasant surprise last year, but outside of the 30-year-old randomly breaking out, there wasn’t a whole lot to be optimistic about. They signed Marcus Stroman this offseason, but the rest of the rotation leaves a lot to be desired. It looks like they’ll be starting Kyle Hendricks on Opening Day, and he had an ERA of 4.77 last year. Veteran journeymen castoffs Wade Miley and Drew Smyly are the 3-4 starters. I’m not expecting much.

Best bet: Under 74.5 wins (-110)

Cincinnati Reds

The Cubs weren’t the only team in the NL Central to trade away a bunch of key pieces. The Reds, who insist they aren’t rebuilding, also shipped out some big names. Cincinnati traded Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez and Sonny Gray, so it’s hard to believe that they plan on making the postseason in 2022. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to get excited about, as it was recently announced that 2019 second overall pick Hunter Greene has made the rotation to start the year and will make his big-league debut. They still have Joey Votto, who is coming off a resurgent year, and the offense can still be pretty good. Jonathan India is back, as is Tyler Naquin who had a really solid year. If Greene can deliver on his potential, this team could win more games than most people expect since I suspect the division will be relatively weak.

Best bet: Over 73.5 wins (-104)

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates have been NL Central bottom-feeders for a while now, and not much is expected to change in 2022. They’ve once again been picked to finish last in the division, with their win total being set at only 64.5. Last year was pretty bleak, but there were some bright spots. Brian Reynolds was sensational, and they discovered a great arm in the bullpen in David Bednar. The rotation should also be a lot better than it was last year. Mitch Keller could make the leap this year, and they brought in Jose Quintana to give them another reliable veteran option. They’ve also got 24-year old Bryse Wilson, acquired in a trade from the Braves, who has real upside. I’m not saying they’re going to be any good, but at a huge price I don’t mind sprinkling a few bucks on them to shock everyone and make the postseason. Hey, crazier things have happened.

Best bet: To make playoffs (+1800)

National League Central prediction

They’re somewhat significant favorites, but I don’t see the Brewers repeating as division champs. Their success last season felt a bit fluky, and I’m expecting regression from the pitching staff. St. Louis is going to have a ton of power in their lineup, and their rotation is going to be a lot more stable than it was last year, when they still managed to make the playoffs.

I like the Cardinals to win the NL Central at +240, which you can get at FanDuel Sportsbook. Milwaukee is -170, Chicago is +1100, Cincinnati is +1600 and Pittsburgh is +5000.

Read our 2022 MLB season preview, which includes a +4000 World Series longshot!

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