Home / News / Why the Brewers, not the Cubs, will win the NL Central – Chicago Tribune

Why the Brewers, not the Cubs, will win the NL Central – Chicago Tribune


Except perhaps for the American League East, there may be no more competitive division in baseball next season than the National League Central.

While it might not be the most competitive from top to bottom (sorry Pirates), an argument could be made that it would be the most exciting with its influx of young prospects and budding superstars.

With division teams having relatively quiet winters, decisions to move forward with young talent have been made clear.

The biggest addition at center wasn’t even a move from outside the department. Craig Counsell’s surprising decision to manage the Brewers’ biggest rival just 90 miles south of Milwaukee should resonate throughout the NL Central.

At least that’s what the Cubs are hoping for after giving the Wisconsin native the richest managerial contract in MLB history. That’s one reason why the Brewers, who won the Central by nine games last season, have the second-worst odds on most sportsbooks but have the second-best odds in the league.

Let’s look at the teams ranked by the best current odds to win the NL Central and make a pick on which one will win the division.

2024 NL Central odds

Louis Cardinals (+175, bet365)

Sure, the Cardinals have won the division twice in the last eight seasons, but they’re almost always overrated because of their rich baseball history and their dominance of the division over a 16-year stretch where they won nine crowns starting in 2000. .

But nothing seems to have been learned from last year when the odds had them picked as the preseason favorites and PECOTA had them second guessed. St. St. Louis finished last in the Central, 21 games behind the Brewers.

With nearly everyone in the division turning to a youth movement, the Cardinals rely on experience, but experience comes with age, and that’s what’s troubling them in 2023.

The additions of Sonny Gray (34), Kyle Gibson (36) and Lance Lynn (37 in May) will help the starting rotation, but it won’t reduce the average age of the roster, which reared its ugly head a year ago.

Total wins: 85.5

Chicago Cubs (+240, FanDuel)

There’s no doubt that Counsell would be a huge improvement for the Cubs. Nobody knows how to get more talent from players than Counsell, who led the Brewers to four division titles and six top-two finishes in nine seasons in Milwaukee. He also led the cost-conscious Team to the playoffs in five of the last six seasons.

Will Counsell’s presence be enough for Chicago to overcome adversity and win its first full-season division title since 2017? That question will be answered roughly seven months from now, but it’ll all be guesswork in a week when pitchers, catchers and position players report to camp.

Unlike Counsell’s former club, there are no cost cuts with the free-spending Cubs. All eyes were on Shota Imanaga when camp opened this week, and for good reason. With Marcus Stroman moving on, Imanaga has become Chicago’s second-biggest player of the offseason (behind Counsell) and will be near or at the top of the rotation.

Essentially, the Cubs are returning the same team they fielded a year ago, but they hope to add a few more key pieces before the camp break.

It’s not the first time Cubs fans have gone to a camp with high hopes, but this one feels different, especially if Chicago can re-sign Cody Bellinger. The MVP of this team may be agent Scott Boras, whose clients include Bellinger, Matt Chapman, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery.

Bellinger is the big free-agent fish, but the Cubs are all in on the Boras school. Any combination involving Bellinger will make this team a contender. But until the dominoes fall, there will be more questions than answers.

Total wins: 83.5

Cincinnati Reds (+410, FanDuel)

Reds are an interesting choice at these rates. A late-season slump saw them miss the play-offs by just two games, but they are clearly a rising team with potential superstar power.

With rookie Elly De La Cruz gone last season, so are the Reds. The scorching start to his career when he was called up in early June coincided with Cincinnati getting off to a hot start, 10 games over .500 on the final day of July. The Reds won the match 82-80 with De La Cruz falling behind.

After working with their budding superstar in the offseason, the Reds are expecting big things from him in his second season.

Starting pitching in 2023 was a big problem for this team. The Reds added Frankie Montas and Nick Martinez to free agency. Both should bolster a starting rotation that had the third-highest ERA in baseball last season (5.43) and provide consistent high-leverage pressure on a bullpen that is the team’s strength.

The Reds are undoubtedly a young team, but many of their young players have gained valuable experience in 2023 and the team is counting on this to make a breakthrough forward.

Total wins: 81.5

Milwaukee Brewers (+800, Caesar)

The Brewers believe in continuity more than any team in baseball. Therefore, they appointed long-time team coach Pat Murphy as coach to replace Counsell. Murphy inherits a very different type of team than Counsell has had in the past.

He is much younger and there is less emphasis on starting pitching and much more emphasis on offense. The part of the team that still needs to be consistently dominant is the bullpen, where Devin Williams and Abner Uribe will again support the late innings with their dirty stuff.

Starting pitching could be this team’s downfall. Corbin Burnes was traded to Baltimore and Brandon Woodruff became a free agent after a shoulder injury to his throwing arm cost him the 2024 season (and likely millions of dollars). The Brewers are relying on limited offseason cap trades to fill some of the massive hole at the top of the rotation.

They spent the money saved by Burnes’ exit on first baseman Rhys Hoskins and DH Gary Sanchez, a duo that should add some much-needed pop to the middle of the order.

“Even without Burnes, they will still be a factor in the NL Central,” one NL executive told MLB.com. “This is a good team. If Hoskins is healthy, he should help this roster.”

The wild card is MLB’s No. 2 prospect Jackson Chourio, who signed an eight-year, $82 million contract in December (an unprecedented situation for a player who has yet to see his first pitch in the majors) that guarantees him an opening. day spot in the team.

Total wins: 77.5

Pittsburgh Pirates (+2500, bet365)

The Pirates thought they would get Hoskins before the first baseman signed with the Brewers. It’s been such an offseason for Pittsburgh.

The team opened camp this week desperate to start pitching, even after adding Josh Fleming. It’s probably not the time to fill out your rotation, but that’s where the Pirates are.

Having failed to make one or two important signings before the start of the season, the Pirates will once again rely on their own goal.

With the signing of Aroldis Chapman, Pittsburgh appears to be taking a similar approach the Brewers and Reds will take in 2023: young roster, timely hitting and a strong bullpen that should clean up the mess left by the starters.

Total wins: 75.5

Pick to win the NL Central

The Cardinals’ luck does not match the talent on the roster, and age could result in the team’s collapse yet again.

The Cubs will get a lot more out of their players by adding Counsell. It’s an interesting choice, but we won’t jump in just yet until Bellinger and perhaps another Boras client are also involved.

In a division up for grabs, why not Cincinnati? I think this team is still a year or two away, but watch out when things finally come together.

The Buccaneers aren’t without talent, but their starting rotation is a disaster.

That leaves us with the Brewers. They won’t be below .500. I think their win total and projected fourth-place finish is a reflection of the change in manager and the top of the rotation. Undoubtedly huge losses.

But Milwaukee always finds a way to get into the mix. This is an organizational thing that starts with a front office that knows what kind of players fit into the Brewers system and a coaching staff that consistently puts the team in position to win.

I would hit hard on their win total. Murphy is an excellent coach who has been a manager before, and Chourio is a name that makes a difference even though he is only 20 years old.

They’ll have enough at-bats to make up for the questionable starting pitching they threw behind Freddy Peralta this year, and they have a bullpen that might be the best in baseball.

  • Vote: Brewers to win NL Central (+800, Caesars)


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