For these baseball betting previews, our perspective will be along the lines of scouting reports on teams. This will include what they do and don't do well and the various odds are from Intertops on the teams. In order, the odds will list the chances of winning the division, league and Over/Under total.
1) Chicago Cubs (1st Division odds, 3rd in NL, O/U 89.5)
It is hard to call a team winning 95 games a failure, still, the Cubs blew division lead, fell to the wild card and were swiftly dismissed. The year after winning the World Series, Cubs players admitted they were exhausted at various points of 2017, but last year they lacked any fire. This is a critical year for Joe Maddon and do players like Kris Bryant and others come to play like Javier Baez or are they going to stuck on cruise control again. The starting pitching, though good is not young or overwhelming and with no prospects on the way, an injury or two could undermine what many believe this team can do. The good news for the North-Siders, if they show up daily, they are arguably the best team in the National League.
S&S Pick: 60/40 to win the division and 60/40 Over on the total
For the St. Louis franchise, it has always been about winning and building for the future. But with Chicago and last year Milwaukee win the division and the headlines, the Cardinals from the top of the front office to the 25th man on the roster understands that winning in 2019 is an absolute must. Trading for Paul Goldschmidt set the tone. However, Goldy and others have contracts they will be up, and Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright are no longer stars, just aging veterans. The Redbirds have the best starting staff in the Central and adding Andrew Miller as a closer, a lot of bettors will pick them to win the division. St. Louis is all in on this season, will they make it happen?
S&S Pick: 60/40 to win division 60/40 Over on total
3) Milwaukee (3rd, 5th, O/U 87)
Though nobody thought Milwaukee would end up one game away from making their first World Series appearance since 1982, this is exactly what happened. The Brewers signed Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich (MVP in 2018) and they not only upgraded the talent, but a ferociousness seldom seen with this franchise. Milwaukee also received several unexpected performances 1B Jesus Aguilar and Jhoulys Chacin, in particular, to go along with a "lights out bullpen". The question for Milwaukee is can they duplicate last year's success at 96-66? With unknown starting pitching, you wouldn't think so and several everyday players have career years or close to. The Crew is not going anywhere, they might not win the Central, but a wild card team is realistic.
S&S Pick: 35% to win division and 50/50 Over on win total
This is the 150th year of Cincinnati professional baseball, as they were the first team to play players in 1969. (The Red Stockings went 67-0) Because this is the best top to bottom in baseball, the Reds had to make moves to compete and added known quantities like Alex Wood, Matt Kemp, and Yasiel Puig. Cincy only won 67 games last season will this trio and expected improvement in some areas really mean they will jump to 78 or 79 wins? With still sketchy starting pitching and neither Kemp or Puig is known to hustle all the time, it's hard to see Cincinnati even winning 75 times in loaded Central.
S&S Pick: 80/20 chance of Under on total
5) Pittsburgh (5th, 11th, O/U 77.5)
It is easy to forget with all the talent at the top of the Central, Pittsburgh was as good as any of them the last two months of the season and their 82-79 record was just their fourth-winning campaign in 26 years. The Pirates starting rotation with Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer should keep them in most games and if they have a lead, relievers Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela can seal the deal. What will decides the Bucs fate is will they have enough offense on the day's the starting pitchers are not as sharp? A .500 season is possible and not much more.