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Updated look at NL Central standings, best value bet to win based on odds movement

The Reds were favored to win the NL Central entering the season, but how have the odds changed heading into the 2021 All-Star break? We break down the movement and identify the best value bets.

Betting Milwaukee to win the World Series

The National League Central has been turned on a dime. Just a couple of weeks ago, four teams were within six games of the division lead. Now, as of July 9, one team has created a bunch of separation from the pack and everyone else is scrambling to catch up. Where does the best value bet lie within this division? Let’s explore that using the odds from DraftKings Sportsbook.

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (53-36) —
  2. Cincinnati Reds (45-42) 7.0 GB
  3. Chicago Cubs (44-45) 9.0 GB
  4. St. Louis Cardinals (43-46) 10.0 GB
  5. Pittsburgh Pirates (32-54) 19.5 GB

Analysis: The Cubs (+1200) threw a combined no-hitter on June 24. They were tied with the Brewers for first place on that night. Then they lost 11 games in a row and look to be set on selling at the Trade Deadline. Meanwhile, Milwaukee has won 14 of its past 17 games to open up the biggest division lead of any team in the NL. The Cardinals (+1200) who entered this season as the favorite, have been besieged by pitching injuries; they really couldn’t afford to lose ace starter Jack Flaherty.

But let’s talk more about the current top two teams in this division — the Brewers and the Reds — below.

NL Central Division winner odds

Brewers -1000
Reds +1000
Cubs +1200
Cardinals +1200
Pirates +50000

Analysis: As of July 9, only the Chicago White Sox have better odds than the Milwaukee Brewers of winning their division, according to Fangraphs, which gives Milwaukee (-1000) an 88.5 percent chance of becoming champions. The Reds (+1000) have the second-greatest chance at a lowly 7.7 percent. And yet, I want to believe.

Yes, the Reds’ bullpen is a total catastrophe, but that can be addressed a number of ways at the Trade Deadline. Otherwise, outfielders Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos are All-Star starters for a reason. Joey Votto has turned back the clock somewhat. Jonathan India has been an impact bat as a rookie. The Reds have a sizeable offensive advantage over the Brewers, who are getting unsustainable contributions at the plate from the likes of Willy Adames and Jace Peterson. And Cincinnati’s starting rotation, led by stablizing forces such as Wade Miley and Tyler Mahle, is good enough to keep this team in plenty of games.

However, it doesn’t take a genius to see why the Brewers are in first place: They possess the best 1-2-3 pitching punch in starters Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta. No team wants to face Milwaukee in a short postseason series with those kinds of arms on the mound. Among pitchers who have thrown at least 80 innings this season, each person in that trio ranks inside the top 20 in Fangraphs pitching WAR. And then after them, opponents gets to face Devin Williams and Josh Hader. No, thanks.

Milwaukee knows its biggest flaw is on offense; I’m sure the Brewers will add a notable hitter at the Deadline to shore up that weakness. Will they win this division? Yeah, probably. But if you’re looking for value, I don’t think putting something on Cincy is all that crazy. Again, if the Reds didn’t have perhaps the worst bullpen in the game, I think these teams would be neck-and-neck. If Cincinnati can acquire a reliever such as Daniel Bard or Ian Kennedy, it could make a September run in the Central.

Betting value: Reds +1000

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