When the 2019 MLB season began, the NL Central was expected to be one of the tighter races in baseball. Now, as the regular season begins to wind down, it is one of three divisions that are still viewed as competitive without a clear winner in sight.

The St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, and Milwaukee Brewers were all expected to be in the hunt. Sure enough, all three are. Prior to games being played on August 27, the Cardinals held a 2.5 game lead over the Cubs and a five-game lead over the Brewers.

But being just a few games ahead with around 30 to go doesn’t mean a whole lot. It just means there is no room for error and that the odds are going to be in your favor, at the moment, which they are (via FanDuel):

  • Odds of winning the NL Central in 2019

o  St. Louis Cardinals           -140

o  Chicago Cubs                    +170

o  Milwaukee Brewers       +600

o  Cincinnati Reds                +7500

o  Pittsburgh Pirates           +10000

According to those odds, the Cardinals now have a 58.33 percent chance of winning the division while the Cubs have a 37.04 percent chance, and the Brewers a 14.29 percent chance.

So—who should you bet on? Do you go with the current favorite because you hate to lose and some money is better than no money? Or do you roll the dice and go with the Cubs or Brewers with hopes of a better payout?

Before deciding, it is worth knowing that the Cardinals have not become the favorite by grinding out wins and being the better team in the division for most of the season. They just so happen t have gotten red-hot at the right time.

A few weeks ago, they sat in third place, 3.5 games off the leader. But then they caught fire and won 14 of 17 and overtook the lead in the division. In that same time frame, the Brewers are 7-8 and the Cubs 6-9 (and were swept by the Phillies and Nationals).

Are the Cardinals the team to beat and worthy of your trust and money? Or are they just a team that got scorching hot right as the other team division contenders got ice-cold?

Throughout the season, the Cubs (sixth in the NL in runs) have been the better offensive team of the three with the Brewers right behind (eighth) and the Cardinals trailing (at 11th). But when it comes to pitching, the Cardinals have the second-best ERA in the NL (3.93) followed by the Cubs (4.13). The Brewers are 12th with a 4.72 ERA.

But part of the joy of a 162-game season is that a team can struggle but will have the time to get better and still make a run at a division title (or higher). Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals pitching staff has been phenomenal (3.47 ERA; third in NL).

They have done a better job offensively, too (Cardinals are seventh in runs since the Break with 211 scored while the Brewers are tenth (192) and Cubs are 12th (183).

What does this mean as far as how you should bet? If the Cardinals were just riding a three-week hot streak right now, they would not be an advisable bet. But that is not the case. They have been playing better baseball than the other two since the Break.

The race is too close to call right now (so don’t put any money on it right now). With the Cardinals and Cubs playing seven games in the final couple weeks of the season the only thing that matters is who has the hot hand during those seven games.

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