MLB Win Totals: Brewers Perched Atop NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Christian Yelich follows throw on a swing and gets a hit against the Chicago Cubs
Image Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

The release of MLB win totals odds reveals bookmakers’ expectations for a little bit of everything in the NL Central. A little good, a little above average, some below average, and a clear cellar-dwelling outfit.

While the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals appear to be the class of the division once again, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds could be in for another long summer. But hey, at least neither are the Pittsburgh Pirates. continues its 2022 MLB betting preview with a division-by-division look at MLB regular-season win totals. Now in the batter’s box is the NL Central, where the Milwaukee Brewers are projected to successfully defend their division championship (and rather easily).

2022 NL Central Win Totals

Team Win Total
Milwaukee Brewers 90
St. Louis Cardinals 84
Chicago Cubs 75.5
Cincinnati Reds 74
Pittsburgh Pirates 65.5

Odds via The SuperBook and updated as of 7:30 p.m. ET on March 28

Milwaukee Brewers Win Total

Milwaukee Brewers right-handed pitcher Corbin Burnes reaches back and prepares to deliver a pitch during a spring training game against the Cincinnati Reds
Image Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-The Enquirer/USA TODAY Network

2021 regular-season record: 95-67 (1st)
2022 win total projection: 90
Key additions: OF Andrew McCutchen, OF Hunter Renfroe, C Pedro Severino
Key subtractions: SP Brett Anderson, RP John Axford, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., INF Eduardo Escobar, OF Avisaíl García, RP Daniel Norris

Is this Brewers team really five games worse than it was last season? Oddsmakers seem to think so. The Brew Crew dropped three of its last four games in 2021 yet still finished with 95 wins, taking the division title by a comfortable five-game margin. And Milwaukee really didn’t lose much in the offseason.

Granted, aside from former MVP Christian Yelich, the Brewers’ lineup isn’t flush with superstars. Yet Milwaukee managed to get the job done in 2021 with timely hitting, two top-flight starting pitchers, and a strong bullpen, led by one of the best closers in baseball, Josh Hader. The Brewers’ recent success — four straight playoff appearances and a pair of division crowns — can also be attributed to manager Craig Counsell, who gets the most out of his roster.

Reigning National League Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes is a true ace, a workhorse who delivered quality starts — at least six innings with three or fewer earned runs allowed — in 18 of his 28 outings last season. And in 16 of those 18 starts (and 18 starts overall for the season), the right-hander yielded one or no runs. No. 2 starter Brandon Woodruff is another top-of-the-rotation arm and legit Cy Young candidate. The bad news: After Burnes and Woodruff, question marks abound on the mound.

Sure, right-hander Freddy Peralta (10-5, 2.81 ERA) had a breakout 2021 season. But he logged 144 innings, by far the most in his career. That led to a late-season stint on the injured list with a shoulder issue he’s dealt with in the past. Right-hander Adrian Houser and southpaw Eric Lauer round out a very weak back end of the rotation.

So as great as Burnes and Woodruff are, there’s little depth behind them. Should either front-line starter suffer an injury or big drop in production, Milwaukee will be in trouble. Sportsbooks have lowered their expectations for the 2022 Brewers. You should, too. Play the Under.

St. Louis Cardinals Win Total

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado fields a ball and prepares to throw to first base while on his knees during a spring training game against the Houston Astros
during spring training at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

2021 regular-season record: 90-72 (2nd)
2022 win total projection: 84
Key additions: OF Corey Dickerson, SP Steven Matz, DH Albert Pujols, RP Nick Wittgren
Key subtractions: OF Matt Carpenter, SP J.A. Happ, SP Jon Lester, SP Carlos Martinez, RP Andrew Miller

The NL Central is no juggernaut, and the Cardinals always seem to find themselves in the playoff mix — regardless of preseason expectations. The 2022 season should bring more of the same for the Redbirds.

Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright is back for his 17th season. While no longer an ace, the right-hander pitched like one last year, going 17-7 with a stellar 3.05 ERA. It’s tough to imagine the soon-to-be 41-year-old duplicating those numbers in 2022, but Wainwright is smart and savvy, someone who serves up a lot of groundballs, eats up innings, and keeps his team in games.

While Wainwright is the fan favorite, fellow right-hander Jack Flaherty is the true key to the Cardinals’ success in 2022. St. Louis’ new ace is a strikeout machine, averaging 10.5 Ks per nine innings over his five-year career. However, Flaherty developed bursitis in his throwing arm at the end of last season, limiting him to 78.2 innings. Recovery is going slow in spring training, and it appears Flaherty won’t be ready for Opening Day. If he misses an extended period of time, St. Louis’ ability to surpass its win total will be impacted, so monitor his status closely as the season approaches.

The offense is something to be excited about if you’re a Cardinals fan. Third baseman Nolan Arenado, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, and outfielder Tyler O’Neill caught fire at the end of last season, keying a franchise-record 17-game winning streak that allowed St. Louis to snatch a wild-card berth. All three have serious power and anchor what is probably the NL Central’s most potent lineup, top to bottom.

The Cardinals managed 90 wins last season in a division that really hasn’t changed much. Their hitting and elite defense should keep them in contention for the division title and get them close to 90 wins (especially if Flaherty heals up soon). Over is the play in the MLB win totals market.

Chicago Cubs Win Total

Chicago Cubs right fielder Seiya Suzuki looks on during an at-bat against the Colorado Rockies in a spring training game
at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

2021 regular-season record: 71-91 (4th)
2022 win total projection: 75.5
Key additions: OF Clint Frazier, C Yan Gomes, RP David Robertson, SS Andrelton Simmons, SP Drew Smyly, SP Marcus Stroman, OF Seiya Suzuki, INF/OF Jonathan Villar
Key subtractions: C Robinson Chirinos, SP Zach Davies, C Austin Romine

As you can see, the Cubs’ front office was very busy this offseason, bringing myriad new faces to Wrigley Field in 2022. The biggest addition is starter Marcus Stroman, who will be paired with Kyle Hendricks at the top of Chicago’s rotation.

The Cubs shot out of the gate in 2021, finding themselves atop the NL Central after the first 2½ months. Then the bottom fell out. That downturn resulted in a trade deadline dispatch of numerous marquee players, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Javier Báez. By season’s end, Chicago had 91 losses and a fourth-place finish, the team’s worst since 2013.

That said, there is upside with the seemingly rebuilding Cubs. Middle-of-the-rotation arms Alec Mills and Wade Miley are extreme groundball pitchers whose styles fit Wrigley Field perfectly. While far from elite, the rotation has the components to be sneaky good, especially with Stroman in the fold. Meanwhile, the offense features an interesting group of both young and veteran hitters.

If the starting staff collectively pitches better than many expect, the lineup performs at least to its capabilities, and the bullpen holds up, the Cubs could be the sleeper in a division that’s there for the taking. Sure, that’s a lot of “ifs,” but the potential is there. So, too, is the value on Over 75.5 wins in the MLB win totals market.

Cincinnati Reds Win Total

Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India prepares to make contact with the baseball that results in a single during a spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers
Image Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-The Enquirer/USA TODAY Network

2021 regular-season record: 83-79 (3rd)
2022 win total projection: 74
Key additions: OF Albert Almora Jr., SP Mike Minor, OF Tommy Pham, RP Hunter Strickland
Key subtractions: C Tucker Barnhart, INF Asdrúbal Cabrera, OF Nick Castellanos, SP Sonny Gray, RP Michael Lorenzen, OF Jesse Winker

The Reds are in that gray area, where it’s hard to tell if they are trying to contend or are headed toward full-rebuild mode. Given the events of the past couple of weeks, it’s likely the latter, which is reflected in their low MLB win totals projection.

Cincinnati surpassed expectations last year, finishing above .500 in a full regular season (not counting 2020) for the first time since going 90-72 in 2013. Don’t expect a similar result in 2022, for a number of reasons.

First, the Reds’ bullpen was a disaster last year, posting a 4.99 ERA (fourth-worst in the majors). Yet the front office did nothing to address the problem in the offseason. Then, of course, there’s the loss of all that offensive production, namely outfielders Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker. The team’s top hitters in 2021, Castellanos and Winker were the only regulars to hit over .300. On the bright side, the left side of the infield remains intact with veteran Joey Votto at first base and 2021 NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India manning second.

If there is one positive for Cincy, it’s the starting rotation, which sports some young, live arms. That includes the potential big league debut of top prospect Hunter Greene, the second overall pick of the 2017 draft. Of course, Greene and the rest of the staff has to pitch 81 home games at the bandbox known as Great American Ballpark — and do so with little margin for error because of the depleted offense.

No bullpen, below-average hitters, and lack of depth in the starting rotation equals: Under.

Pittsburgh Pirates Win Total

Pittsburgh Pirates left-handed starting pitcher Jose Quintana reaches back and throws a pitch against the New York Yankees during a spring training game
Image Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

2021 regular-season record: 61-101 (5th)
2022 win total projection: 65.5
Key additions: RP Heath Hembree, SP Jose Quintana, 1B Daniel Vogelbach
Key subtractions: SP/RP Trevor Cahill, SP/RP Shelby Miller, IF Colin Moran, C Jacob Stallings

The Pirates finished last in the NL Central each of the last three seasons. And if you believe the oddsmakers, they’re going to make it for four in a row in 2022.

Pittsburgh began dismantling its roster in 2019 and continued in 2020. While the franchise stockpiled some quality young talent during the fire sale, those prospects are at least a year or two away from making a significant impact. That leaves the Pirates with one of MLB’s lowest payrolls for 2022, and it shows.

If you want to extract a positive for the Pirates beating their paltry MLB season totals number of 65.5 — and if you don’t mind squinting — the Nos. 1-3 starters might be the spot to look. Jose Quintana, JT Brubaker, and Zach Thompson are all functional starters who will post some good outings. But beyond that, there’s not much on this roster to get excited about. In the 2022 MLB win totals market, the best play here is no play. Watch the Pirates from afar (just know, what you will see won’t be pretty).