St. Louis Cardinals 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Time to End a Playoff Drought

St. Louis Cardinals 2019 Betting Odds, Preview: Time to End a Playoff Drought article feature image
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Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports.

  • The Cardinals won 88 games in 2018, but missed the postseason for the third straight year.
  • They made two major offseason acquisitions by bringing in Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller, the former being one of the best and most consistent players in baseball this decade.
  • Thanks to a deep lineup and bounty of pitchers, there's a good chance their playoff drought comes to an end.

Original analysis published on Feb. 27.

St. Louis is a baseball city and the Cardinals are one of the best franchises in the game. Between 2000 and 2015, they made it the World Series four times (and won two of them), won their division nine times and made it to the postseason twelve times — never going more than two years without a trip to the playoffs.

However, they’ve failed to play October baseball in three straight seasons. Though they’ve remained competitive, staying above .500 every year, the fans want that playoff baseball!

I can’t predict the future, but I think they’ll get there this season.

2018 Results

  • Record: 88-74 (+3.5 units), 79-83 ATS (-3.8 units)
  • Over/Under Record: 77-78-7
  • Preseason World Series Odds: +2100
  • Win Total: 86
  • Most Profitable Starter:  Miles Mikolas (24-8, +11.7 units)

The Cardinals slightly exceeded expectations last year, eclipsing their win total by two. However, while Milwaukee surged in September and caught the Cubs to win the division, the Cardinals crumbled, going just 12-15 in the final month.

The Cards were one of just three teams whose Pythagorean record was exactly the same as their actual record, suggesting they weren’t lucky or unlucky.

Of course, one of the biggest surprises for them last year was the recently-paid Miles Mikolas. The Lizard King returned to the majors with elite control after pitching in Japan for a few years. He finished sixth in the NL Cy Young race and brought a different look to their rotation.

2019 Odds

  • World Series Odds: +1200
  • Division Odds: +200
  • Win Total O/U: 88.5
  • Playoff Odds: Make -110, Miss -110

The Cardinals didn’t make a bunch of meaningful offseason moves, but they made two that will be very impactful by trading for Paul Goldschmidt and signing Andrew Miller.

Goldschmidt is as reliable of a hitter as they come. Since 2013, he has the third highest fWAR among position players behind only Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. The Cards already had some good hitters, but Goldschmidt is an elite heart of the order bat.

Miller was banged up last season, but makes an already deep pitching staff even deeper. If they can make the postseason, we all know what type of weapon he can be there.

I really like the Cardinals and will be shopping around to see what I can get them at to win the NL Central. Payouts better than +200 do exist out there.

I think that the Cubs could be just as good if they stay healthy, but the Cardinals have more depth and flexibility if things go wrong. Things go wrong in baseball a lot.

Either of those teams are a good bet in my mind at approximately the +200 to +250 range, as I don’t think the Brewers are of the same caliber.

Roster Notes

  • Key Additions: Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew Miller, Ryan Meisinger, Drew Robinson, Matt Wieters, Tommy Layne (minors), Hunter Cervenka (minors)
  • Key Subtractions: Luke Weaver, Tyson Ross, Bud Norris, Matt Adams, Greg Garcia, Matt Bowman, Carson Kelly, Patrick Wisdom
  • Potential Lineup
    1. Matt Carpenter – 3B
    2. Paul De Jong – SS
    3. Paul Goldschmidt – 1B
    4. Marcell Ozuna – LF
    5. Dexter Fowler/Jose Martinez – RF
    6. Yadier Molina – C
    7. Harrison Bader – CF
    8. Kolten Wong – 2B
  • Projected Rotation
    1. Miles Mikolas
    2. Jack Flaherty
    3. Carlos Martinez (Injured)
    4. Dakota Hudson
    5. Michael Wacha
    6. Adam Wainwright
  • Prospect Watch: Alex Reyes (No. 33, RHP), Andrew Knizner (Unranked, C), Dakota Hudson (Unranked, RHP)
  • Key Injuries: Carlos Martinez (Shoulder, early 2019), Luke Gregerson (Shoulder, early 2019), Jedd Gyorko (Calf, early 2019), Brett Cecil (Forearm, early 2019)
  • MVP Candidates: Paul Goldschmidt (+1000), Marcell Ozuna (+4000), Matt Carpenter (+5000), Paul De Jong (+20000), Yadier Molina (+30000)
  • Cy Young Candidates: Miles Mikolas (+4000), Jack Flaherty (+5000), Michael Wacha (+10000), Carlos Martinez (+20000)

Analysis

Player to Watch: Marcell Ozuna

Last winter, the Marlins traded away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna. The Cardinals’ prize had the worst year of the trio, but I have a feeling he can bounce back.

Ozuna was coming off a career year, so obviously the Cards and their fans probably had their hopes set a bit too high.

I don’t see him hitting 37 home runs like he did in 2017, but I do see him posting better than a .758 OPS.

There are a couple of reasons for this.


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The first is that he was unlucky to a degree last year. His Statcast data was very good, as his exit velocity and barrels per plate appearance both ranked much higher than league average. His hard-hit rate of 45.2% was the highest of his career and more than five percentage points higher than 2017, but his slugging fell more than .100 points.

xwOBA suggests that given his batted ball data, strikeouts and walks, he was the 23rd unluckiest hitter out of 313 hitters with at least 250 plate appearances.

Another reason is that the Cards acquired Goldschmidt, who will be the most feared bat in the lineup. I do think that having a legit heart of the order slugger does improve the players hitting around him and takes some pressure off.

Last year, Ozuna was in a new city that cares way more about baseball than the fans and media in Miami do. I’m sure everyone was disappointed in his slightly-better-than-league-average production, but now the spotlight is on someone else — for the media and opposing pitchers.

Pitcher to Watch: Carlos Martinez

Though he was considered the Cardinals’ ace entering the 2018 season, Carlos Martinez ended the season in the bullpen.

He hit the disabled list three different times thanks to lat and oblique injuries and was eventually relegated to the pen after returning from his final stint in late August.

Unfortunately, he’s already received a platelet-rich-plasma injection this spring and will be re-evaluated in a couple weeks. Not a good sign to start the season.

When healthy, there’s no doubt Martinez is one of the Cardinals’ best pitchers. In fact, between 2015 and 2017, he was one of the best pitchers in baseball. He was one of just 21 pitchers with at least 550 innings pitched, and posted an ERA of 3.24 over that span.

It was pretty clear that he was off last year, as his control (which was mediocre to begin with) was terrible, while his velocity dropped considerably.

It looks like he’s not going to begin the year in the rotation, which is fine given the team’s depth. In fact, as a Cardinals investor, I don’t want him rushed back at all.

He intends to be back as a starter rather than a reliever this year, which is a smart move if the Cardinals want to reach their full potential. Even if he misses the first couple of months, the Cardinals will want him healthy and going every fifth day down the stretch.

Summary

You know what they say, “You can never have too much pitching.” If any team has too much, it’s the Cardinals. Well, either them or the Braves. They traded away Luke Weaver to get Goldschmidt, but there is still no shortage of starters at their disposal.

St. Louis has been bringing up hard-throwing arms for years and years. They’re the best in the biz when it comes to developing pitchers and that’s going to help them in a division with no lack of offense.

Their position players, as a whole, may be even better and deeper. Their lineup is loaded and now has a true superstar in it. Matt Carpenter has been a damn good hitter and all around player in his career and often underrated, but Goldschmidt brings another presence altogether.

Like I said, I like the value on them to win the Central. The best price I currently see is +225, which I may end up taking, but I’ll wait it out a bit to see if I can get +250.


All odds via Westgate SuperBook as of Feb. 27

Transactions accurate as of Mar. 25. Free agents deemed subtractions until they re-sign

Advanced data via Fangraphs.com, prospect ratings via MLB.com, prospects in prospect watch expected to be MLB-ready in 2019

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