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National League Central – MLB Division Guide

If you landed on this page, you’re either interested in MLB betting or you want to learn more about the NL Central Division. Perhaps even a bit of both.

It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief – you’ve arrived at your destination.

Our MLB team of writers have put together an all-inclusive guide to the NL Central consisting of data, stats, records, and other details for each team.

NL Central Betting in 2021

One way to dive into the NL Central betting action is to wager on the individual MLB games.

We can help with that as we deliver baseball picks on a regular basis.

If you’re looking for additional MLB content such as season-long betting predictions or insight into what’s been taking place, that’s where our MLB blog comes in.

Michael Wynn hits on all those fronts while Noah Davis keeps close tabs on the daily fantasy sports (DFS) scene.

Chicago Cubs

Chicago Cubs Key Info

Chicago Cubs Logo
  • Established: 1876
  • Ballpark: Wrigley Field
  • AAA Affiliate: Iowa Cubs
  • World Series Titles: 3 (1907, 1908, 2016)
  • Value: 2 Billion (Forbes, 2020)
  • Official Chicago Cubs Website

First it was White Stockings, then it was the Colts and the Orphans. The Major League Baseball team located on the north side of Chicago didn’t become the “Cubs” until 1903.

The North Siders lost to their cross-town rivals in the 1906 World Series before capturing back-to-back titles against the Tigers in the two years that ensued.

And then the drought set in.

108 years would go by before the Cubs could call themselves the champs again. Worth noting – Chicago went to seven Fall Classics between 1910 and 1945, coming up empty-handed on each occasion.

The Cubbies moved into Wrigley Field in 1916. The notable ivy wall you see in the outfield was added in 1937. Ten different Cubs have won the NL MVP, including Ernie Banks who won it twice (1958, 1959).

Banks’ entire 19-year MLB career took place in the Windy City, where he launched 512 home runs and made 14 NL All-Star teams.

Joining “Mr. Sunshine” on the list of most recognizable Cubs of all time are the following legends.

  • Billy Williams
  • Ron Santo
  • Ryne Sandberg
  • Sammy Sosa

Entrenched into Cooperstown as an Atlanta Brave, Greg Maddux was drafted by Chicago and spent the first seven seasons of his HOF career with the Cubs.

He won his first of four consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in his final season in Chi-Town. 

Recent Records and Stats for the Chicago Cubs

Supported by consistent pitching from their starting five and lots of timely hitting, the Cubs have maintained a winning pedigree over the last four seasons.

Season Wins Losses NL Central Finish Playoffs Batting Avg. Home Runs ERA
2020 34 26 1st Lost in WC .220 74 3.99
2019 84 78 3rd No .252 256 4.10
2018 95 68 2nd Lost in WC .258 167 3.65
2017 92 70 1st Lost in NLCS .255 223 3.95
  • The Good – Inside the top 10 in team ERA in each of the last four years.
  • The Bad – 27th in batting average and 20th in runs scored in 2020. The trio of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez combined to hit .210.

Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati Reds Key Info

Cincinnati Reds Logo
  • Established: 1881
  • Ballpark: Great American Ball Park
  • AAA Affiliate: Louisville Bats
  • World Series Titles: 5 (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, 1990)
  • Value: 075 Billion (Forbes, 2020)
  • Official Cincinnati Reds Website

One of the charter teams when the American Association was formed in 1882, the Cincinnati Red Stockings evolved into the Cincinnati Reds when the organization joined the National League in 1890.

Cincy won the World Series in 1919 and 1940, but there was a significant lull over the next 15 years. The Reds failed to win more than 75 regular-season games between 1945-1955.

And then came Frank Robinson – a former Triple Crown winner and the only man to win an MVP in both leagues.

Robinson stormed through the developmental leagues after signing a $3,500 contract with Cincinnati in 1953. Frank won the NL Rookie of the Year in 1956 and led the Reds to the World Series during his 1961 MVP campaign.

Cincy would end up losing to the Yankees in five games, but things got better in the following decade. Sparky Anderson was hired as the skipper in 1970 and quickly turned the franchise into the “Big Red Machine.”

Led by the likes of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, and Tony Perez, Cincinnati went to four World Series and averaged 95 wins per season in the 70s.

From 1970-77, six of the eight NL MVP awards went to individuals on the Reds. Just two Cincinnati players have been honored since (Barry Larkin 1995, Joey Votto 2010).

The Reds won their fifth World Series in 1990 but haven’t reached the NLCS since 1995.

Recent Records and Stats for the Cincinnati Reds

After winning 76 or fewer games for six straight seasons, the Reds ended their losing streak in 2020 and posted their first winning season since 2013.

It also ended a six-year drought of missing out on postseason play.

Season Wins Losses NL Central Finish Playoffs Batting Avg. Home Runs ERA
2020 31 29 3rd Lost in WC .212 90 3.84
2019 75 87 4th No .244 227 4.18
2018 67 95 5th No .254 172 4.63
2017 68 94 5th No .253 219 5.17

It’s safe to say that Reds batters were swinging for the fences in 2020. When stacked up against the other 29 teams, Cincy landed 7th in HR (most in the NL Central) and dead last in batting average.

The good news is the team ERA is trending in the right direction.

  • 29th in 2017
  • 24th in 2018
  • 8th in 2019
  • 7th in 2020 8th

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers Key Info

Milwaukee Brewers Logo
  • Established: 1969
  • Ballpark: American Family Field
  • AAA Affiliate: Nashville Sounds
  • World Series Titles: 0
  • Value: 2 Billion (Forbes, 2020)
  • Official Milwaukee Brewers Website

Miller Park still remains – even though the contract between the stadium and Miller Brewing Company expired in 2020. The gorgeous ballpark just west of Lake Michigan features the only fan-shaped adaptable roof anywhere in the United States or Canada; the lid can open or close in under 10 minutes.

No NL Pennants and just two NL Central titles can be found on this team’s resume; but, the Brew-Crew were a member of the American League for their first 28 years of existence. Milwaukee won the 1982 AL Pennant and was the only time, to date, the franchise has been to the World Series.

Ryan Braun had a tremendous career, and Christian Yelich is building his legacy, but the top-two Brewers of all-time, Yount and Molitor, were drafted third overall – Yount in 1973 and Molitor in 1977.

Career Numbers at the Plate
Robin Yount Paul Molitor
Games 2,856 2,683
BA .285 .306
Hits 3,142 3,319
2B 583 605
3B 126 114
HR 251 234
RBI 1,406 1,307
Runs 1,632 1,782
SB 271 504

Yount’s 20-year career in the Big Leagues was spent entirely in Milwaukee, while Molitor spent 15 of his 21 MLB seasons in a Brewers uniform.

Recent Records and Stats for the Milwaukee Brewers

Craig Counsell’s bid for a fourth consecutive winning season came up a hair short in 2020, but Counsell did accomplish something that no other Milwaukee skipper had ever done.

2020 marked the first time in franchise history that the Brewers have been to the playoffs in three straights years.

Season Wins Losses NL Central Finish Playoffs Batting Avg. Home Runs ERA
2020 29 31 4th Lost in WC .223 75 4.16
2019 89 73 2nd Lost in WC .246 250 4.40
2018 96 67 1st Lost in NLCS .252 218 3.73
2017 86 76 2nd No .249 224 4.00

In 2020, the Brewers ranked 26th in runs scored and 29th in stolen bases. Among the 11 players who had at least 100 ABs in 2020, none of them hit above .260. 10 of them hit below .250.

Most notably, 2018 NL MVP winner, Christian Yelich faded into oblivion (.205/.356/430).

Pittsburgh Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates Key Info

Pittsburg Pirates
  • Established: 1882
  • Ballpark: PNC Park
  • AAA Affiliate: Indianapolis Indians
  • World Series Titles: 5 (1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, 1979)
  • Value: 26 Billion (Forbes, 2020)
  • Official Pittsburgh Pirates Website

Barry Bonds will always be remembered for what he achieved with the Giants, but his first two MVP awards came while playing for the Buccos (1990, 1992). The Pirates drafted Bonds 6th overall in 1985 and he became a full-time player the next year.

Despite his success in Steel City, Bonds clashed with the media on several occasions and eventually bolted for San Francisco. We all know what happened after that.

Before Barry was in Pittsburgh, the opposite corner of the outfield was commanded by another one of baseball’s all-time greats, Roberto Clemente.

The Puerto Rican right fielder was a four-time NL batting champ who ended his career winning 12 straight Gold Gloves. Unfortunately, that career was cut short at age 38 when a New Year’s Eve flight in 1972, carrying Roberto turned fatal. 

Well before Clemente was even born, Honus Wagner was stamping his name all over Major-League Baseball record books.

“The Flying Dutchman” played the final 18 seasons of his 21-year career with the Pirates. He batted .330+ in each of his first 10 seasons in Pittsburgh and is the face of one of the most sought-after pieces in the history of sports memorabilia.

Recent Records and Stats for the Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates were treading water in 2017 and won more games than they lost in 2018.

It’s been an unmitigated disaster ever since.

Season Wins Losses NL Central Finish Playoffs Batting Avg. Home Runs ERA
2020 19 41 5th No .220 59 4.68
2019 69 93 5th No .265 163 5.18
2018 82 79 4th No .254 157 4.00
2017 75 87 4th No .244 151 4.22

PNC Park is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks year in and year out, but that doesn’t distract attention from the Pirates shortcoming when it comes to swatting out the long ball.

Pittsburgh’s end-of-season rank in team HR’s since 2017 looks like this.

  • 29th
  • 25th
  • 27th
  • 27th

Remember, there are only 30 MLB teams.

St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals Key Info

St. Louis Cardinals Logo
  • Established: 1882
  • Ballpark: Busch Stadium
  • AAA Affiliate: Memphis Redbirds
  • World Series Titles: 11 (1926, 1931, 1934, 1942, 1944, 1946, 1964, 1967, 1982, 2006, 2011)
  • Value: 2 Billion (Forbes, 2020)
  • Official St. Louis Cardinals Website

If we remove the Yankees from the equation, no organization in Major League Baseball has won more World Series than the Cardinals. Stan Musial was the anchor to three Redbirds titles in the 1940s and will go down as one of the best “pure hitters” to ever live.

In 22 seasons, all in St. Louis, Musial won seven batting titles and made 24 All-Star teams (there were two All-Star games between 1959-1962).

Speaking of a first-ballot Hall of Famer who never played for another team besides the Cards, Bob Gibson (1959-1975) is one of the best right-handed pitchers in the history of baseball. Among Bob’s list of accolades are a couple of Cy Youngs and a pair of World Series MVPs.

St. Louis was formidable in the 80s and endured a few rough patches in the 90s, but it all started clicking at the turn of the century.

The manager/1B combination of Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols led the Cardinals to two World Series titles. The pair went to six National League Championship Series between 2000-2011.

To shine a light on just how productive Pujols was during his first ten years in the Majors, let the following sink in.

Albert was a .331 hitter averaging 41 homers and 123 RBI through his first 10 seasons. He hit at least .312 with no fewer than 32 HR and 103 RBI during any of those years.

Recent Records and Stats for the St. Louis Cardinals

Dependable pitching has carried the Cardinals to winning records in each of the last four seasons.

In fact, the last time St. Louis finished a regular season under .500 was in 2007.

Season Wins Losses NL Central Finish Playoffs Batting Avg. Home Runs ERA
2020 30 28 2nd Lost in WC .234 51 3.90
2019 91 71 1st Lost in NLCS .245 210 3.80
2018 88 74 3rd No .249 205 3.85
2017 83 79 3rd No .256 196 4.01

Mike Shildt and company have won their fair share of games, and they should be even better in 2021 on the heels of acquiring Nolan Arenado via trade.

Not only were the Cardinals 51 homers the fewest in baseball in 2020 – but every other team also hit at least 58. The Braves and Dodgers HR total more than doubled that of St. Louis.

NL Central History

Formed in 1994, at the same time as the American League Central, four of the five founding members of the NL Central are still part of the division today.

The Brewers joined the party in 1998; the Houston Astros were a member until 2013.

NL Central Titles By Team
Team # of NL Central Titles
St. Louis Cardinals 11
Chicago Cubs 6
Houston Astros 4
Cincinnati Reds 3
Milwaukee Brewers 2
Pittsburgh Pirates 0

It makes sense that the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and Brewers reside in the NL Central Division. St. Louis, Chicago, Cincy, and Milwaukee are all part of the Midwest.

So how did the Pirates – a team located in the northeast – wind up with the short end of the stick?

Pittsburgh was supposed to join the NL East in ’94 but was swapped with the Braves instead. Pitt has attempted to transfer into the east on multiple occasions but has repeatedly been denied. 

NL Central Division Stats and Records

The top MLB betting sites are where you go to place baseball bets online. However, before you pull the trigger on any regular-season games, you might want to peek at the following numbers.

It’s one thing to be in the loop with the current news; it’s another to have access to valuable ATS data in an organized fashion.

And you don’t even have to do the dirty work – the creators of our NL Central Division guide did it for you.

NL Central Stats for 2020
Team Straigh-Up Winning % Run Line Cover % Over Record Over %
Cubs 34-28 54.8 29-33 46.8 29-32-1 47.5
Reds 31-31 50.0 28-34 45.2 26-34-2 43.3
Brewers 29-33 46.8 23-39 37.1 25-32-5 43.9
Pirates 19-41 31.7 34-26 56.7 26-28-6 48.1
Cardinals 31-30 50.8 29-32 47.5 26-30-5 46.4
NL Central Stats for 2019
Team Straigh-Up Winning % Run Line Cover % Over Record Over %
Cubs 84-78 51.8 76-86 46.9 75-80-7 48.4
Reds 75-87 46.3 81-81 50.0 61-93-8 39.6
Brewers 89-74 54.6 82-81 50.3 69-88-6 44.0
Pirates 69-93 42.6 75-87 46.3 93-63-6 59.6
Cardinals 94-77 55.0 90-81 52.6 74-89-8 45.4
NL Central Stats for 2018
Team Straigh-Up Winning % Run Line Cover % Over Record Over %
Cubs 95-69 57.9 81-83 49.4 73-89-2 45.1
Reds 67-95 41.4 88-74 54.3 78-78-6 50.0
Brewers 102-71 59.0 95-78 54.9 81-88-4 47.9
Pirates 82-79 50.9 80-81 49.7 72-81-8 47.1
Cardinals 88-74 54.3 79-83 48.8 77-78-1 49.7

Here are some of the highlights from the NL Central betting data in 2020.

  • Milwaukee’s 37.1% cover rate (run line) was the lowest in Major League Baseball.
  • Even though the Pirates produced the worst record in the big leagues, they were top-5 in the league at covering the run line.
  • If you bet the under every time an NL Central team took the field, your record was 156-132-19

Tying in the 2018 and 2019 numbers, bettors who have consistently hammered the under in Brewers games have likely made a killing.

Then again, firing the under in the Reds games in 2019, was among the most profitable endeavors in baseball betting.

Recent NL Central Winners
Year Winner Regular-Season Record
2020 Chicago Cubs 36-24
2019 St. Louis Cardinals 91-71
2018 Milwaukee Brewers 96-67
2017 Chicago Cubs 92-70
2016 Chicago Cubs 103-58
2015 St. Louis Cardinals 100-62
2014 St. Louis Cardinals 90-72
2013 St. Louis Cardinals 97-65
2012 Cincinnati Reds 97-65
2011 Milwaukee Brewers 96-66
2010 Cincinnati Reds 91-71

The Other MLB Divisions

The ATS numbers above are a great reference point to keep handy when betting on the NL Central Division.

Sections showcasing recent stats and records are updated as needed; a process that’s replicated for all of our MLB Division guides.

Feel free to poke around and learn about the other 25 teams that make up the remaining five divisions.