The Rally Reds! MLB NL Central Odds, Baseball Betting Analysis

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
Reds Odds

There have been a handful of captivating storylines affecting 2023 baseball odds. Shohei Ohtani’s upswing in AL MVP betting, along with the Braves and Rays flexing their middle-market muscles, are among them. But none are as unexpected as the “Rally Reds,” which are currently to win the National League Central. Cincinnati boasts an 18-4 mark in their last 22 games — en route to first place in that division. Let’s examine Reds odds even further to determine if their playoff positioning is sustainable.

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Evolution of Cincinnati Reds Odds

Entering the 2023 campaign, Cincinnati was +6600 to win the NL Central. That was equivalent to the lowest implied probability (1.49%) in the division. David Bell’s club even reached +10000 on May 1, making for a substantial longshot.

For context, every other club was +600 or better at that juncture. But just over two months later, Reds’ odds (+185) are neck and neck with the Brewers (-115) for first place in the standings.

So what is triggering their run? Since May 26, Cincinnati has tallied the fourth-highest wRC+ across MLB. Their young stars, led by rookie phenom Elly De La Cruz and Spencer Steer, are the driving force behind their success. For one, De La Cruz is the only player in history to compile 20 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, and 10 extra-base hits in his first 25 games in the majors.

Then there’s Steer, who ranks No. 11 in that department among qualified hitters during this stretch, sitting behind the likes of Luis Arraez, Isaac Parades, and Corbin Carroll.

As a result, the Reds are the third-most profitable road team on the moneyline this season. They’re 24-18 overall with a 27.5% ROI. If a bettor wagered $100 on each of those games, that would’ve netted a $1,153 gain.

Pitching Warrants Red Flag

Despite Cincinnati’s offensive surge, the starting rotation and bullpen are crammed with concerns. Outside of rookie southpaw Andrew Abbott, who has yielded just five earned runs in his first six starts, none of the Reds’ starters have an ERA below 3.93.

That number belong to Hunter Greene — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft. Below the surface, he also showcases a 3.60 FIP and 31.4% strikeout rate, respectively. However, Greene could remain on the IL until August with a right hip injury.

Although Cincinnati GM Nick Krall will presumably buy around the trade deadline, there’s only so much service work that can be done to upgrade their starting pitching for their postseason outlook.

Moreover, Abbott’s regression is nearing ahead of this weekend’s critical series with Milwaukee. Not only is his FIP nearly 2.30 points higher than his ERA, but his opponents’ average exit velocity ranks in the 10th percentile (Baseball Savant) as well.

On top of that, Abbott’s opponents are a combined 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. It’s the most opposing at-bats, situationally, without allowing a hit through six career games by any pitcher who has debuted in the last 50 years.

In reference to the Reds’ relievers, closer Alexis Diaz represents the lone stabilizing force. In fact, their bullpen has combined to manufacture the league’s highest FIP amid their turnaround since late May. Similar to their starting pitching, an upgrade or two is certainly possible. As we’ve witnessed over time, this area is more correctable via midseason additions.

Related: World Series odds

Bettors Adoring Reds Futures

Over at BetMGM, Cincinnati is the sportsbook’s biggest liability to win both the NL and World Series. Casual MLB gamblers will find that surprising, yet red-hot longshots always seem to garner interest in the futures market. The state of Ohio being a strong sports market in its first baseball season hasn’t hurt either.

The Reds are +3500 and +7000 to win the pennant and Fall Classic, respectively, at Caesars Sportsbook. Each of those price tags are as of Wednesday afternoon.

That said, the formula of a champion has been handed to us on a silver platter. In each of the last five years, the World Series winner has possessed an above-average FIP (both rotation and bullpen included) and defensive rating. The 2019 Nationals’ are the exception to the rule, but Washington’s refined relief arms righted the ship come October.

Granted, plenty of non-contenders have finished atop their division. According to BaseRuns (per FanGraphs), both the Reds and Brewers should theoretically find themselves below .500. But run differential doesn’t always parlay with regular season success — or lack thereof — especially when it comes to in-game variance.

The Marlins are a prime example, going 20-5 in one-run games this season. In turn, they own a 50-37 record despite their -8 run differential.

Appraising Reds Odds

In short, Cincinnati could find itself in the postseason before it’s dealt an early exit. Then again, Milwaukee isn’t going anywhere, as starters Brandon Woodruff and Aaron Ashby, along with reliever Justin Wilson and outfielder Tyrone Taylor, are all on the mend.

If 2021 Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes rectifies his woes to date, the Brewers’ underwhelming offense (and then some) may be “good enough” to inch past the Reds and into the playoffs. There’s no guarantee of that, though, as Burnes’ cutter has sunk 19 points in regards to pitch value from last season.

Whichever direction you’re eyeing for NL Central futures, there’s reason to act rather quickly. These two teams play one another nine times this month. Therefore, the market will adjust considerably if one of them asserts itself.

The NL wild-card race is an alternative route to the postseason for both teams. The Brewers are set at -185 to do one or the other, and Reds odds are +140.

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