July 14,2012 : MLB Betting – Defending World Series Champions Could Be Sleeper Pick Heading In To Second Half
Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have taken the National League by storm as two of the league’s youngest All-Star players on a Washington Nationals team that has surprised everyone by leading the NL East through to the second half of the season. RA Dickey has carved his own spotlight for the New York Mets, while fans at PNC Park already feel that Pittsburgh Pirates’ star Andrew McCutchen deserves MVP honors for helping their team to first place in the NL Central. The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the NL West in their first season under new ownership, and the San Francisco Giants have managed to stay right with them despite an almost unbelievable first half from ace Tim Lincecum. These MLB stories were among the biggest in the majors at the Midsummer Classic, but as the second half is set to get underway, there is one surprising team that may just be flying under the radar in the NL: the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals entered the break third in the NL Central behind the Pirates and Cincinnati Reds, and that has led to them being severely underrated by the sportsbook experts at 8/1 odds to win the pennant in 2012. Despite their position in the standings, St. Louis still has the best run differential in the NL at plus-70, in big part because of an offense that ranks fourth in the majors in runs scored. In fact, the only team in the majors with a better differential than the Cardinals through the first half is the Texas Rangers, just nine runs better, so in a sense the two teams that competed in last year’s World Series are on track to compete for another championship.
Surprisingly, the St. Louis offense hasn’t taken much of a hit even with the loss of Albert Pujols. The Cardinals rank second in the majors in team batting average and fourth in runs, with last postseason’s breakthrough star David Freese helping picking up the slack left by the former MVP alongside Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Jon Jay, and Allen Craig, each of whom are batting .294 or better. The problem for St. Louis that must be overcome in the second half is the struggles the rotation has endured behind Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse. Lynn and Lohse have combined to go 20-6, with both pitchers keeping their ERA under 3.42, but the tandem of Jake Westbrook and Adam Wainwright haven’t been able to play at that same level, going a combined 14-15, with both sporting ERA north of 3.75. If Westbrook or Wainwright can get their ERA down and compete with Lynn and Lohse at the top of the rotation, the Cardinals could find the final key that helps them unlock the road to another World Series.
With the Pirates, Red, Nationals, Mets, Dodgers, and Giants all getting their share of MLB betting attention, the defending World Series champs have actually flown under the radar so far. The door is open for St. Louis to go on another run and challenge for a second NLCS, and since nobody is talking about them now could be the perfect time to lay some money down and take a shot on them to do big things this season as a surprise sleeper pick.
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