- The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of five teams in the NL Central to finish the weekend with 21+ wins
- When the World Series odds opened in November, the Pirates were last in the Central at +6600
- Pittsburgh has seen the biggest improvement in their odds of any NL team since the start of the season
When the season opened, people weren’t sure what to expect from the Pittsburgh Pirates. They shipped out Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, which left some thinking they were rebuilding. Others thought they were just retooling.
Well, 38 games into the 2018 season, the Pirates have risen above expectations so far, and Vegas is paying attention.
Updated 2018 World Series Odds (NL Central)
|St. Louis Cardinals||+1900|
Prior to the start of the season, the Pirates’ average odds to win the 2018 World Series were +12000. From March 28th to April 9th they improved to +6800, thanks to a 7-2 start. Now they’re sitting at 22-16, and one game back of the division-leading Cardinals.
How ’bout that back end?
One of the biggest reasons for the Pirates’ fast start is their bullpen. Richard Rodriguez, Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick have the three best ERAs on the team, sitting nicely around 3.00.
Felipe Vazquez is just under that mark, but is a perfect seven-for-seven in save attempts. Rodriguez, Feliz and Crick also have three of the top four K/9 on the Pirates’ staff.
Where is the offense coming from?
The Pirates solved a question mark in left field and added their most consistent bat when the Tampa Bay Rays surprisingly DFA’d Corey Dickerson. The 2017 All-Star is hitting .319 while adding five home runs and 27 RBI. He’s one of five Pirates with 20 or more RBI, and is three back of Gregory Polanco for the team lead in homers.
Corey Dickerson is one of five Pirates with 20 or more RBI, and is three back of Gregory Polanco for the team lead in homers.
The renaissance of Francisco Cervelli has helped too, as he’s enjoying his best offensive season (.305, six home runs, 24 RBI) since 2015. We haven’t even mentioned Colin Moran, who changed his swing and seems to have found success. He’s already played in more games this year (36) than the past two years (although those 16 games came with a deep Astros team).
#MLB Francisco Cervelli conecto su 6to cuadrangular de la temporada en la victoria de Pittsburgh ante San Francisco 6-5. HR 29 de por vida @fran_cervelli se fue de 2-1 CA 2CI #yesanoregresamas @Pirates pic.twitter.com/36wOYcf9k5
— Pascual Figurelli Artiles (@artilespascual) May 13, 2018
Can the Bucs keep blowing up expectations?
Right now, Vegas is trying to convince buyers Pittsburgh is for real. Their hot start had them at +3800 on April 30. That same day saw them lose 3-2 to the Nationals, who swept them in four games. They rebounded by taking two of three from the Brewers. That led to them coming out of this weekend at 6-4 over their last ten, with their odds sitting at +4100.
While the early season results are there, they’re a risky play long term. The Pirates are a top-four team when it comes to average (fifth), OBP (seventh) and runs scored (sixth), but their 4.18 team ERA and 1.32 WHIP are middle of the road (both 15th). Dickerson, Cervelli and Moran will likely fall off a bit, which means the rest of the offence will have to pick up the slack.
|NL Central Standings (May 14)||GB|
And then there’s…
The Cubs (+1100), Cards (+1900) and Brewers (+2400). Chicago was sitting at +760 to open the season, and they aren’t going anywhere. They’re a balanced team a season removed from a championship. +1100 may actually be the best number to grab them at all season. The Cardinals have suffered a couple of key injuries lately, but they’ll ultimately be OK.
Chicago was sitting at +760 to open the season, and they aren’t going anywhere. They’re a balanced team a season removed from a championship.
We haven’t even gotten to the current division leaders, the Brewers. That leaves the Pirates in a four team fight for one division title and (potentially) two Wild Card spots. They’re a tantalizing play right now on their own, but there’s too much in front of them when you take in the big picture. Keep an eye on them in the Central, but it’s a little too early, and risky to start dropping doubloons on them.
The NL Central isn’t the only division worth checking out. View our 2018 World Series Odds Tracker to see how the odds of all 30 teams fluctuate as the season unfolds.