The St. Louis Cardinals are going to be a fun team to watch in 2021 after their recent moves. Before things start, let’s talk betting lines.
For better or worse, the sport of baseball is leaning more and more into betting. For the St. Louis Cardinals specifically, the team will no longer be televised on Fox Sports Midwest, but will now be on Bally Sports Midwest.
This change is happening as a result of Sinclair Broadcast Group partnering with Bally Sports, a casino operating company. While the exact changes aren’t exactly clear for how this will do to the nightly broadcasts, betting lines can be fun even if the debate over them is purely academic.
I’ve never been very into betting on things, but the debate when thinking about the 2021 Cardinals is very intriguing. For one, the Cardinals added the biggest piece of any team in the central in Nolan Arenado. Among other things that make this year interesting is going to be how the outfield and its lack of experience shakes out, and how the offense will actually look when playing a schedule that doesn’t include 53 games in 44 days.
To my knowledge, betting lines and prop bets for the 2021 season haven’t come out for the St. Louis Cardinals, so we are going to make some up. The following betting lines were made from the brain trust of Redbird Rants and could be close to what the actual lines may end up being. Let’s dig through what we came up with.
Over/Under 80.5 innings pitched for Alex Reyes
Starting things off, we’ve got a complex one. For Alex Reyes, 2021 could be the year he finally breaks out.
After debuting in 2016, Reyes struggled to stay on the field in almost any capacity for three straight years. In 2020, he was finally healthy and finally contributed regularly out of the bullpen. Because it was in the bullpen though, he only threw 19.2 total innings.
Heading into 2021, Reyes will be in the running for a starting rotation spot or at least a high-leverage relief role. In either spot, he could hit 80.5 innings, but health is going to be a concern.
While I am excited to see what Reyes can do this year, I don’t think he’ll beat out Carlos Martinez for the 5th starter spot, and getting to 81 innings out of the bullpen could be tough for him.
Over/Under 24.5 homers for Tyler O’Neill
If there is one player that I am rooting for more than any other in 2021, it is Tyler O’Neill. After debuting in 2018, O’Neill hasn’t been able to show consistency at the plate, but also hasn’t gotten consistent playing time. To this point, he’s still only gotten 450 plate appearances in three seasons.
Somewhere in there, I see a Gold Glove outfielder who hits 30-35 homers a year. Parsing through his 2020 sample specifically, O’Neill made huge gains in his batting profile, dropping his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate. If he can keep this up, he’ll force pitchers to throw him more hittable pitches that he can punish.
In any case, 2021 will likely be O’Neill’s last chance to prove he deserves a regular MLB starting job. He’ll have to earn his playing time but with his powerful swing and advances in 2020, he could break out.
Over/Under 199.5 strikeouts for Jack Flaherty
Jack Flaherty had a down year in 2020 after a dominant second half of 2019. In total in 2019, he tallied 231 strikeouts after 182 in 2018 where he pitched 151 innings.
After a 60-game season where no starters got over 90 innings anywhere in the MLB, expecting 200 innings in 2021 is going to be next to impossible. However, Flaherty would hit 200 strikeouts in just 170 innings if he kept up his rate from 2019.
Getting back to his 2019 form is what Flaherty needs to be an ace and I am willing to put more chips on his 196 inning sample in 2019 over his 40 inning sample in 2020. However, the problem here is the innings count. At this point, I can’t confidently state that Flaherty will get to 170 innings or anywhere close. He could, but we just don’t know enough right now.
Over/Under 116.5 Yadier Molina starts
The city of St. Louis rejoiced when the news was announced that Yadier Molina would be back with the Cardinals once again. The eternal question now remains about just how many games Molina will start.
Excluding 2020, Molina has averaged 130 starts over the past two seasons. However, if you move that number to just 2018 and 2019, the average drops to just 118 games. If that makes it look like he’s slowing down though, think again. Even after contracting COVID-19, Molina still started 42 of the Cardinals’ 58 games, the equivalent of 117 games in a full-length season.
Heading into his age-38 season, it remains to be seen how his body will hold up. Beyond just that, nothing has been said about the Cardinals and a potential desire to get Andrew Knizner more starts. Setting the O/U at 116.5 puts it right in the middle of where Molina could end up. Sadly, I think father time continues to chase down Molina, limiting him to closer to 100-110 starts.
Over/Under 60.5 combined homers between Arenado/Goldschmidt
The Cardinals desperately needed another bat in the middle of their lineup and in Nolan Arenado, they got it. Though he has played his home games in Coors Field, he’s hit more than 40 homers three times and more than 30 homers five times in his career.
In 2021, he’ll be paired up with Paul Goldschmidt who, despite a dip in power in 2020, hit 34 homers in 2019 in St. Louis. Together, it seems like an easy choice to take the over if their home run totals are combined.
However, the MLB is altering the ball in 2021, potentially deadening it. Adding to this, Busch has become more and more of a pitcher’s park as Ballpark Village has expanded across the street. These two factors are largely unknown impacts, but they are something to consider. Still, I’m hammering the over on an improved Cardinal offense.
Over/Under 550 plate appearances for Dylan Carlson
After getting a taste of the Majors in 2020, Dylan Carlson is going to have a big year ahead of him in 2021. There shouldn’t be pressure on him to become a lineup anchor by the end of 2021, but any improvement on his 2020 season will be a great sign for him moving forward.
While Carlson will have to earn his playing time, he’s a shoo-in for the bulk of the time in right field after Dexter Fowler was traded to the Angels.
At any given position in the MLB, there are about 650 plate appearances possible for the season. If a player plays almost every day and bats near the top of the lineup, they can occasionally break 700 plate appearances, but 650 is the norm. While I don’t think all of Carlson’s starts will be in right field, the team would be unwise to give Carlson (if healthy) fewer than 550 plate appearances this season.
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There is plenty of room for debate on these lines, I am simply giving my opinions on them. Please also remember that these are completely made up and this is not me giving gambling advice. All of that said, if these lines go the way I have them picked, the Cards should have no problem sitting at the top of the NL Central in 2021.