Oddsmakers at Illinois sports betting operators don’t see the Chicago Cubs making a great deal of improvement in 2023 from their lackluster 2022 showing.
The Cubs were given a 74.5-win prediction before the 2022 season and those modest expectations were accurate. The team went 74-88, mired in third place in the National League Central behind St. Louis and Milwaukee.
Illinois Sportsbooks Tepid on Cubs
For this season, the oddsmakers see some modest improvement. At BetMGM Illinois Sportsbook, the Cubs have a total wins projection of 77.5 (with -115 odds) as of Tuesday morning. At Caesars Sportsbook, Chicago is forecasted for 78 wins.
It remains to be seen whether the Cubs’ efforts to put together a middle infield worthy of the Glenn Beckert-Don Kessinger duo of nearly half a century ago will translate to substantially more wins. But if Chicago hopes to be relevant in its division and make a postseason run, the Cubs will probably need to see a healthy payoff from their offseason moves in that regard.
Dansby Swanson and Other Moves
To strengthen its up-the-middle defense, Chicago signed Gold Glove shortstop Dansby Swanson, formerly an Atlanta Brave, to a long-term contract. Swanson has +6000 odds with Caesars Illinois Sportsbook to be named NL MVP.
The addition of the slick-fielding Swanson moves Nico Hoerner to second base, which might be Hoener’s best position. In limited career duty at second (68 games, 212 chances), he has a .986 fielding average.
In addition, the Cubs added free agent centerfielder Cody Bellinger, who was a Gold Glove winner in rightfield in his MVP season in 2019 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He joins a Gold Glove fielder, Ian Happ, who plays in left.
So, the question for customers at Illinois sportsbook apps will be whether the traditional strategy of a strong defense, especially up the middle, can move the needle in wins for the Cubbies.
Defense Should Be Cubs Strength
There is a stronger argument for such an approach now that there has been a big change in rules that limits infield shifts – a baseball trend that helped some middle infielders overcome issues of lesser range. But Chicago’s 2023 middle infield, with genuine range, promises to be one of the best combinations in the majors.
The upshot is that defense might help Chicago do substantially better than their projected sub-.500 finish because defense isn’t an area that either oddsmakers or futures bettors may put much stock in when evaluating baseball teams over the course of a long season.
Chicago Cubs 2023 Betting Odds
At DraftKings Illinois Sportsbook – the operator that plans to open its sportsbook at Wrigley Field in 2023 – the Cubs are a +9000 bet to win their first World Series since 2016, +4500 to snag the NL pennant and +650 to take the NL Central division.
For the defense to make a difference, though, the Cubs need to cobble together a deep enough pitching staff that can produce bursts of strong innings. They don’t need an Aaron Nola (Phillies) or a Sandy Alcantara (Marlins), starters who rack up 200-plus innings. But the North Siders do need good enough starting pitching to keep games from getting out of hand early and middle relievers to give themselves a chance at the end.
In 2022, the Cubs had a sub-par staff ERA of 4.00 ERA for the full season in 2022, while using 43 pitchers, the most in the majors. But the pitching fared better in the second half. That has to carry over into 2023 to improve over 2022’s 74 wins.
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