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Baseball Road Treks
by Bryan Leonard - 06/07/2007
Road trips can cause all kinds of difficulties for a baseball team, sometimes even more challenging than facing a 95 MPH fastball from an opposing reliever. Jetlag, crossing time zones, sleep deprivation, being in uncomfortable surroundings, being away from the family all make road travel difficult for professional athletes.
The Red Sox appeared to be easy prey for the Oakland Aâ€™s this week because of jetlag and sleep deprivation. Boston had to play an emotional series over the weekend with rival New York, playing the final game Sunday night on ESPN. After the game, which took over four hours, they had to fly to the West Coast to play Oakland the next night.
Player had been complaining about the brutal schedule the previous few days. These are things handicappers look for, highlights beyond stats that can influence the side and total of a game. The Red Sox lost in 11 innings to the Aâ€™s.
I used this in a couple of games over the weekend, wagering against the Orioles. Baltimore is in the middle of a long road trip through Kansas City, LA and Seattle. In my analysis I noted, The long Baltimore road trip continues. That 6 game Baltimore winning streak was a fluke, too. They won two in a row over the A's, who were going with their worst pitchers, then swept KC (big deal).
This will be their eighth straight road game and they are long way from home. Their offense is in the bottom half of the AL in scoring and on base percentage and the pitching staff has been thrashed with injuries. Despite the road win streak, they are still 12-19 away from home. Starter Erik Bedard has been very good at home, but has a 4.17 road ERA. He's also 1-3 with a 5.73 ERA in his career against the Mariners. Seattle has a stocked right-handed lineup and they are the best team against lefties, with a 9-3 record. The Mariners are clicking offensively, winning 8 of 12 while averaging 8 runs per game! Seattle starter Felix Hernandez has exceptional stuff, play the Mariners.
As you can see, it wasnâ€™t one thing that stood out to wager against the Orioles. The road trip was an important factor, along with the poor lefty/righty dynamics, and the hot play of the Seattle bats. Seattle rolled 7-4.
The previous day the Orioles were down in LA and the match-up also went against them. Like Seattle, the Angels have been clicking offensively, because of rookie left fielder Reggie Willits in the leadoff spot and the hot bats of Gary Matthews Jr and Vladimir Guerrero. The Angels have been the hottest team the last month, on a 17-6 run. The Angels bullpen is second best in the AL, while Baltimore's is near the bottom. LA is 20-8 at home. It was the third straight win for the Angels over Baltimore, who have fizzled out after that (fluky) winning streak. Handicapping baseball teams is much like following the stock market: Look to ride teams on the way up, and go-against stocks (like the Orioles recently) who are primed to decline, with the long road trip being a contributing factor.