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Baseball Personnel Changes

   by Bryan Leonard - 06/23/2007

Changes take place on the baseball diamond daily. Players get hurt and go on the DL. Players get hurt and continue to play, which can affect their performance. Managers make changes in the field and in the batting order. Managers make changes in the starting rotations.

It’s essential for the sports bettor to keep up on these changes. The Angels, for instance, struggled offensively early in the season as various injuries took a bite out of their offensive punch such as Garrett Anderson battling a bad back. However, they brought up kids like Reggie Willits and Casey Kotchman who helped jumpstart the attack. Getting Chone Figgins healthy helped to add more speed to the lineup and they’ve been on fire the last 7 weeks.

The NY Mets are at the other end of the spectrum. They were going great guns until the outfield got racked by injuries last month. Their offensive production slipped significantly while dropping 13 of 16 games. How is that important for sports bettors? They were favored in nine of those 13 losses! They also went under the total in 8 of 9 games during that slumping stretch.

You may recall a year ago when the Cubs lost ace slugger Derek Lee with a broken hand. The Cubs offense went in the tank most of the season as they badly missed him. Some teams, like the Angels, have deep enough farm systems that they can plug in some kids and get back on track. Many teams do not, however.

The White Sox had a decent April, but then the injury bug took out key offensive players in leadoff hitter Scott Posednik and slugger Jim Thome. Those two pieces, plus the continued slump of Jermaine Dye, has been a big reason why the White Sox continue to rank last in the AL in hitting, runs and on base percentage. They didn’t have enough punch off the bench or in Triple A to make up for those losses.

And speaking of struggling offenses, the NY Yankees have been hot and cold offensively with the loss of DH Jason Giambi and leadoff hitter Johnny Damon hurting. When healthy, Damon is one of the top table setters in baseball. Yet, he’s battled all kinds of injuries this season and his offensive production (when he’s in the lineup) has tailed off badly, hitting .253. When they got swept at Colorado, Damon played center, DH and first base in one game!

Damon is leaving the DL issue up to Yankee officials and Joe Torre said he was concerned about Damon's health. "If this keeps popping up and keeps him from doing his work the DL is something we have to seriously talk about," Torre said.

To his credit, Damon is a guy who plays hurt, which is why it’s important for handicappers to assess when a player is hurt and how badly. "My rib is shot," Damon said. "I am not too happy right now. Going on the DL is not my decision. I will let them make that decision." He added, “I am never going to be in favor of it. With a rib cage, every swing hurts." He is hitting a disappointing .255 overall and .245 with runners in scoring position.

Two years ago when NY got off to a terrible 11-19 start they had all kinds of pitching problems. They were lucky to catch lightening in a bottle with pitchers Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small, who pitched great helping them to another division title. This season they haven’t been as lucky trying to replace Carl Pavano and rookie phenom Philip Hughes, which is why they overpaid for soon-to-be 45-year old Roger Clemens. Incidentally, Torre said the heat (93 degrees at game time in Colorado) and altitude sucked energy from the 44-year-old Clemens, and he labored through the third and fourth, another factor that can influence aging players as the summer heats up.

Keep an eye on the Baltimore Orioles because clean up hitter Miguel Tejada has a fractured left wrist. The Orioles are not a team with great depth so replacing his production, if needed, won’t be easy. Check Baltimore’s over/under totals if he doesn’t play or if he does play, see if his production is diminished, like Damon’s. Changes occur constantly in baseball, and it’s important to keep tabs and see if that is correlating to any spread marks, such as wins, losses, overs and unders.

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