Get the best handicapping articles and gambling advice throughout the football, basketball and baseball seasons from the world's top sports handicappers, as well as from Bovada (Bodog) Sportsbook and Casino.
Baseball Totals: Parks and Lineup Changes
by Al McMordie - 07/03/2010
Offense has been down a bit the last few seasons in major league baseball. There are many theories about this, from teams shoring up the relief staff as many games are decided in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings, to the decrease in steroids. Another factor that's always worth considering is the ballpark. It's no secret that the dimensions of parks play a role not only in how a team plays but in how a team is constructed.
When wagering on baseball totals (we are 68-47 on our MLB Totals thus far), it's important to look at the park, the defense and the pitching staffs -- both starting and relief pitching. Current teams with large, pitcher-friendly parks are Safeco in Seattle, Dodger Stadium in LA, Comerica in Detroit, Petco in San Diego and the Oakland Coliseum.
Let's take a closer look at the A's. They are a good team at home but terrible on the road, which is why they are in third place. This is not a very good offense, so they are only able to compete when the pitching staff keeps them close in games. This is more likely at home, as Oakland is a huge park. 22-year old starter Trevor Cahill has a 1.35 ERA at home, but that balloons to 3.70 on the road. He's given up 8 homers on the road but none at home! The same thing is evident with starter Gio Gonzalez, who has a 2.36 ERA at home and a 4-2 record, but a 4.71 ERA on the road.
Oakland starts a home stand this week against the Yankees and Angels. They carry a 4-1 run under the total at home into it from their last home stand. I recall a few years ago when the A's were on a long road trip at the end of July where they went to hitter-friendly parks in New York and Boston, going 6-1-1 over the total. Professional sports bettors carefully look at parks and trends like this, in addition to offensive production.
Of course, things can change during the course of a season, too, and it's important for handicappers to evaluate adjustments to see if it may influence sides and totals. The White Sox, for instance, were not having a good season, until the last month. Their pitching and defense has really carried them during their hot streak, currently on an 11-3 run under the total. The White Sox have very good pitching and the defense has allowed the third fewest errors in the American League.
The Red Sox are a team that is going to be difficult to gauge this month because of all their injuries. Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia is out six weeks with a broken foot. Offensively, he's a huge asset, the 2008 MVP and the day before his injury he hit three home runs at Colorado. So are they a team to look at under the total without him? Well, he's also a dynamite defensive player at second base.
The offense is also without catchers Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek, but has some good news on the pitching front. Josh Beckett faced hitters for the first time since going on the disabled list May 19, throwing 41 pitches at Fenway Park this weekend against players from the independent Brockton Rox. Clay Buchholz also took a step forward, throwing off a mound for the first time since straining his lower left hamstring while running the bases in San Francisco last Saturday. Buchholz is scheduled to throw a full bullpen session tomorrow and is tentatively set to start this week against Tampa Bay.
And talk about owning one team: Pitcher Jon Lester cruised, winning for the 10th time in his last 11 decisions and improved to 12-0 with a 2.00 ERA in 15 career starts against Baltimore this weekend in a 9-3 Red Sox win. You might think the Orioles would be a team to look at under the total because their offense is so bad, but they are a bad fielding team (5th most errors in the AL) and the pitching is dead last. They are on an 11-3 run over the total and head into the All Star break by playing at Texas for a four game series, an easy home run park. Pity the Baltimore staff this weekend!
Pity the Cubs, too, who play in a hitter-friendly park, but they have been a better team to look at under the total because the pitching is above average (5th in team ERA in the NL) while the offense has been a disaster, 14th in the NL in runs scored. Cubs manager Lou Piniella used his 66th lineup in the 79th game of the season Friday against the Reds.
"What's hard for me to believe is that we can go as long as we have struggling to put runs on the board on a more consistent basis," Piniella said. "The rest of it, all we can do is keep putting a lineup out there and giving people opportunities and we go from there. If you don't have timing and you don't have mechanics down by now, well. . . . " He didn't finish the rest of the sentence, but I will: The Cubs are on a 13-7 run under the total.
With all the buzz about Stephen Strasburg, it's easy to overlook the fact that the Nationals play in a huge, pitcher -riendly park. That's one reason their offense is 13th in the National League in runs scored. Washington is on a home stand leading up to the All Star break and is on an 11-3 run under the total. Betting totals can be just as profitable as sides in baseball, and knowing the parks, injuries and daily lineup changes can help a smart bettor turn a profit. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.