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Baseball Totals: Parks and Lineup Changes

   by Al McMordie - 07/03/2011

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, 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 decent team at home but terrible on the road, which is why they are in last 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. 23-year-old starter Trevor Cahill has a 2.83 ERA at home, but that balloons to 3.76 on the road. He's given up twice as many homers on the road (6) as at home!

The same thing is evident with starter Gio Gonzalez, who has a 2.17 ERA at home and a 5-2 record, but a 2.66 ERA on the road and a 2-3 record. Opponents hit .188 off him at home, .249 away.

Oakland is on a nice long home stand this week and is on an 8-3 run under the total. 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. Boston just finished up a difficult interleague road stretch where the offense went south. Why? They lost the DH, David Ortiz, and the injury to Carl Crawford took away a key element to their offense: speed.

The Phillies have been on a 10-5-1 run under the total. Sure, their pitching is No. 1 in baseball, which is a big reason why, but their offense is not as good as recent years. Last year Philadelphia was seventh in homers and slugging, this year they are in the middle of the pack. By the way, the Phillies are 24-2 in ace Roy Halladay’s last 26 starts with the total set at 7.0-8.5!

The Seattle Mariners are similar to Oakland: a great pitching staff, anchored by Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but a lousy offense. And they play in a big park, great for pitchers. Note that the under is 36-16-3 in the Mariners last 55 games as a favorite and 46-22-4 under the total in the Mariners last 72 games as a home favorite of -110 to -150.

Seattle is clearly a team that might deal a talented starting arm for a bat before the trade deadline. Erik Bedard was the top pitcher to potentially be dealt for prospects to get a bat, but he wound up on the DL last week. He’s on the 15 Day DL, retroactive to June 28, which would make Bedard eligible to come back right after the All-Star break, on July 14 in Texas. That would give him maybe three or four starts before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline to show teams he's OK. The good news is that the injury doesn't involve his shoulder. Bedard's last three seasons have ended with shoulder surgery, so you have to believe the Mariners will be looking to shop him. And with pitching so hard to come by, he’ll have many suitors. By the way, the under is 12-4 in the Mariners last 16 home games with the total set at 6.5 or lower and 21-7-3 under the total in their last 31 against a team with a losing record.

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.

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