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Early Season Baseball Betting

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/12/2006

There were some surprising numbers during the first week of the baseball season with respect to totals. The first week saw more overs than unders on several days. Speculation popped up that perhaps this was going to be a year for hitters, or perhaps the baseball was juiced (because the PLAYERS aren’t going to be juiced anymore, right?) Regardless of any kernels of truths in the speculation, the important point to get from this is that IT’S ONLY ONE WEEK of ACTION!

Let’s not draw too much on one week of play. Most pitchers have only had one start. Some teams haven’t even played a single home game. It’s far too early to be drawing comparisons and conclusions. Baseball, more than any other sport, is a game of patience. One has to approach it that way, not only as a fan but as a handicapper. In football, there are only 16 regular season games, so if a team starts 0-2, that is one-eighth of the season, so you can begin to draw some conclusions about a team’s offense or defense, for instance.

But the baseball season is 162 games long. You can’t look for the Brewers or Tigers to be the dominant teams in the divisions just because of their 5-0 starts, or that the Colorado Rockies are going to have a winning season. Despite an abundance of overs, notice what happened Sunday: The unders dominated 10-6, including 6-2 in the American League. It could, in fact, be a lively ball year with plenty of offense, but it’s far too early to draw these conclusions.

It’s more important to be patient and look carefully at what is going on with each team, such as lineup changes, bullpen strength, defense, injuries and home/road play. For example, Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones just went on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of a sprained right knee and ankle. The injury wasn't as severe as the Braves feared, which is good news, but sports bettors need to be focused on injuries and lineup changes with all teams, especially with star players. If the Braves’ offense struggles over the next few weeks, the loss of team leader Chipper could be a factor.

Boston just lost its center fielder Coco Crisp with a finger injury. He will be out at least two weeks, and if it’s fractured it could be a few months. His loss could be important, because he’s been very good as the team’s leadoff hitter, plus he’s been stellar defensively. The loss of a two-way threat like that could alter a team’s production. It was two years ago that the Red Sox had very poor infield defense in the first half of the 2004 season, until they made a trade for SS Orlando Cabrera. As soon as he came aboard, the pitching and defense got so much better, leading a surge that ended with the World Series.

In an earlier article I wrote about how it’s not wise to put too much into last year’s stats, because this is a brand new season, and players don’t always perform the same from year to year, especially pitchers. One example I gave was Chicago White Sox pitcher Jon Garland. Garland blossomed as an ace in 2005, but notice what he did in his first start of 2006: 5.1 innings pitched, 10 hits and 9 earned runs! That’s certainly not an ace, is it? He won’t end this season with an ERA of 15.19, of course, but that’s where it stands now. Looking at last year’s stats are a good GUIDE and starting point, but don’t read too much into it. Building up and examining this season’s stats is far more important.

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