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Smash Mouth Baseball

   by Scott Spreitzer - 04/18/2006


You know the Smash Mouth handicapper loves hard hitting baseball games where the sport's top stars show their stuff! After two weeks of major league action, the talk of the sport…and all the talk here in Las Vegas…is about the high scoring games we've been seeing all over the nation.

We're not talking about high scoring games just in a few particular ballparks…or with a few pitchers. It's happening EVERYWHERE to EVERYONE! The scoreboards have already lit up in great pitcher's parks in San Diego, Washington, and Los Angeles. Ace pitchers with great career ERA's look like they're throwing batting practice. And…if you put back-end pitchers on the field in a hitter's park…well, the sky's the limit!

What's going on…and what should handicappers do about it?

First, let's keep our heads on straight. Two weeks doesn't prove anything. I've heard people say that the balls are definitely juiced. I've heard a few people say that global warming is causing an unseasonably temperate Spring in the northern cities. I've heard people say that the muscle contingent has uncovered a "new" steroid that doesn't trigger positive tests. These kinds of conspiracy theories are famous for one thing in Vegas…THEY MAKE THE SPORTSBOOKS RICH!

Don't make the mistake of betting because you've seen some weird scores in the first couple of weeks. This stuff happens all the time. You're just paying more attention than normal because everything that happens right at the beginning of a sports season is under the microscope. Let's study this high scoring phenomenon for a few more weeks before drawing firmer conclusions.

I'm not going to a full scale "Over" strategy right now. But, I can tell you what key factors I'm looking at:

*SLUGGING PERCENTAGES…because the early warning signs for steroid use in past season came in THIS category. Abnormal spikes in production basically announced that something was going on.

*WEATHER FORECASTS…because the temperatures did warm up quickly this year, particularly in many of the day games up north. Also worth noting, the wind was blowing out in many of the high scoring games this past week. If the home runs stop once the wind does, then much of the mystery will be solved right there.

*ACE ERA'S…because this is where you'll first see a return to normalcy. If we don't start seeing gems soon when the top of the rotation is on the mound, then something is definitely up. We'll still see high scoring games when rag arms are throwing. But if the big name guys still have ERA's over 4.50 at the end of April…we'll have very strong evidence that we need to devise some handicapping adjustments.

For now, I'm watching the scoreboards and these items very closely. I've made some minor tweaks already that have served me well. I can tell you for sure that these high scoring games caught the oddsmakers napping. You barely saw an increase at all in the posted totals even when the wind was blowing out in great hitting parks.

How can we take advantage if we determine that the offense will continue? There's a variety of ways:

*Most simply, playing OVERS wherever there's value. It could turn out that's more in the pitcher's parks than the hitter's parks because the adjustment will be slowest there. It could turn out that we only get involved when the forecast has the wind blowing out. I've already got these early results logged from a variety of perspectives.

*Playing UNDERDOGS with home run potential. Outside factors that promote offense often serve as an equalizer in baseball. The differences between best and worst most likely involve pitching. Anything that lessens the impact of pitchers rewards underdogs.

*Playing SLUGGING TEAMS when they match up against "small ball" teams. Last year's Chicago White Sox were mischaracterized a bit as a "small ball" team when they won the World Championship. They had power too. But…there are some teams who decided to rebuild themselves in the "small ball" mode on the assumption that steroid testing would take power out of the game. If the power is back in, those teams will be in big trouble.

Stay tuned for developments. This could turn out to be the big wagering story of the summer!

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