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Baseball Totals: Early Trends

   by Bryan Leonard - 04/20/2006

Last week I looked at a few key trends and stats in baseball and tried to find some reasons behind them. One thing that is not surprising is that the New York Yankees are leading the majors in runs scored. What is surprising is that they also lead the American League in pitching with a 3.84 team ERA. Pitching still appears to be a major weakness on this team over the long haul.

Still, what is remarkable is that the Yankees have ripped opponents by the combined score of 80-52, yet the Bronx Bombers are just 6-6. One thing that stands out is that they are 0-3 in one-run games. By contrast, the new-look Red Sox (pitching and defensive-oriented) are 9-4 despite outscoring their opponents by a mere five runs. The Sox are 6-1 in games decided by one or two runs and 5-0 when they score four runs or fewer.

Granted, it's still early in the season, but examining trends like this can explain many things from a handicapping point of view. The Red Sox are 7-4-1 UNDER the total the last 12 games, which makes sense as the offense is not as good as recent years, while the pitching and defense is very strong. Boston is No. 2 in the AL in team ERA (3.87). The powerful Yankees offense is a big reason they are 8-4 over the total, a trend that is likely to continue, especially if their pitching comes back to the pack. Get ready for a lot of 10-7 Yankee games as the weather gets warmer!

Behind those teams, the surprising Detroit Tigers have the third-best team ERA in the American League at 3.87. Newcomer veteran Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson and Mike Maroth have been very good as starters, a combined 5-2. The trio has good control and giving the team 6-7 innings each start. They are a big reason the Tigers are 8-3 under the total, too.

The Atlanta Braves are 9-3 over the total and the big surprise is how bad their pitching has been. Their 5.72 team ERA is second worst in the NL! John Smoltz and John Thomsen have pitched well, but starters Kyle Davies, Tim Hudson, Jorge Sosa and Horacio Ramirez have been putrid. Which begs the question: Do they miss longtime pitching coach Leo Mazzone? Mazzone moved on to the Orioles this off-season. Perhaps, though it's too early to draw conclusions, especially when you look at the Orioles pitching: a 5.12 team ERA is in the middle of the pack in the AL, and their 61 walks is the most in baseball.

Toronto has to be delighted with the offensive performances of newcomers Lyle Overbay and Troy Glaus, both hitting over .300. The improved offense is a reason why the Blue Jays are 8-3 over the total averaging 6.2 runs per game. And speaking of totals, the Cincinnati Reds are 8-4 over the total. Is this a fluke? Nope: The Reds league the NL in home runs and slugging, while the pitching is 12th in the 16-team National League. It's important to sift through the facts between trends and statistical anomalies. If there are solid reasons behind trends, they can continue to be betting angles to keep a close eye on.

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