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Early Season Baseball Numbers

   by Al McMordie - 04/25/2006

So who has the better pitching staff: The Atlanta Braves or the Colorado Rockies? Over the last decade that answer would have been a no-brainer, but one of the early-return oddities of the 2006 season is that the Rockies have a better team ERA than the once-mighty Braves staff. Currently the Rockies have a team ERA of 4.90, tenth in the National League, while the Braves are right behind with a 5.19 team ERA. So what gives?

Part of the reason is that it's so early in the season. Three weeks is far from a 162-game season, so many stats will change between now and then. Certainly a poor start by Atlanta's pitching is an eyebrow raising surprise. They have talent, with John Smoltz and Tim Hudson anchoring the staff, and John Thomson has pitched great (1.23 ERA).

One factor working against the Braves has been the schedule. They've only played 2 series at home and 4 on the road. That works out to 12 road games thus far and 6 home games. The weather, too, hasn't helped. Notice that in Friday's loss at Washington, manager Bobby Cox said reliever Mike Remlinger couldn't grip the ball in the rain before allowing a home run to Alfonso Soriano. Though Remlinger said, "I'm not going to make an excuse. If you play the game, you do the job. If you don't, you lose, period." But it's worth noting that the schedule and even the weather have worked against the Braves. For sports bettors, notice that the Braves are 10-6 over the total.

And speaking of totals, the Tigers are 12-5 under the total. They also have an 11-7 record, creeping up on the White Sox for first place in the AL Central. Most impressive is the pitching, as Detroit is No. 1 in the American League with a 3.91 team ERA. Offensively, their team batting average is fifth while they lead the AL in homers.

First-year coach Jim Leyland exploded at the team after last Monday afternoon's 10-2 loss to Cleveland. "I expect my team to come out every day ready to play hard," Leyland said. "I'm not some rah-rah speech guy. But if you see something you don't like, you have to nip it in the bud." Detroit went 4-1 after that outburst, winning three times as an underdog. If they keep hitting and pitching the way they are, he won't have to yell very often.

There's a reason the Reds traded for starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo in spring training: They are desperate for pitching. Arroyo has been terrific, with a 3-0 start and a 3.04 ERA. However, the rest of the staff is awful, especially starters Aaron Harang, Eric Milton and Dave Williams. The Reds have the worst ERA in the National League. Why is this important for sports bettors? Cincinnati is 12-5 over the total, including 7-1 over the total at home!

The Indians are a team to keep an eye on over the next two weeks. The pitching staff has gotten excellent results from newcomer Jason Johnson, who teams with lefty Cliff Lee to form a nice punch atop the order. They need to get better play from the bullpen and the rest of the starters, and the next two weeks they have a long home stand against the Red Sox, Rangers and rival White Sox. Remember they opened the season taking two of three at Chicago. And this offense is terrific, leading the AL in runs scored, first in doubles and second in batting. The strong offense and some suspect pitching is why they are 12-5 over the total. After playing 12 of 18 on the road, the Indians should be happy to be home this week. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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