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Performance Enhanced Handicapping

   by Scott Spreitzer - 06/15/2006

We now have a better understanding of how major league baseball scoring can go UP after steroids are banished from the game.

A lot of fans and handicappers were stunned earlier this season when home runs were flying out of ballparks at a record rate. The scoreboards lit up like pinball machines. 'Under' bettors got squashed. Handicappers who liked focusing on stud pitchers sat helplessly as their guys got rocked at high prices. The general public made big money betting 'Overs', even in games that would have made no sense for an 'Over' in prior seasons.

The recent raid of Jason Grimsley's home, and subsequent leaks about the availability and use of human grown hormone across the sport have helped shed some light on this.

It's easy to imagine that the following occurred:

*Baseball got dirtier and dirtier through the late 1990's and early 2000's as steroids became more prominent. Home run totals went up (particularly for a few key sluggers), and scoring went up.

*Baseball finally put together a belated effort to stop steroids, and made regular testing a part of the collective bargaining agreement. Scoring went down in 2005 as the season saw about 53% 'Unders' overall. It took awhile for the lines to come down to the new reality, and the sport was arguably cleaner than it had been in years.

*Word spread that human growth hormone was just as effective for sluggers as steroids, but it was impossible to test for them! Since there was no chance of getting caught from a urine test, use spread very quickly across the sport. Scoring skyrocketed early in 2006.

This is why we've seen a scoring 'whipsaw' the last few seasons. Baseball was dirty; baseball got cleaner; baseball got dirtier by a different method.

Can I prove this? Hey, anybody who gets close is going to get sued by rich ballplayers trying to protect their image! At the very least, it's an outline that lines up with reality very well.

I do find it interesting that the Arizona Diamondbacks had a slump that corresponded directly with Grimsley getting into trouble. If authorities found incriminating evidence, that's the team with a bunch of guys sweating bullets instead of hitting them. After scoring a bunch of runs at home all season, the past week the Diamondbacks scored 1, 3, 1, and 6 (two unearned) immediately after the news broke. They took a five game losing streak into the weekend.

Clearly, this is something handicappers have to pay attention to. I advise the following strategies:

*Keep watching Arizona very closely. If this continues to be a distraction, they could be on your 'go against' list for quite some time. At the very least, it's something that's hanging over their heads. At worst, much of Arizona's early season success was chemically assisted and many of the players are now terrified of getting caught with those chemicals.

*Elsewhere, it's easy to see the high scoring continue. There's no current test for HGH that's been accepted in the world of science. There are blood tests whose value has been debated. Right now though, players who are cheating have little fear of getting caught unless there's a paper trail from Grimsley's house into their bloodstream. Arizona stopped winning but scoring with all the other teams didn't disappear. We saw a 16-9 game Wednesday, a 16-12 game Thursday, and a 9-8 game Friday. If you've been shading your action toward the 'Overs', keep doing it. If you've been backing teams because of offensive success keep backing them until you see evidence that it's time to stop.

Last year the disappearance of steroids clearly led to a decrease in scoring. We're not going to see a new disappearance until there's a real test for HGH that scares people outside of the Arizona investigation.

I don't mean to imply that I'm in favor of cheating just because I'm suggesting that you should bet on teams or 'Overs' when cheating is going on. But if you want to pick winners, you've got to acknowledge the probable cheating and incorporate it into your strategies. Fact of life. Failing to do so will make it very difficult for you to win.

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