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by Scott Spreitzer - 07/29/2006
We're seeing something this year across the full scope of major league baseball that only used to be an issue in Texas and maybe Arizona.
Teams are wilting from the heat!
Whether it's due to global warming or just some freak occurrences in the world of meteorology, the whole nation has been dealing with very high temperatures for quite some time now. It started in the East and Midwest. Last week even the Bay Area of California was dealing with temperatures near 110.
Here in Las Vegas, we're used to brutally hot temperatures in the summer (though it's even hotter than normal here this year). Most of the country is not used to it and it's already starting to show up on baseball diamonds all over the majors.
Handicappers need to be aware that DEPTH is going to be a huge factor in the coming weeks. The Texas Rangers have a history of wearing down in the second half of the season because it's just impossible to play at a peak level through weeks of hot weather. This year, perhaps as many as 15 teams are probably going to see key players show similar slides until the weather cools off.
*Pitchers used to throwing 100-plus pitches per game will suddenly start losing their effectiveness earlier and more often. This is particularly true of pitchers who are a bit overweight. If you've been monitoring strikeouts game-by-game, you've already seen this influence (yes, this means you C.C. Sabathia).
*Hitters used to playing every day are going to run out of gas. Ken Griffey Jr., is having a well-publicized slump right now. Others will follow.
*Teams who lack depth in the field won't be able to have much success while resting their starters. That means no workable options! You either lose by wearing out your starters or you lose by resting your starters and watching bad bench players flounder.
*Teams who lack depth in the bullpen will find their middle relievers buckling under a heavier load.
In most seasons, handicappers can probably get away with ignoring the back end of major league benches. As long as you're in synch with the frontline talent, you can pick winners on both sides and totals very consistently. I expect that will be different this season. The backups are going to matter more than ever and the middle relievers who played such a big role early this season when home runs were flying out of the parks left and right will once again heavily influence the course of a game.
LEARN THE BENCHES! LEARN THE BULLPENS!
It's late July as I write this. The forecast for August doesn't suggest much of a change. The heat is going to continue in places where it's rarely been an issue before. Texas might catch a break this year because the other teams are going through what they always go through. It won't be a disadvantage for the Rangers anymore. And it will be a disadvantage for teams who aren't ready for the challenge.
Also, be aware that pitchers coming back from a layoff might actually have a big advantage. They're fresh guys who'll be facing a bunch of tired guys. This past week you saw Mark Prior and Ben Sheets return very well from some time away. Brett Myers of Philadelphia has been terrific in the three starts he's made since returning from suspension. This is a clear sign that many regulars aren't up to speed when they face fresh sharp pitching, or that the backups on the field are overmatched.
Have you been losing with pitchers coming off games with high pitch counts? Have you been losing with offenses that have stopped slugging or who are benching a star or two when you forgot it was a day game after a night game? Have you been victimized by bad bullpens that you hadn't expected to be involved in the game anyway? Judging by what I've been hearing from the wagering public in Las Vegas sportsbooks, the answer is probably yes!
Make some adjustments to your usual approach and make them now. Rather than a brave new world, it's a HOT new world in the summer of 2006. You've got to change the way you handicap if you want your selections to be as hot as the weather.