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Where Has All The Offense Gone?

   by Ben Burns - 05/02/2008

It’s not your imagination. No one’s hitting in baseball! Is it better pitching? Cooler temperatures than normal? Deeper bullpens? Heck, it might even be fewer steroids. Whatever the reason, it’s been a modestly profitable season for "under bettors," thus far. Heading into Friday's action, excluding games which fell right on the number, the "under" has gone 224-189. Even slightly more extra-inning games have fallen below the total, with the "under" going 21-17 in those games.

The mighty American League East has a reputation of crushing the baseball with fearsome lineups like the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees. Yet, the slugging sticks of pine have turned to deadwood. The Yankees started 19-8 under the total. This is largely a reflection of oddsmakers anticipating what the betting public is thinking. The Yankees’ reputation is one of a dominating offensive lineup that wears out opposing pitchers under a barrage of home runs and slugging percentages. Yet, even with mediocre (at best!) pitching, 11 of the first 12 NY games went under the total. But it didn’t end there. The Yankees just played series' with the Indians and Tigers, two teams loaded with offensive talent. Those expecting the bats to wake up were disappointed, as the under prevailed by a 4-0-2 margin.

With the Yankees, injuries are certainly a factor. Alex Rodriguez is on the DL, which can’t help their bats. A-Rod admitted it was a mistake trying to play last weekend in Cleveland with a right quadriceps injury. His penalty for that miscalculation is 15 days on the disabled. "It's painful to see that lineup without me in the cleanup spot," Rodriguez said, discussing his favorite subject. Catcher Jorge Posada is also on the shelf, with a final decision expected soon on whether he will need surgery for the right shoulder strain that has him on the DL. Remember, though, as far as totals are concerned, offense is only half the game. As disappointing as the Yankees offense might be, their pitching has been terrible, ranked 25th in the majors. That still hasn’t balanced out the totals, however.

With AL East rivals Toronto and Boston, it’s not quite as simple as injuries, although DHs David Ortiz and Frank Thomas had terrible Aprils. Ortiz is hinting at a sore knee while Thomas flipped out and left the team after he was benched. The defending champs just went to Tampa Bay and got swept. All three games went under the total. Then they came home to hitter-friendly Fenway against the Blue Jays…and all three games went under the total. Boston scored one, two and zero runs in the three games…and won 2 of 3! Last Year’s Rookie of the Year Dustin Pedroia went 0-for-11 in the series. Overall, the 'under' is a combined 81-50, with four games landing right on the number, in games played in by teams from the AL East.

Kansas City and Tampa Bay both started this season 17-10 under the total. The problem with the Royals is obvious, as they are last in the AL in offense. David DeJesus got his chance this week to provide the Royals with some punch from the No. 3 spot in the lineup. The number three spot has been a black hole in the Royals’ lineup, contributing just six RBIs through the previous 26 games, the fewest in either league. After scoring nine runs in consecutive games, the Royals went back to their anemic offensive ways in a 2-1 loss to Texas, wasting a great effort from Zack Greinke.

It’s not just the AL that’s swinging golf clubs at the plate, though. The Braves started 17-9 under the total and the Astros at 18-11 under. Atlanta is struggling, with John Smoltz ailing and the offense slumping. Smoltz went on the DL this week with inflammation of the right rotator cuff and a biceps tendon. The Braves sunk to 0-9 in one-run games, the only team in the majors without a one-run win in April. Atlanta is not only winless in one-run games, but 0-12 in games it didn't lead after the sixth inning.

At least low scoring games are no surprise at San Diego's Petco Park, the best pitcher’s park in baseball. The Padres started 11-4 under the total at home. This is why it’s essential to slice and dice the San Diego hitters and pitchers carefully at home or on the road. San Diego’s offense averages 3.7 runs per game on the road, and just about a full run per game less than that at home.

So keep close tabs on which teams are struggling with the bat. While there have been a few exceptions (Pirates have seen the 'over' go 19-9!) it appears to be a league wide epidemic this season. At least, Toronto has an excuse: They finished the nine-game trip at 2-7, so the bats have a reason to be a little tired. The Jays have only won only two of 11 one-run games this season. "It's gradually getting more frustrating," Vernon Wells said of the offense. "Our pitching staff is doing their part and we're not. This is the ugly side of baseball." Ugly, unless you’re betting the 'unders' in the East!

A complete team by team over/under breakdown appears below, with the first number representing the 'over.'

AL East

Tampa Bay 10-18-0

Boston 13-16-1

Baltimore 9-19-0

NY Yankees 9-20-1

Toronto 9-18-2

AL Central

Chicago 13-13-0

Cleveland 14-15-0

Detroit 13-13-3

Minnesota 13-13-1

Kansas 10-18-0

AL West

LA Angels 13-13-4

Oakland 12-16-2

Seattle 12-15-2

Texas 16-11-2

NL East

Philly 14-15-0

NY Mets 13-13-0

Florida 14-13-1

Atlanta 9-18-0

Washington 11-17-1

NL Central

St. Louis 13-16-0

Chi. Cubs 14-13-1

Milwaukee 11-16-1

Houston 11-18-0

Cincinnati 13-14-1

Pittsburgh 19-9-0

NL West

Arizona 16-10-1

LA Dodgers 15-12-1

San Fran 13-16-0

Colorado 14-14-0

San Diego 12-16-1

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