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Personnel Changes

   by Bryan Leonard - 05/12/2008

Changes take place on the baseball diamond daily. Players get hurt and go on the DL. Players get hurt and continue to play, which can affect their performance. Managers make changes in the field and in the batting order. Managers make changes in the starting rotations.

It’s essential for the sports bettor to keep up on these changes. The Red Sox, for instance, had a stretch last month where they went 7-1 under the total. That included getting swept at Tampa Bay where the offense disappeared. Most important, there were reasons behind this offensive shortage: They weren’t healthy. David Ortiz was limping around and missed time, while 3B Mike Lowell, the World Series MVP, was out with a thumb injury. Notice the Sox are hot again, winning 5 in a row recently while going 4-1-1 over the total. Not coincidently, Big Papi is feeling better and Lowell is back in the lineup. Keeping track of personnel changes each day is essential as it can influence a team’s production.

The Yankees, for instance, have had problems with the pitching staff as several young kids have been terrible. Lost in the starting pitching shuffle, however, is an offense that isn’t hitting like, well, like a $200+ million dollar lineup should. NY started 23-10 under the total! Slugger Alex Rodriguez has been out since Apr. 28 with a strained right quad. Rodriguez said he felt fine during his workout and is optimistic about returning to the Yankees lineup next week.

Rodriguez is headed to Tampa Bay this week, and he's expected to play in what likely will be extended-spring-training games there. In that setting, Rodriguez can get as many at-bats as he wants. Then Wednesday, when he's eligible to return from the DL, he hopes to be back with the Yanks against the Rays. Jorge Posada is also in Tampa with Rodriguez to begin rehabbing. Posada is out with tendinitis in his right rotator cuff. The offense is weak without A-Rod, and very poor against lefties without Rodriguez and Posada, something handicappers should keep in mind.

The Atlanta Braves are getting their lineup in place now, with Chipper Jones and Mark Texiera anchoring the middle of the order. The Braves completed a perfect homestand, 6-0, their first two-series sweep at home in five years. An unlikely contributor to the surge has been Greg Norton, all but washed up in recent years. Norton, a newcomer came through for the second consecutive game with an RBI pinch hit, this time on a two-run single to left field to top the Padres, 5-4. They are now 1-9 in one-run games, but also a major-league leading 14-4 at home. Atlanta started 20-10 under the total, with solid pitching, but now the offense is starting to produce – at least at home.

Washington has also been terrible on the road but has a winning home mark, offering good value for bettors. However, their catching situation has suddenly fallen apart. Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca is out 4-6 weeks with a broken right hand. Lo Duca broke the fourth metacarpal bone in his hand while batting in the seventh inning against Houston on Wednesday. The Nationals also have backup catcher Johnny Estrada on the DL with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. Estrada hasn't played since April 30.

Catching is such a key position, calling games for the pitchers plus a manager hopes to get something offensively out of any catcher. Many catchers are offensively liabilities, especially in the NL, where the pitcher bats ninth and many times the catcher is 7th or 8th. Washington will call up catcher Jesus Flores and outfielder Elijah Dukes from Triple-A Columbus to fill the roster spots. Dukes is finishing a rehab stint after injuring his right hamstring. Wil Nieves was the starting catcher for the Nationals against Houston this week.

A few tears ago the Cubs had a terrible offense with ace slugger Derek Lee on the shelf early in the season. They went on a 7-1 run under the total as soon as he went out. That same season the Yankees had to promote outfielder Terrance Long from Triple-A Columbus because of injuries to Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Bubba Crosby, all on the shelf. Posada was also out with back spasms and with those problems the Yankees went on 8-3 run under the total, which wasn’t a surprise with so much offense hurt. The joke in the NY Post that week was, “How do you get the Yankees out? Put runners in scoring position!â€쳌 Changes occur constantly in baseball, and it’s important to keep tabs and see if that is correlating to any spread marks, such as wins, losses, overs and unders.

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