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Rise and Fall of AL Totals

   by Al McMordie - 06/11/2008

Successful handicappers need to keep track daily of changes in baseball of things that may influence the side and total of a game. The Red Sox, for instance, went three straight games under the total when slugger David Ortiz went on the shelf with a wrist injury. When they got shut out by the Mariners as a -150 home favorite, they were without Ortiz, leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury, and Manny Ramirez, who sat out with a sore right hamstring. One needs to keep serious track of ailments and lineup changes as close as possible.

An overall lack of pitching has been huge factor in the disappointing play of the Mariners. Note that they are on an 11-6 run over the total with the second worst team ERA in the American League. The Mariners could become the first club in baseball history to join the 100-100 club — 100 losses with a payroll of more than $100 million.

Speaking of high priced teams with suspect pitching, the Yankees rank 22nd overall in team ERA. After a strange start where NY was a machine under the total because of injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada (starting 29-11 under the total), the Yankees went on a 13-7 run over the total. Perhaps the warmer weather is heating the bats up, while the suspect pitching gets worse.

In the Yankees 12-11 victory over the Royals last week, Johnny Damon had 6 hits, a perfect 6-for-6 day. That tied an AL record for hits in a nine-inning game. A-Rod and Posada are back now, and notice that in the game Jason Giambi, A-Rod and Posada all hit home runs. The Bronx Bomber bats may be heating up, but what about the other half of the game? Andy Pettitte started that 12-11 game, receiving a no-decision after having one of the worst performances of his career, allowing 10 earned runs. Pettitte's pitch No. 111 was a fastball Jose Guillen crushed into the left-field seats for a grand slam that gave the Royals a 10-6 lead in the seventh. Chien-Ming Wang has also struggled of late, while the young kids on the mound have been terrible all year. The Yankees might be a better over the total team the rest of the summer.

Toronto, like New York, had a sensational start under the total at 38-17, but they’ve gone 6-3 to the overs of late. An ineffective bullpen has been a major player. Ever since ending their shutout streak at 23 innings in Anaheim, the Jays' pen has combined to allow 14 runs (13 earned), on 23 hits, with nine walks in 11 innings. "We haven't been throwing enough strikes," manager John Gibbons said.

One team to be cautious of is the Indians. Their offense has been a huge disappointment, but they recently went on a 9-3 run over the total. However, three of those games were in Texas, a hitter’s park, with the wind blowing out (all three went over the total). Travis Hafner and Jhonny Peralta have struggled since signing big contracts. Hafner is currently on the disabled list and Victor Martinez is homerless in the middle of the lineup, so they have no one to carry the ball club. Martinez is 29 years old, in his prime, and belted 25 homers with 114 RBI last season. I wouldn’t put the Indians as a team to look at over the total just yet.

The Rangers have a terrific young offense that leads the AL in runs scored. That trade over the winter with the Reds of pitcher Edinson Volquez for Josh Hamilton has helped both teams. Oddly, the Reds need offense while the Rangers need more pitching help. Still, Texas is on a 14-5 run over the total.

Keep an eye on some injury concerns with the Texas offense, however. Josh Hamilton has been battling a viral infection that has caused flu-like symptoms. And playing despite a broken left ring finger, shortstop Michael Young wasted no time extending his hitting streak to 22 games Saturday by lining a single to left in his first at-bat. But how long Young can keep it up is uncertain. He left the game after grounding out to end the seventh with tightness in his left groin. The Rangers are concerned enough that they are planning to call up infielder German Duran from Triple-A Oklahoma even though he hasn't played the last two days because of a hamstring cramp.

The Angels and Rays continue to mirror each other, with great pitching, especially at home. Tampa Bay started 24-10 under the total at home, while the Angels started 39-22 under the total overall and 20-10 under at home. The Rays were delighted in the brawl in Boston last week, bringing an already good team closer together. Joe Maddon said, "Not every team would have reacted the way our team reacted or the way we reacted against the Yankees in spring training." To the manager, the Rays' response is an indication that Tampa Bay's clubhouse really is as tight-knit as it has seemed. Can you imagine the Rays and Angels as an ALCS matchup? It’s a possibility, as those teams are loaded with pitching depth, which is the key to stability during the long summer grind. Good luck, as always, Al McMordie.

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