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Inside Baseball Trends

   by Al McMordie - 06/22/2008

Baseball is unique for sports bettors because teams play in very different parks. Some parks are huge, perfect for pitchers (Seattle, Oakland, NY Mets) with large outfields and plenty of foul ground for extra pop outs. Other parks (many more so these days) are small, hitter-friendly places (Fenway, Philly, Pittsburgh, Skydome, Jacobs Field, Houston).

Stats and parks can help some trends stand out in baseball. For instance, the Blue Jays play in a hitter-friendly park in Toronto, one with a roof and artificial turf. Baseballs scoot like a rocket through the infield on turf and bounce like crazy in the outfield on line drives, many times off the wall. All of which can help the offense. Notice that Toronto scores fewer runs offensively on the road, where they are 24-14 under the total.

It hasn’t changed since switching managers, with Cito Gaston now running the show. Last week, they had their season-high seventh loss in a row, all to National League clubs, 6-3 to the Pirates, their second such venture under returning manager Gaston. They were also 6-15 against starting left-handers. Here are some other baseball trends to keep an eye on.

Orioles: Surprising Baltimore entered last weekend with the best interleague record (8-2) in the majors. The offense has heated up, on a 10-4 run over the total.

<>White Sox: Chicago hasn’t been impressive on the road, but at home the offense averages 5.8 runs. On the road, just 4 runs per game. That explains why this pitching-rich team started 23-13 under the total on the road. It also doesn’t help the offense that slugging first baseman Paul Konerko is on the 15-day disabled list.

Chicago might be ready for a tumble, as this team has a lot of problems. They are referring to combustabile manager Ozzie Guillen as “The Blizzard of Oz.â€쳌 He apologized to fans after getting beat by the crosstown rival Cubs: “I want to apologize to White Sox fans for losing the game. I brought the wrong guy to pitch. Why did I pinch-hit Jim Thome? I was dumb.â€쳌 If you have a future’s ticket on the White Sox, you can’t feel too good about it right now, unless it’s to win this weak division.

Angels: The amazing Angels are constructed as a team to look at under the total: Great pitching, great bullpen, great defense. The offense hasn’t been as good as anticipated because of injuries, ranking 11th in the American League. They probably aren’t that concerned, as long as they keep winning. A month ago, the Angels had three-quarters of their infield, two-fifths of their starting rotation and one of their top relievers on the disabled list at the same time.

Shutting down the Phillies on the road, 7-1 and 6-2, was impressive, winning as a dog each time. There’s really no substitute for great pitching. The Angels are on a 38-16-3 run under the total! With Chone Figgins and Erick Aybar now off the disabled list, the Angels are the healthiest they've been since early April. And with pitchers Kelvim Escobar and Chris Bootcheck having begun rehabilitation assignments, there's a chance the team could be at full strength for the first time this season before the All-Star break. A future’s ticket on the Angels is probably better than the White Sox.

Braves: Like the Cubs, Atlanta continues to be great at home, a totally different team on the road. The Braves started 11-27 on the road, but 25-11 at home. Note that the offense struggles on the road, as the team is 28-9 under the total on the road!

Astros: Houston has fallen apart on a 3-17 run. And how about Astros pitcher Shawn Chacon lashing out after being told by manager Cecil Cooper that he had been removed from the starting rotation? "I think it's horse (beep)," Chacon said. "That's pretty much how I feel about it. Sums it up." That also sums up his pitching, 0-3 with a 9.35 ERA in his last four starts. With Roy Oswalt struggling, the rotation is a huge problem with Oswalt, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler and Brandon Backe.

Pirates: And speaking of struggling rotations, the Pirates have no trouble scoring runs on the road (5.4 runs pg) but do struggle at home, averaging 4.4 rpg. The pitching, though, really melts away from home. In a 3-game sweep at Chicago last week, the Pirates lost 16-5, 8-2 and 13-8. That sums up their road play. Pittsburgh is a remarkable 27-7 over the total on the road! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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