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Betting Baseball Totals

   by Al McMordie - 05/23/2005

Offense is down a bit this season in major league baseball. There are many
theories about this, from teams shoring up the relief staff as many games
are decided in the 6th, 7th and 8th innings, to the decrease in steroids.
Another factor that's always worth considering is the ballpark. It's no
secret that the dimensions of parks play a role not only in how a team plays
but in how a team is constructed. When Whitey Herzog managed the Royals in
the 1970s and the Cardinals in the 1980s, he recognized that both teams
played in huge, pitcher-friendly parks on astroturf. They were not easy to
hit home runs in, so Herzog contructed his teams around speed and defense,
particularly in the outfield. One time a player on his team stole a base
even though they were leading 10-2. The opposing manager yelled across the
field at him for stealing with such a big lead and then complained about it
to the newspapers after the game saying, "Whitey is showing us up and that's
baloney." So Herzog retorted, "Stealing bases is how we score runs. We'll agree
to stop stealing if he agrees not to hit any more home runs."

When wagering on baseball totals, it's important to look at the park, the
defense and the pitching staffs, both starting and relief pitching. Current
teams with large, pitcher-friendly parks are Safeco in Seattle, Dodger
Stadium in LA, Comerica in Detroit, Shea Stadium in New York (Mets) and the
McAfee (Oakland) Coliseum. The Mariners have constructed their offense around speed
while the A's preach drawing walks and on-base percentage. They don't look
to sit back and hit home runs. Notice that the Mariners are 13-8 under the
total at home this season. Another pitcher-friendly park is in Florida where
the Marlins play. This is a strong defensive team in the field with a
terrific young pitching staff, too, and Florida is 13-8 under the total at
home. The new park in San Diego is also pitcher-friendly, and the Padres are
12-8 under the total at home.

Sports bettors carefully look at parks and numbers like these, in
addition to offensive production. For instance, the Astros play in a small
park conducive to hitting, but have lost a lot of offensive talent from last
season. Houston averages 4.6 runs per game at home, but just 2.6 runs on the
road. That explains why this team is competitive at home, but simply
miserable on the road. The Phillies, too, play in a new, hitter-friendly
park. Notice the Phillies average 4.9 runs per game at home, but 3.9 on the
road. Philadelphia is 14-5 over the total thus far at home, with a weak
pitching staff, and 14-9 under the total on the road. Stats like these have
reasons behind them, so don't be surprised if the Phillies continue to be
productive offensively at home, but slip significantly on the road.

Which brings me to the Washington Nationals (the former Expos) and their
new park. This is a pitcher-friendly park and Washington averages 4.3 runs
per game on the road, but just 3.7 per game at home. Washington is 11-8
under the total at home. Another team with improved defense and pitching
depth this season is the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-Backs are 28-16 under
the total overall. The White Sox have been the surprise of the American
League with a devastating pitching staff that has them rolling despite a
not-so-great offense. The White Sox are 23-16 under the total (13-5 under at
home). Dodger Stadium has always been friendly to pitchers, and notice the
Dodgers are 12-8 under the total at home where the offense averages 4 runs
per game, but 12-8 over the total on the road where the offense busts out
for 5.7 runs per contest! Betting totals can be just as profitable as sides
in baseball, and knowing the parks can help a good bettor turn a profit.

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