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Baseball's Stretch Run

   by Al McMordie - 08/05/2005

Baseball's Stretch Run,

By Al McMordie

The All-Star break and the trading deadline are now in the rear view mirror, so it’s the beginning of baseball’s stretch run for October. From a handicapping standpoint, many factors have just taken place that influence how a team might respond over the next eight weeks. Some teams jettisoned players and are focused more on next season (Mariners, Giants) and could be worth a look at as go-against teams.

There wasn’t a flurry of key trades, either, unlike past years. Most teams found asking prices for players too high and passed, preferring to stick with what they had. It’s going to be interesting to see how Shawn Chacon pitches for the Yankees, for example. He was having a very good statistical year in Colorado, except for wins, and may give NY a shot in the arm. He’s been great in two starts thus far, the latest winning as a dog at Cleveland. Perhaps he can help them get going, just like the shot Downtown Doyle Alexander gave to the Tigers in the second half of 1987.

Some other things have happened that can also affect the pennant race. The Orioles fired manager Lee Mazzilli this week. The O’s were in first place in the AL East most of the season until July became the cruelest month for them. The lack of pitching caught up with them, along with the Rafael Palmerio embarrassment, not to mention several losing streaks. A team can fold when something dramatic happens like this, or regroup and take off like a rocket. The 1988 Red Sox made a managerial change at the All Star break, then proceeded to go 19-1 under interim manager Joe Morgan and ended up winning the AL East. Just two years ago, a similar thing happened when Jack McKeon took over the underachieving Marlins and they ended up winning the World Series. This is why handicapping is not simply about stats – professional bettors need to keep tabs on changes like this and monitor closely whether it affects team play.

Players returning from injuries can be just as significant as a big trade. Another team to keep an eye on is the Cubs. They need to begin to make a run at the Wild Card soon and get several key players back. SS Nomar Garciaparra and pitchers Kerry Wood and Scott Williamson are expected to rejoin the Cubs this weekend. An influx of talent like that can help, but be careful – oddsmakers, too, are paying attention and with a high profile public teams like the Cubs, there will likely be less wagering value than with teams like the Padres or Twins, for example. Recognizing changes and shopping for wagering value are two keys to turning a profit. Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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