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Putting the Pieces Together

   by Bryan Leonard - 05/02/2006

Finding live underdogs and solid betting wagers in baseball requires the trained eye of a detective and the skilled hands of a tradesman. It is essential to identify the important facets of information, then, like a surgeon, place those pieces together. Just as important is the ability to sift through and throw out pieces that are less important for a particular game. One area to do this is to examine how teams and pitchers have fared against each other.

For instance, on Saturday I gave out two baseball plays. The first was the National League battle between the Brewers and Cubs. One area that stood out in that match-up was the fact that the starting pitchers were lefties, Milwaukee's Doug Davis against Chicago's Glendon Rusch. Before going any further, I checked to see how those teams hit offensively against lefties to see if there was anything significant.

The Cubs have had trouble scoring runs against lefties, averaging just 3.6 runs per game. It hasn't helped their offense that star slugger Derek Lee is on the shelf for two more months, either, and this offense is particularly vulnerable to lefties. It also starts right at the top of the order with the Cubs leadoff hitter, lefty Juan Pierre. This season Pierre is hitting .321 against righties, but a poor .162 average with a .205 on-base percentage against southpaws.

In fact, there is an abundance of lefties in the lineup with guys like Todd Walker, Pierre, John Mabry and Jacque Jones. So it's not some statistical fluke, which can happen early in the season, but there are reasons behind it that fit together like a puzzle. All of which explains why they are weak against southpaws. On the other side of the field, this season Milwaukee has pounded southpaws at a rate of 5.9 runs per game.

The second area to examine was those two starting pitchers: Were they any good? Chicago starter Rusch hadn't pitched more than 6 innings in any start and he had allowed 7, 3, 3 and 4 runs in each start, not very impressive. Milwaukee starter Davis has a sparkling 2.88 era in his career versus the Cubs. In fact, he has been even better pitching in Wrigley Field. In four starts there he has permitted just 6 earned runs in 27.7 innings of work.

So I played the Brewers, and enjoyed that final score: Brewer 16, Cubs 2. Milwaukee had 16 hits while the Cubs struggled again against a lefty, with 7 hits and 2 runs.

Another game on that same day I looked at recent history is when the Angels hosted the White Sox. Chicago starter Jose Contreras has been simply terrific over the last 9 months. He has pitched 21 games and the Sox have won 18 of them, including 10 straight wins on the road. Now that is a remarkable stat. This guy is confident and pitching well (with the World Series ring to show for it).

Contreras faced the Angels four times in 2005 and had a quality start every time out.

His opponent Saturday was Kelvim Escobar and he is 0-7 in his career versus the White Sox with a 6.04 era. He has faced Chicago eight times in his career and his teams are a perfect 0-9 against this opponent! Those were stark numbers, with dominance by one team and one pitcher, and a terrible record by the opponent. Contreras (4-0) threw 103 pitches in 8 1-3 innings in the 2-1 win, allowing five hits and one run with one walk. The right-hander is 15-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 20 starts since last year's All-Star break. It's not luck or guesswork. Examining recent history and match-ups like this can assist you to turn a profit at the betting window.

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