Betting run lines

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In last week’s column, the subject of wagering on the run line was touched upon and the overall impression meant to be left with the reader is that in laying the run and a half, the only situation in which such a bettor does worse than had he laid the straight price is when the favored team wins by exactly one run. Likewise, the only time taking the run and a half has a better result than playing the underdog straight is when the dog loses by exactly one run.

Let’s take a look at some numbers thus far in 2010.

In general, teams that are favored by more than -110 will also be the teams that are favored on the run line. Using lines from the Las Vegas Hilton, there have been slightly under 1,300 games involving favorites of greater than -110.

In 914 of these games the home team has been favored while in 374 games the road team has been favored.

In those 914 games in which the home team was favored, the home team has gone 580-334 for a winning percentage of just over 63 percent. Of the 580 home wins, 403 of them – just under 70 percent – have been by at least 2 runs. Less than one third of the home favorite wins have been one run wins.

The road team run line results are even more one sided. Road favorites of more than -110 are 205-169 this season, winning just under 55 percent of those games. But of those 205 wins 158 of them (77 percent) have been by at least two runs. Less than a quarter of those road favorites wins have been by a single run.

These numbers are not far from the historical results covering more than 20 years. In brief, slightly more than two thirds of all games are decided by at least 2 runs with just under a third decided by just one run. While one third seems like a large percentage, keep in mind that a significant portion of those one run wins are by the underdog.

In general the run line comes into play in roughly 17 percent of all games – those in which the favored team wins by exactly one run.

With lines being rather volatile and differences being fairly common, it pays even more to shop around when considering run line plays.

But as touched upon last week, laying the run and a half offers a more manageable way to play heavy favorites whereby you don’t have to lay prices of two to one or more. The tradeoff is requiring that team to win by more than one run. Historically – and again this season – IF the favored team wins, over 70 percent of the time the win will be by at least 2 runs.

That’s more than enough math for one column.

The second major trade leading up to Saturday’s deadline took place Sunday afternoon when Arizona traded their best starting pitcher, Dan Haren, to the Los Angeles Angels for starting lefty Joe Saunders and some prospects.

According to some observers this move suggests that the Angels believe they can erase what is currently the biggest deficit faced by a second place team, seven games, as they chase Texas in the AL West. The Rangers, you’ll recall, made the first major acquisition in advance of the trade deadline by acquiring lefty Cliff Lee from Seattle.

Others suggest the Angels made this acquisition with an eye more towards next season and the season after. Their more pressing needs this season are at the plate. The reality is probably somewhere in between as it remains to be seen if Texas can withstand the summer heat of playing at home and can maintain or increase their lead. The Angels have shown for much of the past decade that they know how to win late in the season and it would be foolhardy to suggest that the Halos cannot make up a seven game deficit over the next nine weeks.

The biggest name still being rumored to be available is Houston’s Roy Oswalt who has contract obligations some potential suitors may balk at assuming. St. Louis is currently being whispered as being the most likely destination and if such a trade materializes the Cardinals would become the favorites to win the NL pennant with a rotation that would include Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Oswalt and emerging lefty Jaime Garcia.

Milwaukee has the two hitters most mentioned in trade rumors – Prince Fielder and Corey Hart. Despite what has been a disappointing season to date, the Brewers start the week just eight and a half games out of first place in the NL Central. With nine weeks remaining that is not an insurmountable deficit, especially in a Division in which the leader is just 11 games above .500. It is possible – though unlikely – that the Brewers may decide this week that they still have a shot to catch the Reds and Cardinals. As such they may seed to add talent rather than shed players and thus Fielder and Hart would remain Brewers for the foreseeable future.

Let’s take a look at four series to be played this weekend as the calendar turns from July to August. All are three games series played Friday through Sunday.

Atlanta at Cincinnati: A pair of Division leaders could be meeting as Cincinnati continues to battle St. Louis for first place in the NL Central while Atlanta starts the week with a 5 game lead in the East. These teams meet for just a second series this season. Atlanta swept a two game home series in mid May with both games going OVER the Total. Both teams have relied on above average offense this season with starting rotations that are fairly average. Atlanta is led by veteran Tim Hudson and his solid 2.46 ERA in more than 130 innings. Of the other starters only young Kris Medlen has an ERA below 4.00 in this season of the pitcher. The Braves are 11-1 in his starts this season. The Reds also have rather ordinary starting pitching with rookie lefty Travis Wood impressive in his first few starts. Johnny Cueto has arguably been their most consistent starter and the Reds are a solid 14-6 in his starts. Cincinnati has the more powerful offense, ranking fourth in the majors in homers.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Atlanta as underdogs of any price or if favored by -125 or less in starts by Hudson or Medlen; Cincinnati as underdogs of any price against other than Hudson or Medlen; Cincinnati if favored by -150 or less in starts by Wood or Cueto against other than Hudson or Medlen; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Hudson or Medlen oppose Cueto or Wood; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if none of those four pitchers start

L. A. Dodgers at San Francisco: The road team has won 6 of 9 games this season including the Giants winning 2 of 3 in Los Angeles last week. Five of the 9 have stayed UNDER the Total with the teams combining to average just 8.1 runs per game. The Dodgers’ edge on offense is not as great as might be expected and the Giants have benefited greatly at the plate since catcher Buster Posey was called up. Both teams’ offenses have performed better on the road as each team plays in pitcher-friendly parks. Los Angeles has significant bullpen concerns and overall the Giants have the better pitching results. The five starters that currently comprise San Francisco’s rotation EACH have ERAs below 3½ and WHIPs of 1.30 or better. Even in a year in which pitching has so overshadowed offense that kind of balance is remarkable. Lefty Clayton Kershaw and journeyman Vicente Padilla have been the Dodgers’ most effective starters.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Giants as underdogs in any matchup or if favored by -140 or less against other than Kershaw; Dodgers as underdogs of any price in a start by Kershaw or as underdogs of +160 or more against any Giants starter; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in any matchup or UNDER Totals of 7 or higher in a start by the Dodgers’ Kershaw

Detroit at Boston: In their only previous series this season Detroit won 2 of 3 at home in mid May. The Total was evenly distributed with one OVER, one UNDER and a PUSH. Boston has struggled with injuries all season, especially on offense and not the injury bug has bitten Detroit with both Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez just being placed on the DL. Boston is still without Jacoby Ellsbury, Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia. The good news for Boston is the return of ace Josh Beckett who pitched well in his return last Friday in Seattle. Despite the injuries Boston still has a potent offense and is the third highest scoring road team in all of baseball (5.0 runs per game). Detroit has been the most profitable home team in the majors, up over 15 units this season with their 35-17 record. The pitching edge belongs with Boston as starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are both enjoying strong seasons. Detroit ace Justin Verlander has not been as dominant as expected although the Tigers have won 14 of his 20 starts. The rest of the rotation has been rather ordinary.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Boston as underdogs of any price in any matchup or if favored by -130 or less in starts by Buchholz or Lester; Detroit as underdogs of +120 or more against Beckett or John Lackey; OVER Totals of 8 or loser in any matchup: UNDER Totals of 9 or higher if Detroit’s Verlander opposes Beckett, Buchholz or Lester.

Texas at L. A. Angels: The home team has won 7 of 9 games this season including Texas taking 3 of 4 last week to extend their lead from 5 to 7 games over the Angels as this week begins. Both teams have made major additions to their starting rotations with Cliff Lee joining Texas and Dan Haren just acquired by the Angels. It’s possible that they could oppose each other in Sunday’s series finale. This series has added importance for the Angels and anything less than taking two of three would be a major disappointment. Jered Weaver and Ervin Santana have been the best Angels’ starters and with Haren forms a formidable trio for postseason play. In addition to Lee, Tommy Hunter, Colby Lewis and C J Wilson have been solid starters for the Rangers. Texas has a decisive edge at the plate but they are averaging over a run less per game on the road than at home. The Rangers’ overall improvement on the mound makes them attractive in most situations, especially as nicely sized underdogs. This has the makings of a low scoring series.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Texas as underdogs of +150 or more in any matchup; Texas if underdogs of any price or if favored by -125 or less in a start by Lee; Angels as favorites of -125 or less against other than Lee or if underdogs of at least +140 against Lee; UNDER Totals of 8 or more in any game started by the Angels’ Haren, Santana or Weaver against any Texas starter; UNDER Totals of 7 or less if Lee opposes Haren, Santana or Weaver.

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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