The All Star break has come and gone and attention now turns to the next major milepost of the 2012 season, the non-waiver trading deadline of July 31.
After years of being dominated by the junior circuit, the National League has now won three All Star games in a row, giving the NL representative in the World Series the home field advantage. That proved to be an advantage last season when St. Louis won Game 7 at home over Texas to win the Fall Classic.
Over the next two weeks teams will have to decide if they are contenders and will look to strengthen their rosters or if they will start looking toward 2013 and trade away players, likely for prospects and other young players to help down the road.
In the American League 11 of the 14 teams have winning records and can think of themselves as contenders. Amazingly, nearly 90 games into the season, the 11 teams are all within 1½ games of a playoff spot. The New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Texas are Division leaders.
The Los Angeles Angels currently hold the first AL Wild Card with Baltimore, at 46-42, holding the new second Wild Card berth. Detroit, Tampa Bay and Oakland are each just a half game behind the Orioles. Cleveland is one game behind the Birds and both Boston and Toronto are 1½ back.
Only Kansas City, Minnesota and Seattle are hopelessly out of contention and all three are building solid foundations for the next few seasons.
Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco are the National League Division leaders with Atlanta and Pittsburgh tied for the two NL Wild Cards. Six other teams are within seven games of the Wild Card leaders with the Los Angeles Dodgers just two back. St. Louis and the New York Mets are 3½ out while Arizona, Miami and Milwaukee are each seven out, albeit with losing records.
Despite taking 2 of 3 in Colorado over the weekend, Philadelphia is 11 games out of a Wild Card berth. Rumors continue to gain momentum that the Phils are listening to offers for pitcher Cole Hamels and outfielder Shane Victorino.
After a midweek series at the Dodgers, the Phils return home to host San Francisco and Milwaukee before heading to Atlanta to close out July. On July 31 the Phils open a series at Washington and their roster for that series opener could have a distinctively different look than it does today.
A major distinction between wagering on baseball versus football and basketball betting is that the latter two sports use point spreads to level the playing field. Baseball uses the money line.
What this means is that in baseball the goal of the team is the same as that of the bettor – to just win the game regardless of margin. In football and basketball the teams are content to win by even a single point. For the bettor this is fine if you are playing the underdog or the game is a pick’ em and you have backed the winner.
But a certain percentage of the time the straight up result of a football or basketball game is not the same as the betting result. This occurs when the favored team wins the game but fails to cover the point spread.
In football, for example, NFL teams win and cover roughly 83 percent of the time, meaning that in about 17 percent of the games the favored team wins but by less than the point spread or in a push.
A concept similar to the point spread is available for betting on baseball – the run line. It is a fairly simple and straightforward concept which, in its most basic form, allows you to wager on the favored team to win by at least 2 in return for either a more favorable payout or by assuming less risk.
That is, by “laying a run and a half” you can often convert a favorite into an underdog or reduce the price you must lay on the favorite.
Because the road team is guaranteed to bat in all nine innings the adjustment is less in games when the road team is favored than it is when the home team is favored. If the home team is ahead after the road team bats in the top of the ninth the game is over and that home team has had one less chance to put runs on the board.
Hence, the adjustment will be greater to back the home team when laying the run line.
Conversely, bettors have the option of taking the underdog plus a run an a half in which case they will assume greater risk or accept a lower payback than in backing the underdog to simply win the game.
As an example, a home team favored by -130 might be +160 on the run line, laying the run and a half. A road favorite of -130 might be +125 on the run line.
On the other side of such games the +120 road underdog might be priced at minus 180 if you wish to take the run and a half. The home underdog of +120 might be only -145 to take the 1½.
In next week’s column, data from more than 50,000 games played over more than 20 seasons will be shared that will look at the implications of playing the run line.
Here’s a look at four series of interest this weekend.
Braves at Nats: The Nationals have won 6 of 8 games between the teams. The road club is 6-2. The OVER is 5-2-1. Pitching continues to be the strength of the Nats with Stephen Strasburg, Geo Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and even Edwin Jackson all fashioning fine seasons. The first three each have ERAs under 3 and WHIPs of 1.11 or less.
• Nats -140 or less with Gonzalez, Strasburg or Zimmermann.
• Nats -120 or less in other starts.
• Braves +150 or more in any matchup.
• UNDER 8 or higher.
Dodgers at Mets: In their only prior series the Mets took 3 of 4 games in Los Angeles The OVER is 2-2. The Mets’ offense has been a run per game less productive at home than on the road, averaging 4.1 runs per game at Citi Field.
• Dodgers +140 or more in any matchup.
• Dodgers -120 or less in a start by Kershaw.
• Mets -130 or less in starts by Dickey, Niese or Santana except against Kershaw.
• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.
• UNDER 7 or higher if either the Dodgers’ Kershaw or the Mets’ Dickey starts.
White Sox at Tigers: The AL Central rivals have split their first 8. The UNDER is 5-3.
• White Sox as underdogs of any price in starts by Peavy, Quintana or Sale against any Detroit starter. Price must be +125 or more against Verlander.
• Tigers -140 or less with Scherzer or Rick Porcello against other Chicago starters.
• UNDER 8 or higher if Verlander or Scherzer oppose Peavy, Quintana or Sale.
• OVER 9 or lower if none of those five starters is involved
Rangers at Angels: The home team has taken 2 of 3 games in their first two series. The OVER is 3-3. Pitching edge is with the Angels.
• Rangers +140 or more against Weaver or Wilson.
• Rangers -125 or less in starts by Harrison or Lewis not facing Weaver or Wilson.
• Angels -130 or less not facing Harrison or Lewis.
• UNDER 7½ or higher if Wilson or Weaver opposes Harrison or Lewis.
• OVER 8 or lower if Weaver, Wilson, Harrison or Lewis is not involved.