MLB season too young to make real conclusions

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The season is almost one month old and teams have played in the neighborhood of about 25 games. That’s still too small of a sample to draw any meaningful conclusions about teams, aside from noting which have suffered significant injuries or, at the same time, those that have remained injury free.

As is always the case, there are teams off to surprisingly good starts or quite disappointing ones. As indicated last week, the first true milepost of the season is Memorial Day, by which time teams will have played a bit more than a quarter of the season and more accurate assessments can be made.

One topic that always draws interest in the world of betting baseball is that of wagering on the run line.

A run line wager is akin to point spread wagering in basketball or football. Of course with baseball such a low scoring sport, the use of point spread-like lines is generally limited. The most frequent type of run line wager involves laying or taking a run and a half.

Some sports books will occasionally offer a 2-1/2 run line but that is extremely rare. By far the greatest use of the run line involves just the 1-1/2 variety.

A simple example will illustrate how the run line works. Let’s say St. Louis is at home and favored against Pittsburgh. The “normal” line will depend upon the difference in perceived quality of the teams and, most importantly, the starting pitchers. Let’s assume the Cardinals are -160 favorites and the Pirates are priced at +150.

The typical way of betting this game would be to either lay the -160 with St. Louis or take the +150 with the Pirates. Whichever team wins the game, by whatever score, determines the winner of the wager.

Suppose you want the Cardinals but either don’t like laying the hefty -160 or think St. Louis is so much better in this matchup they will win by two runs or more. Perhaps both apply.

Perhaps you think St. Louis is the better team but not that much superior and the Pirates are in a situation that suggests a very tight game, perhaps one decided by just a single run either way.

St. Louis supporters have the option of laying 1-1/2 at an adjusted, more favorable price, than laying the standard -160. Pirates backers can take the 1-1/2 but at a cost more onerous than the plus price such backers would get if the Bucs win the game outright.

In effect, the Pirate backers are buying insurance, cashing their bets not just if the Pirates actually win the game but even if they lose by just a single run as is often the case in a pitchers’ duel or, more often, in a game that goes into extra innings.

As to the price adjustment benefitting the bettors who lay the run and a half to back the favored team, and the price sacrifice required of those who play the underdog taking the 1-1/2? That topic shall be discussed next week along with some mathematics regarding the taking or laying of 1-1/2.

Let’s just say laying the 1-1/2 is a nice way to convert a favorite into an underdog and vice versa. But how does this comport with recent history? That’s a vital question to be introduced next week.

Here are four series of note to be played this weekend.

Mets at Braves: Atlanta has played very well over the first month of the season although they’ve faded a bit over the past 10 days or so, including losing all three games of a weekend series in Detroit. The Mets also begin the week in a slump, losers of four straight including being swept at home in a three game series by Division rival Philadelphia.

The Braves still have one of baseball’s best bullpens whereas the Mets have one of the worst. The Braves have the better offense and the better, and certainly deeper, starting rotation although the best starter in this series may well be the Mets’ Matt Harvey. New York has been in a hitting slump and will face a tough task in Atlanta in what shapes up as a low scoring series.

Recommended plays:

• Mets as underdogs of any price in a start by Harvey or +130 or more in a start by Jonathan Niese.

• Braves -150 or less not facing Harvey or Niese.

• UNDER 7 or higher in starts by Harvey or Niese against any Atlanta starter other than Julio Teheran.

• OVER 8 or lower if Teheran starts against other than Harvey or Niese.

Dodgers at Giants: These long time rivals opened the season against one another with the Giants taking 2 of 3 in Los Angeles. Each team won one game via shutout and the teams scored a total of just 15 runs as 2 of the 3 games stayed UNDER the Total. The Dodgers’ rotation has been hit by injury as both Zack Greinke and Chad Billingsley are sidelined. The Giants’ starters have been roughed up as both Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong off to a tough starts.

Madison Bumgarner has started strongly with both Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum also posting solid stats in the early going. The Dodgers’ offense has been less productive than expected and the Giants have not fared much better. It’s still early and thing will turn around for both lineups but the pitching, aside from Bumgarner and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, are concerns.

Recommended plays:

• Dodgers +125 or more in most matchups.

• Dodgers +140 or more against Bumgarner.

• Dodgers -120 or less in a start by Kershaw against any Giants starter.

• Giants -125 or less not facing Kershaw.

• UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup.

A’s at Yankees: Both teams have played better than expected and for different reasons. Oakland entered the season faced with questions as to whether they could replicate their outstanding 2012 season when everything seemed to break right. The Yankees started the season with many of their key players injured and on the DL, some for extended periods. Yet Oakland is off to a fine 14-12 start and the Yanks have gone 15-9 thus far.

Oakland has gotten better than expected offense while two of their starting pitchers, Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker, have really struggled. New York has gotten fine starting pitching with the team’s top trio of CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda each posting early season ERAs of under 3.50 and WHIPs below 1.25. The Yanks are 11-4 in their starts. AJ Griffin and Tommy Milone have been the best Oakland starters although neither has been as statistically effective as have that Yankees trio.

Recommended plays:

• Yankees -120 or less in starts by Sabathia, Pettitte or Kuroda.

• A’s -120 or less, or as underdogs against other Yankees starters.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Sabathia, Pettitte or Kuroda oppose Griffin or Milone.

• OVER 7.5 or lower if none of the five named pitchers is involved.

Orioles at Angels: This is a four game series that begins on Thursday and does so with likely increased pressure on Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia to turn things around in a hurry. After hefty spending to add talent in each of the past two off seasons, on field production has yet to have been delivered to any meaningful degree and often the manager ends up paying the price for underperformance.

Scioscia has built up goodwill with Angels ownership and the fan base but the patience of both may be wearing thin. It’s been over a decade since the skipper directed the Halos to their lone World Series title. The Angels start the week following their losing 3 of 4 games at Division rival Seattle to stand 9-15.

WY Chen and Jason Hammel have been the Orioles’ most effective starters with a significant dropoff thereafter. Angels’ ace Jered Weaver is injured and on the DL with no other starter picking up the slack with only Garrett Richards, in 3 starts, averaging more than 6 innings per start, posting an ERA under 4.00 and with a WHIP below 1.35 (his is an excellent 0.94 in just under 21 innings).

Recommended plays:

• OVER 8 or lower in any matchup except if Chen or Hammel oppose Richards in which case UNDER 7.5 or higher is playable.

• Orioles +125 in any matchup or of any price in starts by Chen or Hammel.

• Angels -125 or less not facing Chen or Hammel.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

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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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