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Teams with needs have time to deal

The All Star break has come and gone and there was very little in the way of trade activity over the past week. Rumors outnumber deals on a scale of 10 to one if not more but expect some trades to be consummated within the next week as the July 31 waiver-free deadline approaches.

Seattle’s trade of ace lefty Cliff Lee to Texas remains the biggest trade of the season thus far and may remain such. The names most appearing in rumor talk now are Milwaukee first baseman Prince Fielder and Houston righty ace Roy Oswalt.

The Yankees, late losers in their attempt to secure Lee, may intensify their efforts to gain Oswalt after Andy Pettitte left Sunday’s game against Tampa with a groin injury expected to sideline the lefty for a month to five weeks. Pettitte is having one of the statistically best seasons of his career and his absence could be felt. Despite having the best record in baseball, the Yankees are only three games in front of Tampa Bay and just six and a half in front of Boston. And we know that three teams from one Division cannot make the Playoffs.

Boston being six and a half games back is impressive given the unusually high number of injuries endured by the Red Sox since the start of the season to key players, a number of which have been lengthy. Most notably staff ace Josh Beckett and starting outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury have missed months while Victor Martinez and Dustin Pedroia have been out nearly a month.

Tight races continue in the Central Divisions of both leagues while the leaders of the two West Divisions and the NL East have leads of at least four games. Of course a four game lead means little with nearly 70 games left but all three of those teams – Atlanta, San Diego and Texas – continue to play well despite being considered surprise teams based upon the expectations many held for those teams in spring training.

San Diego’s record of 54-37 is the best in the National League, a half game better than that of Atlanta. The Padres face the toughest challenge to maintain that lead as the next three teams in their Division – Colorado, San Francisco and Los Angeles – are each within five and a half games of the lead. That is the smallest gap between the top four teams in any Division.

As we get deeper and deeper into the season, betting lines become tilted even more towards teams in contention. Whereas two dollar favorites are commonplace almost from the start of April when the best teams in baseball face the weakest, lines approaching, and occasionally exceeding, three dollars start to appear when, for example, a team such as the Yankees plays host to Baltimore. At 29-62 the Orioles have the worst record in baseball and are 29 games behind the Yanks in the AL East. When these teams meet the Yanks are prohibitive favorites in almost all pitching matchups.

The use of the run line has been discussed before whereby rather than laying three to one to back the Yankees to just win the game, you lay considerably less with the requirement that the Yanks win by at least two runs. The offset to laying the run and a half is that a wager on the underdog wins if the dog either wins the game or loses by just a single run.

Some books have even introduced the two and a half run line in which the favored team must win by at least 3 runs for you to collect your wager. Or the dog can either win the game or lose by 1 or 2 runs to cash that ticket.

The spreads between laying a straight price and laying the run and a half will vary with the more attractive price offered for laying a run and a half with a home team versus doing so with a road team. That’s because a home team with a lead (of any amount) after eight and a half innings does not bat in the bottom. A road team always bats in the top of the ninth regardless of the score.

A typical line that has a road team favored by -115 would have that same road team at +135 laying the run and a half (the dog would be -145 at +1½ runs). A home team favored by -115 might be +180 laying the 1½ run.

A two dollar home favorite might be close to even money or pick ‘em laying the run and a half.

Despite the notion of there being so many one run games or games that go into extra innings (most of which are decided by a single run) the number or times teams win by two or more runs might surprise you.

By far and away the Yankees are the 2010 masters of winning by more than one run. Over 84 percent of their wins (49 of 58) have been at least two runs. Three other teams (Detroit, the Mets and Houston) also have over 75 percent of their wins being by two runs or more and three more teams (Tampa Bay, Toronto and San Francisco) are within a percent of 75 percent.

Of course there are other considerations involved. And in some of those wins these teams – generally aside from the Yankees and most often in the case of Houston – were straight underdogs when they won by two runs or more.

But by giving a look at the “run line” when looking to play favorites you will find opportunities to profit more (and risk losing less) by laying the run and a half than by playing that favored team straight.

Keep in mind that the ONLY TIME is it better to have played a favorite straight rather than lay the run and a half is when the favored team WINS BY EXACTLY ONE RUN.

When the favored team wins by 2 runs or more you will often be playing at a plus price and thus collect more than the even money you would collect when laying the straight price. More importantly, when the favored team loses you will often lose more than a unit (or perhaps two units in the case of a two to one favorite) as opposed to often losing just a single unit. It’s when the favored teams wins a one run game that the straight bettor collects while the bettor laying the run and a half loses.

More about the number of one run games next week.

Here’s a look at four series this weekend, all of which are four game series, three of which begin Thursday and one of which is Friday through Monday.

Colorado at Philadelphia: This four game series starts Friday and features two of the best starting pitchers in baseball, Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez and the Phillies’ Roy Halladay. The teams split a pair of games in Colorado in mid May, their only previous 2010 meeting. Overall the Phillies rate the edge in pitching with Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer enjoying better seasons than the Rockies’ Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel. Both teams’ offenses have been fairly average overall but Colorado’s has a stark contrast. While averaging a solid 5.7 runs per game at home, Colorado averages just 3.7 on the road, one of the worst in baseball. And they’ve been shorthanded for more than a month with star Troy Tulowitski. Known as a hitters park since its first season, Philly’s Citizen Bank Park has produced more UNDER (23) than OVERs (18) this season.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Colorado as Underdogs of any price in a start by Jimenez or if favored by -130 or less in a Jimenez start against other than Halladay; Phillies as favorites of -140 or less against other than Jimenez; UNDER Totals of 9½ or higher in any matchup except if the Phillies start Joe Blanton or the Rockies start Jeff Francis; UNDER a Total of 7½ or higher if Jimenez faces Halladay

N. Y. Mets at L. A. Dodgers: This series begins Thursday. In their only prior meeting this season the Mets swept three games at home, outscoring the Dodgers 21-8 and winning each game by at least 4 runs. Two of the three Mets starters from that series – Oliver Perez and John Maine – are no longer on the roster. The third – Johan Santana – is in excellent current form and authored a 4-hit shutout in winning the first game of that series. But the Mets as a team have not played well of late, largely due to the absence of SS Jose Reyes from the lineup once again. It seems that as Reyes goes, so go the Mets. Starting pitcher Mile Pelfrey has also cooled off since his hot April and May. At the same time lefty Jon Niese continues to develop and veteran knuckleball R A Dickey continues to pitch a solid 5 or 6 innings each start. The Dodgers’ Manny Ramirez was banged up over this past weekend after spending time on the DL prior to the All Star break. Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla have been their most effective starters. Dodger Stadium has long been a pitchers park but in 2010 28 games have gone OVER while just 17 have stayed UNDER, in addition to a PUSH.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Mets as Underdogs or if favored by -120 or less in starts by Santana or Niese against any Dodgers starter; Dodgers as underdogs against Pelfrey; UNDER Totals of 7 or higher if the Mets’ Niese or Santana oppose the Dodgers’ Kershaw; OVER Totals of 8 or lower if the Mets’ start other than Niese or Santana and the Dodgers start other than Kershaw or Padilla.

Toronto at Detroi: These teams meet for the first time this season in a series that starts Thursday. Detroit begins the week slumping after being swept at home in a 4 game series by lowly Cleveland to start post-All Star break play. The Tigers have been near or in first place in the AL Central all season but are fighting challenges from both Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox. Toronto pretty much can count on fourth place in the AL East despite playing winning baseball (47-45). Detroit has one of the league’s best offenses – one that is less reliant on power than on timely hitting with the presence of Triple Crown candidate Miguel Cabrera. Toronto also has a potent lineup but the Blue Jays are much more reliant on the big fly, leading all of MLB in homers by a healthy margin (140; second best is 122). Neither staff has a dominant ace although Detroit’s Justin Verlander comes closest despite very modest stats (ERA of 3.86 and WHIP of 1.22). He has been inconsistent much of the season. Statistically Toronto’s best starters have been Shawn Marcum and Ricky Romero but, again, their stats are just ordinary. On the surface this would appear to have the makings of a high scoring series with both bullpens rating out as just average except for the Tigers’ outstanding closer, Jose Valverde who’s been almost unhittable.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Toronto as underdogs of +130 or more in any matchup except against Verlander; Detroit as favorites of up to -150 in a start by Verlander against any Toronto starter; Detroit as favorites or -125 or less in any matchup; OVER Totals of 9 or lower in any matchup except UNDER 8½ or higher if Verlander opposes Marcum or Romero

L. A. Angels at Texas: The top two teams in the AL West square off for four games starting Thursday with a chance for the Angels to narrow the four and a half game gap that existed Monday morning. The home team has won 4 of 5 games this season, including the Angels taking 2 of 3 at home three weeks ago. Texas has the better overall offense that has gotten a major boost from ex-Angel Vladimir Guerrero, whose loss is clearly felt in Anaheim. The Rangers also have a solid starting rotation that was bolstered in the trade two weeks ago for Cliff Lee. CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter give Texas as solid a top four as any team in baseball. Jered Weaver has been the star of the Angels’ rotation with Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro having decent seasons. Both teams have been “Totals Neutral” this season, within a couple of games of .500 both overall and in the home/road splits. Both bullpens rate as slightly above average.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Angels as underdogs of any price in a start by Weaver or if +160 or higher against Lee in a start by other than Weaver; Texas as favorites of -140 or lower against other than Weaver; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Weaver or Santana oppose Lee, Lewis or Wilson; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if Texas’ Scott Feldman faces other than 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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