More runs doesn’t necessarily mean more overs

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High-scoring games have become commonplace this season. Many reasons have been given with the most popular or generally accepted theory being that the baseball has a more tightly wound core, the physics of which would result in balls leaving bats with greater velocity and thus traveling further and turning warning-track outs into over-the-fence home runs.

Through this past Sunday 300 teams have scored 10 or more runs in a game which translates to slightly under 10 percent of all individual team scores have been 10 or higher (9.2 percent). This compares to 366 such team scores of 10 or higher for all of 2018, including playoffs (7.4 percent).

In 18 games this season, both teams scored at least 10 runs. This compares to just 16 games for all of last season, again including the playoffs.

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The average game this season has produced a total of 9.7 total runs. For all of 2018 the average was 8.9 runs per game. That’s an increase of nearly one full run per game. Expressed another way, it’s an increase of 9 percent over 2018’s full season results.

You might think that given the above numbers there would have been a significant increase in the number of overs vs. unders. But such has not been the case. At least on a pure ‘raw numbers’ basis.

The linesmakers have actually done an excellent job in balancing overs and unders this season. Through this past Sunday 743 games have gone over the total with 735 staying under and 83 resulting in pushes (using the closing line from the Westgate SuperBook). That’s about as close to 50/50 as you can get.

What the numbers do show is that relative to last season a greater percentage of games have gone over the total.

2018 was a banner season for under players as 1,134 games stayed under the total, 1,211 went over and there were 110 pushes for net, excluding pushes, 77 more unders than overs. Or ignoring pushes, just 48.4 percent of decisions were for the over with 51.6 percent staying under.

Part of the explanation as to why, despite significantly higher scoring, the totals results are so balanced can be found by looking at the lines used for totals. The linesmakers have made adjustments as this high scoring season has unfolded such that the average totals line this far this season is up by half a run vs. last season (9.0 vs. 8.5).

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It will be interesting to see how totals play out over the balance of the season. The public loves to bet the over while professionals generally look to the under, especially when we’ve seen such significant adjustments made to the line combined with all of the attention that is being paid to those high scoring games — attention that is often reflected at the betting windows.

Thus it would not be surprising if over the balance of the season — roughly the next two months plus the playoffs — if we see more unders than overs.

Even though totals results are essentially 50/50 thus far, should the end-of-season results show more unders than overs it could be considered an indication of the public lagging behind the linesmakers in terms of making in-season adjustments.

Here are thoughts on three key series this weekend.

Brewers at Cubs: The Brewers have won five of nine meetings this season including taking two of three from the Cubs at home last weekend.

Overall the home team has taken six of nine. Their first two games went over the total but the following six all stayed under before last Sunday’s series finale went over. Combined the teams have averaged 10.4 runs per game in their meetings.

Milwaukee has starting pitching woes so severe that on Monday they traded for Pittsburgh’s Jordan Lyles. Both Jhoulys Chacin and Brandon Woodruff are sidelined for perhaps much, if not all of August.

The Cubs are in much better shape with Cole Hamels, who has been sidelined since late June, possibly returning this weekend. Yu Darvish is pitching his best baseball of the season and both Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks have pitched much better at home than on the road.

The preferred plays will be to back the Cubs in starts by Darvish, Hamels, Hendricks or Lester at -150 or less. The spot to back Milwaukee would be if they oppose any other Cubs starter and are the underdog.

As to totals tendencies note that Hendricks’ starts are 13-5-1 to the under and Milwaukee’s Zach Davies starts are 13-7-2 to the under and Gio Gonzalez is 7-1 to the under.

Red Sox at Yankees: After dropping six of seven against the Yankees this season, including a pair in London, Boston took three of four games last weekend in their first series this season at Fenway Park.

This weekend’s four-game series includes a Saturday day/night doubleheader. Totals players may have noticed the unusual totals results. After their first four meetings each stayed under the total the last seven have all gone over. And this series may be more likely to feature higher rather than lower-scoring games as Boston’s offense has been explosive lately.

In their 23 July games through Sunday the Sox averaged 7.1 runs per game. As was true last week, this series carried more importance to Boston which trailed New York by 10 games in the loss column entering play Tuesday. The Sox are also in the mix for a Wild Card, a game out of the second berth.

Both teams have starting pitching issues that, as of press time, had not been addressed as the trade deadline loomed nearly 24 hours later. Neither team has a starter who has averaged six innings per start or more. And that includes Chris Sale, Davis Price, Domingo German and Masahiro Tanaka.

The preferred play will be on the total, looking over totals of 5.5 or lower for the first five innings and/or over 11.5 or less for the full game. Either team as an underdog of +140 or more is also worthy of consideration but if the Yanks are underdogs against Sale they may be played at +120 or more.

Cardinals at Athletics: This is an unusual two-game weekend series with no game on Friday. It is also a rematch of a two- game series played in St. Louis in late June in which Oakland swept as nicely priced road underdogs.

St. Louis is in the thick of the NL Central race, entering Tuesday’s play tied with the Cubs for first place They’re also tied for the second NL Wild Card.

Neither team has a strong rotation as neither has what can be considered a true ace. Oakland’s best starters have been Mike Fiers and Brett Anderson. It’s hard to argue for any Cardinal starter being their best starter although Dakota Hudson has been the most profitable as the Cards are 14-7 in his starts and Hudson’s backers are up 7.15 units for the season.

Both teams have above average bullpens so there is reason to consider playing over the total for the first five innings using 4 as the guideline total. With the Cardinals playing better than they were in the first series, each team would make for an attractive underdog at +125 or more.

 

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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