Pitchers over hitters

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Playing the ‘Under’ still shows profit

The 2010 season continues to be marked by some outstanding pitching performances.

Back on April 17, Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez served notice that he is capable of winning a Cy Young Award this season when he tossed a no hitter in Atlanta. As an indication that Jimenez’ performance was no fluke, the young right-hander has made a total of 10 starts this season and in his 711/3 innings pitched, his ERA is a miniscule 0.88 with a WHIP of 0.93. He has yet to last fewer than 6 innings in any start and has yet to allow more than 2 runs in any outing.

As spectacular as Jimenez has been, his no hit gem in Atlanta is only the third best pitching performance of the still young season. Three weeks ago Oakland lefty Dallas Braden not only tossed a no hitter in a 4-0 win over Tampa Bay, the team with baseball’s best record (34-17), his was a perfect game.

Braden’s feat was matched this past Saturday night in Florida when Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay threw a perfect game at the Marlins. Considered one of the best pitchers of the current era, Halladay finished what he was unable to do in just his second major league start back on Sept.27, 1998 when he had a no hitter for eight and two thirds innings before surrendering a home run to Detroit’s Bobby Higginson.

These pitching heroics might give you the impression that offense is down thus far in 2010. And you would be correct. Scoring is two thirds of a run less through this same point in the season last year. Through May of 2009 the average game produced 9.61 total runs. Through this past Sunday 2010’s games were averaging a total of just 8.94 runs.

The Linesmakers have noted this drop in scoring as well and although UNDERs outnumber OVERs this season, the difference is not as great as one might suspect.

Through Sunday, 343 games have gone OVER the Total with 368 staying UNDER and 40 PUSHing the Total, using the closing lines at the Las Vegas Hilton.

The net of 25 more UNDERs than OVERs is not a huge increase from last season as in 2009 there were 3 more UNDERs than OVERs through the end of May.

One thing we’ve seen this season is a handful of Total lines below 7 which has historically been the lowest total posted for the past decade. In 2009 there were just 14 games all season with a Total lower than 7 and those were all in the National League and the Total in each game was 6.5.

Thus far in 2010 there have already been 16 games with a Total under 7 (14 at 6.5 and two at 6.0). Eleven of those games have been in the National League and 5 have been American League contests in which each team has the use of the designated hitter. Four of the 5 AL games have gone OVER the Total but of the 11 low Total National League games 7 have stayed UNDER. Six of the 7 have produced total runs of 4 or less.

And as if to add an explanation point to the low scoring games of the first third of the season, as we go to press on Memorial Day the Las Vegas Hilton and the Cal Neva properties – along with some offshore sites – have posted a total on the Colorado/San Francisco matchup between Jimenez and two time Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum at 5½!

While this may not be conclusive proof that the steroids era is clearly behind us there certainly is reason to believe there is perhaps at least a slight connection.

The season is one third complete but the events of the first two months of the season are worth keeping in mind as the remainder of the season plays out.

Here’s a look at four series this weekend.

San Diego at Philadelphia: These teams meet for the first time this season and both are Division leaders on Memorial Day. Jon Garland, Mat Latos and Clayton Richard have been as solid a trio as there is in the league. The Phillies’ pitching is led by ace Roy Halladay and a pair of lefties, Cole Hamels and the ageless Jamie Moyer, have also pitched well. If the Phillies’ bats did not wake up during their midweek series in Atlanta they could be challenged by the gritty Padres pitching here.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in a start by Halladay against any San Diego starter; Padres as underdogs of plus 150 or more against other than Halladay; Phillies as favorites of minus 150 or less in starts by Hamels or Moyer

Atlanta at Los Angeles Dodgers: This is their first meeting this season. Both teams have long been noted for excellent pitching but only three starters have fared well thus far – Atlanta’s Tim Hudson and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and John Ely. Otherwise the starting pitching for both teams have been below average. Both offenses have been fairly productive with the Dodgers’ averaging the same 4.9 runs per game both at home and on the road. Atlanta is more typical, averaging a run more at home than on the road. Long noted as being a pitchers’ park, Dodgers home games this season are averaging 9.7 runs and have produced 14 OVERs, 8 UNDERs and a PUSH.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: OVER Totals of 7 or lower in any matchups; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Hudson opposes Ely or Kershaw; Dodgers as favorites of minus 140 or less against other than Hudson.

New York Yankees at Toronto: These Division rivals are meeting for the first time in 2010 with the Yankees starting the week just one game ahead of the surprising Blue Jays as both chase Tampa Bay. The Yankees have the best balanced roster in all of baseball and have played well despite numerous injuries affecting both their offense and their pitching. The Yanks’ rotation has been exceptional but for Javier Vazquez who continues to struggle despite showing occasional signs of turning things around.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Toronto as Underdogs of plus 150 or more against the Yanks’ CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett or Phil Hughes or as underdogs of plus 125 or more in starts by Brett Cecil, Shaun Marcum or Ricky Romero; UNDER Totals of 9 in starts by Cecil, Marcum or Romero against other than Vazquez; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if Vazquez faces any other Toronto starter.

Tampa Bay at Texas: This is the first meeting of the Rays and Rangers this season. Tampa starts the week atop the AL East with baseball’s best record while Texas has slipped a half game behind Oakland in the AL West after being swept last weekend in Minnesota. The Rays have cooled a bit following their torrid start to the season but begin the week with a 19-5 road record. Both lineups are well balanced and although Tampa’s pitching has received more accolades the improvement in the Rangers’ hurlers is noticeable.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Tampa Bay as underdogs in any matchup or if favored by minus 130 or less in starts by Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann or David Price; Texas as underdogs of plus 125 or more in starts by Colby Lewis or C.J. Wilson; OVER Totals of 8 or lower in any matchup; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if Tampa’s Wade Davis or James Shields opposes Texas’ Rich Harden or Scott Feldman.


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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