Pitching has edge

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Thus, run totals still fairly low

Another week, another highlight. This past Sunday saw the nineteenth perfect game in major league history tossed by a most unlikely hurler. Ironically it was a hurler who had been in the news just within the past couple of weeks for an unusual incident involving superstar Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.

Recall a couple of weeks ago when during a game in Oakland between the Yankees and the Athletics A-Rod was blasted by Oakland pitcher Dallas Braden for cutting across the pitcher’s mound when returning to first base after a long foul ball. Braden was livid that Rodriguez had invaded his space and continued to spew forth his disdain over the next couple of weeks when questioned by reporters.

Well, Braden took care of that himself on Sunday as he set down all 27 Rays en route to a 4-0 perfect game victory. In a further bit of irony it was Tampa Bay that was the victim of baseball’s most recent perfect game when they were done in by Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox last summer.

Often early season news is made by teams that have shown unusual offensive exploits in the first month or so of the season. Yet much of the early season’s news concerning offense has centered around the ineptitude of several teams.

No fewer than half a dozen teams are averaging less than 4 runs per game. The weakest of the bunch has been Houston. The Astros are averaging an incredibly minuscule 2.7 runs per game through 31 games, including just 3.0 runs per game at home and 2.1 per game on the road. The concept of Power Ratings is one that is usually associated with the handicapping of football and basketball more so than with baseball. But there are principles that can be applied to baseball that can act in a similar way. While pitching remains the most critical factor in handicapping a baseball team according to most handicappers there are ways to incorporate offense into the handicapping equations as well.

One very simple but effective method in evaluating a team’s offense is by comparing the number of times a team scores 3 runs or less to the times it scores 6 runs or more. Scoring 4 or 5 runs is generally an average performance although the numbers are fractionally higher in the American League and slightly lower in the National.

This concept will be discussed in future weeks with some thoughts on how you might use this as a simplified method of developing Power Ratings.

Here’s a look at four series this weekend.

New York Mets at Florida: The Mets have been one of the more pleasant surprises nearly a fifth of the way into the season despite losing two of three to the Marlins at home to open the season. In fact after dropping 5 of their first 9 home games the Metsies won 9 in a row before losing to the Giants. But they are just 4-8 on the road. Florida has started slowly and starts the week with losing records both at home and on the road. Both teams have decent though not outstanding starting pitching with the Marlins having the better stats due largely to the Mets having control issues. Mike Pelfrey has been the Mets’ most consistent starter with lefty ace Johan Santana off a pair of shaky efforts. The Mets have not scored well on the road, averaging just 3.8 runs per game.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Mets as underdogs in starts by Pelfrey or Santana or if favored by no more than minus 125 in a start by Santana against other than Johnson; Marlins as underdogs of any price against other than Santana or Pelfrey or if favored by no more than minus 150 against Oliver Perez; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Pelfrey or Santana oppose Johnson or Nolasco; OVER Totals of 9 or lower if the Marlins’ Nate Robertson faces other than Santana or Pelfrey or if the Mets’ Perez faces other than Johnson or Nolasco.

Los Angeles Dodgers at San Diego: These Division rivals meet for the first time in 2010 after the Dodgers won 10 of 18 meetings in 2009, of which 11 games stayed UNDER the Total while 7 went OVER. The Padres are off to a surprising 19-12 start considering their season wins total was just around 71. The Dodgers, projected to win 85 games, are struggling at 14-17, largely due to some very poor starting pitching. San Diego has gotten solid efforts thus far from Jon Garland and Wade LeBlanc but the rest of the rotation has been rather ordinary. The Dodgers have the supposedly better offense but their edge over the Padre’s production has not been that great. The fundamentals to date do give the slight pitching edge to San Diego and a similarly slight edge on offense to the Dodgers.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Either team as underdogs of plus 130 more in any matchup except the Dodgers are playable of favorites of up to minus 140 in a start by Kershaw; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher in any matchup; Padres as favorites of minus 125 or less against any Dodger starter other than Kershaw or Kuroda.

Texas at Toronto: Oh what a difference a Division makes! Playing in the AL East Toronto’s 19-14 record has them in third place, four games behind Division leading Tampa Bay. Texas is 18-14 and in first place in the AL West, a game ahead of surprising Oakland. These teams opened the season in Texas with the Blue Jays taking two of three after the teams split 10 games last season. Toronto has had the better balanced offense, averaging a shade under 5 runs per game both at home and on the road. The Jays have also gotten some solid starting pitching thus far. Texas’ bats have not been as potent as expected and they are averaging 5.4 runs at home but just 3.7 on the road, the third greatest disparity in the majors. Converted reliever C J Wilson has been Texas’ best starter and, in fact, has the best stats of any starter on either team.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Texas as Underdogs of any price in starts by Wilson or Colby Lewis except plus at least 125 against Toronto’s Sean Marcum or Brett Cecil; Toronto as favorites of minus 150 or less with any starter against other than Wilson or Lewis; UNDER Totals of 8 or higher if Marcum or Cecil oppose Wilson or Lewis; OVER Totals of 9 or lower in matchups involving none of these four starters

Minnesota at New York Yankees: Entering the week the Yankees had baseball’s second best record while the Twins were third best. But based on last season these teams are not that evenly matched. The Yanks won all seven regular season meetings in 2009 and continued that domination by sweeping the Twins in winning all three games when they met in the ALDS. Seven of their 10 meetings stayed UNDER the Total. Despite being roughed up in his most recent outing lefty Francisco Liriano appears to have reclaimed his spot as Minnesota’s ace while C C Sabathia remains the Yanks’ workhorse.

RECOMMENDED PLAYS: Minnesota as underdogs of plus 160 or more in any matchup; Yankees as favorites of minus 140 or less in any matchup; UNDER Totals of 9 or higher in matchups not involving the Yanks’ Javier Vazquez or Minnesota’s duo of Nick Blackburn or Kevin Slowey.

 

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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