Red Sox’ David Ortiz hit 450th career homer Sunday

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For all intents and purposes the baseball season has reached the mathematical halfway point. Teams have played between 78 games (Detroit) and 84 games (5 teams) of the 162 game regular season schedule.

At the halfway point of the season only two teams have won at least 60 percent of its games, led by Oakland. The Athletics have the best record in baseball, 51-30, and lead the AL West by 5.5 games over the second place Los Angeles Angels.

At 45-35 the Angels would be in the lead in the AL East and tied with Detroit for first in the AL Central. The third place team in the AL West, Seattle, currently holds the second AL Wild Card with a 44-38 record.

Over the next month teams will decide if they are going to be buyers or sellers as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches at the end of July. Through this past Sunday no team in either league was more than 10 games out of the Wild Card, another indication of the parity that exists this season.

The most contentious race, in terms of the number of teams involved, is in the AL East where Toronto, Baltimore and the New York Yankees each start the week with an identical number of losses (39). Toronto leads the division with 45 wins, followed by Baltimore (42) and the Yankees (41).

Two races are extremely tight in the NL with the top two teams in the East starting the week separated by just a half game and the West featuring a tie atop the division.

After leading the NL West for much of the season, and having baseball’s best record just a few weeks ago, San Francisco has been in a major slump. There have been a pair of series in which the Giants were swept at home within the past month, losing three home games to Colorado in mid-June and four at home this past weekend to Cincinnati.

Overall, the Giants are 4-15 since June 9. In their last 19 games the Los Angeles Dodgers are 13-6, erasing that 9 game gap and tied atop the division. Third place Colorado started this week 10 games behind the Dodgers and Giants.

Atlanta, fresh off its first 4 game series sweep in Philadelphia since 1964 (when the Braves were based in Milwaukee), starts this week a half game ahead of Washington in the NL East.

That leaves the NL Central. Milwaukee continues to enjoy the biggest lead of any Division leader, 6.5 games over both Cincinnati and St. Louis. The Brewers have the best record in the senior circuit, 51-33.

Two weeks remain until the nnual All Star break with this season’s festivities taking place in Minnesota including the All Star game at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15.

In recent seasons the number of betting options has increased significantly virtually across the board for the major sports. In game wagering has become almost a staple at most Las Vegas sports books in the major sports. In baseball the First 5 Innings wager – sides and totals – has also become pretty standard.

One wager that has been around for many years has been the baseball run line.

In such a wager the bettor turns a baseball wager into something similar to a pointspread wager such as used in basketball and football.

Simply explained, when you lay the run and a half your team must win the game by 2 runs or more. When you take the run and a half your team must either win the game or lose the game by exactly one run.

In the vast majority of cases laying the run and a half will convert a favored team into an underdog whereas taking the run and a half usually involves converting a plus price into a favored price.

As an example, a home favorite of -135 to win the game straight up might be priced at +145 to win by two runs or more. In that same game the road underdog, priced at +125 to win the game straight up, would be -165 to either win straight up or lose by exactly 1 run.

In the case of a road favorite priced at -135 to win straight up, the run line price to win by 2 runs or more would be in the vicinity of +125. The home underdog in this game, priced at +125 to win straight up, might be priced at -145.

You can see that there is often a 20 cents line applied to the run line as compared to the 10 cents line for the straight wager. The 20 cent gap between the lay and take for the run line generally remains constant even as the straight price on the game rises to points at which the gap between the take and lay rises above the 10 cents gap that generally remains in place up through lines of -160 or less.

The reason for the difference in why similarly priced favorites are treated differently when it comes to the run line vis-à-vis home vs. road is quite simple.

The home team is priced more attractively on the run line because the home team often does not get to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning (when it has the lead after the top of the ninth and the game ends) and because of the high percentage of the time that a home team win in extra innings is just by a single run (the exception to the one run extra inning win occurs when the final play is a multi run home run).

There is a wide difference of opinion as to whether it is better to take the run and a half with the underdog or to lay the run and a half with the favorites. There are many advocates on each side of the debate and each camp has valid arguments.

Of course, each game must be analyzed on its own strengths. A game with a low total, especially at National League venues where pitchers do not bat, might lend itself to more of a pitcher’s duel, increasing the likelihood of a one run game.

Games at Coors Field in Denver or at Fenway Park in Boston with high Totals might be more likely to produce a one sided game.

In next week’s column a look at the statistics will attempt to shed some light on how to approach the decision of making a play on the run line.

Here’s a look at four series to be played over the Independence Day weekend.

Giants at Padres: San Diego has won 5 of 9 games against the Giants this season. As might be expected the games have been low scoring, producing a 6-2-1 edge for the UNDER. The two NL West rivals have averaged a combined 6.0 runs per game.

This similarly handicaps as a low scoring series. The Padres’ offense is on pace to be one of the worst in the past 100 years. San Diego is averaging 3.0 runs per game at home (2.9 rpg on the road). The Giants are actually close to the MLB average and does average more rpg on the road than at home (4.3 vs. 3.8).

The Giants’ bats have been silent over the past few weeks and, in their recent home stand, scored a total of 12 runs in 7 games. Earlier this season the Giants had a stretch of 8 games in which they tallied just 15 runs.

The Giants’ two most effective starters have been Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson. With Andrew Cashner currently sidelined the Padres’ most effective starters are Tyson Ross and Jesse Hahn. The lightly tested Hahn has pitched very well in 3 of his 4 starts. 

Plays: UNDER 7 or higher in all matchups; UNDER 3.5 for the first 5 innings in starts by Bumgarner or Hudson against any San Diego starter; San Diego +140 or more against Hudson or Bumgarner; San Francisco +120 or more in any matchup.

Brewers at Reds: Cincinnati has won 5 of the 7 games between these teams, outscoring the Brewers 39 to 23. In averaging 8.9 total runs per game the 7 games has the OVER with a 4-3 margin. The Reds start the week 6.5 games behind the Brewers, tied with St Louis for second place. 

A continuation of Cincy’s success against Milwaukee would enable the Reds to further close the gap as the Reds are playing their best baseball of the season. Milwaukee leads the NL in road scoring, averaging 4.9 runs per game. Cincinnati is averaging just 3.9 rpg at home. Both teams have gotten solid pitching all season from their starting rotation and the bullpen. Cincinnati’s top starters have been Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon. 

Cueto is more of a power pitcher but Simon has been sneaky effective – the Reds have won 13 of his 16 starts. Veteran Kyle Lohse has been Milwaukee’s most effective starter and the Brewers have won 13 of his 17 starts. All 5 starters have WHIPs below 1.30 although Marco Estrada has been struggling in recent weeks. 

Plays: OVER 8 or lower in starts not involving Cueto, Simon or Lohse; UNDER 7 or higher in starts by Cueto, Simon or Mat Latos against the Brewers’ Lohse or Yovani Gallardo; Cincinnati as underdogs of any price in starts by Cueto, Simon or Latos against any Milwaukee starter; Milwaukee -125 or less in starts by Gallardo or Lohse not facing Cueto, Latos or Simon.

Blue Jays at A’s: This is a four game series that starts Thursday. In their only prior series this season Toronto swept a three game home series in late May. It was a competitive series as the Blue Jays outscored the Athletics 11 to 5 as all three games stayed UNDER the total.

Oakland starts the week 51-30, the best record in baseball. Toronto has been in a major slump since early June, losing 15 of its last 22 games. The slump began when the Blue Jays were shut out in back to back home games against St. Louis. That slump has enabled Baltimore and New York to make up nearly a half dozen games in the standings in just three weeks in the AL East. 

Oakland just continues to win despite the absence of top tier talent. Over the same three week period the Athletics were 14-8. The As pitching staff has been led by Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Jess Chavez – none of whom has been outstanding but all of whom have posted solid stats and the As are 35-13 in their combined 48 starts. 

Toronto’s early season success was keyed by the brilliant pitching of veteran lefty Mark Buehrle. But Buehrle has been just average over the past month. A bright spot in the Blue Jays rotation has been the performance of Marcus Stroman. The rookie has been impressive in his first half dozen starts, posting a 2.47 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while averaging over 6 innings per start.

Both offenses are above average with Oakland averaging an American League best 5.1 runs per game at home. The Blue Jays are averaging 4.5 rpg on the road. Despite its long reputation as a pitchers park, The OVER is 21-17-1 in Oakland’s home games this season. 

Plays: Toronto as underdogs of any price in starts by Buehrle or Stroman not facing Gray, Kazmir or Chavez. Toronto +125 or more in starts by Buehrle or Stroman not facing that Oakland trio; Oakland -130 or less with any starter not opposing Buehrle or Stroman; OVER 7 or lower in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher in matchups of Buehrle or Stroman against Chavez, Gray or Kazmir.

Royals at Indians: The teams have split six games this season although the home team has won 5 of the 6 with the Indians and Royals having played a four game series in Cleveland in late April and a two game series in KC in early June. The six games have produced 3 OVERS and 3 UNDERS with the teams averaging 8.3 total runs per game. 

The Royals started the week second in the AL Central, 3.5 game behind first place Detroit and 3 games ahead of the third place Indians. Both teams figure to be in the playoff chase throughout the summer and each is more likely to be a buyer rather than a seller as the trade deadline approaches at the end of July. 

Cleveland has the better balanced offense in terms of home vs. road performance and is slightly better than the MLB average. The Royals have been less productive overall at the plate but are averaging a solid 4.6 runs per game on the road compared to just 3.7 rpg at home. Neither team has a true ace. 

Kansas City’s rotation is pretty solid and well balanced with no current starter’s ERA above 3.80 or WHIP above 1.30. Danny Duffy has put up the best stats although James Shields is still looked upon as the number one starter. Corey Kluber has clearly been Cleveland’s best starters with Josh Tomlin next best and after whom there is a significant drop off. 

Plays: Kansas City with any starter +140 or more against Kluber; KC +120 or more not facing Kluber; Cleveland -130 or less in a start by Kluber against any Kansas City starter; OVER 7.5 or higher in matchups not involving Kluber or Kansas City’s Yordano Ventura (who is 10-5 to the UNDER).

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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