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To say the start of the 2012 baseball season was most interesting is quite the understatement.

If one were to learn that of New York’s two teams, one was unbeaten and one was winless the reaction would be something along the lines of “same old Yankees, same old Mets.”

Only this would be the bizarro world as it was the Mets who started perfect with a three-game home sweep of Division rival Atlanta. The Yankees, playing at Division rival Tampa Bay, were swept by the Rays.

Joining the Rays and Mets in opening the 2012 regular season with series sweeps were Arizona, Baltimore and Detroit.

And still seeking their first wins of the season, in addition to the Yankees and Braves, are Boston, Minnesota and San Francisco.

The start of the season seemed to suggest we might see some very low scoring, at least in the first few weeks. Isolated games always receive undue attention.

The fact that the two games played between Oakland and Seattle in Tokyo resulted in 3-1 and 4-1 finals, followed by the more “traditional” opening game between Miami and St Louis, also resulting a 4-1 final, stayed well under the totals gave credence to that perception.

When Thursday produced a pair of 1-0 games and a 2-1 game the questions immediately arose as to why so many offenses struggled.

But by the end of the first weekend OVERS actually outpaced UNDERS 26-21, with one push. So although the scarcity of scoring received a lot of attention over the first few days of the season, in reality an average of 8.4 runs per game have been scored.

Perceptions often last well into the future until such time as we witness a dramatic “occurrence” like several teams scoring double digit runs in consecutive games, at which point the focus of the commentators will turn to the proliferation of offense.

It’s way too early to celebrate the early season success of teams considered to be cellar dwellers just as it is premature to panic due to the struggles of teams thought to be contenders.

At the same time it is worth noting which of the contending teams’ concerns seemingly are legitimate. Certainly Boston’s pitching woes, albeit just one series, are not a surprise. It’s how these teams address these concerns that will be worth following and assessing.

One of the keys to successful handicapping in baseball is in looking to play on underdogs. If you go just 50/50 on your wagers and all of those wagers are on underdogs you will show a healthy profit.

One of the attractive aspects of betting on baseball as opposed to betting on basketball or football is your goal is the same as the team’s goal. Just win the game and you cash the ticket.

Run lines, to be discussed in an upcoming column, are an exception to this and are more akin to point spread wagering. But the bulk of baseball wagering involves just picking the straight up winner of the game with the chances of a team being successful reflected in the price one must lay on the favorite or take with the underdog.

In following this line of thinking:

• It’s often a good strategy to play on the weakest teams in baseball when they have their best pitcher on the mound.

• Play against the better teams in baseball when they trot their fourth and fifth starters to the mound.

Of course, each game must be analyzed on its own merits but keep in mind the best team in baseball is likely to lose 60 games this season, with most of those losses as a favorite. The worst teams in baseball are likely to win at least 60 games with most of those wins coming as underdogs.

This weekend

Mets at Phillies: Despite the wide gap in the standings last season the Phillies were just 11-7 against the bitter rivals. The Phils have a solid edge in the starting rotation although Johan Santana showed signs all spring and in his opening effort that he is recovered from the injury that cost him the entire 2011 season.

Dillon Gee and R A Dickey have been decent but the Mets’ staff is no match for the Phillies’ Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Vance Worley. The Mets might actually have the better offense with both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley sidelined for the Phils.

Daniel Murphy and Lucas Dude have shown promise for the Mets and David Wright had a strong series against the Braves and should benefit from the fences having been brought in during the off season. And Ike Davis is likely to not repeat his 0 for 11 performance to open the season.

Potential plays:

• Mets +150 or more against Halladay, Hamels, Lee or Worley.

• Mets -140 or less against any other starter.

• Phillies -130 or less in starts by those top four starters.

• UNDER 9 or less in any matchup.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Philly’s top four starters face Santana or Dickey.

D’backs at Rockies: Arizona picked up where it left off last season with a three-game sweep of rival San Francisco although the top of their rotation, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, were rather average in their first starts. Colorado dropped two of three in Houston as the Rockies’ potent offense had little success.

Arizona does have the overall edge in pitching, a fact perhaps best illustrated by 49-year-old Jamie Moyer being Colorado’s number two starter. Both teams have plenty of offense and this series should feature plenty of runs. Arizona won 13 of 18 meetings in 2011.

Once teams get into a rhythm, Colorado should make for a solid OVER play this season with the power of Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez needed to bail out much of their below average pitching.

Potential plays:

•Arizona -125 or less in starts by Kennedy or Hudson.

• Colorado -140 or less not facing Kennedy or Hudson.

• OVER 10 or less in any matchup.

Angels at Yankees: Both teams are considered virtual certainties to make the Playoffs this season but neither got off to a good start in their opening series. The Yankees lost all three games in Tampa Bay while the Angels dropped two of three at home to Kansas City.

This is the Yanks’ first home series after midweek games at unbeaten Division rival Baltimore. With the exception of the Angels’ Jered Weaver, both teams’ starting pitching was hit hard in their opening series and the bullpens provided very little in the way of relief.

The Yankees did show some signs of life at the plate but the Angels’ bats were held in check by what’s considered a below average KC pitching staff. Their offense is much better than it showed and should have more success in hitter friendly Yankee Stadium.

Potential plays:

• Angels -125 or less in a start by Weaver against any Yankees starter.

• Angels as underdogs of any price in a start by Dan Hared against any New York starter.

• Yankees -140 or less not facing Weaver or Haren.

• OVER 9 or lower in games not involving Weaver or Haren.

Rays at Red Sox: These two rivals meet for a four-game series that ends Monday. Tampa Bay played a crucial role in Boston’s collapse last season by taking six of their seven September meetings.

Both teams’ momentum carried over to the first series of 2012 as the Rays swept three games from the Yankees while Boston dropped three games in Detroit, including the series finale when the Sox were unable to hold a 3-run lead in the ninth and then a 2-run lead in extra innings.

Boston’s concern entering the season was the depth of their pitching and it certainly was an issue against the Tigers. Pitching is Tampa’s strength and the Rays’ offense is better than is widely perceived.

Potential plays:

• Tampa Bay +150 or more in any pitching matchup.

• Tampa Bay as underdogs of any price not facing Josh Beckett, Jon Lester or Clay Buchholz.

• Boston at -140 or less in starts by Beckett, Lester or Buchholz.

• OVER 8 or lower in any matchup.

• UNDER 9 or higher if Beckett, Lester or Buchholz oppose Tampa’s David Price, James Shields or Jeremy Hellickson.


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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