LA Angels top majors

Jul 3, 2007 5:45 AM

When this coming weekend’s play is complete it will mark the symbolic half point of the 2007 season with the All Star game taking place in San Francisco next Tuesday.

Although all teams will have played slightly more than half their games, the three day All Star break is used as a milepost from which teams will assess their chances for the remainder of the season.

The balance of power remains in the American League where all three division leaders are playing better than .600 ball. The Los Angeles Angels have surged to baseball’s best record at 51-31 starting the week, but they are just four games ahead of Seattle in the AL West.

In one of the most surprising moves of this or any baseball season Seattle Manager Mike Hargrove resigned on Sunday despite his team’s excellent recent play and rise in the standings. There has to be more to the story than just "losing his passion for the game." It’s possible his differences with star Ichiro Suzuki might have hindered the team’s chance of resigning the star outfielder when his contract is up at the end of the season. Still, this is a very strange development given the current Mariners form.Another managerial change is not as surprising as Cincinnati has let go Jerry Narron. The Reds have been one of baseball’s most disappointing teams at 31-51, a record not at all reflective of the talent on that roster.Baseball’s biggest lead is held by Boston in the AL East. Even though the Red Sox have slumped a bit of late (14-16 over their last 30 games), the New York Yankees have been unable to sustain the momentum they had finally achieved in the first half of June. In fact, the Bronx Bombers are third in the division, 11 games behind the Red Sox and a half game behind Toronto.It’s oft been said that if you are more than 10 games back at the All Star break there is very little chance to make the playoffs. But if history teaches us anything that bromide rarely applies when the teams are the Yankees and Red Sox.The best pennant race might develop in the NL West where San Diego, Los Angeles and Arizona are separated by just 1½ games. The Padres and Dodgers have the overall edge in pitching while Arizona has a young and improving offense. The Diamondbacks also have an ”˜Ace’ in starter Brandon Webb and an aging but still effective Randy Johnson.They also have the weakest bullpen of the trio. Still, none of the three teams is that much better than the other and this race figures to be close right up until the final week of the season.

Over the past several years betting the run line in baseball has increased in popularity. In many ways the run line bet is similar to the pointspread in football and basketball betting. With the run line bet, the favored team must win the game by at least 2 runs. The underdog must either win the game outright or lose by exactly one run for you to collect.

Much is misunderstood about the run line. For one thing, far too many people play the underdog +1½, using that extra run and a half as an insurance policy against a one run loss.

Intellectually it makes sense to believe that there are many one run games and that the road team often will lose by 1, especially if extra innings are involved. Historically, results do not justify the taking of a run and a half so easily.

Looking back over nearly 20 years worth of data, less than 30 percent of all games are decided by exactly one run. And of those games more than 40 percent of the time the underdog is the one run winner — meaning that the plus ½ was not needed and was actually costly.Put another way, over 70 percent of all games are decided by 2 runs or more. In about 57 percent of those games, it’s the favorite that wins by 2 or more runs. Laying the 1½ often converts a favorite into an underdog and an underdog into a favorite.For example, a -120 home favorite might be an underdog of +170 when laying the 1½, while that +110 underdog would have to lay around minus 200 for the privilege of taking the run and a half.

A similarly priced road favorite of -120 might be an underdog of +130 laying the run and a half, while the plus 110 home underdog would lay about minus 150 for the plus run and a half.

There are two reasons for the difference in the pricing of home and road teams. First, the home team does not bat in the bottom of the ninth inning if ahead. Second, the home team needs to score just a single run to break a tie in extra innings.

There is only one situation in which taking the run and a half works to your benefit. That’s when the favorite wins by exactly one run, which overall occurs just over 16 percent of the time. Home favorites winning by 1 run occurs 18 percent of the time. Road favorites win by 1 run just below 12 percent.And there is only one situation in which laying the 1½ works against you. By laying the 1½ you collect more when the favorite wins by 2 runs or more and you drop less when that favorite loses outright. Only when the favorite wins by exactly 1 run do you lose your run line bet, while the "straight" favorite bettor collects.

When you take the run and a half, the ONLY time you benefit over playing the underdog straight is when that underdog loses by exactly 1 run.

When the underdog wins outright you win less by taking the run and a half than if you had played the underdog "straight." And when the underdog loses by more than 1 run you lose more by taking the 1½ than had you just played the underdog straight.

There are many opportunities to profit by laying the run and a half with favorites. For example, the New York Yankees are 21-16 at home through this past weekend. In 19 of their 21 wins the Yankees have won by at least 2 runs.

Here’s a look at four series that will be played this weekend.Cubs at Pirates: The road team has won 2-of-3 in each previous meeting. The Cubs have played excellent baseball of late and have improved to .500 after 80 games. Their roster suggests enough talent to make a legitimate run at Milwaukee within the Central Division. Pittsburgh is improved over last season, largely on the strength of some developing young pitchers. The offense is still feast or famine. Over the past three weeks, the Pirates have scores at least 6 runs in 7 games. They have also scored 1 or less five times.

Preferred plays:

”¡ Cubs as underdogs in any matchup.”¡ Pittsburgh as underdogs in starts by Ian Snell or Tom Gorzelanny, even if matched up against the Cubs’ Carlos Zambrano.”¡ UNDER 8 or higher if Snell or Gorzelanny face Zambrano or Ted Lilly.Phils at Rockies: First meeting. Philadelphia has started to play better baseball and is within range of the division leading Mets and the wild card leading Dodgers. Colorado begins this week having lost 9 of their last 10. Neither team has solid starting pitching or a reliable bullpen so expect a lot of runs. The Phillies have the better all around lineup. The Rockies featire the best starting pitcher in Jeff Francis, although Philly’s Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer are also having good campaigns.Preferred plays:

”¡ Phils or Rockies as +125 underdogs.”¡ Phils +140 against Francis.”¡ OVER 10 or lower in any matchup.Red Sox at Tigers: Boston took 3 of 4 from the Tigers when the teams met in Boston in mid May. Since then the Tigers have played slightly better than Boston. Detroit has a pair of solid starting pitchers in Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. Young lefty Andrew Miller appears to be a star on the rise. Boston’s pitching relies more on veterans such as Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield with "ace" Curt Schilling on the DL. "Rookie" Daisake Matsuzaka has been steady but not as dominant.Preferred plays:”¡ Detroit as +125 underdogs or -125 favorites in starts by Bonderman or Verlander.”¡ Boston as +140 underdogs against Bonderman or Verlander.”¡ Boston as a dog of any price against other Detroit starters.”¡ UNDER 9 in starts by Bonderman or Verlander if facing Boston’s Beckett.”¡ OVER 9 in games not started by Bonderman, Verlander or Beckett.Angels at Yankees: The Angels return to Yankee Stadium where they swept a three game series from the Yankees in late May. Los Angeles has been perhaps the hottest team in baseball over the past month. The Yankees continue to languish after briefly displaying their might in early June. Following a 1-7 road trip New York dropped 2-of 3 at home to Oakland this past weekend to begin the week 11 games behind first place Boston in the East.

Preferred plays:”¡ Angels as +150 underdogs in any matchup.”¡ Yanks as underdogs in any matchup.”¡ Yanks at -120 against anyone other than John Lackey.”¡ Yanks -130 if Chin Mien Wang faces other than Lackey.”¡ UNDER 9 or higher if Lackey or Kelvim Escobar faces Wang, Roger Clemens or Mike Mussina.”¡ OVER 8 or lower if none or no more than one of these named pitchers start.eliable bullpen so expect a lot of runs. The Phillies have the better all around lineup. The Rockies featire the best starting pitcher in Jeff Francis, although Philly’s Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer are also having good campaigns.

Preferred plays:

”¡ Phils or Rockies as +125 underdogs.

”¡ Phils +140 against Francis.

”¡ OVER 10 or lower in any matchup.

Red Sox at Tigers: Boston took 3 of 4 from the Tigers when the teams met in Boston in mid May. Since then the Tigers have played slightly better than Boston. The Tigers do, however, currently control the AL Wild Card. Detroit has a pair of solid starting pitchers in Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman. Young lefty Andrew Miller appears to be a star on the rise. Boston’s pitching relies more on veterans such as Josh Beckett and Tim Wakefield with "ace" Curt Schilling on the DL. "Rookie" Daisake Matsuzaka has been steady of late but has not been as dominant as many thought he would be coming over from Japan.

Preferred plays:

”¡ Detroit as +125 underdogs or -125 favorites in starts by Bonderman or Verlander.

”¡ Boston as +140 underdogs against Bonderman or Verlander.

”¡ Boston as a dog of any price against other Detroit starters.

”¡ UNDER 9 in starts by Bonderman or Verlander if facing Boston’s Beckett.

”¡ OVER 9 in games not started by Bonderman, Verlander or Beckett.

Angels at Yankees: The Angels return to Yankee Stadium where they swept a three game series from the Yankees in late May. Los Angeles has been perhaps the hottest team in baseball over the past month. The Yankees continue to languish after briefly displaying their might in early June. Following a 1-7 road trip New York dropped 2-of 3 at home to Oakland this past weekend to begin the week 11 games behind first place Boston in the East.

Preferred plays:

”¡ Angels as +150 underdogs in any matchup.

”¡ Yanks as underdogs in any matchup.

”¡ Yanks at -120 against anyone other than John Lackey.

”¡ Yanks -130 if Chin Mien Wang faces other than Lackey.

”¡ UNDER 9 or higher if Lackey or Kelvim Escobar faces Wang, Roger Clemens or Mike Mussina.

”¡ OVER 8 or lower if none or no more than one of these named pitchers start.