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'Over' totals will gain in value

May 20, 2008 7:00 PM

The 3-2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe | Round 1 of interleague play saw the American League hold a slight 22-19 edge over the National League. AL teams were 11-6 at home and 11-13 on the road.

Of the 41 interleague games, 23 went over the total, 17 stayed under and there was one push. Interestingly, the average total combined runs in interleague play have been slightly higher than intraleague (9.22 per game vs. 9.02).

Several pitchers will be making their 10th start of the season during the next week and many batters are already approaching 200 plate appearances.

Four of baseball’s six divisions are currently led by preseason favorites, but only Arizona in the NL West is a clear leader. The Diamondbacks are 5½ up on the Dodgers. No other division leader is up by more than 2.

The AL East has a familiar look with Boston holding a one game lead. That lead is not over the New York Yankees as would be expected, but the surprising Tampa Bay Rays. At 25-19 the Rays are off to the best start in franchise history and they have a very talented roster.

The Los Angeles Angels sit atop the AL West and the Chicago Cubs lead second place St Louis in the NL Central. The two surprise division leaders are in the NL East (Florida) and the AL Central (White Sox).

Through more than 650 games there have been a whopping 60 more unders than overs (346 vs. 286 or nearly 55 percent).

It’s a pace that is unlikely to continue, thereby presenting some value (perhaps a half-run per game in the line) to playing over in the coming weeks.

Here’s s look at four series to be played this weekend:

D’backs at Braves: These teams meet for the first time this season. Atlanta has been hot and cold on offense, while Arizona has been much more consistent. Arizona has gotten outstanding starting pitching and very good relief. The D’backs have the best record in all of baseball, although they are just 9-8 on the road.

Atlanta’s offense has been led by Chipper Jones (who has been consistent) with a .410 batting average at the start of the week. Tim Hudson has been the strength of the starting rotation while young Jair Jurrjens is emerging as a solid No. 2 starter.

Preferred plays:

• Arizona as underdogs of +125 or higher in starts by Randy Johnson, Micah Owings or Max Scherzer.

• Atlanta as underdogs in starts by Hudson or Jurrjens.

Under 9 or higher in any matchup.

Over 8 or lower if Haren, Webb, Hudson or Jurrjens don’t pitch.

Cardinals at Dodgers: St. Louis has been an early-season surprise. The Dodgers have been streaky thus far as the offense has been erratic and the pitching has been largely disappointing. Only Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda has put up decent stats from the rotation.

The Cardinals have gotten steady though not outstanding starting pitching up and down the rotation with their five main starters having ERAs between 3.25 and 4.75. The offense is keyed by Albert Pujols although Las Vegan Ryan Ludwick is off to a sensational start (11 HR, .336 BA).

Preferred plays:

• St. Louis as underdogs in any matchup.

• St. Louis -125 or less in starts by Adam Wainwright or Todd Wellemeyer.

Over 8 or lower in any matchup.

Twins at Tigers: Detroit has struggled all season. Minnesota has overachieved in the early going with a solid nucleus at the plate, an emerging pitching staff and Joe Nathan as a solid closer. It has been aging veteran Livan Hernandez who has anchored the rotation (Twins are 8-2 in his starts).

Detroit has not gotten much support from its rotation with only young Armando Galarraga putting up decent stats and showing consistency. The rest has been an enigma, while the bullpen and relief remain major concerns. The Tigers begin the week having scored more than four runs just once in their last 9.

Preferred plays:

• Minnesota as underdogs in any matchup except against Galarraga.

• Detroit as underdogs or if favored by -120 or less in Galarraga’s start.

Over 9 or lower in any matchup except in a start by Galarraga.

Under 8 or higher if Galarraga opposes Hernandez.

Red Sox at A’s: Boston’s pitching has been fairly average for the most part with only Daisake Matsuzaka putting up quality stats. The Sox are 9-0 in his starts. Ace Josh Beckett has been limiting base runners (1.09 WHIP) but has been allowing too many to score (4.66 ERA).

At 24-21 to start the week, the Athletics are contenders in the AL West. Oakland begins this week, however, mired in a slump, having scored two runs or less in five of their last six games. Their starting pitching has been brilliant. The teams split their two games in Japan to start the season before Boston won both in Oakland when they returned to the States.

Preferred plays:

• Oakland at +125 or more in any matchup.

• Boston at -125 or less in starts by Matsuzaka or Beckett.

Under 9 or higher in any matchup.

Under 7½ or higher in starts by Beckett or Matsuzaka.