Baseball 101: Avoid betting
Rookie favorites

July 24, 2001 1:02 AM
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Last week’s results provided a textbook example of why bettors should avoid wagering on first-year pitchers as heavy favorites for winning teams.

Jason Marquis (Atlanta) Luke Prokopec (Los Angeles), Randy Keisler and Brett Jodie (New York Yankees), Josh Towers (Baltimore) and Jake Westbrook (Cleveland) all lost as substantial favorites.

Baltimore was the only team not owning a winning record.

No Bull From Pen:

The Atlanta Braves have dominated the NL since the 1990s and may do so again this year if a daring move pays off.

John Smoltz, the inspirational leader of the vaunted Atlanta starting rotation for over a decade, has battled arm trouble for two seasons. Smoltz just came off the disabled list and really seems to be the perfect choice to become the team’s new closer. The right-hander appears to have the old velocity but not the stamina. The closer role seems a nice fit for the Braves, if they decide to stick with the decision.

Smoltz, in my view, has the toughness to finish games, and could allow recently acquired Steve Karsay to join the rotation with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Burkett. If Smoltz accepts the transition, the Braves could well be back in another World Series.

Such a major switch is not unprecedented. The Oakland A’s moved Dennis Eckersley into the bullpen and added 10 years and a world title to his resume.

The Big Hurts

The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians were each dealt setbacks when key outfield acquisitions joined the disabled list. The Cubs placed left-fielder Rondell White (groin) on the 15-day DL effective July 14. The Indians lost Ellis Burks (fractured thumb) last Monday. Houston lost last year’s ace starting pitcher Scott Elarton (bicep) for 15 days beginning last Tuesday”¦Right-handers Rick Reed (Mets) and Kevin Millwood (Braves) recently returned after stints on the DL. Each pitcher lost his first start.

Money Market

The Detroit Tigers were a second-half team last year and appear to be repeating the trend. The Tigers enjoyed their second straight winning week at the ticket window and are up $665 from their position at the beginning of July.

On the other hand, the world champion New York Yankees have dropped $610 since the month began.

Here is the list of losing high-priced favorites.

Monday, July 16
Jason Marquis (—195) ”” Tampa Bay 6, Atlanta 5
Wednesday, July 18
Tony Lilly (—155) ”” Detroit 12, NY Yankees 4
Thursday, July 19
Wade Miller (—155) ”” St. Louis 4, Houston 1
Friday, July 20
Jake Westbrook (—185) ”” Detroit 7, Cleveland 3
Saturday, July 21
Brad Penny (—180) ”” Cincinnati 8, Florida 4
Andy Keisler (—160) ”” Toronto 5, NY Yankees 3

NL teams on the upswing since last week were Los Angeles (up 505), NY Mets (up 300) and San Francisco (up 295). Headed south were Milwaukee (down 760), Philadelphia (down 285) and Cincinnati (down 250).

Bullish in the AL during the same period were Oakland (up 555), Detroit (up 400) and Anaheim (up 370). The bears during the past week were Baltimore (down 530), Minnesota (down 515) and NY Yankees (down 505).

JULY 21

NL Money Line Record

Philadelphia  

+1045

Chicago  

+995

San Diego  

+795

Los Angeles  

+720

Arizona  

+715

San Francisco  

+170

Florida  

0

Houston  

-95

St. Louis  

-510

Atlanta  

-535

Montreal  

-645

Milwaukee  

-760

Pittsburgh  

-950

New York  

-1360

Cincinnati  

-1655

Colorado  

-2650

AL Money Line Record

Seattle  

+3760

Minnesota  

+1865

Anaheim  

+495

Boston  

+200

New York  

+ 95

Detroit  

-80

Oakland  

-120

Baltimore  

-355

Cleveland  

-485

Chicago  

-555

Toronto  

-805

Kansas City  

-1230

Texas  

-1570

Tampa Bay  

-2405

(Based on $100 ML bets for each game of the season)

Trivial pursuit

Here’s a “pick-4” for bettors to watch the remainder of July ”” Detroit, Houston, Oakland and the New York Mets. The Tigers lead the AL in batting with a .304 average. The Astros, chasing the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central, are hitting a league-best .308 this month.

The A’s and Mets are doing it with pitching. Oakland’s incredible starting trio of Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Mark Mulder have keyed a staff ERA of 2.18, almost a full run lower than Seattle’s second place 3.16. The Mets own a league-low 3.12 ERA through July”¦The Twins were 1-6 in the first seven games of their consecutive home-and-home series against Oakland and Seattle”¦Florida was 7-2 in its first nine games following the All-Star break.

Darn Lefties

Randy Johnson has added another story to the legend he can one day recite when voted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y..

The Big Unit was scheduled to face the San Diego Padres in one of the doubleheader games against Arizona caused by a postponement the previous night due to a power failure. The Padres thought they caught a break seeing Johnson used in relief of Curt Schilling for the first contest, instead of starting the second game. The result was more like “pick your poison.”

The big left-hander struck out a major league record 16 batters and came within four outs of combining for a no-hitter in a 3-0 win.

The final totals for Johnson were seven innings pitched, one hit allowed, one walk and 16 strikeouts.

You Make the Call

The practice of pitchers throwing at batters to establish the inside part of the plate is an accepted part of baseball. However, it’s getting way out of hand. There is no justification for throwing at someone’s head, but home plate umpires are developing quick hooks in the name of preventing fisticuffs.

The latest situation occurred in an interleague matchup last week between Cleveland and Houston where Bartolo Colon was fined and suspended seven games for throwing at Astros batter Scott Servais.

Colon appealed the suspension. The Indians brass came to his defense, saying that their star pitcher threw behind Servais and struck the bat. Umpire Andy Fletcher, who has seen 10 of his 17 home plate assignments go ”˜over’ the posted total, ejected Colon.

Chuck Meriwether has taken the lead among ”˜under’ umpires, seeing 15 of his 18 games behind the plate wind up below the posted total. Greg Gibson tops the ”˜over’ umps at 14-7.

Over:

Gibson 14-7, Reynolds 12-6, Cousins 14-8, Everitt 13-7, Kulpa 13-7, Davis 13-8, Schrieber 11-6, Foster 11-6, Reliford 11-7, Shulock 11-7, Rapuano 12-8, Culbreth 12-8, Diaz 12-8.

Under:

Meriwether 15-3, J. Hirschbeck 14-4; Meals 14-5, M. Hirschbeck 13-5, Gorman 13-6, Iassogna 13-7, Miller 14-8, Cuzzi 12-7, Eddings 11-7, Reilly 12-8. (Statistics provided by National Sports Services, Inc.)