With the run line, it’s better to receive than give

May 28, 2002 5:03 AM

I was recently asked by a friend and fellow sports bettor if he should lay a run and a half on a game that he liked instead of —240. My answer was that I wouldn’t do either.

I told him that I would rather take plus 1½ runs plus money, that in the long run you would have a much better chance of showing a profit. When laying the big wood it is only a matter of time that you will go broke.

Taking plus 1½ runs plus money is a very good wager especially when the total is around 7 or 7½. Usually in those games you are dealing with two very good pitchers, so a one run game is very possible. On Monday, May 20th the Tampa Bay Devil Rays posted their first complete game pitching performance in over a year. That is really hard to believe.

To really put this in perspective I need to go back to 1959 when baseball was still a great game. On May 26th Harvey Haddix pitched 12 perfect innings of baseball only to lose the game in the 13th on an error, a sacrifice bunt, intentional walk and a hit. That was an amazing game.

In 1960, the year the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Yanks in the World Series, Vernon (The Deacon) Law was 20-9 with 18 complete games. Bob Friend was 18-12 with 16 complete games. That if you can’t add is 34 CG between the two. In the entire 2001 baseball season, there were 122 complete games pitched. Pretty dismal to say the least.

But, here is key to the whole mess. Curt Shilling was 22-6 with six complete games. Randy Johnson was 21-6 with three complete games. Greg Maddux was 17-11 with three complete games and another Hall of Famer Roger Clemens was 20-3 with no CG.

I recently received this e-mail from my good friend and fellow sports bettor Joe Karbousky. This is what he wrote after we had discussed laying the wood.

Ron Guidry where are you? Jack Morris are you still in shape? Even Greg Maddux is slowing down. What happened to the horses that could actually finish the race? The days of the complete game pitcher are long gone. Which makes handicapping baseball even harder.

Sure Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and Curt Schilling usually come through, if you don’t mind laying anywhere from —200 to —300. But still, buyer beware! You better know who that masked man in the bullpen is before you go to the window to lay that money down!

I seem to remember when I was a kid the starter on the New York Yankees never came out. If he did, it was in the ninth so Goose Gossage could throw 100 mph and make you look like a fool. Any good pitcher prided himself on going the distance. But baseball has introduced something new in the past few years.

The set-up man.

He’s a new part of the game, but has become like an everyday player. If the starter can throw six innings, the set up man can go one or two, and on comes the closer. Even the Seattle Mariners, who are 15 games over .500, don’t have a pitcher who has a complete game this year, and we’re approaching June 1.

In fact, complete games are down 22 percent since 1990 and over 50 percent since 1975.

Making who is closing almost, if not more important than the starter. I consider myself an old school enthusiast, but just like everything else in the world that changes, so goes baseball.

So before you quickly lay your money down on that "can’t lose" game, don’t be so quick to see who’s starting, but look to see who might be closing.