Trends take shape

June 18, 2002 4:09 AM
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The All-Star break is looming on the horizon, which means enough games have been played that consistencies have begun to take shape.

For example, the first week of the season, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were leading the American League East with a 3-0 record. Was this going to be a remarkable worst-to-first story? No. Enough innings have been played that Tampa Bay has settled where the respective talent says the ballclub belongs in the AL basement.

Four weeks into the season, Seattle’s Mike Cameron had a memorable four-home run game against the White Sox. But offensive heroics have been fleeting. Cameron was recently at .227 with a total of 10 home runs. Consistency makes for good betting angles. Let’s review some of these standout trends, starting this week with the AL.

Minnesota 17-6 vs. RHP at home: The Twins have been one of the best teams in the AL. One reason they are particularly strong against righties is that most of their best hitters are left-handed (Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Cristian Guzman, Doug Mientkiewicz, A.J. Pierzynski). There’s no reason the Twins can’t continue to punish right-handed starters in the Metrodome, a great hitter’s park. Minnesota was 35-23 vs. righties at home in 2001.

Cy Young Winner”¦ Derek Lowe? One of the most remarkable stories of the 2002 season has been Red Sox righty Derek Lowe. Lowe was an All-Star reliever in 2000, lost his confidence during a horrible 2001 season, and now finds himself the top contender for the AL Cy Young award as a brilliant starting pitcher. Lowe throws an outstanding sinkerball that is nearly impossible to hit out of the park and he gets loads of groundballs. Through mid-June, he had a no-hitter, a 1.89 ERA and the team was 11-2 in his first 13 starts (+880 in the profit/loss column.) Boston’s offense and infield defense is very strong, so there’s no reason Lowe and his sinker can’t keep rolling along.

Cleveland Can’t Hit: After 64 games, the Indians were 40-24 UNDER the total, including 20-10 UNDER away from home. There’s a reason for this. The Indians have let so many talented hitters leave as free agents or trades in recent years that its finally caught up with them. Over the last five years, Cleveland has lost Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, Sean Casey, Jeromy Burnitz, Brian Giles, Richie Sexson and the Alomar brothers, Roberto and Sandy. That’s an incredible amount of talent to acquire”¦ and lose. Cleveland is currently short on power, long on pitching depth and will likely be a good UNDER team all season.

Seattle on Artificial Turf: The Mariners are an American League team that plays a traditionally NL style of play: lots of speed and defense. Seattle started 36-23 on natural grass, but only 3-2 on artificial turf. This is odd as speed is a great advantage to have when playing on turf. The Mariners should be better on turf (they were 10-2 in 2001), so keep this in mind when they visit Tampa Bay (July 11-14), Minnesota and Toronto (August).

Throw a Lefty at the Yankees? For decades the Yankees have stocked up on left-handed hitters because Yankee Stadium is an easy home run park for lefties. Last year New York went 19-17 against lefties and only 9-8 at home. But this year the Yanks are 10-5 against lefties. This Yankees are better than a season ago, leading the league in home runs, and it might not be as profitable if you lean toward backing lefties against them this year.

The Great Glavine: Braves lefty Tom Glavine is 36 years old, so is he liable to break down soon, making him good to bet against? Not likely. Glavine doesn’t throw hard, has rarely been injured and has two Cy Youngs in his closet. Glavine, whose contract is up soon, is off to a sizzling 11-2 start with an incredible 1.53 ERA. He won’t be able to keep up that kind of miniscule ERA, but a third Cy Young is a possibility. There are a lot of old pitchers who are over-priced and good to bet against, but Glavine isn’t one of them.

Texas Rangers vs. Lefties: The last-place Rangers really struggle against lefties with a 3-15 record. Texas is loaded with lefty hitters in Frank Catalanotto, Rusty Greer, Rafael Palmeiro, while switch-hitter Carl Everett has been awful the last three years against lefties. Texas was 14-28 against lefty starters in 2001 and look just as dreadful again.

Orioles Home/Road Disparity: Baltimore’s Camden Yards is a great hitter’s park, but notice that the Orioles started the season 20-12 UNDER the total in home games, but 18-11 OVER the total on the road. This is a bit difficult to explain because Baltimore has a weak offense and decent pitching, so they should be a consistently good UNDER team no matter where they play. This oddity needs closer examination, as do tips, trends and angles in the National League, which we’ll explore next week.

KEY STATS:

Twins 17-6 at home v RP Rangers 3-15 vs LHP

Under 40-24 with Indians