It’s that time in the baseball season when consistencies begin to take shape. Some patterns are laughable, such as, "The Red Sox are 17-0 on Tuesdays," for example. This means nothing to next Tuesday’s game, it’s merely a statistical aberration.
For handicappers, it’s essential to carefully examine sports betting angles to separate random trends from ones that have good reasons behind them. Let’s review some standout trends in the National League.
Dodgers vs. Lefties: The Dodgers have been on a tear against left-handed starting pitchers this season, going 15-4. They’ve been getting it done at home (7-1) and on the road (8-3). LA happens to have an excess of right-handed batters, such as Eric Karros, Brian Jordan, Marquis Grissom, Adrian Beltre and Paul LoDuca. Only lefty Shawn Green is weak against southpaws. The Dodgers were 25-18 against lefties last year (14-9 at home) and probably will continue to be strong.
Kazuhisa Ishii: Speaking of the Dodgers, their winningest pitcher may be in for a fall in the second half of the season. Ishii has a solid, though not sizzling, 3.61 ERA. But note that he allows a lot of baserunners (50 walks in his first 77 IP). At home in Dodger Stadium, a great pitcher’s park, he’s walked 24 in 35 innings ”” a terrible ratio. In his last five starts he’s only averaged 5.1 IP while walking 20 batters in 27 innings. With Ishii commanding a lot of respect at the betting window, often as a hefty favorite, he may be a profitable go-against.
Houston Astros: The defending NL Central champion Astros have been one of baseballs biggest disappointments. They have the talent to be just as good as a year ago, especially with a slew of gifted young pitchers, but it hasn’t happened yet. Note that last season Houston was 33-33 in June before going on a 60-36 run to end the season. They have the pieces in place to do it again, so pay close attention if they start getting hot.
Florida Marlins at Home: Who wouldn’t want the talent on the Marlins? They have a great leadoff hitter in Luis Castillo, plenty of guys to drive him in (Preston Wilson, Mike Lowell, Cliff Floyd) and a plethora of hard-throwing young arms. This team won 46 games at home last year and was 38-22 at home vs. right-handed pitching. This season they started 16-14 at home before taking two straight against Cleveland last week. They are a good all-around team and should continue to do better at home.
Elmer Dessens: The Reds have been surprisingly successful and right-handed starter Elmer Dessens has a solid 2.65 ERA, after going 10-14 with a 4.48 ERA in 2001. But the team went 8-6 in his first 14 starts and he’s allowed 83 hits in 82 innings, with 23 walks and 42 Ks. Dessens is not overpowering (teams are hitting .278 off him at home) and over the last month he’s averaged five innings per start. His strong ERA seems a bit deceptive and could begin to sputter in the second half, providing great value as a go-against.
Atlanta Braves vs. Lefties: The Braves are playing very good baseball but are 5-5 against left-handed pitchers. They should be better, with an offensive lineup that includes right-handed sluggers Andruw Jones, Javy Lopez, Gary Sheffield and switch-hitter Chipper Jones. Atlanta was 18-9 vs. lefties last season and should improve on that current 5-5 mark.
Pedro Astacio: This guy has been with three teams over the last year. Yet, he’s been magnificent with a 7-2 record (the team is 9-5 in his 14 starts) and a 2.71 ERA. Astacio is smart enough not to walk many hitters and is holding teams to a .230 batting average. He’s 7-1 on grass but, despite a 2.65 ERA at home, he’s won only two home games. Shea Stadium is a great pitcher’s park and the UNDER is 4-1 when Astacio pitches there. This UNDER trend is likely to continue and he should be able to pick up more wins at home.
San Diego vs. Righties: The Padres may have a losing record, but they are very consistent at home against right-handed pitching. San Diego, 32-25 at home last year vs. righties, is 15-10 this season. Part of the reason is that many of their best hitters are left-handed (Mark Kotsay, Ryan Klesko, Ray Lankford, Ramon Vazquez). They may be in last place, but don’t be afraid to lean toward San Diego as a home dog against righties.
Montreal Expos Home/Road Disparity: The Expos have been lethargic on the road (13-22) and very tough at home (24-11), the most remarkable disparity in the majors. Perhaps it’s the fact that Montreal plays its home games on artificial turf, a rarity in the big leagues. Pay attention this weekend when the Expos play at Toronto. Maybe they’ll feel at home on the SkyDome’s fake turf.
Braves just 5-5 v LHP
Expos 24-11 at home
Dodgers 15-4 v LHP