Reds explosive offense in new ballpark can’t be “Overstated”

May 26, 2003 10:36 PM

A funny thing happened to Greg Maddux last week ”” he traveled to the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

The new home of the Reds was not kind to Maddux, a man with four Cy Young awards on his resume. He lasted four innings and allowed seven runs on nine hits. The Braves right-hander discovered what many National League pitchers are learning the hard way ”” Cincy’s new ballpark chews up pitchers.

It’s important for sports bettors to understand ballpark dynamics and how it can influence sides and totals. Back in 1993 the expansion Colorado Rockies didn’t have a posted total on home games until the third week of the season. The first totals in Coors Field were 11½, 12, 10½ and 10, lines that seem a bit shorter than today as line-makers now have 10 years worth of Coors Field stats to go by.

Cincy’s new park has dimensions similar to great hitter’s parks like Wrigley Field and Fenway, 328 feet down the left field line and 325 feet to right field. In the Reds’ first 23 home games, 17 went "over" the total, which is just under 75% of the time. How many of you could turn a profit in sports betting by blindly picking three out of four winners on a regular basis?

It’s not just the park, of course. A team’s offensive capabilities and pitching staffs also factor in. If you have to build a perfect "over" team for wagering purposes, this year’s Reds addition is a good model. Cincinnati has a strong offensive lineup, with sluggers such as Adam Dunn, Sean Casey, Aaron Boone and 23-year old outfielder Austin Kearns (13 home runs), who has made people forget about often-injured Ken Griffey, Jr. (2 HRs).

If offense was the name of the game, the Reds would be in first place, but pitching is just as important and the Reds have little quality pitching. These factors combined with the new homer-friendly park have contributed to give the Reds an excess of "overs."

Eight weeks into the season, four other teams (Rangers, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Brewers) have similar qualities to the Reds. The Blue Jays take advantage of playing in SkyDome, with the best home slugging average in the major leagues. Some of the starting pitchers on those teams have been terrific at going "over" the total. The Toronto trio of Cory Lidle, Roy Halladay and Mark Hendrickson combined to start the season 23-6 "over" the total in their starts.

Boston starters Casey Fossum, Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield have combined to go "over" 69 percent of the time (18-8), while Texas pitcher Ryan Drese (5-0) and Cincinnati’s Jimmy Haynes (4-0) have been perfect going "over."

The balance of a team’s pitching, hitting and a small ballpark, is essential to consistent, high scoring games. Last season the Pittsburgh Pirates opened a new hitter-friendly ballpark just 6-6-1 "over" the total to start the season. The park was conducive to hitting, but the Pirates finished 2002 with the worst batting average (.244) and on-base percentage (.319) in the National League.

The 2003 Cincinnati Reds pitching staff won’t remind fans of the 1975-76 World Series champs, but that offense could be a moneymaker for bettors.