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Value can comeif you look hard

Jun 17, 2003 7:33 AM

Value.

Smart handicappers searching for winners look for value. If a football game is rated even by your power ratings, for example, but one team is a 10-point dog, the dog represents great value. The first week of the baseball season, Cubs’ young ace Mark Prior was a minus-125 favorite over Mets’ righty Steve Trachsel. With the benefit of two months hindsight, that certainly represents solid value now.

Prior won that game 6-1, and if it were played today he’d be a bigger favorite with his Cubs battling for first place while the underachieving Mets are trying to climb out of the NL East cellar.

Some pitchers have fallen on hard times, either because they changed teams, leagues or are just having a bad season, while others are on a roll and can still

Despite an ERA around five, Davis has been getting better. He recently had three straight starts where he pitched seven innings and allowed 6 hits in each game. The Indians won all three and Davis was an underdog each time (once as a plus-190). He also possesses great control, a must for pitchers in small parks like Cleveland’s Jacobs Field. He walked one batter or less in half of his first 12 starts (4-1 "under" the total on the road).

Shane Reynolds, Braves: The 35-year old Reynolds has to be pinching himself. The Astros cut him loose as the Braves began the season with most of their starting pitchers on the DL. Atlanta scooped him up and is 9-1 when Shane takes the hill, a 52.2% ROI.

Reynolds has received plenty of run support (7-2 "over" the total) and has been aided by the spacious outfield of Turner Field and Atlanta’s brilliant defense. Reynolds has held opponents to a .265 batting average. He appears to be a clone of John Burkett, who was cut loose by the Marlins a few years ago and had some outstanding seasons after the Braves landed him for nothing.

Paul Wilson, Reds: The much-traveled veteran has been a good-luck charm of sorts in his first season in Cincinnati. The Reds went 9-4 in his first 13 starts (51.7% ROI). He’s a typical journeyman who is smart enough not to walk anyone, throwing strikes, giving up hits but pitching his team into the sixth inning with regularity.

Wilson is the beneficiary of a powerful Cincinnati offense, anchored by Adam Dunn, Sean Casey and Austin Kearns. He’s walked just 17 in his first 72 innings pitched and has been very effective in Cincy’s first-year stadium, the Great American ballpark: 2.88 ERA in 40 IP with only five walks. Outstanding stats for such a hitter-friendly park.

Gil Meche, Mariners: Seattle has been rolling much of the season, and while Freddy Garcia and Jamie Moyer are their two best-known starters, 24-year old Gil Meche has blossomed this season. He throws four pitches for strikes and has good control.

The Mariners have gone 9-3 in his first 12 starts, an ROI of 35.8% because the Mariners are often a strong favorite. Meche appears primed for a big season after two years of injuries and toiling in the minors. The kid may be a big part in keeping the Mariners hot.

Tim Redding, Astros: The Houston farm system has a history of cranking out talented young arms, especially lately. Following Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller into the rotation is 25-year old Redding. Houston’s home field is a terrible pitcher’s park, and Redding’s numbers at home say a lot about his stuff: 38 IP, 34 hits, 3 HRs, 3.72 ERA. Houston is a remarkable 6-1 "under" the total at home when Redding pitches.

The Astros went 9-4 in his first 13 starts (33% ROI) where Redding had a 3.47 ERA. He is playing for a good team with a great bullpen, so they will likely preserve wear and tear on his young arm.