Greed, saving face can’t hide
betting advantages

May 4, 2004 1:12 AM

Baseball fever, as we used to know it, has surely abated considerably over the years. The grand old game has suffered quite a blow due to human emotions based on greed and face saving. Sometimes, good old common sense does not prevail where money, ego, and passion dominate.

I still think baseball is the greatest betting sport of them all due to the odds money line type of wagering. It’s also backed by a plethora of unparalleled past statistics to enable very sophisticated handicapping techniques.

Stats require a consistent database with continuity, uninterrupted and not asterisked to death. Significant betting money will not be put to risk under erratic or dubious circumstances. But enough bitching for now.

One aspect of baseball betting I have not touched upon yet has been the total score of both sides. It’s a unique bet where the winner need not be selected, but gauges only the intensity of run making.

Good or poor pitching and/or batting, of course, affects runs for a team. In totals betting, however, they must be considered in context of both sides simultaneously. Also, environmental conditions (aka: weather and ballpark configuration) do play a part.

It’s a weird mix of data that has challenged handicappers ever since Bill Dark of the old Del Mar Club thought it up several decades ago. If the posted totals quote averages out to be a 50-50 pick situation, the bookies love it because it garners a 4½ percent vig as opposed to much smaller ones on the money line.

But the opening totals quote is illusive to even the best of oddsmakers. It does hold a high unpredictability factor. There is a lack of consistency, but the trend is changing.

It’s almost a rule of thumb that the American League averages about one run more than the National League overall. Thank the damnable designated hitter for that phenomenon. But even before the DH, the AL had slightly outscored the NL. Various reasons have been conjectured.

As far back as 80 years ago (Babe Ruth era), runs averaged between 10½ to 11 per game. But in those days, a single-bounce outfield flyball, untouched, into the stands was a homer. Today, it would be a ground rule double, etc.

But over the years with slight strike zone modifications (larger), total scoring averaged out to around 8½ runs per game and stayed fairly constant for many years. A single remarkable year as a statistical quirk was 1987. The strike zone was tightened that year and the average jumped to 9½, but retreated after that.

Managers and baseball purists hate high-scoring affairs. They like more and better pitching, bunting, and hit-and-runs, allowing more control of the game.

Talk of "juiced" balls, corked bats, and watered-down pitching emerged as a result of expansion. There are more home runs nowadays, but it’s because of frequency, not greater distance.

Methinks the strike zones are interpreted tighter, but the biggest culprit is in the ballparks themselves. They are becoming more hitter favorable.

Houston’s Astrodome, former home of the Astros, used to pull in and lower the fences. Minnesota’s MetroÂí­dome took out the plexiÂí­glass extensions from the left-field wall ”” hence, more homers.

Newer ballparks were built in Toronto, Chicago (Comiskey Park), Cleveland, Texas, and Baltimore. Expansion teams were created in Florida and Colorado. All went back to the smaller configurations of yesteryear and were more hittable.

I see no reason for our 10-run average totals to be reversing in the near future. It’s a trend here to stay unless there are drastic rule changes. Totals handicappers be aware and adjust your computers accordingly.