First week of interleague all American

Jun 15, 2004 6:37 AM

The first week of interleague play is in the books and the first two series of games between the leagues produced great results for AL teams.

All of the games were played in the AL ballparks and the home team won 53 of the 83 games. The games produced an average of 10.16 total runs per contest with the "over" holding a 42-37-5 edge. As a means of comparison, games involving two AL teams have averaged 9.9 total runs per games while games involving a pair of NL clubs are averaging 9.2 this season.

The first phase of interleague play continues this week and ends Sunday with two more series for almost every team. These games shall all be played in NL ballparks and as such there will be no designated hitter. It can be expected that overall run production should be lower as a result.

The hottest team entering play this week is Oakland. The Athletics begin the week on an eight game winning streak. Tampa Bay is also in fine form, having won five in a row through Sunday.

Pittsburgh and Colorado are the ice cold teams, each having lost eight straight heading into Tuesday’s action. Cincinnati, which played a make up game Monday in Philadelphia, is also in the midst of a slump, having lost six in a row through Sunday.

To nobody’s surprise the Yankees begin the week with baseball’s best record. They also have the biggest lead of any first place team, 3½ games ahead of Boston in the AL East. Elsewhere, Oakland leads both Texas and Anaheim by 2½ in the AL West while Chicago’s White Sox hold a slim half game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central.

In the senior circuit both Florida and St Louis have 1½ game leads in the NL East and Central Divisions respectively. In the Central, fifth place Milwaukee trails St Louis by just 3½ in baseball’s most competitive division. Los Angeles and San Diego are tied for the lead in the NL West with San Francisco just 1½ games back.

A couple of weeks ago we began to look at the run line wager in which a bettor lays or takes 1½ runs at an adjusted price, making the wager somewhat like a pointspread wagers as is used in basketball and football. In general, the straight favorite would be required to lay the 1½ at a much more favorable price whereas the underdog would be +1½ at a price less favorable than for the underdog to just win the game.

The only time an underdog bettor benefits from taking the 1½ is when the underdog loses by exactly one run. Similarly, the only time a favorite better is hurt by laying the 1½ is when the favorite wins by exactly one run.

A bettor backing the underdog by taking the 1½ runs "loses more" when the dog drops the game by more than one run. That bettor "wins less" when the underdog wins the game straight up. He benefits only when the dog falls by exactly one run when a losing straight up wager is converted to a winning bet when adding the 1½.

The favorite bettor laying the 1½ runs wins more when his team is victorious by at least two. That person loses less when the team drops the game outright. Only when the favored team wins by exactly one run does the favored bettor suffer. Then, the straight up wager collects while the wager laying the 1½ loses.

We’ll go into more detail next week but for now let’s look at the overall picture of how favorites perform against the run line. In a study of all games played over more than 15 years (or more than 30,000 games), roughly 30 percent are decided by exactly one run. That means that in 70 percent of all games, the + or —1½ does not matter since those games are decided by two runs or more.

But it goes beyond that 70 percent figure in which the run line does not come into play. In 57 percent of the one run decisions, the favored team wins. The breakdown of one run wins varies significantly depending upon whether it is the home or road team that is favored. We’ll delve into that distinction more next week.

Suffice to say that the favored team (generally required to lay 1½) wins by exactly one run roughly 16 percent of the time.

Here’s a look at four interleague series to be played this weekend.

A’s at Cubs: Pitching should be the name of this series as both teams have some of the top hurlers in the game. Sammy Sosa is still sidelined for the Cubs but might be activated by the weekend. Oakland’s formidable rotation of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito will be more than equaled by Chicago’s Mark Prior, Matt Clement, Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux while Kerry Wood remains on the DL.

Winds will play a factor in setting the totals, but in any matchup featuring these listed pitchers the "under" and "underdog" will be the preferred play. Oakland has been hitting the ball of late but has been facing some weak pitching. Fundamentally they are not a strong offensive team but recent outbursts might give a 1½ run value in the line.

Angels at Astros: Two of the better offenses meet in what has been a hitter’s park in recent seasons. Through the first third of the season scoring in Houston is below the league average. The 8.86 runs per game is the lowest since leaving the Astrodome. Funny what good pitching will do for a team and a ballpark, but Roger Clemens’ addition to a staff that already boasted Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller has had a major impact.

Houston’s offense has not scored more than five runs in any of the last dozen games and averages just 3.6 in the last 20. Anaheim’s offense has also declined in recent weeks, averaging just 4.2 in the past 20. The "under" will be preferred at 8 or higher. The Astros are worthy of play if favored at —130. Anaheim should only be considered as a +120 dog in starts by Bartolo Colon or Kelvim Escobar.

Yanks at Dodgers: This is an extremely attractive matchup between two of baseball’s most storied franchises and former neighbors for more than half a century. The Yankees have pitching concerns with both Mike Mussina and ex-Dodger Kevin Brown leaving their last starts. The Dodgers have reverted back to last season with their recent aversion to offense.

Dodger Stadium has historically been a pitcher’s ballpark. If we see totals as low as 7 the "over" would be preferred with the Yankees bats. Should the Yanks be a dog, they would be the play regardless of the pitching matchup. If Odalis Perez starts in the series for the Dodgers, the Yanks may be played at a —120 favorite.

Red Sox at Giants: Both teams have had great success over the past five years and again may be headed to postseason play. Boston relies mostly on the tandem of pitching aces Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling while San Francisco’s main weapons are starting pitcher Jason Schmidt and slugger Barry Bonds who is less than 40 home runs away from overtaking Babe Ruth for the second spot on the all time list.

Boston’s offense has been bolstered by the return last week of Nomar Garciaparra, and Trot Nixon is expected to be in the lineup by the weekend. The "over" will be the preferred play throughout the series at 9 or lower in games not involving Martinez, Schilling, Schmidt or the Giants”˜ Jerome Williams. If Martinez or Schilling match up against Schmidt or Williams the game may be played "under" 7. If any of those four pitchers is a dog, they become the play even if matched against one of those other top hurlers.