It’s hard to believe we are already a quarter of the way through the 2011 baseball season. It only seems like yesterday when opening day began on a Thursday afternoon in March.
Reflecting back to what we’ve seen, it truly has been a remarkable season. Just about everything a baseball fan could ask for in season, except cashing tickets regularly, has already happened and we’ve still got four months to go.
We’ve had a fantastic mix of traditional powers and surprise teams running strong. The best story is the Cleveland Indians, a team that had the second worst record in the majors at this juncture last season. Now they have the best mark, losing only four games at home – the first two coming on the first two days of the season.
The AL East battle has shaped up nicely. Not only are the Red Sox and Yankees battling like everyone enjoys, but the unexpected Rays are staking their claim after an 0-6 start. Having former Red Sox and Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon on the Rays adds to the storyline even more.
Although the Phillies aren’t hitting, their pitching is everything the experts expected. Even without free-agent Cliff Lee playing as big a role as expected, the entire staff has picked up the slack to come up with the best NL record. Three different closers have been used due to injuries, but the Phils keep plugging away.
Maybe more surprising than the Indians is how bad the Twins have played. Many picked Minnesota to win the AL Central, but they currently have the worst record in baseball. At this same time in 2010, the Twins were first.
Joe Mauer has not been able to contribute. Joe Nathan hasn’t been able to close out games. The entire team can’t seem to string together any hits, scoring the least amount of runs (151) in baseball.
We have had a few no-hitters, a couple of other pitchers coming close, but we still have some boppers bopping. Curtis Granderson and the Yankees with 71 taters are on pace to break the all-time single season home run record. Toronto OF Jose Bautista has 18 bombs to go along with a .353 average showing last season wasn’t a fluke.
Lance Berkman, thought to be washed up, has put in an MVP-type year with the Cardinals. Boston is falling in love with RBI machine Adrian Gonzalez.
All this has happened with pitching dominating baseball, yet still giving the appearance it’s captivating our attention dispelling the notion of MLB’s 1990’s ad campaign that "chicks love the long ball."
The Oakland A’s lead baseball with a 2.85 ERA. Not only is that a sick number just because it’s under 3.00, but the fact that it comes from an AL team that doesn’t have a pitcher hit makes it even more of an accomplishment.
Despite the great things in baseball, handle is down on the sport for most Nevada sports books compared to the same time last season. Most books have an extremely high win percentage for the first two months, but the combination of bettors losing often in both the NBA playoffs and baseball have made it tough for them to see dividends.
Some people have speculated the low scoring games are part of the reason for the decline in action. Maybe chicks – and bettors – both dig the long ball.
Most casual bettors love taking the OVER in games just because it’s more fun to root for runs to score rather than rooting for nothing to happen. That strategy has been a loser thus far.
Chances are the decline is just more about bettors being cautious with their cash in this economic climate. It also doesn’t help that temporary Federal rules have been put in place to deter large cash transactions, or rather monitor the activity closer than what some big bettors want.
The combination of low cash flow from the squares and a cautious big money crowd right now has affected the baseball handle. Mother Nature has also played a role in stopping 30 games because of her poor attitude, more games than were postponed the entire 2010 season which surely puts a damper on the handle.
SF Run Line Tempting
You may have noticed the tempting run-line prices on the Giants lately where they are regularly getting 2-1 odds to win by two runs. Buyer beware: The Giants have played in 17 one-run ball games winning 14, including all 11 at home.
On Saturday and Sunday, a few sports books in town placed totals of 5½ on the Padres-Mariners games at Petco Park. It was the third time this year we’ve seen a total that low. Last season, the Hilton posted one game at 5½, but other than that, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a total dip that low.
A lot of people like to play correlated parlays with a team to the total of the same game. The best trend in the NL this season has been to bet the Padres and OVER on the road. The combination has hit nine times in 21 games. A close second at 8 of 21 is betting against the Rockies at home OVER the total.
In the AL, the Indians have the top parlay payout with their home record parlayed to the OVER (12 of 22). The Twins have the next best correlation payout of betting against them at home and taking the OVER (7 of 15).
Best Teams Daily
There really is no method to the timing of how certain teams play on any given day of the week, but it is interesting to note a few have established some trends for individual days. The Pirates have gone 5-1 on Mondays, but 0-5 on Tuesdays. The Rays and Indians also like Mondays, going 3-0.
The Phillies probably wish they could close shop Mondays and Tuesdays, going a combined 2-9. Wednesdays they are 7-0 and have a winning record every other day in the week.
The Rangers hate Thursday getaway days. They are 0-3 when leaving town for another city on a Thursday. The Cubs are similar in a sense on Sundays, going 0-7 following their loss at Boston. It’s not necessarily about the Cubs leaving town, but more about the gift of giving wins away to opposing teams.
The Blue Jays and Marlins love Fridays, going 7-1 each while the Yankees can’t stand them (1-5). On Saturdays the Giants are 7-1 while the Dodgers and Twins are each 1-7.
No team in baseball has a winning record on every day of the week. Cleveland’s lone lapse is Wednesdays (3-4) while the Rays’ only consistent struggle is Sundays (3-5). No team has a losing record on each day. The Twins are losers six days a week, but come out fighting Tuesdays with a 4-2 record.
The Royals gave up 12 walks to the Cardinals in a 9-8 loss on Sunday. Two bases loaded walks were given in extra innings to seal their fate. Although the Royals have been very impressive this season, you have to wonder just how much better they would be if they didn’t lead the AL in walks with 176 – 25 more walks than the Twins have runs. That says something about each.
Chase Utley makes his 2011 season debut this week for the Phillies and should give them a much needed offensive push. The timing couldn’t be better as Philly has not scored more than three runs in each of their last nine games. The Rangers welcome back Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Texas is 14-21 minus Hamilton, 7-9 without Cruz in the lineup.
If looking for a great cocktail and baseball talk at the same time, check out Ruth Criss’ Steak House and ask for former Tampa Bay Rays prospect Nate Kaup, who pitches a great Manhattan.
Kaup was a prospect who came through the system at the same time former Rays Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Jorge Cantu, Johnny Gomes, Aubrey Huff and Matt Diaz did. My time spent talking baseball with him couldn’t have been more enjoyable. The Cowboy rib-eye coming off a hot sizzling plate of butter was equally as good.