Early MLB Betting Trends

We’re not even three weeks into the Major League Baseball season, but there are already several stories in play from a betting perspective. Low scoring games seem to be the hot topic right now, as 105 games have been UNDER the total, while only 88 have played OVER the total. Cold weather has been the catalyst for the lower scoring trend with many games being played in below average temperatures, especially in the Midwest and East Coast. Pitchers certainly have the advantage in cooler temperatures, as they are the only player on the field who can stay warm with constant activity. Also, we have seen some extreme wind likes. Games played in windier conditions are conducive to scoring more points, but the ball just doesn’t travel as far in cold weather as it did in the beginning. This year, many will point out that baseball’s stricter drug-testing rules for hitters are being “squeezed out.” There may be some validity to that sentiment. In fact, 20 teams have a team ERA of 4.00 or less, something you don’t normally see these days.

There are other theories at work as well. Last year, the World Baseball Classic wreaked havoc on the league’s pitching staff early in the season, as pitchers participating in the Classic fell out of their normal spring training routines. Many suffered injuries that affected overall pitching depth and forced pitchers who simply weren’t ready for the daily grind of the major league season into action. This equated to an increase in racing last year.

A handful of teams have really struggled at the plate offensively, including St. Louis, Oakland, Chicago White Sox and the Angels. The Angels, A’s and White Sox have run a combined 30-9 against the UNDER. The A’s rank last in slugging percentage at .329 and there isn’t a single Oakland player with more than one home run leading off. To be fair, they’ve faced above-average pitching and this team is well known for its early-season struggles.

A slow start from Albert Pujols has hampered the Cardinals, however, he has picked up the pace in recent days. However, Pujols hasn’t really been the dilemma for the Cardinals, as Jim Edmonds is slugging .220, while an injury has also hampered Scott Rolen.

Still, there are teams that are scoring runs or, rather, allowing runs and going over the total. Philadelphia, Florida and Tampa Bay have trended OVER the total at a combined 28-11 rate. Coincidence? Probably not, since the Devil-Rays and Phillies are ranked one-two at the bottom of the team ERA rankings. Once again, this Tampa Bay franchise just can’t pitch outside of young Scott Kazmir, while even he posted a 5.25 ERA. The Devil Rays team ERA sits at a heartbreaking 6.23. The plus side is a young core of position players with upside potential that includes Carl Crawford, Elijah Dukes, BJ Upton and Delmon Young.

Few would argue that the Phillies are a complete mess right now as they look up the standings from the Washington Nationals. Many pointed to Philadelphia as having one of the best starting pitching staffs in the National League. Brett Myers has been the ringleader of bad pitching with an outrageous 8.82 ERA, and the Phillies’ brass have, in a highly questionable move, beat Myers to the bullpen.

From a sideline or team perspective, the free-spending Chicago Cubs have been stagnant early in the season. The Cubs are currently 5-9 on the season under 6.5 betting units and are once again overvalued by the market. This can happen when a franchise spends more than $300 million in the offseason looking to find lightning in a bottle. Of course, as the Cubs have repeatedly discovered, it’s easier to select a contender than it is to field a contender. It’s intriguing to see how many of the Cubs’ additions have played well, with Ted Lilly posting a 2.37 ERA and Jason Marquis posting an astonishing 2.65. Let’s just say the jury is still out on the 2007 Cubs. The Cubs may not have gotten off to a good start, but we’ve seen another NL team emerge as a possible contender earlier this year.

The Atlanta Braves have regained their swagger after a disappointing 79-83 2006 season. The Braves sit atop the NL East with a 10-4 record, but show a modest four-point betting profit. In taking down the Braves, the answer for the turnaround is easily found in the bullpen. Last year, the relief toss consistently killed the Braves as they blew a staggering 29 save opportunities. This year, the team has blown just one save while going 4-0. Give credit to the Braves’ decision makers as they brought live weapons from both sides of the mound, including Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano. Also, starter Tim Hudson appears to be in his former Oakland form with a meager 0.86 ERA in three starts. With their key offseason additions and a strong mix of youth and experience, the Braves looked poised to reclaim their position as the best team in the NL East.

The baseball season is long, 162 games, and many trends will unfold in the coming months. What’s true today doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true tomorrow, but it’s interesting to note the wild start to the 2007 campaign.

For more information on Erin Rynning, as well as more blogs and articles from Sports Memo handicappers, visit our website at http://www.sportsmemo.com.

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