MLB Totals Trends
by Trevor Whenham - 04/26/2007
We're still less than a month into the baseball season, and what we think we know about most teams will prove to be wrong by the time the season ends. However, some clear trends are emerging. MLB totals betting, over the short term, is one area where the trends can be strong, easy to explain and understand, and profitable if handled properly. Here's a look at seven teams that have consistently performed above or below the posted totals so far this year and why they have done so.
Yankees - New York has gone over 13 times in 17 tries so far this year. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why that is. On one hand the collection of all-star multi-millionaires is earning their money by being near the top of the league in most major offensive stats. They've scored more runs and hit more home runs than any other group, and they are second in batting average and fourth in OPS.
On the other hand, the pitching has been almost incomprehensibly bad. They've been plagued by injuries to what is already a questionable group of starters, they have only a better team ERA than five teams in the league and Joe Torre is already showing that he deserves the knock that he can't properly manage a bullpen. Mariano Rivera has been used in the eighth inning though Torre promised in the spring that he wouldn't, Andy Pettitte has been making relief appearances on top of his starting duty, and the team has been forced to rush their top pitching prospect, Philip Hughes, into action much earlier than they expected. Bookmakers will push Yankees totals up, but until they solve their pitching problems or until opposing pitchers figure out how to get Rodriguez, Damon and the rest out more consistently, there is no total that is safe from the Yankees.
Tampa Bay - The Devil Rays have gone over 13-of-16 times. Though the caliber of players is much different, the reason is much the same as the Yankees. The Rays have been a surprise at the plate, putting up the fourth best team batting average and scoring the fourth most runs. The pitching, though, has been truly terrible. At 5.91, the team's ERA is .41 higher than any other team. Scott Kazmir, really the only true star on the team, has yet to find his top form, and the bullpen is absolutely awful. They can find ways to lose games that you haven't even thought of yet. It's hard to imagine that the overall pitching will get much better, but the bats could slip a bit, and that would lead to more under games.
Florida - Florida has gone over the most times - 15 in 20 games. It's no surprise that the story is pretty much the same - sixth best offense and fourth worst team ERA. Leading the charge has been Dontrelle Willis. The team has gone over in all five of his starts. Willis' stats are a perfect example of how a team can consistently go over when the offense is clicking. He hasn't pitched particularly well, with a 5.58 ERA and 1.6 walks and hits per inning pitched. Despite that, Willis was the first major leaguer to reach four wins. A hot offensive team can hide a lot of problems that a slump would expose, and, when coupled with shoddy pitching, can blow totals away.
Colorado - The Rockies have gone under 13 times in 19 tries. Unlike the three teams above, this isn't caused by the extremes, but rather by general mediocrity. The team has the 19th best pitching and the ranks 17th in batting. They can't score a ton of runs, but they also don't allow a ton of runs. There's another, unique factor at play here, too. Though Coors Field hasn't been quite as ridiculously slanted towards the batters since they started using the humidor for balls, the public perception is still that the runs pile up there. Oddsmakers are aware of that perception, and they may shade the totals to take advantage of it. The fact that the team has gone under in seven of 10 home games is certainly not the result that the public would expect.
St. Louis - The Cards more closely fit the pattern that you would expect for a team that goes consistently under - 12 times in 18 tries in their case. They have a top 10 pitching staff that is largely avoiding mistakes, marked by the surprisingly successful transition of Braden Looper from the bullpen to the rotation. The offense, however, has been dismal. They are nestled down in the bottom quarter of the league in most statistical categories, and they just can't score - 65 runs compared to 120 for the Yankees. You need to look no further than Albert Pujols to understand how bad things are for the defending champs. Arguably the best offensive player in baseball is batting just .230 and has only 12 RBI.
The Bay Teams, San Francisco and Oakland - There's something in the air in the Bay Area that is stifling offensive output. The Giants have gone over just five times in 18 tries, and Oakland has managed that feat the same number of times in 19 tries. Both results are perfectly reasonable when you look at the stats. Both teams have had very solid pitching - Oakland has the third best team ERA, and the Giants sit in fourth place. It's when their players face opposing pitchers that things get ugly. San Francisco is dead last in run production with just 63, and Oakland has a pathetic .233 team batting average, second worst only to Texas.