Season Home Run Props Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 07/16/2008
There is a rare break in the constant stream of action that makes up the baseball season, so it is a natural time to take a step back and evaluate where we are at. One thing that we can do now is consider who is likely to hit the most home runs on the season, and then to see if we can make some money from that belief. Bodog has odds listed for a dizzying number of players who have a shot at being the slugging king this year.
Before we look at this year, let's take a look at what has happened in the recent past. Last year Alex Rodriguez went into the break with a one home run lead over Prince Fielder. By the end of the year, Rodriguez had opened the gap to four homers over Fielder. The top five sluggers at the end of the year were all in the top eight at the all-star break. The 2006 slugging champ, Ryan Howard, was sitting three home runs off the pace at the break. The top four at year's end were all within four home runs of the lead at the break. As hard as it is to believe given how he is playing now, Andruw Jones was the home run king in 2005, and at the break. Yet again, the top five at year's end were in close contact at the half. Adrian Beltre, the 2004 champ, did the closest thing to a comeback from a halfway deficit, but even that wasn't that dramatic - he was tied for seventh at the half in a year where home run productivity was down across the board. The lesson is clear here - the home run king at the end of this season has likely already stated his intention to be there by his play so far.
Before we even start to look at individual players, that information can allow us to make our handicapping easier by eliminating a bunch of guys who aren't worth considering. Bodog lists odds for 29 individual players and a field choice that could be the eventual home run champ. Though anything is possible, I feel comfortable eliminating everyone that is outside of the top 15 right now (Howard leads with 28, and a player needs at least 21 to be in the top 15). That leaves us with an impressive group with a few surprises - Howard, Dunn, Utley, Burrell, Sizemore, Ramirez, Uggla, Braun, Berkman, Adrian Gonzalez, Quentin, Dye, Lee, Hamilton and Ludwick. All of those players have individual prices assigned, so I will start by ruling out the field as a viable option. As an aside, I can't help but notice that 11 of the 15 players listed play in the National League. That's very interesting, but a topic for another article.
The favorite, at 3/2, is Ryan Howard. He currently has a two home run lead. Though he isn't at a particularly attractive price he strikes me as a logical choice here for several reasons. He has won the home run crown before, so the pressure won't get to him down the stretch. He has two teammates - Chase Utley and Pat Burrell - who are also hitting with a ton of power, so pitchers can't easily avoid Howard. He's a career .279 hitter that is only hitting .234 so far this year, so it seems reasonable to believe that he will improve at the plate in the second half. It wouldn't be too much of an exaggeration to say that this race is Howard's to lose.
After his tour de force performance in the Home Run Derby on Monday, Josh Hamilton, at 12/1, will get plenty of public attention in this bet. As appealing as he is as a player and a story, that would be a bad bet. Hamilton is seven home runs behind Howard, he plays in a league that clearly isn't as prone to the deep ball this year, and he hasn't ever played a full major league season so we have no way of knowing how he will hold up. Stay away.
If you like the Phillies but don't like 3/2 then you might want to look at Howard's teammates. Utley is third with 25 homers, and he is at 9/2 - probably a fair price compared to Howard. Burrell, on the other hand, could provide a bit of value for risk-takers. He is two more home runs behind Utley, but his odds are way up at 15/1. That's a bargain compared to some guys well below it. Alex Rodriguez, for example, is sitting in 17th with 19 home runs, yet he is at 12/1.
Compared to Utley, Adam Dunn is worth a look. The Reds' slugger has 26 homers, yet his price is exactly twice as attractive as Utley's - 9/1 versus 9/2. Like Howard, Dunn is hitting below his career average, so he could have an even stringer second half. His biggest problem as I see it is that the Reds are in a rebuilding mode, so it is more than possible that Dunn will be in a new uniform before the end of the year. That could distract his momentum, especially if he switches leagues. Still, his odds are so much higher than the two guys on either side of him in the race that he is definitely interesting.