Interleague Play Wreaks Havoc For 'Over' Bettors
by Robert Ferringo - 05/27/2009
Maybe they should allow steroids for Interleague Play.
It was just a disgusting offensive display put on by our Major Leaguers over the weekend as the start of Interleague Play brought on a plague of double plays, empty at bats and stranded base runners. The result was a scoring standstill and some hideous baseball that left totals players dizzied and displeased.
In an average American League game so far this season the two teams have combined to score around 9.9 runs per game. In the average National League game we have seen an average of 9.2 runs this year. Both of those numbers are slightly higher than last season's averages of 9.5 and 9.0, respectively, but both are nearly spot-on with the Major League's three-year averages.
However, in the 42 Interleague games over the weekend there was an average of just 8.0 runs scored per game. That is nearly two full runs lower than just your average, run-of-the-mill A.L. on A.L. or N.L. on N.L. action. Only 11 of the 42 games saw more than 10 combined runs per game and if you were to discredit the 39 combined runs in the three Tampa Bay-Florida games, which was by far the highest scoring series in the league, then the average runs per game would have dropped to a Mordecai Brown-esque 7.6 runs per game.
If I had spent any money watching that filth I would have asked for my money back.
The lousy scoring was also independent of which ballpark - American or National - the teams were playing in. While the natural reaction would be to believe that there would be more runs scored in American League ballparks because of the designated hitter, the results were actually the opposite. There was actually more scoring in the games in National League parks (8.3 runs per game over the weekend) without the DH than there was runs scored the games in the American League stadiums with the DH (7.7 runs per game). While that's not enough to dispel the idea of which is the higher scoring league it is a statistical oddity.
All of these scoring - or lack thereof - issues wreaked havoc on totals bettors. So far this year the 'over' had hit at a lucrative 56 percent through baseball's first one-third of the season. But instead the teams involved in Interleague Play went just 12-28-2 against the total over the weekend. When you factor in a 1-2 totals mark from the Cubs-Padres series that means that the 'under' hit at an incredible 70-percent clip for the weekend.
The first weekend of Interleague play is always an 'under' festival. However, this year's ineptitude was of historic proportions. Last year the 'under' went 17-22-1 in opening IL weekend. In 2007 it was a high-scoring 24-17-1 and that was balanced out perfectly by a 17-24-1 mark in 2006. That means that in the three previous years teams were 58-63-3 against the total for 47.1 percent rate. Then this year they barely clipped 30 percent for the weekend.
These results are difficult to put a finger on. The weather across the country was not much of a help to batters over the weekend. But then again it wasn't poor enough to be much of a negative factor on scoring. It's not as if the wind was blowing in at 15 miles per hour in half of the stadiums around the league. So, essentially, this was a non-factor.
Also, it's not as if there were an excessive amount of aces hurling. Thirteen of 30 starters with the best ERA's in the league didn't take the hill over the weekend. That list includes studs like Zach Greinke, Tim Lincecum, Justin Verlander, Wandy Rodriquez, Joe Saunders, Yo Gallardo, Aaron Harang, Adam Wainwright and Matt Garza. Instead it was guys like Clay Richard (6.0 innings, 0 runs), Anthony Swarzak (7.0 innings, 0 runs), Garret Olson (6.0 innings, 0 runs) and Kenshin Kawakami (8.0 innings, 0 runs) doing their best Christy Mathewson impression.
Further, baseball started its season a few days later in April this year than normal and a full week later than Opening Day in 2008. That has condensed the season and means that a majority of teams were playing last weekend at the end of stretches ranging from 12 games in 12 days (Toronto) to 24 games in 25 days (Minnesota). You would think that a lot of bullpens would have been taxed and that a lot of the mediocre starters that were being trotted out would be starting to wear down without any extra days of rest. But that clearly wasn't the case.
In fact, the grueling schedules might have actually been one of the factors working against scoring because perhaps some of the regulars were a little worn out.
In the end, unfamiliarity was probably the main culprit in producing the lowest scoring weekend of the season. Be it with opposing pitchers and batters, conflicting rules and styles of play (DH or no DH), or stadiums and cities, there was clearly an issue that held teams back last weekend. Whether or not this was a rare statistical anomaly or if it is a harbinger for Interleague totals to come this entire situation will be something to monitor over the next month as A.L. and N.L. teams ready for rounds two, three and four against their sister league.