MLB Handicapping: Totals Results Have Been Lopsided All Season
by Robert Ferringo - 06/17/2009
In my opinion one of the main stories of this Major League Baseball betting season has to be the bizarre and seemingly unexplainable issue with scoring and totals throughout this early season. At the beginning of the season, when you usually expect teams and players to struggle to find their groove, The Game looked like Beer League Softball. But then in mid-May it was as if someone turned off the lights and suddenly hitters were swinging in the dark.
Through the first five weeks of the MLB season the 'over' was a stellar play for gamblers, with nearly 56 percent of all games throughout the league sailing over the total. Offenses could not be stopped and it appeared as if all of the uproar over the steroids issue was much ado about nothing in regards to its impact on the sport. American League teams were averaging 10 runs per game and National League clubs were smoking their way to a solid 9.4 runs per outing. Only four teams had losing records against the total.
But then on May 22 it was as if the fat kid sitting on the other end of the seesaw simply got up and walked away, leaving the skinny 'over' kid to plummet to the ground.
May 22 was the first day of Interleague Play this season. I don't know what the significance of that is, since the first wave of IL play was just one weekend series and just three games for each team. But whether it's a coincidence or part of the cause, that day was a major turning point on totals betting this season. And to mark the occasion the entire league went a pathetic 3-12 against the total on that evening.
Since May 22 the 'under' has come through in 60.1 percent of all games in the Majors heading into Tuesday's action. The 'under' is 194-129 since May 22. To find any 60-percent trend in the betting world is to discover the Rosetta Stone or Atlantis. But to find such a simple situation to win 60 percent of your wagers, and to do so over such a significant number of trials, is like finding out that your father actually wrote the Rosetta Stone while he was the mayor of Atlantis.
In April of this year the Major League team average for runs per game was 4.73. That translates to about a 9.5 runs per game average in all games played in April. So far in June the team average is 4.08 runs and the combined average is a girl's softball-like 8.2 runs per game.
Again, I think that such a precipitous drop defies all reason and explanation. But I'm going to give it a shot anyway. Below I've listed six reasons that, combined, may have contributed to the plummeting scoring trends throughout the Major Leagues. Some of them may seem like reaches, but if you have any better ideas I'm all ears:
I'm not a meteorologist, but we had kind of an odd spring this year. It seemed to me like the season was inverted, with clearer weather through most of April and a bit of a wetter May. Early in the season it seemed like the wind was always blowing out and that there were nothing but sunny days. But through the end of May things seemed to be a bit more touch-and-go.
It's no secret that the ball carries a bit better in low humidity and on sunny, clear days. If the weather was a bit better in April than that could have been a slight help to the offenses. That is also why we should expect to see another summer surge and fall, um, fall in scoring.
The World Baseball Classic.
Having to play "serious" games in February and March was clearly a benefit to hitters across the league. It wasn't just beneficial to the guys who were actually on the WBC rosters and playing in situations that better simulated a regular season game in July than spring training affairs do. With most of the stars off defending their country's honor that opened up even more at-bats for backups and third-tier players. The results were sharper hitters entering Opening Day.
But I think all of that inflated scoring drove up the numbers from the books and when the natural statistical correction from the pitcher's side occurred it brought everything back down.
The schedule and lack of days off.
Last year the regular season started in March, but this year it didn't begin until the second week of April. That has condensed the MLB calendar and the result has been less days off early in the year and more series and travel crammed together. I cannot remember a May that was as much of a meat grinder as this one. It seemed as if just about every team played a stretch of 18 games in 19 nights and it appeared as if there were fewer situations like this Monday, when all but two teams had time off. That grind has clearly worn on teams and tired, road weary players have been less effective at the plate.
Interleague play is always a bit awkward for all involved. There is a lack of familiarity between players and teams and there is always a bit of a scoring lull when we get into MLB cross-dressing. Teams in the National League aren't well equipped to play with a designated hitter and teams in the American League often lose one of their best sticks and some lineup continuity when they lose the DH.
Injuries to key players.
I can attest to this from personal experience; my fantasy team has been ravaged by injuries to superstar players. Alex Rodriguez, Grady Sizemore, Josh Hamilton, Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Jose Reyes, Carlos Quentin, and Vlad Guerrero are just some of the great offensive players that have either missed significant time with injury this year or played through nagging injuries for most of the season. This is not a new phenomenon; injuries are part of every baseball season. But there seems to have been an excessive amount of crippling injuries to key cogs in lineups this season.
The hitters are off the sauce.
Obviously I saved the most obvious for last. Players are off the juice, man. Naturally there is going to be less scoring when there are less "enhanced" bats stationed in Major League lineups. Whether it's the guys who are clearly off the juice (Travis Hafner, etc.), the guys who admitted to being off it (A-Rod, etc.) or the guys who got caught mid-season (Manny being Manny) there has clearly been an impact from the MLB's crackdown.