by Mike Hayes - 05/10/2006
With starting pitchers pitching less and relievers pitching more, both bettors and bookies are faced with a new challenge - determining just how much a good or bad bullpen is worth in establishing a line or placing a wager.
The greatest influence in placing a line on a baseball game has long been the starting pitching match-up but considering a "quality start" is now thought to be a six-inning performance in which four or less earned runs are surrendered -- a pitching line that wouldn't even qualify as decent not long ago -- the bullpen is an increasingly important factor.
In the 1970s, with guys like Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and Ferguson Jenkins in their prime, it was common for some starters to tally well over 300 innings in a single year, a figure accomplished due not only to the four-man rotation but to longer outings as well. In 1971, for example, Jenkins averaged better than 8 innings-per start with 39 starts, 30 complete games and 325 innings pitched. Now, remarkably, a pitcher who reaches 250 innings is considered a workhorse.
Not one pitcher from either league since the start of the current decade has tallied more than nine complete games in a single season. This is down from the 1990s when the league leader in both the National League and American League averaged 11 complete games a season over the 10-year-period. This was down from 15 in the NL and 20 in the AL during the 80s and even further removed from the 1970s, when the average leader tallied 25 complete games in the AL and 23 in the NL.
Last year, Livan Hernandez led all of baseball with 246 innings, averaging 7 per outing. More telling, though, is that the 222 innings logged by Brewer Doug Davis, about 6-per-start, was good for 10th best in the NL and that Jake Westbrook's 210, also about 6-per-start, placed him 10th in the AL.
So what's the bettor to do? Hope the Mets bullpen can get Pedro home after a solid six-inning performance in which he reaches his pitch count prematurely or hope closer Billy Wagner propels the underdog to victory with a ninth-inning gopher ball and blown save?
Pinnacle Sportsbook has found a rather unique way to address the issue by offering 5 inning lines and second chance wagering as part of its baseball menu.
With 5 inning wagering the bettor can wager on who will be leading after 5 innings while second chance offers bettors a second betting line on a game after 5 innings of play. The new line is posted after the top of the fifth inning and is based on an assumption that the home team will not score in its next at bat. This assumption is made so that a new line can be set with sufficient time for bettors to wager. If the home team does score in the bottom of the fifth all bets will become no action. With 5-inning wagering the bettor must select the winner through five innings of play, essentially taking the bullpens out of the equation.
On Monday most sites had the Mariners a slight favorite over the Devil Rays, but after five innings with the Rays up 3-1 Pinnacle made them a minus 310 favorite on the money line and minus 127 laying 1.5 runs. Backers of the Mariners who predicted the second-half comeback and 6-3 win were rewarded with a healthy plus 264 on the money line and plus 111 with 1.5 runs.
The Cubs and Greg Maddux were slight favorites over the red-hot Padres, but with the Padres ahead 7-1 through five you would have had to lay 5.5 runs and minus 149 on the suddenly favored Padres or could take the 5.5 runs at plus 132 with the Cubbies, who rewarded backers by outscoring San Diego 2-1 down the stretch for a half-run betting victory.
"Our five inning lines have been a huge hit with bettors and diehard baseball fans who take as much interest in the respective strength of a team's bullpen as they do for the starting pitching," said Pinnacle Spokesman Simon Noble. "We launched second chance baseball for the very first time at the start of the season so bettors are still trying to figure out how it works and developing betting strategies to maximize potential return but we are pleased with the initial reviews."
While it already generates the greatest handle of the major sports, Noble said interest in wagering on baseball continues to grow. "Baseball handle is the largest sport for us due to the sheer number of games played throughout the season, the number of unique options available at Pinnacle Sports and of course because of our ultra-thin margins and 8 cent line. Baseball is increasing for us every year."
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