Baseball's Best Under Bets
by Robert Ferringo - 07/15/2006
Here are the five best 'under' teams from the first half of the season, and my prognosis for whether or not they will continue on that path for the second half:
Detroit Tigers (33-53-3) - The Tigers have been baseball's biggest surprise due to their suddenly dominating pitching staff. Detroit leads the league in ERA (3.47) and quality starts (53), and is second in WHIP (1.24).
However, their front-line starters have seen a lot of innings thus far. Justin Verlander is in his first full season and is on pace for 208 innings, Jeremy Bonderman has never thrown more than 189 innings (on pace for 224), and Nate Robertson has never thrown more than 196 innings (on pace for 211). I expect these youngsters to fade a bit down the stretch. Also, Kenny Rogers has been incredible, but he is approaching 42 years of age.
I expect Detroit to go out and get a bat at the trade deadline which could add some more pop to the lineup. But their biggest bargaining chip is flame-throwing middle reliever Joel Zumaya. If Zumaya gets dealt it will severely weaken the bullpen. If that happens, and when the arms start to tire, I expect September to see a lot of Over games for the Tigers.
Colorado Rockies (35-47-6) - I discussed the Rockies situation in a bit more detail in this article: //www.docsports.com/mlb-colorado-under-park.html. The humidor and the improved staff have led to a dramatic shift in how we should approach betting the Rockies against the number. Colorado started the season 5-5 against totals set at 10 or more. But since April 22 they are just 2-19-1 against a double-digit total.
Texas Rangers (37-48-4) - It doesn't make sense, does it? This is another one of those Colorado/primacy effect issues. The Rangers have finished in the top five in runs scored in four of last five years, and from 2001-2003 they finished last in the Majors in ERA and runs allowed twice. That translated to a lot of 10-8 ball games.
However, the pitching has gotten better even though it doesn't get national credit. The Rangers improved from 30th in 2003, to 18th in 2004, to 17th in 2005. This year they are again 17th in ERA (4.59). That's more than a full run better than the 5.68 they put up in 2003.
I expect the Rangers to remain an Under play. They've finished above .500 against the total in two of the past three years, and squares are still betting them that way. If the money keeps coming on the high side, the books will keep posting 10.5 numbers. I just don't know if that will happen. Texas is 9-17 against the total on the road since mid-May, and if they make any moves at the trade deadline it will likely be for another starter.
Tampa Bay (41-47-1) - Is it possible to accuse a team as horrendous as the Devil Rays of tanking it? They started the year with just a $35 million payroll, and have dumped $10 mil. in salaries over the last month. Last week they ditched cleanup hitter Aubrey Huff for prospects, further weakening the Majors second-worst offense (4.3 runs per game). Speedsters Julio Lugo and Carl Crawford are also hot names on the trade market, so their play may be adversely affected as we approach the July 31 deadline.
That being said, be wary of the Devils Rays as a consistent Under play in the second half. They have been just 10-20 against the total since June 7, but they started the season 12-6. Tampa has been hammered by injuries in the first few months and now that they appear to have their lineup healthy and stable (barring trades). Also, the Devil Rays have been a pretty consistent Over team. They've had a winning record against the total in two of the past three years, including an 83-72-7 mark in 2005.
Oakland Athletics (40-46-3) - The only way that Oakland will go on an Over run is if lines makers start setting the total for their games around 4.5 or 5.0. Either that, or maybe if Bud Selig starts letting A's pitch to one another like they do during the Home Run Derby they could start putting up some respectable numbers.
Oakland is the worst hitting team in the league (.244) and scores the fewest runs per game (4.3). Oh yeah, and their best hitter, Eric Chavez, is headed for the disabled list. The pitching remains outstanding, boasting the league's fifth-best ERA (4.19). The A's will more than likely go on one of their patented late-season surges, but don't expect it to be because of their bats.
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