Baseball Injuries, Bad Lines and Big Dogs!
Posted May 31, 2012 by Jim Feist
Baseball has a long regular season, almost twice as many games as pro basketball, and ten times more games than the NFL regular season. Baseball athletes have to play just about every day and sometimes even have to play twice in a day during double-headers.
This is why it’s essential to keep up on injuries. In football, if a starting quarterback or star running back is injured and expected to miss a game, that injury will be reflected in the betting line. The Broncos with new QB Peyton Manning might be a 10-point home favorite over a below-average team, but without Manning they might be only a 3-point favorite – or a big dog, as we saw last season with him on the shelf. The same is true if NBA stars like Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are out.
The bulk of baseball lines are based on the starting pitchers. Sides and totals will be adjusted a bit when star players are out of the lineup, but not to the extent that football lines often move. For bettors, sometimes the loss of one or two important positional players can be a large enough void that it offers great value to wager against a team.
This season the Red Sox have been hit hard by injuries to the pitching staff, with Josh Beckett missing a start, Clay Buchholz battling blister problems, Dice-K Matzusaka in rehab and offseason acquisition closer Andrew Bailey not having played in a game yet. No wonder their pitching is last in baseball!
The Philadelphia offense has struggled without Ryan Howard and chase Utley, 17th in runs scored and slugging, the biggest explanation for their disappointing start. Last season the Minnesota offense was a disaster with injuries to Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. The good news is both are back this season, but the offense hasn’t been much improved, 25th in baseball in runs scored.
The surprising Washington Nationals got good news last week when ace Stephen Strasburg was lifted from a start after only five innings. He threw a bullpen session and was fine, a huge relief for the first place team that is No. 1 in the baseball in team ERA. Keep in mind the
Nationals are 21-7 against the National League East. With that great pitching depth the under is 19-9-1 in the Nationals last 29 against a team with a winning record, as well as s 31-15-2 under the total in on the road!
The Angels hope to get a boost to their offense with the return of RF Torri Hunter, who missed ten games this month while dealing with a family matter. The team is 26th in baseball in runs scored and 25th in on-base percentage, numbers that are way below what their talent level is. Like the Nationals, the under is 15-5-1 in the Angels last 21 road games.
Injuries and returning players can be significant. A few years ago the Royals got off a surprising hot 17-4 start behind then 22-year old ace pitcher Runelvys Hernandez. Hernandez started 4-0, after which arm trouble put him on the shelf and the Royals slumped without an ace anchoring the staff.
In 2004, the Cardinals best pitcher was Chris Carpenter (15-5), but he missed the postseason, which hurt in the World Series when St. Louis had no ace to throw at the Red Sox (they got swept). Star positional players such as David Wright, Albert Pujols and Ryan Howard can alter the performance of a team, too.
Manny Ramirez is working out in the minors hoping for a shot at the A’s roster. A few seasons ago, the Red Sox got off to a hot 24-8 start, but lost Ramirez, their best offensive player, in mid-May when he broke his finger in Seattle on a foolish home plate flop. He was hitting .372 when he got hurt, went on the DL for a month and the team proceeded to go 7-6 on a home stand without Ramirez. They scored one run to the Mariners and were shut out twice at home by the White Sox and Athletics.
The Red Sox were favored in five of those six home losses, including as a -150 favorite once and a -140 favorite twice. If a team has a capable replacement to fill in, it may be able to survive an injury, but still might be overvalued by oddsmakers, who lean heavily on overall and home/away records. Also, a team’s offensive production can suffer, too, which can be an edge for totals players.
One season injuries to key players devastated the Minnesota Twins pennant-express. The Twins were 55-32 at the All-Star break and were winning with a great combination of speed, defense and starting pitching. Then injuries to Christian Guzman, Torri Hunter and
Jacque Jones severely dented the team’s speed and defense. Minnesota went 30-45 in the second-half and missed the playoffs. Big payroll teams have depth on the bench, but small market teams like the Twins and Rays often can’t afford it.
So pay close attention to whether a team is at full strength or not, either through injuries or other factors. Many times oddsmakers fail to make proper adjustments, which can provide great value in taking a look at underdogs. Keep your eyes peeled for key injuries, bad lines and big dogs.