MLB Season Update
Since the 2009 MLB Gambling season began nearly three months ago, we’ve had four players suspended for steroid use, two managers fired, and one pitcher – San Francisco’s Randy Johnson – join the 300-win club. Our tour of baseball’s top storylines this year begins in Los Angeles; all stats are at press time, and the latest lines are just a click away at sports.bodog.com.
Surprises and busts
Nobody would have blinked at the start of the year if you had predicted the Dodgers (49-28, +17.73 units) and the Angels (42-32, +11.52 units) would be leading their respective divisions. But both teams have had to deal with the unexpected loss of two important players: Dodgers OF Manny Ramirez for 50 games due to steroid use, and far worse, Angels starting pitcher Nick Adenhart after a fatal car crash on Apr. 9.
The Cleveland Indians, meanwhile, have the worst record in the American League at 31-47 (-18.50 units), and the Arizona Diamondbacks are second-last in the National League at 30-46 (-19.21 units) despite replacing manager Bob Melvin with A.J. Hinch back on May 8. Only the Washington Nationals (22-52, -25.44 units) have done worse, but that’s no surprise. Peter Gammons was among the scribes picking Cleveland to win the AL Central; noted seamhead Rob Neyer predicted the Snakes would take the NL Wild Card. It could still happen.
Is there anybody out there?
Attendance is down in the majors so far in 2009 – partly because of the two new stadiums in New York with their smaller seating capacity. The size of the average Yankees crowd has dropped from 53,069 to 45,089 (still tops in the majors), while Mets attendance is down from 51,165 to 39,136. But there’s a good reason for putting fewer seats in the new ballparks. Last year, nine teams were below 60-percent capacity. This year, it’s 16.
One of the worst hit teams in terms of attendance, no big shock given the state of the economy, is the Detroit Tigers. Crowds at Comerica Park have dwindled from 39,538 per game (98.6 percent) to 30,204 (75.3 percent), even while the Tigers have returned to respectability at 42-33 (+6.89 units), tops in the AL Central.
Managers vs. Umpires
Mets fans aren’t the only ones getting antsy with their team’s 37-38 (-4.01 units) performance. Manager Jerry Manuel received a fine and a one-game suspension on May 9 for bumping into first-base umpire Bill Welke during their third encounter of the night. Nothing unusual there, but how about Tigers skipper Jim Leyland unloading one week later on plate umpire Paul Schrieber for making contact with Magglio Ordonez? Schrieber had put his hand on Ordonez’ back, apparently in the process of escorting him away following a contentious called third strike. Cooler heads prevailed, as Schrieber publicly apologized the following morning and Leyland downplayed the issue with reporters.
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
At least Schrieber has been consistent with his strike zone, calling 61.42 percent of pitches for strikes – entirely in line with his numbers over the past decade. Handicappers have been keeping an eye on umpires to see how they would handle the new Zone Evaluation pitch-tracking system, installed in all 30 MLB parks this year and replacing the controversial QuesTec cameras. The consensus has been that the strike zone is smaller, with Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia among those suggesting the low strike is not getting called as often. That hasn’t prevented the under from cashing in 52.81 percent of the time at 573-512 on the season.
Don’t be hatin’
The latest extended round of interleague play has helped turn up the heat on some of baseball’s simmering feuds. Things got very interesting between the Mets and Yankees after Francisco Rodriguez had some angry words for fellow reliever Brian Bruney two weeks ago during pregame drills. The Yanks (-116) responded with a 15-0 flattening of the Mets at new Yankee Stadium, then invaded Citi Field and swept out their NL rivals by a combined score of 18-3, picking up another three units of quick cash.
There’s also the usual heat between the Yankees (43-32, -4.41 units) and Boston Red Sox (47-29, +11.11 units), except the Red Sox have won all eight games between the two clubs this season to account for 8.51 units of their profit. Can we still call it a rivalry?