MLB Handicapping Tips – Big Al (Week of May 19th) May 19th, 2008
By: Big Al McMordie (Bigal.com)
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Big Al McMordie – Baseball’s Post-Steroid Era
It’s not your imagination: Nobody is scoring runs! Home runs are down 20% from two years ago. It’s tough to clarify exactly why this is the case, but one answer might be cool weather. Historically home run hitters start slow as April and May have cooler weather, which helps pitchers. Sluggers don’t normally get cooking until the hot summer months.
Still, a more likely culprit would be steroids, or I should say, lack of steroids. The 1990s and early 2000s are going to be remembered in baseball history as the steroid era. In 1998 Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa both topped 60 home runs, the first time that had ever been done, then in 2000 Barry Bonds hit a record 73. But things have changed since then, with major league baseball taking a stance (finally) and cracking down on testing and fines to limit steroid use.
The fact is home runs are way down, and so are runs. Baltimore has little power since trading away SS Miguel Tejada and the pitching has improved. Most impressive has been the Orioles’ 6-foot-9 right-hander Daniel Cabrera, a guy with a great fastball and his control is so much better in 2008. Throw in a solid changeup and a two-seamer that is virtually hiding from bats, and it explains seven straight quality starts. Against Kansas City he had 18 ground-ball outs and seven strikeouts in a complete game. The team is 6-0-1 under the total his last 7 starts. The Orioles started 25-15 under the total, including 14-7 under on the road.
The Yankees have the reputation as a slugging, all-offensive team with weak pitching. Oddsmakers have been overvaluing them as far as totals, however, largely because the offense has disappointed. New York has been without key sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada which also hurts their power, particularly against southpaws. The Yankees started 29-12 under the total, including 17-6 under on the road!
The Indians have been dynamite on the mound, but disappointing offensively. Reports are that Cleveland is interested in making a trade to upgrade its infield, as Ryan Garko, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta and Casey Blake have all struggled. Blake is a free agent after this season. However, the pitching staff has led the charge behind Fausto Carmona, Paul Byrd, C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee.
They are tops in the AL in pitching.
Lee has been the most surprising story. April’s American League Pitcher of the Month, Lee started with a perfect 6-0 record, a beyond belief 0.67 ERA, and four measly walks allowed in 53 2/3 innings! Cleveland started 25-15 under the total, and starts this week on an 18-3-1 run under the total.
Like the Indians, Toronto’s pitching has been strong but the offense disappointing. Toronto started 28-14 under the total (18-7 under on the road). One team that hasn’t surprised in those departments is Oakland, a team expected to have little offense but decent pitching. The A’s started 24-15 under the total, including 13-8 under on the road. Oakland’s pitching is No. 2 in the AL, right behind Cleveland. Ace Rich Harden was most impressive this weekend versus the Braves against the National League’s leading hitter, Chipper Jones (.423 at game time). Jones went 0-for-3 off Harden and twice struck out, once on a changeup and once on a fastball. It was Jones’ first double-K of the year. Oakland won 5-4 and the only reason that game went over the total was that the Braves made it close in the ninth, scoring three runs off Huston Street.
hose wacky White Sox are finishing up a road trip out West, with good pitching but, like last year, a shaky offense. Chicago is on a 15-4 run under the total, and stands 17-8 under the total away from home.
There is still some heat on Chicago White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker. Walker and others can’t help but wonder how large their Central Division lead would be if Jim Thome and Paul Konerko, the No. 3 and 4 hitters, had come out hot this season. Thome is hitting .203, Konerko .211. Just a fluke? Or is this the new post-steroid era? Time will tell, but the numbers don’t lie: The unders have thus far dominated the 2008 baseball season.
Good luck, as always…Al McMordie.
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