Astute Handicapper

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Astute Handicapper – Bob Aggarwal ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

And Down the Stretch They Come
by Astute Handicapper Bob Aggarwal
Tuesday, August 24, 2004


As the season of Major League Baseball approaches its home stretch,a number of solid teams find themselves still in the hunt forpostseason play. As many of you dust off your handicapping booksand pick up your copies of preseason football guides in anticipationfor the college and NFL seasons to begin, we do want to remindyou there is not a better time than right now to jump all overlate season baseball. Unlike early season or even mid summer wagering,betting the diamond down the stretch is a much more appealingproposition. Simply put, more tools are available late in theyear to the astute handicapper; let’s expand.

When handicapping an early season game, severalaspects which we covered a few months ago have to be taken intoconsideration. Pitching, on base percentage, bullpen ERA and teambatting. All of these are basically your tools in your baseballhandicapping toolbox ( to put it in 5th grade terms). Now, inthe late season, we can add to that toolbox.

Realizing what teams are in the midst of wildcardraces, what pitchers have late season spaghetti arm and even whatteams are battling for home field advantage, can and will giveyou a heavy advantage over the average public bettor. So withoutfurther adieu, let’s add to that toolbox and take advantageof late season baseball wagering.

Wild Card Teams – These are clubs that reallyhave a ton to play for. Each and every game is extremely importantto put it mildly. The argument can be made that these are professionalsand every team is playing hard trying to get a win regardlessof what their record is. That may be the case mentally, but perennialwild card teams are not playing triple AAA prospects, such asthe Diamondbacks, Tigers and Rockies. If you look at the startinglineup of the Boston Red Sox, we’ll notice that they areplaying their playoff lineup now, every single night. The samecannot be said for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays who had 3 playerswho began the year in Triple AAA in their starting lineup lastweek. Point being, though a pitching matchup may favor one clubover another and the hitting numbers may also weigh heavily infavor of one club vs. another, their place in the standings shouldbe paid close attention too. The season hitting numbers may notbe indicative of the players that are on the field right now andthe pitchers W-L records may not be with the same guys defendingthe field behind them. Here are some teams that fit into our wildcard watch:

Boston – In the heat of the playoff race,the Sox recently cut a 10 game lead by the Yanks down to 5 gamesin the AL Central. The Sox are a team on fire having won 10 oftheir last 13 games. This club is certainly a great bet down thestretch as they have been built for September and October. Theadditions of Mientkiewicz and Cabrera have shored up the Sox defensively.With their 9 best playing every night, they are a solid play onclub heading down the stretch.

Oakland – Billy Beane should be given anaward for best GM of the decade. This guy has done more with hisminute payroll than any other GM ever. The A’s are rightin the thick of things after this was supposed to be the yearthey finally lost too much. Not the case. Youngsters Scott Hatterbergand Eric Chavez have picked up the slack at the plate. Barry Zitois coming on strong sporting an ERA that has now dropped below4. With the best rotation in the AL, the A’s are a solidlook at team down the stretch.

Texas – Everyone keeps waiting for the Rangersto fade out of the playoff picture. Not going to happen it seems.They have big bats and a very solid home record at 38-19. Theyare the second most profitable team in baseball at +$2180 andwe see no reason why, when they are in the thick of things anyoneshould give up on them now. With 19 of their final 35 games inArlington, the Rangers a most definitely a team to look for downthe stretch.

Fading Pitchers – Another tool we mentioned wasspotting fading pitchers. Look deep into their starts. See ifyou can notice trends with their last few outings. Trends suchas more hits yielded now than in April and May, walking a morebatters than in July or the beginning of August or noting whattheir average innings pitched was their last few starts. HA itlessened considerably since June or July? Some pitchers that seemto have developed the famed Spaghetti arm:

Cliff Lee (Cleveland Indians) – This guyis the epitome of fade city. His arm has turned into a chewedpiece of gum the last few months. Lee went 4-1 in April with anERA of 3.14. In May he was 3-2 with an ERA of just 2.61. In June,things started to tail off as he went 3-2 again but his ERA balloonedto 5.90. Then in July his arm started to tire as his ERA wentto 7.06. This month Lee has seen his ERA at 7.01. The man carriedhis club in the early months, but now its time to jump off ofLee’s wagon and fade him down the stretch.

Kenny Rogers (Texas Rangers) – With an ERAof 3.52 in the months of April and May Kenny Rogers was the “oldman that could” to start the season. He has since been the“old man that never should have”. The months of Julyand August have been unkind to the 39 year old lefty. He has sportedand ERA of 7.20 in the month of July and 6.25 in the month ofAugust en route to a 4-3 mark. If it weren’t for the Rangershuge bats, Rogers’s record would not be so decent. At hisage, his arm is obviously fading. Though we have Texas a teamworth looking at hard down the stretch, go ahead and hold offwhen they have Rogers on the mound.

Two more tools to add to your toolbox fellas,Fading pitchers and rising wild card teams. As always bet sharpand play sharp. Good Luck. Bob Aggarwal Chief Handicapper SharpMoney Sports.

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