|Big Dogs and Baseball Injuries|
by Glenn McGrew
162 games. Baseball has a long regular season, almost twice as many games as pro hockey and 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 two in one day. This is why itís important to pay attention to injuries or free agent departures to key players in baseball. Because 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 Green Bay Packers with Bret Favre at quarterback might be a 10-point home favorite over a below-average team, but without Favre they might be only a 4-point favorite. The same is true if NBA stars like Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Shaquille OíNeal and Tim Duncan 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.
The NY Yankees have been a good example. The Yankees suffered early injuries to star outfielders Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. Their offense has been very good, but nowhere near as powerful as they were expected to be, losing their top two corner outfielders. They have often been a favorite, being a high profile public team, but the betting lines have been influenced by those two key injuries in addition to the mediocre pitching of Randy Johnson.
A few years ago, Boston got off to a hot 24-8 start with an outstanding offensive lineup led by star players such as Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek and Trot Nixon. Ramirez on May 11th of that season made a foolish flop into home plate in Seattle and broke his finger, going on the DL for a month. This loss of such a devastating offensive force (hitting .372) was felt when Boston proceeded to go 7-6 on a homestand without him.
Boston had not been held to less than two runs in any game during that 24-8 start, but 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 $1.50 favorite once and a $1.40 favorite twice.
The New York Yankees had a similar slide that same season when injuries hit, although it wasnít one star player who was hurt, but a whole string of nagging injuries to regular contributors. New York started the season 7-1, but then Bernie Williams (shoulder), Andy Pettitte (elbow), David Wells (back), Orlando Hernandez (back) and Nick Johnson (shoulder) struggled with maladies. Some took time off, some played through the pain, but it showed as the Yankees went 11-12. During that slide, New York lost as a two-dollar favorite three times, and was a $2.80 favorite over Tampa Bay in a 10-7 loss.
In 2001, injuries derailed the Minnesota Twins expected pennant-express. The Twins were 55-32 at the All-Star break and were winning with a combination of speed, defense and starting pitching. But then injuries to Christian Guzman, Torri Hunter and Jacque Jones severely dented the teamís speed and defense. Minnesota went 30-45 in the second-half of 2001 and missed the playoffs.
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 adjustments, which can provide great value in taking a shot with the dogs. Keep your eyes open for key injuries, bad lines and big dogs.