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MLB Totals: Cool Weather, Cool Bats

by Larry Josephson, Top Market Sports

The Washington Nationals were expected to have a bullet-proof lineup this season.

Leadoff batter Adam Eaton was back from an injury that cost him almost all of 2017, Trea Turner was a top-of-the-lineup burner, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon were healthy again, and Bryce Harper was locked and loaded as he entered his free agent walk year.

Then everything went wrong. Injuries hit again, Harper hit home runs but nothing else, and the offense slumped. Solid starting pitching and a decent bullpen kept them in the National East hunt, and produced a slew of low-scoring games. As a result, over bettors on run totals have taken a bath with D.C. this season. Through 62 games Washington games went over only 25 times.

But the Nationals are hardly the only voice in the under chorus. Of the 30 major league teams, 21 teams are more likely to not cover the total number than cover it. And of the teams that have covered the number better than half the time, only a few (Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers) have been halfway decent money-makers for over wagerers.

What’s up? Here are a few possibilities:

1. The weather in the Northeast was cold and nasty throughout the spring, depressing long balls.
2. Speaking of taters, more players are in all-or-nothing mode, leading to lots of strikeouts and low-scoring games.
3. Oddsmakers just may be setting the numbers too high, banking on public bettors who love to see runs scored and root / bet against pitchers duels.

Whatever the reason, runs are down this season. Just as only nine teams are covering the total with any kind of regularity, only nine teams are scoring more runs than they did last season.

One of those teams is the Yankees, who have added Giancarlo Stanton to an already-potent lineup. Yankees games covered the total number with consistency in May, but the bats have cooled somewhat in June – New York has scored as many as seven runs in a game only twice this month, and heading into Sunday night’s game the Yanks had gone under five consecutive times.

As the weather warms, offenses tend to also get hot. But oddsmakers who follow trends closely will probably also make an adjustment, and move the lines even higher. For avid bettors, it becomes a game of chess that so far has been difficult to win.