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Jeff Haney offers some tips on baseball betting

Jeff Haney offers some tips on baseball betting

Jeff Haney offers some tips on baseball betting, such as looking for players in the last year of their contracts

Analyzing the booklet of betting propositions on the 2007 baseball season issued by the Las Vegas Hilton can be a daunting task.

Hilton oddsmakers are offering over/under betting on the number of wins by 20 individual pitchers; home runs by 22 hitters; hits by 10 other batters; and saves by eight closers.

That's in addition to a selection of so-called "season mosts." (For example, will the player with the most triples in 2007 have over or under 16 1/2?)

Eddie Calandro, a baseball stats aficionado from West Haven, Conn., suggests concentrating on players for whom 2007 is the final year of a contract.

Given the extra, finance-driven incentive, these players could be more likely to outperform expectations this season, according to Calandro.

The key question, of course, is whether oddsmakers accounted for this factor when making their prices.

Following is a selection of players who fall into this category:

Andruw Jones, Braves. Jones showed up to spring training with a slimmed-down look and told reporters he's looking for "market value" in his next contract. He's coming off seasons in which he hit 41 and 51 homers, so the Hilton's line of over 36 1/2 looks tempting.

Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners. This could be the final year in Seattle for Ichiro, who amassed 224 hits last season. His over/under on 2007 hits was set at 214 1/2 at the Hilton (all odds subject to change).

Mariano Rivera, Yankees. Rivera is in the option year of his contract with New York and is eligible to become a free agent after the season. His save numbers have declined in the past three years from 53 to 43 to 34, though he missed time with an injury last season. The Hilton set his over/under at 36 1/2 saves, but the Baseball Prospectus projects only 26 saves for the 37-year-old Rivera.

Carlos Zambrano, Cubs. Zambrano avoided salary arbitration with Chicago, agreeing to a one-year, $12.4 million deal, and then "guaranteed" the Cubs will win the 2007 World Series. The Hilton has him at over/under 15 1/2 wins, just below the 16 he recorded in 33 starts last year.

John Smoltz, Braves. Smoltz has said he wants to end his career in Atlanta, but he's in the final year of his contract there. He won 16 games last year, and his over/under on the Hilton line opened at 14 1/2.

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