You know Vegas sportsbooks are happy when games are going Under!

As a general rule, the public likes to take Overs in all sports. So, whenever you see a trend favoring Unders, the sportsbooks are probably making a lot of money. Often though, the sharps (professional wagerers) are taking a bite out of that by playing some Unders themselves. They know they're usually getting value by going against the public. But, in the opening weeks of baseball, the sharps actually have a history of playing overs too!

There are a few theories about why early season games are supposed to go Over, which has made this big Under trend even more profitable than you might realize.

    * Hitters have had a month to find their timing in Spring Training. They're supposed to be ahead of the pitchers who have been gradually working up to form.

    * Most ace pitchers aren't really rolling until mid-April or later. And, even if they are rolling, they're on a short leash in terms of pitch counts because managers don't want to blow out a starter's arm in April.

    * Many teams haven't figured out their bullpens yet. You saw that last year, where several teams had horrible bullpen performances early in the season. A lot of games went Over strictly because the kerosene kids were allowing 8-10 runs all by themselves for one team!

    * Cold weather is supposed to help hitters early in the season. That's because pitchers have more trouble adjusting from the warm weather of Spring Training. Nobody's every really proved that. But, I do know some systems players that just take all the cold weather Overs in the first week or two based on that theory. They've had some great years. Later in the year, when pitchers have their form down, cold weather tends to reduce scoring a bit, particularly when a cool wind is blowing in.

    * Big crowds often favor Overs in the regular season, and Opening Day provides at least one big crowd for every team.

So, if ALL of that is supposed to favor Unders, how come so many games are going Under?

Through Wednesday's action according to a leading website:

98 Overs
140 Unders
14 Pushes

Now, your own numbers might be a tad different based on whether you're using opening numbers or closing numbers. But, the overall edge is unmistakable. If you gave all the pushes to the Over category, it would still be a slam dunk for the Unders. This is one of the defining themes of early baseball this year. There are low scoring games all over the card, seemingly every night.

What are some of the possible reasons?

    * The one I've heard most is the cold weather. I must have heard 10 different guys talking about all the snow in Cleveland, then linking it to all the Unders all over the country. Well, the weekend it snowed in Cleveland, THE GAMES WERE POSTPONED! How could a bunch of games that weren't played affect the record?

It's true that the weather has been unseasonably cool in many places. It's also true that cold weather has seemingly hurt starting pitchers rather than helped them in past seasons. It's not automatic that cold weather equals Unders in the first two weeks of the campaign. But, I have to admit that I've been watching a lot of these games on the big screen TV's, and it sure looks like the cold weather has influenced a lot of games.

Let's remember though that it wasn't cold in Houston when the Astros were playing low scoring games with the Pirates. Milwaukee and Florida finished off what turned out to be an Under twinbill in balmy Florida Wednesday night. The Dodgers have been playing Unders in Los Angeles. It's not JUST a cold weather issue.

    * The second most common reason I've heard involves steroids. All the Unders are supposedly proof that steroids have been erased from the game. Players are scared enough of drug testing, or of the bad press they get if caught. Many of the abusers have their big contracts locked up, so now they're going to play clean the rest of the way. Everyone saw what happened to the reputations of Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds. Why risk going through that?

    * A reason I haven't heard enough of involves the league's efforts to lessen the impact of other drugs. Amphetamines had become a problem in the league, with many players jacking themselves up before game time with stimulants. That's potentially a contributing factor here as well.

    * I think it's also possible that many teams fixed their bullpen problems before they got bad. Last year it was OBVIOUS that this was a season-killer for many teams. Nobody wanted to experiment with unproven least not a full STAFF of them! We're not seeing the bullpen explosions this year like we did last April.

    * A bit of a longshot I've heard bandied about is that the umpires hate being cold, and are calling more strikes to make the games go faster. I keep track of pitcher's strikeouts because that's a good indicator of where they are in terms of finding their form. I can't say that strikeouts are way up this year. Some low scoring games have had very few strikeouts. I'm skeptical of this one.

It's impossible to know for sure what the influences are. Maybe it's a combination of everything. I can tell you that oddsmakers and Wise Guys are watching this very closely. So far the oddsmakers haven't been punished for putting up bad numbers. Most of the money has been going on the Overs! That will change if scoring doesn't pick up.

I thought it would be fun to run the list of the biggest culprits in the majors right now in terms of this stat:

NATIONAL LEAGUE (through Wednesday night)

Cincinnati: 1-7-1 to the Under
Pittsburgh: 1-6-1 to the Under
Houston: 1-5-1 to the Under
St. Louis: 2-7 to the Under
San Diego: 2-7 to the Under
Arizona: 3-7 to the Under
Colorado: 3-6 to the Under
San Francisco: 3-6 to the Under


LA Angels: 2-7 to the Under
Oakland: 2-7-1 to the Under
Minnesota: 2-6 to the Under

You can see that it's not necessarily a cold weather thing. The NL West has a bunch of does the AL West. Of course, a lot of these teams were playing EACH OTHER, so that magnifies the tendency we're seeing in this particular listing.

There are a lot more National League teams with dramatic records. Let's run the league numbers:

NATIONAL LEAGUE: 50-82-8 to the Under
AMERICAN LEAGUE: 48-58-6 to the Under

That's a huge difference. In terms of percentages, playing every Under in the National League would have led to a 62% win rate, but just 55% in the American League. So, whatever's happening is having less of an impact in the league with the designated hitter.

Who's playing Overs? Let's take a look at the numbers through Wednesday night's action:

Tampa Bay: 8-0 to the Over
Toronto: 6-2-1 to the Over
NY Yankees: 5-2-1 to the Over
Florida: 6-3 to the Over

That's two Florida teams, and a team that plays indoors in poor weather (Toronto). So, basically, the only team exposed to cool conditions that's been playing Overs consistently in ALL of baseball is the New York Yankees. Given their lack of starting pitching, and their all-star offensive attack, that's not surprising.

I wish I could tell you exactly what was going on here. We'll all learn more as the season progresses. If the scoring doesn't go up soon, then the steroid and bullpen factors may be the key causes. If scoring explodes when the weather warms up, then we can blame an unseasonably cold early April for all of these pitcher's duels.

In terms of handicapping, I suggest you keep focusing on Unders until the results tell you to stop. Keep track of the struggling offenses, and go against them when they face quality pitching. If two quality arms are facing two struggling offenses, take the Under with some authority. Remember, the elite pitchers are about to start throwing 7-8 innings per game instead of 6-7 as the managers loosen the leash on pitch counts. Don't assume scoring is about to bust loose. It might with the back end of the rotation in warm weather. But, the staff aces should continue to shine for the foreseeable future.

Right now, there are a lot of posted totals of 8 that should be 5.5 or 6 the way these games are going. There are a lot of 8.5 or 9's that should be 7.5 or 8. Seeing a day that's 10-5 to the Under, or 9-6 doesn't necessarily mean something's going on. But, when a week and a half adds up to 140-98, that's a big deal. Do your best to stay ahead of the information curve as things progress!

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