MLB All Star Game News and Notes

MLB All Star Game News and Notes

All-Star Betting Tips
By Josh Jacobs

The 2008 “Midsummer Classic”, or just the All-Star Game, will be the 79th time that both the NL and AL have fielded its best performing players in an attempt to grab league dominance. Obviously the ante has been raised since the first exhibition contest was played in 1933. With home field advantage awarded to the winner since 2003, the importance of a victory on Tuesday brings October that much closer to center stage.

But let’s put postseason baseball on the backburner for the time being. The more important issue at hand; is it worth dumping dollars into this mid-season contest? Here are some angles to look at before you decide if this challenge merits a significant wager(s).

History

If history has anything to say then the National League is the current crowned champion with a 41-35-2 record since the first contest was played in 1933 at Comiskey Park in Chicago. But the pendulum has swung several times and the AL has enjoyed the most recent run with a 15-3-1 record since 1988, involving a 10-0-1 success story since 1997 (played in Jacobs Field).

The NL had its fun in the sun from 1950-1987. During this fairy tale climb to the top, the oldest league of teams in American sports was able to file a 33-7-1 record. So, while it might seem that the NL hasn’t been able to claim the All-Star crown for some time, it’s also easy to forget that this league is ahead overall in the all-time win column.

Moving right along, in the NL’s last 20 victories in this midseason exhibition contest an average of 5.4 runs have been scored as opposed to the AL’s 2.5 (a difference of 2.9 runs of production). What should be more of an eye opener is in a total of 40 wins, the NL has averaged 5.2 runs per game versus an AL average score of only 2.4 runs per game. Very similar numbers indeed, but it’s still worth explaining that a league responsible for going 0-10-1 in the last 11 has outscored its rival by the aforementioned figures.

The National League holds the record for most consecutive wins in the All-Star game at 11.

Totals

Las Vegas Sports Consultants has set an early total of 10 runs, with the ‘under’ catching a -115 price tag and the ‘over’ looking to payback backers close to even money (-105).

To kickoff this conversation, over the last 18 years of All-Star play the final score has averaged 9.7 runs per game. Then there’s the final average score of 7.6 runs in the three All-Star gatherings inside the confines of Yankee Stadium (1939, 1960, 1977). Of course the players, stats and era of the game have changed since 1939 but even with the low porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, only once did the AL and NL combine for a final score in double-digits.

And what about starting and relief pitching?

Hurlers in both dugouts will hold the key to what path the 2008 All-Star Game takes. But how can you handicap a contest that might witness Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera toeing the slab for the AL?

The news swirling around the majors about Rivera taking over starting duties seems to be dulling down a bit as AL and Red Sox manager Terry Francona has reportedly sidestepped the question.

So if the nine-year Yankee closer won’t see starting time then who will?

The list is extensive but Angels’ slinger Joe Saunders (12-5, 3.07) seems like a likely candidate to hold down a slugging NL team. The southpaw starter hasn’t been untouchable, giving up four runs or more four times in his last 10 starts, but allowing 3.1 runs per game from May 4 to Jul. 8 has done his L.A. club justice (the Halos have gone 7-5 in Saunder’s last 12 trips to the hill). And while you won’t see any initial starter for either team going past an inning or two, Saunder’s has seen the ‘under’ go 7-3 in his last 10.

Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle will have a tough decision on who he’ll send out to the hump for the NL. From Arizona’s Brandon Webb (13-4, 3.27) to Colorado’s Aaron Cook (11-6, 3.57) and San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum (10-2, 2.66), Hurdle has plenty to work with. There’s no rule of thumb to who will get the nod, but given the barrage of starters on both sides expectations of a slow developing hitting game should be given great consideration.

Batting Park Factor

This baseball statistic could be the most useful given the neutral factors in any given All-Star Game (rosters, managers and in some cases home-field advantage). The batting park factor indicates the difference between run scored at home versus run scored on the road. It uses runs allowed versus runs scored (divided into each other), both at home and on the road, to get a final figure which indicates if the ballpark is hitter friendly or more favorable to the arms on the mound.

Through Saturday, July 12, Yankee Stadium ranks as the No. 9 ballpark in which a difference of 1.1 runs scored is indicative to a very friendly hitting park (anything over 1.0 is considered a hitter’s park). All but the statistic of 0.99 hits is neutral when analyzing Yankee Stadium as a hitter or pitcher park.

One more angle of note is the American League’s 16 homeruns versus the National League’s lonely six long balls dating back to the 2000 All-Star game. The discrepancy here is huge. In Yankee Stadium, which ranks 11th best in the league in the homerun park factor (1.056 – another number above that all important 1.0 neutral zone), expectations are high that shots into short right field (a mere 314 feet at the corner) could turn this contest on its head.

The only thing left to do is grab a few buddies, get that good old BBQ fired up and hope that there’s enough cold ones in the fridge for a nine-inning (or more) affair. This will be the last season that Yankee Stadium will witness play on the bluegrass.

This writer just wants to wish everyone a great week ahead and hopes that the enjoyment of the All-Star Game will once again reflect what baseball means to each and everyone who bets, views or just enjoys the intricacies of the sport.

More importantly, our hearts go out to the late Bobby Murcer and his family. Rest in Peace Bobby.

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Cliff Lee, Ben Sheets to start All-Star game
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) -Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee ace Ben Sheets were picked as the starting pitchers for Tuesday night's All-Star game at Yankee Stadium. Oddsmakers have the AL listed as a -140 favorite with the total set at 10 runs.

Lee is 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA, a remarkable resurgence after the left-hander was demoted to the minors last season. He was chosen by American League manager Terry Francona of Boston.

''I'm just honored to be here, to be honest with you,'' Lee said Monday. ''To get the start is just icing on the cake. ... I'm kind of awe-struck by it.''

NL manager Clint Hurdle of Colorado tabbed Sheets, who is 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA. Several other National League All-Stars pitched Sunday, making the well-rested Sheets a logical choice.

''I've never been to Yankee Stadium so I'm going to try to take it all in and just enjoy myself,'' Sheets said.

Both managers announced their lineups Monday in the same Manhattan ballroom where the Mitchell Report on drugs in baseball was released seven months before.

Seattle right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will bat leadoff for the AL, followed by Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton, New York third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez, Rangers designated hitter Milton Bradley, Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, Minnesota catcher Joe Mauer and Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Francona kept more than numbers in mind when putting together his batting order.

''To me, Derek Jeter deserves to hit second in a lineup like this, especially in this place,'' he said.

The manager also acknowledged he thought about whether to honor Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with the start in his home ballpark - but only because Francona was asked about it by reporters.

''Mariano Rivera may be the greatest reliever of all-time, but he's not a starter,'' Francona said. ''We will treat every player in this game with a lot of respect, certainly knowing that there are Yankees in this game - but other than that I think doing it correctly.''

Francona wouldn't commit to calling on Rivera to close out a ninth-inning lead, saying he didn't want to divulge his plans.

''I'm going to stick my neck out and say we'll prepare from him,'' Hurdle said.

Hurdle put Florida shortstop Hanley Ramirez at the top of his order, followed by Philadelphia second baseman Chase Utley, Houston first baseman Lance Berkman, St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols at designated hitter, Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones, Colorado's Matt Holliday in right field, Milwaukee left fielder Ryan Braun, Chicago's Kosuke Fukudome in center and Cubs rookie catcher Geovany Soto.

''That's the best lineup I've ever written on paper. We'll see where it takes us,'' Hurdle said.

Sheets is set to become the first Brewers pitcher to start an All-Star game - three days before his 30th birthday. His most recent outing was last Wednesday, when he struck out 11 batters in six innings of a loss to the Rockies.

''Caught my eye,'' Hurdle said with a smile. ''I'm kind of smart like that.''

Hurdle said he looked closest at the All-Star pitchers who were voted in by players when he was deciding which one would get the start.

That group included Sheets, Chicago's Ryan Dempster, San Francisco's Tim Lincecum, Cincinnati's Edinson Volquez and Arizona's Brandon Webb. Dempster, Lincecum and Webb all started Sunday, while Volquez earned his 12th win Saturday.

Sheets' All-Star bonus doubled to $50,000 for being selected as the starting pitcher.

The 29-year-old Lee compiled a 0.67 ERA during his first seven starts. He was 18-5 in 2005 but went 5-8 with a 6.29 ERA last year, when he was optioned to the minors for more than a month.

''There's a lot of pitchers having outstanding years,'' Francona said, ''and none measured up to Cliff.''

The last Indians pitcher to start an All-Star game was Charles Nagy in 1996 at Philadelphia - the last time the National League won.

''We will attempt and make every effort to put a foot down and stop this slide,'' Hurdle said. ''We're not going to play for a tie.''

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Vegas Watch: All-Star value in the NL?
By JACOB WHEATLEY-SCHALLER

The NL will try to end their 12-year drought in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium.  Since they won the 1996 contest 6-0 at Veterans Stadium, the Senior Circuit has gone 0-10-1 in 11 games.

That, and the AL’s recent dominance in both postseason and interleague play—the AL won 59.1 percent of interleague games this year—have allowed the seemingly superior league to be a significant favorite in this year’s game.  Pinnacle currently has the AL listed at -142, while the NL is +134. A small portion of that is likely because the AL has the advantage of batting last, but it’s mostly because it’s perceived as the better league.

This afternoon, at Baseball Musings, David Pinto analyzed both team’s lineups, and concluded that the NL’s is stronger.  Their starting lineup would average 7.43 runs per game against normal pitching, while the AL would average “only” 6.36.  The problem with that idea is the word “normal”.  For the NL hitters, “normal” is National League pitching, obviously.  As we’ve seen in interleague play, the quality of play in the AL is higher, so even if the NL lineup is, in fact, stronger than the AL, that means the AL’s pitching staff is probably far superior. So it’s really hard to gain anything from looking at individual players’ stats.

That being said, I think the better side tomorrow is NL +132 (or, if possible, NL +138 at Matchbook).  The AL’s streak may be impressive, but it’s not like they’ve dominated.  In the last three years, they’ve outscored the NL by only four runs—you may recall that in 2006, they needed a late comeback against Trevor Hoffman to win 3-2.  These close victories have inflated the AL’s line; anything can happen in an exhibition like this.

The Greek has also posted odds on who will win the All-Star Game MVP.  I don’t think any single player is worth betting on, as the odds add up to an outrageous 240 percent.  However, there may be some value in the “Field” at +800.  There are 14 reserve hitters that are not listed, along with every pitcher other than the two starters.  Since players rarely get more than a couple at-bats, the award is really a crapshoot. This was seen in the aforementioned 2006 game, where reserve Michael Young came in as a defensive replacement in the fifth, and ended up getting the game-winning hit in the eighth, and being named MVP.  The winner is generally someone who was just in the right place at the right time, so it seems like a good idea to take as many guys as possible and hope to get lucky.

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Lawrence's MLB All-Star weekend betting preview
By MARC LAWRENCE

When Yankee Stadium plays host to the 2008 MLB All-Star Game in the Bronx this Tuesday, not only will the pride of the Yankees be on the line but also an 11-game unbeaten streak for the American League.

And should the A.L. continue its mastery of the N.L. they will earn home field advantage in the 2008 World Series, once again lending legitimacy to this year’s contest.

Let’s take a visit back in All-Star history and see if we can’t recall some of the more memorable moments in this classic event.

The tradition of the All-Star Game carries back to 1933, its inaugural campaign.  While it was Ted Williams’ contention that the “All-Star Game was invented for Willie Mays,” the truth of the matter is it was more likely designed to showcase the talents of legendary Babe Ruth.

"We wanted to see the Babe. Sure, he was old and had a big waistline, but that didn't make any difference. We were on the same field as Babe Ruth," exclaimed Wild Bill Hallahan, the N.L. starter in the 1933 classic.

LET THE STREAKS BEGIN
When the American League defeated the National League, 4-2, at Comiskey Park in Chicago in the inaugural game in 1933 it was the start of a 12-4 series edge for the Junior Circuit.  It wasn’t until 1950 when the Senior Circuit finally put a halt to the A.L’s dominance when they went on to win 7 of the next 8 All-Star games.

The two leagues basically traded wins from 1957-62 with the American League holding a slight 5-4-1 series advantage.  That, however, is when things got interesting.

From 1963-1987 the National League beat the American League like a red-headed stepchild when it laid a 22-2 series pounding on the Juniors, winning 11 in a row at one point from 1972-1983.

The A.L finally countered from 1988-93, when the captured six All-Star win a row, only to the see the N.L. win three straight from 1994-96.

Since then, however, it’s been all American as the Junior Circuit takes the aforementioned 10-0-1 streak into battle this year.

ALL-STAR SCORING
Scoring the All-Star game has been fairly stable, with an upturn in run production of late.  Here are the combined scoring averages of RPG (Runs Per Game) played each decade:

1930s – 7.9 RPG with two double-digit games
1940s – 9.0 RPG with three double-digit games
1950s – 9.5 RPG with five double-digit games
1960s – 7.0 RPG with four double-digit games
1970s – 9.5 RPG with four double-digit games
1980s – 6.5 RPG with one double-digit game
1990s – 9.5 RPG with four double-digit games
2000s – 10.0 RPG with four double-digit games

As you can see the ‘60s and ‘80s were low scoring decades. The bottom line, though, is this:  in the history of the All-Star Game there have been 29 games that have played to a combined total of 10 or more runs while 51 games have played to a combined total of 9 or less runs.

RECORD SETTERS
A stroll down memory lane finds the following All-Star record holders:

Hitters –
Most At Bats – Willie Mays (75)
Best Batting Average – Derek Jeter (.700)
Most Home Runs – Stan Musial (6)
Most RBIs – Ted Williams (12)
Best Slugging Percentage – Steve Garvey (.821)
Most Strikeouts – Mickey Mantle (17)
Pitchers –
Most Wins – Lefty Gomez (3)
Most Appearances – Roger Clemens (9)
Most Innings Pitched – Don Drysdale (19.3)
Most Strikeouts – Don Drysdale (19)
Most Walks – Jim Palmer (7)
Most Runs Allowed – Whitey Ford (13)

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Re: MLB All Star Game News and Notes

BEHIND THE LINES

Plenty of action is in the Stars


Baseball's All-Star game is the main event on the sports calendar Tuesday, and there's no shortage of ways to bet it.

The American League has not lost an All-Star game since 1996 and oddsmakers have made the junior circuit a favorite to win its 12th in a row over the National League tonight at Yankee Stadium.

With the NL starting Milwaukee right-hander Ben Sheets (10-3 record, 2.85 earned-run average) and the AL turning to Cleveland left-hander Cliff Lee (12-2, 2.31), the AL is listed as a -145 favorite over the NL (+125).

In a run line bet for tonight's game listed at Bodoglife.com, the NL is given +1.5 runs at -155, with the AL -1.5 runs at +135. The over/under combined runs total is 10 with the over at -110 and the under at -110.

Here are several proposition wagers available at the Las Vegas Hilton sportsbook: Total number of players to throw a pitch -- over 16.5 (-150) or under 16.5 (+130). Total strikeouts by both teams -- over 13.5 (-110) or under 13.5 (-110). Total home runs by both teams -- over 2.5 (-150) or under 2.5 (+130).

Some others: Most hits and runs -- Florida's Hanley Ramirez (+115) or Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki (-135). Most hits and runs and runs batted in -- Atlanta's Chipper Jones (-110) or Texas' Milton Bradley (-110). Will Texas' Josh Hamilton strike out at least once? Yes (+170) or no (-200). Will the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez hit a home run? Yes (+400) or no (-600). Will Houston's Lance Berkman hit a home run? Yes (+500) or no (-700).

* Tonight's All-Star odds: American League -145; National League +135.

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