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April-20-2006,
High scoring games; Are the balls juiced?...By Blogguy

There's been some talk here in the MESS HALL about whether or not the balls have been juiced this year. The scoring is definitely up in the first few weeks, so there's no evidence out there that can prove for sure that they HAVEN'T been juiced. We've all seen some of the football scores.

Whether or not there's been tinkering with the baseball's this year, there is EXTREMELY clear evidence that the wind blowing out is having an influence. Obviously, juiced balls would fly farther if the wind was blowing out. And, even if the balls weren't juiced but other "Over" influences were in play, the wind would help in those situations as well.

Possible other reasons for increase in scoring: *Warmer than normal weather through much of the country *New sport-wide emphasis on pitch counts is getting more lousy long relievers into the middle of the game *Use of steroids in the past had a bigger positive impact on pitchers who were using than was previously realized *Unreported emphasis on umpires to shrink the strike zone again because the league was worried absence of steroids would decrease scoring *Hitters in Cincinnati are allowed to use bazookas

We could go on...

Anyway, I went back and looked at the results for the past 7 days I had the weather for (I travelled most of Easter Sunday, and had heat stroke afterward lol...so I didn't have the weather for that day).

Here's what I found: Wind blowing out at least 7-12 mph: 25-10 to the Over All other games: 28-26 to the Over

Clearly the bulk of the high scoring has come when the wind was blowing out. That's a 71% trend toward the Over in games where the wind was forecast to be blowing at at least 7-12 mph. And, you could if you wanted trim that down further. Los Angeles is a great pitcher's park that just barely qualified in the last four home games. Three of those stayed Under anyway. So...25-10 could be adjusted to 24-7 to the Over if you throw out games played in great pitcher's parks that barely qualify. I'll stick with 25-10 because that's solid enough.

Now...that 28-26 to the Over in the other conditions doesn't necessarily mean the balls aren't juiced. That sub-sample is only neutral or wind blowing in. For games to go 28-26 to the Over with those qualifications would probably fall on the "balls could be juiced" side of the argument. You'd expect an Under record in that grouping, and it's not there.

If you add up the two groups...it's 53-36 to the Over on the days where I had weather forecasts. Sunday's totals were 8-6-1 to the Over...meaning the last eight days overall on the schedule are 61-42 to the Over. SG's experiment started right after two very strong Over days...which is why his record isn't 42-61 on his project.

Whether or not the balls are juiced...scoring is clearly up...and the Vegas lines are showing VIRTUALLY NO REACTION AT ALL to this new development.

Check out the run scoring-line from Wednesday action:

3-4-4-4-9-9-10---13---13-15-15-17-17-22-27

The median was 13 runs scored. The HIGHEST total on the Vegas board was 11.5 in Colorado. Only three games had totals as high as 10. The median posted total was around 9 or 9.5 depending on your numbers.

In other words...Vegas/offshore thought the typical game would have 9 runs scored...and the actual number was 13.

Here's Tuesday:

3-5-5-7-8-10-11----11----11-13-15-16-16-18-25

The median on Tuesday was 11 runs, even though only two totals posted in Vegas.offshore had numbers at 10 or higher.

There's a perception in places that there's no value left wagering on sports once the "sharps" have placed their bets. What we see here is very clear evidence that this is NOT true regarding baseball totals of late. Wagering from "sharps" did not drive the median line up to 11 on Tuesday, or up to 13 on Wednesday. There was only a handful of games that ended up with lines of 10 or more...but fully 19 (NINETEEN!) games saw 10 or more total runs on the scoreboard.

In fact, it's IMPOSSIBLE to make those two points simultaneously. You can't possibly say that the high scoring proves balls are juiced...but that there's no value betting totals after the sharp money has hit. The high scoring is showing that there's tons of value betting at any point in the day (particularly if the wind is forecast to be blowing out) while raising the possibility that the balls have been juiced.

Personally, I'm not convinced it's the balls. The other facts I listed other than the bazooka's in Cincinnati could be in play. Or, we could have a "cocktail" of factors where several of them are in play simultaneously. But...WHATEVER it is has been going on for a few weeks now and has shown no signs of slowing down. That means handicappers should be looking for was to take advantage.

Among the suggestions: *Checking out Stevo's weather forecast every day in the THINK TANK *Separating pitchers into groundball and flyball types to see if flyball types are the ones getting pounded *Separating pitchers into high strikeout and low strikeout types to see if pitchers who put the ball in play more are in greater danger *Monitoring the ballpark influences to see if the hitter's parks are showing a greater influence in these conditions (anecdotally, it's OBVIOUS that the bandbox parks are posting big numbers...as is Minnesota which is a high scoring park early in the season before they turn the air conditioning on in the dome).

I'm in the process of doing that groundball/flyball and strikeout research now for some THINK TANK postings. It will take awhile...but I think that information will prove valuable as the season progresses. Something's going on...whether it involves pitch counts, global warming, the strike zone, or juiced balls...we may be able to take advantage for quite some while. The oddsmakers have already spent three weeks showing no inclination to lift the totals (SG by himself is helping to keep that in check of late!). It's hard to see them lifting the median to 11 or 13 any time soon. I'm not even going to tell you what the median is when the wind is blowing out.



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