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If I Were a Las Vegas Sportsbook

Greetings. You probably don’t know who I am, so let me take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Michael Baumann, and I’m one of the two new bloggers who have decided to sell out and go mainstream. My buddy Paul and I will be providing you with analysis (most of it sabermetric, but don’t tune out just yet), whimsy, projections, speculation, and other odds and ends in the coming months. I hope you enjoy having us almost as much as I hope I don’t screw the pooch on this one. I’m just happy to be here and I hope I can help out the ballclub.

But on to business. It’s now late January, and that means that the Super Bowl is bearing down on us. For some, that means wings, commercials, and debate over which one of Andy Reid or Donovan McNabb (or both) is to blame for the Eagles not being there. Not me. For me, it means prop bets. Now, sports betting isn’t legal in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, and even if it were, I’m not really much of a gambler. I find point spreads and money lines sort of boring, but during Super Bowl Week, you can bet the over/under for the number of the player who scores the first touchdown, or the set list in Bruce Springsteen’s halftime show. I love these wagers.

So it got me thinking, since there is no baseball going on right now, and the Phillies appear to be putting the finishing touches on their team for next year, what prop bets would I offer on the Phillies for 2010 if I were a Las Vegas sportsbook?

Weight of the Phillies’ home run leader:
230 pounds or less: 3/1
231 pounds or more: 1/3

The Phillies famously had four players hit 30 home runs last season: Chase Utley (190 pounds), Jayson Werth (212), Raul Ibanez (225) and Ryan Howard (259). Now, this might seem like an easy bet, since Howard has led the team in homers four years running. But what if he gets hurt? What if Jayson Werth continues to improve year-on-year (an unlikely occurrence at his age, but he did hit 36 last year)? What if Chase Utley, a notorious fast starter, picks up where he left off in the World Series and continues to hit 4 homers a week for the first month of the season? What if Victorino gets hurt, they move Werth to center, and bring up John Mayberry to play right, then Mayberry goes nuts and hits 40 homers in his first full season? With the odds the way they are, there’s a lot of potential to outthink yourself here.

Uniform number of the Phillies’ wins leader:
Over/Under 34 1/2

Essentially, this is a bet on whether or not you think Roy Halladay’s going to lead the team in wins.

Since 2005, the Phillies’ win leaders have been Jon Lieber, Brett Myers, Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, and J.A. Happ. The team leaders in ERA have been Myers, Myers, Hamels, Hamels, and a three-way tie between Happ, Moyer, and Joe Blanton. There’s absolutely no guarantee that the best pitcher leads the team in wins, even using that relatively simple statistic.

So does the Stormin’ Mormon get the love from the offense? Does he stay healthy? Does Cole Hamels come back in eff-you mode in April and break off a 1972 Carlton season? Does Happ stay lucky? My head hurts.

Who will have more total home runs: Raul Ibanez OR Jeff Francoeur, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes combined?

You would have won this bet last year with Ibanez. Probably not this year, but I enjoy talking about the Mets’ inexplicable power outage.

Which will Joe Blanton produce more of on the mound in 2010: strikeouts or gallons of sweat?

Smart money’s on the strikeouts, assuming he picks up a few in  cold-weather playoff games. If he doesn’t, then it’ll probably go the other way.

Who will lead the Phillies in strikeouts?
Roy Halladay: 10/3
Cole Hamels: 5/1
Joe Blanton: 10/1
Ryan Howard: 5/2

You know who my money’s on. Yes, Halladay posted career highs in K/9 for a full season each of the past two years, but you know Howard’s good for another 180 whiffs at least this year. That’d be a great total for a pitcher throwing 200 innings.

Ok, time for one more.

Who will get more press coverage in 2010 (not including box scores and team statistics): Heidi Hamels or Juan Castro?

For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve sort of got it in for Heidi Hamels. I think she’s a little bit of a wet blanket and an attention hog. And it’s paid off: last year she had a front-page feature written about her in the Inquirer that was every bit as long and in-depth as the one they ran on Chase Utley the same season. Certainly she can outdo a 37-year-old utility infielder who figures to get into one game a week, maybe two.

Remember: sports gambling is illegal in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so don’t try to bet on these. If you do, I won’t pay out. And if you get arrested and make me your one phone call, I’ll pretend not to know you. Goodbye for now.

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