04/11/2002 12:00AM

MLB bettors show amazing grasp of obvious


Novice baseball bettors are often guilty of jumping to conclusions, especially when it comes to over/unders.

I hear comments like the following all the time:

"The wind is blowing out at Wrigley Field? It looks like a sure over." . . . "Pedro Martinez is on the mound? I better bet the under . . . " and many others.

They seem like easy bets, but they seldom are. The reason is because the oddsmakers know the public's inclinations - especially when it's a widespread belief fueled by the media - and adjust the lines accordingly.

So it's no surprise that ever since ESPN and other media outlets have been going on and on about how pitchers are dominating so far this year - runs are down 10 percent from 9.96 to 8.97, homers are down 24 percent from 2.49 per game to 1.9, there were 14 shutouts in the first week (compared to eight last year) and another four this week, and so on - bettors have been thinking that the under is the way to go.

It should be equally unsurprising that oddsmakers are ahead of the curve. They make totals lower during the start of the season, especially with many games being played in cold weather in northern locales. As a result, despite the lack of offensive punch, the over was 113-103 through Wednesday's games, plus the early games on Thursday both went over with the Blue Jays-Yankees (despite Roger Clemens starting) and Cardinals-Brewers exceeding their totals by the seventh inning.

It really should go without saying, but baseball bettors need to handicap the number as much as they handicap the teams.

Here are some teams that have made money for their followers (and detractors) so far. Records are through Wednesday:

Winners: Indians 8-1 record and +7 units, according to statfox.com, which bases its units on the odds to win 1 unit on a favorite or risk losing only 1 unit on an underdog (for instance, if a team is -150 then a bettor would risk 1.5 units to win 1 unit; a +130 dog bettor would risk 1 unit to win 1.3); Giants 7-1 and +6.1 units; Pirates 5-2 and +5.6 units.

Losers (or winners if you bet against them): Tigers 0-8 record and -8.5 units; Cubs 2-5 and -5.8 units; Orioles 1-6 and -4.6 units; Rangers 2-6 and -4.5 units.

Over-achievers: White Sox 7-1 with the over; Expos 6-2.

Under-achievers: Orioles 1-6 with the under; Orioles 1-6; Cubs 1-5-1; Pirates 1-5-1.

Jekyll and Hyde team: Through Wednesday, the defending world champion Diamondbacks were 4-0 (+4 units) when Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling started and 0-5 (-5.8 units) when someone else took the mound.

Dodgers everywhere, but on air

For decades, the dulcet tones of Vin Scully could be heard calling Dodger games on the radio in Las Vegas. However, the Dodgers' flagship station in L.A. wasn't able to reach an agreement with any of the Las Vegas sports stations this year, and the games aren't on the air.

Dodgers fans have been flooding radio stations with complaints. They've also been discouraged because even though Fox Sports Net 2, a cable network, is showing more games this year, Dodger games are blacked out on MLB Extra Innings (a digital TV subscription service). Major league teams are allowed to black out games in their home markets. Somehow, the middle of the Nevada desert is "home" to the Dodgers, Angels, Padres, A's, Giants, and Diamondbacks. But that's another story.

Old loyalties die hard, so the Dodgers are still very popular here, and that is helped by having the AAA affiliate, the 51's, here in town and off to a great start (5-2 through Wednesday night). The 51's are making a more concerted effort this year to capitalize on the Dodgers' popularity, and had a "Dodgers Throwback Night" scheduled for Friday with two-time NL batting champion Tommy Davis and six-time NL gold glove-winner Wes Parker signing autographs.

The Dodger reunion continues Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Stardust Hotel-Casino on the Strip with appearances by base stealing champ Maury Wills, 1956 NL MVP and Cy Young winner Don Newcombe, and Carl Erskine, who threw two no-hitters and was a member of the famed "Boys of Summer."