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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 8:57 PM

We’re about to transition into a very football heavy sequence here in the NOTEBOOK. As much as we love covering and handicapping baseball, we all know that FOOTBALL IS KING! We’ll be talking about new starting quarterbacks Thursday and Friday here on these pages as we move through dress rehearsal weekend. Saturday and Sunday are reserved for our SEC previews as we continue our summer series of college football coverage. We then finish up with the Big Ten Monday and Tuesday as we saved the most volatile conference for the end of the series so we’d have up-to-date information on Penn State’s personnel.

And then…it’s basically the start of the regular season where we will be dealing with football at least six and usually seven days a week in the NOTEBOOK. That means this will be our last chance in awhile to check in on one of our favorite indicator stats in Major League Baseball. You regulars will recognize it right away. It’s simply WINS minus HOME GAMES played. This helps you adjust for imbalances in the schedule caused by short term schedule quirks. And, when used in late August, it helps you get a much cleaner view of the pennant races.

Contenders with home heavy schedules are exposed. Contenders who will have extra home games coming up will grab your attention. You’re about to see THIS IS A BIG DEAL in a few of the high profile races…particularly the one that might be developing in the AL East between the old and injured New York Yankees and the newly frisky Tampa Bay Rays.

Because of publication deadlines, we’re using results through the games of Monday Night. Let’s start with the AL East and work through all six divisions. Note that we’ll be focusing on playoff contenders today. There are interesting stories with the non-contenders too! We encourage you to take some time tonight on your own to study those. Quick example: Colorado has been horrible this year despite playing TEN more home games than road games to this point!

 

AL EAST

NY Yankees +9

Tampa Bay +8

Baltimore +5

Boston -4

Toronto -5

Whoa…that’s probably closer than many of you expected. Tampa Bay hasn’t just moved into the race…the Rays are actually on the verge of catching the Yankees in this stat right now! The Yankees had played SIX more home games than road games through Monday Night’s action, while Tampa Bay had played a couple of extra road games. Equalize the schedules…and this thing is neck and neck. Should the Yankees struggle on the road as those categories equalize, there truly is a real chance that they might drop into a Wildcard spot. Pay very close attention to that.

We can’t forget about Baltimore. The Orioles sit at +5, which is within striking distance of the division, and is in the mix for a Wildcard. The schedule is brutal though in the coming weeks in terms of strength of opposition. Baltimore will have to beat some very good teams often to survive until October. 

 

AL CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox +7

Detroit +5

Kansas City -5

Cleveland -5

Minnesota -10

Tight race here as well, but that was true before making any adjustments. In fact, both the White Sox and Tigers had played 59 home games and 62 road games through Monday’s action. You can see how tight the Wildcard race is going to be if Baltimore can hold its own vs. their tough schedule. There’s a chance that either CWS or Detroit will just barely miss out on the postseason two different ways…losing heartbreakers in both the divisional and Wildcard races.

 

AL WEST

Texas +12

Oakland +1

LA Angels even

Seattle -2

You might be surprised at how far off the map Oakland and the LA Angels drop when you make the adjustments. Oakland had played SEVEN more home games than road games through Monday, and that’s about to increase with their home series against Minnesota. Some tough road games are looming down the road…meaning they’re further off the pace than it seems. Well, if you just focus on your newspaper standings, Oakland looks to be in pretty good shape. They’re NOT. That’s an illusion based on their home/road splits. The Angels have only played two more home games than road games, but their recent slump has them down to just two games over .500. Can you believe surging Seattle might catch the Halo’s from behind?!

Oh, if you’re thinking about home field through the playoffs…Texas currently has the edge there with their +12 outflanking the +9 of the Yankees. Moving to the senior circuit…

 

NL EAST

Washington +18

Atlanta +5

NY Mets -2

Philadelphia -3

Miami -4

Wow…that +18 sure looks huge considering the +12 of the Rangers. Washington is dominating its division this year despite having played six more road games than home games through Monday Night. Let’s see how Atlanta’s +5 compares to the other Wildcard contenders. You may be surprised it’s so low. The Braves had played EIGHT more home games than road games through Monday Night’s marathon loss in Washington. Can they keep winning road games as that equalizes?

 

NL CENTRAL

Cincinnati +11

Pittsburgh +7

St. Louis +2

Milwaukee -9

Chicago Cubs -11

Houston -23

Many have been thinking of Cincinnati and Washington as dead even teams. This pet stat of ours shows you that Washington may have more going for them. It’s just been hidden by an unfriendly schedule split (for more about the Nats, see the archives for yesterday’s article on how well they’ve been playing when Steven Strasburg isn’t on the mound). Pittsburgh’s +7 is ahead of Atlanta’s +5 in the playoff race. Pittsburgh has a very easy schedule coming up. St. Louis has some offensive studs…but losing two of three at home to the Pirates may have hurt their chances more than was realized at the time. It’s tough to get to a Wildcard spot from +2 in this stat in late August.

 

NL WEST

LA Dodgers +8

San Francisco +6

Arizona +4

San Diego -7

Colorado -18

We flip flop the standings by applying this stat. Your newspaper had the Giants leading the division through Monday Night’s action after winning a pitchers’ duel nailbiter. The Dodgers have played five more road games than home games though…which gives them a chance to surge late with a home friendly schedule. Arizona moves into the crowded Wildcard discussion in this stat…actually ranking ahead of St. Louis and just behind Atlanta. That may seem odd to you, particularly since the Braves lead the D-backs by eight games in your newspaper standings. Let’s see where things stand when the home/road splits equalize for everyone.

There’s a chance that five of the six divisional races could get very interesting in the coming days. And, it looks like we’ll have at least a couple true barnburners. The Wildcard race is going to be fun, which is what the commissioner wanted when he added one spot in each league. That was guaranteed to put what had been borderline teams in past years in position to sneak in.

Even though we’ll mostly be covering football on these pages in the coming days, JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK will still be picking BIG, JUICY WINNERS in baseball seven days a week through the season. Game day releases go up a few hours before first pitch. Be sure you take care of business EARLY when there are day games (which there are on Wednesday and Thursday!). If you have any questions about full season or combination packages, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Pennant Race Baseball…the critical Dress Rehearsal Week in Football…and now the Start of the College Football Season just Days Away…RIDE DOWN THE ROAD TO RICHES WITH JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!

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