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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 1:20 PM

At first glance, it would look like Wednesday Night’s nationally televised MLB matchup featuring the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals on ESPN was showcasing two teams who have a lot in common. Both are in the heart of the National League playoff picture with identical 60-50 records. Both are basically playing playoff games NOW because there’s so little margin for error.

Yet, different methodologies paint very different pictures about the 2012 postseason hopes for these teams.

If you look at current records and what’s ahead over the last seven weeks of the season, San Francisco would seem to be in a comfortable position. First of all, they don’t HAVE to worry about the Wildcard because they can win the NL West outright to snare a playoff spot.

 

NL WEST STANDINGS

San Francisco 60-50

LA Dodgers 59-52 (1.5 games back)

Arizona 56-54 (4 games back)

 

AVERAGE RECORD OF REMAINING OPPONENTS

San Francisco 51-58

LA Dodgers 55-54

Arizona 52-57

The Giants are ahead now, and have the easiest schedule going forward.

St. Louis on the other hand looks like they have a much tougher task. They’re in third place in the NL Central, tied for third place in the Wildcard race, and teams ahead of them have easy schedules. Since the Cards are six games out of first place in the NL Central, we’ll skip running those standings for you. Cincinnati has a big lead, and a ridiculously easy closing schedule against opponents who currently have an average record of 50-59. Here’s what the Wildcard race looks like.

 

NL WILDCARD STANDINGS (top two make it)

Atlanta 63-47

Pittsburgh 62-47

St. Louis 60-50 (2.5 games out of playoffs)

San Francisco 60-50 (still a chance to “settle” for WC)

LA Dodgers 59-52 (4 games out of WC)

Arizona 56-54 (6.5 games out of WC)

 

AVERAGE RECORD OF REMAINING OPPONENTS

Atlanta 53-56

Pittsburgh 52-58

St. Louis 54-56

San Francisco 51-58

LA Dodgers 55-54

Arizona 52-57

The Cards trail Atlanta and Pittsburgh, and have a tougher schedule. It could be hard for St. Louis to even finish better than San Francisco given what looks like an easy path for the Giants.

Okay…there we go…San Francisco enters tonight’s big TV game with the easier path. Let’s go to the “Playoff Odds” numbers posted on the standings page at ESPN’s website for confirmation.

 

PLAYOFF PERCENTAGES

Atlanta 76.1%

Pittsburgh 69.3%

St. Louis 60.3%

San Francisco 49% (?????)

LA Dodgers 29.6%

Arizona 29.2%

What the heck? How can St. Louis be at 60% to make the playoffs while the Giants are just a coin flip after all the data we went through? San Francisco has an easier schedule and already leads its division. Is ESPN smoking crack?

Well, maybe. ESPN puts a lot of weight on run differential, and the Cardinals have had a knack this year for running up the score in blowouts. If you believe this makes them a “hidden superpower”, then you can make the case that they’re positioned to close the season well. If you’ve been losing money on the New England Patriots in the NFL playoffs in recent seasons…they you might think otherwise.

 

RUN DIFFERENTIALS FOR WILDCARD CONTENDERS

St. Louis +114

Atlanta +64

Arizona +44

Pittsburgh +34

San Francisco +15

LA Dodgers +11

So, there you have it. Different methodologies paint different pictures of what’s ahead for the two TV teams tonight. San Francisco has the easier schedule while leading a division. St. Louis looks like it has a more potent lineup that could storm home with a fury that makes opposing schedules irrelevant.

What’s REALLY going to happen? Our VSM experts have their own ways of getting things figured out, and many ways to beat the market. Here are a few of the highlights for Wednesday, which may or may not include something from the TV game:

*Wayne Root swept the board 3-0 Tuesday with Philadelphia, Detroit, and Baltimore to extend his record to 26-13 over the last three weeks. Get Wednesday’s 2-Play High Roller sweep for just $25.

*Kelso Sturgeon is 16-5 over his last 21 huge releases. He has a 100-Unit Showdown play for Wednesday. Get it for just $20. Kelso hasn’t been able to win them all…but he’s sure made his clients a fortune over the past month of major moves.

*Tony Salinas, a longtime Vegas gambler and poker player, only releases the games he bets the biggest himself. Wednesday, that means a “Will Win Threesome of his very strongest bets for only $15.  

*Jim Feist, the most famous name in Vegas handicapping, has his MLB Mismatch of the Month for August posted right now. Pay just $20 with your credit card.

Don’t forget to check the VSM home page every day for big play announcements from the greatest minds in handicapping. Expanded details are available daily on the “Buy Picks” pulldown page.

Football returns Thursday with a BLOCKBUSTER card in the NFL Preseason that includes Green Bay at San Diego on ESPN, New Orleans at New England, Pittsburgh at Philadelphia, Washington at Buffalo, and Denver at Chicago. Many Super Bowl contenders are on the card…it’s the pro debut of Robert Griffin III with the Redskins, and the Broncos debut for Peyton Manning. What a night!

Whether you’re talking baseball or football, hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you at VegasSportsmasters!

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