Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 7:33 PM
If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve been following trade deadline developments very closely in the last few days. You know all the contenders want to improve, but don’t want to bet the farm while doing it. You know that all non-contenders want to dump bad contracts, but don’t want to give up any future pillars of their franchises.
The most important thing you have to do as handicappers is to keep your heads on straight. The media will see most moves as improvements because contenders are “upgrading” their rosters or addressing a weak spot in the lineup or starting rotation. The problems are:
*Few Major League players are so great that they have an immediate impact that’s more than fractional over a two-month stretch. Advanced metrics showing “Wins over Replacement” level are always much lower than general fandom expects or realizes. And, those are FULL season levels. Over two months. A new impact player might be worth one win or two. Remember how the loss of Mariano Rivera DIDN’T devastate the New York Yankees? This is the same thing in reverse. Adding a well-known guy doesn’t necessarily make you a champion.
*Many new acquisitions have trouble adjusting at first to their new locales. They’re under pressure to produce right away because they were involved in a high profile trade. The local press is all over them. Guys often play WORSE than normal at first under the spotlight. Then, after they get settled, they gradually work their stats up to break even. The media is expecting a plus. What the team gets is either break-even or worse. The media always assumes the best when there’s a big trade. Las Vegas prices are strongly influenced by media coverage. The adjustment issue often leads to teams underachieving their new inflated expectations.
*Chemistry issues are important in this sport, particularly down the stretch of a pennant race when pressure intensifies. Sometimes the player traded away was a great clubhouse guy who everybody loved, even if he wasn’t a star on the field. Sometimes the player acquired is a jerk who’s focused on his individual stats rather than team goals. Tinkering with a winning formula can be much more dangerous than it seems. This isn’t a Fantasy League. This isn’t a table game league where you’re just trading pieces of paper. Remember that a lot of pennant race lore involves team COLLAPSES amidst back-biting and clubhouse factions.
*Players who thrive in some balpark environments don’t thrive in others. Hitters playing for Colorado or the Texas Rangers aren’t going to have the same stats for you if you acquire them because they will no longer be playing home games in a hitter’s paradise. Pitchers from Seattle or San Diego won’t have the same stats for you because they will no longer be playing home games in a pitcher’s paradise. Granted, teams are more savvy about this than they used to be. But, it’s still an issue for the general managers who are still in the dark ages (and there are several). If you’re handicapping…you need to look at the new players’ ROAD stats this year and through his career, then make proper adjustments for the new home park he’ll be playing in. Look for smart teams who are acquiring underrated talent cheaply. They have the power to surprise the markets.
*Some teams who are currently “contenders” are only in the mix because they’ve had good luck earlier in the season. They aren’t really playoff caliber. And, adding a new player isn’t enough to make them that way. Teams who catch breaks (particularly in the area of one-run games) are going to regress to the mean in the final weeks of the season. Bringing in a new player isn’t going to stop that wave from breaking over everyone’s heads. Even if the newcomer plays GREAT, most of his teammates will be falling back to earth. That’s why these post-All-Star-Break trades are so tricky. Many dynamics are in play simultaneously.
*And, even in the most optimistic of scenarios…where legitimate contenders acquire legitimate contributors that inspire legitimate (if incremental) improvement…it’s all going to cancel out anyway! If six or seven teams all get a little bit better…then nothing’s changed in terms of how they relate to each other. The pack has a bigger edge over non-contenders than they used to. But, the pack itself doesn’t change that much.
So, we strongly encourage you to think carefully and rationally about all the recent trades that have been made, and any other developments that break this week. Look at each relevant player’s true skill set. Trim out any illusions that may have been created by his prior home ballpark. Look at how well he fits into his new environment. Look at how well he’s welcomed by his teammates (or at how sad a team is about the guy who was let go). And, monitor early results to see how the players and teams are adjusting to their new lineups under the spotlight.
Of course, through all this, you should also be looking at how the MARKET is reacting to trade news. You’re trying to stay in touch with reality AND stay ahead of the learning curve for oddsmakers and bettors in the market as they make their reads. Oddsmakers are about to direct the bulk of their attention to football…which means you can find fantastic line value in September baseball if you’re making the right reads through August.
If you’d like some help finding the best baseball plays on the board during this challenging time, then sing up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK by calling 1-800-323-4453. We have great rates for the rest of the season. And, we have combination packages available at great rates for both baseball and football. With the Preseason starting this Sunday Night, we’ll be transitioning soon to “mostly football” coverage here in the NOTEBOOK. You need to make sure you don’t forget about baseball. The more you play the more you win!
Game day releases go up a few hours before first pitch if you want to try out the service for a test run. Here are the marquee matchups we’re paying the most attention to the next few days:
LAA at Texas
Baltimore at the NY Yankees
Detroit at Boston
Tampa Bay at Oakland
Arizona at Los Angeles Dodgers
Exciting pennant races await in both the American and National Leagues. And, the Wildcard races should come right down to the wire in both. Nobody handicaps the high pressure games like JIM HURLEY!
Back with you Wednesday with more baseball. Football resumes this weekend with our previews of the ACC Atlantic (including Florida State and Clemson) and ACC Coastal (including Virginia Tech and North Carolina) divisions. Be sure you check the archives for all the mid-major reports that ran on weekends in July. Ideally, you should be printing out each conference preview so you have important keys to refer to when the season starts. We’ll cover the major conferences all through August. And, our NFL Divisional previews begin next Monday one day after the start of the exhibition slate.
August 6-9 (Mon-Thur): AFC Divisions
August 13-16 (Mon-Thur): NFC Divisions
From now through the World Series in October in baseball…and from Sunday Night’s Hall of Fame game matching Arizona and New Orleans through the Super Bowl in football…you’re going to GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!