Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 7:45 PM
One of our favorite “snapshot” stats for Major League Baseball is Wins Minus Home Games Played. You regulars know we like to check in on this statistic periodically through a season. We haven’t had a chance to win a while…which makes the All-Star Break the perfect time to get caught up. Today we’ll look at the National League. We’ll be back tomorrow to run the numbers for the American League.
What’s important about this stat? It helps you adjust for the inbalances that come up in home/road splits. When the full season is in the books, everyone will have played 81 home games and 81 road games. But, until then, there won’t be a time where all teams are exactly even in differential. Whenever you take a snapshot of the season…some teams will have played more home games than road games, most everyone else would have played more road games than home games. If you’re trying to get a true read on the season at that moment, you must account for the schedule. And, if you’re trying to predict what’s going to happen in the future, it helps to know who’s had it easy or difficult in the recent past.
Let’s start in the NL East, where one team falls off the pace right away when you make an adjustment for their schedule…
NY Mets even
Washington is great…grading out best in the whole National League not just this division. Atlanta is hanging with them, posting a good number for a Wildcard contender. It’s THE METS who fall off the pace here. New York has played 46 home games compared to just 40 road games so far in the 2012 season. They’re neck and neck with the Braves in your morning newspaper…but not in this stat because you can’t assume that New York is going to win all of those road games that will eventually even out the differential. Bottom line…the Mets are further off the divisional pace than it seems, and not quite the Wildcard threat that it appears right now either. They HAVE to do very well in those additional road games coming up just to stay in the picture.
This exercise reinforces again how bad Philadelphia has been this year. They grade out as a league doormat…which is a huge surprise for the team Vegas thought was going to be best in the whole National League. Old age took its toll very quickly, as some veterans got hurt, while others played but fell off their career production pace. There’s no illusion in what you see in the newspaper. Philly has actually played one more home game thus far…yet they’re down in the class with the Astros, Padres, and Rockies.
Note that we’ll include a section on the playoff race at the bottom if this article. Washington would currently grade out as the top seed. But, the race for that may be closer than you think based on what you’re about to see in the NL Central…
St. Louis +3
Chicago Cubs -6
Yes, the Reds really make a nice jump here. They’re in second place in the normal standings…and the media has been celebrating a longshot like Pittsburgh leading this division at the All-Star Break. But, Cincinnati has played just 39 home games compared to 46 road games. That’s the most unlucky differential in the league to this point (tied with the Cubs). Pittsburgh’s close to 50/50. Given what’s likely to be an easy second half schedule with the unbalanced divisional schedules, the Reds will be in position to re-take the division with some home victories…AND will be in position to threaten Washington for best overall record at the same time.
We just mentioned that the Cubs have had an unlucky schedule so far. That’s a team to pay attention to for value in the coming days. They’ve added a young phenom to their batting order, and the team as a whole has definitely been playing with more enthusiasm of late. That road-heavy schedule (and truly horrible play earlier this season) may have misled the markets about what’s most likely to happen moving forward. The Cubs have rallied to move out of the doormat class according to a few indicators we trust. We’re not going to suggest that they’re GOOD now. But, they’ve improved, and could offer market value.
LA Dodgers +4
San Francisco +4
San Diego -10
Most of this division is pretty well represented in your newspaper standings. The home/road splits are close to even, with Arizona being the most extreme with three more home games than road games. So, if you were thinking of Arizona as being a potential second half darkhorse, this is a vote against that. They’re further off the pace than it seems. What you see is what you get with everyone else.
The Dodgers and Giants are basically playing at a Wildcard level in a division that doesn’t have a clear champion according to this stat. Each trails Washington and Cincinnati by at least four games. Let’s stick everyone at even or better into a group to see what the playoff situation looks like at the midway point.
PLAYOFF PICTURE (only 5 teams qualify)
LA Dodgers +4
San Francisco +4
St. Louis +3
NY Mets even
Remember that there’s an additional Wildcard this year, so FIVE teams make the Major League playoffs. We’re likely to have some very intense races in the Central and West Divisions. And, the East could get interesting if Washington fades a bit after Steven Strasburg hits his innings maximum for the year. Should Atlanta keep winning…they’ll be in position to swipe the division at the very end.
We really could have quite a circus down the stretch with teams literally within a game or two of winning their division in one direction, and a game or two of not even making the playoffs in the other. That could happen in all three divisions simultaneously! And, you know what…if the Mets and Cardinals lift their game…we’re looking at three-team races in two of the divisions , and as many as five teams dealing with Wildcard or bust in the final days of the season.
JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK is certainly looking forward to the challenges ahead. The regular season resumes this Friday with a jam-packed card. We’ll study Wins Minus Home Games in the American League tomorrow to help get you ready, then present a Showcase Series breakdown Friday for you in the LA Angels/New York Yankees showdown. That could be a preview of the ALCS. (Don’t forget that we’re running college football conference previews on weekends this summer---with the Mid-American Conference up next in the rotation).
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