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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 8:12 PM

The 2012 season hasn’t played out at all in the National League like the market expected back in early April! The All-Star Break seems like the perfect time to review market misses and market hits. We’ll start today with the National League because that’s where most of the big surprises have been. Our Tuesday edition of the NOTEBOOK will run the numbers from the American League on the day they’re favored to win the All-Star Game in Kansas City.

We start in the NL East, which is on the verge of being completely upside down from preseason market assessments…

 

NL EAST PRESEASON WIN ESTIMATES

Philadelphia 93

Atlanta 87

Miami 85

Washington 84

NY Mets 72

Philadelphia’s 93 wins wasn’t just the best projection in the division, it was the best by a mile in the whole National League. The Phils were clear favorites to represent the NL in the World Series. Nobody was seen as even being in their class. A couple of injuries here…a couple of players falling back to earth there…and suddenly the team may have to end their current era and start building from scratch.

This team is double digits below .500 entering the Break, and looks like they’ve given up hope on 2012 given the lack of fire in recent days vs. divisional rivals. Nobody was expecting a “first to worst” story with this franchise, at least not this quickly. There’s just not much margin for error in this sport. Nobody can afford to lose their high impact players to injury.

Down at the bottom of the divisional projections are the two biggest success stories of the season. Washington basically became Philadelphia, and is now the best team in the National League thanks to the blossoming of young talent and the acquisition of Gio Gonzalez from the superior league. That’s not an exaggeration. Washington has passed all the litmus tests, and now looks like the team most likely to carry the best record into the postseason (though shutting down Steven Strasburg because of an innings count will certainly hinder their championship possibilities). The NY Mets are looking at 90-72 as a real possibility instead of 72-90. Vegas was too pessimistic about the every day lineup. And, nobody saw R.A. Dickey becoming a knuckle-balling version of Bob Gibson!

You often hear skeptics say that making money in the markets is impossible because the lines are just too tough. Oddsmakers are smart. Sharps bet mistakes on the openers before you can get to them. There’s no value for regular Joe’s like you. Well, the MASSIVE mistakes made in this division show you that edges are there to be found if you can properly anticipate the impact of newcomers or gauge the aging process of veteran teams.

 

NL CENTRAL PRESEASON WIN ESTIMATES

Cincinnati 87

Milwaukee 85

St. Louis 84

Chicago 74

Pittsburgh 74

Houston 64

Nobody can argue with Cincinnati. They’re still a strong contender, and they could easily end up within a stone’s throw of where the market had them. The big news here involves the collapse of Milwaukee and the surge of Pittsburgh.

The Brewers lost Prince Fielder in the offseason, which definitely took a lot of the swagger away from this team. But, the biggest culprit has been the starting rotation. A unit that looked to be one of the best in the league has been very disappointing once you get past Zack Greinke. The market may have oveshot the mark by about 10 wins with the Brew-Crew unless they get hot in the second half of the season.

And, Pittsburgh…PITTSBURGH has come on very strong this season. They’re currently on pace to win 90-91 games. Let’s say that’s too optimistic because this isn’t a group that’s been through the pennant race ringer before. It’s still very unlikely they’d collapse all the way down to 74 wins. The pitching staff looks too strong for that (not overpowering, but strong enough to avoid collapse). And, the offense has really picked up its pace over the last month. Note that the Pirates also improved themselves by acquiring AL arms to pitch in their NL rotation.

We should probably mention that the Cubs look to this point to be a major market miss too. But, they have improved in recent days. Their All-Star Break pace has them threatening 100 losses, which is much worse than Vegas had projected. There is a chance that new blood and a new attitude will lift the Cubbies up past 70 victories when 2012 is in the books.

 

NL WEST PRESEASON WIN ESTIMATES

San Francisco 87

Arizona 86

LA Dodgers 81

Colorado 81

San Diego 73

The interesting story to us is in the middle. Before the season started, the Dodgers and Rockies were seen as dead even teams. Yet, now, they represent extremes in the NL West. The Dodgers have cooled off since a red hot start, but still are about 50/50 to win their division and make the playoffs. Colorado plummeted down to the Cubs/Astros level of ineptitude. The Rockies need a 20-game winning streak just to flirt with the .500 mark!

Arizona has been a disappointment so far too. You can put them in a class with Milwaukee and Miami as teams who were supposed to threaten for a Wildcard but instead have drifted off the pace because of multiple slumps. Maybe one of those teams will get hot and make a run to match preseason expectations. For now, they’re all pretty bad market misses.

Normally we’re telling you not to listen to sportswriters, color announcers, or cable TV blowhards on those competitive banter shows. It’s true that they’d all go broke if they had to bet their opinions in Las Vegas. But, the lesson today isn’t that the media is constantly surprised…it’s that even oddsmakers and the sharpest Vegas bettors can be surprised when they haven’t done enough homework. The market can be embarrassed…which means THE MARKET CAN BE BEAT!

Think about that as you prepare for the second half of the 2012 baseball season. Use these days off to best advantage, studying offenses, pitching rotations, and bullpens to make accurate assessments of best expectations in July, August, and September. The All-Star game is Tuesday Night. There are no games Monday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Your handicapping work this week will make sure you hit the ground running on Friday.

Or, you can take the easy way out and sign up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. We’ve been hot all season in the bases, highlighted by some eye-popping runs in our BLUE RIBBON CLUB. You can sign up right now online. If you’d like to find out more about the program, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about two-sport combination packages when you call. Seasonal baseball packages can be combined with early-bird football offers.

Back with you Tuesday to evaluate market performance in the American League as they try to earn home field advantage in the World Series by winning the All-Star game. Isn’t it amazing that the AL can go 142-110 in Interleague play, but still NOT have home field in the Fall Classic if they lose Tuesday Night?! We’ll continue baseball coverage throughout the week. Our college football conference previews resume this Saturday and Sunday with the Mid American Conference’s East and West Divisions.

Baseball may take a few days off…but the NOTEBOOK will make sure you stay on top of handicapping developments all over the sports world!

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