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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, July 6, 2012 at 1:00 PM

There are some elements of Advanced Handicapping that are omnipresent. You must ALWAYS take them into account for every single game that you study. But, there are others that only come up in very special circumstances. Today, I’m going to discuss something that happens only once a year in baseball.

And, that’s the lack of motivation that many mediocre and worse teams feel in the final series leading up to the All-Star Break.

You know…everyone is ready for a little respite during this very busy baseball season (including HANDICAPPERS!). Ballplayers feel that more intensely than anyone else because they’re under pressure every day to perform in front of thousands in attendance and millions watching on TV. The high summer heat has only made the fatigue factor worse in 2012. Today is Friday…and a vacation starts Monday. Everybody’s aware of that. And teams who have had a miserable time on the field are acutely aware of that.  

If you’re a contending team…you’re less likely to get caught looking ahead to the break because every game is so important in the race for theplayoffs. If you’re a contending team with great chemistry, you can even develop a “Hey, let’s close out the first half STRONG” mentality that produces great results this weekend. But, there’s a large group of teams who already know they’re non-contenders, who are already in the doldrums, and who may also be dealing with injury issues that make it easy to just go through the motions until everyone can start fresh next week.

Advanced Handicappers who trust the STRENGTH VS. WEAKNESS approach know they must go against these “down-in-the-dumps” teams who are looking ahead to vacations. Here’s a list of everyone who currently has a losing record in 2012:

National League: Miami, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Houston, Chicago, Arizona, Colorado, San Diego

American League: Detroit, Kansas City, Minnesota, Oakland, Seattle

Am I personally going to fade all of those teams this weekend? No. A few of those teams are playing fairly well in recent days. They’re below .500 because they had bad April’s or tough stretches in May. Let’s cull down the list further to teams who have losing records in 2012 AND losing records over their last 10 games.

National League: Philadelphia, Houston, Arizona, Colorado

American League: Seattle

All four of those NL teams are 3-7 or worse in their last 10 games, and are very strong nominees to post poor results this weekend. Seattle of the AL is 4-6, and is so far off the pace in the AL West that they may have a dead weekend.

Here’s who those five teams play this weekend:

*Philadelphia hosts Atlanta, amidst rumors that star Phillies will be traded to build for the future. The Phils have been slumping for several days now, and lost a real gutbuster Thursday Night in New York that may have killed whatever motivation was left.

*Houston hosts Milwaukee, who just missed qualifying with a 5-5 record. The Astros just lost every game on a seven-game road trip to Chicago and Pittsburgh. No team is more down-in-the-dumps right now than the Astros. The Carlos Lee trade isn’t likely to pick up their spirits either.

*Arizona hosts the LA Dodgers, who are in a tight race with San Francisco at the top of the NL West. Arizona just got swept at home by San Diego!

*Colorado visits Washington, the best team in the National League this season. The Rockies are experimenting with a pitching idea that hasn’t set the world on fire…and crazy strategies from a manager can lead to the whole team giving up on him.

*Seattle visits Oakland, who just swept the Boston Red Sox. I can’t say the Mariners are playing as badly as those NL teams are. I’ll study Friday Night’s effort to get a read for the rest of the weekend.

I’ll still be looking at PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS on the mound and at the plate. I’ll still be looking at pitchers that the market hasn’t caught up with. You’ve already seen some of the All-Star pitchers throw nervous games this week…and I’ll see if I can find a way to take advantage of that longterm angle. But, front and center in these last few days before the All-Star Break will be an attempt to find mismatches in MOTIVATION FACTOR where good teams who are playing with a purpose are facing losing teams who just out taking their hacks waiting for a few days off. It’s one of the best examples of the STRENGTH VS. WEAKNESS approach I can think of.

You can purchase my daily selections right here at the website with your credit card. I have great rates for the full baseball season too that provide the most bang for your buck.

My next lecture in my College of Advanced Handicapping will be Tuesday…and will be my first football-related piece of the summer. What better time than the baseball All-Star Break to remind everyone that you must be preparing for football NOW if you want to be ready to hit the ground running in August’s NFL Preseason action and in the regular season this September? The rest of July’s coursework will mix baseball and football. Again, I strongly encourage you to print out all of these reports so you can create a textbook you can refer to year round.

Thanks for being such an enthusiastic and responsible student. I look forward to seeing you again on Tuesday for our next class.

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