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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 22, 2012 at 12:13 AM

A few years ago, the American League had made spanking the National League in Interleague play a consistent habit. The AL was OBVIOUSLY superior, and took great joys in showing that to the world every June.

But, the evidence seemed to suggest that the National League was becoming more competitive over time. They hadn’t reached equality by any means. They were trending toward equality in a way that made it seem that history was on pace to equalize either this year or next year. Several big name pitchers were pilfered from AL teams to star in NL rotations. Changes were made in management. Most importantly, there was an AWARENESS sometime around 2008 that the NL had become a glorified “quadruple A” minor league through laziness and sloth.

Check out these records…and how they very clearly show what had been a dominant AL performance trending toward equality.

 

AL RECORDS IN IL PLAY

2008: 149-103 (.591 winning percentage)

2009: 138-114 (.548 winning percentage

2010: 134-118 (.532 winning percentage)

2011: 131-121 (.520 winning percentage)

Pencil in another four wins this year for the National League, and we’re looking at a very close 127-125 ratio. Maybe the NL could take a bigger step forward and win IL play. Maybe the trend would mean it wasn’t going to happen until next year. But, the march was impossible to miss.

Except…Albert Pujols went from St. Louis (NL) to the Los Angeles Angels (AL), and Prince Fielder when from Milwaukee (NL) to Detroit (AL). And, a few NL teams just fell off the map in terms of being competitive (Padres, Cubs, and now even Colorado and maybe Houston). And now, heading into the last few days of 2012 Interleague action…we have THIS.

2012: 117-88 (.600 winning percentage)

Regression! Because of publication deadlines, that’s the composite record through Wednesday Night’s games. Should that percentage hold, it would be more dominant than what we saw back in 2008! It will be much stronger than the past three seasons. And, it would present a clear and possibly overpower roadblock for any NL hopes of regaining respectability.

The National League must have a HUGE weekend just to get back to something respectable. And, they have to do that with ALL of the following playoff contenders playing on the road Friday through Sunday:

LA Dodgers are visiting the LA Angels

Washington is at Baltimore

San Francisco is at Oakland

Atlanta is at Boston

St. Louis is at Kansas City

Those will all be toughies because three of the four AL hosts are quality teams, and the fourth…Oakland…will be hosting a rivalry series.

Cincinnati is a strong NL team with a good draw, hosting Minnesota. And, the NY Mets get to play at home, though it’s no bargain there with the Yankees riding the subway.

Moving down to the doormats…well, things could get very ugly.

Colorado has to visit two-time defending AL champion Texas

Houston hosts AL Central leading Cleveland

The good news is that the Chicago Cubs play in the only NL series this week on the road at Arizona.

Surging back to respectability looks like a longshot this weekend for what used to be called the “senior circuit” but is now in danger of falling back to quadruple A status. Things could actually get worse than they already are given those matchups. The AL is fully capable of going at least 9-5 every day.

As you handicap this weekend, here are some things to keep in mind:

*The AL is obviously the much superior league. You need to shade your action in that direction as a general rule. If you find yourself taking a bunch of flyers on NL teams, it’s probably because you haven’t adjusted your own personal power ratings to reflect the real advantage. Make sure you have a REAL advantage rather than an imagined one. Cincinnati is better than Minnesota. How many other NL teams are you positive are better overall than this weekend’s opponent?

*Don’t get caught up in the DH/Pitcher stuff. The media is still too obsessed with this and it’s gotten embarrassing. Color announcers, particularly those for NL teams or national networks that are supposed to stay neutral, don’t want to delve into the obvious superiority of the AL. ESPN doesn’t want to advertise quadruple A baseball when the Cards are playing the Phils! They’ve missed the elephant in the room for several years now. In 2012, the elephant is stomping around wreaking havoc, and you still have guys talking about the DH.

Look…AL pitchers have to bat in NL stadiums…but even NL pitchers don’t hit much so it doesn’t matter. NL teams get to use a bench player as a DH in AL stadiums…but most AL teams now rotate the spot around to rest people rather than stick a slugger there. The potentially slight edge NL teams have at home…added to the potentially slight edge AL teams at home…

A: Cancel out over the full 252 games

B: Don’t matter when one league is MUCH more talented than the other!

When one team is winning 55-60% of the games over several years, it’s not about strategy. It’s about pure, raw superiority. You lose Pujols and Fielder in an offseason without replacing their impact and you’re going to take a hit.

*Many sharps have told us that they believe the AL edges show up best in areas of team depth. That’s why they often start out a bit slow in IL play, but then surge home. Depth matters over a series of a few weeks in the heat of summer. Well, this weekend is shaping up as VERY HOT across the league. If the AL really does have more depth on the bench and in the bullpen, then they’re likely to continue building on their recent gains. Maybe 9-5 every day is conservative!

*Remember to look at possible Overs in good hitting environments if strong AL offenses are facing mediocre or worse NL pitchers in warm conditions or friendly ballparks. We’re likely to see some AL offensive explosions that take games Over all by themselves. If you have access to individual team totals, that’s something for you to consider as well. Some stadiums are more prone to this than others, and you need to be on top of this angle.

We’ve already mentioned many of the matchups that are in play this weekend. Be sure to check out as many games as you can on the MLB Network, FOX, and ESPN. Any NL team that shines this weekend deserves your respect, and will probably a smart play to make money when the normal schedules resume. If you’d like some help picking winners, sign up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK here at this website or by calling the office at 1-800-323-4453. We have great rates for the rest of the Major League season. And, this is an ideal time to check on early bird football rates too. If you haven’t purchased any of the popular newsstand publications, make a run to your local bookstore or media outlet Friday Night or Saturday. Always be thinking about football!

Back tomorrow here in the NOTEBOOK with more from the diamonds. Tonight…games like Yankees-Mets, Braves-Red Sox, Dodgers-Angels, and Nats-Orioles are front and center. And, BIG JUICY WINNERS are just a few clicks away thanks to JIM HURLEY!

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