Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 7:00 AM
We have another day off from basketball since the second round wrapped up a couple of days early. So, we’re going to look at a special MLB topic today that we’ll touch on again in further depth later this summer. Basketball preview coverage resumes on Sunday with Game One of Miami/Indiana in the Eastern Conference Finals. Monday will bring Game One of Oklahoma City/San Antonio in the Western Conference Finals.
It’s very important when studying the standings in both the American and National Leagues that you be aware of who’s been catching breaks in close games. It’s not true that one-run games are coin flips where “luck” determines who wins. But, those results are more influenced by lucky than more one-sided results are. And, a short burst of good or bad fortune in the first 40 games can create illusions about quality for better or worse. Some teams may not be as good as you think. Others may not be as bad.
Here’s a quick look at extremes in both leagues. Because of publication deadlines, records are through the Thursday’s action.
NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THOUGHT
*MILWAUKEE: 9-4 in one-run games, 17-11 otherwise
The Brewers are legitimately very good this year, as that 17-11 record in games decided by two runs or more indicates. But, nobody can win better than 67% of their coin flips on purpose. The Brewers are both good and lucky…which means they’re a legitimate contender but not quite the dominating force that the standings are suggesting.
*BALTIMORE: 10-3 in one-run games, 11-15 otherwise
The Orioles are actually well under .500 if you take out their one-run games. That’s a bad sign moving forward. Though, this manager has had better than expected success in close games during his Baltimore tenure. Still, this probably a Wildcard type team at best…and arguably only a .500 caliber team at best once you take early season good fortune out of the mix.
*TAMPA BAY: 7-3 in one-run games, 11-21 otherwise
Big surprise here. Tampa Bay was having a disappointing season anyway. They’ve been lucky it wasn’t much worse! That 11-21 record in games decided by two runs or more is doormat status…particularly in a league that’s mostly been about parity this season.
BETTER THAN YOU THOUGHT
*BOSTON: 5-9 in one-run games, 15-11 otherwise
Things return to pre-season expectations in the AL East if you take out the fickleness of one-run action. Boston is a solid 15-11 in games decided by two-runs or more. Once their one-run record settles in where it’s supposed to, they should be back at the top of the divisional standings overall.
*CINCINNATI: 6-12 in one-run games, 12-9 otherwise
Like Boston, Cincinnati is a playoff threat that’s been dealing with bad luck. In their case, it was the bad luck injury to Aroldis Chapman that put their bullpen in disarray just before the season started. His return could signal a return to normalcy in close games. That puts them back in the Wildcard picture.
*KANSAS CITY: 3-9 in one-run games, 17-11 otherwise
The Royals were a popular darkhorse in respected circles before the season began. They would be making those pundits proud if not for a horrible start in one-run games! Wow…17-11 in games decided by two runs or more (comparable to 17-8 for Detroit, or 18-12 for Oakland), but only 3-9 in nailbiters. Keep an eye on the Royals. Early indicators are suggesting a potential Wildcard run.
*NY METS: 6-10 in one-run games, 13-11 otherwise
The Mets are better than .500 in games decided by two or more, suggesting they might become a developing story as the season progresses. Can they fix the problems that are causing coin flip losses? They will become a value team in the betting markets if they do.
BETTER THAN YOU THOUGHT, BUT STILL BAD
*CHICAGO CUBS: 2-8 in one-run games, 11-18 otherwise
The Cubs will do better than 20% in naibliters moving forward…but you can see from their other games that this is still a losing team. They’re building for the future, at a slower pace than locals had been hoping for.
*HOUSTON: 4-9 in one-run games, 10-18 otherwise
The Astros are still arguably a minor league team. Their one-run record matches their two-run and above record percentage-wise. History suggests that one run results don’t skew as extreme for the bad teams over time. So…Houston isn’t quite as bad as their record suggests…which really isn’t much of a compliment!
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Back with you Sunday for Game One of Heat/Pacers. Before then…enjoy some time in THE WINNER’S CIRCLE with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!