Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, June 7, 2012 at 8:18 PM
We have a night off in the NBA Playoffs, with Oklahoma City’s Game Six victory over San Antonio eliminating the need for a seventh game that would have been played Friday Night. That gives us a chance to catch up on one of our pet stats in Major League Baseball just as we’re starting the annual stretch of very entertaining Interleague action.
This year, the rotation calls for mostly East vs. East, Central vs. Central, and West vs. West (with a few scattered exceptions). That means it’s important for you to have a sense of how the teams AND the divisions REALLY stack up before you jump into these relatively uncharted waters. Your newspaper standings tell much of the story. But, if you’re not adjusting for home/road splits…you may be missing some very important handicapping angles.
*Some teams are better than you realize because they’ve played road heavy schedules
*Some teams are worse than you realize because they’ve played home heavy schedules
Let’s take things division by division. Note that, because of publication deadlines, we’re using data through games of Wednesday Night.
NY Mets even
Pay attention to Atlanta! They’ve stubbed their toes in some high profile spots this year. But they’ve played only 23 home games this season, and it will be 34 road games entering this weekend’s series with Toronto. The Braves have 11 more home games than road games the rest of the way (starting with that Blue Jays matchup). They have a very good chance to be a force in this division even though elements of the mainstream media have been more in love with Washington and Miami lately. The Mets and Phils are further out of the playoff picture than it might see at first in the regular standings. Both have played more home games than road games so far yet are still bringing up the rear in this division. Note that the division as a whole is +16. That grades out as the best of anyone…meaning that there may be some NL East dogs and cheap favorites that deserve your attention over the next few weeks.
St. Louis +5
Chicago Cubs -8
St. Louis has been in a bit of a slump lately. Yet, they’re still tied for the best mark in this stat because they’ve only played 24 road games. Their split is similar to that of Atlanta…which means a favorable schedule is coming up soon. Don’t give up on the Cardinals just yet. They have a better shot than Pittsburgh of hanging with the Reds from this point forward according to this stat. Also be aware that Houston has played a bunch of home games this year…yet still isn’t in the playoff picture. They’re worse than the standings suggest. Things could get real ugly when a road heavy run helps even things out.
LA Dodgers +6
San Francisco +3
San Diego -14
This division is mostly “what you see is what you get” in your morning newspaper. The only difference of note is that San Diego is actually much worse than you probably realized. You knew they were awful…but they’ve played more home games than anyone else in the National League! They’re on a lower rung of horrible than you had even previously imagined! Keep that in mind in matchups against the AL West in the coming days. The Dodgers are in very good shape to make the playoffs now even with some injuries. Wins in Philadelphia have helped steady what had been a wobbly ship.
NY Yankees +4
Tampa Bay +1
Just when Baltimore starts to look like their old selves they put some hits together and get back in the winner’s circle. Our numbers are suggesting a very interesting race is ahead. And, even if this is still the best division in the American League top to bottom…that’s only because other teams have worse bottoms. The class of the AL East isn’t as dominant this year as they’ve been in the past. We’re very interested in seeing how the AL and NL East divisions match up over the next few days. One of the best indicators that the AL is no longer significantly superior would be their traditional powers failing to impress in IL play.
Chicago White Sox +1
Kansas City -4
Wow…only one team over break even! Both the White Sox and Indians have played home friendly schedules, which is why they don’t look as good here as they do in your newspaper standings. Minnesota has played an extreme road heavy schedule by current standards, so they’re much closer to the pack than the overall standings suggest. This is a solid hunk of mediocrity at the moment. It may be tough to take advantage though since so many will be drawing games with Milwaukee, Houston, and the Cubs over the next several days. We should point out that Detroit still has plenty of time to get hot and coast to a division title here. They were expected to dominate. You can tread water for a few months in a division like this when a full schedule lasts 162 games.
LA Angels -1
Seattle is the big story here, as they were the last time we put together these numbers for you. The Mariners have only played 22 home games compared to 37 road games. That’s an unbelievable split for this stage of the season! We’re not ready to call them playoff contenders yet because it’s not like they’re going to go 15-0 at home as things even out. But, you need to be aware that the team isn’t quite the doormat that you may have been thinking…and they may offer value in the coming days vs. the weaker links of the NL West. Note: if the AL as a whole is still superior, then it’s teams like Seattle who will be best position to make hay against market prices because they’ll be affordable. Definitely a team you want to watch…as are the LA Angels as Albert Pujols gets to face NL pitching again.
We hope that rundown helps you put all the teams in proper perspective. Here are the series we’re most looking forward to this weekend:
NY Mets at NY Yankees (televised by MLB Friday, FOX, Saturday, and TBS Sunday)
Tampa Bay at Miami (two top contenders)
Texas at San Francisco (rematch of 2010 World Series)
Washington at Boston (Nats start off killer IL gauntlet)
Hey..it’s a loaded weekend! Other matchups of note are Philadelphia at Baltimore, Toronto at Atlanta, Detroit at Cincinnati (the Sunday Night game on ESPN), and Cleveland/St. Louis. What a weekend!
The big play bonanza starts Friday Night. You can purchase JIM HURLEY’S top plays online or by calling us in the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include race day at Saturday’s Belmont. You can get the big race itself or the FULL CARD at a very reasonable price. Combination packages are available that also include the NBA Finals. Ask your representative for complete details if you call in. If you prefer taking care of business online, you can see various options available on the “buy picks” page here at this website.
A great sports weekend awaits. Be sure you spend it with handicapping legend JIM HURLEY!