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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, June 8, 2018 at 1:00 PM

If you’ve been following the divisional races lately, you may have inadvertently gotten too excited about some new contenders. In terms of pure entertainment, it’s great to have some surprising faces in the mix for awhile. But, as sports bettors, you need to have a clear read on true talent. With that in mind, memorize the following.

It’s a lot easier to create a misleading won-lost record than it is to create a misleading run differential.

History has shown that run differential is better correlated to performance in the immediate future than won-lost record is (leaving out cases where a major injury caused a slump). In cases where two teams have similar records, their run differentials are likely to be crystal balls.

Let’s consider this example…

Team A: 32-30 record, -27 run differential

Team B: 31-31 record, +41 run differential

Those are real-world examples heading into this weekend’s action. I’ll give you the teams in a moment. Team A is currently one game ahead in the standings. But, Team B is currently SIXTY EIGHT runs better in differential. The first team is likely a loser that’s caught some breaks in close games. The team at .500 is a contender dragged down by short term bad luck. Team B is on pace to have a differential of plus 100 for the season, which should be good enough to reach the playoffs.

Who are those teams. You shouldn’t be surprised. Team A is Colorado, a likely pretender in the early divisional race. Team B is the Los Angeles Dodgers, a projected juggernaut that’s still doing well at run-production even if their scoring isn’t clustering as efficiently as you’d expect so far.

If you use won-lost record by itself to define what’s happened so far, and outline what’s ahead…you’ll get the sense that Colorado is the slightly better team. We know that’s not true. The Dodgers would be neutral field favorites in most pitching matchups head to head. Run differential is pointing the way.

Let’s flesh out the rest of the NL West, because that’s a crowded race right now…

Arizona: 32-29 record, +21 run differential

Colorado: 32-30 record, -27 run differential

LA Dodgers: 31-31 record, +41 run differential

San Francisco: 31-31 record, -31 run differential

San Diego: 29-35 record, -45 run differential

Arizona leads the division. The Dodgers have the brighter future. Colorado and San Francisco have records of .500 or better, but negative run differential that suggests losing records going forward.

Earlier this week, we talked about the Seattle Mariners. Your homework was to get a better read on the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully you noticed their run differential was much worse than Houston’s…even though the Mariners still currently hold first place in the AL West.

Seattle: 39-23 record, +22 run differential

Houston: 39-25 record, +121 run differential

In terms of scoreboard, Houston is still a superpower that’s likely to dominate the league. Somehow, the Mariners are 16 games over .500 while only scoring 22 more runs than their opponents! That still makes them a possible Wildcard threat because +22 is sixth best in the AL and five teams make the playoffs. Run differential isn’t currently seeing them as any sort of championship threat.

Your homework assignment moving forward today my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping, is to monitor run differentials on-the-fly through the season. You don’t have to keep them by hand yourself. ESPN’s standings page on their website has the data right there with won-loss records. Other sports sites do as well. Just make sure they’re a part of your analytical cognizance and framework.

Here’s how the six divisions look right now, tossing out won-lost records and ONLY using run differential.

 

AL East: Boston +97, NY Yankees +87, Tampa Bay -16, Toronto -34, Baltimore -93

AL Central: Cleveland +24, Detroit -23, Minnesota -10, Chicago White Sox -80, Kansas City -106

AL West: Houston +121, LA Angels +35, Seattle +22, Oakland +6, Texas -64

 

NL East: Atlanta +66, Washington +57, Philadelphia +28, NY Mets -33, Miami -109

NL Central: Chicago Cubs +91, Milwaukee +26, St. Louis +19, Pittsburgh +5, Cincinnati -75

NL West: LA Dodgers +41, Arizona +21, Colorado -27, San Francisco -31, San Diego -45

 

Interesting that the Cubs are like the Dodgers, a team that was supposed to dominate its division this year…and IS clear of other contenders if you focus on run differential rather than records. Which of the “surprise” teams most “for real?” I’d have to say Atlanta. Tough to fake your way to plus 66 this deep into a season. I’m not ready to crown the Braves as divisional or NL champs at the moment. But, handicappers need to listen to what the Braves’ stats are telling us.

I’m very confident that you’ll make smarter selections through the season if you stay abreast of run differential throughout MLB.

If you’d like additional assistance, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Ask about packages that take you through the All-Star Break or the full baseball season.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance. We’ll continue our two-a-week class schedule through the summer. Plenty of baseball to talk about. As I mentioned last time, I’ll work some football preparation into the course work as well as the summer newsstand publications become more widely available everywhere. Sad to report that the amazing run of the Vegas Golden Knights has come to an end. Even longtime sports observers like me could feel like a kid again watching the NHL. Best wishes to the teams you follow most closely. See you Monday.

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