Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, June 26, 2018 at 7:00 PM
BOSTON, SAN FRANCISCO AMONG TEAMS IN BETTER SHAPE THAN YOU MAY HAVE BEEN THINKING
It's been awhile since we had a chance to do this. You longtime readers know JIM HURLEY always monitors home/road imbalances in schedules to make sure the standings aren't giving a false read on teams. The stat we invented here in the NOTEBOOK to capsulize that was "Wins Minus Home Games Played."
Teams performing well against even or road-heavy schedules will shine in this measure. Teams who are creating illusions from a temporary surplus of home games will be exposed.
Let's run through all six MLB divisions for this week's report. Records are through Monday night's action because of publication deadlines.
NY Yankees +11
Tampa Bay +3
The Red Sox are the "true" leader of the AL East according to this stat because the Yanks had played four more home games than road games through Monday night, while the Sox had played five more road games than home games. Those will balance out soon (Yanks visit Boston this weekend). Let's see if the Red Sox can take advantage of Fenway to move back atop this division. Though it's early in this report…SPOILER ALERT…the Red Sox also have the best mark in all of baseball in this stat. The most unbalanced schedule in the AL East belongs to Tampa Bay. They've played EIGHT more road games than home games. This suggests the Rays could be back over .500 overall once that is back to even. Their recent pitching experimentation has been a surprising success so far.
Chicago White Sox -14
Kansas City -16
No significant illusions to worry about with this group because the division is so well-defined. Cleveland's better than everyone else. Nobody else is any good! Worth noting that Minnesota is worse than your newspaper standings would suggest. Twins have played six additional home games, and are six games below .500 anyway.
LA Angels even
No schedule quirks at the top of this division. Down lower, the Angels have been slightly home friendly, which means it's going to be tougher to catch the elite than raw standings would suggest. Houston joins Boston and the NY Yankees as true elites in the league. Seattle is a legitimate fourth best in the AL, but will likely have to settle for a Wildcard play-in game unless Houston suffers a surprising collapse. For now, the playoff picture is set pretty clearly. AL East and West runners-up are well above potential threats.
NY Mets -7
A surprisingly competitive division, with Atlanta somehow tied for best in the National League with the Chicago Cubs. Few pundits or experts anticipated this much parity in the senior circuit in 2018. The only red flag here involves Miami, who's endured a road-heavy schedule this season. Count was 36 home games, 43 road games through Monday. That means the Marlins are likely better than you'd been thinking, while th Mets are more likely the "true" worst in the division right now. Horrible couple of months for NYM after a hot start.
St. Louis +1
Cubs have played 35 home games, compared to 41 road games. That and run differential suggests they are the best team in this division even though Milwaukee leads your newspaper standings. Stats suggest the Cubs should be top favorite in futures prices, though they're still knotted with the Dodgers and Nationals at some betting shops. Pittsburgh's probably worse than you were thinking. Playing 42 home games compared to just 36 road games has helped hide some weaknesses.
San Francisco +3
LA Dodgers +2
San Diego -6
Big news here is San Francisco. They're not getting much media attention as a potential spoiler. Yet, they're ahead of the Dodgers and close to Arizona in this measure. Giants had played 37 home games and 42 road games through Monday night. So, sitting a game over .500 is better than it seems. Wins in those extra home games coming up could push SF to the top of this group.
Since there's so much parity in the NL, let's look at the playoff picture through this "Wins Minus Home Games Played" lens…
Chicago Cubs +7
San Francisco +3
LA Dodgers +2
St. Louis +1
Work to do for the Dodgers and Nationals in terms of hurdles to clear. Time to start swimming instead of treading water! Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Arizona haven't crumbled under pressure, and are showing signs of gaining confidence. Wouldn't it be something if that trio ended up as divisional winners, with the Cubs and another projected power fighting in a Wildcard game just to get into the brackets.
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