Evaluating Battle of Pennsylvania

Handicapping News: Evaluating Battle of Pennsylvania

If you were asked to name the best Major League baseball team in Pennsylvania right now, many of you would instinctively say "Philadelphia" rather than "Pittsburgh" because of the recent history of those teams. In fact, that would seem like a STUPID question because Philadelphia is an annual playoff contender, while Pittsburgh is an annual doormat.

OF COURSE IT'S PHILADELPHIA!

Except...

Pittsburgh 38-33
Philadelphia 34-40

The Pirates currently lead the Phillies by 5.5 games in the standings. And, that's a legitimate race to ponder because Pittsburgh is knocking on the door of the Wildcard, while Philadelphia knows they'd better get their act together quick if they want to make a run at a Wildcard spot.

Who's better right now? Are those records just a short term fluke? After all, Philadelphia was projected to win around 93 games by the betting markets before the 2012 campaign, while Pittsburgh was down around 73. Are we about to see a major regression to the mean that sees the Phils vault back to respectability while the Pirates fall off the map. Heck, don't the Pirates do this ALL THE TIME? Playing well for a few months then crashing and burning?

The two teams start a four-game series tonight in Philadelphia, so getting a read on where these teams really stand could pay off for you a couple of times in the next few days. Some stats you should consider as you make your assessments.

ONE-RUN RECORDS
Pittsburgh 17-12
Philadelphia 8-13

It's tough to win all the close games on purpose, particularly when you don't have a group of guys who have played together for a long time. The Pirates have been a bit lucky...and are just 21-21 in games decided by two runs or more. That's a red flag against them being a true Wildcard contender.

Philadelphia on the other hand has endured some bad luck in close games. They're 26-27 in games decided by two runs or more. Same red flag in terms of being Wildcard caliber. But, it's evidence that the Phils and Pirates are probably very close in the big picture.

RECORDS VS. NL CENTRAL AND NL WEST
Philadelphia 19-16
Pittsburgh 19-17

The Phils play in a much tougher division than the Pirates do, and also drew a much tougher Interleague schedule this year. If you just focus on games vs. the NL Central and NL West (taking the tough Eastern divisions from both leagues out of play), we have a virtual dead heat. And, that's a virtual dead heat that includes fortune smiling on Pittsburgh and not on Philadelphia.

Add it all up...and the Pirates' edge in your newspaper standings may a temporary blip that nobody will remember come August. At least that's what the math says. If you believe in handicapping based on energy and enthusiasm...then you could make the case that Pittsburgh is playing like they care this year, while Philadelphia continues to stumble around waiting for a couple of key players to get healthy. The sun is shining in Pittsburgh, while Philly sits under a cloud.

This four-game series isn't really on the media radar at the moment, but it should be on your handicapping radar. The flow of the full series could be shaped by tonight's result. And, the flow of the upcoming Wildcard race could be shaped by this week's games. If somebody makes a statement, you need to be listening...and winning!

20
Nov

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