A Day at the Races?Plus the Bases

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

DON'T LET "OLD NEWS" RUIN YOUR HANDICAPPING PERFORMANCE

Whether you're handicapping horse racing, baseball, or any sport where long term records have a chance to create illusions, you'll be best served by focusing on more recent hunks when you want to predict what's going to happen TODAY.

There are certainly some exceptions to this rule. We're talking about sports handicapping, and there are no sure things. Just think about it this way.

  • What's a better predictor of what a horse will do in a race? What they've done recently. What they did a long time ago? What they did when they first started racing? Hey, if a horse is consistent, it's all the same! If a horse started out shaky but then got the hang of things...any performance sample with the shaky stuff in it should be thrown out.
  • What's a better predictor of what a team will do in a game? What they did last week? What they did last month? What they did the last few months? What they've done in their history? If there was a 100% solid as a rock answer for this, handicapping would be so easy that sportsbooks couldn't exist. It's a complicated world, and teams ebb and flow based on personnel and health. We will say this, the older the data, the more likely it is to be misleading.

Keep that in mind as you ponder today's card at Belmont. If you'd like some help picking the big race, or the full card, sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK at 1-800-323-4453. You can also link up with the best horse racing handicapper on the planet right here at the website with your credit card. The Triple Crown races are always a big deal here at NETWORK. Those of you who have received mail from us in the past know we consider Belmont one of our hometown tracks. JIM HURLEY IS THE MAN TO CALL TODAY!

As you study the baseball matchups this weekend, we think you'll be better served by looking over what teams have done the last 30 games rather than the full season marks you see in your morning newspaper. This point was driving home to us yesterday when we were writing up the preview of the Atlanta/LA Dodgers series. Both of those teams have been red hot of late. The standings don't capture the full intensity of that.

And, we know from history that many of you are too quick to draw conclusions based on what you see in the standings. That's how you make a kneejerk decision about how "good" or "bad" a team is. You look at the standings, and get your answer.

Well, that's probably okay 25-30 games into a season. At the 50-game mark, stuff that happened in the first 2-3 weeks is less relevant, and can pollute your sample. Move to the 80-85 game mark that represents the midpoint of the season...and you'll be talking about six weeks to two months polluting your sample! Later in the season? Well, what happened in April, May and June just doesn't matter much when you're trying to pick September baseball. For a variety of reasons.

In essence, the deeper into the season that you trust the standings, the DUMBER you're going to be about what's happening currently.

In past years, we've put together periodic reports when time allowed showing what teams had done over the last month or so of games. There's often a dramatic difference in recent form that handicappers could have been exploiting (and we WERE exploiting with our releases) had they been on top of developments. We're at the point on the 2010 calendar where that's starting to matter for this season.

  • Everyone's played a little over 50 games
  • What happened in the first 20 just doesn't have much bearing any more
  • If you're trusting the newspaper standings, 40% of the sample is irrelevant!

Today we've compiled won-lost records for all Major League teams since May 1st. That's about 30 games for everyone, though a few teams have played 31, while others haven't quite reached 30 (today's records will be through the games of Thursday Night because of publication deadlines). We strongly advise you to evaluate teams this weekend on THESE records rather than the full season data.

There are 30 teams to get to...so let's jump in.

AL EAST
Boston: 20-11
Tampa Bay: 19-11
Toronto: 19-11
NY Yankees: 19-12
Baltimore: 9-21

NOTEBOOK: Fully four of the five teams are playing like playoff caliber teams. There just isn't much difference right now amongst the traditional winners. Tampa Bay started out better...but has settled in as "one of the best" rather than "clearly the best" over the past month. That was clear with their home field woes against Boston. Would you have guessed the RED SOX were the best team in the AL over the last month?

Baltimore just fired its manager, in a long overdue move. That 9-21 spell came after an even worse opening to the season.

AL CENTRAL
Minnesota: 16-14
Detroit: 13-15
Chicago White Sox: 13-16
Kansas City 12-19
Cleveland: 9-20

NOTEBOOK: This should surprise you. Minnesota is seen as a league power, but hasn't been playing up to the pace of the best AL East teams. We started seeing a mix of non-divisional play over the last month, which really helps sort out where everyone stands. Detroit's a Wildcard contender in media coverage...and got a lot of exposure this week with the "Imperfect Game." Were you aware they were under .500 the last month? You were probably thinking the White Sox stunk, while Detroit was pretty good. Turns out they were both about even the last month.

Will Cleveland and Kansas City ever get things turned around? Those guys have been pretty consistently bad for quite awhile now. 

AL WEST
Texas 16-13
Oakland 16-14
LA Angels 16-15
Seattle 9-18

NOTEBOOK:
Can't say there are any surprises here, other than Seattle falling off the pace. The morning newspaper is telling that story already, so you shouldn't be shocked. The other thee teams are very close to even right now...and could stay that way all season. That will make or quite a divisional race...to see who earns the right to lose to an AL East team in the playoffs!

The teams in the AL have clustered pretty clearly. Let's outline that...

AMERICAN LEAGUE SUMMARY

ON A ROLL
Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, NY Yankees

NEAR .500
Texas, Minnesota, Oakland, LAA, Detroit, CWS

LOSING ABOUT TWO-THIRDS OF THE TIME
Kansas City, Baltimore, Cleveland, Seattle

Virtually identical thirds...which should help you categorize everyone this weekend. Moving to the National League...

NL EAST
Atlanta 21-8
Philadelphia 15-14
Florida 16-15
NY Mets 13-17
Washington 13-18

NOTEBOOK:
Danger Will Robinson! Washington is starting to fall off the pace after their surprising start to the season. Be careful asking too much of them. The players may be thinking too much about the eventual arrival of Stephen Strasburg rather than taking care of business now. The Mets are in a similar slump.

We talked a lot about Atlanta yesterday. No reason to belabor that point. The Braves are playing the best ball in the division by a good bit. 

NL CENTRAL
Cincinnati: 19-11
St. Louis: 15-15
Chicago Cubs: 12-16
Pittsburgh 12-17
Milwaukee: 12-18
Houston 12-19

NOTEBOOK: Looks like every report we do this year will have to mention what a horrible division this is! With fewer games than normal against each other recently, you can really see how badly the group matches up with outsiders. Only one team is over .500 the past month. Just UGLY baseball being played.

Cincinnati has risen to the top during this period. We're still skeptical of their long term outlook. As we mentioned in our "Wins Minus Home Games Played" report earlier in the week, the team has had a favorable early schedule. When that evens up, they may fall back to .500 (or worse) in any 30-game measure.

Let's note that both St. Louis and Philadelphia have fallen off their early pace, and their general level of projected play. Each is pricey for what are, in essence, .500 caliber teams right now.

NL WEST
LA Dodgers: 21-8
San Diego: 17-12
Colorado: 17-12
San Francisco: 14-15
Arizona: 9-21

NOTEBOOK: Arizona's been a disaster, but you're getting solid stuff elsewhere in the division. We talked about the Dodgers yesterday. Don't lose sight of San Diego's consistent quality this year, and Colorado's ability to surge when nobody's paying attention (which is basically already happening again!).

NATIONAL LEAGUE SUMMARY

ON A ROLL
LA Dodgers, Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, Colorado

NEAR .500
Philadelphia, Florida, St. Louis, San Francisco

SLUMPING, BUT NOT DISASTERS
NY Mets, Washington, Chicago Cubs

LOSING ABOUT TWO-THIRDS OF THE TIME
Arizona, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Houston

We hope today's numbers will help you get a better read on teams as you handicap this weekend. We'll be back tomorrow to preview Game Two of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtic and Los Angeles Lakers, looking at key numbers from Game One for guidance.

Right now....it's time to focus on A DAY AT THE RACES and A DAY WITH THE BASES! Call 1-800-323-4453 for full Belmont coverage plus a huge Major League Card. Or, sign up for the month of June and get all of this weekend's big events included in your package. You can take care of business right here at the website if you have your credit card handy.

JOIN JIM HURLEY IN THE WINNER'S CIRCLE IN ONE OF THE BIGGEST SPORTS WEEKENDS OF THE YEAR!

 

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