MLB Run Differential

HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

CREAM RISES TO THE TOP
IN THIS IMPORTANT INDICATOR STAT

by Mathew Hurley, Managing Editor

We wrap up our gauntlet through Major League Baseball indicator stats today with a look at run differential. This most basic of stats should get a lot more attention than it does. You have to outscore your opponents to win. The teams who do that to the most impressive degree are the best teams. A basic fundamental...yet one the mainstream media pays no attention to!

If you've missed our earlier breakdowns of Major League teams and divisions this week, please check the recent archives. Tomorrow's report will look at the marquee TV series this weekend. Among the highlights:

Boston at the NY Yankees
San Francisco at Atlanta
NY Mets at Philadelphia

The Jim Hurley Network is locked in on the great rivalries of the East tonight! Red Sox-Yanks! Phils-Mets! Click here to win both games Friday night!

 

Sunday's NOTEBOOK entry will be our first NFL Divisional preview of the summer. We'll look at the NFC East to get you ready for Dallas and Cincinnati in Sunday Night's Hall of Fame game on NBC. We'll then pick up again with the Divisional previews Thursday, and run a gauntlet that corresponds with the onset of the full exhibition schedule.

September will be here before you know it, which brings the start of the college football season. If you missed our college conference previews that ran earlier this summer, please check the archives.

Okay...our final big picture look at Major League Baseball for awhile. The two best teams in run differential by A LIKE are the NY Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. With that in mind, we start off today in the American League. Note: because of publication deadlines, we're using the differentials through the games of Wednesday Night to keep everything even on the calendar.

Oh, for fun, we decided to include each team's improvement or decline from last year on this same date. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking 'the Yankees always win,' or 'Pittsburgh always loses.' You might be surprised to learn how much more dominant the Yankees have been this year than last year. And, it's just STUNNING to see how far San Diego has come in a calendar year.

AL'S BEST (comparison to 8/5/09 in parenthesis)
NY Yankees +134 (57 better)
Tampa Bay +132 (47 better)
Texas +94 (58 better)
Minnesota +90 (88 better)
Boston +61 (31 worse)
Chicago White Sox +60 (43 better)
Toronto +40 (1 better)
Oakland +19 (57 better)

You'll see in a moment that the Yanks and Rays are the only two teams in all of baseball to crack the plus 100 barrier...and they do that by a comfortable margin. Texas and Minnesota rank ahead of the whole National League themselves, which suggests a high level of play. We've been warning people about Texas this week because a friendly home/road schedule has helped inflate their record much of the season. Don't get us wrong...they're good...but maybe not quite as good as their overall record. This stat today shows that they do have a knack for winning big, and losing small to this poing in the season.

We drop about 30 runs from the 'big four' down to Boston and Chicago. The White Sox had an ugly start to the season which served as a bit of a drag on the full season's numbers. It will be very interesting to see how the AL Central race resolves itself. Minnesota has the more impressive full season pedigree. The White Sox are better over the last couple of months. Both managers have proven they can reach the finish line if they're in the race late in the year.

Don't lose site of the value opportunities available with Toronto and Oakland. Each is capable of a cold spell. But, the warmer spells have been more frequent...and the legal betting markets don't seem to give those teams enough respect during the best of times. Frankly, Toronto deserves A LOT of respect for reaching +40 in a killer division. They showed some life on the road this week at Yankee Stadium too.

In terms of comparisons to last year, isn't amazing how much consistent improvement is on that list. Many of these teams have really lifted their games, only to find that they're still in tight races because other teams have done the same thing. Only Boston's dropped off to a significant degree. Toronto is treading water in a whirlpool, which is a compliment in itself.

AL'S WORST
LA Angels -24 (97 worse)
Detroit -27 (45 worse)
Cleveland -80 (54 worse)
Kansas City -115 (11 better)
Seattle -125 (84 worse)
Baltimore -189 (121 worse)

The Angels and Tigers aren't showing much of a pedigree in terms of playoff hopes. They're mathematically alive. And, as we showed the other day, the Angels are closer to the Rangers than you might think. In this stat, THEY'RE NOT! It's very hard to make the case you're a playoff team if you've got a negative run differential this deep into the season. The cream rises to the top. It doesn't sit below the surface for four months, then explode to the top at the very end.

The bottom four should be no surprise. They've been struggling all season. You've got the three last place teams in the AL divisions, plus an extra from the AL Central who's been last place caliber much of the time. It's just that two teams from the same division can't share last place!

In terms of the transition from 2009-2010, we see the poor getting poorer. You may have heard people talk about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer in this sport. Today's look at run differential really spells that out for you. The top teams are stockpiling the talent, even though they already had a reputation for that. The bottom teams are unloading what little they have so they can rebuild, even though they were already doing that last year. IT'S GETTING WORSE!

NL'S BEST
San Francisco +89 (45 better)
San Diego +86 (231 better!!!!!!!!)
Atlanta +80 (53 better)
Cincinnati +79 (169 better!!)
St. Louis +74 (43 better)
Philadelphia +57 (17 worse)
Colorado +39 (15 worse)
NY Mets +18 (42 better)
LA Dodgers +10 (107 worse!)
Florida +8 (19 better)

This chart suggests we're in store for a great race and an electric postseason in the senior circuit. Look at how many quality teams are bunched between +70 and +90 runs! All three divisions are covered. If you take it to a top six from +55 to +90, that's two teams in each division and quite a Wildcard war on tap.

We talked yesterday about the NL West being the best division in this league. You see that the top two teams are from that section. If you've learned nothing else this week...please make sure it's registered that San Diego and San Francisco are FOR REAL rather than temporary flukes playing over their heads for a few weeks. This isn't a hot month...or even a hot first half. What you see above from the Padres and Giants are rock solid numbers for about two-thirds of a Major League season. And, they're doing that in a competitive division, in an improving league.

Now...in terms of last year...WOW! San Diego is more than 200 runs better. That should be impossible. What a tribute to Bud Black, the front office, and the talented young players that have made the Padres such a success story this year. Cincinnati deserves a lot of praise too. We've been slow on that end because we still expect Dusty Baker to ruin everybody's arms...and because the Reds are in a weak division with a lot of soft opponents. Still, that's a huge improvement...and Baker should get credit for the stuff he does right...as long as it doesn't end up blowing up in his face. Kerry Wood and Mark Prior did great things under Baker too, for a tragically short period of time.

And, how about the Dodgers? They're still on the fringes of the race, so it doesn't seem like a collapse. They're more than 100 runs worse in differential from last year to this year though, which is very clearly a collapse. That divorce saga really did take it's toll. Plus, Manny Ramirez teams tend to fade out over time as well.

NL'S WORST
Washington -44 (61 better)
Chicago Cubs -63 (99 worse)
Milwaukee -77 (45 worse)
Houston -102 (43 worse)
Arizona -114 (91 worse)
Pittsburgh -210 (176 worse!!!)

That's right, Pittsburgh is worse than Baltimore. And, even though they were horrible last year...they're actually a whole different level of horrible this year because of their tendency to lose blowouts. Pittsburgh's bullpen is awful, so they lose BIG when they fall behind early.

Houston was in dire straights before their recent hot streak. It's great to see a doormat lift itself on the ground and ring the doorbell for a few weeks.

Do we even need to spend time on the Cubs? That franchise continues to flush whole seasons down the toilet at an alarming rate.

That wraps up today's look at run differential. Hope you enjoyed getting back up to speed in the bases this week. Back tomorrow to preview some showcase series. Football returns to the headlines Sunday with the start of the NFL Preseason. Don't forget you can sign up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK for the whole preseason for just $59. Or, BLUE RIBBON service for the whole year (college and pro) is yours for $199 on the early bird rates.

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