Catching up with Baseball

JIM HURLEY'S HANDICAPPING NOTEBOOK

A DAY OFF IN THE NBA LETS US CATCH UP WITH BASEBALL

We'll get back to our NBA previews tomorrow, as the long awaited Boston-Miami series finally gets under way to start the second round of postseason action. There are no basketball games on the Saturday card...which means we get to talk some baseball!

You regulars know one of our favorite update stats in this sport is Wins Minus Home Games Played. We try to check in on it monthly during the season...particularly in stages where quirks in the schedule have given some teams a lot more home games, and others a lot more road games. We're at that point NOW, so things have lined up perfectly.

Because of publication deadlines, we're looking at the numbers through Thursday Night action. This is how things stood in both leagues heading into the weekend series. We'll start in the American League East, where a surprise already awaits...

WINS MINUS HOME GAMES PLAYED (thru Thursday)

AL EAST
Boston: +2
Tampa Bay: +1
Toronto: +1
NY Yankees: -1
Baltimore: -5
NOTEBOOK: Whoa! How did Boston get up to first place, while the Yankees are in negative territory?! Boston has only played 9 home games this year, compared to 15 on the road. Though they're not living up to preseason expectations, they're still not as bad as the standings in your morning newspaper are suggesting. Once the schedules all equalize, they just might be right where everyone expected in the first place. The Yankees have played 15 home games and only 7 road games. Their 14-8 won-lost record really isn't all that great in this context. Note that the Yankees suffered through a road imbalance much of last year, which had them looking worse than they were really playing much of the time. The situation may be reversed this season.

Tampa Bay is another team that started the season poorly but has now shown up well in a key indicator stat. Looks like the fairy tale is over in Baltimore. They ended 2010 well, and had some big early wins in 2011. A 15-8 split in home games to road games has helped hide how poorly they've been playing. They're further off the pace than the regular standings would suggest.

AL CENTRAL
Cleveland: +4
Detroit: even
Chicago White Sox: even
Minnesota: -1
Kansas City: -2
NOTEBOOK: This exercise is very helpful in this division. Kansas City has played a favorable schedule, which has them higher up in the current standings than they deserve. They sink to the bottom once you adjust for the home/road splits. The White Sox have played just 10 home games compared to 16 road games. Minnesota is at 10 and 14 the wrong way. Give everybody even schedules, and things tighten up in the middle.

That being said, surprising Cleveland has been legitimate so far. They've played 12 home games and 12 road games, meaning that their lead is temporarily at least for real. We're skeptical that they can keep it up. But, we learned last year that young hungry teams can string together good MONTHS rather than just good weeks. The lesson today is that Kansas City isn't as young and hungry as you may have been thinking. We'll see what happens in their upcoming road games.

AL WEST
Oakland: +3
LA Angels: +1
Texas: -1
Seattle: -2
NOTEBOOK: You can see why we wanted to focus on this stat today! Many teams aren't playing at quite the level you're thinking because of favorable home/road splits. Texas goes on that list. A 15-10 record to start the season looks great until you realize they've played 16 home games and 9 road games. Oakland's current 12-13 record came against a slate with only 9 home games but 16 road games! Who was more impressive? We'll see for sure once the schedule evens out. For now, Oakland's better than the standings suggest. And, last year's AL championship pairing of Texas and the Yankees are both failing to make the most of friendly early season schedules.

A quick note on the American League overall at this point. TALK ABOUT PARITY! Most teams are very close to even. There's just not much separating the bulk of AL teams at the moment. Be sure you account for that in your handicapping. And, then remember that any talented team that starts to get things going may go on an absolute tear because they'll be better than everyone else. We do expect to see at least one such tear before the All-Star Break. Possibly at least two others after the Break.

NL EAST
Philadelphia: +5
Atlanta: +4
Florida: even
Washington: -1
NY Mets: -2
NOTEBOOK: Those standings aren't a surprise based on preseason expectations. But, they ARE a surprise if you've been handicapping based on the current won-lost records. Florida was 15-8 in your Friday morning newspaper. But they've played 15 home games and 8 road games, making it easier to post a nice record. Atlanta was 13-13 entering the weekend matchups...but played only 9 home games and a stunning 17 road games (most in baseball)! Going .500 against THAT challenge is impressive, and suggests very strongly that Atlanta will once again be a good Wildcard contender regardless of what you're thinking about them now.

Philadelphia was expected to be a dominant team this year. They're off to a dominant start to be sure. They have the best differential we've seen so far. They'll end up second best once we've run the full list.

NL CENTRAL
St. Louis: +2
Cincinnati: even
Milwaukee: -1
Pittsburgh: -1
Chicago Cubs: -4
Houston: -4
NOTEBOOK: This division has been very competitive outside of Houston most of the season. There was a day were there was almost a 5-way tie for first place not too long ago. Well, the Cubs being part of that is an illusion. They've played 14 home games, and 10 road games in a division that's mostly been balanced in home/road splits otherwise. They're more like Houston than they are St. Louis or Cincinnati. A losing streak this week has helped expose that to everyone.

Pittsburgh is known for falling apart in the second half of the season. So, we expect a three-team race for now, with the Cards, Reds, and Brewers fighting for what might be only one playoff spot if Atlanta can play to the level of respect this indicator stat is suggesting.

NL WEST
Colorado: +6
San Francisco: +3
LA Dodgers: +1
Arizona: -2
San Diego: -6
NOTEBOOK: Colorado wins the honors for best record in this stat with a gaudy +6 mark. They've posted a 16-7 record while only playing 10 home games (against 13 road games). We also want you to notice San Francisco here. Like Atlanta, they're a playoff team that's had the deck stacked against them with the early home/road split. The Giants are 12-12 while playing 9 home games and 15 road games. They're still contenders to be sure even though their .500 full season record isn't knocking your socks off.

San Diego's in real trouble. They lost their best player because they couldn't afford him. This year they've struggled out of the gate despite playing 15 home games and just 10 road games. They're back to being the old Padres. And, they're currently worst of all 30 Major League teams in this stat.

We hope this exercise has helped clear up some of the pollution that's currently messing up your newspaper standings. When you handicap games Saturday and Sunday, be sure you're in touch with what's REALLY happening in the league. You can't win money betting on illusions!

JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK will be attacking the bases aggressively this weekend. Among the series of interest are:

St. Louis at Atlanta (a better series now than you realized!)
LA Angels at Tampa Bay (ditto)
Texas at Oakland
Detroit at Cleveland
Toronto at NY Yankees (Sunday's national game on TBS)
NY Mets at Philadelphia (Sunday's prime time game on ESPN)

The first two games listed are part of FOX's regional coverage Saturday.

Game day baseball can always be purchased here at the website with your credit card. Be sure you take care of business EARLY when there are day games! We have great monthly and seasonal rates. If you have any questions about combination packages with the NBA playoffs, give us a call at 1-800-323-4453.

The baskets resume Sunday. The Kentucky Derby is coming up very soon. NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME TO MAKE A COMMITMENT WITH JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

21
Nov

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