Super-Parity in MLB!
ARE ALL 30 MAJOR LEAGUE TEAMS EVEN IN AN ERA OF SUPER PARITY?
That may sound kind of crazy. But, it's amazingly how tightly bunched the standings are in both leagues right now as we approach the 30-game mark.
In fact, when you make adjustments for schedule challenges, it's very hard to find much separation at all!
Let's start in the American League.
TEAMS AT 3 GAMES OVER .500 OR MORE (thru Tuesday)
NY Yankees 17-10
Tampa Bay 16-13
Kansas City 16-13
There are only four teams out of 14 who are more than two games over .500! And, of those, only Cleveland has done that against a relatively balanced schedule. They had played 15 home games and 13 road games through Tuesday Night. The Tribe had post a winning record on the road, and a great 13-2 record at home. They seem legitimate, as difficult as that is to say about Cleveland!
- The Yankees had played 18 home games and only 9 road games. Their solid record might not look so solid with a more even split.
- The Rays are at 17 and 12 in their home road split. If they don't play well in those five additional road games when they come up on the schedule, the team may drift back toward .500.
- The Royals have played 18 home games and 11 road games, suggesting that 16-13 record is an illusion in terms of overall quality. This is probably a losing team...or .500 at best at the moment that's been benefitting from a friendly schedule.
So, in the AL right now, we have one clearly legitimate team who's conceivably playing over their heads anyway based on recent standards. We have another who's a question mark, though the veteran talent on the Yankees suggests you should give them the benefit of the doubt. Who else is really better than 50/50?
Here's a listing of teams who were between +2 and -2 in terms of the .500 mark after Tuesday Night's action: Boston, Baltimore, LA Angels, Texas, Oakland, and Seattle.
Those teams have played fairly balanced schedules, and are probably within a stone's throw of playing true .500 baseball so far this season.
TEAMS AT 3 UNDER OVER .500 OR MORE (thru Tuesday)
Chicago White Sox 11-20
You've seen some bad baseball from that group this year. But, not so much Toronto if you look closely. They've actually played 11 home games and 18 road games. They have more wins than home games played...suggesting they'd climb quickly into the mid-level group with a lengthy homestand that evens things up.
Minnesota has matched their schedule thus far, with 10 home games and 18 road games. So, they're not as bad as their won-lost record is suggesting either (and Tuesday Night's no-hitter may inspire them to better baseball from this point forward).
Only Detroit and Chicago can truly be called "disappointments" at this stage of the season. They've posted less than acceptable records vs. balanced schedules.
In the AL, we have 1-2 good teams, 2 disappointments, and everyone else is roughly a .500 caliber squad. Let's see what's happening in the National League.
TEAMS AT 3 GAMES OVER .500 OR MORE (thru Tuesday)
St. Louis 17-13
Those teams all look legitimate so far in terms of home/road splits. And, Philadelphia has a fantastic pitching rotation that clearly separates them from the field unless they all get hurt. There can't be 30 teams in the majors who are all .500 caliber as long as the Phils are healthy. But, this is just 25% of the 16-team National League. And, St. Louis had to surge lately to get out of the .500 caliber morass.
The NL listing in the +2 to -2 range: Atlanta, Washington, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, LA Dodgers, San Francisco, Arizona.
That's half the league!
TEAMS AT 3 GAMES UNDER .500 OR MORE (thru Tuesday)
Chicago Cubs 13-16
NY Mets 12-17
San Diego 12-18
The schedules of those four teams are fairly balanced. Though, San Diego has actually had a home friendly schedule. The Padres may just be a bad team this year now that their superstar hitter is playing for Boston, and the balloon popped on other overachieving youngsters from last season.
You may be used to seeing a bell curve in sports leagues...with a reasonable distributions of good teams, average teams, and bad teams. Right now, we're very close to having an entire sport of average teams! You can definitely say Philadelphia is top quality. Given this year and last year, respect should be given to the NY Yankees and Colorado...and probably St. Louis given their pedigree. Teams who may or may not be able to hold it together are Cleveland and Florida. Then it's miles and miles of the same caliber of teams until you get to a small handful of stragglers.
What does this mean for handicapping?
- Focus on UNDERDOGS because Vegas oddsmakers tend to overprice favorites in the best of times. During extreme parity, there's little justification for extreme moneylines.
- Be on the lookout for injury developments because any big loss is HUGE as you fall behind so many other teams in quality. But, getting a quality player back is also huge because you then surge past so many other teams.
- Pay attention to home/road splits because they can easily create illusions at this point in time. We always emphasize that to you with our Wins Minus Home Games Played stat. We'll see various times this year where teams are as high as plus or minus 9 games (occasionally more) just because of the way their schedule was laid out. Don't make picks based on the newspaper standings! Be sure you make the necessary adjustments each and every day.
- Dig deep in the team stats to find edges that will come up in key situations. Figure out who's better against lefties or righties. Figure out who hits a lot of fly balls so you can back them in the bandboxes but go against them in more spacious stadiums. Spend more time than you ever have on middle relief because there such similarity this year with offenses, starting pitching, and ace relievers. During the steroid era, the big guys hit so many homers (and drew so many walks) that many of the subtleties got smashed. We've now entered the subtlety era, so handicap accordingly!
An abnormal distribution like this presents challenges, but it also presents opportunities. Do what you can to take advantage...or sign up with a man who's been red hot all season because he's always ahead of the curve! JIM HURLEY has been on a great baseball run, and has a big split session planned today because of the day-night schedule:
THURSDAY AFTERNOON: San Francisco at NY Mets, Florida at St. Louis, NY Yankees at Detroit, Toronto at Tampa Bay, LA Angels at Boston, Baltimore at Kansas City, Cleveland at Oakland
THURSDAY NIGHT: Washington at Philadelphia, Milwaukee at Atlanta, Colorado at Arizona, Texas at Seattle
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Basketball coverage resumes tomorrow when the NBA comes back from their day off. You can look forward to expanded previews for Chicago/Atlanta and LA Lakers/Dallas in our Friday edition of the NOTEBOOK...then Oklahoma City/Memphis and Miami/Boston on Saturday.
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