MLB Divisional Breakdowns
IMPORTANT WEEKEND FOR RECOGNIZING
DIVISIONAL STRENGTH IN MLB
Of the 15 series scheduled this weekend in Major League Baseball, only TWO will match divisional rivals.
Pittsburgh visits the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central
Philadelphia visits the NY Mets in the NL East
All other matchups involve teams from one division playing teams from another. To make sure you understand that NOT ALL DIVISIONS ARE CREATED EQUAL, we've put together a breakdown of how all six baseball divisions have fared this season.
The data is through the games of Wednesday Night. We think you're going to be very surprised at the extremes that have become evident so far this season. We're not even two months into the 2011 campaign, but it's very clear where the strong spots are, and where the weak spots are.
We're going to start with the best division thus far. You're probably thinking that's the American League East, with traditional powers Boston, the NY Yankees, and Tampa Bay already in position to have another classic pennant race. Close, but WRONG!
NL EAST: +16 games
The best won-lost differential so far this year goes to the National League East. Philadelphia is playing like champions (as expected). Florida is playing great (which wasn't expected!), Atlanta has come on after a shaky start. The New York Mets have avoided disaster so far, but we'll admit that could be an implosion waiting to happen because of their finances. Washington has slumped lately, but they were close to .500 before that slump.
The best baseball right now in the sport is coming from the NL East. Handicap accordingly. That means, look for a value spot or two with Florida at the LA Dodgers this weekend. See if Atlanta is affordable against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. Be cautions with slumping Washington, but be aware they're hosting another slumping team in the form of the San Diego Padres. (We noted earlier that the Phillies and Mets are playing each other).
AL EAST: +12 games
Maybe the American League East will be back on top after this weekend. The race is close enough, and the inter-divisional schedule busy enough, that it's certainly possible. Just remember that it's more difficult to find value in this group because the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays get so much market respect up front because of their recent history. This division is SUPPOSED to be a lot of games over .500. Frankly, this seems low considering all the preseason hype about Boston being a reformed juggernaut.
And, if you had told us before the year that both Toronto and Baltimore would only be one game below .500 nearing the 50 game mark…we would have assumed that the AL East was absolutely DESTROYING the field! You can still find value with those generally underpriced also-rans.
Boston has found good form lately, and is making money for backers in recent outings. They'll be tested this weekend in Detroit in a series we'll be watching very closely for big play potential. The Yankees are out West in Seattle. Tampa Bay hosts Cleveland in what could be a playoff preview given how well the Indians are playing. Toronto hosts the Chicago White Sox. Baltimore finishes out the schedule for this division in Oakland.
AL WEST: -2 games
We're already below the .500 mark, with the four Central and West divisions failing to crack the break even point. That gives you a sense of how strong the Eastern groups have become thanks to deep pockets in some places, and the need to REALLY be good if you want to win a tough division.
The West proved its mettle last year when the Texas Rangers took out both the Yankees and Rays in the posteason on the way to a World Series berth. They've fallen back to earth some because of injuries. They are getting healthy though, which means you want to keep an eye on them this weekend against the Royals.
Seattle has offered the best value this year because they're hanging near the .500 mark. You know the Mariners will be fired up to host the Yankees this weekend. Maybe we'll take a shot on the M's at some point this weekend. There are certainly pitchers on the Angels and A's who have our attention whenever they take the mound. Those pitchers may be in position to overmatch the offenses of the Twins and Orioles this weekend.
NL CENTRAL: -6 games
We've gotten in the habit of thinking of this division as the very worst. This year it's up to fourth place so far because St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee are committed to winning and keep trying to improve their rosters. Plus, Pittsburgh is playing better now than they probably will be down the road. We're still not afraid go to against the lower half of this division. We'll be studying the upper half very closely because they all have testers this weekend:
St. Louis visits Colorado
Milwaukee hosts San Francisco
Cincinnati visits Atlanta
You don't want to overdue the 'potential playoff preview' theme in May. But, we're looking at postseason contenders with all six of those teams. There should at least be a playoff feel to a few of those games this weekend when the best pitchers are on the mound. (What a great weekend to be a baseball fan!).
The Pirates and Cubs catch a break by drawing each other. Houston, with the NL's worst record, will host Arizona.
AL CENTRAL: -10 games
What's amazing in the American League Central is that Cleveland was 13 games over .500 by themselves through the games of Wednesday, yet their division as a whole was still in the red! Minnesota has been a disaster this year. The Chicago White Sox have been a major disappointment. Detroit looks like a playoff caliber team some days, a disappointment on others.
NETWORK has made some very good coin in this division already because the market has been so incredibly slow to catch up to the new realities in this hunk of teams. We'll be looking for go-against spots with Minnesota when they host the LA Angels this weekend, and possibly with the White Sox and Royals in Toronto and Texas respectively. It will be pricier to fade those road teams though.
Cleveland/Tampa Bay is a series that interests us a lot because we're trying to get a read on how Cleveland measures up to the power teams. They've already lost home series to Tampa Bay and Boston, which isn't a good sign in the big picture. We mentioned earlier that Detroit's series with Boston is prominent on our radar.
NL WEST: -10 games
Last year this division was fantastic outside of Arizona, and was ultimately +10 games for the year even though the Diamondbacks were -32! San Francisco would survive the regular season rumble, and use what they learned to go all the way to a World Championship. This year:
*San Diego lost their offensive superstar and fell off the map
*Los Angeles has been distracted by an off-the-field soap opera that still isn't resolved
*Colorado isn't getting anything out of Ubaldo Jiminez after a Cy Young caliber season (and they were still at .500 anyway through Wednesday!)
That puts the NL West in the cellar with the AL Central. Marquee series this week for the group are San Francisco at Milwaukee and Colorado hosting St. Louis. We plan on learning something from San Diego-Washington and Florida-Los Angeles too. The Dodgers have been a good fade this year because Vegas doesn't have them pegged yet as a 22-29 caliber team.
That wraps up our look at MLB divisions heading into this big inter-divisional weekend. We'll be talking a lot more about the bases here in the NOTEBOOK now that the NBA Playoffs are winding down. You can still expect comprehensive hoops coverage through the championships. The schedule will spread out now in a way that allows for a lot of baseball too.
Of course, in terms of BIG JUICY WINNERS, our best is always available in both sports to customers each and every day. You can link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK here at the website. We have great rates for long term packages. For guidance on finding the program that best suits your needs, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.
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This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com and JimHurley.com. For more information on JIM HURLEY'S handicapping packages, call 1-800-323-4453.
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