Falling By The Wayside


The past several weeks we've been monitoring the Major League pennant races here in the NOTEBOOK. It happens every year. Once the All-Star Break is in the books…some teams find an extra gear and go on winning tears, while others crash and burn and fall from contention.

If you catch the super surgers early, you can win for a few weeks before the lines catch up. If you anticipate the disasters, those slumps will pay off for you through much of August and possibly into September.

Much of our recent coverage has been focusing on the teams who are still contenders. That's who's appearing in the big TV games. We wanted to take some time today to update you on a few teams who have fallen off the pace. Back at the All-Star Break, these teams were either in the mix, or on the verge of being in the mix. Now, it would take a miracle to get back into the playoff picture. That may seem harsh given how many games are left. You'll see in a moment that “you can't get there from here” if you're 10 games back except in the rarest of circumstances.

Here's a look at some teams who have become good fade material in recent days because…either the pressure got to them…they were playing over their heads and the laws of math got to them…or, they got stuck in the mud while better teams raced past them. Note that all records are through Sunday's games because of publication deadlines.

Last 30 games: 12-19
Last 20 games: 5-15
Last 10 games: 0-10
Last Weekend: Swept at home by San Diego
To Reach 90 wins: a 36-13 finish

This was a monumental collapse, but not really one that was a big surprise. Pittsburgh was a great story there for awhile, sneaking into first place in the NL Central while Milwaukee and St. Louis were kind of gathering themselves for a second half run. The talent didn't seem to be there in the first place. And, several starting pitchers had better numbers than would have been expected. CRASH! A team that's not all that great anyway lost it's confidence, lost its fire, and lost seven straight home games to losing teams from Chicago and San Diego!

It was very affordable to fade the Pirates during this stretch. The line should be catching up on this road trip though. Possibly the greatest example of the last decade showing how pretenders can completely fall off the map once it's time to determine a champion. Computer projections won't show this to you on a day-by-day basis. Recent team trends from the good times won't matter. You have to see something like this coming with your own eyes, and bet accordingly once the avalanche has started.

Last 30 games: 13-17
Last 20 games: 9-11
Last 10 games: 5-5
Last Weekend: Lost 2 of 3 to the Chicago Cubs
To Reach 90 wins: a 35-13 finish

We talked a few times about the Reds being right on the verge of being in the Central race. They had played better than their record. They were starting to get some healthy arms in the rotation. The stage was at least set for a surge. Instead, another crash! This wasn't as bad as what Pittsburgh went through. But, the Reds had no margin for error because bad luck in close games had pushed them off the pace. Instead of getting things in gear…they've limped around. A four-game home sweep against the New York Mets was the backbreaker. This week the Reds dropped series on the road to Houston and Chicago. This was after Houston had traded away its offense! We think there will be some value moving forward fading the Reds because they're still getting too much respect in the line.

Last 30 games: 15-15
Last 20 games: 9-11
Last 10 games: 4-6
Last Weekend: Lost 2 of 3 to Atlanta
To Reach 90 wins: a 34-15 finish

The Mets were a longshot anyway. But, we showed you not too long ago that a ridiculously unfair home/road split had led to the Mets playing a lot more road games than home games. They weren't as far off the pace as it seemed once you adjusted for that. The four-game sweep at Cincinnati brought that point home. This team was playing better than everyone realized. Unfortunately, the pressure of getting back into the mix seemed to hit this group too. They lost two of three at Washington, then just went 1-4 on a homestand. Worse, two key ingredients in their lineup were hurt Sunday against the Braves.

Shorthanded, the Mets could be a team you want to fade for the foreseeable future. Once a team loses its spirit, there's just nothing to keep them going through the dog days of summer.

Last 30 games: 13-17
Last 20 games: 9-11
Last 10 games: 6-4
Last Weekend: Lost 2 of 3 to Oakland
To Reach 90 wins: a 31-18 finish (36-13 to reach 95 wins)

It's probably going to take 95 wins for the Rays to rally into the postseason rather than 90 wins. Boston and the New York Yankees have ignited like rockets, while Tampa Bay stalled at the second half launch. Well, Boston's been a rocket since they're 2-10 start to the season. The Yankees have been playing like champions for weeks now even with the absence of AROD. Stick Tampa Bay in the AL Central, and they're a game and a half behind first place Detroit. This is a decent team, but not a great one. Las Vegas still prices them very high at home though because of past glory…which provides value to sharp handicappers. Oakland cashed at +150 and +120 in their two wins this weekend.

Given the probable lack of motivation the Rays will experience down the stretch as an irrelevant also-ran, you should be looking for spots to fade them at vulnerable prices.

Last 30 games: 13-17
Last 20 games: 7-13
Last 10 games: 2-8
Last Weekend: Swept at home by the Chicago White Sox
To Reach 90 wins: a 39-9 finish

Minnesota was in the mix at the All-Star Break because nobody in the AL Central had caught fire yet…and they were playing just as well as anyone else for an extended period. Had THEY been the team to find an extra gear (which is something this franchise has done before down the stretch), then the division would have been there for the taking. You can see above that the opposite happened. And, with Detroit catching fire…the Twins can pretty much call it a year.

Maybe it won't take 90 wins to win this division. If it takes 85 wins, that's still a 34-14 finish for the Twinkies. Hard to imagine.

With football season in the offing, our baseball coverage here in the NOTEBOOK will be trimmed to just a couple of days per week through August, and then just here and there in September. That means we'll be saying good bye to today's teams for now. Our focus from this point forward will be on the pennant races. We could have as many as 4-5 divisions go right down to the wire. Things might be interesting in the Wildcard picture as well depending on how Atlanta and the AL Eastern powers hold up. Wednesday we'll do some digging with the Los Angeles Angels since they're very much a factor in the AL West, and they're visiting the New York Yankees on ESPN's national telecast that night.

Thursday, as we outlined for you yesterday in our NFL Preseason preparations, we'll begin our NFL Divisional previews with a look at the NFC West. Seattle hosts San Diego in the first Preseason TV game this season. We'll crunch some numbers to see if Seattle has a shot to repeat as division champs.

Though we'll mostly be talking football from this point forward, we don't want you to forget about BIG BASEBALL PLAYS from JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK! Every dollar you win in August will multiply itself over several times between now and the Super Bowl. That's true whether you're talking about football money or baseball money. Among the series we're paying particular attention to now are:

LA Angels at NY Yankees
Milwaukee at St. Louis
Philadelphia at LA Dodgers

We're also monitoring the teams we discussed today as possible fade material in San Diego-NY Mets, Colorado-Cincinnati, Pittsburgh-San Francisco, Kansas City-Tampa Bay, and Boston-Minnesota.

Game day releases go up a few hours before first pitch. We still have great rates that take you through the rest of the season that provide the most bang for your buck. And, don't forget about our early-bird offers in football that are due to expire soon!

You can always count on teams to fall by the wayside when push comes to shove. Many handicappers do that too. JIM HURLEY'S BEEN A PROVEN WINNER FOR MORE THAN 25 YEARS! DON'T SETTLE FOR LESS THAN THE BEST!

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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