Checking in On "Real" Pennant Races

CHECKING IN ON THE “REAL” PENNANT RACES AS BASEBALL HITS JULY FOURTH WEEKEND

Major League Baseball fans and handicappers often use July 4 as a measuring point to evaluate where things truly stand as the sport transitions into its second half of the season. We’re going to help you do just that today as we apply one of our favorite pet stats to your newspaper standings. We’ll adjust for uneven home/road splits across the landscape with a stat we call “Wins Minus Home Games Played.”

This approach helps you find teams who may have misleadingly good records because they’ve played several more home games than road games…and helps you find teams who may misleadingly bad records because the reverse is true.

We’ll start in the National League, where the differences are more stark, and then go in divisional order through the majors. (All records through the games of July 2 because of publication deadlines.)

NL EAST
Atlanta +6
Washington +3
NY Mets -1
Miami -8
Philadelphia -9

Miami had played a stunning 48 home games, compared to only 36 road games through Wednesday night. So…they’re position on the fringes of the playoff race is largely, or possibly MOSTLY an illusion created by a very friendly schedule split. It’s the Mets who are actually better than you realize, having played only 38 home games but 47 road games.

NL CENTRAL
Milwaukee +9
St. Louis +6
Cincinnati +6
Pittsburgh -1
Chicago Cubs -2

The big news here in the Central involves the Reds and the Pirates. The media has started talking about the recent Pirates surge. Just be aware that they’ve played six more home games than road games. The Reds were a full TEN games short at home compared to road outings at our cut-off point. That means they’re likely to be in better shape Wildcard-wise once the schedules even out.

NL WEST
LA Dodgers +3
San Francisco even
Colorado -3
San Diego -8
Arizona -10

You regular readers know the Giants have been in a tailspin lately. The news is even WORSE than you had been thinking because they’ve played 10 more home games than road games! If they’re going to right the ship…they’re going to have to do that in road games. The Dodgers are establishing themselves as the class of the division. Colorado has a chance to matter again if they can take advantage of seven extra home games coming their way from this point forward.

AL EAST
Baltimore +2
Toronto +1
NY Yankees even
Boston -4
Tampa Bay -6

Toronto goes on the list of teams that’s been creating some illusions with a home friendly schedule. They’re still a decent team. But, they’ll have six extra road games ahead. That means it’s the Baltimore Orioles who are currently slightly better positioned the rest of the way…and that the New York Yankees are far from out of the picture after a fairly generic start. We’ll still have a dramatic race in the AL East this season…even if the division as a composite got a lot worse in the offseason.

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AL CENTRAL
Detroit +6
Cleveland +3
Kansas City +1
Minnesota -1
Chicago White Sox -2

The focal team here is Cleveland, who’s played only 38 home games compared to 46 on the road. Kansas City made a nice run at first place several days ago. This particular stat approach is highlighting the Indians as a team you should be paying attention to.

AL WEST
Oakland +12
LA Angels +7
Seattle +4
Texas -4
Houston -10

It seems like we’re spending the whole 2014 season telling you that the Oakland A’s are even more amazing than it seems. We get to do it again! Oakland has the best “Wins Minus Home Games Played” mark in the entire major leagues, as they’ve compiled their dominant record despite playing six fewer home games at our cut-off point. They’re well clear of most of the majors. And, let’s note that current AL West runner-up Los Angeles has the second best mark in the whole American League, and the third best mark in the majors! Pay attention when the A’s play the Angels…they may be the two best teams in baseball.

We hope you have a great July 4 holiday. Watch some baseball while you’re eating those grilled hot dogs! You can win while you watch by hooking up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK®. Game day BEST BETS can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office early before day games start at 1-800-323-4453.

We return to our summer series of college football previews tomorrow. Here’s the NOTEBOOK schedule for the next several days.

Saturday: College Football…Conference USA “East” Preview
Sunday: College Football…Conference USA “West” Preview
Monday: MLB Rivalry Preview (either Baltimore/Washington or SF/Oakland)
Tuesday: MLB Series Preview…LA Dodgers at Detroit
Wednesday: College Football…Mid-American “East” Preview
Thursday: College Football…Mid-American “West” Preview

We’ll follow that general schedule through the month of July…with college football running every Tuesday-Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday (typically pairing up divisions in the same conference), and baseball series previews running on Fridays, Mondays, and Tuesdays.

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