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NL Capping in the Post-Interleague World
by Scott Spreitzer - 06/30/2008
Now that Interleague play is over, handicappers will have to avoid the temptation to think that the whole National League stinks!
Compared to the American League, they are clearly inferior. Hopefully you had a chance to take advantage of that through the month of June. Now that order will be restored in the schedules, you have to make sure your judgment isn't clouded.
*The best teams in the National League are still the best teams! Many contenders posted losing records against the AL. They're not playing those guys any more, so it doesn't matter. Look for spots to take superior teams at affordable prices.
*The best pitchers in the National League are still the best pitchers! Some will have ugly stats that will suggest poor recent form. That can happen when you step up in class, particularly if you're throwing road games against a Designated Hitter in hitters' parks. The top NL hurlers will be stepping back down in class from this point forward. You can trust them to go back to getting people out.
This happened to many handicappers two years ago, the last time the AL was THIS dominant over the NL in Interleague play. Most smart wagerers try to find quality when making their bets. When a whole league seems to be performing badly, you just don't see quality. Suddenly all of your bets are in the American League. The AL dogs look "live" because many are on perceived hot streaks after an easy schedule stretch. Many AL pitchers look like gods because their recent stats are so impressive. You can't bring yourself to pull the trigger on an NL team because they all seem to be in slumps.
Here's my advice. Erase June from the equation and go back to how you had teams rated before IL play started. I wrote an article several weeks ago talking about how bad the NL West is. They're still bad! But NL East entry Philadelphia isn't bad just because they had a tough stretch against the AL. The Chicago Cubs aren't bad even though they got swept at Tampa Bay and at U.S. Cellular.
Milwaukee (on a good run in recent weeks)
NL QUESTION MARKS
Arizona (though I'm tempted to put them in the "struggler" category)
Los Angeles Dodgers
You can see why IL play was such a disaster! This league had several struggling teams even before running into the superior league.
My point is: Philadelphia is 12 games over .500 against NL opposition. The fact that they had a worse record against the AL than some other teams doesn't mean they've turned into the Washington Nationals. St. Louis had a losing record against the AL. Albert Pujols should be fresh after his return from injury. The Cards could very well post a great record these next few weeks.
Some good NL teams are about to take the field with a massive chip on their shoulder! You can't be passing their games if the prices are affordable.
If you just follow your instincts, you'll be avoiding teams you should be betting because "they aren't swinging the bats well," or "this pitcher lost his rhythm." Don't fall into that trap.
Let's use a college football analogy for a second. It would be helpful if you thought of the American League as one of the "major" BCS conferences. The National League doesn't measure up any more. It's a "mid major" like the WAC or the Sun Belt. If the best team in the Sun Belt lost badly to an ACC or SEC team, you'd still take them at an affordable price when they're back in league play. You've seen enough of those situations now to know that you just have to throw out the blowout loss to the power team. It's second nature in college football.
It's not second nature in baseball because it's hard to imagine that one league can be this much better than another. It's true though. This is the fourth straight season the AL has spanked the NL in IL play. We really do have a major/mid major parallel. Apply your football fundamentals to this new baseball phenomenon.
I anticipate many great wagering opportunities this week because the wagering public won't have the right mindset. They'll be avoiding teams who are about to catch fire. They'll be avoiding pitchers who will be happy they don't have to face AL sluggers any more. Be sure you step in to take advantage!