No plays yesterday, so the recap section is pretty easy on this blog!
I spent the day flying cross-country, and then, when I thought I'd have a good 3-4 hours in Los Angeles to really dig into a few key games on the card, Los Angeles threw me a curve. A California Highway Patrol officer was involved in a large accident that shut down, perhaps, the most important freeway in LA. That, in turn, meant it took me almost 3 hours to get to my destination from the airport, instead of 45 minutes. At that point, it was time to just tip my metaphorical cap to the "world", and take a pass on the day's card.
One of the absolute most important lessons in sports investing is knowing when is a smart time to wager, and rushing plays is a huge no-no.
So, "no-no" avoided! Time to do some NBA-cappin'.
Sports Wagering: NBA
Lakers @ Celtics - Boston by 3.5 with a total of 190. This line hasn't moved much since it opened. The total appears to have crept up a half point at about half of books, but that's it. So, no big early move. From a pure line-reading standpoint, you have to think that the total tells us almost nothing, other than that oddsmakers want to keep splitting that money, and the best way, right now, appears to be splitting the public dollar. They got split action at 192.5 in the last game, the game went way Under the mark (whoopee!), so they adjusted. Simple. The side, on the other hand, shows a decided advantage to Boston, really, for the first time this series. Oddsmakers didn't really touch the line between games 1 and 2 despite the Lakers beating the spread by a good 6-7 points. Now, in the other venue, the Lakers are getting an additional point against the line despite winning outright as a 2.5-point underdog, and really leading the entire game, aside from the first 4-5 minutes. If you're going on line alone, you're probably playing Boston. But what about match-ups? Well, we saw the grand awakening of Kevin Garnett in game 3. Officials started to ease up a little on Garnett's minor pushes and grabs on defense, and as a result, he was able to get into a rhythm. Of course, Ray Allen went MIA, and the Celtics really needed something from the perimeter, with Paul Pierce still unable to get it going against Ron Artest (who, in the pun of the day, is all "brick" since game 1 -- his shots are bricks, and his torso is clearly a brick...). Moving forward, I think the refereeing in game 3 is more what we'll see in the next few games. Both teams seemed to be a little less irked, the game had a little more flow (even if defense ruled the day), and fans got to see superstars on the court, not the bench. On top of that, I think Garnett comes back with another decent game after sleeping in his own bed and practicing/getting medical attention in those familiar surroundings. I think Pierce continues to struggle - he's not just "off", he is getting shut down. I think Ray Allen comes back with a more average performance, and Rondo keeps playing well. On the Lakers side, more of the same - Kobe will take a ton of shots, Gasol will probably be the best player on the floor, and Bynum will continue to slow a tiny bit with every passing vertical leap. Derek Fisher was a rock in game 3, but he won't play quite that well, again. And finally, situationally, I don't think there's a clear edge in either direction. The Lakers are definitely "awake" for this series, and the Celtics know they can't afford to go down 3-1. Situationals are basically a wash, though I guess you might say Boston needs this one, and the Lakers are going to go for the jugular, so which is more powerful? No matter how you shake things out, Kobe is going to be scary in this one, but Boston's defense was excellent in game 3, and they just couldn't score. I'm ready for some basketball.
Sports Wagering: MLB
Giants @ Reds (-180) with a total of 8.5; T. Wellemeyer vs. M. Leake;
There isn't really any value here, for 2 key reasons. First, Wellemeyer is just awful on the road, but people seem to forget that fact when he's coming off a couple decent home starts. Here, he's coming off a bad road start, so everyone remembers how much he stinks. Second, Leake is 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA. You're not usually going to get ton of betting value on a guy with those types of season numbers, especially at home. I was hoping we'd see Reds as a -150 favorite, because then, at least, you're closer to a potential play, but at -180, that's just too much.
Padres @ Mets Doubleheader;
The pitching match-ups aren't 100% set in stone, but I did have a slight lean to Johan Santana on the previous day's card. Still, with lineups possibly out of whack, and bullpen arms only going in 1 of the 2 games, I'm just not a fan of taking risks with these doubleheaders.
Cubs (-125) @ Brewers with a total of 9; R. Dempster vs. D. Bush;
Kosuke Fukudome was 8-for-17 with a HR and 3 RBI off Bush coming into this season;
Alfonso Soriano is 8-for-26 with a HR and 4 RBI off Bush since '05;
Jim Edmonds was 4-for-9 with a HR off Dempster since '05;
Rickie Weeks was 5-for-16 off Dempster before 2010.
Dempster has faced the Brew Crew twice in 2010, giving up 5 runs on April 12 at home, then going 7 innings of 1-run ball a couple weeks later. In his career, Dempser is 13-3 with a 2.67 ERA against Milwaukee, and Bush is 2-9 with a 5.43 ERA against Chicago. Honestly, this line is one of those numbers that's either the gift of the millenium, or outrageously fishy. I can't find a truly good reason to back the Brewers (and their unbelievably bad bullpen), but I'm not completely sold that there isn't something wrong with Dempster the public doesn't know about.
Astros @ Rockies (-140) with a total of 8.5; R. Oswalt vs. J. Chacin;
Chris Iannetta was 3-for-6 with a HR off Oswalt before 2010.
This will be Oswalt's 2nd start against the Rockies this year, and he lost his first effort against them, getting outdueled by Ubaldo Jimenez (welcome to the club) back in Houston. Oswalt is 7-2 with a 1.88 ERA lifetime against the Rockies, so there's some promise, there. Oswalt hasn't pitched at Coors Field since 2008, so that's certainly a point of concern, though he is a perfect 3-0 there with an ERA just a shade over 2. That should, if nothing else, give him some confidence. Another minor issue is that Oswalt is coming off 2 poor starts, and I have to wonder if the pressure of the trade demands is causing him to get too careful. In any case, Chacin has not been brilliant since his first couple starts, and teams are starting to figure him out, a bit. He hasn't been terrible, but he's not going deep in games, and he's pretty consistently allowing around 3-4 runs per start.
Braves (-175) @ D'backs with a total of 10; T. Hanson vs. D. Willis;
David Ross is 3-for-7 with 2 HR and 3 RBI off Willis.
This one is probably not going to make any kind of card. Hanson is just 1-1 with a 4.85 lifetime ERA against the D'backs, in fairly limited action, and Dontrelle handled himself alright in his first National League start, but it's just a matter of time before the better offenses start to hit him. We saw the Dodgers do a number on the D-Train in Interleague play, and a hot-hitting club like Atlanta might get a few licks in, as well.
Marlins @ Phillies with a total of N/A.
We'll reapproach this one when the starters are absolutely set. I believe both teams are bumping back their aces (Johnson and Halladay), and if the podcast discussion of that game isn't sufficient, well, I don't know what else to say.
Leans: Marlins-1, Over-1
Pirates @ Nationals (-175) with a total of 8.5; Z. Duke vs. L. Hernandez;
I have no idea why MLB.com is still listing Maholm/Martin as the match-up, but I'll try to get the player numbers updated when I can. I do, however, have some recent work by these cats to work off, and it's not pretty for Duke. He's allowed 13 runs in his last 2 starts, though we know from the past that Duke tends to have 2 horrific starts in a row, and often bounces back with a brilliant one. This is a tough spot to blindly hope Duke pulls out of this tailspin, though. As much as Livan continues to give up more and more baserunners, he continues to find ways to strand them. The roof is going to come in at some point, but against the Pirates seems like a stretch.
Tigers @ White Sox (-140) with a total of 9; M. Scherzer vs. J. Danks;
Carlos Guillen is 5-for-11 with 3 RBI off Danks;
Gerald Laird is 3-for-4 off Danks;
Magglio Ordonez is a blistering 14-for-23 with 2 HR and 7 RBI off Danks since '05.
Scherzer came back to earth after an inspired first start back with the Bigs (14 K against Oakland, then 5 innings, 5 runs against the Royals), but he's never faced the White Sox. I wonder if the weak-hitting Sox aren't a good candidate for Scherzer to bounce back. His 6.66 ERA is scaring some religious folks right now, and honestly, it scares me, too. Scherzer is not adjusting well to the AL, so it's tough to back this kid right now. Danks is even tougher to back in this one, thanks to the steep price, and the fact that his last 3 starts have been pretty pedestrian. He's 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA against the Tigers, and as you can see, if Ordonez is good and healthy, he can really do some damage against Danks.
Angels @ Athletics (-110) with a total of 8; E. Santana vs. T. Cahill;
Daric Barton was 5-for-15 with an RBI off Santana before 2010;
Ryan Sweeney is 7-for-12 with a HR and 3 RBI off Santana before this year.
There are very few pitchers out there with more impressive lifetime numbers against one team than Ervin Santana has against the A's. He's 11-2 with a 1.50 career ERA against Oakland, and that takes us through quite a few iterations of Billy Beane's underpaid, sometimes-overachieving small-market mayhem in Oakland. The Angels have won Santana's last 5 starts in a row, and that actually started with a 6-inning, 2-earned performance against the A's. Trevor Cahill has been solid since coming back to the Bigs this year, but something that does jump out and concern me is that Cahill has now made 8 starts this year, and his walk numbers in those 8 starts are 1, 3, 2, 0, 1, 3, 4 and 4. Yeah, 10 walks in his first 6 starts, and 8 in his most recent 2. Cahill has such intense movement on his pitches, that sometimes teams can learn to wait him out, get some free passes, and, with a well-timed two-bagger, score a couple runs.
Red Sox (-210) @ Indians with a total of 8.5; J. Lester vs. M. Talbot;
Kevin Youkilis is a perfect 2-for-2 with a HR and 3 RBI off Talbot;
Russell Branyan is 3-for-7 off Lester;
Travis Hafner is 3-for-10 off Lester with 3 RBI.
Lester is 3-0 with a 3.89 ERA against Cleveland. Talbot has been consistent enough where there's no real purpose to throw money at Boston, but Cleveland, as a whole, has been bad enough where there's no real purpose in throwing money at a crummy team. I do think this game could be lower scoring that folks expect, since everyone just assumes the Red Sox are going to crush balls left and right, but I really don't feel confident enough in the game to put this one up near the top of any lists. I just happen to like both pitchers come into this one rolling.
Yankees (-250) @ Orioles with a total of 9; A. Burnett vs. J. Arrieta;
Julio Lugo is 3-for-9 off Burnett with a HR;
Nick Markakis was batting .314 off Burnett with 3 RBI before this year;
Luke Scott was 6-for-15 with 2 HR and 4 RBI off Burnett prior to 2010;
Miguel Tejada was 5-for-15 off Burnett before 2010.
Considering that Burnett is 11-2 against the Orioles, I'm not sure that backing a rookie making his debut against the Yankees is the world's greatest proposition. In addition, Burnett has clubbed the Orioles twice already this year, going 15.1 innings and allowing just a single unearned run (it came on his own throwing error in the game I attended at Yankee Stadium, as I recall). Yes, his career ERA against Baltimore is 4.41, but that radioactive tag on the O's is still glowing bright greenish yellowish red.
Blue Jays @ Rays (-130) with a total of 9; B. Cecil vs. W. Davis;
Alex Gonzalez is 2-for-2 off Davis with 3 RBI;
Carlos Pena is 2-for-5 with 2 HR off Cecil, and 4 RBI.
As pitching rolls go, Brett Cecil is red hot, and Wade Davis is red not. Nice, I knew I could work something super-lame into today's blog. But seriously, Cecil is trending way, way up. He's given up 5 earned runs over his last 4 starts (spanning 29.2 innings), and the Jays have won each of those games over the A's, Angels, O's and Yanks. I realize that you could argue 2 of those 4 offenses are downright bad, but holding the Yanks to just 1 run in 8 beautiful innings is certainly a confidence booster. Wade Davis, on the other hand, is coming off a start in Texas where he surrendered 8 runs in 3.1 innings. His season ERA is over 5 for the first time since his first start, and only 2 of his most recent 6 starts were quality. There's a reason this line is ultra-cheap.
Leans: Blue Jays-4
Mariners @ Rangers (-200) with a total of 10; R. Rowland-Smith vs. T. Hunter;
Ichiro is 6-for-13 off Hunter with 1 RBI;
Vlad Guerrero is 5-for-10 off Smith with a HR.
Interestingly, Ryan Rowland-Smith is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA against the Rangers, and as you can see from the player notes, only new-Ranger Vlad Guerrero has hit him hard in the past. Michael Young is 0-for-5, Josh Hamilton is 0-for-5 and Ian Kinsler is just 1-for-4. Something to consider before blowing 200 on Tommy Hunter, who pitched his butt off in his 2010 debut, but there's no chance this youngster is good enough to be a 2-to-1 favorite, even if his opponent is sporting a 6.65 ERA.
Royals @ Twins (-200) with a total of 9; B. Chen vs. S. Baker;
Mitch Maier was 4-for-12 off Baker before this season.
I'll be quite up-front. This price is way too high to play a side. Baker is 8-3 lifetime against the Royals, including going 7 innings and allowing 2 runs in a 10-3 spanking of KC back in mid-April, and Bruce Chen is 0-2 with a 5.75 ERA against Minnesota in his career. To Chen's credit, he's been decent since moving into the starting rotation this year, and his 2-0 record and 2.95 ERA shows that he has been reliable enough, but this Twins team can hit, and they're very tough at home, on top of that. I don't much care for the total, either.