Saturday, October 31, 2009

Too Good Not To Be True

Yes, a new take on the old expression, and that's how we nailed a perfect 3-0 sweep last night for a profit of 4 oh-so-sweet units. For instance, the Over 201.5 in San Antonio just seemed too insane to work, but if you break everything down, you can see why the game was a perfect winner.

I promise to keep my eyes peeled for similarly obscene lines that are just too good NOT to be true!

Saturday night's NBA slate also showed us that the Bucks can beat mediocre teams at home, the Pistons are useless without Rip Hamilton, the Cavs can outscore the Bobcats in ugly games, Andray Blatche can score 30 points, and Portland still can't defend on the road.

Sports Wagering

Raptors/Magic - This line is currently OFF, but my thoughts on the game are as follows. The Magic have given oddsmakers no reason to doubt them, posting a home beatdown of the Sixers and following that up with a comfortable cruising victory over the rather hapless Nets. This will be Orlando's first "test" of the year, playing a talented Toronto club that, after 2 games, appears to be much more at ease playing in their own building, where they can control the tempo. This game, though, features two teams that love to move the ball and fire up shots. We pit two up-tempo offenses against one another, and the difference becomes that behemoth in the paint, Dwight Howard. The Raptors match up just fine with the Magic's bevy of athletic wingmen, but Andrea Bargnani simply cannot deal with Howard's bulk. I think the Magic open this game as very small favorites, and if we get more than 4 points, I would lean Toronto to keep this game close. The total should be over 200.

Celtics/Hornets - Boston opened as 11 point favorites with a total at 183.5. Without knowing how the public is going to bet this game, I'd say it's safe to GUESS that they'll be on the Celtics and that the line will likely move to 11.5 or 12 before tip-off, then maybe back down if dog bettors nab the extra point. I hate to sound like a "square," but until the Hornets show me anything that should build confidence, I just don't believe they can keep this game within 10. The Celtics have been playing a brand of defense that reminds us of their championship season, especially at home. Meanwhile, the Hornets got pasted by the Spurs in San-Antone', then barely squeezed past the Kings at HOME! This Hornets team is losing a step every year, it seems, as the Chris Paul/David West combo clearly needs a third viable option, and I'm not talking about Mo Pete. I lean to the Celtics to beat 'em up, and I lean to the Under if only because I don't see the Hornets breaking 85.

Heat/Bulls - Miami has played some outstanding defense in its first two games, though they've gotten a little lucky, too. The Bulls, on the other hand, have played a great home game against a sluggish Spurs lineup, and a terrible road game against the juggernaut of the East (Boston). I'm seeing Miami by 4.5 with a total of 193. Very interesting line, and I'll be curious to see where the money comes in. Obviously, folks are going to remember Chicago getting blasted in their last game, and Miami holding Indiana to 31% shooting for most of their game, but this line seems to indicate that Miami is 1.5 points better than Chicago on a neutral court, and I'm not sure I agree with that. Chicago is not going to play as poorly as they did in Boston, and they obviously match up just fine with almost any team in the NBA. What's more, I'm not sure Jermaine O'Neal can put up another game like the one he had in Indy. I think the Bulls have a very good shot of winning this game outright, though I'd never give up 4.5 points. I lean Chicago, and I lean to the Over, but no plays on this one until we see some line movement.

Thunder/Blazers - Suddenly, everyone loves the Thunder! A few days ago, they were 5 point dogs to the Pistons, and today they'll be 2 point home dogs to the Blazers. Clearly, the change of venue swings the line around, but unless you think the Pistons and Blazers are equally dangerous, you can see how the Thunder have improved in the eyes of oddsmakers. The total in this game is 186. I have a great deal of respect for the Thunder, and the Blazers still haven't shown me they're ready to excel on the road. That being said, I'm not sure I see the Thunder opening the season 3-0. I want to see public perception of both of these teams before making any plays, but this game certainly has some value, and we'll figure out a way to exploit it. The total should fall under 186, with Portland on the second half of a back-to-back, and the Thunder playing deceptively good defense this year.

Nuggets/Grizzlies - Denver hosts the Grizz, gives up 11 points and posts a total of 206. I actually think this is pretty accurate. Denver has not skipped a beat following last year's emergence. They have so many weapons, there's just no way the Grizzlies can keep up. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean they win by 12. I think we see both teams move the ball quickly up and down the court, and the total, despite already being pretty high, has a decent shot of going over. Both of these teams are going to be slightly overvalued right now, with the Grizzlies beating Toronto at home, and Denver going 2-0 to open their season with wins over Utah and Portland. More to come tomorrow.

Suns/Wolves - This is a game that, at first glance, tells me to stay the heck away. Phoenix is laying 13 points to the rebuilding Timberwolves. Normally, when you see a poor defensive team favored by 13, you look at the dog, but I think the line is this high to drive folks TO the dog. Phoenix gets Jason Richardson back in this contest, and Minnesota is going to rely very heavily on Al Jefferson to keep them in the game. Similar to the Suns-Warriors game two days ago, I see Phoenix building a lead slowly, then letting it snowball as they simply outclass the Wolves. The total of 216 looks pretty sharp to me, so I'd dodge it unless we get some key information.

Lakers/Hawks - I don't often recommend taking a long look at the Lakers at home, but this is one of those rare spots. After falling to the Mavericks, I think the Lakers use that game as a wake-up call. In addition, the Hawks have dominated a few opponents on their court, where they are notoriously tough. Right now, Lakers are favored by 6.5, and I still think they're more than 6.5 points better than the Hawks. The total in this one is a fairly low 194, as well. Are oddsmakers trying to goad us into taking the Lakers and the Over? Maybe. We'll watch and see, but if this line starts to move in the direction I suggest (as in, to 7 or 7.5 points, and a total climbing up over 195), we might want to jump before the lake gets too deep.

Fantasy Advice

Andray Blatche - Blatche scored 30, but this is NOT the norm, and don't expect it to be. He's a superfreak and can jump out of the building, but Washington is without Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, which means guys like Blatche and Foye are going to overperform for the next little bit.

Aaron Brooks - Looks like the kid is comfortable enough taking the reins in Houston. If 28 points and 8 assists ain't good enough for you, and 4 threes doesn't get your juices flowing, well, you're probably in an 8-team League and need more friends.

Grizzled Performance

I have but a few minutes, so this blog entry may be laden with typos and general grammatical miscues, but it is what it is. Here I sit, safely indoors from the 30mph winds of Southeast Michigan on this cool and damp Saturday morning, waiting for the 9 golfers on the tee sheet to show up and shoot the (pun intended) breeze about the rather unpleasant conditions. I took a peek at the NBA sheet, and with only half the usual number of games, I figured I might be able to pump out a quick entry, and at the same time satisfy my neck-scratching addiction to NBA action.

With expeditious nature, last night's 2-pack broke even, and I must say, I was sorely disappointed. There are time when you break even and consider yourself lucky -- yesterday, I felt like we got robbed of a 2-0 day. Not because of any outside factors, I just still can't get over how horribly the Pacers shot the basketball. They are NOT that bad of a team, and as the illustrious SacLunch pointed out, their mediocre performance will give a decent team added value as a dog in the coming days/weeks, so we'll hop back on them when the time is right. Memphis did give us our sweet victory, and though we took the points (2.5 of them, to be precise), they played well above themselves in disposing of a Raptors team feeling good about themselves after their win over Cleveland. Strangely, despite a slow start (2-4), both of our wins are on games featuring those crazy "eh"-talkin' dinoraptors to the North.

Sports Wagering

Wizards/Nets - Wizards by 7.5 at home with a total of 196.5. Both teams are coming off losses last night, though the Nets fell at home to a powerhouse Magic club, and the Wizards lost on the road to a hyper-athletic Hawks team that plays way over their heads at home. That's why we're seeing the line where it is -- this game is Washington's home opener, and oddsmakers know they're not only the vastly superior club in this matchup, but also will be juiced to play in front of a home crowd that didn't have much to cheer about in recent years (besides DeShawn Stevenson's facial here, which was a feat of modern science). The Nets playing on the road on the second night of a back-to-back will be noticeably more sluggish, unable to muster the same gusto the Wizards can, who, as noted, are playing their home opener. I fully expect Washington to dictate the pace of this game, and I fully expect Arenas to bounce back after a clunker in Atlanta. That being said, this game climbs up over that 7 point barrier, which seems to separate the close games from the beatings, and I'm not sure the Nets get blown out. This one will take some further analysis, but at first glance, you have to like the Wizards and the Under (because of the back-to-back dead-leg factor).

Cavs/Bobcats - Two more teams that played last night and won, this line opened at 183 points and Cavs by 13. The line quickly moved to Cavs by 14, and even 14.5 at some books, and who can blame them? Cleveland wants redemption at home after falling to Boston in their season-opener, and the Bobcats blew a double-digit lead to the Knicks, only to win by a deuce in double-OT. Clearly, the Bobcats fatigue factor will factor into the line movement. This game could easily be a 17-18 point Cavs win, and I'd avoid a side involving this many points. The total, however, is intriguing. It moved to 182.5 overnight, and I still think the Under has some value. I expect both teams to come out firing, running on fumes so to speak, then gradually the pace will slow, and the shots will start to draw front-rim. Cavs could potentially hold the Bobcats to a point total in the 70s, though the most likely scenario is a Cavs lows 90's to low 80's victory.

Knicks/Sixers - Philly opened giving 2 points on the road to the Knicks, who finally get to play at Madison Square Garden. Because of Philly's solid win last night and the Knicks 2OT loss, that line has shifted to 2.5, only a very slight adjustment, which does raise some red flags. Oddsmakers seem to think the Knicks have a solid shot of winning this game despite last night's late conclusion. I would lean Philly, based on their improved play in the second half yesterday, and the fact that it's tough to "let down emotionally" at Madison Square Garden. That place has a way of waking teams up, though it may damn well do the same for the home club. This is a line I'd prefer to wait and see how the public picks before making a choice myself, since I think it's a semi-loaded spread. The total of 206 has come down a half point. Here's another place I disagree -- the Knicks have NOT shot the ball well, and they're getting pretty close to being "due", if such a situation does exist. Don't play anything on this game just yet - we'll reapproach it later.

Rockets/Blazers - These two teams get to play twice before most NBA teams have even HAD two games! The Blazers dominated the first meeting, with Houston backdooring a few Portland backers that took that line at the opening mark, while others managed to squeeze out a victory if they waited and got Portland after the line fell a point a half. This one opened with Houston getting 4 points at home and a total of 185.5. The spread has dropped to 3.5 at most books, with a few still stuck on 4 and a few all the way down to 3. I'd say that early movement is pretty surprising, with folks showing great confidence in Houston heading home. This team is fairly devoid of firepower, barely nipping the hapless Warriors in Oakland. Still, the Blazers had an intense home/road split last year, so the thought process is most likely that Portland is ripe for a soggy performance on the road, and Houston will pull up their britches and tickle some strings. The total of 185.5 seems low, and really seems to be begging me to take the Over, and I'm not sure I can argue with it. Houston is going to want to speed things up, get the game into the open court against the bigger, stronger Blazers, and usually the home team dictates the tempo of a game. More on this game later today, as well.

Bucks/Pistons - We're seeing an awful lot of teams on back-to-backs today, and here are two more. This line is currently OFF, but I'll post some thoughts on the game, anyway. Detroit just doesn't have the depth to deal with the Rip Hamilton injury. His ability to get open and drop those medium-range jumpers at a clip usually in the mid-to-high 40% neighborhood just can't be overstated. Simply put, he makes that offense multi-dimensional. As it is, the offense is Ben Gordon. Stuckey isn't good enough to get people open yet, Tayshaun "Pterodactyl" feeds off others (and dumps a 7-foot left-handed hook every once in a while), Ben Wallace has zero offensive skill, and the hairless wonder (Villanueva) doesn't seem to have found his place yet. I think the Bucks bring the heat tonight, and deal the Pistons their second straight loss. Milwaukee is a better team than people realize, suffering through most of last year with their top 2 or 3 players hurt. If I had to guess at an opening line, I would think Bucks favored by 2 or 3, with a total near 194. Let's see what oddsmakers give us.

Spurs/Kings - A laughable point spread of 16 has come down to 15.5, but this is still an enormous number. I'll try to track the mathematics behind it. First, the Spurs are coming off a road loss to the Bulls and will be irritated and angry. Second, Kings played last night, nearly upsetting the Hornets, before falling late. Third, the Spurs beat the Hornets by double digits, and the Hornets beat the Kings by single digits -- it almost seems like oddsmakers employed the transitive property when constructing this hefty line. Fact of the matter is, this early in the season, I have to lean to the team getting 15.5 points. There are just too many ways for a bad team to stay within 15.5 to take the favorite. Even if San Antonio gets out to a 25 point lead, the end of the bench is bound to come in and give back a few. The total in this one is at 198.5, which is extremely high for a Spurs game. The Kings won't be playing much in the way of defense, and I do think this game has a decent shot of going over much like the Spurs first home game.

Clippers/Mavs - The Mavericks got some nice scheduling for their back-to-back, with both games at Staples Center. Last night, Dallas polished off a lackadaisical Lakers squad that might have just received 2009 wake-up call #1. Tonight, Dallas looks to continue the consistency that netted them a win over a quality opponent last night. They're giving 4 points to the Clippers, who have to come back from a 4th quarter collapse in Utah. So, interestingly, the home team has the tougher of the back-to-back schedule. I'm not sure I can legitimately back the Clippers, though they did put up a decent fight through the first 3 quarters against both the Suns and the Jazz. Can they do it again? I'm not sure. The line is showing signs of moving to 4.5, so the early shift to Dallas definitely backs up our confidence in the Mavs. The total for this one is at 196.5, which seems far too high. The Clippers are going to be tired, and with another 0-3 start in the books, I'm just not sure how much mustard this team can bring. They rely heavily on jumpshots, and for teams on the 2nd night of back-to-backs, that's a recipe for disaster.

Fantasy Advice

Brandon Jennings - How about 17 points, 9 boards and 9 assists in his NBA debut? Holy bloody hell.

Brendan Haywood - Two games, two solid point/board efforts from the biggest man in Washington. He is certainly worth a look if you're clinging to deadweight like Ben Wallace or Big Z.

Channing Frye - Very quietly, Frye has assumed the starting Center role in Phoenix by nailing 7 threes in his first 2 games, and picking up some rebounds and steals along the way. He's borderline for 12 team Leagues, definitely valuable in 14+ teamers, and probably not worth a look in 10-team mini-Leagues.

Thought I'd throw some names at you that you might not have expected in the Fantasy Zone. Enjoy the games, and of course, keep an eye on my daily thread for plays and updates!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bull Market

No sense bemoaning our inability to pull the trigger on a Bulls play that would have been an easy winner, there are far too many games coming up tonight to get distracted by the past. The more important job at hand is to take something away from the short slate of NBA games last night.

For one, the Bulls looked excellent. Tyrus Thomas was extremely active, especially on the defensive end, picking up 3 blocks to go along with a respectable pairing of points and rebounds. If he continues to give maximum effort the way he did last night, Thomas will remain a fixture in the Bulls' rotation, and as mentioned in the preseason, he could turn out to be a monster for both Chicago and for fantasy owners.

Kirk Hinrich looked solid, as well, playing alongside Derrick Rose for long stretches, and putting forth a consistent effort at either PG or SG, depending on who he was defending. Obviously, Chicago was amped for their home opener, but the Bulls were able to corral their emotions enough to make shots and defend without fouling. True, the Spurs were in a classic let-down spot, but with their blowout win the night before over the Hornets, you'd figure the stars would have some energy left. Richard Jefferson was a no-show, Ginobili still doesn't have his sea-legs, and Duncan was forced to carry the team. He was very good, but not enough on the road.

The Nuggets look very, very tough. They took down Utah in a hotly contested game at home on Wednesday, flew to Portland, and held strong against one of the best home teams in the NBA. If the first two games of the season are any indication, look for Denver to be in the mix as one of the top 2 or 3 teams in the West.

Sports Wagering

Bucks/Sixers - We finally get our first look at the Bucks, and not a moment too soon. One of the most underrated teams heading into the season, they play on the road with a total set at 195, and underdogs by 7.5. The Sixers looked all out of whack in their opener, and in classic 76er fashion, are probably going to continue to flounder until all the offensive pieces learn how to work together. Perhaps more disappointing was the Sixer defensive effort, giving up 120 to the Magic in their opener. Still, Philly is a loaded squad, and Milwaukee is a different opponent that Orlando. The Bucks aren't going to hit 16 threes, and they aren't 8 or 9 players deep. I think the oddsmakers have this line right on the money, both the total and the side. If I absolutely had to choose, I'd take the dog and the under, since Milwaukee will have some game-one-road-jitters, and Philly is an offensive mess in the early season.

Knicks/Bobcats - Charlotte couldn't play much worse than they did in their opener, not only posting one of the lowest point-totals in NBA opener history, but losing me an important Top Play wager in the process. Charlotte kept it close for a half, but was outscored 20-2 to open the 3rd quarter, and never got back in the game. Raymond Felton was the only player pulling his weight, and then got his head smashed against the floor near the end of the first half; the Bobcats went to pieces without him. The Knicks weren't much better in their inaugural contest, with Miami letting them hang around for a few minutes, then taking care of business in the second half. As of now, we're seeing a line of Charlotte -2.5, with a total of 195.5. Once again, I think oddsmakers are already getting better after just one game, but with Charlotte's extremely slow pace counterbalancing the Knicks' attempt at breakneck, this game should squeeze under the total, with the fave covering by a hair.

Wizards/Hawks - How 'bout them Wizards? Totally outplayed the Mavericks back on Tuesday for a sweet road win. Arenas looked motivated, and factored in on almost half of the Wizards points. That being said, the Mavs are notoriously slow starters, and oddsmakers know that. Tonight, Atlanta is favored by 7, with a total of 203 - this poses an interesting predicament. Atlanta was involved in an extremely high-scoring game with Indiana two nights ago on their home floor. This seemed to indicate that Atlanta was willing to let their opponent dictate the pace, since the Pacers are the up-tempo club of those two. Tonight, will we see Washington turn this into a higher scoring game, or will we see the Hawks impose their athletic, defensive will on the game? Depending on your answer to that question, you've got your play for the total. Personally, I feel Washington will take a small step back after the strong performance in Dallas, and we'll see a total JUST under 203. I'd take Washington to cover, though.

Bulls/Celtics - The Celtics are huge favorites of 11.5 with a total of 187. These numbers almost beg you to take the Bulls and the Under, which is why I'd recommend considering just the opposite. The Celtics look downright angry this year, smothering their opponents defensively, and thus far, knocking down a lot of open threes. Rasheed Wallace has his laser-radar turned on, as well. The Bulls got a colossal win at home last night against the Spurs, playing with a ton of emotion, and now have to head to Boston for a matchup with the Celts. This does not bode well for Bulls-fans. Chicago's only chance of winning this game is to run the score up, since a slow, grinder favors Boston by a landslide. Expect Chicago to push the ball at every opportunity, and expect their defense to suffer as a result. The easy buckets will add up, and we'll see Boston push 100 points. Keep an eye on the line -- if Chicago gets 12 or 13 points, play Bulls. If the line comes down, consider a play on Boston. Where it currently sits, I'd pass.

Thunder/Pistons - Pistons by 5.5 with a total of 193. Both teams beat down on crummy competition in their openers, but the difference was that Detroit did it on the road. This should actually be a good game. I don't think Detroit has the firepower to pull away from Oklahoma City, but I do think they have the resources and experience to win the game. Both teams realize that the only way to succeed is to play some defense, and I think this game is going to come down to which team can hit a few outside shots. I think the Thunder have a great chance to cover with points, and I think the total has a fine shot of staying under. All we keep hearing out of Detroit is that the new head coach wants to see a tough mentality, and with the addition of Ben Gordon in particular, the Pistons will be relying heavily on extremely slow-developing plays from their starting 5.

Heat/Pacers - Pacers favored by a point with a very high total of 210. The Pacers are just going to shoot the moment they get the ball, so this total is quite reachable, and barring a late 4th quarter collapse, this should be a good game. The Heat aren't going to be running away from anyone on the road, and I fully expect the Pacers to take this game, and cover. In terms of the total, 210 is begging me to take the under, but I'm not a fan. I think this one goes up and down, and let's be clear, when no one is guarded, anyone can score. I think Pacers win this one 108-105, just barely clearing the bar.

Kings/Hornets - I'd say it's pretty clear who oddsmakers think is the worst team in the NBA. Two days after the Hornets got shellacked by the Spurs, they're laying 11.5 points to the Sacramento Kings. With a total set at 198.5, folks seem to think the Kings' porous defense will let the Hornets jump out to a sizable lead and prevail by 12. But let's think this through -- what's the least the LOSING team can score to fall by 12 and still cover 198.5? The Kings would need to get to 94 points (94+106=200), to lose by 12 and still eclipse the total. So, can a team that got thoroughly shut down by the Thunder put up 94 on the Hornets? It's certainly possible, since New Orleans looked awful in their opener, and with multiple injuries and 6 new bodies, this team has zero chemistry on both ends of the floor. This is another confusing matchup, but with the way both teams looked just a couple days ago, I find it hard to believe anyone can win this game by 12. I'd take the dog and with the Kings forcing the tempo, I'd look long and hard at the over.

Raptors/Grizzlies - This is interesting. After Detroit laid a serious ass-whoopin' on the Grizz in their opener, Memphis is still only getting 4 points in this one (after getting just 2 against Detroit). Do oddsmakers really think the Raptors, who beat the Cavs in their home-opener, are just 2 points better than the Pistons? I doubt it. This line is getting extremely heavy action on Toronto, and we'll see one of two things happen here -- either books react to the early money on Toronto and move the line to 5 or 6, or the line holds, and we take an extended look at the Grizzlies. The total in this game is 195, which seems awfully low for a high-octane team like Toronto. The expectations seem to be that the Raptors will put forth a stinker of a performance in this one, and in the words of Lee Corso, "shot their wad" a couple nights ago.

Cavs/Wolves - The Cavs have a target on their back this season for the first time, and so far, they've been blasted twice. The total in this one is at 187.5 with the Cavs favored by 11.5, and the general consensus is that Cleveland is going to take out some aggression on the T'Wolves. Early bettors like the Cavs and the under, and I'm inclined to think they may be right. Still, that's a ton of points to give up on the road. Is Minnesota THAT bad? Maybe. They don't match up well with Cleveland, either. The teams with the best chance to take down the Cavs are the teams that can drag Shaq away from the basket. Al Jefferson is a big, strong kid that plays in the post, and despite his prowess, his style of game does not set up well to exploit the Cavs lack of speed at the center position. This game could get ugly.

Magic/Nets - 199.5 and the Magic favored by 9.5 -- Orlando is getting a TON of respect early this year, and they haven't really done anything to suggest they don't deserve it, raining in outside shots against the Sixers in their 16-point season-opening clobbering. I feel this line is pretty fair, given the Nets stink somethin' fierce. New Jersey built a commanding lead in Minnesota in their first game, then proceeded to melt down in the 4th quarter. This team has a good point guard in Devin Harris, and a solid center named Brook Lopez, but between the 1 and the 5, the Nets are either young, bad, or both. Winning by 10 on the road isn't easy, but if any team can do it right now, it's Orlando. Still, this line is too big to be wrong. I'd avoid the side, and play the Over.

Clippers/Jazz - After a heart-wrenching defeat at the hands of the Suns, the Clippers have to leave Staples Center for the first time (though technically the opener was a Lakers home game), and head to one of the most difficult road venues in the NBA. Despite the unfortunate Blake Griffin injury, the Clippers looked half-decent in their last game, shaking off some poor play in the opener to stay competitive with the high-flying Suns. That's probably the only thing keeping this line in single digits, with the Jazz favored by 9.5 and a total of 202.5. The Clippers are basically a team without an identity, so you'd figure they'll play a fairly high-scoring game with the Jazz. Utah's defense leaves a lot to be desired, but they sure can drop the points. I would avoid this side, though I'd lean Utah to cover, and the over.

Suns/Warriors - Defense? Yello? Not there? Oh well, I'll come back later. No, I guess we can look at it. 227 total and Phoenix by 8. Simply put, the Warriors don't have the firepower to keep up for 48 minutes, but good lord if this game doesn't make your hair stand on end, you need to leave. I don't know if I could watch this game with a wager on it, but as a recommendation, I'd say play the fave and ignore the total. A note, before we move on: Stephen Curry looked excellent in his NBA debut. If the Warriors can unload Stephen Jackson, they could be a fun team to watch. In the interim, they're a collective wet diaper.

Mavs/Lakers - The line is Lakers -8.5 with a total of 204.5. Honestly, the Lakers ARE 8.5 points better than the Mavs, especially at Staples Center. That being said, will the Lakers actually play hard for 48 minutes and cover? That's the real question here. The Lakers have had issues getting up by double digits, then taking their foot off the gas pedal, and I see no reason why that won't happen again. Pau Gasol is expected to return tonight, so they should have no trouble knocking off the Mavs, but much like the game with the Clippers, I think the margin of victory will shrink throughout the early parts of the second half, and the Lakers will indeed win by some value between 7 and 11. Early action is on the Lakers and the Over, but I'm a fan of the opposite for the reasons above. I think the Lakers relax, Phil Jackson continues to give the youngsters additional playing time to make sure the old guys don't get pooped out early in the season, and the Lakers win this one 104-97 or thereabouts.

Fantasy Sports

Only two games yesterday, but I still feel that a fantasy nod must be given to the likes of Tyrus Thomas. He didn't blow the roof off the building, but netting 13 points, 6 boards and 3 blocks in 26 minutes is awfully impressive. His teammate Luol Deng, in game one of a bounceback year, had a great game with 17 points and 9 rebounds. The Bulls will have a rougher go tonight in Boston, but there may be some viable fantasy options on this team, yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thursdays with Chuck

Our first "short card" of the NBA season comes in day three, where TNT grabs the entire list of games and drops 'em softly into a pair of comfortable time slots.

Before jumping into the two games coming up, I want to take a quick look at last night's games, and see if we can't glean anything from them.

First, I think it's safe to say that the Cavaliers are suffering a very typical early-season letdown. After last year's success, it's pretty easy to slip into complacency, figuring you can coast your way into the playoffs, then really turn it on. Well, after falling at home to the rejuvenated Celtics, the Cavs got worked over by a wildly underrated Raptors team. Cleveland will get it turned around, and we'll be right there waiting to capitalize on an impending string of ATS and SU wins.

Second, the Celtics came to play, and don't seem to discriminate between competition, laying an unbearable beating on the Bobcats, who had played the Celtics bucket-for-bucket over the last 3 years. Not this time, and I apologize for a terrible call on Charlotte there. All the numbers pointed to Charlotte playing a good game, but Boston's defense was suffocating, and part way through the 4th quarter Charlotte was shooting 28% FOR THE GAME!

Third, Orlando hit the ground running. I'm not sure anyone on this planet could have predicted 16 threes in their home opener, and I'm not sure anyone in this galaxy could have predicted monster numbers from White Chocolate. These aren't excuses, just some quick notes on why the games listed went either the way we expected, or exactly the opposite.

Really, what it came down to was that I had the right call on about 5 games I did not play, and that's all part of Opening Week. I promise to sort out the false positives from the 24-karats and we'll gas up the car moving forward.

Now, to get right down to it.

Sports Wagering

Spurs/Bulls - Last night I pointed out that San Antonio was favored by 3.5 on the road in Chicago, which seemed pretty low, and suggested taking a few bucks and putting it on the Spurs under the assumption the line would move. Well, it's 5am in a few places (namely, Vegas), and the line is already up to 4. I figure this line will continue to move to 4.5 or 5, with San Antonio's vicious beatdown of the Hornets inspiring confidence in the betting public. Is this a case of the line being too good to be true? At first glance, yes. Right now, I'm looking at playing the Bulls when the line gets up to a higher value, but at 4, this game is a no-play. In terms of the total, we're looking at 193, which seems a tad low after the score that the Spurs rolled up last night. I would avoid this total, since we've got conflicting feelings about the Spurs. They've been a slow, defensive team for the last 10 years, but last night drained buckets like a drought was coming.

Nuggets/Blazers - How about the mad respect Portland is getting in this one? Portland favored by 7 at home with a total set at 198.5. Considering the Nuggets were the second best team in the Western Conference last year, and beat Utah SU and ATS last night, getting a large chunk of points would seem to make this selection pretty easy. That being said, like with the Spurs game above, I feel like this one is less obvious than people realize. Portland is a wildly dynamic club, and played much better in their opener than a 9 point win would indicate. Why would oddsmakers set this line, knowing full well that the Nuggets are going to be getting all kinds of love from the public? Well, Portland is a damn fine home team, and gets the Nuggets on the second half of a back-to-back. Obviously, having the second half at sea level is better than the other way around, but this game shapes up similar to the Cavs road contest in Toronto yesterday. Denver played their asses off to take down Utah, then had to immediately hop a jet to the Pacific Northwest to take on the third or fourth-deepest team in the West. I lean Portland to cover, and I lean to the Under with Portland trying to take it possession by possession.

Fantasy Sports

We didn't really get any information out of another dimension last night, but we did see a few values that you might be able to acquire via trade if you're willing to make a few deals. A lot of those guys were big men...
  • Marcus Camby - Another draft day "avoid" for a lot of guys, but if you were (un)lucky enough to snag him LATER than his draft slot would have indicated, you're probably giggling right now. Today is not the day to try to trade for Marcus -- wait until he tweaks an ankle, or chips his glass jaw, then grab him. When he's healthy, which he will be for 60 games this year, he is the most valuable Center in the Fantasy NBA, bar none. But, the 22 games of injury means temper your expectations.
  • Al Horford - A very quiet clobbering of the Pacers last night. Horford is going to be pushing double-double on a nightly basis, and he gets better every single night. He can probably be had for a reasonable price right now.
  • Brook Lopez - Much like Camby, now is not the time to try to pry Lopez away from whatever owner happily drafted him. He was a fantastic surprise last night, contributing right off the bat, and with the Nets in ultimate rebuilding mode, Lopez is going to be a focal point of both the offense and defense, as they look to construct a hovel around Lopez and Devin Harris. Wait until he hits a short unproductive stretch, perhaps a few games against Boston and/or Orlando.
  • Marc Gasol - He might be a free agent in your League, and he's worth a look. Hell, he's the only Grizz that did anything at all last night against Detroit, which bodes well for games when his teammates actually deserve to be defended.
Those big guys are all fine and dandy, but the player I've been waiting to discuss all night deserves his own paragraph. Many of you remember my intense hatred for one particular man, having been fooled into picking him up (and subsequently dropping him) at least 10 times over the last 3 or 4 years, and each time telling myself "never again."

Last night AND the night before, in a series of miraculous events, Shane Battier, despite playing alongside the likes of Trevor Ariza, Luis Scola, Aaron Brooks, and Chuck Hayes, found a way to do ABSOLUTELY nothing Fantasy-relevant, yet again. I'm reminded of the article published last year by a so-called expert that called Battier a "No-stats All-Star." What this article failed to note was that in order to take on such a worthless, pitiful role with a team, you have to be playing WITH ALL-STARS! When Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady (yes, he's a born loser, but he put up numbers), and Ron Artest are combining for 60 points, you have every right to avoid touching the basketball like it's got H1N1. When your starting Center's first name is Chuck, and last name is not Barkley, you NEED to contribute.

Houston beat an awful Golden State team last night, and it took a comeback to do it. If Battier doesn't learn how to take a shot every once in a while, this team will struggle to break 85 points against any team in this League.

NBA Daily, Two-Ways

The NBA is back, and not a moment too soon!

First thing's first - if you'd like to contribute comments, please do so in the reply section here, or at my blog on our affiliate site, Dan's Blog at Pregame.com.

It's time to calibrate the old fantasy sports thermometer, and start tracking some key trends. These notes, as you may recall, will be your one-stop-shop for all the fantasy and wagering information your heart desires. With the NBA Season just getting started, it seems like as good a time as any to try a new format. Each and every day (or as close to that as possible), we'll post some wagering trends and thoughts, as well as fantasy advice, with both listed under their respective headings to assist readers in jumping to the section they prefer. And away we go!

Sports Wagering

There wasn't a great deal to LEARN from day one, though it certainly reinforced the notion that the basketball feels more like a brick to even seasoned NBA veterans at the start of the year. How about that -- 4 games, 4 unders.

Today is game one for a lot of teams, so there's still one night to take advantage of opening-night jitters and grab some Unders before the lines tumble in the afternoon. You saw it yesterday -- the Lakers-Clippers game dropped SIX full points from 208 to 202, and the total didn't even get close to that, at 191. Still, if you're a sharp bettor, and have accounts at multiple books, you can jump on some of these Unders early and set yourself up for some enormous middles! Hell, you could have done that with one of the sides last night, too.

Despite action on the Blazers, that line came down from 10 points to 8.5, and lo and behold, Portland somehow managed to hang on and win by 9. If you had the notion that sharps would be on Houston +10, you could have grabbed it, then hedged with Portland -8.5 for a bankroll-boosting middle-winner!

Now a quick glance at some of tonight's matchups...

Sixers/Magic - The Sixers open their season with a road contest in Orlando against the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic. Orlando is favored by 9, and the total is set at 195.5. This total is too high for game one. None of the four games yesterday reached 194, and this game is going to be just the same. Philadelphia has Brand back, so they'll spend some time tonight trying to get their stocky PF back into the flow of the offense. They're a fast team, but they'll find easy buckets hard to come by against Dwight Howard and his retooled squad. As far as the Magic go, this team can really put up big numbers, but they rely HEAVILY on the 3-point bomb, the perfect way to ensure a low-scoring home opener. It's hard enough to make a free throw with butterflies on opening night, try a 24-footer. I also like Philly to keep this thing within 9 points.

Pacers/Hawks - The best question for either of these teams this season is which version of Josh Smith will show up...two years ago, Smith showed signs of becoming a better version of Shawn Marion, only to regress hugely last year, and closed the preseason this year with a 1-for-10 free throw shooting dud. The Hawks have a lot of pieces, and should be a pretty solid playoff team once again. The Pacers were one of the worst defensive teams in the league last year, but signed (overrated, in my opinion) playoff pest Dahntay Jones to try to help annoy the opposition into missing shots. When this team is healthy, they can play with anyone in the East, and have a solid track record of playing BETTER against the best teams. A total of 206.5, and a line of Hawks -8.5 has me leaning to the dog and the under, though the stronger of the two leans is to Indy with the points.

Cavs/Raptors - Toronto is getting 5.5 points at home with a total of 190.5. The Cavs are coming off a tough loss to the Celts last night in their home opener, and Toronto is jazzed up to show their fans they've made drastic improvements. I don't see the Cavs opening the season 0-2, but at the same time, Toronto poses some huge mismatches for Cleveland, especially in the middle. Andrea Bargnani can drag Shaq out of the paint, clearing the lane for Raptors scorers like Chris Bosh, Hedo Turkoglu, Jose Calderon, and so on and so forth. Of course, coming back the other direction, Bargnani is going to get tossed about like a 3rd grader. Believe it or not, this is the one total I think we might see go Over, though only with mild confidence. In terms of the side, if Cleveland had WON last night, I think they'd play a little flat; coming off a loss, LeBron is going to be irritated for 48 minutes, and I would not be surprised to see him log close to 44 or 45 minutes in this one to make sure the Cavs win. Will they cover 5.5? I just don't know.

Bobcats/Celtics - The Celtics are playing their back-to-back at home against the possibly-relevant Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte has an absolute TON of young talent, though the move to trade Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler is still a bit of a head-scratcher. The only logical conclusion is that they wanted length, since Chandler is going to disappear without Chris Paul actin' the alley to Chandler's oop. Still, Raymond Felton, D.J. Augustin, Gerald Wallace and Boris Diaw make this a decent team, but a team looking for a doctor. Raja Bell is out; Flip Murray is out, and Tyson Chandler is playing, but is easing back into shape after offseason ankle surgery. Is all that enough to push Charlotte behind by 12 to 15 points? I doubt it. This line opened at 184.5, with Boston favored by 10.5, but looking back, this Charlotte team plays the Celtics very, very tough. They lost 2 of 3 last year, but all 3 games were close, with 2 going into OT. I would lean to the Under and the dog, once again, in this one.

Knicks/Heat - This is a game that really baffles my crystal ball. We know D'Antoni will try to keep things at a breakneck pace, but both of these teams are just packed with question marks. At least with Miami, you know what you're going to get from D-Wade. A total of 207.5 and a line of Miami -5 looks pretty accurate to me. I see the Knicks keeping this thing close until the 4th quarter, when Miami pulls away for a 7 or 8 point victory. Still, I'd avoid this game until we know a bit more about the personality of each of these teams.

Pistons/Grizzlies - A total of 191.5, and Memphis getting 2.5 points at home, very interesting. Both of these teams had some changes in the offseason, though the Pistons went through what we might call a complete overhaul, signing a pair of scorers, and presumably shedding their previous slow-the-game-because-we-can't-keep-up skin and donning a cloak of pull-up-3's-and-triple-screen-midrange-jumper offense. Ben Gordon is a great addition, the kind of firepower that only a handful of teams can bring off their bench. Charlie Villanueva, I'm not quite sold on. The triumphant return of B-b-b-b-b-ben Wallace might turn out to be a great move, as he's looked motivated in the preseason, and apparently just missed Auburn Hills. The Grizzlies are the same young underachievers as last year, but fresh for 2009, they added a clubhouse cancer. I think Detroit wants a good season more than Memphis, and with defense well ahead of offense this early in the year, I expect the Pistons to cover 2.5. I think that total is pretty accurate, though I would lean a point or two to the Under.

Kings/Thunder - Yikes! Is someone going to watch this game? The Thunder are 7.5 point favorites at home, so they're definitely getting some respect this year, and a lot of that has to do with their young nucleus. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook form a dynamic trio, and with a top pick in this year's draft, they added James Harden. Still, with all the talent on both sides (Sacramento boasts Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, and rookie Tyreke Evans), this game should be pretty unbearable. Someone has to win, and it'll likely be the home team. The total of 205 seems awfully high, though the Kings play zero defense. I think this game goes Under the total, with the Thunder surprising some folks with a marginally decent defensive effort. Since none of the 17 viewers post in this forum, I'll just tell you now the final score is going to be 102-96, Thunder win.

Hornets/Spurs - 186.5 and 8.5. That's a pretty hefty portion of the total to give to the dog, but amazingly, I agree with oddsmakers on this one. The Spurs got better, and got healthy, adding Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess, and more importantly, got Manu Ginobili back after a season of nagging injuries. The Spurs are going to be one of the best teams in the NBA this year, boasting a veritable treasure trove of athletes, all of whom understand how to play team defense. The Hornets, meanwhile, acquired an infirmed Emeka Okafor, and otherwise, stayed mostly the same. The Spurs know what everyone else does -- this team is Chris Paul against the world. Can he score 80 points by himself? I doubt it. I'd avoid this game because of the big line, but I think this might be a situation where the fave covers. I think this game goes Under, as well, since I don't see the Hornets breaking 85.

Nets/Wolves - A pretty high total of 198 for this one, and the Wolves favored by 2 at home. I have to admit, I'm just not sure how Minnesota plays this year. Al Jefferson is a huge threat, so they'll stay in just about every game against marginal competition like the Nets, but do they have the gumption to win? Both teams are in rebuilding mode, and both teams are dealing with some unfortunate preseason injuries. Devin Harris has been slowed by a groin strain, Kevin Love is out for 2 months with a broken left hand, and Jonny Flynn is sick. So, where does that leave us? I'd say it leaves us with Minnesota taking their home opener by more than two. I'd lean to the favorite and the Under.

Jazz/Nuggets - One of the best matchups of the night, and one featuring a stratospheric total of 209.5. The Nuggets are favored by 6.5 points, as well. I'm very curious to see how the Nuggets play this year. Will they continue to improve with Chauncey at the helm, or will they take a step back after some tough playoff losses to the eventual champs? For Utah, there's the Carlos Boozer drama -- how long he'll be a Jazz, will he truly give full effort, blah de blah. I think this game comes down to the fact that the Jazz still haven't shown, at any point in recent years, that they can beat good teams on the road. I have to lean Denver in this game, but because of opening night jitters, 209.5 seems way too high.

Rockets/Warriors - The Rockets nearly backdoored the Trailblazers last night, losing by 9 after cutting into a lead of nearly 20. Tonight, they get a slightly less troublesome matchup with the chaotic Warriors. A franchise in disarray, I'll be surprised every time the Warriors win, and yet, Golden State is getting 6.5 points. The total here is set at 216 because the Warriors are going to run, run, run. I'm pretty close to saying "I lean Under", but with the scariest word in Oakland right now being "defense," almost anything can happen. This is a game I wouldn't touch unless someone was funding my wagers.

Suns/Clippers - How about THIS? The Clippers are FAVORED at home, against the Suns. True, it's just one point (with a total of 223), but when was the last time the Clippers were favored against Phoenix? I think the Clip-show is getting too much credit. Sure, they kept last night's game with the Lakers close, but that was mostly because the Lakers were so far out of sorts they couldn't sustain any sort of run...not to mention Phil Jackson donned his miner's cap, pickaxed his way to the deepest caverns of his bench, and played all 5 of those guys TOGETHER. Shannon Brown, Sasha Vujacic, Luke Walton, Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga, at the same time? I felt like I was watching the NBA Summer Leagues, but this was a real game, that really counted! In any case, the Clippers did less to keep last night's game close than the Lakers, and in that respect, this seems like a fine time to grab the road team with a point. Let's keep a close eye on line movement, since I wager the public is going to come rushing in on Phoenix, as well, and we might be able to set ourselves up for a middle. The total of 223 seems pretty high, but with Phoenix, you just don't know.

Fantasy Sports

Presumably, you have all had your drafts, if you're in a League, so an extensive analysis of the so-called "O-ranks" of every NBA player won't be terribly helpful here. That being said, I do feel like there are a few players that can be picked up well after their supposed draft slot, and should provide value well above what's expected.
  • Elton Brand - Brand is back to getting zero respect, almost as though he played a full season and stunk last year. But wait just a moment, didn't he just get hurt and miss 2008? Absolutely. When Brand is healthy, which he should be this year, he's a first or second-round fantasy talent, combining absurd rebounding numbers with blocks, scoring, and often a pretty solid FG%. People not autodrafting may avoid Brand until after his slot, and if you play your cards right, he can be acquired cheap even after draft day.
  • Manu Ginobili - I love the upside for Manu this year. Another injury case from last year bumped all the way down to late 3rd round or early 4th, depending on league size. The Spurs have a few younger players they can turn to, so Manu still won't put up 36 minutes a game, but as you may or may not recall, his prowess in steals, 3's, FT%, and just general scoring at the right time has been known to boost Manu up to the teens in rank.
  • Greg Oden - Portland's version of the man-child is listed WAY down in the "late round dregs", but he's the starter this year for a loaded Blazers squad, and he'll be asked to rebound and block. He could be this year's Ben Wallace-2003 edition. Hell, last night we got 12 rebounds and 5 blocks! Yeah, 7 ungodly turnovers sullied the otherwise juicy defensive line, but with Oden patrolling the paint, he'll see minutes in the high 20's this year, and will pull down some box scores that could singlehandedly win you boards and blocks.
This is an extremely important time of year to keep your eye on box scores. There are going to be some guys that jump out early and deserve your attention, and we'll be watching for them here, as well.

Until tomorrow!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Double Barrel Action

Cole Hamels.

Josh Beckett.

Chris Carpenter.

These three hurlers have more in common than being damn good. They've all won a World Series before, and they've each done some heavy postseason lifting. But more than that, they've each carried the burden of being a team's number one starter in a run to a Title.

I may be of an old school mentality, but because the postseason is are often decided by which team "gets hot," that first starter can often set the tone for an entire playoff run. That, of course, doesn't mean the team with the Cy Young award winner is going to win the World Series, but it does mean that a team with a few power arms that can go 7 innings deep stand a very good chance of hoisting a trophy.

Looking over the last few years, the White Sox are something of the odd team out, as their starting rotation was made up of a lot of very good pitchers, but arguably no "great" ones. Mark Buerhle has had, now, two incredible flashes of brilliance, but despite the no-hitter and perfect game, I don't know if you can call him dominant. Jon Garland is a serviceable righthander that has since floated from Angels to Snakes to Dodgers near the back end of the rotation. Jose Contreras would be best served to spend some time at a City Fair dunk tank working on his control, and Freddy Garcia, well, he's in Chicago at the present, but it's been an adventure working his way back there.

So, excluding the White Sox offensive romp over the choking Astros, the teams that advance are the teams that can give the ball to a big, bearded, sometimes bleeding head-case, and win a game on a stolen base and a sacrifice fly.

Here in 2009, that team...is the St. Louis Cardinals. Besides limping down the stretch with the pressure off and the focus wavering, everything (and I mean everything) points to the Redbirds advancing to at least the World Series, and maybe winning it. They have the best offensive player in baseball anchoring the lineup; they have a small handful of youngsters that can steal a base if the situation arises; they have protection for Pujols with Matt Holliday (who has seen more American League pitching than most of his teammates); they have an All-Star catcher who can call a great game and gun down the opposition; and most of all, they have Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, who, on any given day, can SINGLEHANDEDLY win a game.

There are very few pitchers in baseball that can accomplish that feat, and the Cardinals have TWO! Depending on timing, the Cards' two-headed monster could pitch in as many as 12 games in one postseason (though, perhaps, 10 or 11 is more likely). Unless the opponent happens to catch Wainwright after some bad shrimp, or Carpenter gets addicted to nerve tonic (see: Simpsons, season 3 episode 17), getting past the Cardinals is going to take near-perfect execution and some ultra well-timed hits.

Give me Cardinals to win the NL, and we'll re-approach this when we see who comes out of the American League. Unfortunately, the oddsmakers are seeing what I'm seeing, and have dropped the Cardinals future on winning the National League Pennant to just 9:5 -- monitor this closely.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Very Last Baseball Roundup!

Well, I admit, I've been getting a little itchy on the trigger finger with the season winding down, and the last 2 weeks should probably have been used to count our profits instead of giving back some, but here we are, learning a lesson in money management when 90% of all teams in the League have nothing to play for. Something of an ugly week, going 4-6-1, and with today being the very final baseball Roundup, we're going to be extra careful not to completely sabotage a fine season of work just to get a play up. I've been sick to my stomach since about 4pm yesterday, unable to determine why I couldn't "Just Say No" to baseball wagers....

NL
Justin Upton
- Upton is a decent 3-for-6 lifetime off Tom Gorzelanny, with a solo homer.
Nick Johnson - The OBP machine is 7-for-16 with a homer and 4 RBI off Joe Blanton.
Carlos Beltran - Another game not worth wagering on, with all the question marks, but Beltran is 5-for-11 with a homer off Wandy Rodriguez.
Ryan Doumit - Somehow, Doumit has seen enough of Justin Lehr for us to get a read on him, and he's 5-for-8 against the Reds righthander with a home run and 3 driven in.
Adam Rosales - Second verse, same as the first - Minor League matchups with Daniel McCutchen has led to a 5-for-10 mark for Rosales.
Christian Guzman - Guzman has given Derek Lowe a very, very rough time, though his lack of power makes his .429 career average less of a threat.
Chipper Jones - This is a bit of a stretch, given Livan Hernandez's solid work against the Bravos; Jones is batting .344 against Livan since 2004, but is just 1-for-5 this season.
Adam Wainwright - The Brewers have been almost unable to touch Wainwright all season long, as the potential NL Cy Young Award winner has gone 3- 1 against Milwaukee with an ERA of just 0.59 and 31 K's in 30.1 innings.
Aaron Rowand - Let it be known, I think this guy is worth about 1/5 of what he's earning, but he is one of the few Giants with good career numbers against Kevin Correia, going 6-for-13 with 2 homers.
NOT Barry Zito - The Padres might very well be Zito's arch nemeses, given that he's 0-4 against them this year with a 5.72 ERA during what has been a resurgent season for the lefty.
Matt Kemp, Russ Martin - The Dodgers, amazingly, fare pretty well against Ubaldo Jimenez, dealing him 3 losses this season already, and a 7.77 ERA; maybe this series will wake up LA, as they'll be led by Kemp's 11-for-24 mark against Jimenez (with a homer), and Russell's 8-for-21 with 5 RBI.

AL
Scott Podsednik
- This little injury-plagued speedster remains a thorn in the Tigers' side, and he's 6-for-14 off Edwin Jackson this season.
Placido Polanco - A career 5-for-6 off Jake Peavy is impressive for 2 reasons: Peavy is tough to hit, and Polanco has managed to face him 6 times, somehow.
Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis - One of the few Red Sox with more than 4-5 at-bats against Jeremy Sowers, Pedroia is 4-for-11; his teammate is 5-for-8, including 1 HR.
Alex Rodriguez - Just 6 AB against David Price makes this something of a "guess", but he is 3 for those 6 with a home run.
Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria - The Rays, in general, have made C.C. Sabathia work against them, though with this game being a likely postseason tune-up for the chunkster, it may not matter. In any case, Zobrist is 4-for-10 off Sabathia in his career with one home run, and Longoria is just 2-for-5, but both were homers.
Brandon Wood - No telling who Scioscia will start in this one, but a good bet the youngster gets a chance against a guy he's seen a number of times in the Minors; in 11 career Minor League ABs against Gio Gonzalez, Wood is 5-for-11 with a homer and 4 RBI
The starters in Seattle/Texas - This is a sneaky fantasy option, though I wouldn't recommend a particular wager, at least not yet. Though Brandon McCarthy allowed 4 runs against the Mariners earlier this year, all 4 came on 3 home runs. In total, he held the Mariners to a team batting average of just .192, but couldn't keep it in the yard. Ian Snell held the Rangers to just a .158 average, but like McCarthy, he allowed a pair of solo shots. If these guys could cut the homers even by 1 apiece, we're looking at a 2-1 game at Safeco.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Sick of Breaking Even

Good evening, all! I'm in downtown Detroit, spending the night in Medical Student housing near the Henry Ford, 20-story behemoth of a hospital, so unfortunately I need to camp out in the lobby to get internet. I wanted to get this post started tonight so all my loyal and handsome readers would know why my work tomorrow will be in small chunks (as opposed to my usual day-long adventures on Pregame). For those who followed me yesterday, we suffered/enjoyed another .500 day, going 2-2-1, losing the juice. I apologize, since I really felt that 4 of the 5 selections we made yesterday were DAMN GOOD ones. The Mets/Nats Under lost in truly disgusting fashion. Seven runs scored in the bottom of the 8th and 9th innings turned 4 combined scores (and a 4.5 run cushion) into a disastrous 11-run total, and a sickening loss. Still, the Rays covered the Run Line behind another gutsy performance from James Shields, Atlanta and Florida somehow managed to push across more than 7.5 runs, and if we forget for a moment that I suggested a play on the Cubbies RL (idiotic, truly), we managed to come out of that mess in one piece. Today, we take the leap from holding steady to dominance! Oh, and feel free to call me a jackass, vent, ask questions, whatever you like!!

NL
Chris Carpenter, Matt Holliday
- Is this the day the Cards snap out of their coasting funk? Carpenter is 3-0 against the Reds this year with a 1.57 ERA, and Holliday is 8-for-15 with 3 homers lifetime off Kip Wells, but only time will tell.
Chris Dickerson - Activated from the DL to give the Reds 8 outfielders on their roster, Dickerson brings with him a 5-for-10 career mark against ace Chris Carpenter.
Tim Lincecum, Freddy Lewis - Lincecum has been an absolute steamroller against the D'backs, throwing 16 innings in 2 starts and holding them to a single run with 25 strikeouts and just 1 walk; Freddy Lewis, though he'll likely just pinch-hit, has the most success of any Giant against Danny Haren, going 8-for-19 in his career.
Carlos Lee - El Caballo has a solid 6-for-16 lifetime mark off Cliff Lee with 2 homers and 4 RBI.
Reed Johnson, Aramis Ramirez, So Taguchi - There's almost zero reason to even consider dealing with this game from a betting standpoint, though Reed Johnson is a career 5-for-9 man against Paul Maholm; Ramirez is 8-for-20 with 2 homers, and Taguchi, wherever he may be sitting on the Cubs bench, is 7-for-17.

AL
Orlando Cabrera, Brendan Harris
- A couple of Twinkies with success against Nate Robertson, Cabrera is 8-for-20 lifetime, and Harris is 7-for-19 with 2 homers.
Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, Marcus Thames - An interesting trifecta, considering the usual suspects are missing; still, the Tigers have hit Scott Baker hard this year, led by Guillen's 11-for-25 mark with a homer, Ordonez's 16-for-36 with 2 homers, and Thames' 9-for-27 with FIVE homers in the past.
Hank Blalock, Marlon Byrd, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young - Though the Rangers have seemingly given up all hope (for good reason), there's reason to be optimistic for fantasy owners -- all four of these guys are batting over .360 lifetime against John Lackey with a combined 7 homers.
Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Kendry Morales, Mike Napoli, Juan Rivera - Again, tough to know who is going to be in the starting lineup as the Angels get ready for the postseason, but all 5 of these Halos have crushed Kevin Millwood in the past, 4 of the 5 with averages over .400 against him.
Matt Garza - Garza is 6-0 against Baltimore in 7 career starts, and this season he is 1-0, allowing 2 runs in 8 innings while holding the O's to a team BA of just .148.
Mike Sweeney - Somehow, Sweeney has seen Brett Anderson 12 times this year, and he's 6-of-12 with a solo homer mixed in - tough to know who is going to win this contest, though, like with all the others, the home team has a huge advantage at the end of the year.
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