Monday, April 19, 2010

Staples Center Jitters

Working on trying to get used to being back on Eastern time, staying up late to watch the ends of games, and getting up, well, relatively late, then gearing up for podcasts in the morning. Still, I stick by my note from yesterday - it's good to be grounded. All this flying around can be a real hassle, so let's dig in and pick some winners.

As far as yesterday was concerned, we picked up a nice 1* NBA Playoff winner on the Chicago Bulls, who covered all game, nearly let it slip away, but did just stay within the spread. We knew the Bulls would bring their best effort, and they did so, so no, I don't think it was a lucky. A loss would have been unlucky, though!

The Padres game just went into extra innings, and in an effort to maintain sanity, we'll talk about that one when it ends in the comments section, if necessary.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Bucks @ Hawks - Atlanta by 7.5 with a total of 187.5. This is another rematch where we saw one team dominate the early parts of the opener, then the underdog come storming back once they realized the basketball still bounces the same in the Playoffs. I'm still not 100% sold on the Bucks being a good play here in game two, though the line certainly tells me I should be. This low line is the oddsmakers way of giving us a hint on the game, and there's absolutely no way that with Atlanta winning, and covering by a bucket at the first game's line of 8.5, this one would come out lower unless oddsmakers felt strongly that sharp money would be on Milwaukee and that the Bucks would play well enough to warrant that money. You'll see this same description in some other games coming up, as well, as we look at how the young, upstart playoff teams bounce back off the nerves that showed up in game one. The total moved up a hair, which is pretty reasonable, as the first game went over the total by roughly 7 points. All that being said, we saw the Bucks start to click in the second half, and they should be able to play competitively in this one. Does that mean they cover? Not necessarily, but there's probably a little value on that side, since they only lost by 10 and really didn't play until the 2nd half. Lean to Milwaukee, and lean to the Under, since I think the Hawks fail to shoot 54% in this one.

Heat @ Celtics - Boston by 2 with a total of 179. This one is a real head-scratcher, since we can be pretty sure this line would have opened a good 2 points higher if Kevin Garnett was healthy. Miami blew a chance to steal one in the opener, and while I must again admit to being airborne during this game, it seems like that was the Heat's great shot to steal one of the first two games on the road. I know Kevin Garnett is Boston's heart and soul, but this very short line, combined with all the fanfare around the Garnett suspension (and players calling him "dirty") has, in my opinion, killed most of the value we might have had on the Heat. This one is Boston or nothing at this very short line, and most likely, because Pierce appears to be a little banged up, it might be safest to sit one out. What about the total, though? Well, the teams played to a whopping 161 in their last game, so that brought the total down quickly, and I have to believe that almost all value in the Under is completely sapped. Maybe not. I'm not too strong on this total, as all Boston games start quickly, then slow to a painful crawl. Heat games tend to start slow, and end slow. This could end around 160, or a high-scoring 1st quarter could push this game up near 180. I'd probably leave the total alone, but I don't know if I can bet the over in this series until I see someone make a shot.

Blazers @ Suns - Phoenix by 8.5 with a total of 205. If it ain't broke? Hah. Right back where we started, here with the Suns as the hefty favorite, and oddsmakers nailed the total, so they left that right where it was, too. What does the line adjustment, or lack thereof, tell us? Well, they know the public isn't going to flip sides that easily. We all saw the Blazers out-size the Suns in game one, and win outright as a big dog, but with the line the same, I think oddsmakers are telling us they legitimately believe the Suns win this game, and win it by close to 9 points. The big Portland win should get us closer to a split of public tickets, so line movement in this game might actually mean something (it didn't in the first game, at least not until the line tanked a half hour before the game started). And what does that mean for us? Probably a stay-away game. There isn't really any strong value on either side. Portland is going to be pleased to take one on the road and steal home court, and Phoenix is going to press the tempo and probably win by 7-10 points. I would, in fact, advise laying off this side, as I believe oddsmakers set this line with the intent not only to split the money, but to split the result. Same deal with the total, though I can't imagine the first half being any slower than in game one, and I might be inclined to take a peek at the Over.

Thunder @ Lakers - Los Angeles by 6.5 with a total of 190.5. See, now this is intriguing, though somewhat expected. Much like the Bulls game yesterday, and the Bucks game today, oddsmakers have adjusted the side down with the expectation that the young team won't suffer through a prolonged jittery first quarter/half, and will keep the game closer, longer. It's rare that we get such opportunities all in one Playoffs, but there has been some nice turnover at the bottom of each Conference, with the Bobcats and Bucks making the postseason in the East, and the Thunder making the playoffs out West. It's exciting, really, to see these young, up-and-coming clubs meeting that first goal of getting to the postseason. Of course, it was somewhat predictable that most of these youngsters would struggle, and maybe it was more obvious with the Bobcats and Thunder than any of the others. Still, with the Lakers winning, and covering, you have to think those Lakers bettors (or at least the average ones, not the sharp ones here at Pregame) are going to go right back to the well. And it might work, but we've seen this rodeo before. The Lakers are big and strong, and the Thunder got pushed around for 24 minutes in the first game, but you can bet they're going to come back with a bigger effort in game two. Something tells me Kobe wins this one with a buzzer-beater. Just sayin'. And with that in mind, I have to lean Thunder to keep this one close. I also wonder about this total. It came out ultra-low, and actually moved a point down off the opening number, but it's going to take some bonus sleuthing to find out if that was perception-related, or sharp-money related. No lean on the total yet.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Rockies (-160) @ Nationals with a total of 9; J. De La Rosa vs. S. Olsen;
Chris Iannetta is just 2-for-7 off Olsen, but both are HRs;
Ryan Spilborghs is 7-for-9 with a HR and 4 RBI off Olsen;
Adam Dunn is 4-for-13 with a HR off De La Rosa;
Willie Harris is 3-for-5, and Josh Willingham is 3-for-7 off De La Rosa.
The Nationals are, still quietly, winning games as a dog, but no one can trust them because of 2009 and the first series of this season. But this team can hit. Still, despite the Nats looking better than Colorado over the last series or so, this is still a pitching matchup I wouldn't touch. Scott Olsen is embarrassingly bad at times, has an ERA over 8 against Colorado, and I'd love to take a dog, but this probably isn't the one.

Brewers (-145) @ Pirates with a total of 9; D. Bush vs. C. Morton;
Jim Edmonds hit a 2-run HR in his only AB off Morton.
I'm honestly flabbergasted at Dave Bush being this large of a road favorite against a team that has really played decent ball at home this year. The Pirates are fresh off a sweep of the Reds at home, they beat the Dodgers 2 of 3 in Pittsburgh, and they look revitalized, at least here at the start of the season. Charlie Morton is 0-2 with an ERA near 14 on the year, so that's likely playing a role, but he is the ultimate hit-or-miss starter, and has a 2.77 career ERA against Milwaukee, so the Pirates are definitely on the table.

Dodgers (-140) @ Reds with a total of 9; C. Billingsley vs. H. Bailey;
Rafael Furcal is 4-for-7 off Bailey;
Matt Kemp is 3-for-5 with a HR;
James Loney, Russ Martin and Manny Ramirez are each 2-for-5 off Bailey;
Joey Votto is 5-for-11 off Billingsley;
Jonny Gomes is a perfect 3-for-3 with a HR and 2 RBI.
Chad Billingsley is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA against Cincinnati in his career, and the Reds have lost 5 straight games. They're just not hitting, and I realize that going home changes things a bit, but historically, the Dodgers play the Reds exceedingly tough. Coming from a lifelong Dodger fan, if there's one road park that I rarely mind seeing the Dodgers go to over the last few years, it's Great American. As you've heard before, betting on streaks is alright in baseball, and while Billingsley is doing little to inspire confidence yet again, he's the better bet in this one.

Cubs @ Mets (-110) with a total of 8; C. Zambrano vs. M. Pelfrey;
Chad Tracy is the only Cub that has seen much of Pelfrey, going 3-for-8 with 4 RBI off him;
Jason Bay is batting .321 with 2 HR and 7 RBI off Zambrano;
Luis Castillo is 4-for-10, and Angel Pagan is 3-for-6 off Big Z.
Zambrano is off to a horrible start, though he's slowly getting better, I guess. Pelfrey has gotten off to a nice start, going 2-0 with just a 1.29 ERA so far this year. He has nice numbers against Chicago, albeit a very small sample size. I think you have to at least look at the home team, though I'm not sure there's a ton of value either way.

Phillies @ Braves (-160) with a total of 8.5; K. Kendrick vs. T. Hanson;
Matt Diaz is 3-for-4 off Kendrick in limited action;
Chipper Jones is 6-for-13 with 2 HR and 6 RBI off Kendrick;
Nate McLouth is 3-for-8 with 2 HR off Kendrick;
Brian McCann is 5-for-16 with a HR off Kendrick.
Neither pitcher appears to be in the best of spots. Hanson facing the Phils, and Kendrick, who currently sports a 17.47 ERA. This line is awfully high for any game featuring the Phillies, from a dog perspective, but oddsmakers generally know what they're doing, and to me, this is too expensive to back Hanson. Tommy is the real deal, but he does have a career 0-2, 6.43 spot against Philadelphia. Still, put it all together, and I'd pass.

Marlins (-119) @ Astros with a total of 8.5; C. Volstad vs. B. Myers;
John Baker is 3-for-8 off Myers;
Jorge Cantu is 6-for-14 off Myers with 1 HR and 4 RBI;
Dan Uggla is batting .378 with 5 HR and 14 RBI off Myers since '05;
Hanley Ramirez, also since '05, is batting .357 off Myers with a HR;
Michael Bourn is 2-for-5 off Volstad.
The Astros haven't seen much of Chris Volstad, and that should work in his favor. Houston is starting to play like they have a shot on a day-by-day basis, but will coming home actually increase the pressure, or will it help? Brett Myers has a 3.46 ERA early in 2010, which is better than I think most expeted, but his 6-11 lifetime mark against Florida does not look pretty. I have to look at the Marlins, but we'll see if this is a value.

Cardinals @ D'backs (-140) with a total of 8.5; K. Lohse vs. D. Haren;
Matt Holliday is 5-for-11 with 2 HR and 3 RBI off Haren.
Surprisingly little interesting historical data, considering these two pitchers aren't exactly throwing their first game. No one on Arizona has done anything substantial against Lohse, so he's a safe play. Haren has silenced everyone on the Cardinals besides Matt Holliday, as you can see above. Arizona is a hitters' park, so the under is dicey, but to me, that's the only lean I can scrounge up in this one.

Giants (-125) @ Padres with a total of 7; J. Sanchez vs. M. Latos;
No one, and I mean no one on the Padres has done anything against Jonathan Sanchez. I know the Padres are a scrappy bunch, but even Adrian Gonzalez has struggled against Sanchez, who has absolutely nasty stuff when he's near home plate. Latos, on the other side, hasn't faced the Giants, and is coming off a tough start against Atlanta. His problem is that he's not being economical with his pitches, and until he learns how to get through 6 innings reliably, he's a tough cat to back.

American League

Royals @ Blue Jays (-155) with a total of 9; K. Davies vs. D. Eveland;
Yuny Betancourt is 5-for-15 off Eveland;
Billy Butler is 2-for-6, Alberto Callaspo is 2-for-5, and David DeJesus is 3-for-4 off Eveland;
Lyle Overbay is 4-for-6 with 1 HR and 2 RBI.
The Royals pen is too awful to make a play here, and Eveland has started this year strong. This line is probably about where it should be. Pass.

Rangers @ Red Sox (-140) with a total of 9; C. Lewis vs. T. Wakefield;
Vlad Guerrero is 5-for-11 off Wakefield since '05 with a HR and 2 RBI.
Another game where we're dealing with a fresh crop of batters on one side, and a fresh-faced pitcher on the other. Two slumping teams, I suppose something's gotta give. Wakefield is generally pretty solid at home, but Colby Lewis has posted a dynamite pair of starts to begin 2010. Pass.

Indians @ Twins (-160) with a total of 8.5; J. Masterson vs. K. Slowey;
Travis Hafner is 3-for-10 off Slowey with a HR;
Justin Masterson is 0-2, 5.40 ERA against the Twins.
I included that note on Masterson because he's opened 2010 well, but the Twins are a tough, patient team, and loaded with crafty left-handed bats. The O-dog is 2-for-3, same with Kubel. Mauer is 3-for-5, and so on and so forth. This line is accurate, but too high for me to back Slowey. Pass.

Rays (-120) @ White Sox with a total of 8; D. Price vs. J. Danks;
Dioner Navarro is 5-for-11 off Danks;
Alex Rios is 3-for-5 with a HR off Price;
Paul Konerko is 2-for-3 with a HR.
John Danks is something of a Rays-killer, going 4-1 with a 2.67 ERA against the Rays in his career. David Price seems prime for that monster year, but didn't pitch well in his one try against Chicago. Can the Southsiders get something going at home? I suppose it's as good a chance as any. Lean to Chicago, but I might need a push on this one.

Yankees (-150) @ Athletics with a total of 8.5; J. Vazquez vs. G. Gonzalez;
Daric Barton is 2-for-5 and Jake Fox is 2-for-4 off Vazquez.
Javier Vazquez is SHAKY to start the season, and Gio Gonzalez has been pretty reliable so far. This is a tough, tough wager to make, but based on just the few numbers we've got at hand, the value is on Oakland's side. Let's track some line movement, since we know damn well where the public's going to go, but on a dangerous play like this one, we want all the confirmation we can get.

Tigers @ Angels (-127) with a total of 9; R. Porcello vs. S. Kazmir;
Ramon Santiago is 2-for-3 off Kazmir, and both were HRs;
Juan Rivera is a perfect 2-for-2 off Porcello.
This is a very low line for the Angels at home, especially with Porcello having given up, as I recall, 4 runs in 5 innings against the Angels last year. Kazmir had a rough start in New York, as the patient Yanks really made him work, but the Tigers really haven't done much against Kazmir, at least not recently. This is probably a pass.

Orioles @ Mariners (-141) with a total of 8.5; D. Hernandez vs. J. Vargas;
Garrett Atkins is 5-for-7 off Vargas with 2 HR and 4 RBI;
Nolan Reimold each have a HR in 6 AB off Vargas;
Jose Lopez is 3-for-6 with a HR and 5 RBI off Hernandez.
Looks like the Orioles are back to losing, getting bopped last night here in Seattle. Now, the Mariners are at a pretty decent price, but Vargas just isn't a good pitcher. He'll throw strikes, and he does have a career 2.81 ERA against Baltimore, but when you get these two unproven pitchers going head to head, I'd much prefer to try to sneak a play on a dog. This dog barked one time over the last 2 weeks, really, and now they've gone back to dormancy.

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