Friday, April 16, 2010

You Talkin' 'Bout Playoffs?

Again, short intro, as Vegas can be quite the time-sucker!

We dropped a stinker last night, as Todd Wellemeyer didn't keep the Giants in the game, at all, serving up 7 runs early, and despite a 5-run 9th inning San Francisco dropped the opener of their intrastate rivalry series, 10-8. At the underdog price, however, that does take a little bit of the sting out of it. No excuses, it was the only play on the card I liked, and clearly, I was wrong.

Today, however, we have NBA Playoffs getting started and more MLB action, with a fresh supply of day games to whet our palettes.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Bulls @ Cavaliers - Cleveland by 11 with a total of 191.5. Playoff time! It's a totally different bird, so I don't want you guys forgetting EVERYTHING we've learned about money management over the last 6 months and squandering our NBA profits on games where the lines, for all intents and purposes, are going to be quite tight. As Vegas-Runner always notes, books make their money because of volume in big games, and unless there's a huge public split, there isn't going to be a TON of inherent line value, and that's really for any game, so keep a close eye on the bet percentages in these heavily bet games. On this game in particular, we've been watching the bets come in all week, and the action is split almost right down the middle. So, when the line doesn't give us a strong indicator, we have to look at motivational issues, and, really, the sheer skill level of each team. The line certainly indicates what we already know, which is that the Cavs are the vastly superior ball club. From a motivational standpoint, I wonder if the Bulls don't feel like they did what they set out to do. A team in turmoil, Chicago barely squeezed into the Playoffs, and I think the difficult question here is whether Chicago feels like they can finally relax, or whether they play like they have nothing to lose. I happen to believe this particular Chicago team isn't all that motivated. They won some big games, but they never looked, in my opinion, all that comfortable doing it, and while I'd love to bet on a team to stay within 11 points, the mere fact that that's how high the line had to be raised to get equal money is a strong indicator of how bad Chicago really is. I know Lebron might be rusty from taking some time off, or at least that's what Chicago-backers will say, but this side is absolutely a PASS for me. The total has actually moved up 1.5 points off the opening number, and that strikes me as interesting, given how tough, slow and grinding playoff games can be. That line move keeps me off the total, most likely, though I think this one eventually slows down.

Bucks @ Hawks - Atlanta by 8.5 with a total of 186.5. This is really where we see how great a coach Scott Skiles truly is. Can he take this undersized, somewhat rag-tag group of overachievers, and steal a game in Atlanta? We're talking about a Hawks team that was among the top few home teams in the entire NBA, so it won't be easy. This is a series where I happen to believe that the best course of action might be to watch a game and see how Skiles tries to defend the Hawks. I struggle to find a way that Milwaukee can really compete without Bogut against a bigger, stronger club like Atlanta, especially on the road, but you always know those road teams are going to come out hungry, so it's not an impossibility. I happen to think this line is pretty accurate, though I also like Milwaukee to not go down without a fight. IF the Hawks cover, it will occur pretty late in the game, when Milwaukee potentially runs out of gas, but if the Bucks come out and hit some shots early -- get the confidence going in the playoffs -- they could be a tough nut the rest of the game. I would offer a miniscule lean on the side to the Bucks. On the total, I think this ultra-low number is going to drive money to the over. That means we're getting value on the Under, especially if the line climbs at all as we approach game time.

Heat @ Celtics - Boston by 4 with a total of 185. I'm honestly a tad surprised we're seeing this line at just 4. I know Boston's been looking downright silly near the end of the season, but something tells me those old legs weren't all that concerned with making a push for better playoff seeding, and instead they just seemed to want that one win over the Cavs, and after they knew they could beat Cleveland, Boston kind of went to sleep. Looking at the season series, Boston seemed to outplay Miami in most aspects, winning all 3 games, and covering 2 of 3. The only game Chicago covered was by the hook. And really, Boston probably could have won all 3 games by more if they limited the turnovers just a bit. Boston turned it over 24 times in the second meeting between these two teams, and I have to think Doc Rivers has been trying to implore his guys to take care of the basketball. I happen to think the old farts do just that. Miami has a wider range of potential results, I feel. They play good defense, but they may or may not score on a daily basis. Boston's defense is decent (not as good as in years past), but they can score, and those double-pick-and-roll situations Boston sets up at the perimeter are nearly indefensible. I actually lean to the slightly more public side, and I think Boston covers by a bucket. The total is probably accurate, as we saw a few games between these teams go way, way over similar numbers in the regular season, so for oddsmakers to bring this one out at the same general number is their way of telling us this is the real number, so we should get used to it. Slight lean to the Under.

Jazz @ Nuggets - Denver by 5 with a total of 209. I think folks are putting too much stock in the Nuggets slump in late March and very early April. This team is good. They have Kenyon Martin back, partially healthy, and Chauncey Billups is about as dangerous a player as there is in the Playoffs. It also doesn't hurt to have one of the 2 or 3 players in the NBA that can legitimately create his own shot any time he wants in Carmelo Anthony. I think this game (and series) is a great matchup of two hard-nosed teams that want to bump and smash and score and come out slightly less beat up at day's end. The Jazz do it with pinpoint offensive execution - a "ton" of screens is an understatement. The Nuggets do it with breakneck speed, explosive scoring, opportunistic defense, and the long range jumper. I happen to think that because of Denver's slump, we're getting a pretty darn low number for the Nuggets at home. I'm a little concerned that the public does seem to enjoy that Denver side, but I think the Nuggets have a nice shot to cover this number. In all likelihood, all four games today might be decided by 4 points or less on the sides, and that's a huge reason why I suggest treading lightly. Here, tiny lean to the public side of Denver, and lean to the Under, as folks are going to see these two teams and forget how things slow down in the Playoffs.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Astros @ Cubs (-135) with a total of N/A; R. Oswalt vs. T. Gorzelanny;
Carlos Lee is 3-for-7 with 1 HR and 3 RBI off Gorzelanny;
Ryan Theriot is 6-for-17 off Oswalt;
This is a heck of a deal on Oswalt, but can the Astros ever hit the ball? Folks talk a great deal about how streaky baseball can be, and the true fact of this matter is that the Astros are not backable right now. There might be a game or two they win, but when a team is going 1-9 or even 3-7, and they're still merely small underdogs on the road, they're not a good enough value yet. It's just a bad starting point from which you may to try to pick winners.

Milwaukee (-165) @ Nationals with a total of 9; R. Wolf vs. L. Hernandez;
Craig Counsell is 4-for-9 off Hernandez with 2 RBI;
Jody Gerut is 2-for-3 with 1 HR and 3 RBI, and Gregg Zaun is 2-for-2 off Hernandez;
Christian Guzman is 3-for-8 off Randy Wolf;
Josh Willingham is 4-for-8 with 2 HR and 3 RBI off Wolf.
In his last start, Livan Hernandez looked like he turned back the clock 35 years to his ML debut. Okay, I kid, but he was dominant, and I was flabbergasted. It makes jumping back on Livan look awfully nice, here, but given the fact that this number is just about the same as what we saw in yesterday's Gallardo start, something tells me the Brewers win this one. I know that's a lot to take away from just the opening line, but that's how it is.

Mets @ Cardinals (-120) with a total of 8; J. Santana vs. J. Garcia;
Yadier Molina is 4-for-11 off Santana;
Albert Pujols is 6-for-12 with 2 HR and 2 RBI off Santana.
We don't have anything to go off with the young Cardinals' starter Jaime Garcia, other than a solid first start this year. Santana has a 2-0, 2.63 ERA against St. Louis in his career, but man, Santana's a dog, here? That's truly disconcerting for those that read into lines. Are the Mets that bad that one of the best pitchers in baseball is a slight underdog to a guy making his second start? I want to see where this line heads overnight before making a final judgment on it.

Giants (-160) @ Dodgers with a total of 7.5; T. Lincecum vs. C. Haeger;
Garret Anderson, Ronnie Belliard, and Blake Dewitt are 2-for-4, and 3-for-6 (2x) off Lincecum.
There may be a time this season to fade The Freak, but somehow off getting pummeled last night, not sure this is the spot. Pass.

Reds @ Pirates - This line is OFF.
More info coming tomorrow.

Marlins @ Phillies (-115) with a total of 9.5; R. Nolasco vs. J. Moyer;
John Baker is 3-for-7 off Moyer;
Chris Coghlan is 5-for-10 off Moyer;
Wes Helms is 7-for-19 with 2 HR and 6 RBI off Moyer;
Ronny Paulino is 8-for-18 off Moyer;
Hanley Ramirez is batting .348 with 4 HR and 7 RBI off Moyer;
Raul Ibanez is 4-for-6 off Nolasco;
Chase Utley is batting .304 off Nolasco with 1 HR and 4 RBI.
Jamie Moyer's career numbers against Florida just don't hold water like they used to, when the Marlins were just a bunch of free-wheeling youngsters. They have grown up, they hit the ball hard, and they did beat Moyer late last year, if memory serves. Ricky Nolasco has sick stuff, but hasn't gotten off to a very strong start this year. If there's a day he steps up, this might very well be the one.

Rockies (-120) @ Braves with a total of 8; U. Jimenez vs. K. Kawakami;
Yunel Escobar is 5-for-8 off Jimenez;
Chipper Jones is 4-for-13 off Jimenez with 3 RBI.
The Braves are crushing the ball on offense right now, and Jimenez's 1-3 career mark against Atlanta doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Still, off yesterday's cruising winner, something in my gut tells me the Rockies step back up, and Jimenez finally has some success against Atlanta. Kawakami is sort of a typical Japanese starter - a lot of movement, strange tempo, and battles, but Colorado is disciplined enough where I think they make some headway here.

D'backs @ Padres (-130) with a total of 8; K. Benson vs. K. Correia;
Adam Laroche is 5-for-10 off Correia;
Gerardo Parra is 5-for-12 off Correia;
Matt Stairs is 5-for-15 with a HR off Kris Benson.
I honestly cannot believe Kris Benson is pitching in the Bigs, and I also can't quite believe the Padres are only a -130 favorite here. Does Benson break back into the Bigs with one splendid start, then fall apart, or does he fall apart right out of the gates? I can't help but lean to the established veteran, Correia, but this is a head-scratcher.

American League

Rangers @ Yankees (-170) with a total of 9.5; S. Feldman vs. A. Burnett;
Ryan Garko is 5-for-12 with 1 HR and 4 RBI off Burnett;
Josh Hamilton is 4-for-11 with 1 HR and 3 RBI off Burnett;
Curtis Granderson is 4-for-6 with 3 HR and 6 RBI off Feldman;
Jorge Posada is 3-for-5 with a HR off Feldman;
Mark Teixeira is 3-for-10 off Feldman, but he's in his typical early offensive funk.
Feldman pitched pretty well against New York last year, and he's started this season strong, as well, but that addition of Curtis Granderson might make a huge difference for the Yanks, given his owning of Feldman. The value is probably on Texas's side, but I'm not sold on this Rangers team just yet.

Angels (-115) @ Blue Jays with a total of 9.5; J. Saunders vs. B. Tallet;
Bobby Abreu is 3-for-8 off Tallet with 2 RBI;
Hideki Matsui is 10-for-18 off Tallet with 1 HR and 7 RBI;
Juan Rivera is 2-for-3 with a HR and 3 RBI.
Saunders has a poor career record against Toronto at 1-3, and he has a 7.36 ERA this season so far. Brian Tallet is 1-0 this year, but has an ERA of 5.68, and a career mark against LAA of 0-1, 7.36 ERA. This one looks ugly on paper, but then these games, for whatever reason, end up as a 3-1 pitchers' duel. I want to back the Angels pretty badly with those offensive numbers against Tallet, but if Saunders gives up 5 runs in 6 innings, that's not going to get it done. Tiny, tiny lean to Angels.

Royals @ Twins (-180) with a total of 9.5; G. Meche vs. N. Blackburn;
Alberto Callaspo is 5-for-12 with a HR off Blackburn;
David DeJesus is 7-for-15 off Blackburn with a HR;
Jose Guillen is 3-for-7, and Jason Kendall is 3-for-5;
Michael Cuddyer is 7-for-16 off Meche with a HR and 3 RBI;
Joe Mauer is 7-for-20 with 2 HR and 10 RBI;
Justin Morneau is batting .313 off Meche since 2005 with 2 HR and 8 RBI.
Blackburn has just a 1-2 career record against the Royals, but Kansas City's bullpen is simply too awful to back right now. Too high a price to back Blackburn. Pass.

Orioles @ Athletics (-170) with a total of 8; J. Guthrie vs. J. Duchscherer;
Mark Ellis is 4-for-11 with 3 RBI off Guthrie;
Gabe Gross is 3-for-7 off Guthrie;
Kurt Suzuki is 4-for-7 with a HR and 3 RBI off Guthrie.
Same deal as the Twins/Royals game above. The Orioles can't hit, flat out. They can't. They put a guy on base, and no one can do a thing. Duchscherer looks ready to get back to business after a lost 2009, but at 170, this price is too steep. Pass.

White Sox (-130) @ Indians with a total of 8; J. Peavy vs. J. Westbrook;
Grady Sizemore is a perfect 3-for-3 off Peavy;
Austin Kearns is 3-for-8 off Peavy.
Despite 20 career decisions against the White Sox, Westbook doesn't have many numbers against the current crop. Peavy at just -130 is certainly reflective of his 8.44 ERA this year, and while I'd love to say he steps up and dominates, the Indians have been getting stunning work from their starters the last couple games, and the White Sox have become a very home-friendly team.

Rays @ Red Sox (-128) with a total of 9; J. Shields vs. C. Buccholz;
In limited action, B.J. Upton is 2-for-4 off Buccholz and Ben Zobrist is 2-for-5;
J.D. Drew is 10-for-24 off Shields with 2 HR and 6 RBI;
Mike Lowell is 9-for-25 off Shields;
David Ortiz is batting .391 off Shields since 2005 with 2 HR and 6 RBI;
Dustin Pedroia is batting .455 off Shields with a HR.
I think James Shields' name is bringing this line down to a fairly buyable price. Shields is 3-7 career against Boston, and this is just not a team he enjoys facing. Buccholz is 2-1 against the Rays in limited exposure, with a 2.39 ERA. Is this a sucker bet? I don't think such a thing exists, but let's watch the line before pulling any sort of trigger.

Tigers (-135) @ Mariners with a total of 7.5; J. Verlander vs. R. Rowland-Smith;
Ryan Raburn is 3-for-5 with 2 HR off Rowland-Smith;
Milton Bradley is 3-for-6 off Verlander;
Ichiro is batting .367 off Verlander since '05 with 1 HR and 5 RBI.
Verlander has an ERA of 9 so far this year, but is 6-3 against the Mariners, and coming off getting shellacked last night, Detroit is going to want to bounce back. This might be worth thinking about the small favorite, though Rowland-Smith has decent stuff, and if the Tigers play on the road this year like they did in 2009, backing them away from home won't ever be a good call. Slight lean to Detroit, here.

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