Saturday, May 15, 2010

Conference Finals Are Here!

Didn't that wait just feel like forever? I know it did to me! I mean, when you get those NBA Playoffs going, or any Playoffs for that matter, being forced to just sit around for a few days and contemplate, from a fan's perspective, is just the worst! Of course, it afforded us plenty of time to analyze match-ups and momentum, but as a guy who just wants to be watching basketball, it was torture. Luckily, it's back!

On the recap side of things, baseball delivered a sucker-punch to our face last night, as we had a 2* play on the Orioles 2 outs away from cashing when suddenly the sky fell on Baltimore. Alfredo Simon, Baltimore's new closer who hadn't allowed an earned run to that point, surrendered 4 runs (more than enough to blow the lead), and Cla Meredith came in and gave up 4 more. An 8-run 9th inning for the lowly Indians turned what appeared to be a nice 2-0 winner into a ridiculous 8-2 loser. As the expression goes, "'Tough titty,' said the kitty" -- baseball will do that from time to time, and we just have to forge ahead and try to continue taking 2-run leads into the final 2 outs of a game.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Celtics @ Magic - Orlando by 6.5 with a total of 190. Back to the NBA, and it isn't easy when you take a few days off from a sport, but we'll do our best! For one, all four teams left in the Playoffs are exceedingly well-respected by the public, so the line value isn't going to be as strong in this round. The Celtics dispatched of the East-leading Cavaliers, and the Magic have swept their way through the first 2 rounds, so while I might argue the Magic have looked more impressive from day one of the Playoffs to today, both teams are garnering plenty of interest. So, where does that leave us? Well, it leaves us with a line that's likely to be pretty tight to the final score. And it leaves us, most likely, with more value to be had on totals in these series than in sides, though I suppose almost anything can happen. Based on a pure match-up standpoint, the Magic are in the better spot, as the Celtics were able to key in on Lebron James in their last series and slow down all the other guys, but with the Magic there's just too much to worry about. Jameer Nelson can score, Rashard Lewis can score, Vince Carter can score and create his own shot, and of course, Dwight Howard is a menace. My concern is the confidence in Boston, right now. They play extraordinarily well on the road, and maybe Boston's best asset is the fact that they don't seem to change how they shoot, home or road. Ray Allen has had a superb postseason, and Orlando is going to have to decide if they want to have Matt Barnes chasing Allen of screens, or move Barnes onto Rondo and let Nelson try to do the running. When all is said and done, the Magic have shown time and again how solid they are with a ton of rest, so I happen to think they cover this one by a bucket or two (it'll be close to the number). Very slight lean to the Magic on the side. On the total, these two teams have been some of the best defensively in the Playoffs, so far. I'm intrigued to see how they play this game. Will Orlando try to get out and run a little bit more against a better defensive team? Will Boston try to slow things to a crawl and maximize the importance of each possession? Orlando tends to shoot so well on long rest that I'm hard-pressed to believe they don't get to at least 95 points, and that makes me think this one might creep Over. As the series progresses, we'll see the intensity on defense ramp up and adjustments will be made, but here in game one the teams are going to be feeling each other out, and we'll get a couple of higher-scoring quarters.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Mets @ Marlins (-200) with a total of 8.5; J. Niese vs. R. Nolasco;
Luis Castillo is 6-for-14 off Nolasco before 2010;
Jeff Francoeur is batting .304 with 2 HR and 7 RBI off Nolasco since '05;
Jose Reyes is batting near .400 off Nolasco with 3 HR and 5 RBI since '05;
David Wright is batting .361 off Nolasco with 3 HR and 8 RBI before 2010.
Jon Niese allowed 3 runs in 6 innings against the Marlins earlier this year in a losing effort, but he showed some moxie there in his first start of the season. Nolasco allowed 3 runs to the Mets in 6.2 innings, and here's where the pickle appears. Nolasco has been significantly better on the road this season than at home, but the Mets haven't done much of anything on the road. Slight lean to New York, but it's a longshot, so let's be cautious, here.

Cardinals (-140) @ Reds with a total of 8; B. Penny vs. B. Arroyo;
Albert Pujols is batting .326 in 43 AB with 3 HR and 10 RBI off Arroyo since '05;
Colby Rasmus was 4-for-9 with a HR off Arroyo before 2010;
Brenday Ryan was 5-for-12 off Arroyo before 2010;
Brandon Phillips is 5-for-12 off Penny;
Scott Rolen was 4-for-12 off Penny before 2010.
This is a rematch, believe it or not. These two guys squared off on April 8 in a game Cincinnati eventually won 2-1, with both guys throwing a strong game. You guys all know how I feel about rematches, especially here, with the Cards trying to break out of a slump. Of course, the value here isn't too strong. Penny couldn't possibly pitch any better than he has so far, and Arroyo has thrown better his last 3 starts, but his bad start to the year has left him the stronger of the two values. I happen to think the Cards take this rematch, but it might be too expensive.

D'backs @ Braves (-130) with a total of 8.5; D. Haren vs. T. Hudson;
Melky Cabrera is 4-for-10 off Haren since '05;
Omar Infante is 4-for-9 off Haren;
Brian McCann is 3-for-8 off Haren with a HR and 3 RBI;
Nate McLouth is 3-for-6 off Haren with a HR and 2 RBI.
Tim Hudson is a career 3-0, 1.98 against the D'backs, who have all kinds of bullpen issues. I absolutely loathe betting the Braves, but this line is indicative of how little oddsmakers think of Haren right now. He's just not quite the same as usual, that 4.23 ERA is evidence of that. He might be 3-1 against the Braves, but his 5.40 ERA against Atlanta shows he's been a tad lucky. This might look like a deal on Arizona, but do be careful, here. Slight lean to Hudson and the Bravos.

Pirates @ Cubs (-230) with a total of N/A; R. Ohlendorf vs. T. Lilly;
Ryan Doumit is 5-for-15 with an RBI off Lilly;
Steven Pearce is 3-for-7 with an RBI off Lilly.
The Cubs haven't seen much of Ohlendorf, though it appears he did beat them the one time he took aim at Chicago. Lilly is a lifetime 4.44 ERA pitcher against the Pirates, but bear in mind there has been some significant turnover in Pittsburgh since Lilly broke into the Bigs. This is just one of those games where the Cubs will probably win, but there's just no value backing a finesse pitcher with a big hook at -230, especially with the Cubs' bullpen issues. Pass.

Nationals @ Rockies (-150) with a total of 9.5; S. Olsen vs. J. Francis;
Ryan Zimmerman is 8-for-12 with a HR and 3 RBI off Francis.

Astros @ Giants (-200) with a total of 7; B. Myers vs. B. Zito;
Lance Berkman is 3-for-5 with a HR and 3 RBI off Zito;
Mark DeRosa is 3-for-7 off Myers.
This isn't a rematch, but these teams did open the year with a series back in April. Myers gave up 4 runs in 6 innings in a game the 'Stros lost, and Zito went 6 shutout frames leading to another Giants win on the road. Since then, Zito has continued to pitch well, though he struggled mightily with his control in his last start against the Padres. Myers has gotten better since the beginning of the year, though his career 1-3 mark against the Giants, and 6.75 ERA isn't too comforting. This line is probably fair, maybe a tiny bit of value on the dog, but a Pass for me.

Dodgers @ Padres (-110) with a total of 7.5; C. Billingsley vs. W. LeBlanc;
Blake DeWitt is 3-for-5 with a HR and 2 RBI off LeBlanc;
Casey Blake and Andre Ethier are each 3-for-9;
Russ Martin is 3-for-6 off LeBlanc;
Tony Gwynn is 6-for-14 with a HR off Billingsley;
Yorvit Torrealba is 4-for-12 with a HR off Billingsley.
Chad Billingsley started the year VERY poorly, but he's starting to get things going in the right direction. He's still throwing way too many pitches, but it seems like he's decided that he's just going to try to strike out everyone, and if he only goes 5.1 innings, he's okay with that, as long as he's only allowing 1-2 runs. So it goes with the Dodgers young head-case. He's 8-4 against the Padres in his career, so we'll see how that confidence shakes out. Wade LeBlanc is just a wonder so far this year, 2-0 with a 1.61 ERA. He has had some issues with the Dodgers, though a couple horrible starts last year inflated his numbers. I still like the Dodgers to keep hitting, so we'll see how this one shakes out after some line moves.

Phillies (-150) @ Brewers with a total of 10; C. Hamels vs. D. Davis;
Ryan Howard is 3-for-8 with 2 HR and 3 RBI off Davis;
Placido Polanco is 3-for-7 with a HR off Davis since '05;
Jayson Werth is 5-for-9 off Davis with a HR off Davis since '05;
Ryan Braun is 4-for-12 with 2 HR off Hamels.
This game has all kinds of ugly written on it. Hamels is a little better this year, but Davis is in the running for worst in the Bigs. I wouldn't back the underdog here for any amount of money, though I wouldn't lay -150 with Hamels on the road against an explosive team, either. Maybe the Over, but that's about it?

American League

Red Sox (-150) @ Tigers with a total of 9.5; J. Lackey vs. A. Galarraga;
Kevin Youkilis is 3-for-5 with 2 HR and 3 RBI off Galarraga;
David Ortiz is 2-for-6 off Galarraga;
Mike Lowell is 2-for-6 off Galarraga;
Miguel Cabrera is 3-for-6 with a HR and 2 RBI off Lackey;
Johnny Damon is batting .414 with 3 RBI off Lackey since '05.
Yikes. The triumphant return of Armando Galarraga. If there was ever a time I didn't want to even come near the Tigers, it's this cat. He has marginal numbers as a Big Leaguer, but he's a total head-case, has suffered through all kinds of confidence and control problems. Pass.

Twins @ Yankees (-150) with a total of 10; N. Blackburn vs. S. Mitre;
Orlando Hudson is 3-for-9 with a HR off Mitre;
Jim Thome is 3-for-4 off Mitre since '05;
Derek Jeter is 3-for-7 with a HR and 3 RBI off Blackburn;
Alex Rodriguez is 3-for-9 with a HR and 3 RBI off Blackburn;
Mark Teixeira is 6-for-6 with a HR and 5 RBI off Blackburn.
Mark Teixeira's 6-for-6 career mark off Blackburn is scary, and I'm not sure we'll ever get a better price on the Yanks at home than this one. Hate to say it, and I hate to lay it, but I lean Yanks, here, just based on the price.

Rangers (-130) @ Blue Jays with a total of 9; C. Lewis vs. B. Morrow;
Ian Kinsler is 3-for-10 off Morrow;
Michael Young was 3-for-7 off Morrow before 2010, with a HR and 3 RBI.
Colby Lewis is somehow 1-2, with a 12.08 ERA against Toronto, but that wasn't too recent. Morrow has had horrible control problems this season, which makes him mostly unbackable. Not sure I trust Texas to get it done on the road, either, against a pretty strong offense, but it'd have to be Texas or nothing. Bad value play, though, since Morrow's 6.69 ERA this year is inflating the number.

Indians @ Orioles (-115) with a total of 9; J. Westbrook vs. D. Hernandez;
Shin-Soo Choo is 2-for-5 off Hernandez;
Andy Marte is 3-for-5 off Hernandez;
Luis Valbuena is 3-for-6 with a HR off Hernandez;
Miguel Tejada is 6-for-12 with 4 RBI off Westbrook.
Something about this game makes me just want to look elsewhere. I'm sure there's some value buried in here, but I honestly don't have a strong bead on Westbrook, and an even weaker bead on Hernandez. Plus, Hernandez, at 0-5 on the year, is one of the tougher guys to back in the League, right now. His ERA is bad, but not unbearable, and pretty close to Westbrook's. Pass.

Mariners @ Rays (-135) with a total of 7.5; C. Lee vs. M. Garza;
Chone Figgins is 4-for-9 with 3 RBI off Garza;
Franklin Gutierrez is 4-for-8 off Garza;
Jose Lopez is 4-for-9 off Garza;
Ichiro is 4-for-11 with a HR and 2 RBI off Garza;
Hank Blalock is 4-for-9 with 2 HR and 4 RBI off Lee;
B.J. Upton is 3-for-10 off Lee.
Interestingly, Garza has a 7.01 ERA against the Mariners. It's not a ton of experience, but the mere fact that we can get Cliff Lee at a small dog price is interesting, but not that weird. The Mariners' have trouble scoring, so when the team with the best record in the AL (or did when I typed this) gives the ball to a starter with a 5-1 record and 2.49 ERA, oddsmakers have to react. I happen to like Cliff Lee's 2.53 lifetime ERA against Tampa, here. He knows how to handle this club, and has kept the big guns in check. Lean to Seattle.

White Sox @ Royals (-115) with a total of 9; G. Floyd vs. B. Bannister;
A.J. Pierzynski is batting .423 with 2 HR and 4 RBI off Bannister;
Carlos Quentin is 4-for-8 with 2 HR and 4 RBI off Bannister;
Alexei Ramirez is 6-for-14 with a HR and 8 RBI off Bannister;
Alex Rios is 3-for-6 off Bannister;
Yuny Betancourt is 5-for-10 with a HR and 6 RBI off Floyd;
Alberto Callaspo is 3-for-7 with a HR off Floyd.
These pitchers have stunk it up against the other team. Floyd already allowed 6 runs in 6.2 innings to the Royals earlier this year, and Bannister did him one better, allowing 7 runs in 3 innings. I can't imagine they could pitch much worse, but the Over is definitely in play on that number of 9. Let's watch how the money comes in, since reading all the numbers makes the over look TOO easy, so we may have to dodge this one unless we get some nice bet% and line move confirmation.

Athletics @ Angels (-150) with a total of 8.5; T. Cahill vs. J. Pineiro;
Eric Chavez is 8-for-24 with a HR and 5 RBI off Pineiro;
Gabe Gross is 2-for-4 with an RBI off Pineiro;
Kendry Morales is 3-for-6 with a HR and 2 RBI off Cahill.
I happen to think this line is pretty accurate. The Angels seem to be ready to win a couple games, and Pineiro's stats this year are inflated by a couple very bad starts. Cahill had decent work against the Halos last year, but I'm not 100% on board with him just yet. Pass.

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