Friday, May 07, 2010

Down 2-0 is the New Down 3-0


When the Spurs went up by 18, things looked pretty good. Things never looked good again from that point forward. Slowly that 18-point lead turned into a 14-point deficit, and it was almost like the Spurs missing some free throws led to 28 minutes of bad shooting and worse defense, and the Suns dominated.

No excuses, we backed another team that decided to melt down in the 4th quarter. But how many folks saw Dragic popping off for 20+ in the last frame? I'm willing to admit when the world puts one over on me, and Dragic, you beat me, you little turd.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Magic @ Hawks - Orlando by 2.5 with a total of 194. Right off the bat, this number dropped to 2, and the total jumped to 195, so we have a nice starting point of what a few of those early big-bettors are thinking. Of course, both could be moves to set up middles, so we have to wait before making any strong claims. As far as the side is concerned, the Hawks look positively overmatched. The Magic are doing to Atlanta what they did to Charlotte, and I might even argue this series has been uglier, if only because the Hawks are so much more talented than the Bobcats, but yet they can't score, either, and look absolutely dreadful on the defensive end. Let's face it, when a team (in this case, Atlanta) lets an aging Vince Carter drive from the 3-point line to the basket for an uncontested dunk with under 5 minutes to go in the game, something is just wrong, both mentally and schematically. Al Horford wasn't even bothering to try to contain the Magic guard in pick-and-roll situations, instead glued to Dwight Howard's side, which created wide open lanes to the basket. Sure, Howard didn't get his points on rolls to the basket, but the other 4 Magic players were generally unguarded. But what did the Hawks do right in the first half to be up by 8? They made shots - flat out. Atlanta was able to keep the Magic from attacking early, and the Orlando offense stagnated as a result of bad defense. The second half was the exact opposite. The Hawks couldn't throw a pebble in the ocean, and the Magic got a few easy buckets, the hoop "got bigger", and suddenly the walls came down on Atlanta. Can they win a game at home? I'd love to say I believe in the Hawks, but this team's mental fortitude is lacking. They stepped up when the Bucks took a 3-2 series lead, but now they seem to be headed back into their shell. I realize the early line move and stark contrast of public/sharp money on this game is going to yell at us to lean Hawks, but I'm just not sure I'm on board. The Magic are on a mission, and one of the things you can count on in road games is a Big Man, and Dwight Howard is definitely a large human. No lean on the side, as of yet. On the total, the Magic have shot 52 and 56% in the first two games, and the Hawks just 35 and 41%. We also saw a ton of free throws in game two. That makes this third game tough to predict: can the Hawks figure something out to stop the Magic, or will Orlando put up 110 again? I have to think that even if Orlando only scores, say, 98-100, the Hawks should be able to get up around that number, as well. Slight lean to the Over.

Lakers @ Jazz - Utah by 3.5 with a total of 203.5. Did somebody poke the bear? Seems like it. Seems like only yesterday the Lakers were tied 2-2 with the Thunder. Since then, four straight wins to close out the first series and take a solid 2-0 lead here in round two. Here's the concern with this series. The Lakers own the Jazz. It's just that simple. The Lakers are 18-6 against Utah over the last 3 series straight up, and though some of those games have featured heftier spreads, it has still translated to a 14-9-1 ATS mark, as well. The Lakers beat the Jazz twice in LA, splitting against the spread, and off the 8-point win on a 5.5-point spread, this one is getting shifted 9 points. That's a sizable move by the oddsmakers, expecting an especially strong showing from Utah here in game three. This is sort of the game where the underdog needs to get a win or the series, for all intents and purposes, comes to an end, so it's no surprise the line has been bumped a bit, but at the same time, can Utah actually solve LA? Let's just look at a smaller cross-section, starting with last year's Playoffs, and going through this year's. The Lakers beat the Jazz in 5 games in the opening round, losing game 3 (one check-mark for Utah); this regular season, the Lakers took 3 of 4 from Utah, and in these Playoffs, so far, the Lakers are 2-0. Here's the kicker. Over all those games, of which the Jazz have won 2, Utah has shot over 50% just once. The only other game Utah won featured a 37% performance from LA, and that was game three last year. So, there is some precedent for the Lakers taking a mental hiatus in game three against the Jazz, but if Utah can't find a way to make buckets, the Lakers are going to just keep hammering them with taller guys and a suddenly healthier Kobe. I have a tiny, tiny lean to Utah in semi-desperation mode, but given the Lakers success, this is a spot to be careful. The first two games have featured 2 games going over the total, and clearly if Utah is going to win a game, they need to try to keep the Lakers under 50% from the field. How they accomplish that is anybody's guess. Tiny lean to the Under, since the Lakers seem to be handling the "wide open" game just fine, but Jerry Sloan has his work cut out either way.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Marlins @ Nationals with a total of N/A; J. Johnson vs. TBD;
Not sure who's going for the Nats here -- we can update this later.

Giants @ Mets (-185) with a total of 8.5; T. Wellemeyer vs. J. Santana;
Aubrey Huff is 4-for-12 with a HR and 3 RBI off Santana since '05;
Bengie Molina is 7-for-18 with a HR and 5 RBI off Santana since '05;
Pablo Sandoval is 5-for-7 with a HR and 2 RBI off Santana;
Luis Castillo is 5-for-9 off Wellemeyer;
David Wright is 8-for-11 off Wellemeyer;
Jeff Francoeur is 2-for-5 with a HR and 2 RBI off Wellemeyer.
Todd Wellemeyer is actually a decent value here, if the Giants could mount an offensive attack against Santana. Unfortunately, I don't really trust Wellemeyer. I wouldn't take the home team at this price, but I wouldn't back a road team with a pitcher that could give up 5 runs in 3 innings.

Braves @ Phillies (-145) with a total of 10; K. Medlen vs. J. Blanton;
Chipper Jones is 4-for-12 off Blanton;
Brian McCann is 6-for-16 with 2 HR and 6 RBI off Blanton;
Martin Prado is 5-for-9 with 2 HR off Blanton;
Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jayson Werth are a combined 4-for-4 off Medlen.
The Braves are just horrible. I thought they'd pull out of their tailspin, but they beat up on some other awful teams for 2 series, and then went right back to ugly ball -- not hitting, not fielding, and barely pitching. This isn't a team I can back under any circumstances, but Blanton is fresh off injury (1 start under his belt), so I'd rather not take chances on his side, either.

Padres (-140) @ Astros with a total of 9; J. Garland vs. F. Paulino;
Jerry Hairston, Jr. is 2-for-6 with a HR and 2 RBI off Paulino;
Michael Bourn is 5-for-10 off Garland;
Jason Michaels is 4-for-8 with a HR and 2 RBI off Garland.
Jon Garland has come out of the gates humming, going 3-2 with a 2.06 ERA, and the Padres continue to play great baseball. The Astros give the ball to Felipe Paulino, arguably one of the most reliably bad starters in the Majors. There really isn't much value here on either team, but sometimes you can look at a game and just know a particular team is bent on winning. Lean to Padres.

Cardinals (-185) @ Pirates with a total of 8; J. Garcia vs. J. Karstens;
No real historical numbers to go off, here, which makes me think that the very, very low total is telling us something. For one, Garcia's 1.13 ERA thus far is keeping the total low, but Jeff Karstens hasn't exactly been an "ace" with his current 6.17 ERA. I don't really like either side, since the Pirates are pretty bad, and the Cardinals price is too high, but I think this total of 8 is low for a reason. Let's keep an eye on this one.

Cubs (-120) @ Reds with a total of 9; T. Gorzelanny vs. A. Harang;
Mike Fontenot is 7-for-18 with 3 HR and 7 RBI off Harang;
Kosuke Fukudome is 6-for-15 off Harang;
Xavier Nady is batting .370 off Harang since '05 with a HR and 3 RBI;
Aramis Ramirez is batting .310 off Harang with 3 HR and 7 RBI since '05;
Geovany Soto is 5-for-15 with a HR off Harang.
It just seems like everywhere you look, someone is teeing off on Aaron Harang. My concern here is that oddsmakers know this, too. Still, the Cubs put on a nice offensive show against Homer Bailey, and sometimes visiting a nice hitters' park in Cincinnati can be just what the doctor ordered for a slumping offense. Gorzelanny is just 1-3 this year, but his ERA of 2.48 shows he's getting the job done. Lean to Cubbies.

Brewers @ D'backs (-110) with a total of 10; R. Wolf vs. C. Valdez;
Adam LaRoche is 6-for-15 with a HR and 3 RBI off Wolf;
Chris Snyder is 3-for-10 off Wolf.
This line is giving a ton of credit to the youngster Valdez making just his second Major League start. I'm actually pretty interested in this game, as I'm proud to say that I got to know Cesar while he was in Visalia with the D'backs Class-A club. The guy has an absolutely nasty sinker, a big curve, and a decent splitter - he was way too good for A-ball, but I think after a few starts Big Leaguers will catch up. I'm just not sure that time has come, yet. The Brewers hit-or-miss offense is the bigger question mark, here, which makes this game somewhat tough to cap.

Rockies @ Dodgers (-110) with a total of 8.5; J. Chacin vs. C. Haeger;
Another game with darn near nothing to work off, other than what we know. Chacin, another guy that pitched against my Oaks during my time in Visalia, but this one is more the "young phenom" to yesterday's starter (Rogers) slow, methodical back-of-the-rotation stuff. Chacin is very tough, throws hard, has a wide selection of pitches, and is a guy the Rockies are pretty excited about. Haeger is a knuckleballer, end of story. A pitch that's as tough to handicap as it gets, and the line reflects that. This game is basically a Pick, despite the Rockies being on the road. That tells me the Rox get a few runs, but I'm not sure playing against the Dodgers at home is always a wise choice.

American League

Tigers (-147) @ Indians with a total of 8; J. Verlander vs. J. Masterson;
Andy Marte is 3-for-10 off Verlander;
Miguel Cabrera was 3-for-3 off Masterson in the past with a HR and 3 RBI.
This one is pending yesterday's game actually finishing, as the weather here in the Northern Midwest is just hideous right now. Verlander has poor career numbers against the Indians, but it's tough to really pinpoint why. Seems as though the Indians just come up with a big home run to put 2-3 runs on the board, and Verlander can't come up with one of those shut-down wins against Cleveland. It might be a mental thing, but that's as important as anything physical. Pass.

Orioles @ Twins (gm1); K. Millwood vs. F. Liriano;
Michael Cuddyer is 10-for-23 off Millwood since '05 with a HR and 3 RBI;
Orlando Hudson is 6-for-8 off Millwood since '05 with 2 RBI;
Jason Kubel is 5-for-15 with a HR and 2 RBI off Millwood;
Justin Morneau is 7-for-19 with 3 HR and 10 RBI off Millwood since '05;
Nick Punto is 10-for-21 off Millwood since '05.
Feel free to look back at yesterday to see why most folks are going to bet on Liriano, and they'll probably win, but this chalk isn't in our best interest. Move along, nothing to see here.

Orioles @ Twins (gm2); J. Guthrie vs. S. Baker;
Jim Thome has homered 3 times off Guthrie since '05;
Joe Mauer is 3-for-6 off Guthrie;
Jason Kubel is 3-for-8 with a HR off Guthrie.
Despite those 3, Guthrie is actually 1-0, 2.84 against Minnesota. Baker is 3-0, 2.93 against the O's, so some decent numbers from the starters. We'll see what the weather's like and how the pace of the first game goes. We can also know what members of the pen are available in game two. Slight lean to the Under when we see the number, but again, with the double-header, it can be tough to know exactly who's going to play and more importantly, who is going to play hard/well.

Yankees (-150) @ Red Sox with a total of 9; C. Sabathia vs. C. Buccholz;
Robinson Cano (if he plays) is 3-for-8 off Buccholz;
David Ortiz is 5-for-14 off Sabathia with a HR since '05;
Marco Scutaro is 4-for-12 off Sabathia.
C.C. has started 2010 much quicker than usual, posting a 4-1 record and 2.74 ERA out of the gates. Clay Buccholz is doing a nice job, as well, though he hasn't done anything impressive against the Yanks. This is a poor value in a rivalry game, and even though I think the Yankees are the vastly superior club, you just never know in Fenway. Pass.

Rays (-160) @ A's with a total of 8.5; W. Davis vs. B. Sheets;
Pat Burrell was 4-for-12 off Sheets before this season with 2 HR.
These two pitchers faced off a little over a week ago and the teams battled to a 8-6 Rays victory, with Sheets giving up all 8 of those runs, and Davis allowing 4 of his own. Sheets is really struggling lately after a nice start to the year, while Davis seems to be getting better with almost every start. This line is probably accurate, though it's tough to see Sheets giving up 8 runs again to the same team. Tough call, here, which means I probably pass.

Blue Jays @ White Sox (-125) with a total of 8; B. Cecil vs. J. Peavy;
Alex Gonzalez is 4-for-9 off Peavy;
Fred Lewis is 4-for-9 off Peavy.
Jake Peavy has been pretty darn bad so far this season for the Sox, posting an ERA over 6. Brett Cecil has been solid for the Jays, with an ERA of 2.61. So, why are the Sox favored? Honestly, it's a good question, and I don't have a great answer. Peavy did go 7 shutout frames his last time out against the Royals, so maybe he's turning a corner? The Jays almost look too easy. This one needs more digging.

Royals @ Rangers (-180) with a total of 10; G. Meche vs. R. Harden;
Ryan Garko is batting .321 off Meche since '05 with a HR and 3 RBI;
Michael Young is 12-for-24 off Meche with a HR and 6 RBI since '05.
This is another one of those games that tempts me to take the home team on the RL, though you guys know how I feel about those. Still, the current Royals are 2-for-32 off Harden. Yep, you read that correctly. Meche, meanwhile, has an ERA of 9.89, and looks just as horrid as ever. If ever there was a game where the normal outcome is a home team blowout, this has that tattoo on it.

Angels @ Mariners (-150) with a total of 7.5; J. Saunders vs. D. Fister;
Interestingly, despite the 7.04 ERA, Saunders has very strong numbers against the Mariners, 7-1 in his career, in fact. Fister is 1-0 against the Angels, and has the lowest ERA in the American League right now. Tough call, here, since we know the Angels can score, but they've been slumping a bit. Something about this game, though, where everything points to the Mariners on paper feels like one of those contests where the Angels just swoop in and steal it.

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