Tuesday, May 18, 2010

To Tell "The Truth"

I have no choice but to tip my cap to the Boston Celtics to kick off today's blog. That team is just rolling.

There were a great many of us in the blog last night on the Magic (some, obviously, because it was my play; others for different reasons), and we had a wild time with something of a live chat, and I believe, looking back, I'd make the play again, and I hope you guys don't have regrets, either. The Magic were, basically, in a must-win situation, we looked for a top level effort, and Boston still came out ahead, making a few circus shots in the process. The Magic hadn't lost 2 straight home games at any point in the 2009-2010 season before last night and Boston, in the storied history of the franchise, had NEVER won 2 straight on the road to open a Playoff series. Is the fact that yesterday's loss created Celtics history a silver lining? Hell no, we want wins. That being said, I'm a believer, and with another "must-win" inflated line on the Magic side in the next game, Boston could go up 3-0 with a decent spread. Time will tell.

No baseball plays yesterday, but we'll almost definitely have 1 or 2 today, as well as an NBA Top Play over at my Pro Page. How will we know what to bet, you ask? The info below. Let's do this.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Suns @ Lakers - Los Angeles by 6.5 with a total of 214. Just as we spoke yesterday about how much information we can glean from the opening line in Boston/Orlando, this line is nearly as powerful an indicator of how the books believe the sharps are going to bet. Because really, these higher volume games truly boil down to the books knowing they'll get a slightly greater chunk from the public than usual, and everyone knows which side the public is going to take based on the previous game, so books need to be able to account for that money coming on the other side. I'd say there's about a 95% chance the public likes the Lakers in this one, considering LA laid a furious beating on the Suns in game one. So, then, this line comes out exactly the same? That either shows the books are downright retarded, or it shows that they expect sharps to come in heavier on Phoenix with the public definitely heavier on LA. Which side would you want to be on? As far as match-ups go, this is where we hit a little bump in the road. The Lakers are far and away the superior team - they're more talented, bigger, stronger, and at probably faster at about 80% of positions. They also got better bench play than the previously impressive Suns reserves. But, if Marco D'Angelo has taught us anything over the years, and we can go ahead and give the big guy credit for at least one thing, it's that no team is as good as their best effort, and no team is as bad as their worst. And what we saw in game one was the Lakers' absolute best game. They hit every open shot, they rebounded well, dominated inside and outside, and the Suns role players missed whatever few looks they got. I expect Phoenix to make some big shots, and I expect the Lakers not named Gasol or Bryant to miss a few, and while I'm not saying the Lakers are going to play like crap, I do think that these teams play a closer game. Lean to Suns on the side. The total, not surprisingly, opened higher than the previous game, after that one went off at 210 and the total hit 235. That was a bit of a miss by oddsmakers, but this adjustment means there's some built-in value on the Under. If this game is indeed closer, the scoring should slow in the 2nd half a bit more, since the blowout led to a lot of quick shots in game one. Lean to the Under.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Cubs @ Phillies (-150) with a total of 10; T. Gorzelanny vs. Jamie Moyer;
Derrek Lee is 5-for-11 with 2 RBI off Moyer since '05;
Alfonso Soriano is 6-for-20 off Moyer since '05;
Ryan Theriot is 4-for-12 off Moyer;
Jimmy Rollins and Jayson Werth are each 2-for-3 off Gorzelanny.
Gorzelanny hasn't seen much of the Phils, and vice versa, but he's 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA against them. We can't draw too many conclusions, there, and he's actually been decent this year with a 3.60 ERA. His 1-4 record shows he hasn't been too lucky, and seems to be regressing a bit lately, too. Jamie Moyer is just 3-1 against the Cubs over his 45 year ML career, and he just keeps trucking along. This line is pretty fair, as the Phils are awfully tough anywhere, and moreso at home.

Brewers (-169) @ Pirates with a total of 9; R. Wolf vs. B. Burres;
No sense getting into player histories here, as Randy Wolf has already faced the Pirates twice this year, holding them to 2 runs in 14 innings, and though his team won the first game 20-0, the Brewers actually lost his second start thanks to another Brewers bullpen struggle. Most people are going to remember that Milwaukee beat the hell out of Pittsburgh in the first 4 meetings this year, but everyone needs to also recall that Pittsburgh won the most recent two meetings, and the Brewers have lost, I believe, 8 straight. This is Pittsburgh or nothin'.

Mets @ Nats (-145) with a total of 9; R. Dickey vs. L. Hernandez;
Henry Blanco is 4-for-11 with an RBI off Hernandez;
Luis Castillo is 4-for-11 off Hernandez;
Jeff Francoeur was 5-for-13 with a HR and 2 RBI off Hernandez before this season;
David Wright was 12-for-27 with 4 HR and 10 RBI off Hernandez since '05.
R.A. Dickey, one of the most enjoyable names in baseball, gets a starting nod. Desperate times, I guess? This line is pretty fair. Livan already shut the Mets out for 7 innings back on April 11th, the Nats are better than most people realize, and Dickey will be lucky to get through 5 innings. Fair lines mean somewhat minimal value, though if I had to offer a lean, I'd lean to the favorite, since NY hasn't quite mastered winning on the road.

Reds @ Braves (-150) with a total of 8.5; A. Harang vs. K. Kawakami;
Jay Bruce is 2-for-2 off Kawakami, with both hits homers and 4 driven in;
Joey Votto is 2-for-2 with 3 RBI off Kawakami;
Brian McCann is 7-for-14 with a HR and 3 RBI off Harang.
This line seems all kinds of nuts. Harang has been coming on a bit, Kawakami is 0-6 on the season, and 0-2 against the Reds, and the Reds are among the 3 or 4 hottest teams in baseball. Can it possibly be this easy? I mean, I know Harang's season ERA is higher than Kawakami's, but people can't really be that blind, can they? I desperately want to take the Reds to keep up the strong play, but the fact that Harang is a dog of more than +100 is baffling. Lean to Reds unless this line goes up.

Rockies (-115) @ Astros with a total of 9; G. Smith vs. F. Paulino;
Brad Hawpe is 3-for-4 with 3 RBI off Paulino;
Todd Helton is 2-for-5 with a HR and 2 RBI off Paulino;
Greg Smith brings his sweet 6.35 ERA into Houston to square off with winless Paulino, who is 0-1 against the Rockies, and has an 8.10 ERA against Colorado in his career. Paulino has actually been alright lately, moving him out of the "Worst pitcher in the Bigs" throne and down to "A bad pitcher with no wins." If Greg Smith was more reliable, I might be inclined to back Colorado, though looking at his season numbers, he did make serviceable appearances against the weak-hitting Padres, Braves, and Mets. The Astros can't hit, either, and if the Rockies can give Smith 4 runs of support, that might be enough.

Marlins @ Cardinals (-180) with a total of 8; A. Sanchez vs. J. Garcia;
Felipe Lopez is 6-for-17 off Sanchez.
This one could go either way, and I'd be inclined to play the underdog at this price, but the Marlins are a team dealing with some mild turmoil related to Hanley Ramirez not running after a pop fly he kicked into the left field corner. Yes, they won behind Josh Johnson's dominant performance, but what of a road game where we'll see how the clubhouse is dealing with the situation? Garcia's 1.42 season ERA can't last forever, but Florida hasn't seen him yet, and that puts Garcia at an advantage. Pass.

Giants @ D'backs (-155) with a total of 9.5; T. Wellemeyer vs. I. Kennedy;
Aubrey Huff is 2-for-5 off Kennedy;
Stephen Drew is 6-for-9 with a HR and 3 RBI off Wellemeyer;
Conor Jackson is 3-for-7 with an RBI off Wellemeyer.
This line feels pretty fair to me. Kennedy has been on a very nice pitching roll, and Wellemeyer has been mostly a disappointment so far. There are a couple D'backs that have hit Wellemeyer, though not enough to call it a disaster in the making, but damn if those Giants can't seem to score. I know the Padres just have San Francisco's number, but I get the feeling road games in general are probably not going to be kind to SF if they keep putting up 2 runs a night.

Padres @ Dodgers (-117) with a total of 8; J. Garland vs. R. Ortiz;
No worries about player match-ups here, since you can just dial back 5 blogs to see how Garland and the Dodgers look against one another. Jon pitched well enough to win in San Diego, allowing just 2 runs, but the Dodgers did one better and took that game 4-3. Now, the rematch. You guys know how I feel about rematches, and without Andre Ethier, the Dodgers lose a monster cog against those righthanded starters. I'm a little nervous for LA, though for some reason, I feel like they snap their losing streak when an ace drops the ball, not when Ortiz goes 4 innings and allows 2 runs. No real leans, here, though the Under looks interesting with that number at 8. Be careful, here.

American League

Royals @ Indians (-125) with a total of 9.5; G. Meche vs. J. Masterson;
Yuny Betancourt is 3-for-9 off Masterson with an RBI;
Shin-Soo Choo is 8-for-17 with 3 RBI off Meche;
Jhonny Peralta is batting .372 off Meche in 43 AB, with 2 HR and 5 RBI since '05.
Interestingly, these two starters are a combined 0-8, Meche with an ERA over 7, and Masterson with a mark right around 6. Ugly. However, looking at recent results, Meche looks like he might be getting healthier. His last 2 starts have been solid, allowing 3 runs in 8 innings, then tossing 6 frames of one-run ball his last time out. Insane, right? With that in mind, and both teams playing a little better than they did a month ago, and Masterson clanking his way through this full season of starting, I lean to Meche. It almost made me ill to say it, but it's the smart play.

Rays @ Yankees (-155) with a total of 9.5; W. Davis vs. A. Burnett;
Carl Crawford is 12-for-36 off Burnett since '05;
Evan Longoria is 8-for-25 with a HR off Burnett;
Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-3 with a HR and 3 RBI off Davis.
Burnett has a tremendous career ERA against the Rays of just 2.76, while Davis is 0-2 against the Yanks, including losing a start against them back in April. Burnett, by the way, beat the Rays in April to go to 12-4 against the Rays. This is a pretty cheap price, since Burnett had his ERA balloon in a bad outing against the Sox, and considering the success NY seems to have at home, I just can't fathom why playing them here is a bad idea. The Rays don't tend to play all that well in the Bronx, either.

Twins @ Red Sox (-130) with a total of 9.5; S. Baker vs. C. Buccholz;
The current Twins are a combined 8-for-17 off Buccholz;
Adrian Beltre is 7-for-22 with a HR off Baker;
J.D. Drew is 4-for-6 off Baker;
Mike Lowell is 3-for-5 with a HR and 2 RBI off Baker.
Scott Baker is such the standard Twins starter. Doesn't throw that hard, doesn't walk many, doesn't strike out a ton, counts on his defense, but in a very hitter-friendly park like Fenway, that seems like a recipe for disaster. This total is slightly inflated, but I still sort of like the Over, as Buccholz stunk in his brief work against the Twins, and Baker hasn't shut down too many of the Boston regulars. Probably the safer move is to Pass.

Orioles @ Rangers (-155) with a total of 9.5; J. Guthrie vs. R. Harden;
Ty Wigginton is 1-for-3 with a HR off Harden;
Ian Kinsler is 4-for-11 off Guthrie;
Michael Young is 4-for-12 with a HR and 2 RBI off Guthrie.
For as many struggles as Guthrie has had over the years, he's 3-0 against the Rangers. Of course, Harden has a 0.69 ERA against the O's, so it's not like either starter has a monster advantage. I do like the baseball the Rangers are playing lately as they've warmed up a tad, and Baltimore stinks, but at the same time, laying -155 is a hefty price for a pitcher that rarely goes 6 innings.

Angels @ White Sox (-150) with a total of 8.5; J. Saunders vs. J. Danks;
Bobby Abreu is 4-for-9 with 2 HR off Danks;
Paul Konerko is 4-for-13 with a HR off Saunders;
Jayson Nix is 3-for-5 with all 3 HRs, yikes;
Mark Teahen is 4-for-10 with 2 RBI off Saunders.
Danks has pitched very, very well this season, but Saunders is coming off his best start of 2010. Is that the beginning of the turnaround for big Joe? Maybe, though neither pitcher has been all that bad against this particular opponent. Looking at the match-ups, it would seem that the White Sox have the edge in historical data, so let's just leave this one alone.

Tigers (-125) @ Athletics with a total of 7; J. Verlander vs. D. Braden;
Gerald Laird is 5-for-12 with 2 RBI off Braden;
Magglio Ordonez is 4-for-13 with 2 HR and 5 RBI off Braden.
I would love to back Detroit here at such a cheap price, but I still can't fully trust the Tigers on the road. Verlander is ramping up, Braden is a rising star, and everything about this game feels just about right. If I had to lean in any direction, I'd probably lean to the better offense, and that's Detroit, but these west coast swings are never easy, no matter the club.

Blue Jays @ Mariners (-138) with a total of 7; B. Cecil vs. D. Fister;
Not a ton of historical data, here, though Fister appears to have allowed 3 runs in 5 innings (based on his 5.40 ERA against Toronto). Cecil has never faced the Mariners. So, Fister's 1.72 ERA is getting jammed up against Cecil's 5.46, the two teams' offenses are compared, Toronto's is better, and that's why Seattle isn't that large of a favorite. Toronto has been quite adept at winning on the road this year, and while I'd love to back Fister to shut them down, that long ball can be deadly. TINY lean to the Mariners, but this is about 6th on my list of leans.

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