Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Zen Master Loves Fouling

I'm actually still too flabbergasted to write a clever intro, still completely unable to comprehend what happened in the final 45 seconds of last night's Lakers-Suns game. Inexplicably, down 9 points, the Lakers started fouling. We appeared to have plenty of breathing room with roughly a dozen points to spare between the current number (209) and the posted total, and yet, that wasn't enough. I'm not going to get into the reasons why the teams would try so hard to get the total between 219 and 222, but let's just say something fishy went down, and for many of us, that turned what appeared to be a comfortable winner into either a Push (if you got it at the number in the morning and early afternoon) or a loser (if you bet it later).

I know the Push doesn't adversely effect my record on the Pregame Pro page, but knowing that folks got screwed makes me very, very angry for everyone involved.

With that in mind, and with our 1* loss on the Cardinals, yesterday was a 0-1-1 day that snapped a 6-game winning streak. We are STILL 8-2-1 in our last 11 plays, and 6-1-1 in the last 8 plays, so there's no reason to think anything is coming between us and the ultimate prize: the mighty victory dollar! It's time to move to Wednesday's card, because, while the insanity of that Push is mind-boggling, it is just one game, and if that's what it takes to steal a winner away from us, we're still seeing things just fine!

Sports Wagering: NBA

Celtics @ Magic - Orlando by 4 with a total of 186. This game is going to be a point of contention among bettors from all circles - sharp, square, recreational, serious, situational, line move, player match-up...you name it, they're probably disagreeing about something. Obviously, there's going to be some overlap, since there are really only 4 stances you can take on any one Playoff game, but I think you guys that read every day catch my drift. The sharps are going to take the team with the line value, the squares are going to take the team that has looked better, the situational handicapper is going to like the team with nothing to lose, the line move expert is going to say that this number opened relatively high for a reason, and the player match-up guy is sitting on the notion that one team has an edge on 80% of the floor. Well, let's break a few down. I consider myself something of a player match-up guy, so from that standpoint, you still have to like Boston. The Celtics got some clunkers in game 4 from the two guys that have been the key to their resurgence, Pierce and Rondo, so you have to think that those guys, who continue to hold a huge clutch edge on their direction competition (Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson) will pull it together for game 5. The Celtics are stronger at shooting guard with Ray Allen over Matt Barnes, and are stronger at PF with Garnett over Lewis. So, other than in the middle, Boston still holds a massive player edge, and I find it somewhat remarkable they were able to take Orlando to OT without significant contributions from their two most important players. That doesn't bode well for Orlando, especially since the odds that both Pierce and Rondo suffer through another poor game is pretty low. From a situational standpoint, the Magic are still the team playing with nothing to lose, and now Boston is the team that might have a shred of doubt in the back of their minds. I'm not buying into this theory. The line move side is the one notion that does put a few holes in the Boston side. This one opening at Orlando -4 is telling, since books could have likely opened this thing closer to Magic -2.5 and still gotten plenty of public money on the Boston side, so it seems that there are some larger bets coming in on the Magic side. I don't like to argue with a strong opening number, but at the same time, Boston has been absolutely crushing it on the road. They won 2 games in Cleveland, 2 more in Orlando, and could have won 3 in Cleveland if not for a game one meltdown. Hopefully, that's enough coverage to get us all started, and personally, I lean to Boston to wrap things up on the road - it almost seems fitting for this team to knock off the 2 best teams in the East and leave those fans depressed and unsatisfied. As for the total, we got an Over winner on Monday with the help of overtime, but without the extra time, it wouldn't have been close. I learned my lesson with this series, and without all the free throws, it would have taken 2-OT to get there. Lean to the Under.

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Braves (-140) @ Marlins with a total of 8.5; T. Hanson vs. N. Robertson;
Troy Glaus is 4-for-13 with 2 HR off Robertson since '05;
Cameron Maybin is 2-for-2 off Hanson.
Big Tommy is coming off his worst start of the year, arguably since turning Pro, as he allowed 8 runs in just 1.2 innings to the Reds in a game the Braves came back and won in dramatic fashion with more than a handful in the 9th. Robertson has been about as consistently marginal as you can, allowing, generally, between 3-5 runs every time out, and generally going 5 or 6 innings. If you're betting trends, Hanson is definitely trending down, and this line is pretty short for Hanson, but I'm not sure I can get behind either side. Pass.

Phillies (-115) @ Mets with a total of 8.5; J. Blanton vs. H. Takahashi;
Luis Castillo is 9-for-16 off Blanton since '05;
Jeff Francoeur is 4-for-9 off Blanton, with 4 RBI.
The best part about Joe Blanton is that he is getting a tiny bit better every time out, and it's tough to argue otherwise. His stamina is starting to work its way to 100%, and if not for serving up 5 homers in just 4 starts, his numbers would look much better. Problem is, when Blanton tires, he starts to get the ball up in the zone, and guys hit it out. Citi Field might very well remedy that, with spacious dimensions and tall outfield walls. The Mets don't hit for a ton of power, either, though they do seem to score well at home. Blanton's 2-0 record against the Mets is a nice starting point, and the one key factor keeping this from being a top level lean is that Takahashi is a bit of an unknown. He pitched well against the Yanks, but is really more of a long reliever, and it's tough to say how long before teams figure him out.

Pirates @ Reds (-175) with a total of 9; R. Ohlendorf vs. B. Arroyo;
Being that Ohlendorf has faced Cincy recently, and Arroyo is already facing Pittsburgh for the third time this year, we won't get too caught up in player numbers. Feel free to dig up the last blog for some of those. More important is that Arroyo pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball in one start against Pittsburgh, and allowed 5 runs in 6 innings in the other. A pitcher with almost no rhyme or reason is a pitcher that I don't want to back, and a pitcher that makes it very tough to truly handicap his performance. Ohlendorf is coming off a bad start, too, and we all know how streaky the Pirates can be. Pass.

Dodgers @ Cubs (-119) with a total of N/A; C. Billingsley vs. T. Gorzelanny;
Ryan Theriot is 4-for-8 off Billingsley, with 1 RBI.
Not a ton to work with on either side, though Billingsley has done a nice job of shutting down the key names in the Cubs lineup. Aramis Ramirez is just 2-for-10, and Derrek Lee is 1-for-12 off Chad, so his career 1-3 record against the Cubs belies his decent work against them. Gorzelanny is 1-0 against the Dodgers, but posted a 5.30 ERA, and while he's pitched well this year, it seems like the roof could come in at any moment. I'm very tempted to back the Dodgers, a team that has been red hot, but they just haven't hit lefties all that well this year, and that makes me hesitate. I certainly wouldn't take the Cubs, not with as inconsistent as they've been. Likely a pass, but going to dig a bit deeper before making any final calls.

Astros @ Brewers (-119) with a total of 8.5; R. Oswalt vs. C. Narveson;
Lance Berkman is 2-for-5 with a HR and 2 RBI off Narveson;
Ryan Braun is 7-for-14 with 3 HR and 6 RBI off Oswalt;
Corey Hart is 8-for-16 with a HR and 3 RBI off Oswalt since '05.
Other than Braun and Hart, Oswalt has really silenced the Brewers. Prince Fielder is batting just .147 against him, and Rickie Weeks just .105. Oswalt's career 13-8, 3.75 mark against Milwaukee is intriguing, to say the least. That being said, the man just requested a trade away from Houston, so you just have to wonder how that's going to impact the already microscopic run support his team has given him, and how it's going to effect his performance on the mound. Chris Narveson is nothing special, but it's dangerous to back a team with turmoil, and that's just what you're getting with Oswalt.

D'backs @ Rockies (-260) with a total of 9; R. Lopez vs. U. Jimenez;
Again, I'm not concerned with player numbers, here, as Jimenez is absolutely on a completely different level than any other pitcher in baseball. He's throwing 98 mph with little effort, and when he throws strikes, he's virtually unhittable. He already pitched 6 shutout innings against the D'backs this year, and that was, compared to his other work, a bad start. Lopez as a monster dog is not at all intriguing. Why? Well, Jimenez has the fastball to win at Coors Field, and most guys just don't. Pass.

Cardinals (-125) @ Padres with a total of 6.5; J. Garcia vs. K. Correia;
Matt Holliday is 7-for-23 with a HR and 6 RBI off Correia;
Albert Pujols is 3-for-9 off Correia;
Skip Schumaker is 3-for-7 with 1 RBI off Correia.
I really wanted to try to find a way to back the Padres in this one, but I'm not sure the situation is quite right. Better to play it safe, as Garcia still hasn't shown signs of regressing to the mean, and I think it's in our best interest to wait until we see a chink in his armor, and then fade away. He's not going all that deep in games, which still means this is a very winnable game for San Diego and the Padres' amazing bullpen, but with Correia struggling since his brother's death, I want no part of the turmoil. Yep, again, I suggest avoiding the situation where we'd have to handicap emotion.

Nationals @ Giants (-260) with a total of 7.5; L. Atilano vs. T. Lincecum;
The Giants have never seen Atilano, and the Nats might as well have never seen Lincecum, since, like most teams, they've struggled to score runs against The Freak. Timmy is 1-0 with a 1.77 ERA against Washington. Volume bettors might like the Washington side, but we're not in that business, and this line is too expensive to back the favorite, but the Nats just simply aren't good enough to warrant taking a shot against Tim at home. Passeroo.

American League

White Sox (-120) @ Indians with a total of 8.5; M. Buerhle vs. J. Westbrook;
Let's work off the meetings this year, once again. Both of these pitchers has faced the other team twice already this season, and both pitched well once and poorly the other time. So, what do we expect in round three? Well, Jake Westbrook isn't very good, so I would imagine he probably won't pitch that well. It's a lame form of handicapping, but Westbrook is who he is, and that's a 5-ERA, fill-in starter that's seeing more innings because he's on a terrible team. He's 8-12 lifetime against the White Sox, though the current ones don't hit him as hard as previous groups. Buerhle is almost as bad against the Indians, though the reason I like Mark in this match-up is because he's coming off a very strong start against the Marlins, and we all know how Buerhle can rattle off 24 scoreless innings in a row when he gets hot. Slight lean to Chitown's South Siders.

Rangers (-112) @ Royals with a total of 10; S. Feldman vs. L. Hochevar;
Michael Young was 3-for-3 with a HR off Hochevar before 2010;
David DeJesus is 5-for-7 with a HR and 3 RBI off Feldman before 2010.
Rematch time! You guys know how I feel about those. These starters faced off near the beginning of May, and both stunk, but Texas stunk a little less over the course of the game and prevailed. Scott Feldman somehow still has a 3.27 ERA against the Royals, but most of that success came last year. He still hasn't quite found that form, and seems to allow at least 4 runs every time out. The Royals got beat twice over the weekend by the Rockies, but in general, they're competing better, and not suffering the same type of full-time collapses that got them off to such a bad start. Hochevar, too, has made big strides this season, but remains a work in progress. Based on what I like about rematches, I have a lean to Hochevar at the eerily not-generous price.

Tigers @ Mariners (-110) with a total of 7.5; J. Bonderman vs. J. Vargas;
Chone Figgins is 5-for-11 off Bonderman;
Ichiro is 8-for-22 off Bonderman.
I'm a little taken aback by this price, so I'm going to dig further. At first glance, this seems like a heck of a deal on Vargas, one of the fine young starters on this Mariners staff. Bonderman has been pretty strong in the month of May, so I'm inclined to pass just based on his upward trend, and on the fact that the Tigers are so far ahead of the Mariners, offensively. Even without Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers have plenty of guys that can hit. The Mariners are good for about 2 runs a night most evenings (or days), then explode for 10 every once in a while. Pass.

Athletics @ Orioles (-116) with a total of 8.5; T. Cahill vs. B. Matusz;
Nick Markakis is 4-for-6 off Cahill.
This line is probably pretty fair. Cahill pitched extremely well against the Giants, but those were the Giants. He went 1-1 against the O's with a 3.46 ERA in the past, so we know he can pitch well against them, it's just a matter of will he? Matusz is coming off an horrific start against the Rangers, so now we see if he's in bounce-back form or trending down. If there was a little more value, I might be inclined to back the A's, but I don't really trust this team to beat a club that can put more than a handful of runners on base, and even though Baltimore is pretty weak, offensively, they're better than San Fran.

Blue Jays @ Angels (-141) with a total of 9; B. Morrow vs. J. Pineiro;
Fred Lewis is 3-for-8 off Pineiro;
Lyle Overbay is 4-for-5 with a HR off Pineiro;
Kendry Morales is 3-for-6 with a HR and 3 RBI off Morrow;
Torii Hunter is 3-for-4 off Morrow.
Too expensive to play the Angels here, I reckon. Pineiro is coming off one of those complete implosion outings, and it seems like most pitchers have at least 2 bad starts when they have one. Of course, Morrow is as bad as they come, this year. He's a walk machine, his ERA is still up around 7, and he's 0-2 lifetime against the Angels. I'm actually a little surprised he's still taking his turn every 5 days. I'd like to say the Over has some legs, but I have a feeling I'm not going to be the only one who thinks so, so this one is likely a pass, as well. Tougher card, today, moving through the games, here!

Red Sox @ Rays (-160) with a total of 8.5; J. Lackey vs. M. Garza;
Adrian Beltre was 3-for-10 off Garza before 2010;
Jacoby Ellsbury was 10-for-32 off Garza before 2010;
Victor Martinez was 6-for-20 off Garza before 2010;
Hank Blalock has hit .354 with 2 HR and 7 RBI off Lackey since '05;
Carlos Pena was 5-for-15 with 2 HR and 4 RBI off Lackey since '05.
There are a few more guys on Tampa with averages near .300 off Lackey, but more importantly, let's look at the start earlier this year, and career numbers. Lackey has been facing Tampa since they stunk, so his numbers against them are skewed towards the 5-6 years he faced the Rays when they couldn't win a game to save their lives. This year, Lackey gave up 8 runs to Tampa in a truly miserable start. Garza, only in the League for a couple years, is 6-2 with a 2.92 ERA against the Red Sox, including 8 shutout frames earlier this year. There's a reason oddsmakers are offering +140 on the Red Sox, and it's because they're going to lose. I lean Tampa, even at this higher price.

Yankees @ Twins (-110) with a total of 9; A. Pettitte vs. F. Liriano;
Marcus Thames is 4-for-9 with 3 HR off Liriano before 2010;
Michael Cuddyer was 4-for-9 off Pettitte with a HR since '05;
Brendan Harris is 8-for-17 off Pettitte;
Joe Mauer was 4-for-10 with a HR off Pettitte;
Justin Morneau is 4-for-10 off Pettitte before 2010.
Rematch, round two on today's card (barring, of course, I missed one). Pettitte won round one, throwing 6 shutout frames in a game the Yanks won 7-1. Liriano continues to struggle after his brilliant start to the year, now seemingly unable to stop bleeding, giving up 16 runs in May after just allowing 3 throughout the entirety of April. I love to back the loser in a rematch, but Pettitte has just been able to consistently find a way to destroy the Twins, so it's Yanks or nothing for me on this one.

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