Wednesday, June 02, 2010

NBA Finals Tip-Off Party

First off, thanks to those who joined me on my MLB Game of the Week yesterday! It wasn't an easy game on which to pull the trigger given the Brewers issues all over the diamond, but they came through last night with 7 sweet runs on offense, and another studly performance from Yovani Gallardo. The only thing that didn't go perfectly according to plan was that it took Milwaukee until later in the game than I expected to start hitting, but tough to find fault with that small nuance.

Overall, a nice winner on the 2* Paid Play, loser on the Free Play for a cool profitable day!

Unfortunately, as noted, a sweep was yanked from our clutches when the Blue Jays gave up SIX runs in the 9th inning, and saw a 2-1 lead, and 8.1 innings of solid baseball turn into an ugly defeat. So close, and yet, so very, very far. But again, if we can continue to take leads into the 9th inning on most plays, we're going to be just fine.

Now, on to the important stuff. The Finals are HERE! Oh, and so are a few great values on the MLB card! I love short betting cards, sometimes.

Sports Wagering: NBA

Celtics @ Lakers - Los Angeles by 5.5 with a total of 194. First thing's first - over the last week, the side hasn't budged from the opening number, but the total has come down to, roughly, 192 across the board. You could probably argue some of that money that moved the total was sharp, but you might also want to be careful, considering there's a reason it stopped moving violently at 192, and that's because folks want to see where the big chunks of public cash end up, and that can be a guessing game when you've got two ultra high-profile teams like these, and two teams with wildly different styles of play. So, you've got a ton of public money on both sides, and those that like the Lakers probably like the Over, and those that like Boston probably like the Under. Well, I'll try to be as up-front as I can, here, though with only one NBA game, trying to hide any play I might make is basically impossible. So, I'll offer a few thoughts from a few different schools of cappology. First, the line: the complete lack of movement in the side doesn't tell us a whole lot - I suppose it's fair to say that since Boston was generally a 7 point underdog to open their other series on the road, the 1.5-point line adjustment down for this opener is a marker of the respect Boston is beginning to garner. Though, as you may also recall, Boston was just a 4.5-point dog in their last road game, when no one thought Orlando could do anything. This one falls right in between, sort of the oddsmakers way of saying that they still think the Lakers are the slightly better team, but that Boston isn't as bad as they listed 4 weeks ago. From a line perspective, the question is really whether the fact that each game this year was decided by a single point means that getting 5.5 is a colossal gift or if the Lakers would have beat Boston by a handful if Kobe plays in that meeting in LA. From a situational standpoint, the signs point largely to LA. Andrew Bynum had his knee drained, so the Lakers post edge should be a bit better, though he'll get worse as the series wears on, and Boston, a team that probably needed a couple days to rest up, may have gotten too much time and lost a little momenum. But more than all that rest stuff is the impact of the media. I've really done my part to watch as much TV as humanly possible, not just this week but in general, and all I've seen all week long is how the Celtics are tougher, smarter, and playing better team basketball, and you know that all those bettors teetering on the fence are getting pulled towards the Boston side. Situational angles favor value on the Lakers side. And finally, matchups. I watched Tim Legler claim that Boston has a match-up edge in the starters, the reserves, and in the coaching department. Uh. That's called overreacting. The Celtics are a damn good team, but to claim that they have a tangible edge over the Lakers in every key aspect, well, now that's just nuts. Boston has a huge edge at point guard, but we've seen the types of shots that Fisher can hit in big games; Kobe is going to turn Ray Allen into his rag doll; Ron Artest and Paul Pierce is going to be statistically dominated by Pierce, but if Artest can make him work, that's all the Lakers want; Pau Gasol is a better all-around player at this point in his career than Kevin Garnett, and Bynum is a better all-around player than Perkins. I'm not really sure where this monstrous edge in starters comes from. I'm trying to give Legler the benefit of the doubt, and assume he's putting extra weight on 1-on-1 defense, but the Lakers are vastly underrated on the defensive end, as well. I happen to think the Lakers have the edge in starters, though it's definitely close. The bench battle should be a good one. The Lakers have the single best bench player in Lamar Odom, though the Celtics probably have the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best in Big Baby, Rasheed, and maybe Tony Allen, though I'm not sure Allen is any better than, say, Shannon Brown. I think the Celtics bench had nice match-ups against the Magic, with Rasheed pulling Dwight Howard away from the basket and Glen Davis muscling up on Rashard Lewis, or others, but I happen to think that someone like, say, Gasol or Odom, won't really mind coming away from the hoop as much as Howard or Gortat did. Maybe a tiny edge to Boston, but this is far closer than ESPN seems to think, as well. And from a match-up standpoint, all of that takes a back seat to the Lakers strong play at home and the Celtics strong play, regardless of venue. I'm very curious to see how Boston plays in LA in game one. I'm not going to give out distinct leans on this game, but I will say that I strongly believe this series goes 6 or 7 games, and I also think the Lakers have a pronounced tendency to play to the style of their competition, but still retain the ability to win. Will they cover? Will the opening quarter be fast paced? Let's play a game!

Sports Wagering: MLB

National League

Nationals (-120) @ Astros with a total of 9; J. Martin vs. B. Moehler;
Wil Nieves is 3-for-3 off Moehler;
Ryan Zimmerman is 6-for-12 off Moehler.
In my humble opinion, Brian Moehler is in that rare class of pitchers that are Pre-season Nominees for Worst Starter in Baseball. He's an even 3-3 with a 4.44 ERA against the Nats in his career, but is coming off a start against the Reds where he allowed 8 runs in less than 3 innings. J.D. Martin can be awful, and can be good, but I'm not comfortable laying -120 chalk on the road with just about anyone on the Nats staff. Let's wait and back the Nats against a team where we can get some dog prices, not an Astros team that just waits until you fade them to jump up and score 5.
Leans: None

Brewers @ Marlins (-240) with a total of 8; C. Capuano vs. J. Johnson;
Prince Fielder is 3-for-10 off Johnson;
Jorge Cantu is 3-for-4 off Capuano since '05;
Ronny Paulino is 5-for-15 with 4 RBI off Capuano.
There's no real value here. I don't think anyone should be playing home run lines, and even though Johnson is on a vicious roll, laying this type of chalk against something of a question mark in Capuano is a dangerous play. Not to mention Johnson's career ERA against Milwaukee is actually higher than Capuano's career ERA against Florida (3.55 vs. 2.85). Amazing, I know. Capuano is 3-1 in his career against the Fish, so this is a good spot to deploy him, maybe with a tiny bit of confidence. Heaven knows he'll probably get lit up for 7 runs, but I still don't much care for this line or this match-up.
Leans: None

Braves @ Dodgers (-135) with a total of 8; K. Medlen vs. H. Kuroda;
Not a great deal of data to work with. Medlen is 1-0 with a 2.35 career ERA against the Dodgers, but that was before he moved into the starting rotation. Now, since becoming a starter, Medlen has excelled. His team has won 3 of his 4 starts, and he's been teetering on quality start in just about all of his efforts. That being said, both pitchers are trending down in this meeting. Medlen gave up 3 runs his last time out for the first time, and it seems like Medlen is playing with fire a little bit, allowing quite a few hits in each appearance. Kuroda is coming off his worst start of the year, getting clubbed in Colorado, but of course, those that follow the Dodgers know of Kuroda's distaste for the Rockies. He's a better pitcher than that, and I expect him to battle like the dickens against the Braves, a team against whom Kuroda is 1-1 with a 1.20 ERA. Two hot teams going head to head with some red flags around the starters? I'd normally say "no thanks", but the Dodgers complete lack of offense in that series with Arizona is the biggest reason for concern. They got the sweep, which means folks think they're hotter than they are, so there might actually be a tiny bit of value with the hotter-than-you Atlanta Braves.
Leans: Braves-3

American League

Orioles @ Yankees (-320) with a total of 9; K. Millwood vs. C. Sabathia;
Adam Jones was 4-for-9 off Sabathia before 2010;
Ty Wigginton was 7-for-19 with 1 HR off Sabathia before 2010;
Robinson Cano was 6-for-18 with a HR and 3 RBI off Millwood between '05 and '09;
Derek Jeter was 6-for-18 off Millwood between '05 and '09;
Alex Rodriguez was 6-for-18 with a HR and 2 RBI off Millwood between '05 and '09;
Nick Swisher was 10-for-29 with 3 HR and 7 RBI off Millwood between '05 and '09.
Millwood faced the Yanks once this year and allowed 2 runs in 5.1 innings, definitely one of his shorter outings, and amazingly, a game the Orioles went on to win. Sabathia is a different opponent than Phil Hughes. Normally, that's a good thing for underdog backers, but not against the O's. Sabathia is 11-1 against Baltimore in his career with a 2.52 ERA, including leading the Yanks to 2 wins against them this season, already. The O's have scored 4 runs in almost 16 innings off C.C. this year, but this team is a mess. Of course, I made a promise to put a 1/4-unit on underdogs when the favorite is up over 300, so we'll do that here, but I'm not happy about it.
Leans: None

Indians @ Tigers (-200) with a total of 9.5; D. Huff vs. R. Porcello;
Travis Hafner is 3-for-9 with a HR and 2 RBI off Porcello;
Jhonny Peralta is 3-for-8 with 2 RBI off Porcello.
This is another miserably large line when, in my opinion, the pitching match-up doesn't really warrant it. Porcello has simply not been very good this year, though he does appear to be improving. And while Huff's 2-6 record and season ERA of 5.54 are pretty ugly, he's 0-1 with a 1.50 ERA against Detroit. This one is just an ugly game, altogether. The Tigers have been slumping, so why the huge line? Porcello is 4-0 with a 2.10 ERA against Cleveland in his career so far, so maybe that's playing a role. Still, there's nothing good, here, other than potentially looking at the Under, since this number is pretty high, presumably because of the starters' ERA's floating in the mid-5's.
Leans: Under-2

Athletics @ Red Sox (-130) with a total of 9; B. Anderson vs. T. Wakefield;
Jack Cust is 6-for-14 off Wakefield with 3 RBI;
Kurt Suzuki is 4-for-12 off Wakefield;
Mike Lowell is 2-for-4 with 2 HR and 5 RBI off Anderson.
Brett Anderson loves stomping on Red Sox, and the ultra-low line here is a very strong indicator that we're not the only ones that know it. Wakefield had a great start in Philadelphia, but otherwise he's been pretty bad this year, posting a 1-3 record and 5.68 ERA. He's 5-4 in his career against Oakland, but hasn't seen much of most of the young guys on this A's club. One interesting note is that Rajai Davis leads the league in stolen bases, and if he gets on against a knuckleballer, see ya later. I really think the A's should almost be favored in this one, if the Red Sox weren't so solid at using the advantages of their home ballpark. In any case, Wakefield's rough year, Anderson's 2-1, 2.05 career mark against the BoSox, and the early game time all point towards less of a home field advantage and a good chance for Oakland to nab one in Boston.
Leans: Athletics-4

Angels @ Royals (-120) with a total of 7.5; J. Weaver vs. Z. Greinke;
Erick Aybar is 5-for-11 off Greinke;
Reggie Willits is 4-for-5 off Greinke;
Jose Guillen is 8-for-18 with 4 RBI off Weaver.
Interestingly, both starters have ERA's in the low 3's, and both starters have a higher career ERA against this opponent than season ERA for 2010. Weaver is 3-4 with a 3.35 lifetime mark against the Royals, and Greinke, not surprisingly, has a losing record against the Angels (comes with the territory in Kansas City), but his ERA against LA is up near 4. I'd look at the Over for two decent-hitting teams, but something about the afternoon time, potential reserves in the lineup, and the possibility that both teams just want to get to the evening so they can either fly somewhere or relax with a beer. I think you could argue Weaver is having the better season just from a pure consistency standpoint, and I can't help but think we're getting a half-decent deal on the (potentially) better starter.
Leans: Angels-3

Rangers (-125) @ White Sox with a total of 9; C. Lewis vs. F. Garcia;
What's that? You want to try to break this one down without player notes? Sure thing! But in all seriousness, the current Rangers haven't seen much of Garcia, and no one has seen much of Lewis, so we'll go off pitching and hitting trends. Freddy Garcia is coming off a nice start against the Rays, and he's been just about serviceable in most of his starts this year. He's 6-5 lifetime against the Rangers, but those stats were compiled back in the "old days" before he bounced around and disappeared, and now resurfaced. Lewis has been good most of the year, though his strikeouts are going down in every start, and that's a reason for concern. If you're going to walk 2-4 batters every start, you need to be able to escape jams, too. I don't like either starter here, and I don't really like how either team is playing ball. The only reason this one isn't a non-lean is because there's some dog value with Garcia.
Leans: White Sox-1

Twins @ Mariners (-135) with a total of 7; C. Pavano vs. F. Hernandez;
Joe Mauer is 10-for-19 with 2 HR and 6 RBI off Hernandez;
Jim Thome is 6-for-10 with 3 HR and 6 RBI off Hernandez;
Chone Figgins is 4-for-8 off Pavano.
Carl Pavano's career is back on track, I think it's safe to say. If he gets hurt tonight, he can blame me. Still, he's had 2 bad starts this year, and every other effort has been more than enough to either get his team a win or keep them in the game. He's only given up more than 2 earned runs once in all those other starts, and he consistently goes near 7 innings every time out. The Mariners are hitting the ball a tiny bit better, but Pavano would seem to be the kind of pitcher that can succeed up at Safeco. Also, King Felix, despite the 3.50 ERA (which appears pretty decent) has been something of a bad sign for the Mariners this year. They've lost his last 7 straight starts - not good. You can see that Joe Mauer and Jim Thome have hit him hard, but he is 3-3 with a 2.77 ERA lifetime against the Twins, so this one might be pretty evenly matched. Gun to my head, I think Minnesota is a nice value, but this cheap price isn't going to happen many times with Felix at home.
Leans: Twins-2

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