Philadelphia (Morgan) +150 at St. Louis (Leake) O/U 7.5
Every year, the betting markets swing and miss on a handful of teams. Look back to last year and see how badly the markets reacted to Minnesota’s lucky first half run, when they went 48-34 into the All-Star Break following a 1-6 start, the single most profitable team in baseball to support during that span.
2016 is no exception. The Philadelphia Phillies can’t hit worth a lick. Their bullpen is supposed to stink (although it hasn’t). They’ve been bottom feeders in every recent season. And they’ve been outscored by 22 runs through their first 27 games; a comparable run differential with the last place Padres or the last place Twins.
And yet the Phillies are winning, just 2.5 games out of first place in the competitive NL East. These quotes tell the story of a team that is worth backing right now, before the betting markets catch up Slugger Ryan Howard: "I'm having a blast. There's a different energy and all that began in spring training." Catcher Cameron Rupp: “We're having fun out there and everything is coming together.”
Since their 0-4 start, the Phillies are 16-7. On their last two road trips, they’ve gone 6-2, cashing +160, +125, +185, +175, +125 and +120 tickets for their backers. Meanwhile, the struggling Cardinals have gone ice cold, losing five of their last six overall, while held to one run or less in each of their last three defeats. Starter Mike Leake has allowed at least four runs in each of his five outings, and the Cards are just 1-4 in those games. He’s an easy fade in this price range
Los Anegels (Wood) at Tampa Bay (Smyly) -160 O/U 7
Recommendation: Tampa Bay
The Dodgers look to sweep this two-game interleague series with host Tampa Bay tonight behind the left arm of Alex Wood. Last night the Dodgers had multiple key hits with runners in scoring position and it resulted in one of their best offensive performances of the season as 10 runs crossed the plate. Tonight they will face a tough challenge of repeating those numbers against Drew Smyly. The former Arkansas Razorback has allowed two or fewer earned runs in his last four starts while striking out 36. Overall, Smyly has issued only six walks in 34.2 innings while letting up just 18 hits. He’ll have the element of surprise in his corner with only three career innings against the Dodgers, all of which coming back in 2014. Wood has made some positive adjustments that have helped his groundball rate improve. He's at over 60% through five starts and as a result has allowed only one home run. Wood however remains fairly hittable (4.82 ERA) and seems to have frequent issues with his command mid-game (three walks in three of five starts). Also of note is Wood’s propensity to wear down. After the third inning, Wood has allowed 10 earned runs in 13 frames this season. Price is on the rise but for good reason; Tampa the prefered side in this matchup.
We love stories like this. New Zealand was heavy favorites to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup but lost to host South Africa in the finals. It was such a monumental upset, they made a movie about it. For whatever reason, news has surfaced that a betting syndicate poisoned New Zealand prior to the match.
"As a police officer, I know what I saw. The proof is what my eyes showed me with players lying all over the place and doctors administrating whatever medication they could.
"The fact of the matter is the All Blacks were the overwhelming favourites to win that final and I think somebody needed to equalise the odds, that's why they got at the team."
Tuesday's Sportsmemo Podcast featured Sportsmemo Handicappers Alex B. Smith and Teddy Covers. Ian broke down all three NHL playoff matchups while Teddy and host Andrew Lange discussed tonight's MLB and NBA games.
Tampa Bay at NY Islanders -110 O/U 5
Recommendation: New York
The New York Islanders head back home to Brooklyn for Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Isles picked up a 5-3 road win in Game 1, chasing Lightning goalie Ben Bishop out of the contest as he allowed four goals on just 13 shots. Tampa rallied back to win Game 2 by a score of 4-1. Both contests have been very physical at both ends of the ice and the Islanders have done well to draw penalties and score on the power play this postseason. New York has scored at least one goal on the man-advantage in both games of this series and in five of its last six games overall. They’ve also gone 12-6 in their last 18 games at the Barclays Center and have won five of their last eight games overall while Tampa Bay has lost eight of their last nine road meetings against the Isles and four of their last six games overall as a visitor. The Lightning went off around -160 series favorites but it’s clear this is a far more even matchup. To get the Islanders at a pick ‘em on their home ice offers solid betting value.
Another article on the theory that MLB has juiced the ball. Home runs an the exit speed off of hitters' bats are way up. It hasn't however impacted totals as league-wide they sit nearly 50-50 over/under.
With 11.8 percent of fly balls leaving the yard in the season’s first month, it marked the highest April rate since the league started tracking the data in 2002.
“I couldn't find anything to describe that amount of HR/offensive change, as far as weather, strike zone, where pitchers were pitching, etc.,” he wrote in an email this week. “I suspected that they changed something with the balls after the All-Star break last year as nothing else in the data could explain it.”
Pegged to be an up-and-coming star, New York's Luis Severino has struggled mightily this season. Reports have hinted that his mechanics may be off and that there's not enough separation between his fastball -- which averaged nearly 96 mph -- and his change up. He's no doubt been a bit unlucky with a .417 BABIP and 62% LOB rate. But his line drive and hard hit rates currently sit above 30%. If he struggles again against Baltimore tonight, there's a good chance he gets demoted.
“You want to have separation between your pitches,” Girardi said. “When pitchers are too close in velocity in their pitches, that’s why you see so many foul balls, because they’re not as fooled as much as they need to be fooled from a speed standpoint.”
As expected, Leicester City's EPL win cost the sportsbooks a ton. It was reported to be north of $11 million. Everyone loves seeing a longshot cash though bookies will probably be a little more reluctant to offer 5000-1 futures moving forward.
Philadelphia (Hellickson) at St. Louis (Wainwright) -170 O/U 7.5
Not sold on Jeremy Hellickson who did have a good April posting a 1.19 WHIP and a pair of quality starts. The hesitancy toward backing him is that we’ve seen enough of his career to know exactly what he brings to the table and his early 2016 results are a bit better than what can be expected of him. That being said, even less inclined to back Adam Wainwright who has been abysmal thus far and looks to be in the mold of older veteran starter whose best days are behind him and now needs to re-invent himself. His 7.16 ERA through five starts isn’t a skewed number; he has been hit in every outing and has not recorded a game ERA lower than 4.50. Four of his five game WHIP results have been 1.50 or higher and he’s allowed 71 total bases including walks in only 27.2 innings. The St. Louis offense which currently ranks among the best in MLB has certainly come to the aid of Wainwright more often than not this season scoring eight or more runs in three of his five starts. Their MLB leading .845 OPS against RH pitching gives them a strong likelihood of supporting Wainwright with a lot of runs again here tonight. St. Louis’ 30 home runs off righties also ranks tops in the league and their 121 runs scored are second. Of the 25 hits Hellickson has given up this season, 15 have been either doubles or dingers which makes this a good matchup for the Cards bats. Philadelphia’s struggling offense may like what they see here too facing Wainwright who has a .326 BAA vs. LH hitters and .328 BAA vs. RH hitters. There is no fatigue factor for either bullpen tonight but by the time they get involved, this game could already be casged. Plenty of indicators suggesting this game will exceed 7.5 runs and maybe even land in double-digits.
Over the past decade, the NFL betting marketplace has evolved into a year round process. The very first Super Bowl odds for 2017 came out before the Broncos beat the Panthers in the Super Bowl this past February. CG Technology posted lines for every NFL game through the first 16 weeks of the season prior to the draft. Week 1 regular season lines are widely available right now. And the NFL Season Win Total marketplace, while still a long way from maturity, has seen a handful of key shops, like the Westgate Superbook, post virgin numbers in recent days.
My process for handicapping the upcoming NFL season begins immediately after the draft. This is the time of year to focus on those aforementioned season win totals. My NFL prep work begins each spring with a thorough look back at last year’s results.
Why look back, you ask? The answer, of course, is simple – because that’s where I find my very first edges when approaching the upcoming season. If my base power rating heading into the offseason wasn’t wholly accurate, it results in inaccurate adjustments moving forward. Part 1 of my process begins with a thorough examination of the schedules all 32 NFL teams played last year, looking for outliers.
I’m looking to identify teams that were better than their final records would indicate, because they faced an extremely tough slate. And I’m looking for teams that were weaker than their final records would indicate because they faced an extremely easy slate. But unlike most schedule based analysis, I’m taking my time to review every game that was played through the first 16 weeks of the 2015 campaign (discounting Week 17 results due to extreme randomness).
The widely available information that helps set the markets start with last year’s results as their base point. But they don’t do it thoroughly. The conventional models simply add up the combined records of every opponent a team faced to come up with their final strength of schedule for 2015 and to create the SOS for the upcoming 2016 campaign. I’ll focus on last year’s SOS this week, and move to the 2016 SOS in Part 2 of this article next week. Creating numbers that are more accurate than the broader market for BOTH seasons are instrumental in what I’m trying to accomplish.
The aggregate numbers for last year’s strength of schedule -- the starting point for any analysis of the upcoming 2016 campaign -- can be extremely misleading. A team’s final win-loss record tells us nothing about how good they actually were at the time the game was played. There were some enormous in-season power rating shifts last year, just as there are every year. Here are some key examples off the top of my head:
Did you play the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was hurt and Landry Jones was behind center, or did you get the full strength Pittsburgh squad? Did you get Dallas with a healthy Tony Romo or a healthy Brandon Weeden behind center? Did you get Atlanta when they were red hot to open the season going 6-1 or did you get the Falcons when they were in free fall, losing six straight. Did you get the Colts with a healthy Andrew Luck or the Colts when Luck was out and Indy was hopeless? Did you get the Chiefs early, when they were 1-5 and their confidence was shot, or did you get them when they were the hottest team in the NFL this side of Carolina over the second half of the season? Did you face the Ravens early, or did you get them down the stretch when half the roster was on IR? What about the Redskins – did you face them when they were off to a slow start, or when they were red hot down the stretch? Did you get Cinci with a healthy Andy Dalton or with AJ McCarron at QB?
I could go on and on but you get my point – when you played a team is every bit as important as who you played! Yet the markets devalue that concept entirely for at least two reasons – the analytics are time consuming and they require human judgement. There’s no algorhythm that will spit out accurate numbers based on judgement calls, and my process is all about making judgement calls (with some hard numbers thrown in to ensure some semblance of accuracy).
The mainstream numbers are very clear, based on the final records for every team in 2015. Those standard models will tell you that the Dolphins, Jets, Jaguars, Redskins, Panthers and Titans played the six easiest schedules in the league last year, while the Lions, Bears, Packers, Seahawks, Rams and 49ers played the six toughest slates.
So here’s what I do. I go back to my 2015 spread sheet that details my power rating numbers on a weekly basis from last year. Then I go through the schedule, using my numbers for every squad on the week the game was played. Using that formula, you’ll get some significantly different results than the ones I listed above.
I also discount Week 17 results. Some teams had quit on their coach and their season, other teams were resting starters and other teams were playing their guts out to try to reach the postseason. Power rating models for the final week of the regular season are inherently flawed – that’s why we see enormous line moves that week every single year.
So what does my initial schedule analysis from last year show in relation to this season? My seven toughest slates for 2015 were Cleveland, Buffalo, Dallas, Washington, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants and San Francisco. Yet when you look at the Redskins aggregate numbers from last year, you’ll see the standard formula’s show that they faced one of the easiest schedules in the NFL! Therefore, you already know that I’m going to have a different perception of Washington compared to the broader markets heading into the new campaign. In addition, none of the NFC North teams that had very tough slates by standard metrics were tough schedules by my metrics; teams that could be slightly overvalued as a result.
On the easy side, my numbers show that Arizona, Carolina, Jacksonville, KC, Tampa Bay and Miami faced the very easiest slates in 2015, while the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens also faced much easier than average slates. All of these teams should grade out a notch or two lower than their records would indicate.
The Arizona numbers, in particular, shocked me – I did not expect to see Bruce Arians squad as the team that faced the single weakest slate of opponents in the entire NFL last year. In 2015, my clients and I cashed a winning bet supporting the Cardinals Over 8.5 wins. In 2016, based on this metric alone, I’ll be betting Arizona Under their win total or passing.
Next week I’ll finish the thought process, writing about the next step -- identifying accurate strength of schedule numbers for the upcoming 2016 campaign.
Article on this year's Kentucky Derby favorite, Nyquist, who is unbeaten in seven starts. He's currently around +300 to win.
“Nyquist had a really good morning,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He just had an easy jog day today, nothing major. He looked good. Jonny said he felt great. He cooled out great. He seems happy, so we’re happy.
“He’s a little bit more in control. He can be strong. We’ve just learned that with him, it is one day jog, one day gallop. He’ll gallop here Tuesday, so we’ll see.”
It's early but there has been some serious "under" baseball being played in the American League thus far. Combined, the AL is 146-196-26 O/U. That comes out to around 57% unders. Only three teams (Boston, Detroit, and Houston) have trended towards the over.
Kansas City: 5-17-2
Tampa Bay: 5-16-3
Los Angeles: 8-15-2
New York: 9-11-3
Check out the differences in leagues offensively and defensively:
American League Offense Runs Per Game: 3.92
Batting Average: .246
On-Base Pct: .312
Slugging Pct: .398
National League Offense Runs Per Game: 4.44
Batting Average: .252
On-Base Pct: .324
American League Pitching ERA: 3.77
Batting Average Against: .246
National League Pitching ERA: 4.17
Batting Average Against: .251
Friday's Sportsmemo Podcast featured Sportsmemo Handicappers Ian Cameron and Erin Rynning. Ian broke down Friday and Saturday's NHL playoff matchups while ER and host Andrew Lange discussed tonight's NBA and MLB games.
Washington (Strasburg) -135 at St. Louis (Leake) O/U 7.5
It’s not hard to make a case for betting against Mike Leake in a matchup against Stephen Strasburg, a true starting pitching mismatch. Leake’s walk rate is at a career high through his first four starts, and his ground ball rate is at a career low, a bad combination for a pitcher that doesn’t record strikeouts in bunches. He’s given up at least four runs in each of his first four starts of the season, and the only game St Louis was able to win with him on the hill came in a game where they scored eight runs.
I’m not anticipating that type of offensive outburst from the Cardinals tonight against one of Washington’s aces, Stephen Strasburg. The Nats are 4-0 with Strasburg on the hill this year. He’s lasted into the eighth inning in each of his last three starts, with a 27-4 strikeout to walk ratio during that span. Dusty Baker’s bullpen behind Strasburg is an elite unit even after taking a rare loss last night, ranked #3 in MLB in bullpen ERA.
Washington is hungry off an ugly home sweep by the Phillies during the week; shut out in each of their last two games. First baseman Ryan Zimmerman following last night’s tough loss, talking about this road trip: “We enjoy the challenge. We get to see what we are really made of. We go out and play three really good teams. I think the guys in (the) locker room are excited for it." Chalk worth laying!
So, this Oakland to Las Vegas thing has legs. Raiders owner Mark Davis is willing to pony up a half billion dollars to make it happen. And Roger Goodell is apparently leaving the decision in the hands of the owners.
"All of us have evolved a little bit on gambling. To me, where I cross the line is anything that can impact on the integrity of the game. If people think it is something that can influence the outcome of a game, we are absolutely opposed to that."
The NFL has long shunned Las Vegas, refusing its TV ads and telling players not to make appearances at casinos. But Davis said he believes owners will approve the move if the stadium is built.
“If we give them an offer they can’t refuse and that’s what we’re talking about now, I don’t see a problem,” Davis said.
We don't often talk about strength of schedule when it comes to MLB but here's an interesting take on the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The Nationals are off to a 14-7 start -- 14-4 prior to losing three straight to the Phillies. Check out who they've played: Atlanta (6 games), Philadephia (6 games), Miami (6 games), and Minnesota (3 games). The Nats' schedule is about to get significantly tougher with a 10-game road swing against St. Louis, Kansas City, and the Chicago Cubs. The Braves are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. They've faced Washington (6 games), St. Louis (3 games), Miami (3 games), the Los Angeles Dodgers (3 games) and Boston (4 games). This doesn’t change the fact that the Nationals are legitimate contenders in the NL East and the Braves are the worst team in baseball. But both teams’ schedules have played a role in the somewhat extreme results.
The Australian Government just placed a ban on live in-game sports betting via the internet which reportedly accounts for around 15% of its market.
“I think it’s a win for the lazy, traditional monopoly wagering operators in Australia who are more interested in protecting their monopoly than giving consumers what they want. It is a sad day for Australian consumers and I think the big winners today are the illegal offshore operators who will be able to continue to operate uninhibited.”
"I think it's been a very competitive market and in competitive markets boundaries can be stretched," Mr Attenborough told Fairfax Media. "I think its good to see the government actually providing clarity on where those boundaries will be set going forward. And what's important in competitive markets is you need to have clear boundaries so all players can operate within those boundaries."
Miami (Fernandez) at Los Angeles (Maeda) -125 O/U 6.5
We have two impressive starters on the mound here with Jose Fernandez for Miami and Kenta Maeda for Los Angeles. Fernandez hasn’t been at his absolute best in April but we know he has the stuff to be a dominant starter. This should be a good matchup for him considering the Dodgers haven't faced him in two years and in three career starts, he held LA to six earned runs as the Marlins won all three games. Kenta Maeda has been dominant, allowing just one run in 25.1 innings of work through his first four starts. Not only are the stats impressive, but when you watch Maeda throw, he induces a lot of weak contact and swings and misses which speaks to the high level of his stuff. Miami has a very erratic lineup which can be productive in certain games and feeble in others and it’s worth noting they have been weaker against right-handed starters this season which should lead to another potential strong outing from Maeda. I saw plenty of feeble at-bats last night from these two teams despite facing a couple of hittable pitchers in Justin Nicolino and the aging, declining Scott Kazmir. It is hard to envision runs in bunches tonight with two better starters on the mound tonight. The total is obviously adjusted for the quality of both starters but I still feel there is enough of a cushion to play it under the total.
We thought we were in rarified territory earlier this week when Clayton Kershaw was laying -310 against Miami. Note that the Dodgers lost that game snapping a streak of 12 straight wins by favorite of -300 or more. Today, a few sportsbooks are dealing -400 on Jake Arrieta and the Cubs as they take on the Brewers. You have to go back to 2008 to find the last -400 fav -- ironically it was the Cubs and Rich Harden (?!) against Washington’s Jason Bergmann. Over the last two years, the Cubs are 29-8 +17.7 units with Arrieta on the hill. Of course we've come a long ways value-wise from Arrieta's -110 home price tag against Lance Lynn and the Cardinals to open last season.