Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 7/30/14

It might not happen today, but it’s now a virtual certainty that Jon Lester’s next start will be his first for any big league team not named the Red Sox. Lester is now the big fish on the block. That’s not to diminish fellow southpaws David Price and Cole Hamels in any way, as all these guys are top shelf pitchers. But there’s serious doubt as to whether the contending Rays will part with Price right now. As for Hamels, if the reports on the asking price from the Dodgers are accurate (Pederson, Urias and Seager), then Ruben Amaro is off his rocker. That might indicate Hamels stays put even though the Phillies are in desperate need of an overhaul.

So let’s focus on Lester and where he might land. From what I can gather there are eight teams that have a genuine interest in obtaining the star lefty. They are, in no particular order: Blue Jays, Orioles, Dodgers, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Marlins and Mariners.

I’ll look at each team and try and come up with my best guess as to the winner of the Lester sweepstakes.  The Blue Jays and Orioles would only be considerations if Boston feels confident that neither of those teams would be able to sign him long term. There’s little doubt in my mind that there’s no way the Red Sox deal him within the division otherwise. I’m not seeing the Brewers as a destination, mostly because I don’t see them dealing Jimmy Nelson and I’m not sure there’s anyone else in their system the Red Sox would take as an alternative. The Marlins are supposedly interested, but I’m skeptical they’d actually make a daring trade to add salary, even short term, because they’re the Marlins. So I’ll toss these four teams out as the long shots.

The Pirates are interesting, as they have a wealth of minor league talent and can therefore afford to gamble. I’m not sure Boston would accept a player still 2-3 years away, so the Bucs might have to part with someone like Alen Hanson. I don’t think the Cardinals would give up Oscar Taveras, but they might be willing to deal someone like Stephen Piscotty, who profiles as, if not a star, a solid everyday OF. Seattle might offer Brad Miller, who in spite of losing his starting SS role, remains a good prospect, and could be packaged with another player. I would think DJ Peterson might also be the type of player the Red Sox would accept if it’s one for one.

Then there’s the Dodgers, who I feel have to at least be the favorite. They’ve got prospects and money. That means they can afford to lose a potential future star and they can also feel confident that Lester would not simply be a rental, but someone they can sign long term. The most likely minor leaguer on the move would, at least in my view, be Joc Pederson. I don’t see LA trading Julio Urias under any conditions. I also think Corey Seager is close to untouchable. Pederson is a top 20 prospect but I don’t think his ceiling is as high as either Urias or Seager. However, he’s definitely good enough to tempt the Red Sox. Moreover, if Boston thinks they can score Pederson and also have a good chance to get Lester back in free agency, this deal would be a virtual no-brainer for them.

This is all conjecture, of course. I don’t have any inside knowledge of the names that are being brought up by any of the teams. But Lester is clearly going someplace, and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

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Tuesday was as sweet as it gets, with a 5-0 sweep and a net gain of roughly +4.3 units. The reason it’s not 5 plus net is that I split one unit on the Padres and Under, so gained just a half unit on each of those plays. Following the unpleasant May, the last two months have been outstanding, and I’m pretty pleased at the moment. Nevertheless, I missed the boat on the White Sox yesterday, which simply should have been played at the price, which was too high. But I’ll avoid complaining and save the beefs for the nights when I have to pull money out of the cash register rather than enjoying making the deposit.

Two more days on the two months for the price of one special. Very simple, buy the one month and I include a second at no cost. So subscribers will be in through the end of September. All plays included, and they’re sent when I play them myself. All the sports I analyze are included, so this is for baseball as well as college and the NFL. No extra fees for supposedly higher levels and total confidentiality as I don’t swap names or info with anyone. Sign up using the “buy now” tab on this page, or shoot me an email at cokin@cox.net.

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The Marlins free play worked out nicely as the bad luck for Stephen Strasburg continued. I thought this was toast early, as Henderson Alvarez was lacking command at the outset. But the Nats blew a bases loaded, none out second inning and from that point on, I had to feel good about my chances. Nice dog payoff there, and an even larger pup is the comp tonight.

07/30 05:10 PM  MLB  (977) MINNESOTA TWINS  at  (978) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Take: (977) MINNESOTA TWINS +140

At the outset, let’s be clear that there’s risk here as Phil Hughes has tailed off considerably of late for the Twins. But even though his overall performances have declined, it’s important to note that he’s still not getting burned by the gopher ball, which was a true waterloo for Hughes when he was wearing pinstripes. He’s also still maintaining good control, so he isn’t beating himself with walks. In fact, while the eye test says Hughes hasn’t been sharp lately, there’s also been some lousy BABIP luck as a contributing factor.

Of course, even  if I give more weight to the analytics and deem this as ill fortune, I still prefer to wait for the turnaround to occur before jumping in. But there’s a second side involved here called the Royals, and that’s where this play becomes more enticing to me.

No knocks on Danny Duffy, who has been outstanding for KC but just can’t catch a good break. Welcome to life on the Royals, who have given Duffy precious little run support all season. I don’t think there’s much question that the team knowing they haven’t produced for Duffy makes then press every time he takes the mound, thus the continuing issue with offense gets maintained and perhaps even intensifies. Duffy is the best 5-10 pitcher in the majors. But he’s still 5-10.

Aside from the starting pitchers, this is pretty close. The Twins have actually hit lefties well on the road, something they certainly haven’t done at Target. The Minnesota bullpen is acceptable, but is clearly second best here as the Royals have three pretty much shut down guys for the late innings.

Make no mistake, Kansas City deserves the favorite’s role here. But I can’t justify them liviing in that high rent -150 neighborhood. I made this number Royals -125, so it appears to me as though there’s considerable value on the underdog side. I’ll select the Twins here, and remember to check my Twitter feed during the day to see if this makes my final card.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 7/29/14

Update: Looks like the only Inspector Clouseau here is me. I misread the score in the Nationals game, It was not 6-2 going into the ninth inning, but rather 6-3. Apologies to all, including Matt Williams. My mistake all the way.

It happened again on Monday night. The dreaded bring the closer in with a big lead for a non-save in the ninth inning ploy. By the way, that phrase should be verbalized with a bad French accent, a la Inspector Clouseau (only the Peter Sellers version, of course). That’s because if Clouseau were to be on a case masquerading as a major league manager, it’s undoubtedly a move he would make.

I understand there are times when a manager needs to get his closer some work and thus he is forced too use him for an inning in a non-save situation. Obviously, I’m not including ninth inning appearances in tie games, which while not technically a save situation, is one in reality. I’m only referring to games where the lead is more than three runs, and is therefore not a save situation in any way, shape or form. Again, if the closer hasn’t worked in a few days, no problem, as no manager wants his save specialist getting rusty just sitting around.

But Rafael Soriano wasn’t being used to prevent rust last night as the Nationals took on the Marlins. He’d worked two of the three previous three games, so in fact not having to use him with a 6-2 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth was the preferred outcome. Or at least it should have been. I get that with a four-run lead he might need to be ready if there’s a rally, and skippers aren’t crazy about warming up closers if they’re not going to use them. Nevertheless, I’d have to say that perhaps not having to use the closer for a third time in four games is better.

Unfortunately for the Nationals, manager Matt Williams opted to bring in Soriano with the 6-2 lead. As so often happens in this type of situation, the shutdown mentality that exists in an actual save situation wasn’t there for Soriano. Closers get used to coming in with the game on the line. They have a tendency to lose their edge when appearing in what amounts to a lopsided game. That’s precisely what took place here, and when the dust settled the Marlins had a monster rally and a thrilling 7-6 win.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling this the worst managerial move of the century. Ultimately, the blame falls on Soriano, who made some bad pitches and ended up blowing the game. But it’s nevertheless a maneuver that to me, sets the closer up to fail, and in this case that’s what happened. Hopefully, Williams learns from this experience and perhaps doesn’t make this move the next time it arises. But if he does, it might be time for him to exchange that Nationals uniform for a Clouseau model trench coat.

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1-1 for me on Monday, but a nice profit thanks the Pirates connecting as a generously priced dog. Just missed on the other play as the Brewers dropped a tough 2-1 decision to the red hot Rays. No complaints with gaining nearly a half unit on a 50/50 night though!

Just three more days left to cash in on the two months for one special. It’s every play from now through the end of September, and that’s all sports, not just baseball. So plenty of action, an expectation of some nice profits and a solid savings off the regular rate. Subscribe by utilizing the “buy now” feature that’s on this page, or shoot an email to me directly at cokin@cox.net for more info or with any questions.

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The Brewers missed as the free play and my guess is that the Milwaukee players might feel home plate ump Balkin’ Bob Davidson had plenty to do with the result. Let’s just say his strike zone perspective is unique, and it sure looked like he squeezed Kyle Lohse badly in what turned out to be the pivotal sixth inning. But at the same time, the Brewers did nothing on offense in this game, so it can’t really qualify as a tough beat, just a close one.

07/29 04:10 PM  MLB  (903) WASHINGTON NATIONALS at  (904) MIAMI MARLINS

Take: (904) MIAMI MARLINS +130

Say what you want about the Marlins as an organization, it’s sure tough to find fault with the desire this team’s players have displayed all season long. Even if I might be a little dubious about Mike Redmond’s strategy at times (he sac bunts way too frequently and has in the process taken the bat out of his best hitter’s hands more than a couple of times) it’s clear Redmond is getting max effort from his guys. The Marlins never seem to think they’re out of a game, and they’ve fashioned some dramatic rallies this season.

These Marlins have also proven extremely tough to beat when Henderson Alvarez is pitching at home. Alvarez has made believers out of more than a few skeptics along the way. He was thought of mostly as a back end of the rotation type, but he’s simply better than that. For whatever reason, Alvarez doesn’t seem to have caught on that much as far as the TV talking heads are concerned, but he’s legit and has proven to be a terrific buy for bettors along the way.

As for Stephen Strasburg, tonight’s Nationals starter, he’s not exactly pitching with a four-leaf clover attached to his body. Strasburg has some dominating peripherals to be sure. But he’s had some rough luck, particularly on the road, for much of the season. Most recently, I think it’s fair to say Strasburg has been at less than his best, so it appears as though the Marlins are catching him at the right time.

Certainly the situation is favorable for Miami. They’re off a great win last night and that’s key as this is probably the most important series the Marlins have played all season. Stealing a win in a game in which they appeared doomed is huge. There’s also at least the possibility that red hot Jayson Werth could be missing in action tonight, as he twisted an ankle last night and as I’m writing this, his status for Tuesday night is unknown. It didn’t look bad, so maybe he’s right back in the lineup tonight. But if by chance he can’t go, that’s a very big stick out of the mix for the Nats.

I see this number being a little higher than it ought to be. I make the Nats the favorite, but I see this being closer to -120 than where it is as I’m posting this. It’s a game where I’m going to want to see lineup info before firing, but given the scenario off Monday night, as well as the home/road splits for the starting pitchers, the Marlins look like then right side to me.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 7/28/14

You gotta love this Red Sox-Rays rivalry. Let’s face it, the Red Sox-Yankees feud has ebbed a bit recently. I think that has much to do with Boston finally breaking through and winning three World Series titles. The various complexes Red Sox fans suffered from when it came to the Yankees are gone. In fact, it’s almost as if the roles have flipped. Now it’s Yankee fans bringing up the 26 titles, which they never really felt the need to do in the past as they were almost always the favorites going in.

I imagine the bad feelings between the Red Sox and Yankees will return at some point. It could be as soon as next year if the Yankees somehow make something happen in October. But let’s face it, at the present time, there’s not really a whole lot to dislike about the Yankees. They’re an old and pretty much non-threatening team, and the main focus as far as they’re concerned is all about the Derek Jeter retirement journey around the majors. And almost everyone likes and respects Jeter.

But the Red Sox-Rays deal is real. This is nothing new, as it goes all the way back to an exhibition game more than a decade ago. But it’s really sizzling right now, and David Ortiz, to the delight of Red Sox fans and the aggravation of virtually everyone else, just keeps adding fuel to the fire. His pose following the three-run homer on Sunday was epic. Unlike the terse comments from David Price following the previous incident, Sunday’s victim was far more talkative post-game. Chris Archer had plenty to say about Ortiz and while he was quick to say this was strictly based on Big Papi’s on field actions, Archer was clearly pretty upset.

As for Ortiz, he was hilarious as usual. He made some reference to Archer having been in the majors “for two days”, fired off a few bleeps and got a big laugh from the assembled media.

I think every sport needs one of these nasty rivalries, and the players have to buy in. The Giants-Dodgers dislike is real, but I really think it’s more the fans than the players. Maybe not, but it’s tough to get past Clayton Kershaw calling it “fun” while being interviewed last night during the ESPN Sunday Night telecast. I realize Kershaw is simply not the type to instigate, so this wasn’t unexpected. Still, and this is from someone who doesn’t care about either team, I would have much preferred Kershaw letting a “blank them” slip out when being asked about the Giants.

Here’s the serious part of this. The fans are supposed to have fun with these rivalries. But in too many instances now, we’re seeing actual cases of serious physical harm being inflicted because someone happens to be rooting for the wrong team. I haven’t attended an NFL game since I had hair on my head, and the baldness is not a recent development. I have no desire to be surrounded by drunks, and I don’t want to have to make sure I’m wearing the right colors before attending a game.

Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the Red Sox-Rays rivalry. It’s between the players. And that’s where it needs to stay. Once it escalates to real problems between people who think they’re a part of the team but aren’t, the fun is done and there’s a serious issue. Let’s hope this one stays the way it is right now.

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2-0 with the personal plays on Sunday, as the Twins held on to get their win and the Mets received some outstanding pitching en route to a shutout win over the Brewers. The last two months, following a lousy May, have been really outstanding.

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The Diamondbacks missed as the Sunday free play. The number on that game went nuts, and that forced me to leave it off my final card for the day. A reminder that you can simply follow me on Twitter for updates as to whether these games make my card, and I’ll also be updating that info at pregame.com.

07/28 04:10 PM   MLB   (969) MILWAUKEE BREWERS  at  (970) TAMPA BAY RAYS

Take: (969) MILWAUKEE BREWERS +120

I’m not big on letdown spots in baseball. That scheduling dynamic seems to be more applicable to football than a daily grind game like baseball. But if there is such a thing as a baseball flat spot, this could be it for the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays finally lost a game yesterday, and it’s not unusual for teams to lose a couple or a few immediately following the conclusion of a very long win streak. Also, this was a series against the Rays without a doubt main rival, and I wonder about the intensity level with a team from the National League now coming in for a series. One things that’s certain is that there will be loads of good seats available tonight as the Rays still draw flies and unlike the Red Sox fans who love visiting the Trop, the Brewers are not what one would call a major attraction.

Beyond the situation, there’s also a pretty fair pitcher catching a nice price here. Kyle Lohse has had a terrific year for Milwaukee, and the Brewers are a robust 15-6 when he takes the mound. It’s surely not a blowout as Jake Odorizzi has come on impressively for TB. But I have to give Lohse the slight edge as far as the starting pitching is concerned.

Obviously, the current form advantage has to be given to the home team. That’s why it’s tough to argue with the Rays being the favorite here. But I thought the opening number on this clash was inflated and even at the present tag, I see a little value on the Milwaukee side. I’ll bank on Lohse doing his usual thing and perhaps a bit of a letdown from the Rays. The Brewers at an okay underdog price are the choice as the Monday comp opinion.

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 7/27/14

Sometimes I hear stuff that just forces me to shake my head. It’s not a conscious decision on my part. It’s just a reflex action that cannot be avoided. If it’s really crazy, the head shake might get accompanied by the open mouth “what the $%^& did I just hear?” maneuver, but that’s generally reserved only for remarks made by Skip or Screamin’ A on whatever that show is called.

I was doing a lot of head shaking on Saturday as I kept on hearing that Jake Peavy is 14-2 lifetime against the Dodgers, and that’s why the Giants were so eager to get him for the stretch drive. While it’s true that Peavy has those awesome career numbers against the chief rival of the Giants, he’s also 1-0 against the Dodgers since 2009. In 2009, Jake Peavy was still with the Padres and was not far removed from being one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. I think it’s okay to conclude that the 2014 Peavy, while not as bad as the 1-9 record might indicate, is no longer one of most dominant pitchers in all of baseball.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the Giants for swinging this deal with the Red Sox. They had to fork over a couple of pitching prospects, but this is a team trying to win its third World Series in five years, and the Giants needed another starting pitcher. The rumor mill had them being very hot for David Price, but it now appears as though Price is staying in Tampa Bay for at least the rest of this season. Maybe they’re in on Cole Hamels if the Phillies decide to actually trade with someone. But lots of teams will be making offers for Hamels. The same holds true for any other front line arms that become available.

The Giants decided they had to try and firm up the rotation for the season’s last two months. I cannot disagree with that assessment, and Peavy is, in fact, a pretty good fit for the Big Phone. He’s a fly ball pitcher and mistakes that were flying out of Fenway and other AL East ballparks might just stay in play in San Francisco and a couple of other NL West locales. Peavy probably isn’t going to set the world on fire at this juncture, but he’s not being asked to. The Giants need a guy who can give them six innings and three runs every fifth day, and it’s not a reach to suggest Peavy can do just that.

As for the 14-2, it means little to me and shouldn’t to anyone who really understands the game. If he’s 15-2 against the Dodgers after tonight, it still doesn’t mean anything. One of the mistakes baseball ‘cappers make, at least in my opinion, is putting too much meaning on what happened years ago. It might look good in a writeup on a game, but that’s about as far as it goes. However, feel free to shake your head reflexively if you disagree.

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My Saturday started off badly as the Cubs bullpen fell apart yet again, and the Indians then coughed up a 5-0 lead and lost to KC. But I got a lucky winner as the White Sox and Twins somehow stayed Under 7.5, hit two more late plays including the comp on the Angels, and nailed a 2-0 CFL sweep. So 5-2 for the day and the good run that’s taken place here for nearly two full months continues. I probably won’t have much today as it’s not an attractive card, and I don’t like forcing plays.

Just five more days to get the 2 for 1 special on the monthly package. That offer ends on July 31. The deal is simple enough, buy one month and I’ll add the second at no cost. Everything is included, there are no add-ons for more money and there are also no bells and whistles. I send out what I’m playing when I play it, usually with some analysis, and that’s it. Subscribe using the “buy now” feature on this page, or email me directly at cokin@cox.net. Note that all correspondence is strictly confidential and your info is not shared with anyone.

Also take note that for those preferring to just play individual games or who don’t want to play every day, you can now access selections at pregame.com. I’l also be doing quite a bit of forum interaction there starting this coming week, as I go overtime with the day’s most interesting topic from the Las Vegas Sportsline show on ESPN1100/98.9 FM. It should be lots of fun and I’m looking forward to it!

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Another solid showing from Matt Shoemaker and a really good effort by former UNLV star Efren Navarro as the free play on the Angels came through. I’ll look at one of the ugliest games on the Sunday slate for today’s comp.

07/27 10:35 AM   MLB   (903) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS  at   (904) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Take: (903) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS +100

There is something noteworthy about today’s game between the Diamondbacks and Phillies. It’s very possibly the final home game for one or more veteran Phillies. The trade deadline is near, and rumors galore are swirling. Aside from that, it’s 45-59 vs. 45-59, so this is about as meaningless as it gets for a late July baseball game.

The Phillies are not losing every game, but sometimes when watching this team, it’s a wonder they don’t. I’m not saying it’s all the time, but there are just too many games where the eye test suggests these guys are mailing it in. No emotion, no fire, just 25 guys showing up for work. I can almost envision a time clock just out of camera view where the players punch in and out before and after the game.

It’s not like the Diamondbacks are any great shakes, either. There’s going to be an overhaul taking place for the Snakes as well, but it’s not as dramatic as what I think we’re about to see in Philly. But the Diamondbacks have some young guys who are now playing most everyday and I can tell you from watching most of their games, there’s some enthusiasm with this entry. That’s not translating into lots of wins, as the talent just isn’t in place right now. But I at least like the energy.

Vidal Nuno starts for the road team today, and he’s strictly back of the rotation material. But Nuno isn’t necessarily the worst starting pitcher in action at Citizens Park today, as the former Fausto Carmona will be on the mound for Philly. Trying to guess which version of Roberto Hernandez will show up is a challenge, to put it mildly. When he’s locating that sinker, Hernandez can be pretty tough. But when he loses his command, that’s a different story. Of late, Hernandez has been closer to okay than mediocre, but that means little as far as figuring out what he’ll do today.

My take is that this is as dead even as a game can be on paper. But the intangibles spell out Arizona. The DBacks got a terrific extra inning win on Saturday night, and I really feel as though the Phillies clubhouse atmosphere today could be very somber. I’ll take the team I believe is going to be more excited to play today, and that’s the Diamondbacks.

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 7/26/14

I don’t stray off the beaten path too often in this blog. It’s mostly straight sports, with an emphasis on the gambling aspect, and that’s not going to change. But today is an exception to that rule, as I have to weigh in on the Ray Rice suspension fiasco.

Clearly, a two-game suspension for Rice is not even a slap on the wrist. It’s more like a tender caress. But before we all come down on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, the legal system itself has to draw criticism.

Rice never even had to go to trial for this assault. He instead was accepted into a diversionary program that will allow him to clear his record of any charges, thanks to his status as a first-time offender. Personally, I think that’s ridiculous, as it’s basically a free pass. I have no problem with second chances, but feel they should be earned rather than simply handed out.

As for the punishment meted out to Rice by the NFL, consider the following. Robert Mathis is going to miss four games. His crime was apparently using an unapproved fertility drug as he and he wife tried to make a baby. Terrelle Pryor got a five-game suspension over some comped tattoos, and those were received before he even arrived in the NFL. Get caught smoking pot? That’s four games. 

Sorry, but I can’t see any logical argument in defense of this ridiculous sentence being handed down by Goodell. The lack of common sense here is more than a little troubling, and for many fans (and not just the female portion of the fan base) this is an insult to our intelligence and sense of what’s right and wrong.

On the flip side, I don’t know why we should expect anything different from this outfit. The NFL is as hypocritical as it can possibly be as far as gambling is concerned. That’s another topic, so I won’t go any further with that right now. But the stance is the same here. The league talks about how concerned they are over the domestic violence and/or sexual assault incidents. But when it comes down to putting their money where their mouth is, they act as if it’s no big deal.

I guess I’m guilty of some hypocrisy as well on this whole incident. I find the NFL’s handling of it to be abhorrent. But I’m still going to watch the games, still going to bet the games, and in reality, earn the largest percentage of my business income along the way thanks to the NFL.

But I’ll at least learn one lesson from all this. Don’t believe anything the NFL says when it comes to their stance on social issues as they pertain to the league. Actions always speak much louder than words, and the Rice mini-suspension is as much proof as anyone should ever need that they really don’t give a rat’s behind.

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A 2-2 split for me on Friday, which might be 2-1-1 for some subscribers depending on their O/U in the Padres/Braves game. I decided to get greedy and go for the better price on the lower number and got burned. The Nats and Rockies won, and the Indians lost thanks to a meatball served up by John Axford that got absolutely obliterated by Billy Butler.

There are just a few more days remaining to take advantage of the two months for the price of one special. Everything is included, so there will never be any requests for additional funds to get supposedly better plays or any of that nonsense. Sign up by using the “buy now” feature or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net if you’ve got questions or need more info.

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Good result with the Friday free play as Brett Anderson was again very sharp with his command as the Rockies ended up trampling the Pirates. I’ll try and grab another winner with one of the Saturday late games.

07/26 07:05 PM   MLB   (925) DETROIT TIGERS  at   (926) LOS ANGELES ANGELS

Take: (926) LOS ANGELES ANGELS -113

What a difference a few months can make. If someone had told me in April that I could get underdog on Justin Verlander opposing Matt Shoemaker, I’d have been racing to my screen to start blasting away with every out available. Perennial ace against fringe big leaguer at plus money? Sign me up!

Now here it is late July and I’m looking at Shoemaker being a small favorite and thinking that the line is actually a little bit short of where it rightfully should be.

Verlander is clearly not the same pitcher we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the past several years. I can’t determine whether this is still part of an ongoing recovery from his off-season surgery or simply a diminishment of skills. But that really doesn’t matter. The fact is that Verlander has been nothing more than ordinary this season, and there’s nothing I can see to suggest a surge is imminent.

As for Shoemaker, he continues to be a revelation of sorts. There was simply nothing in his minor league resume to suggest he could thrive in the show, much less while owning a spectacular 1.9/9.3 BB/K ratio. But those are the numbers, and if you’ve watched this guy throw, you already know why he’s getting all those swings and misses. Shoemaker evidently discovered the splitter at some point, and that pitch has taken him from organizational filler to, if not a mainstay, a valuable piece in the Angels starting rotation.

I think the oddsmakers have finally adjusted to where Verlander is at this juncture, and there are no more bargains available for those fading him on a regular basis. But I still believe this price is a tad short. That’s more on the team data, however. The Halos are dominating their guests when playing in Anaheim and while the Tigers are a tough adversary with the best road record in baseball, the Angels are currently owners of the second best home record in the game and they’re getting better.

There’s a good chance we won’t see Josh Hamilton in the Angels lineup tonight, as he had to leave Friday’s game with an injury (a real shocker there, huh?) but I don’t consider his absence especially critical, as he hasn’t been productive lately anyway. I like the Soria pickup for the beleaguered Detroit pen, but still give the late inning advantage to the home team if this is tight. The lean here is definitely to the Angels to make it two straight over the Tigers.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 7/25/14

The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is now less than one week away, and it looks as though there could be a flurry of activity. It doesn’t appear as though any blockbusters are looming, but there are some good players on the market. With so many teams still involved in the playoff chase, I think it’s fair to assume we should see plenty of action.

The biggest name on the possible move is Cole Hamels, but the team that might have the most interest is not one of the contenders. The Red Sox are pretty much dead in the water as far as this season is concerned. But with Jon Lester apparently determined to test the free agent waters, the Red Sox are being proactive here. Boston has a very deep organization and is therefore a perfect trade partner for the Phillies, who desperately need to restock their system.

The Yankees have already added Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, but they’re not done dealing. The recent surge almost guarantees the Yankees will swing another deal or two. They reportedly are hot for Rockies southpaw Jorge De La Rosa.

It sure sounds like Jake Peavy is going to be on the move, and the Cardinals are still the rumored destination. St. Louis needs another starting pitcher and reports are that the Red Sox have had their top scouts taking in lower level Cardinals minor league games.

Aaron Hill’s name keeps popping up as the most likely member of the Diamondbacks to be wearing a new uniform shortly. Hill should be on the wish list for several teams, and if that’s the case, the Snakes could be well positioned to score a really good prospect from one of the prospective trade partners.

The Mets have apparently let the Rockies know they’d be interested in either Troy Tulowitzki or Carlos Gonzalez, but it doesn’t sound like the Rockies are ready to deal either star. But outfielder Drew Stubbs has a good chance to be changing addresses.

Justin Masterson is currently rehabbing and wasn’t pitching at all well prior to getting hurt, but he’s still a high potential pickup who will attract offers. I have no idea what the Indians asking price might be, but I’ll assume that it has to be a righty bat, as that’s a pressing need for the team presently.

The Tigers are not done shopping yet and are still on the prowl for a southpaw reliever. The Dodgers are also looking to upgrade their staff, but they reportedly covet a starting pitcher. Considering the form of Dan Haren, that makes sense, as does the team getting at least one of their outfielders out of LA.

Finally, I saw tonight where the Cubs are entertaining offers for Edwin Jackson. Good luck with that, Theo. Jackson still has two years remaining on a very bloated contract, so it’s difficult to envision Jackson getting moved unless the Cubs pick up a good percentage of the money still owed the mediocre righty.

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A nice sweep for me on the Thursday personal plays, so while I haven’t had what I’d call a hot streak at any point this month, it’s nevertheless shaping up as a very positive July with a steady black ink grind.

I’m already on three games for Friday, plus a pair of CFL games this weekend. All my plays are included with the purchase of my monthly package. But that’s not just one month of selections, it’s two months for the price of one. Subscribe now by utilizing the “buy now” tab on this page, or simply get in touch with me via email at cokin@cox.net.

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Corey Kluber certainly did his job on Thursday night, but the Indians ended up on the short end of a 2-1 tally as the Royals walked off with a 14-inning win. Tonight’s free play is already on my personal card for Friday, along with two other games.

07/25  05:40 PM   MLB  (911) PITTSBURGH PIRATES  at  (912) COLORADO ROCKIES

Take: (912) COLORADO ROCKIES +110

I can’t recall the last time I bet on the Rockies to win a baseball game. I can state with certainly it’s been at least two months, although I’ve definitely made a number of anti-Rockies wagers in that time span. But I’m going to take my chances with this last place entry tonight in a game that I believe sets up well for them.

The key here is Brett Anderson, and the impression he left with me on the eye test in his most recent start. I pay quite a bit of attention to dips in velocity and normally want to go against those pitchers seeing a substantial decline. That’s the case with Anderson presently, and in fact I’ve made two successful plays against the lefty since he came off the disabled list.

But off what I’ve seen of Anderson, I was fortunate to get those two winners. He got bombed by the Twins in the opening inning of his first start off the DL, but settled down after that and actually pitched much better than his line might have indicated. Anderson was even better last time out in a stellar seven inning effort against the Pirates. The Bucs eventually won that game, but they did very little against Anderson. If he’s locating his arsenal like he was in that most recent start, I would expect this to be a tough night for the Pirates hitters, even in the hitter’s haven known as Coors Field.

Charlie Morton will throw for the Bucs tonight. Morton has been very tough, but is still prone to the occasional big inning. I also don’t like the way his stuff figures to play out at Coors. Morton has made two career starts here, and while his overall lines weren’t terrible, one thing really caught my eye. Morton is a pitcher who thrives and survives getting ground balls. But in those two starts at Coors, his ground ball percentage was way below its norm. That’s a red flag for me, as when Morton doesn’t get grounders, he also doesn’t get wins as a rule.

The downside here is that the Rockies are a bad baseball team with an awful bullpen. Plus, the Pirates have demolished losing teams all season. But I really liked what I saw from Anderson and want to try him here. I also don’t mind the fact that it’s a lock that the Pirates will be a very popular public side tonight, while I’m of the belief the pro dough is going to show on the home dog. You won’t see me on this bad baseball team often, but tonight I’ll be taking my chances with the Rockies in the role of home dog.

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 7/24/14

The offers are going to come. But now there has to be some real doubt as to whether the Tampa Bay Rays will be listening as contending teams around the majors make their pitches to get a deal done for star southpaw David Price.

After slogging along in last place throughout the first half of the 2014 season, it was inevitable the Rays would deal Price to the highest bidder. From the Rays standpoint, this made perfect sense. The farm system has dried up considerably and the determination just about everywhere was that the team was toast this season, and it was time to rebuild.

That was then, and this is now. The Rays are the hottest team in baseball, and they’re very much back in the playoff chase. Tampa Bay closed to within seven games of the Orioles in the AL East following last night’s win at St. Louis. They’re even closer in the wild card race, now trailing the Mariners by only 4.5 games.

The Rays are now on their way back home for a lengthy stay, and barring a sudden loss of form, they’re again serious contenders. I think the Price trade talks are pretty much dead in the water at this point. That’s not to say Tampa Bay won’t get offers for their ace. But there’s really no need for the Rays to deal Price now, as he’s not a free agent till after next season.

At the same time, I think it’s doubtful the Rays will want to pay what Price will be due next season, and I’ll be surprised if he’s wearing a Tampa Bay uniform next spring. But with the Rays rolling toward what could be another season with October action, I now believe he won’t be traded till the off-season. The Rays might well be tempted with a great package now, but with some possibly lean years ahead of them, it makes more sense to go for the marbles this season and wait till the winter to explore other options.

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1-2 on Wednesday, with the Rays coming through, but a side and total loss at Wrigley as the Padres took full advantage of major wildness on the part of the Cub pitchers. Losing night, but the month to date remains rock solid, and I intend to finish July with a flourish.

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Alex Cobb and two relievers overpowered the Cardinals last night, making the free play call on the Rays a good one. I’ll bank on one of the game’s most reliable pitchers to come through this evening.

07/24  05:10 PM   MLB   (965) CLEVELAND INDIANS  at   (966) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Take: (965) CLEVELAND INDIANS -114

What should be a good pitching duel is on tap tonight as the Indians and Royals open a weekend set in Kansas City. It’s Corey Kluber vs. Danny Duffy in a dynamite duel with lots on the line for each team. Both the Indians and Royals are still within hailing distance of the AL Central front-running Tigers. But the reality is that these two clubs are more realistically contending for the last wild card spot. Cleveland has stepped it up lately, and the Indians are now only two games back of Seattle. The Royals haven’t been sharp recently, but they’re still just 2.5 games off the pace.

That current form is big tonight, though. Even though the Indians are not as potent against lefties, this is still a hot entry right now. As for the Royals, they got a much needed won on Wednesday against the White Sox, and maybe returning home will get them heated up.

But there’s no question that the Royals major weakness is getting them in hot water right now. This is simply a poor offensive team, with an alarming lack of power remaining an issue all season long. The Royals usually have to put hits together in small ball fashion to score, and accomplishing that against Kluber has been a problem for them.

KC did manage to beat Kluber once this season, but they’ve also been completely overmatched by the star righty twice. That doesn’t bode well for the home team here, as the Royals are not hitting at all well right now. Aside from a seven-run outburst against some mediocre White Sox hurlers on Tuesday, the post-All Star Kansas City bats have done very little.

The Indians lost yesterday and in fact dropped two out of three at Minnesota. But even with that series loss, I still feel there’s positive momentum with the Tribe. They might not have it easy tonight against the southpaw serves of Danny Duffy, who should own a better record than his current 5-10.

But therein lies the problem for Duffy. He hasn’t been the recipient of much offense and he keeps getting matched up tough, which is again the case this evening. Kluber has been the model of consistency and as long as his command remains top notch, it’s hard to see the Royals helping Duffy out with much tonight.

The Indians are rightfully small favorites here, so this isn’t a particular bargain. But I really don’t see this as having to pay a premium to enlist the service of Kluber tonight. As good as he’s been for me this season, I’ll have no problem supporting the Cleveland ace once again. I’ll side with the Indians to garner the road win tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 7/23/14

Chase Headley was on the receiving end of the pleasurable Gatorade shower following his game winning hit on Tuesday night. That would normally be reason for celebration among San Diego fans. Only Headley, who started the day as a Padre, finished it as a Yankee. Meanwhile, the Padres were walking away from Wrigley Field after having been shut out for the 15th time this season. Thus ends what had to be another difficult day for Padres faithful, with perhaps the only saving grace being that they’re very used to them.

The Headley trade puts the finishing touch on yet another blunder by a front office that, quite candidly, has been nothing short of incompetent for some time now. The Padres had two choices following Headley’s breakout 2012 campaign. Figure out a way to ink him long term or trade him, as his value was never going to be higher. Of course, they did neither, Headley suffered through a terrible 2013 and most of the current season to boot, and in the end, the Padres basically had to pay the Yankees to take him off their hands.

There’s no way to spin this positively for the Padres. Their roster at this point can’t even be called mediocre, as it’s worse than that. The farm system is not exactly overflowing with prospects, especially from an offensive standpoint. And if that’s not bad enough, my guess is that the Padres are probably going to deal away a couple more guys between now and the trade deadline. I’ll be surprised if they get anything of substance in return.

There are a handful of big league franchises that have been down for some time, but of all these teams, it sure looks to me like the Padres are in the worst shape as far as the next few seasons are concerned. But what’s most troubling to me is that there’s not much outrage. Sorry, but the San Diego media and fan base need to start crushing this franchise from the top down, and abjectly refuse to play that ludicrous small market card. That won’t help turn the Padres around anytime soon, but at least it would be a first step in the right direction.

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A winning Tuesday with my plays, although I wish I’d loosened the leash and fired on the leans as well. Nevertheless, the bottom line profit got increased and I’ll attempt to add some more today.

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It took several extra innings, but the Giants managed to deliver a win as the Tuesday free play. This has been a pretty good month with the comps, so let’s try and nail another side tonight.

07/23  04:15 PM   MLB   (929) TAMPA BAY RAYS  at   (930) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Take: (929) TAMPA BAY RAYS +105

Remember when the Rays were considered dead in the water? The buzz wasn’t if they’d be dealing David Price, Ben Zobrist and perhaps a couple other players, it was just a matter of when.

Fast forward to right now and while the Rays could still be sellers at the deadline, that’s far from a sure thing. I think it’s fair to say that unless the Rays are offered a deal they can’t refuse, Price and company will still be calling the Trop home. The Rays have clawed their way back into contention, and with no dominant entries in the AL East, this team absolutely has a chance to play its way into the post season.

The Rays picked up a sweet underdog win on Tuesday night, beating Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in the process. They have another tough assignment tonight as they take on Lance Lynn. But this is a pretty hot Rays squad right now and they’ve got their own solid righty on the bump as Alex Cobb throws for Tampa Bay.

Cobb has not really been what one could call dominant this season, but he’s doing well enough, and he has a good chance of succeeding against a Cardinals lineup that isn’t exactly crushing the ball. If you’re talking current form, Tampa Bay has the offense that’s more productive. I also think that the absence of Yadier Molina is starting to take its toll on the Redbirds. There are few players in the game more valuable than Yadi, and the drop off to Tony Cruz is nothing short of enormous.

The oddsmakers are making it clear to me which side they think is going to win this game. Lynn is having a terrific campaign overall, and the hard throwing righty has been dominant at home. Yet he’s barely favored here. The number is so low I can’t see how the vast majority of tickets won’t be written on the Cardinals. But I think you can look for the pros to again line up on the Rays, just as they did on Tuesday night. I’ll expect a similar result and will tab Cobb and the Rays to come out on top once more.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 7/22/14

I’m a great believer in getting the work done early. That doesn’t mean I’m always in action early, but the idea is to be prepped and ready to fire when what figures to be the best number is available. It really doesn’t matter what sport is involved, the bottom line is still the same. In football or hoops, it’s all about getting the best spread. On the diamond, well, if you don’t think saving nickels and dimes and sometimes more doesn’t add up over the course of a long season, then you probably shouldn’t be wagering.

Obviously, it’s really important to be able to assess the betting lines and make sound determinations as to where the number is going to go. Without meaning to sound boastful, I don’t think many do this better than  I do. That’s not to say there’s not an occasional incorrect assessment, but those don’t happen very often.

I would have to attribute this strength to having received my baptismal fire on the other side of the counter many moons ago. It really didn’t take me long to start figuring out public betting patterns, while at the same time spotting numbers the sharper guys were going to attack. The methodology might have changed over the decades thanks to the information stream now available, but I think the patterns are very much the same now as they were 30 plus years ago.

The reason I bring this up is that I’m frequently asked about the best way to go about becoming a handicapper. I don’t know that there’s a real answer for that in terms of analysis, as it’s largely different strokes for different folks. But the starting point is always the same in my estimation. Learn the line. Master that aspect of the overall equation and you’re one giant step ahead of the game.

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Split on Monday, with the Red Sox a snap and the Mets, which was also the free play, a clear loser. Good situational spot to fade the Mariners, but the Mets aren’t hitting a lick right now, so it wasn’t a particularly smart play. I also should have played the Orioles on the same theory as I did the Mets, and naturally, that was a winner. Nevertheless, no damage done and I jumped all over a pair for Tuesday already (and one of those at a much better price than will be available during the day).

Two months for the price of one is the current offer. Results have been quite solid for some time now, and diving in at the present time means not only MLB, but football as well as training camps have opened and pre-season NFL action is just around the bend. Use the “buy now” feature on this page if that’s visible to you. Otherwise, just send an email to me at cokin@cox.net for further info and instruction.

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No good with the Mets on Monday, let’s see about a return to the win column with a little road chalk tonight.

07/22 04:05 PM  MLB  (953) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS  at  (954) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Take: (953) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS -120

I’m not going to spend much time breaking down the two starting pitchers tonight. If you’re looking for consistency, neither Yusmeiro Petit nor Roberto Hernandez offers any. Each guy can be very good at times, each guy can look like a misplaced minor leaguer on the wrong night. Off the data, I prefer Petit. But I can’t really say that he’s a pitcher who inspires great confidence.

My take here is far more on the teams than the pitchers. The Giants seem to have gotten over what was a pretty ugly stretch of baseball. I don’t see this team as a powerhouse, and I also don’t know that they’re built for the post-season this year. But I do expect the Giants to still be playing in October. It’s a veteran outfit with a strong skipper in Bruce Bochy, and even minus a couple of key components they’re sticking right with the Dodgers in the NL West.

The Phillies are just plain lousy, and it’s going to only be shocking if this team doesn’t unload a few veterans between now and the end of the month with the trade deadline looming. Therefore, it’s also not surprising that the Phillies are playing what I’d have to term as uninspired baseball right now. This is pretty much the standard atmosphere for a team with too many older guys and no hope of doing anything but playing out the string. There’s still going to be the occasional good game, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

The Phillies are 9-18 in their last 27 games, and that’s with a five-game winning streak mixed in. So in the other 22 games, we’re looking at 4-18. There’s not a doubt in my mind the Phillies would be best served to start calling up whatever prospects they deem as 2015 roster possibilities. Get them some big league innings now and see what they’ve got. To me, it’s pointless to keep trooping out players who are not going to be around much longer. The results might not be any different with new blood on the diamond, but the energy will be greatly enhanced, and I have no doubt at all about that.

As for tonight, my only real concern is if the bad Petit shows up and the good Hernandez makes a surprise appearance for Philly. With erratic pitchers such as this duo, that’s always a possibility. But aside from that, I’d much rather consider the contender vs. the team playing out the string, so the Giants are the choice this evening.

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 7/21/14

It’s time to kick off the college football previews. This won’t be the standard stuff, as the entire aim here is going to be focusing on schools that could represent spread value, at least early on, in either direction. So the majority of these rundowns will probably be on teams not too many people care about, but that bettors can hopefully earn a profit with.

First up, out of the Mountain West Conference, it’s Wyoming. The Cowboys had a rough time of it last season, and at first glance they look pretty mediocre heading into the new campaign. Their star QB, Brett Smith, has moved on and major scheme changes are taking place on both sides of the ball.

New head coach Craig Bohl is going West Coast with the attack and he’s a 4-3 guy on defense. It usually takes a team time to adjust to changes such as these. But I’m expecting a fairly quick transition in Laramie, and in any event, I can see this team being far more competitive than they were a season ago despite some glaring question marks in terms of personnel.

The primary reason for my optimism is Bohl and what amounts to addition by subtraction. I’m very impressed with Bohl, and not only off what he accomplished at North Dakota State with three straight national titles. I see the biggest improvement in Wyoming’s overall attitude.

The Cowboys had some serious issues last season. The team started off playing very well, as they rebounded from a close opening loss at Nebraska with three consecutive wins. But then came the loss at Texas State in rain-delayed marathon, and even though Wyoming got it to 4-2 with a win vs. New Mexico, they were never the same team.  The defense virtually quit, the only remaining win came in a crazy OT game with Hawaii, and by season’s end it was clearly time for a major overhaul on the sidelines.

Everything I’m hearing about this year’s is upbeat. Maybe that’s more attitude than talent, but the opinion here is that the talent level here wasn’t nearly as bad as the record indicated last season. Replacing Smith under center is definitely a problem, and I don’t think there’s enough to prevent Wyoming from struggling at times this season.

But I also think we’re going to be able to cash a few tickets with this team simply based on the coaching upgrade and the style of play. Wyoming is going to be a physical team that runs the football and plays much more aggressively on defense. And most importantly, unlike the squad we saw in the second half of last season, this Wyoming entry will be play with pride and as a unit. I expect a team that will win its share of games while hanging much tougher against its better opposition, and that should make the Cowboys a potential go with team at the betting windows.

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Just a 1-2 Sunday on the diamond, but another okay week in the books as the positive grind continues. Take advantage of my current special and score two full months of all my plays in all my sports for the price of one. That significantly lowers the overall cost, so that even more recreational bettors can get involved. Use the “buy now” feature to subscribe or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net for additional info!

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The Yankees walked off with the win against the Reds on Sunday, so a good result with the free play. I’ll look to keep it going with a Monday night road dog.

07/21 07:10 PM   MLB   (923) NEW YORK METS  at  (924) SEATTLE MARINERS

Take: (923) NEW YORK METS +105

This is a situational spot I think offers a good chance of producing a win. The Mariners are off a very draining set of games with the division rival Angels and I think they could be a bit flat tonight. Letdowns are more frequently brought up as potential factors in football and basketball more than in baseball, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

The Mariners/Angels series was as hard fought as it gets. All three games were intense battles, with two extra inning affairs and 6-5 Halos win on Sunday with plenty of emotion on display both ways. Let’s just say that this would have been a great spot for Seattle to enjoy a day off, but that’s not the case.

Jon Niese is apparently healthy again, and he should therefore be a tough nut for the Mariners hitters. The Mets lefty has actually had a really nice season when he’s been able to take his regular turn. The Mets have been a solid squad when Niese pitches, and only a few of the Mariners have ever faced him.

The sight unseen factor is in play for Roenis Elias as well, as none of the Mets have stepped in against him. But Elias, after a surprising run in the earlier part of the season, has not been very effective lately and the Mets aren’t terrible offensively against lefties.

This is really one of those games where I see the situation being the trump card. On paper, it’s virtually a tossup. But after watching the high octane duels this weekend at Anaheim between the Mariners and Angels, this looms as a night where taking a shot against the Mariners makes lots of sense to me. I’m siding with the Mets as a small road dog to produce a winner this evening.