Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 4/25/15

The headlines have the Angels trading Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers. I guess that’s correct technically, but the truth is the Halos are literally giving the troubled outfielder away. In return for saving a small percentage of Hamilton’s remaining salary, the Angels are receiving nothing in return. No prospect, no fringe Quad-A organizational guy, nothing.

So ends what was clearly a fractured relationship between Hamilton and Angels owner Arte Moreno. The contract proved to be an utter disaster for the Halos, and Moreno wanted him out of Anaheim at any cost.

I have no idea what Hamilton has left in the tank, if anything. My guess is he could look good in brief spurts, but that’s certainly not a likelihood long term. The simple fact of the matter is that Hamilton has a brittle body and the way I see it, his only chance to stay in the lineup is as a designated hitter. Put Hamilton in the outfield and he’s a big favorite to break down physically.

Regardless of whether the guy can still play at a big league level, he was a sight to behold for a short time. Hamilton is one of the most gifted talents you’ll ever see, and the proof of that is what he was able to accomplish in spite of missing all that time with his addiction issues before his career ever really got started.

I guess it’s a win/win for the teams involved. The Angels wanted him gone and the Rangers have nothing to lose as they’ve basically gotten Hamilton for free. I hope he can somehow stay healthy for a bit and can also find the strength to avoid another relapse. I wouldn’t bet on either to be perfectly honest, but aside from making lots of money, Hamilton has had some terrible luck and I figure he’s got a good break coming. Maybe this is it.

(One quick add here. I already know there are some readers who will say Hamilton made his own bed, so let him lay in it. Maybe so, but let’s not forget this whole addiction issue started with pain killers prescribed following an accident. And let’s also not forget that harrowing incident a few years back where Josh tossed a baseball to a dad and his kid attending a game. The toss was a little off, the fan toppled over a railing trying to catch it and got killed in the process. I don’t know how I’d handle something like that, and I’m not an addict.)

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An improvement here on Friday with a net gain of +1.55. That was in spite of another extra inning loss, so the luck bitch is still laughing her butt off at me. The best news for me is I’ve now got enough current data to be working for actual accrued stats rather than projections, and that’s a good thing.

Get the goods on how my baseball program works by emailing me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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Free play winner Friday as Carlos Martinez pitched the Cardinals past the somewhat hapless Brewers. I’m staying on the diamond for the Saturday comp as well.

(961) GIANTS  at  (962) ROCKIES

Take: (962) ROCKIES -115

It’s the Jorge De La Rosa at Coors Show! The debut of the 2015 edition was a major flop, but I’ll be back on JDLR today as the Rockies attempt to record another win against the Giants.

De La Rosa was bombed out on Monday as the Padres simply annihilated almost everything he threw. But there didn’t appear to be anything wrong with De La Rosa. In fact, he might have been a little too strong as his velocity was up from his norm, and that could well have impacted his command. In any event, I’m chalking it up as just one bad start. Even with the loss, the Rockies are now a mind boggling 48-10 at Coors when De La Rosa starts, and that’s about the most insane putting trend I’ve ever seen.

Tim Hudson draws the assignment for the defending champs. I see some red flags for Huddy in spite of his putting up acceptable numbers in his first three starts. One of those alerts regarding Hudson is his velocity dip. This guy is as crafty as it gets, and that’s how he’s flourished for so long in spite of never having blow away stuff. But now Hudson is down to an 87.5 average with the #1 and his other offerings have also shown some decline.

If Hudson is able to locate and generate his usual quota of ground balls, he should be okay in most parks. But there’s not much room for error in this ballpark and Coors has never been heaven on earth for Hudson. He’s made eight starts at this stadium and has yet to record a win, while compiling an unattractive 7.29 ERA in 42 innings of work.

The Rockies have had the Giants number so far this season and I have to believe that it’s too soon to bail on the De La Rosa home express. No bargain on the price as the Rockies have opened as the favorite, but it’s certainly not a severe impost, so I’ll be backing the Rockies tonight.

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 4/24/15

Chances are it wouldn’t have made a difference. But I don’t think Padres skipper Bud Black gave his team its best chance to win yesterday. San Diego was down one run in the ninth at Colorado, with the tying run on base and one out. Will Venable struck out against John Axford, who was trying to close out the win for the Rockies. That meant Alexi Amarista or a pinch hitter, and I was disappointed that Black opted to stay with Amarista.

Small sample for sure, but samples have to start someplace and Clint Barmes has enjoyed his dealings with Axford. Barmes is 4/8 lifetime vs. Axford with a pair of homers. Make no mistake, I don’t consider Barmes to necessarily be an upgrade over Amarista, as neither guy is much with the stick. But Barmes has at least been hitting well to start the season, and he’s always liked swinging at Coors.

The idea for me is to try and take advantage of Barmes while he’s going as well as it is, because there’s nothing to suggest it will continue for much longer. But there sure isn’t anything wrong with trying the hot hand. Black decided to go with the lefty/righty percentage play, and as far as who starts the game, I sure don’t disagree with that maneuver. But in this particular situation, I’m for throwing out that book and putting the bat in the hands of the hitter who is, right at the moment, a better option.

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One other quickie. Managers now regularly use their closers at home if it’s a tie game in the ninth inning. That’s obviously not a save situation, but the idea is to shut the other team down with your best late inning arm and then hope to win in the bottom of the ninth.

The flip side is that road managers will continuously not use the closer in the bottom of the ninth in a tie game. Instead, they will hold the closer out in hopes he’s needed to get the save at some point. This makes little sense to me as you can’t get a save if the game is already over.

The Padres didn’t use Craig Kimbrel on Wednesday night and Shawn Kelley lost the game in the bottom of the ninth. The Red Sox didn’t use Koji Uehara last night at Tampa Bay and Anthony Varvaro lost the game in the bottom of the ninth.

I’m not suggesting that the closer always be utilized in this situation. If he happened to work the prior game, I’m probably going with someone else. If it’s not a dominant closer and the difference between the available options is negligible, then it’s probably not worthwhile.

But the idea that using the closer in a tie game at home is smart, while not using the closer in a tie game on the road is also smart is contradictory. Again, your team cannot record a save if the game has already been decided.

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I had a terrible Thursday and following a monster start to the baseball season where I was winning close games, I’m now mired in a week-lomh skid where I’m losing virtually all of the coin flip finishes. All three of my Thursday games were one-run decisions, I lost all three and I’ve now lost nine of the last ten one-run games I’ve been involved in. The bottom line for the young season is still okay, but coughing back a good chance of the earnings in this fashion isn’t a lot of fun. Hopefully, that changes today.

Baseball is all about peaks and valleys for the handicapper as well as the actual teams playing the games. The key is to stretch the hot streaks and minimize the cold runs. That’s why I’m not overly worked up about the past week’s results. It’s simply part of the game. For info on how my MLB program works, feel free to drop me a line at cokin@cox.net.

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The daily free plays are also in a funk right now, and the fact is the last few haven’t even been close. Let’s see if a chalk piece on the diamond can get the motor jump started.

(907) CARDINALS  at  (908) BREWERS

Take: (907) CARDINALS -130

Hey, the Brewers won a game on Thursday. They sure haven’t been doing much of that lately. In fact, going back to the late season collapse in 2014, Milwaukee is on a ghastly 14-38 run. I don’t expect a winning streak to get started tonight as the Cardinals come to town.

Matt Garza will pitch for the hosts, and he’s off to a very mediocre start to the season. Garza is a guy who at one time really looked like he might be a legit #2 starter. But it never really has come together for the righty and he hasn’t been fooling anyone in the early going this year. Garza has always been a pitcher who seems to often let his emotions get the best of him, and he’s not a pitcher I want to even consider backing when he’s not offering anything as a buy signal.

Carlos Martinez is impressing now that he’s becoming a fixture in the St. Louis rotation. Martinez is utilizing four pitches on a  very regular basis and they pretty much all arrive in a hurry. I don’t think there’s any question he’s maturing into a potentially major force for the Redbirds and the way the organization has handled him throughout this process is downright outstanding.

If Martinez has an edge over Garza, the same certainly has to be said for the Cardinals in comparison to the Brewers. Milwaukee is playing bad baseball and they’re also missing some key elements right now. Ryan Braun might be the headliner for this team based on previous exploits. But Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez are the two best players on the Milwaukee roster and those two are DL’d right now.

The Redbirds have dominated the Brew Crew in this series and also at Miller Park. St. Louis has won 47 of the past 69 meetings, they’re 23-9 at Miller Park and they’re the much hotter team presently. I can justify laying the odds with Martinez and the Cardinals tonight.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 4/23/15

Mark Melancon is still officially the closer for the Pirates, but that might not be for much longer. Melanin’s velocity has declined alarmingly and there has to be major concern as to whether there might be something wrong with the veteran righty. Tony Watson got the final six outs last night as the Pirates held off the Cubs.

Speaking of closers, Joakim Soria now has the Tigers gig all to himself. Manager Brad Ausmus was intent on moving Joe Nathan back into his familiar role once he completed his rehab assignment. But Nathan’s elbow popped after just 10 pitches during his Wednesday appearance for Toledo. No word on the extent of the injury, but Nathan sounded very discouraged. Tough way to finish off what was a fine career if this is serious, and off Nathan’s reaction, it probably is.

Joe Kelly was dominating Tampa Bay through five innings and then fell apart in the sixth frame. Boston’s starting pitching remains highly erratic, and the long the Red Sox go without addressing this situation, the more damage figures to be done. I’m not budging off my Kelly take. I think he’s made for the bullpen and could be a big time hit as a late inning stud. I’m just not sold that he’s got the complete arsenal or the staying power to be a strong starter. The Red Sox don’t have a replacement as far as the rotation goes, so it’s a moot point for the time being.

I thought Bud Black made a mistake last night trusting Shawn Kelley with the ninth inning in a tie game between the Padres and Rockies. Kelley has not been good at all thus far. With the Rockies having already used Adam Ottavino, the idea here was to get to extras and try to nail whomever the Rockies were going to have to use. Craig Kimbrel should have come on to preserve the tie, but Black opted to go with Kelley and Kimbrel never got into the game.

The Mets keep losing players to injuries, but they keep winning games. Yesterday, I mentioned the Cubs, Padres and Astros as rising stars that are all playing with great confidence and enthusiasm. I somehow left the Mets out of that conversation, and that was a major oversight. Less than 10% of the schedule has been played, but the Mets have the best record in the majors and they’re about as gritty as it gets right now.

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2-1 on the diamond here on Wednesday. The Orioles managed to make the least out of eight walks issued by the Blue Jays, but the Cardinals came through as did the A’s. Good thing I won the St. Louis game or I might have flipped out. They led 5-0 and would have still been ahead 5-1 if not for a really dumb mistake by John Lackey. He failed to cover first base while up four runs, which allowed a run to score. Then Lackey served up a bases-clearing double that allows the Nationals to get the game even at 5. But the Redbirds put a couple across later and got some outstanding bullpen work in notching the victory.

Baseball continues to be solid, and if you’d like to enjoy the ride all summer long, find out how my program works by emailing me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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A no show by the Wild in Game Four of their series with St. Louis, and full credit to Ken Hitchcock and the Blues for a sensational effort that means this series is now a best-of-three. Free plays continue to be very up and down, and this was a call that never had a chance. I’ll try another NHL game tonight.

(77) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS  at  (78) NASHVILLE PREDATORS

Take: (77) CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS +105

Maybe that late season swoon by Nashville meant something after all. The Predators lost their final six regular season games and now they’re down 3-1 and facing elimination tonight. The Predators will benefit from being back on home ice, but their predicament is precarious to say the least and one has to wonder about they true mental state at this point.

Nashville could still be without two key components tonight as Shea Weber and Mike Fisher are questionable. Pile that on top of having to recover from a demoralizing triple OT loss at Chicago and the lights might be ready to get turned off for the Predators. Bouncing back from a loss of that magnitude will not be easy.

The Blackhawks are a veteran team that knows how to close a series. They also have the hot hand in goal, and anyone who has followed the NHL playoffs over the years knows what that means. Scott Darling has seized the starting role from Corey Crawford and this kid is on a major roll right now.

Nashville will come with everything they’ve got here. But they could still be shorthanded depending on the status of Weber and Fisher, and the Predators are now mired in a really serious slump, winning only once in their last ten games. I’ll be at least mildly surprised if they survive tonight. The Blackhawks now have a stranglehold on his series and I like Chicago to finish off Nashville this evening.

Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 4/22/15

Another rough start for Bud Norris on Tuesday night as the Orioles were blown out in Toronto. Norris explained away his poor spring training results by saying he was working on some things, but it’s clear something is amiss there. Buck Showalter is likely going to have to consider moving Kevin Gausman into the rotation while hoping Norris can figure things out in the bullpen.

Chris Archer took a tough 1-0 loss against the Red Sox on Tuesday night, but he’s really looking like a true top of the rotation stud for Tampa Bay. The Rays offense is not good, however, and teams that cannot score on any kind of consistent basis can end up putting too much pressure on even the best starters to feel as though they have to be perfect every time out.

That Seattle bullpen is a major concern. Carson Smith has been the best arm to date among the Mariners relief corps and Dominic Leone is putting it back together after surprisingly getting farmed out to start the season. Charlie Furbush is best suited to being a lefty specialist. Danny Farquhar is struggling badly and will have to be moved out of high leverage situations for now. The one plus from last night’s come from ahead loss by Seattle was Taijuan Walker working out of some nasty jams and relying on his fastball, which can be a dominant pitch.

The Padres, Cubs and Astros were all winners last night in pretty spectacular comeback fashion. All three teams are playing with tremendous enthusiasm and confidence. It’s early, but it’s also great to see some of the downtrodden showing some real life. The Royals came from out of nowhere to almost win it all last season. It already looks as though a similar storyline or two is going to be in the works this summer.

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After a few days of frustration with leads getting blown late, the shoe was on the good foot for me last night as I pulled out both the Padres and Astros to avoid what could have been a bad night. I passed the NBA and NHL, and have to admit at being a bit irritated with myself for not playing Calgary on the ice. I’ll avoid making a similar mistake tonight with the free play below.

If you’re interested in getting the goods on my baseball program, and the season is off to a nice start, shoot me an email at cokin@cox.net. It’s one size fits all, as I don’t have different levels depending on how much cash can be extracted.

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No chance with the Athletics last night as they squandered a couple of early opportunities and then got annihilated by the Angels with Johnny Giavotella (really) leading the onslaught. I’m heading to the ice with a Stanley Cup playoff opinion this evening.

(69) ST. LOUIS BLUES  at  (70) MINNESOTA WILD

Take: (70) MINNESOTA WILD -135

Eye test play for me tonight on the Game Four duel between the Blues and the Wild.

I’ve watched the first three games of this series and have arrived at what I feel is a fairly clear conclusion. The Wild are simply too fast for the Blues.

Ken Hitchock has been around the block a zillion times, so I’m sure the Blues coach is going to make some lineup changes in hopes of finding some way to slow the Wild down. But it just looks to me like one team has wings on its skates while the other is slogging along in cement shoes. I don’t know if there’s a great way to counteract that if it’s indeed the case.

Hitchcock is making no bones about his team being in a desperate situation going into tonight’s game. So I’m certainly expecting the Blues to pull out all the stops to generate some offense out of the gate as they really need to get a lead tonight.

But if you watched Game Three in particular, you know just how dominant Minnesota was in the contest. This could easily have been something in the neighborhood of 5-0.

The Wild are flying high right now, their home crowd is going to be just crazy tonight and while the Blues can reclaim home ice advantage with a road win tonight, I don’t see that being a likelihood. No bargain to be had here with Minnesota a pretty substantial favorite, but I will side with the Wild to get another win.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 4/21/15

The Cleveland Indians were one of the hot pre-season picks to make a serious playoff run and perhaps grab the AL Central title in the process. So far, not so good for the Tribe. It’s early, and the top of the Indians rotation looks solid as a rock. But the bullpen has some issues. Closer Cody Allen has not looked good and he had a total blowup last night as Cleveland dropped a 4-3 decision to the White Sox, with the Pale Hose erasing a 3-0 deficit in their last at bat.

The Cubs have opted to call up another of their top prospects. Addison Russell figures to get a chance to take over as the everyday 2B right away. The Cubs have gotten nothing out of this spot in the early going, and while Russell is very green, he’s also likely to be an immediate upgrade at the keystone. Kris Bryant is already getting comfortable at third base, and while there will be rookie mistakes made by this duo, it’s apparent that the Cubs feel developing their stars at the big league level gives them a better chance to contend right away.

The Seattle Mariners went into the season likely feeling good about their pitching staff. Unfortunately, things are not going at all well with this staff and Felix Hernandez can’t start all the games. The Mariners are pretty much all-in to make the playoffs this season, so one has to figure they’re going to be on the lookout for a reliable arm very quickly if things don’t straighten out. Seattle has a few pretty good prospects, so I would think they could be players in the inevitable Cole Hamels sweepstakes.

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I lost both my baseball plays on Monday, with the Yankees gaffing a few nice opportunities as CC Sabathia’s strong effort got wasted against the Tigers. Alfredo Simon, who had been somewhat fortunate in his prior two starts, was just plain terrific in this outing and the Tigers made the most of their only real scoring opportunity in coming from behind. The Rockies never had a chance as they absorbed the ultra-rare home loss with Jorge De La Rosa on the mound. My only winner was a call on the Rangers in the NHL, which was also the free play for the day.

Baseball will have its share of ebbs and flows over the course of a very long season, and over the last few days, my teams have had a very bad time protecting leads. I’ll look for a return to form with three good plays tonight that have already been made.

For all the pertinent info on how my MLB program works, just shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net.

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The Rangers got the job done against the Penguins as the Monday comp. Tonight’s free play is on the diamond as a pair of AL West rivals battle it out.

(975) ATHLETICS  at  (976) ANGELS

Take: (975) ATHLETICS +108

Southpaws on the bump tonight at Anaheim as Drew Pomeranz takes the mound for Oakland against Hector Santiago of the Angels.

Pomeranz is off to a good start for the A’s. He’s got a gaudy BB/K ratio so far. Pomeranz won’t blow away hitters with heat, but he’s proof positive that it’s more about location than anything else. Pomeranz has been a different pitcher since he started implementing a knuckle curve to go with his fastball array last season and he;s definitely showing outstanding early season form.

Santiago is off to a decent start, but there are a few red flags for the lefty. He’s been extremely fly ball oriented thus far and is getting very few grounders. Santiago is off an easy win as he was staked to a big early lead and he protected it nicely. But he’s a hittable lefty and while his small sample log against the hitters he’ll see tonight is good, I like Oakland’s chances of putting a few on the board against Santiago tonight.

The bullpen battle might slightly favor the Angels if it’s close late, but I wouldn’t call it a big margin. On the other hand, the Athletics have an advantage offensively. The Halos just aren’t hitting much and they also have started the season off by losing all four home games to date.

I’ve mentioned this previously, but I’ll repeat a pre-season opinion that there might be a divide between management and the players in Angel country right now. That’s merely conjecture, but the fact remains that this team has not played especially well to start the campaign. I can see the problems continuing tonight and I’m going to take the A’s to pick up another win this evening.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 4/20/15

Sorry for being a bit tardy, but a computer issue that’s far beyond my limited technical comprehension has occurred. Hopefully that will be resolved shortly and things will be back to normal.

Meanwhile, here’s my free play for Monday with a very brief commentary.

(51) NY RANGERS  at  (52) PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

Take: (51) NY RANGERS -120

Full credit to the beat Penguins for hanging tough and making this a series with the Game Two win at Madison Square Garden. But in viewing the first two games of this opening round series, there doesn’t appear to be much doubt to me as to the stronger team.

I’m sure the Pens are going to come storming out of the locker room ready to go tonight. The Rangers might well have to withstand a big early onslaught from Crosby and company. Also, the special teams play for NY will have to improve over what was on display last game.

But the Rangers have been monsters on the road for some time now and they figure to be very well prepared for a game they really need tonight. The last thing the Rangers want to do is to give the Penguins any additional confidence.

The price is not prohibitive by any means, and while the visitors will likely be the “public” choice tonight, I’m going to go that way as well. I’ll back the Rangers to retake control of the series with the victory this evening.

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 4/19/15

I’m skipping the commentary portion today, but have the Saturday recap and the Sunday free play.

Saturday’s baseball resulted in a 2-2 split, with the White Sox and Indians winning, while the Braves and Padres lost. Each of the two losers were extra innings, so it was obviously a frustrating what could have been kind of a day. Nevertheless, a small profit realized as all four plays were underdogs. The one NBA play was the Warriors, who’d better get rid of the fourth quarter lethargy on defense that has been rearing its head lately. They got away with it Saturday and held on to get past the Pelicans. They won’t be so fortunate as the competition gets tougher.

The bases continue to be very strong, with far more winners than losers and the ones that aren’t getting there are just missing. Get all the info on how my MLB program works by emailing me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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Golden State looked like a cinch winner most of the way as the Saturday free play, but they played very poorly late and failed to cover their win against New Orleans. I’ve already got one NBA free play working for Sunday and here’s another one on the diamond.

(957) PADRES  at  (958) CUBS

Take: (957) PADRES +105

There’s no getting around the fact that the Padres have two things going against them today. One is their continuously horrible defense, which was almost solely the reason they lost to the Cubs on Saturday. The other is Andrew Cashner’s inability to be even close to the same guy on the road as he is at Petco.

Nevertheless, I’ll look for San Diego to have a good chance to win this series finale as they go after struggling Jon Lester. The talented lefty has a big problem right now when runners get on base. He’s got the yips when it comes to throwing to first base, and everyone knows it. Consequently, teams are running wild on Lester and it’s safe to assume the Padres will try that same tactic here.

If it was just the problem with runners on base, that might not be enough to warrant fading Lester. But it sure looks like that issue might be impacting the rest of his game as well. It sure seems like he’s putting pressure on himself to be perfect with every pitch now to try and keep guys off the bases. That’s not a good thing, as Lester certainly looks like he’s out of his typical comfort zone.

Cashner needs to do better than he has, the Friars need to avoid the costly gaffes with the gloves and they have to get on base often enough against Lester to see if he again falls victim to whatever strange malady is affecting him currently. My take is that until Lester shows he’s over this bizarre problem, he’s go against material, so I’ll look at the Padres to get it done as the Sunday free play.

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 4/18/15

Kris Bryant’s debut wasn’t what Cubs fans were hoping for. But the most highly touted prospect in the game is here to stay and there will be loads of highlights moving forward. Here are condensed thoughts from a small handful of Friday’s MLB games.

Mike Trout is now the youngest player ever to reach the 100/100 level in homers and stolen bases. Trout and the Angels got the win at Houston Friday and more importantly as far as this season is concerned, Jered Weaver was able to get through six pretty good innings.

Ubaldo Jimenez had a no-hitter going through 3.2 innings at Fenway, but was stunningly ejected when he hit Pablo Sandoval with a pitch. This might well have been retribution for a hard slide into second by Sandoval. But considering there had been no warning issued, the expulsion was a bit shocking. It was also perhaps costly as Kevin Gausman served up a two-run homer to Ryan Hanigan and the Red Sox eventually got the walk off winner on a single by Xander Bogaerts.

Alex Rodriguez can still hit the baseball. The controversial Yankees veteran launched a pair of bombs Friday night as his team got past Tampa Bay. Whether he keeps it up is a wait and see proposition, but I’ll admit to being floored by how well ARod is hitting after so much time off.

The defending champion Giants are in freefall mode right now. The Diamondbacks obliterated Jake Peavy and three SF relievers in a 9-0 blowout. Josh Collmenter not only pitched a gem, but he also contributed three hits in the Arizona romp. That Giants staff is a mine field currently, and they’re just not a very good baseball team at the moment.

I’m still at a loss to explain why White Sox skipper Robin Ventura was so slow to challenge what appeared to be an incorrect safe/out call at second base in the ninth inning of the game at Detroit. The replay sure appeared to show that Nick Castellanos was out, but Ventura waited too long to make his decision. That proved mighty costly as Castellanos ended up scoring the winning run on a hit by Jose Iglesias.

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I ended up with just one play on Friday and was on the wrong side of the bizarre Ubaldo Jimenez ejection as the Orioles lost at Fenway. I did have one other play, but that ended up getting scratched when Pirates manager Clint Hurdle decided to flip Vance Worley and Jeff Locke, with Worley getting moved up one day. I always list pitchers, so if one of the scheduled starters gets bumped, my play gets canceled.

The one unit loss on Friday wasn’t fun, but the first couple weeks of the 2015 MLB campaign have mostly been a hoot. I’m already on three plays on Saturday, as I usually get my initial selections out by 9PM Pacific time for the following day. That doesn’t always insure I’ll get the best number, but more often than not I’m able to beat the market, and that definitely adds up over the course of a long season.

Get all the info on my baseball program by emailing me at cokin@cox.net. Note that I’ll be including any post-season NBA action as part of the package, and there’s no additional cost for those plays.

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I posted a free NBA play that goes today in yesterday’s blog. I’ll offer up another pro hoops playoff game today, this time on one of the Sunday games.

(711) BROOKLYN NETS  at  (712) ATLANTA HAWKS

Take: (712) ATLANTA HAWKS -10

The Hawks will be a popular betting choice on Sunday as they open their series with the Nets. But square side or not, this looks to me to be a game and series that should be relatively easy for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

Brook Lopez leads a veteran cast of Nets that will hope to pull off the upset. But I just don’t see that happening and based on what I saw from Brooklyn down the stretch in the regular season, I don’t see them having much of a shot here.

The Nets had been showing some signs of life as the season headed into the homestretch, but I thought they played very poorly over their last handful of games and were very fortunate to retain even the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.

Most troubling to me would be what certainly looked to be some towel tossing by this Brooklyn team. They seemed to almost give up in some games where things weren’t going well and that’s a big part of the reason I see no real problem with giving up a load of points in Game One.

The Hawks are not a star-driven entry. This is a team that seems to have no problem with sharing the wealth and the spotlight from one game to the next. That balance is a big plus as if one guy is having a bad day at the office, there’s someone else to pick up the slack.

Atlanta has not played a meaningful game in some time, so they should be mentally prepped to finally be involved in a battle that really matters. Brooklyn has some big names and one would think some potential to give Atlanta a fight here. But they just haven’t shown me the fire I would have expected to see in several late season games of importance, and I think that bodes poorly for the Nets here.

No question this is a substantial number for a playoff game, but I’ll look for the heavily favored hosts to make an immediate statement in Game One. The Nets might well hang in early, but if Atlanta is up in the fourth quarter I like their chances of expanding that lead in the closing minutes. I’ll buy the favored Hawks in this game.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 4/17/15

A few assorted thoughts from Thursday’s MLB results:

Chris Archer is stamping himself as a legit top of the rotation candidate for Tampa Bay. Archer’s command has now caught up to his stuff, and he’s also showing that mean streak that the really dominant guys mostly seem to have in common. The Rays have some definite questions with the sticks. But once they get get their entire rotation healthy, it’s not going to be a picnic facing this staff.

The Mets now have their longest winning streak in quite some time and the most impressive player on their roster right now is Lucas Duda. It’s early and Duda won’t keep hitting .395. But I don’t think there’s much question he’s evolving into more than just an all or nothing middle of the road hitter. Duda’s approach at the plate has clearly gotten better, and now he’s even starting to hit lefties. I never thought I’d say this about Lucas Duda, but he could well be an All-Star candidate if the early returns this season are accurate.

The Arizona Diamondbacks are hoping they have themselves an ace in the making. Archie Bradley’s prospect stock had taken a bit of a dip in  some circles last season. But outpitching Clayton Kershaw and Madison Bumgarner in back to back starts is a pretty impressive way to jump start a big league career. But before everyone goes hog wild, let’s remember this is Bradley’s first trip through the league, and sight unseen pitchers can often have an advantage over the hitters. Right now, Bradley is almost exclusively fastball, curveball, and both are good offerings. But the key for me as to whether he can be a true top of the rotation pitcher will be the development of the changeup, which I don’t think he trusts just yet. In any event, Bradley’s arrival is a needed breath of fresh air for the Diamondbacks.

Finally, the big news out of Thursday is that Kris Bryant is being recalled by the Cubs. I’ll definitely be tuned in on Friday for his Wrigley Field debut. Bryant draws tough for his premiere as he has to face James Shields but if you’re a baseball fan, the Padres/Cubs battle today is must see TV.

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Harmless split here on Thursday as I won with the Rays and lost with the Phillies. I’m ahead just shy of 12 net units out of the starting gate, with one unit being the max wager, so I’m clearly pleased with what has taken place thus far. The NBA has been very productive all season, finishing the regular season at +18.7 net. That’s on what would be considered pretty low volume as I’m very selective in the NBA, so the win percentage for the season was very strong.

Sign up for baseball and get whatever I’ve got in the NBA playoffs included. I’m not selling the NBA as an individual package as I don’t know how many plays I’ll end up on. Based on past years, I’d say it will probably be no more than perhaps 15 plays altogether. But it’s a nice bonus for everyone playing my baseball. Get all the info on how everything works by emailing me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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I won’t likely have much on the opening slate of NBA playoff games this weekend, but I’ll go ahead and step forward with one game I like on Saturday as the post-season tips off.

(703) NEW ORLEANS PELICANS  at  (704) GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

Take: (704) GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS -11.5

There’s no mystery as why the Warriors are such heavy chalk as they open the playoff against the Pelicans. Golden State has been the best team in the league for what amounts to the entire regular season. The Pelicans are not pushovers now that they’re in good health but being competitive here still seems like a daunting task for the underdog.

The Warriors wrapped up the top overall seed for the playoffs some time ago. But I really like the fact this team did very little coasting down the stretch. Keeping the pedal slammed to the floor even throughout a final month where there were literally no meaningful games is a great indicator as to this team’s mental toughness and determination.

The Pelicans did a great job of rallying late to win their way into the playoffs and with the amazing Anthony Davis on the floor, this franchise has a great future. The present isn’t so bad either, and the Warriors clearly need to maintain their focus even with this being a 1/8 series where virtually no one is giving the dog much of a chance. But based on how Golden State played down the stretch, it’s apparent to me intensity and effort won’t be an issue for the favorite.

There’s one stat from the regular season that definitely caught my eye as to this individual game matchup. As good as the Warriors have been all season, they’ve been at their absolute best when being well rested. Check out what the Warriors did when well rested this season. Golden State played 17 games with two or more days rest. They were not only 16-1 straight up in those games, they were also a phenomenal 16-1 against the spread. The average winning margin was 15.3, so they didn’t just beat the opposition in this situation, they literally beat them up.

I will expect a very fresh Golden State team to make the opening game statement on Saturday. The Pelicans will arrive loose and with a nothing to lose attitude. But the Warriors have shown me what I want to see as far as a dominant favorite is concerned and  I expect a lopsided win to get the series started. I’ll go ahead and risk laying the big number with Golden State.

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 4/16/15

A few observations from Wednesday’s MLB results:

Smooth sailing the first time through the Red Sox rotation. Choppy waters on the second trip, however. Wade Miley was blown up by the Nationals on Wednesday. Boston has a dynamic offense, but I’d be stunned if there isn’t an effort made to land a quality starting pitcher sooner rather than later. The Red Sox have one of the deepest systems in the game, but if this team is to make a serious playoff run, they’re going to need at least one more quality arm.

Nelson Cruz is delivering precisely what the Mariners were hoping for as the man with the Boomstick homered for the fifth straight game on Wednesday. But the other end of the early season spectrum for Seattle is a second straight very poor showing from highly touted pitching prospect Taijuan Walker. There’s no doubt about this guy’s stuff, but following a spectacular spring training performance, Walker has been horrible in his first two regular season starts. Walker will get the Astros next week at Safeco, and he’ll need to show improvement or the Mariners might be forced to do some rotation juggling.

Justin Upton doesn’t seem to have any issues with the marine layer at Petco. I’m not sure anyone in the game has faster hands than Upton. His power swing is a thing of beauty and the man simply launches missiles. The Padres still have some holes, but the Kemp/Upton combo is lethal and if the pitching delivers as most expect, San Diego is finally going to be playing some really big games this summer.

The Rockies are now 6-0 on the road and completed the sweep at San Francisco last night. I really like the quick hook for Latroy Hawkins in the closer role, and the insertion of Adam Ottavino as the ninth inning stopper. If Rafael Betancourt is able to stay healthy, the Rockies have a late inning combo that’s absolutely going to boost their stock. We know this team will hit and they already have a strong defense led by the amazing Nolan Arenado. The decision to go with Nick Hundley as the regular catcher is a clear indication that run prevention and game calling is a big deal to this year’s Rockies. It’s early, and the starting pitching is still very much a we’ll see proposition. But there’s reason for some optimism right now in Colorado.

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2-1 here on Wednesday. The Yankees bullpen blew up badly at Baltimore, but I got home with the Diamondbacks/Rockies Under and also won with the Mavericks in the NBA.

Be sure to get in touch with me if you’re looking to enjoy the summer baseball grind playing exactly what I’m on myself each day. Note that all subscribers will also be receiving any NBA/NHL playoff selections as well. Get all the pertinent info by emailing me at cokin@cox.net.

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Good job by the Mavericks as they rolled past Portland for their 50th regular season win. It’s a thin slate on Thursday but here’s one I like on the diamond.

(903) PHILLIES  at  (904) NATIONALS

Take: (903) PHILLIES +135

I think I might have already mentioned this, but regardless, it’s worth repeating. The Phillies are not good at all and based on the methodology I favor, I’m probably not going to be considering too many wagers on them during the course of the season. The one exception will be when Cole Hamels takes the mound. Hamels remains a true #1 starter from my vantage point and more often than not, he’s going to give his team a chance to win the game. I’ll hope that’s the case again tonight as the Phils open a weekend set in Washington against the Nationals.

The dormant Nats bats came to life the last couple days at Fenway as they were able to inflict some damage on both Justin Masterson and Wade Miley. But Masterson and Miley are erratic types who generally can’t get by if they’re not locating. Hamels doesn’t fit that profile. He’s lights out when he’s on and he’s usually able to hang tough even when he’s at less than his best.

Doug Fister enters with a 0.00 ERA following his first start of the season and that was against these Phillies. But I think it’s worth noting that while Fister got his usual high ground ball rate, he also gave up some ringing shots, particularly to Ryan Howard. Basically, his performance therefore gets a different grade depending on one’s perspective. For those who value ERA, it’s sure tough to find any fault with 0.00. But for analysts who put more faith in xFIP and SIERA, this was an effort that fell more into the adequate at best category.

I don’t see any question that the Nats are going to be serious contenders while the Phillies have no chance to be anything more than fodder over the course of the full season. The Phils just got swept by the Mets and that weak offense is already getting exposed. But at the same time, I’m not ready to declare that the Nationals have found their form off one win at Fenway. Washington has not played well in the early going and it hasn’t been simply a lack of offense. The defense has been shaky, although those stats are somewhat skewed thanks to some awful glove work by SS Ian Desmond. I’m also simply not convinced the bullpen is top shelf, and losing Craig Stammen to the DL with forearm trouble is not going to help.

No argument with the Nats being chalk here. But I believe the Phillies will play their most focused baseball when Hamels is on the mound, simply because the players know that’s their best chance to win. I won this matchup last week when the Phils rallied late and won in extras, and I’m willing to take another chance with them this evening.