Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 8/23/14

I’m in the midst of the continued breakdown of the opening week college football games (have played four already, and more likely to come), so I’m skipping the usual commentary tonight. And by the way, that six-week special offer is still available. Take advantage and score all my plays across the board for the next six weeks. Use the “buy now” tab to subscribe and get started right away, or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net for more detailed information.

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Mike Minor delivered a brilliant performance for the Braves on Friday night. He got little help from his teammates and ended saddled with a no-decision, but Atlanta eventually broke through in extras and put the Friday free play into the win column. A good sized dog on tap for the Saturday comp.

08/23 04:05 PM   MLB   (975) HOUSTON ASTROS  at   (976) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Take: (975) HOUSTON ASTROS +145

You can mark me down as being bullish on Danny Salazar. The Cleveland righty has great stuff, and if he can stay healthy, there’s a real expectation here that he’s going to break out at some point. But Salazar remains a model of inconsistency at the present time. The problem seems to be an inability to maintain his command on a regular basis. Salazar has done better in this regard lately. But he’s still prone to high pitch counts and once he hits the wall, that’s pretty much curtains for Salazar. So despite his top of the rotation potential, Salazar remains very much a work in progress.

Collin McHugh, on the other hand, seems to have arrived. Throw out the subpar W/L record. McHugh has been much better than that, and as I said last Sunday when I backed McHugh against the Red Sox, I really feel as though he’s now the ace on this Houston staff. The key for McHugh has been his mastering the changeup. He’s getting a huge differential between his fastball and the change and a load of swings and misses in the process.

From a team perspective, the Indians are clearly the better entry and they can be rude to righties when playing at home. As for the Astros, they’re still a lousy team and picking the right spots to give them a roll is a challenge. But the good news on that front is that Houston is on one of its good rolls right now. They’re on a modest 5-2 run, and it’s worth noting that the Astros have been hitting very well for some time now. So the ‘Stros are not in pushover mode presently, and that means it’s not a bad time to give them a longer look than usual.

The Indians are still hanging in as far as the playoff chase goes. They’re a manageable five games out of the second wild card, which means that one hot streak could get them right into the mix. But that’s also the problem, as this team just hasn’t been good enough to put any distance between themselves and the .500 plateau.

The Tribe rates the favorite’s role this evening. They play well at home and they have the ability to do a number on right handers. But I also see them being overpriced given McHugh’s stellar form, which has actually been amazing all season on the road. This looks like solid value with the game being priced this high, and I’m going to align myself within the Astros this time.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 8/21/14

Dear National Football League,

There’s an old expression that goes something along the lines of, if it’s not broken, don’t try to fix it. You might want to heed these words as far as this insistence on adding offense to the game is concerned.

I’m not going to beef about the safety measures that have been added, and are therefore resulting in more penalties. The data pertaining to concussions and what might be resulting down the road from these brain injuries is compelling. Nobody should be arguing against measures protecting the players from long term damage that can ruin their quality of life.

But it seems as though you’re trying to eliminate defense from the game with the extreme changes that are now making it virtually impossible to defend anyone who happens to go out for a pass. This is a very bad idea, based on the early returns.

I like offense as much as anyone, and I don’t want defenders being allowed to mug receivers in an attempt to deny them the football. But you can’t make almost everything illegal, and based on the insane number of penalty flags, that appears to be the intent right now.

I lost count of the penalties whistled in last night’s game between the Steelers and Eagles. I’m guessing that if declined flags are included, the final tally was right around 30. That is patently absurd. It’s also incredibly boring. The most visible individual on the field at Philadelphia last night was Ed Hochuli. He’s somewhat entertaining as far as officials go, but I can guarantee you that I have no interest in watching “The Ed Hochuli Show” for three plus hours.

I’m not sure there’s any entertainment vehicle that has done a better job of connecting with the public than you have, NFL. But no one wins ‘em all, and this latest idea, while perhaps well intentioned, is a disaster in this observer’s eyes. I’m not expecting scintillating action on pre-season games. But I’m also not into getting bored beyond belief with flag after flag, followed by officials huddle after huddle, and what amounts to a touch football game in between the penalty calls.

Do what it takes to legislate truly unnecessary roughness and more dangerous than they need to be collisions out of the game. But don’t kill the entertainment value in the process. Let the stars of the show be the players and let the audience enjoy the excitement.

It wasn’t broken to begin with, so stop trying to fix it.

P.S.     NOW!

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Split on Friday with a win on the diamond and a loss on the football total. Also, note the preceding was in no way, shape or form sour grapes. I won a game earlier this week and came away with the same impression. Absolutely awful stuff with the refs dominating every aspect of the event.

My third college play of the new season has now been sent out, and I’m pretty enthused about the offerings on the first week’s slate of games. Sign up for my current six-week special and receive all my plays across the board, sent out as I play them myself. It’s been a productive summer and I’ve got a good track record of getting out of the college gate quickly, so there’s really no better time to subscribe than right now. Use the “buy now” feature on this page or email me at cokin@cox.net.

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Tough beat on the football total as the Thursday free play. Back on the diamond for the Friday comp.

08/22 04:10 PM  MLB   (905) ATLANTA BRAVES  at   (906) CINCINNATI REDS

Take: (905) ATLANTA BRAVES +105

It’s a virtual inevitability that every season around this time, at least one or two teams will simply enter into what amounts to white flag mode. It looks like we have our first full fledged towel tosser in action now. From all appearances, the Cincinnati Reds are now pretty much mailing it in on a nightly basis.

This isn’t to say the Reds won’t win some games between now and the end of September. But it sure looks like they’re going to be losing several more than they win at this point. One can get a good feel for a team by watching them regularly and when I view the Reds, I’m seeing a team that just isn’t there mentally. I won’t swear to it, but chances are I’ve made my last play on the Reds for this season. But I don’t think I’ll be having a problem trying to beat them, particularly if the price isn’t an obstacle.

Tonight, the beleaguered Reds host the Braves. Just looking at the numbers, the price is just about where it ought to be on this game. Mike Minor has done a little better lately for Atlanta, but he’s still having trouble commanding his change and he’s not shedding that nasty HR vulnerability. Minor is not what I would call a go with hurler right now, in spite of some encouraging signs of late.

As for Mat Latos, his velocity is slowly starting to creep back toward its former level. Latos is a quality starter and good righties can absolutely shut down the grip it and rip it Braves.

The Reds are capable of hammering lefties with their lineup, and under normal conditions, I’d probably avoid this altogether. But the Reds are as dead as it gets right now, and last night’s destruction at the hands of the visiting Braves was humiliating.

I haven’t been impressed with rookie manager Bryan Price at almost any point this season. His “strategy” has been iffy at best. Now you can also add in the apparent fact that he’s not putting a team that’s remotely energized on the field. Some of that is on the players to be sure, but just because a team is losing games doesn’t mean they should be pretty much going through the motions. The Cubs are going to lose more than they win and were out of playoff contention before the season started. But watch a Cubs game and you’ll be impressed with the spirit and enthusiasm that’s there almost every day. I’m not seeing that at all right now from this Reds entry.

I’m always aware of the data, but there are rare times where I just choose to ignore it, and this is one of those games. I just can’t see Atlanta getting plus money from Cincy at this point, so tonight’s free play is on the Braves.

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 8/21/14

It’s not a miracle, but it’s pretty close. For the first time in 28 years, Major League Baseball has upheld a protest, and as a result, the Giants and Cubs will be completing the Tarpgate fiasco that occurred at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think there was any chance this would happen. The fact that MLB decided to do what really is the right thing in this instance is a huge positive as far as this observer is concerned. The rain was not what caused the ridiculous delay at Wrigley. It was a direct result of what amounts to negligence on the part of the grounds crew. In a situation such as this, penalizing one team while rewarding another was patently unfair. I’m thrilled that the powers that be decided to recognize this and order a resumption of the game.

Maybe this is just the first in a series of steps that brings baseball’s mindset all the way into the 21st century. I like the tradition that’s part of the game as much as anyone, but not when it gets in the way of progressive thinking. I don’t believe there’s much question that has been a problem for MLB. Perhaps this is just an isolated incident that means nothing as far as the big picture goes. But I’ll play the optimist for once, and will hope this is just the beginning of a new approach.

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2-0 Wednesday here with the Giants and Rockies delivering wins. Following two strong months, I got off to a rough start this month. But that ship has been righted and I’m now in the black for August as well.

Lots of action now with both football and baseball available, so it’s a great time to join me for my ongoing special offer. Six weeks for $600, and that’s all inclusive. Subscribe today using the “buy now” feature or send an email to me directly at cokin@cox.net for more info.

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No sweat with the Giants as the Wednesday free play, as they blew up Edwin Jackson immediately and led wire to wire. I’ll take a look at tonight’s NFLx game for the Thursday comp.

08/21 04:30 PM   NFL   (251) PITTSBURGH STEELERS  at   (252) PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Take: UNDER 50

Two games, 139 total points. Yes, when staring at those numbers, even considering an Under play in a game involving the Philadelphia Eagles seems daring, if not a little crazy. But I’m pretty big on making my pre-season plays off what I can garner as far as information is concerned, and that’s the key to this opinion.

One thing we’ve learned quickly enough about Chip Kelly is that he doesn’t have a problem letting the media know what his intentions are as far as these exhibition games are concerned. So Kelly’s admission that he’s going to keep things pretty vanilla tonight tells me he won’t be digging into the playbook to any extent and apparently just wants to get through the game with no problems that will carry over to the games that count. Fact is, baed on what I saw last week in the game against the Patriots, I think Kelly has shown about as much of the playbook as he cares to, and I would be surprised if he doesn’t dial it back a bit tonight.

On the flip side, the Steelers are going to have their entire first unit defense on the field together for the first time this pre-season. What that should mean is that, after facing units that didn’t do much game planning, if any, for the warp speed Eagles offense, Pittsburgh will be providing some looks the Eagles haven’t seen so far this summer.

Offensively, the Steelers are going to be shorthanded in the backfield by at least one RB and probably two following the Bell/Blount traffic issue yesterday. Mike Tomlin isn’t about to alter his personality and throw the football 40 times, so I have to believe the personnel issue in play tonight can’t be a good thing for the Steelers offense.

As for the number on this game, to the surprise of nobody, the bets have poured in on the Over and price has gone up. Given the pace of play we’re now familiar with as far as the Eagles go, I can’t say I’ll be shocked if this turns into another fireworks show with points galore. But after digesting the available information, I now believe there’s value to be had with the Under, and that’s the way I’ll play this game tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 8/20/14

Preparation for the start of the college football season continues, and I’m eager to see how one of the theories I have entering this season works out. This involves experienced team defenses, and here’s the condensed version of the thought process.

Offenses are dominating these days. The rules heavily favor the team with the football, and the warp speed pace of play so many schools now utilize is also huge. Let’s face it, the toughest gig in the game right now is that of defensive coordinator.

That being the case, I have to believe cohesiveness on the defensive unit is going to be huge, at least in the early part of the season schedule. Teams with lots of experience should have a substantial advantage over those breaking in lots of new personnel.  There might not be a way for defenses as a whole to shut down opposing offenses. But I feel strongly that teams owning a heavy dose of overall position experience are going to have a much better chance of at least containing attacks than those breaking in untested personnel that is also not used to playing together.

Like any exercise, just blindly playing on the more experienced defenses is probably not going to pay off in any substantive way. But in terms of putting together my personal game plan for the first few weeks of the new campaign, I’m definitely putting stars next to these types  of teams as potential plays, particularly if it’s a team I feel is undervalued overall.

Speaking of college football, I’ll be part of the panel once again at this year’s Supercontest Weekend, taking place later this week at the LVH/Westgate. The event is free and open to the public, and the college portion of the seminar goes at 6 PM this Friday. Hope to see some of you there!

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I went 1-2 with my Tuesday baseball plays, and given the overall results on what was about the chalkiest day of the entire season, I’ll accept it as a manageable loss and will quickly move on to tonight’s slate.

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The Padres roared out to a 3-0 lead over the Dodgers, and then proceeded to play a really lousy game en route to an 8-6 loss as the Tuesday comp. My one winner on Tuesday was the Cubs, and I’m getting involved with tonight’s game at Wrigley for the Wednesday free play.

08/20 05:05 PM   MLB   (907) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS  at   (908) CHICAGO CUBS

Take: (907) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS  -125

There appears to be no way to understate just how livid the Giants were with what transpired at Wrigley Field on Tuesday evening. Just in case you missed it, a 15 minute downpour led to a four hour rain delay and an eventual five inning, 2-0 Cubs win. In a nutshell, the Wrigley grounds crew screwed things up. They somehow put the tarp down wrong when it began to rain. As a result, in spite of whatever resources were available, the field remained unplayable for roughly four hours and it was finally determined the game could not resume.

Therefore the Giants end up losing the game, as there was evidently no rules that allowed for a suspension of the action. The Giants are protesting the decision, but rules experts seem to be in agreement the league will have no choice but to uphold the result. Needless to say, this isn’t sitting at all well with anyone in the Giants camp.

Over the course of a season as lengthy as this, there aren’t that many spots that one can play simply based on emotion. This game could be the exception to that rule. I have to think the Giants are going to take the field in a bad mood after what took place on Tuesday night, and my reaction is that this is one time when I want to try and ride that emotion from a wagering standpoint.

That might be good enough on its own, but I also liked the idea of backing Jake Peavy tonight, and pretty much intended to so even before that fiasco last night. Peavy has had a truly awful season. But he finally broke through and got a win in his most recent start, and that has to be a huge burden lifted for the veteran righty. I expect Peavy to pitch well tonight for the Giants, and the thought that he might have a very revved up team behind him sure can’t hurt.

The other aspect in play here is Edwin Jackson. Not that Jackson can’t take the mound and have a dominating effort, but let’s just say it’s not very likely based on his ultra-mediocre body of work. The Cubs are a woeful 8-17 when Jackson starts, and his tendency to run up big pitch counts even on his good nights means likely multi-innings for the Cubbies pen.

It’s pretty much a sweep for me on this game as I side with the Giants on the data and like them just as much with the assumed mindset resulting from the Tuesday absurdity. I don’t find the price much of a hindrance, so tonight’s call is on the Giants.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 8/19/14

This was supposed to be the game that determined the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. Instead, the team emerged from its Monday night loss against Washington in what has to be a muddled state. In this case, it would appear that no news is not good news.

Brian Hoyer alternated series with Johnny Manziel in the first half and the only real determination coming out of this mess of a game is that the Browns have a problem at quarterback. Manziel certainly didn’t win the job with his less than stellar performance, but Hoyer was absolutely terrible for the second straight game. Manziel was at the helm for one touchdown drive against Washington reserves in the second half. But it was hardly an impressive roll to the end zone and basically only happened thanks to some flags on the Washington defense.

Hoyer, meanwhile, put together a performance that was almost indescribably awful. Of the six QB’s who saw action in this game, I don’t see how there’s any debate as to the worst of the bunch. That was Hoyer, and it really wasn’t close.

I have no idea what the Browns are going to do next. If it’s me, I’m going to start Hoyer on Saturday against the Rams and hope he can do well enough to at least earn the first-string nod out of the regular season starting gate. Manziel is going to take the starting role at some point, that’s a virtual certainty. But I’d rather have the rookie not getting mentally and physically fried right at the outset of the season. It’s not as though many are looking at the Browns as even a remote contender this season, so there’s little point in throwing caution to the wind.

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The Browns were my only Monday play, so 1-0 for the day and after a sluggish ten days or so, my August ledger now shows a very small profit. As for the win on this sorry excuse for a professional football game, sometimes one gets paid even when clearly on the wrong side. The Browns got 13 points on a pick-six and the end game Hail Mary, and also held the Redskins scoreless on a first and goal from the one yard line back in the first half. Truth is, I should have lost this game going away. Instead it’s a win and I’ll be more than happy to record it as such.

Six weeks of all my plays for $600 is the current special. This includes every selection, and I think it’s worth noting the late adds have been doing pretty well lately. These are games that, because of the time frame, are not online anyplace. But they’re absolutely included with any of my subscriptions, and note that I don’t have any step up levels for more money or anything like that. One size fits all. Use the “buy now” feature on this page to get rolling, or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net.

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The free play express jumped the rail last night as the Mariners were no match for Jerome Williams. Trust me, it feels just as weird to type that sentence as it does to read it and believe it. On any given night… anyway, back on an underdog side tonight.

08/19 07:10 PM   MLB   (959) SAN DIEGO PADRES  at   (960) LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Take: (959) SAN DIEGO PADRES +115

No, I don’t think the San Diego Padres are a legitimate playoff contender. But what I think doesn’t matter. The Padres are seven games out of the wild card with 39 games remaining. That means they’re in the race, and more importantly, the players on the team absolutely believe that have a chance to get to October.

It really doesn’t make much sense, but that’s the beauty of sports. What we “experts” think is supposed to take place simply doesn’t. The Friars are a perfect example. This team just grinds like crazy. If you watch their games, and I catch almost all of them, the team has some real chemistry, and I don’t think there’s any question this is what’s enabling the Padres to play above their collective talents. Make no mistake, on paper this is a team that should already be making vacation plans. But they don’t play the games on paper.

The Dodgers have loads of talent, but they can’t get away from what has been an unending run of injuries and consequently, they’re really not playing particularly good baseball. As a result, a team that was supposed to be a playoff cinch has had to turn to making minor deals just to round out their starting rotation. The Dodgers are still atop the NL West, but I don’t think there’s anyone who is viewing them as a powerhouse based on how they’ve played for the last few weeks.

The Padres have the edge on the hill tonight with Adam Kennedy opposing Kevin Correia. The Dodgers are supposed to have the better offense, but strange as it is, that’s not the way it is right at the moment. The current form chart also gives the bullpen advantage to San Diego, in spite of the fact they moved their closer and should have gotten considerably weaker.

I wouldn’t say there’s any particular value here based on the price. The number on the game is a reflection of how the teams are playing right now and the fact the better pitcher tonight toils for the Padres. Perhaps getting just small plus money with the Friars will turn bettors off, and make the Dodgers as cheap chalk seem enticing. I’d rather side with the little engine that could and I’ll go the Padres way tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Monday 8/18/14

Quick takes from Sunday’s NFL twin bill:

The Broncos were obviously very good throughout this lopsided affair. The 49ers clearly didn’t game plan to any extent and the only thing I got out of this from their standpoint is that the concession prices at their new venue are insane. $5.75 for bottled water?

Cam Newton needed a few series to shake off the rust, but looked solid after that. The star of this show was backup RB Fozzy Whittaker, who probably made the Panthers roster with his superb performance. The Chiefs first unit offense moved the ball well enough, though they didn’t finish off their drives. But I do think there could be some significant depth issues on the KC roster.

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Bryan Price wasn’t exactly the frontrunner for NL Manager of the Year, but he really screwed things up for the Reds on Sunday. I have no problem with his getting Aroldis Chapman warmed up for the save while leading 7-5 in the top of the ninth. But once the Reds went up 9-5, bringing him into a non-save situation was silly. If whomever else got in trouble, fine, get Chapman in the game. But with a second game still to be played in the evening, wasting Chapman with a four-run lead was not smart. Moreover, it sure seemed to me that Chapman lost his focus with no save on the line and the results were catastrophic.

If I were managing, armed with the knowledge there’s a second game and no day off on Monday, I’d have left Jumbo Diaz in to pitch the eighth inning. Diaz needed only 13 pitches to complete the seventh. That leaves either Jonathan Broxton or Chapman for the ninth, depending on the situation. That way, you’ve got a fresh arm for the nightcap. Instead, he used both Broxton and Chapman, and had neither available for the second game. Sorry, but that makes no sense at all to me. Price took what was actually an ideal setup thanks to the cinch seventh by Diaz and completely screwed it up.

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Very strong Sunday here with 1-0 NFL, 1-0 CFL, 3-1 MLB and a net gain of roughly +4.5 for the day. It looks like I’m back on the right side of the momentum pendulum, which is always nice.

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The daily free play rampage was maintained as the Astros blew up Joe Kelly en route to a lopsided win over the Red Sox. Another big game for Jose Altuve, who seriously needs to be getting more attention from the national media. He’s a terrific player and considering how he was simply dismissed because of his short stature, an even better story.  Swinging back to some chalk for the Monday comp.

08/18 04:05 PM   MLB   (915) SEATTLE MARINERS  at   (916) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Take: (915) SEATTLE MARINERS -140

There it is, in black and white. If the season ended today, the Mariners would be in the play-in game against either the Angels or Athletics. Seattle is off a really big series win at Detroit, and they’ll look to stay hot as they travel to Philadelphia. There’s not a whole lot that doesn’t favor the Mariners in this battle.

Roenis Elias will be on the mound for the road team. The rookie southpaw was sent down to Tacoma for a spot start just to keep sharp as the Mariners didn’t require his services thanks to the scheduling. Elias responded with a solid five innings of work on the farm, and now he’s back with the big club. Elias isn’t going to win any awards, but don’t undervalue what he’s meant this Seattle team. He was the surprise of spring training and for the most part, he’s down some really solid work maintaining his spot toward the back of the Mariners rotation.

Jerome Williams has found yet another big league employer, and he was reasonably effective in his Phillies debut. But there’s not much question Williams is no more than roster filler at this point in his career. He’s at best a five or six inning stopgap type, and he really hasn’t even been that this year. Williams is now with his third last-place team this season alone. I’m not sure if that’s a record or not, but it certainly ought to be.

Aside from the advantage on the mound, the Mariners own all the team edges. Even the schedule favors them, as the Phillies are off a cross country flight from San Francisco.  The Seattle offense has shown its most life of late, and they’re a team that has the look of a legit contender at this point. The Phillies have the look of a team that just wants this all to end, which it will in another 38 games.

The downside is that Seattle will be a very popular side tonight, and the number here is technically a little higher than it rightfully should be. But lack of value notwithstanding, playing the hot hand against a team that’s going nowhere and is almost certain to get broken up come this winter, is simply not a terrible idea. I’ll side with the Mariners to pick up another win.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 8/17/14

Quick comments from the Saturday NFLx slate:

Aaron Rodgers doesn’t think he gets much out of pre-season games, and in his case, he’s right. But Rodgers was still brilliant for the Packers on Saturday. The Rams are likely pleased with what Sam Bradford showed as well. The backups for both the Packers and Rams mostly failed to impress.

Geno Smith was okay for the Jets, but I still feel the Jets are better offensively with Michael Vick at QB if he’s healthy. Smith seems only functional in a pretty simplified attack. Andy Dalton was tremendous for the Bengals. Backup QB Matt Scott had a rough night after excelling last week. If Dalton is ready to take the next step, which the Bengals seem to truly believe he is, this is a dangerous football team.

Early opinions on Dallas are justified. Good offense. Awful defense. Shaky special teams. The Ravens won this by far more than the final score indicated. Forming concrete opinions off pre-season observations is usually hazardous, but it’s getting really tough to see Dallas not being a bad team.

Most fraudulent score of the night was the Giants 27-26 win over the Colts. The Indy starters looked very crisp. The Giants were pretty inept until they made up ground in a lengthy garbage time period. Winning the third-team battle doesn’t mean much.

Good performance by the Steelers, and Big Ben in particular. Tough night for Bills fans. It’s early, but for right now, this is a team that appears to have a potentially big problem at QB. I don’t think it’s unfair to be a bit pessimistic off what we’ve seen thus far from EJ Manuel. He needs to get it rolling in the Week Three dress rehearsal game.

Lovie Smith should be pleased with what he saw from the Bucs starters. This game turned on a play that went from TD to fumble after a replay review, as Mike Evans didn’t secure the football on his way into the end zone. Tough turn for Buccaneers bettors, to put it mildly. Matt Moore played well off the bench for the Dolphins.

Jadaveon Clowney showed why the Texans made him the first pick in the most recent draft. No questions yet answered about this Houston offense, but the Texans are going to have a defense.  Atlanta’s second and third units were not good at all, and it’s already looking as though depth will be a real issue for the Falcons.

Crazy finish in the Cardinals-Vikings game. Arizona is legit, this is a playoff caliber football team out of what is now clearly the best division in the NFL. Big improvement over his debut performance for Vikings rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, and the Minnesota home crowd was totally into this action.

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Split for a small profit in baseball on Saturday, lost two of three in the NFL. That Evans fumble in the Bucs game might well have cost a winning day.

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The free play ended up getting rained out, and unfortunately, the Sunday doubleheader between the Reds and Rockies will not see the same pitching matchup, as Mat Latos is now slated to face Jordan Lyles. That leaves Axelrod/Flande in the nightcap, and very little chance I’ll have any involvement. But I do have an interesting looking underdog for the Sunday comp.

08/17 10:35 AM   MLB   (969) HOUSTON ASTROS  at   (970) BOSTON RED SOX

Take: (969) HOUSTON ASTROS +135

It’s not often a pitcher with a 5-9 record can be congratulated on having a breakout year. But I think that’s the case for Astros righty Collin McHugh. Fact is, aside from one stretch where McHugh wasn’t 100% physically and struggled some, he’s been pitching some really good baseball for the Astros.

As is so often the case, it’s the refinement of secondary pitches that has transformed McHugh from what looked like a strictly back end of the rotation guy to a quality starting pitcher. The big key has been a changeup that has been all but unhittable. McHugh is getting remarkable separation from his fastball to the change. The current opposition BA against the change is barely above .100, and it’s clear that McHugh now has complete confidence in this pitch. I also don’t think this is a short term aberration. In fact, a better argument might be made that McHugh could end up emerging as the number one starter on this Astros staff next season.

Joe Kelly will throw for Boston, and he’s proving to be a gritty guy the Red Sox can probably rely on as a back end starting pitcher. I still maintain he’s a better bullpen fit based on his stuff, but there’s nothing wrong with Kelly as a #4 or #5 starter who can log innings and give his team a chance to win. But that could be the ceiling for Kelly as a starting pitcher. His secondary offerings are nothing special, and it’s very evident that his preference is to feature the fastball as much as he can. That usually means limitations as a starter unless it’s a really dominant pitch and that’s not the case for Kelly.

I have no argument with the Red Sox being favored today. Even in what has been a very down season for the defending World Series champs, they’re better than the lowly Astros. But the Red Sox have had loads of problems when faced with quality opposition on the mound. So this becomes one of those games where I will put less focus on the other aspects and will concentrate more on the starters. In this instance, I prefer McHugh to Kelly. Add in what I think are generous underdog odds, and the Astros look like a decent plus money shot today.

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 8/16/14

Friday NFL quick hits:

If the Seahawks have even a mild Super Bowl hangover, it’s not showing. Russell Wilson was sharp, and the Seahawks starters played longer than expected because they wanted to. This is the best team in the league, and they apparently are determined to be even better this season off what we’re seeing in meaningless exhibitions. Scary news for everyone else.

Sean Payton was mostly displeased following the Saints win. He was unhappy with what he termed a lack of discipline, and this was clearly aimed at Jimmy Graham. The stud TE had two TD catches and decided to do his signature goalpost dunk each time. That’s not legal anymore. It was clear that when Graham did it a second time Payton was really angry. He not only yelled at Graham on the field, but brought it up again in the post-game presser.  There didn’t appear to be much concern in the Titans camp over the loss.

The Patriots looked sharper than the Eagles as New England picked up the 42-35 win. The Eagles are having turnover issues and even in the pre-season, that’s not a great sign. I have to believe they’re going to want a much tighter and more efficient effort next week against the Steelers.

The Raiders came from behind to nip the Lions, but the first-team Lions were considerably better than the first-team Raiders. Matt Schaub did have a TD drive for Oakland, but he still looks lousy. Note Derek Carr left this game with bruised ribs and a concussion, so QB3 Matt McGloin is going to likely continue to get a good number of snaps. He’s not as talented as Schaub or Carr, but he makes plays.

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I had a good enough 2-1 Friday with a trio of MLB dogs. No football plays for me last night, but I’ll be in action tonight with what looks like three plays as well as more baseball action.

My six-week special is available now, and of course, this includes all plays across the board. No extra charges for higher level plays, everyone gets all the games I’m on. Sign up using the “buy now” on this page or simply email me at cokin@cox.net if you’d like more info.

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Daily free plays are on a roll right now, and I’ll try to capitalize on one of the few trends I buy into on tonight’s card.

08/16 05:120 PM   MLB   (911) CINCINNATI REDS  at   (912) COLORADO ROCKIES

Take: (912) COLORADO ROCKIES

No number on this game as I’m writing this, but I’m expecting the Rockies to be what ought to be a reasonably priced favorite tonight. I think they’ve got enough edges to warrant consideration.

Justin Lyles will be starting for the home team. There’s some debate as to exactly what Lyles is throwing, but the main thing is that his best offering sinks when it’s working. That’s the story for Lyles. If he keeps the ball down and gets ground balls, he’s a serviceable big league starter. If he gets up ion the zone, he’s prone to being taken deep, and that can be a major problem in this ballpark. Lyles was not good at all in his first start off the DL, but was much better in terms of generating those grounders last outing. Lyles should match up well with a Reds entry that doesn’t have much power these days.

The flip side here is Dylan Axelrod, who has never shown the ability to get major league batters out on a regular basis. He has surrendered a career BA in excess of .300 in his intermittent big league appearances. That by itself doesn’t bode well for Axlerod pitching at Coors Field. Making matters worse is that he has never pitched in this park. That’s where the long term trend I alluded to comes into play. First-time Coors starting pitchers are a notoriously risky proposition. When it’s a Quad-A type like Axelrod, I have to believe it gets even worse.

As for other elements, the Rockies bullpen is horrendous, so there’s always some element of risk involved in asking them to hold a late lead if they have one. But that’s offset by what looks to me like a nice edge for Colorado with the sticks. Pitchers are simply not fearing this Cincy lineup right now, and we’re seeing an aggressive mindset by opposing hurlers on a virtually nightly basis.

Jorge De La Rosa, who basically never loses at home, was only about a 6/5 favorite on Thursday night. So while Lyles is going to be the favorite tonight, I can’t see this line being unplayable. Axelrod won’t get much respect from the oddsmakers, so I’m assuming a bit more chalk than on Thursday, but as long as this is reasonable, say -130 or better, the Rockies are certainly worthy of consideration tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 8/15/14

This was not the way to celebrate the news that MLB has its new commissioner. Hopefully, Rob Manfred was nowhere near a TV last night and missed the bizarre conclusion of the Padres-Cardinals game. If the new commish saw what took place, he knows there’s some quick fixing needed to what’s taking place on the field.

Just in case you haven’t seen the lowlights, the Padres got jobbed last night at Busch Stadium by poor umpiring by the formerly outstanding Balkin’ Bob Davidson along with what appears to have been a big whiff by the replay officials in New York. Condensed version is that Davidson made two bad calls, and that was compounded when the replay observers somehow botched a missed tag at home plate. That’s the essence of what took place. If you want the long version, search it and see for yourself. Otherwise, you already know what transpired.

Here’s the problem. No explanation was ever given as to why the Davidson call stood. The replay certainly indicated Cardinals catcher AJ Pierzynski tagged nothing but air, and the fact he was trying to retag Padres runner Alexi Amarista is all the proof I need to know he missed him with the first attempt.

In addition to remedying the replay situation, Commissioner Manfred is simply going to have to lay down the law to the umpires union. I don’t mean this as a slam on Bob Davidson, who I have always thought was one of the better men in blue. But Davidson is, at least in this observer’s eyes, declining rapidly. He’s been at the center of numerous dicey situations this year, and this was not the first time where he basically didn’t make any call and appeared totally confused as to what was taking place. Sorry, but I don’t think Davidson can cut it anymore at this level.  Just as the teams evaluate on a consistent basis and make roster changes based on their conclusions, there needs to be an in-season process put in place for the umpires. Replay is fine and necessary, but it’s more important to have the most capable guys working the actual games.

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Just bone for me on the Thursday card, and the Rockies came through nicely. I probably won’t have a deep card tonight either, but the weekend prospects look pretty enticing, particularly with at least a couple NFL exhibitions slated to be on my card.

Ongoing special is a good one. Six weeks, all plays in all sports for $600. My September college football has generally been solid, so I would grade this as a good time to jump in and test the waters. Use the “buy now” feature on this page to get subscribed, or shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net. Note that no one but me sees any of the correspondence, so this isn’t going to land you on anyone’s mailing list. Everything is confidential.

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The Marlins rallied to get an extra inning win over the Diamondbacks as the Thursday free play. I’m staying with the same matchup for the Friday comp.

08/15 04:10 PM   MLB   (955) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS  at   (956) MIAMI MARLINS

Take: (955) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS +125

Let’s get the bad news out of the way right at the top. The Diamondbacks are a lousy team, three of the four best hitters they had against lefties are either injured or traded and this team has logged a load if innings the last couple of days. So I can completely understand how lots of bettors are going to look at the Marlins as the side to play tonight.

But one of my deals is that I like to jump on pitchers who suddenly seem to find their rhythm after struggling, and we’ve got one such hurler going tonight as Trevor Cahill will get the start for the Snakes. Cahill was once a very highly regarded young pitcher, but he has fallen upon hard times since leaving Oakland. Things bottomed out for Cahill earlier this season as he found himself back in the minors attempting to relocate his stuff. It’s small sample to be sure, but Cahill has gotten things together of late. His last couple of starts have been reminiscent of what he used to be with the Athletics.

The general consensus with Cahill’s problems have been that it’s mechanical. I can’t disagree with that, as it really wasn’t difficult to spot how much trouble he was having repeating his release point. That was leading to poor command and it was pretty much a domino effect from there. But from what I’m now hearing and reading, the bigger problem for Cahill was between the ears. He just lost his confidence and everything seemed to spiral out of control from there.

It at least appears as though Cahill might be getting it back together. He’s looked really good in his last couple of outings, and he’s once more pounding the strike zone with a hard two-seam fastball that when it’s right, will generate lots of ground balls as well as a decent number of strikeouts.

Cahill will be opposed by lefty Brad Hand, who has been sort of a pleasant surprise for Miami, but is off a very rough start. I’m not really bullish on Hand as anything more than a fifth starter or a bullpen resident. What I’m banking on here is that the most recent outing suggests a return to what I consider his normal form, which isn’t anything special.

Obviously, there’s some gamble here. The team I’m looking to play is pretty terrible and it’s not an ideal scheduling spot by any stretch. But I got that buy signal on Cahilla couple starts back. If he has indeed rediscovered his stuff, Cahill could be a very nice bargain until the numbers catch up. I think he’s worth a follow here at decent enough plus money, so my side here is with the Diamondbacks.

 

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 8/14/14

I thought MLB deserved praise for what turned out to be a pretty rapid decision to abolish that silly transfer rule that was turning outs into errors earlier this season. As well intentioned as the rule might have been, the implementation was a joke and the powers that be moved swiftly to basically just eradicate this new rule and go back to the way things were.

Now there’s another new rule that simply has to be amended at the very least. I don’t think anyone will argue that cutting down on career-threatening home plate collisions was a bad idea. So there weren’t too many complaints when MLB decreed that catchers must leave runners a clear shot to get to the dish. But the way they’re calling this play is absurdly awful. It’s as if common sense is being blown away on technicalities, and the result is that runners who are out by significant margins are being ruled out on the field, and than safe via replay review.

I just don’t understand what’s so difficult about getting these calls right. If it’s apparent that the runner would have scored if not for the catcher blocking his path to the plate, then by all means call him safe upon further review. But it’s ludicrous to reverse an out call on the field when the runner was out by several feet. This just doesn’t make any sense.

What also doesn’t make sense is delaying any decision as to what to do about this rule until the winter meetings. There’s already been a precedent set with the in-season overturn of the transfer rule. Therefore, there is no problem with the rules committee calling an emergency session and arriving at the proper solution for the blocking violations.

Instead, baseball will apparently do nothing, so it’s back to business as usual in terms of this sport dragging its collective feet on just about anything. And we all know what is simply destined to take place. There’s going to be a huge impact play in the post-season that will get called one way and then reversed for no good reason, and the fallout and embarrassment for the game will be enormous. That’s just a case of setting oneself up to get trampled by Murphy’s Law and then watching it take place exactly as predicted.

I don’t know why I waste my time on the business of baseball. It’s my favorite game, but it’s run by ostriches who have their collective heads in the sand. Those who rule the game are never proactive, and it’s not until something really stupid takes place that they finally effect change.

Want more proof of that last opinion? It’s 2014 and MLB still doesn’t have a draft combine. They also still don’t allow teams to give potential draft picks physicals,. which is flat out insane. Oh wait, now there’s talk they might actually arrive in the 21st century, but it took this Brady Aiken fiasco for just the conversation to take place.

The new commissioner, Bud Selig’s replacement, is about to get named. I’m hoping that somehow this game will finally figure things out and bring in someone with a pulse on what today’s sports fans want. But I wouldn’t bet on that happening, and in the process, the game will take one more step away from the younger audience’s attention. Like I said, business as usual for Major League Baseball.

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The Diamondbacks extra inning win saved the day for me. Prior to that victory, my Wednesday was an exercise in futility. Wrong side on one game, victimized by a horrific call in another and on the wrong side of a blown save with the other. Fortunately, the Snakes were a very nicely priced dog, so it added up to a manageable loss, but this was still not a good day.

The football card is shaping up nicely, with two games already played for this weekend in the NFL and there will be more. My six-week special is now available, and that covers everything in  both baseball and football. Everyone gets the same plays, and there is never any upselling for supposedly stronger selections. Subscribe now using the “buy now” feature on this page or email me directly at cokin@cox.net.

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The Wednesday free play won easily as the Rays buried the Texans. Another favorite on the agenda today. albeit this one’s at a more reasonable price.

08/14 04:10 PM   MLB   (905) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS  at   (906) MIAMI MARLINS

Take: (906) MIAMI MARLINS -123

Scheduling dynamics are definitely in play tonight as the Diamondbacks travel to Miami to open their weekend set with the Marlins. This is a very spot for a very bad team, and that usually results in another loss for a team already used to absorbing them.

Arizona did get the extra inning win last night at Cleveland, so at least they probably had a pleasant flight to the Sunshine State. But this is still going to be a tough energy scenario for the Diamondbacks. This team is pretty much in play out the string mode and coming off a very long Wednesday with the twinbill against the Tribe, I just don’t see how the Snakes won’t be dragging tonight. The one thing ‘Zona will have on their side is rookie Chase Anderson, who has been one of the very few bright lights in what has been a miserable campaign.

Brad Penny will throw for Miami tonight. The old pro did a good job in his return trip to The Show last weekend, and I was fortunate enough to side with the Marlins as my free play last Saturday with Penny on the mound. It’s definitely not the Penny that could blow guys away with big heat back in his halcyon days. But Penny still knows how to pitch and I think he’s got a decent chance to serve up a quality start tonight.

Penny isn’t getting much respect in the betting line. The Marlins are still in at least mild playoff contention in the National League, they’re at home and they’re hosting a potentially tired entry that has absolutely nothing to play for. To me, that’s an invite to take a stab once more with Penny, particularly since I was on him last Saturday. I’ll opt for the Marlins as the Thursday free play.