Dave’s Free Plays, Tuesday 7/28/15

The first trading deadline blockbuster deal is in the books. Johnny Cueto making the move from the Reds to the Royals was big, but everyone knew Cueto was going to get rented by somebody for prospects. On Monday evening, however, we got a genuine big name swap that was a bit of a shocker.

I can’t say it’s surprising that Troy Tulowitzki was dealt by the Rockies, as whether it was now or at the end of the season, Tulo figured to be somewhere other than Denver by the time the 2016 campaign rolled around. But the fact he’s heading to the Blue Jays was a real stunner.

This is a sensational deal for the Blue Jays. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jose Reyes, but Tulo is an established superstar. About the only concern I’d have here is his injury history, and one has to wonder about the impact playing so many games on artificial turf might have on Tulowitzki’s body. But if he can stay on the field, it’s a monster pickup for an offense that was already the best in the game.

The Blue Jays still have a significant need for pitching, and I can’t help but think this deal is a precursor to something else involving a quality arm. But even if that doesn’t happen, the most dangerous lineup in the game just got even scarier.

As for the Rockies, I really don’t have any idea about what they’re doing. Neither do they, I suspect. Sure, Tulo wanted out of Colorado and perhaps that lowered his trade value a tad. But Jose Reyes, Miguel Castro and two at this point unnamed minor league pitchers for Tulowitzki? Not enough and not what Colorado needed. The Rockies had to get some pitching for Tulowitzki, and unless they’re flipping Reyes for a quality arm, I just don’t get what the game plan is for this entry moving forward.

In any event, good luck to Adam Morgan and any other lefty that has to try and negotiate his way through this gauntlet of righty power bats now owned by the Blue Jays. Morgan is a rookie southpaw who will be on the hill tonight for the Phillies as they open a set north of the border. His best move might be to get stuck at customs and miss the start. The same advice might be sound for lots of other lefties as well.


3-0 on Monday with the Rays, Royals and Diamondbacks all succeeding. That finally gets me slightly back in the black for July, although this has not been what I’d call a stellar month by any means. Nevertheless, black ink is always a good thing, and hopefully that bottom line improves a little more this evening.

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Good work by Nate Karns and the Rays as the Monday free play. I’ll tab one of the game’s marquee pitchers tonight for the Tuesday comp.

NATIONALS (Zimmermann) @ MARLINS (Fernandez)

Take: MARLINS -125 (Don Best consensus line at publication time)

There aren’t many spots where the lowly Marlins can even rate serious consideration at chalk. But the one exception to that rule is when the amazing Jose Fernandez is on the mound.

Fernandez has rebounded from his Tommy John surgery in spectacular fashion. I sure hope he stays healthy for years to come, as the sky is truly the limit for this incredibly gifted pitching phenom. Fernandez is putting up some eye popping numbers since coming off the DL. In fact, while that 2.77 ERA is good, it gets even better upon further examination when studying the Fernandez metrics.

There’s nothing wrong with Jordan Zimmermann and it’s never easy to try and beat the talented Nationals righty. But Zimmermann just can’t match up with Fernandez frock a head to head category standpoint.

It’s also important to note that while the Marlins are a bad baseball team, especially with Dee Gordon and Giancarlo Stanton having been sidelined. But they like get Gordon back tonight. And as is often the case with lousy squads, they play with their most focus and frequently get their best results when the ace is on the mound.

The Marlins are 19-3 at home when Fernandez starts, and that includes a huge 13-1 run as home chalk when Jose toes the rubber. So while there’s nothing to knock on Zimmermann and the Nationals are clearly the better team, I can completely justify Miami being the favorite here. Expect the Marlins to play well tonight and if they can plate just a few runs, they’ll have an excellent chance to get themselves a win.


FanDuel Value Play, Tuesday 7/28

Pretty good job by Robbie Ray as the Monday choice, although he was denied a win when the Arizona pen blew the save in the ninth before winning the game in the tenth. I’m going to try and nail another bargain priced pitcher tonight.


I can’t say what the future holds for Zack Godley. The Diamondbacks rookie wasn’t highly regarded in the prospect rankings coming into this season and his first big league start was also just his fourth above Class A. But Godley had a somewhat spectacular debut and he could be a lightning in a bottle candidate in his first trip around the bigs.

Godley might just be one of those unexpected breakouts. He posted some really good numbers at Visalia, and while that’s only High-A, it’s also in a notorious hitter’s league. His heat was higher velocity than I expected, and while his secondary pitches were nothing especially out of the ordinary, his command was excellent.

Godly might not be a long term hit, but I think he’s got a chance to be at least be a short term success. He’s facing a less than daunting lineup tonight in a good pitcher’s park and I like his chances of producing some decent DFS points at a very small investment.

Dave’s Free Plays, Monday 7/27/15

I guess last season wasn’t such a fluke, after all.

There was much divided opinion coming into the 2015 MLB campaign as to what to make of the 2014 Royals. Some considered them to be a fluke of almost epic proportions. Others saw them as a franchise on the rise that was going to have a shot at winning a second straight pennant.

Full disclosure, I was on the fluke side of the equation. My belief was that a team with no established ace, no power and too much reliance on a lights out bullpen would no longer be able to sneak up on the opposition. I thought the Royals would fall well short of last year’s achievements, and I had doubts they would even be a .500 team.

Clearly, I got that projection very wrong. The Royals have played outstanding baseball from opening day and they’ve done plenty of things better than they did last year. They’re a legit contender to get back to another World Series. Of course, there was still one issue that I thought might be a problem at crunch time. There was no ace on the staff and that’s so huge in the post season.

Aopparently, the Royals hierarchy felt the same way, and they have now rectified what might have been an October weakness. Johnny Cueto will probably only be a Royal for a very short time, but he could well be the last piece of the puzzle that brings a World Series title to Kansas City.

The Royals are not guaranteed of success with Cueto. We’ve seen the big mid-season rentals occasionally blow up. But it’s sure going to be tough to pick against this entry now, and the oddsmakers here in Las Vegas have now installed the Royals as 9/2 chalk (courtesy Westgate Las Vegas) to win it all. I’m not betting against them.


2-3 on Sunday with a Murphy’s Law result on a F5 Braves/Cardinals Under. Making matters worse is that the game finished 3-2, so the full game Under was a snap. This was not a good week for me, so I need to get things back in rhythm this week.

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Dallas Keuchel got off to a very unusual rough start on Sunday and that blew up the free play. I’ll try and pick a winner on another AL game tonight featuring two reeling entries.

TIGERS (Sanchez) @ RAYS (Karns)

Take: RAYS -115 (Don Best consensus line at publication time)

It’s not play out the string time just yet for the Tigers or the Rays. But it’s heading in that direction for both teams. The Tigers are missing Miguel Cabrera and they have some real pitching issues at this point. The Rays can’t hit and while the staff has mostly held together, they’ve still had a really tough time with injured arms and they’re just not very good right now.

Anibal Sanchez gets the call for Detroit tonight, and while he’s got an okay W/L ledger, Sanchez really hasn’t been pitching anywhere close to the level he’s capable of producing. A couple of the peripherals pretty much tell the story. Sanchez is throwing the fewest ground balls of his career, and his HR/FB rate is the worst of his career.

Nate Karns has been somewhat of a surprise for the Rays. He doesn’t generally work deep into games but Karns has been pretty reliable in terms of giving his team six good enough innings. Karns has put together a nice run lately, doing well in six of his last seven starts. He’s had some good fortune in that run, as he’s hardly been unhittable. But Karns has masterfully found a way to strand a very high percentage of runners and that has helped his bottom line immensely.

There should be some regression coming at some point for Karns. The innings are starting to mount and I would not be surprised to see some diminishing returns for Karns. But I’m not going to guess when that’s going to happen. The idea is to wait for the sell signal if it comes and then try to take advantage.

As for tonight, it’s kind of tough to muster support for either team. But when push comes to shove, I’ll take pitching over offense and in this instance that favors the Rays. Detroit just has that look of a dead from the neck up team and this is not uncommon for a overturn team that’s used to contending and now suddenly isn’t. There’s also a bit of an advantage from a scheduling standpoint. The Tigers were obliterated on Sunday night at Boston, and now have to travel to face a Rays team in the midst of a homestead. I’ll side with Tampa Bay to grab the series opener tonight.


FanDuel Value Play, Monday 7/27

ROBBIE RAY, P, $6900

Not much in the way of stud starters tonight, with Lance Lynn the most expensive hurler at $9500. I can’t find fault with rostering Lynn this evening. But if you’re looking to save some dollars to add bigger bats, Robbie Ray might be a nice option.

Ray has done some nice work for the Diamondbacks since being interred into their rotation, and the Mariners are not exactly the 1927 Yankees with the sticks. Seattle did have a pretty good offensive weekend against the Blue Jays. But if Ray throws like he has in several of his starts for Arizona, there’s a solid shot to pick up double digit points, and there’s a profit to be had in the process.

Dave’s Free Plays, Sunday 7/26/15

You really cannot make this stuff up, and it’s what makes sports amazing.

Cole Hamels pitched what might well be his final game for the Phillies on Saturday. Hamels figures to be wearing another uniform by this time next week, as the non-waiver trade deadline will have passed. It wasn’t looking like a memorable farewell for Hamels prior to yesterday. His two prior starts were among the worst of the southpaw’s entire career. 6.1 innings, 20 hits, 14 runs, all earned. It was as if Hamels was more concerned about where he might be going rather than where he still was, and he got absolutely trashed in back to back outings.

That certainly changed on Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, ironically one of the locales that Hamels could be calling home shortly. The lefty was untouchable throughout and ended up with a shocking no-hitter, the first of his major league career. Camels walked just two hitters and while there were a couple of deep drives that had to be flagged down, this was a truly dominating performance.

A Hollywood scriptwriter could not have come up with a more unlikely scenario than this one, and assuming the deal gets done prior to his next turn, it’s the ultimate storybook ending for Hamels as a member of the Phillies.


I managed a 3-2 Saturday, with a decent profit for the the day thanks to a nice payoff with the underdog Nationals. I’ve already landed on a couple of Sunday sides and will hope to end the week on a high note.

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An early grand slam by Chris Davis put the Saturday free play on the Orioles/Rays Under in jeopardy, but the scoring stopped in a hurry and the selection ended up a winner. I’ll zero in on the current leader in the clubhouse for the AL Cy Young as today’s comp play.

ASTROS (Keuchel)  @  ROYALS (Ventura)

Take: ASTROS -115

If the ballots were to be cast today, it might not be unanimous, but I don’t see much question that Dallas Keuchel would be cashing in as the Cy Young Award winner in the American League. Keuchel will look to keep things rolling in the rubber match of the Astros/Royals series.

There’s little need to waste space building a case for Keuchel. The numbers tell the story in bold print. I see Yordano Ventura being the key to this play.

Ventura was sent to the minors earlier this week to try and get himself together. This has been a weird and somewhat disappointing season for the flame throwing righty. He broke camp as the pitcher the Royals seemed to be counting on as their ace. That was evident when Ventura was tabbed as the opening day starter at home for the defending AL champs.

Unfortunately, while Ventura hasn’t been awful by any means, he hasn’t been what the Royals were counting on either. Ventura had some immature moments early and he just hasn’t been very consistent. There have been rumblings about both his mechanics and his confidence being off, so calling the disappointing results a combination of physical and mental issues is probably accurate.

I have to wonder about how well Ventura can do here. I won’t say I’d be shocked if he has a good game. But considering that his demotion to try and get straightened out lasted about five minutes thanks to an injury to Jason Vargas, I wonder if Ventura is in a good situation here.

I was actually a little surprised when KC called Ventura right back up when Vargas got hurt. My impression was that they wanted him to get a couple starts down on the farm and my thought was that the Royals would simply move Joe Blanton into the rotation for a start or two in the interim.

Maybe just the shock of the momentary demotion will get Ventura straight. But regardless, he’s in tough here against a Houston entry that’s once again brimming with confidence, and the Astros have their ace on the hill. The price actually looks a bit trappy, as the squares won’t be discouraged from backing Keuchel at cheap chalk odds. But I have to go that myself, as taking one of baseball’s best against a possibly shaky Ventura seems like a good risk. I’ll peg the Astros and Keuchel to get the Sunday win.


FanDuel Value Play, Sunday 7/26

A nice little run of daily value choices came to a end yesterday as Dodgers rookie Zach Lee got annihilated by the Mets. I’ll try my hand with a veteran righty today.

MAT LATOS, P, $6900

Mat Latos is another talented pitcher who could be on the verge of getting traded. That remains to be seen, as for the time being, it appears there are more than enough good starting pitchers available for those teams looking to add. That means trouble in terms of getting return value for some of the sellers. The Marlins could well be in that category if they want to move Latos.

Whether he stays or goes is immaterial here. Latos is very hot right now and he’ll have a good opportunity to stay that way today as he faces a somewhat pedestrian Padres offense. Latos is very reasonably priced at $6900 and if he’s close to to his last couple of starts in terms of the numbers, he’s a bargain basement buy worth owning.


Dave’s Free Plays, Saturday 7/25/15

Sports bettors will generally reserve their managerial or coaching complaints for situations where a bad decision costs them a chance to win a wager. I definitely do my share of bitching when something like this takes place and I watch a play go down the drain.

But I’ll at least try to maintain as much objectivity as I can when ranting about a bad move, and one that took place on Friday night falls into that category. Actually, I loved it as in this instance some very shaky strategy probably won a bet for me.

Here’s the situation. Bottom of the 11th at Fenway Park, with the Tigers and Red Sox knotted at 1-1. Mookie Betts draws a walk to start the frame for Boston, and Brock Holt successfully sacrifice bunts to move Betts to second base. Next up, it’s Xander Bogaerts, who is having yet another solid night with two hits.

I assumed Tigers manager Brad Ausmus would pitch around Bogaerts if not just simply toss him four balls. Bogaerts is the best hitter in the Red Sox lineup these days, and on deck is Pablo Sandoval. Panda has had a rough time of it, and was already 0/4 with a couple of really bad AB’s. I make this an easy decision. Put Bogaerts on and set up a potential DP or at the very least a force play situation. Sandoval has been soft against lefties. He’s maintained a better batting average since eschewing switch hitting and going lefty on lefty. But all but one of his hits in that situation have been singles and Sandoval acts as if walking is a crime.

Imagine my surprise when I see that Ausmus opts to go after Bogaerts. We’ll never know if passing Bogaerts would have preserved the tie, because Xander ripped a rope to center field and Betts beat the throw home.

Managers can’t actually win or lose games for their teams as the results depend on what takes place on the field. But they can certainly put their teams in the best position to win or the most likely scenario to lose based on their decisions. I don’t see any way to defend what Ausmus did here. There’s absolutely zero question in my mind that he put the Tigers in position to lose the game and succeeded.

Brad Ausmus is by all accounts one of the most intelligent people in the game. He was a natural to become a manager following his lengthy career behind the plate. But the one thing he was lacking was actual managerial experience and based on what I’ve seen in his close to two years at the Detroit helm, he either isn’t ready or just isn’t very good. This was a glaringly bad piece of managing in my opinion. I’m just glad it worked out exactly as it did.


1-1 on Friday with the aforementioned Red Sox win and a narrow loss with the Diamondbacks. Arizona blew two great scoring opportunities early and never got much going after that. This was a really good duel between Jimmy Nelson and Patrick Corbin, and I just ended up on the wrong side of the outcome.

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The Friday free play won pretty easily as the Orioles and Rays stayed well Under the number. Unfortunately, the line on this game dropped in a big way as it went from 7 to 6.5 with the Under still favored and I could not justify making that a personal play with the somewhat immense lost value. Nevertheless, a good result as far as the take on the game was concerned, and I’m going right back to that well again today.

ORIOLES (Gonzalez) @ RAYS (Ramirez)

Take: UNDER 7 -115

Nothing much has changed from a team perspective here. Just as I mentioned in yesterday’s analysis, the Orioles and Rays are not hitting a lick lately. These are the two worst attack in the AL for the month of July, and I can easily see more of the same taking place today.

The pitching matchup isn’t as high level as it was on Friday. Chris Tillman came into that game hot and pitched very well for the Birds, while Chris Archer had the heater working and the All-Star threw another strong game for the Rays.

Miguel Gonzalez and Erasmo Ramirez are a cut below that level overall. But Gonzalez has enjoyed pitching at the Trop for the most part and Ramirez has actually been what I would consider a huge surprise for the Rays. So while neither of these hurlers carries the tag of ace, I expect each guy to do well in this contest.

The catalyst in making this play, however, is clearly the two struggling offenses. Both the Orioles and Rays are having a very tough time scoring runs and until that changes, looking for opportunities to play their games Under is a pretty good strategy.

I don’t foresee this game dropping to 6.5 -125 as Friday’s game did. But the Under is the favorite right now at 7 and I would be surprised to see a shift as far as the juice is concerned. Eventually one would think the Orioles bats wake up but right now they’re stone cold, while the Rays just aren’t a very potent lineup. I’ll come right back with another Under call between the Orioles and Rays.


FanDuel Value Play, Saturday 7/25

Andrew Cashner worked out nicely as the Friday recommendation. I’ll try another pitcher for Saturday’s value play.

ZACH LEE, P, $4600

There he is, all the way at the very bottom of the FanDuel Saturday salary slate for pitchers. It’s the big league debut for Zach Lee and he gets to face the ultra-anemic New York Mets offense for his first major league appearance.

Lee is probably never going to live up the original hype that accompanied his signing as a first round pick. Lee was an extremely high profile prospect coming out of high school. It was considered to be major coup for the Dodgers when they lured Lee away from a football scholarship to play QB at LSU.

The consensus is that Lee is no longer more than a back of the rotation type as his stuff has never really come together. He doesn’t throw as hard as he did coming out of high school and his delivery seems far more mechanical than it did when he was initially signed.

But it’s still a big moment for Lee that he should be really revved up for and he draws a perfect opponent as the Mets are swinging toothpicks lately. At a dirt cheap $4800, I think Lee is worth a shot in his first major league start.




Dave’s Free Plays, Friday 7/24/15

Trading season is now officially underway. The A’s and Astros got things rolling on Thursday as Oakland sent veteran lefty Scott Kazmir to Houston in return for a pair of prospects.

This appears to be a good deal for both entries. The Astros add a quality lefty who should enhance their chances of getting to the playoffs. The Athletics acquired a couple of kids with some upside, and catcher Jacob Nottingham was recently tabbed as the A’s top breakout prospect for the current season. As for Houston parting with prospects, even one who’s rising with a bullet, it still makes sense. They’re taking the approach that they can win right now, and besides that, the Astros organization is laden with legit prospects, so parting with a couple for a quality starting pitcher is not at all unreasonable.

The Brewers also swung into action on Thursday, dealing away the soon to retire Aramis Ramirez. Milwaukee didn’t get much in return, but with ARam calling it a day after this season, getting any warm body was about all the Brewers could possibly expect. Ramirez now gets to close out his career where it started, and he also will have a chance to perhaps play some October baseball with the Pirates.

This is just the start of what has a chance to be a frenzied couple of weeks. The Cubs have reportedly made the Phillies a firm offer for Cole Hamels. The Dodgers might well be on the lookout for another starting pitcher, especially with Brett Anderson now injured again. The Angels just lost David Freese to his second broken finger of the season and while he should return sometime in August, I won’t be at all surprised to see the Halos go hunting for a third baseman.

I think the Padres could be one of the more interesting entries heading toward the deadline. The consensus is they’re going to be sellers. I’m not so sure. AJ Preller would basically be digging his own grave as the GM if he starts unloading talent. Unless he has orders from above to conduct a fire sale, he probably shouldn’t do so. Preller needs to sell the suits on giving this another year. That might sound foolish based on how the Padres have performed this season. But considering how barren the farm system is right now, it might be the best move if this team wants to avoid 3-4 more years of mediocrity.

I might sing a different tune on the Padres if I thought they could get a great return for their most attractive trade pieces. But Justin Upton has an oblique issue and hasn’t hit a lick recently. Craig Kimbrel is a top tier closer but there’s not much of a market for closers right now among the buyers. James Shields wouldn’t be a bad fit for some teams, but he’s not having a great season and let’s call it straight, his post-season ledger isn’t exactly sensational. I think that reduces his value in terms of what he might bring in return.

Thus the Padres are between the proverbial rock and hard place. If they choose to sell, they aren’t likely to get a whole lot back. If they stand pat, they run the risk of losing some talent to free agency. If it’s me, I hang onto Upton and hope the prospect of getting to play with his brother again in 2016 gives the Padres a chance to sign him as a free agent. That’s assuming some team doesn’t decide to part with a big prospect package to rent Upton for two months, of course. But that’s very unlikely to happen.

Then there’s my team, the Red Sox. Yikes. Yeah, I know, they need to sell. But who in their right mind is going to buy? Sorry, but looking for trade partners willing to deal for expensive and very possibly over the hill talent is not going to be easy. Boston might need to literally pay somebody to take some of these guys off their hands.

In any event, the fun is just getting started and I’m hoping the next eight days are action packed!


This has not been a good stretch, with an ugly 1-7 ledger the last three days. There are inevitable valleys during the course of a long season, but that doesn’t make them any more palatable. I’m working hard to get things back on the right path, though, and hopefully that starts paying off tonight.

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I’m going with a Total for the Friday free play. The Orioles certainly weren’t a healthy investment the last couple of days, but perhaps trying to capitalize on their struggles will pay off tonight.

ORIOLES (Tillman) @ RAYS (Archer)

Take: UNDER 7 -120

The stats tell the story loudly and clearly. The Orioles and Rays are a pair of teams having a great deal of trouble scoring runs right now. For the month of July, these have arguably been the two worst offensive teams in the American League. I expect those woes with the sticks to continue for at least one more night.

Chris Archer is pitching for Tampa Bay tonight. Archer has not been quite as consistently dominating recently as he had been earlier but it’s sure not like he’s falling apart. Expecting Archer to contain the currently feeble Orioles attack is clearly not unreasonable.

I think the more interesting guy here is Chris Tillman. The Baltimore righty has seemingly found his groove after struggling mightily all season. It’s really not so tough to see why Tillman’s numbers have improved. He’s not walking people like he had been all season.

It’s almost that simple sometimes. Throw strikes and make the other team beat you instead of the other team around. We saw a great example of this on Thursday night with an unknown Diamondbacks kid who had pitched a grand total of there games above Class A. He took the mound at Chase and got ahead of almost every hitter and Zack Godley, a kid with what appears to be really marginal stuff, walked away with a major league win in the process.

So I’ve got an All-Star righty on one side, and a starter who is absolutely in his best form to date this season, plus two offenses that can’t get out of their own way right now. There’s a little juice involved here, with the low being a 6/5 favorite as I’m writing this, but I see that as the way to play. Let’s try for a winner with the Orioles and Rays staying Under the number.


FanDuel Value Play, Friday 7/24



I know this has not been a great season for Andrew Cashner or his Padres teammates. But there’s still reason to believe Cashner could have a dominant performance tonight that gets him as many DFS points as any pitcher on the board.

Cashner has some dynamite metrics at Petco again this season. His home xFIP is 2.44. He’s averaging just a shade less than 11 strikeouts per nine innings in his park. Cashner is facing a Marlins lineup that is minus its catalyst in Dee Gordon and its main power source in Giancarlo Stanton. In other words, there’s every opportunity for Cashner to have a really big game and at only $7300, I am definitely tabbing the talented righty as my value play tonight.

Dave’s Free Plays, Thursday 7/23/15

I don’t know if Charlie Strong will ever take the Texas Longhorns back to the very top of the college football food chain. That’s something that remains to be seen as Strong tries to rebuild a program that had, by Texas standards, fallen upon hard times prior to his arrival.

But regardless of what the W/L ledger looks like this season and down the road, Strong has already moved right to the top of the college football coaching rankings on one count. Strong has maintained a very stern stance from day one as far as discipline is concerned. It’s pretty simple, really. Break the rules and you’re gone.

The lack of spine among college coaches on this count has been troubling for some time, but it was pretty much being swept under the rug with little more than shoulder shrugs and raised eyebrows from media and fans. That is no longer the case as these matters are now becoming very public.

The response from most coaches has been football first and everything else second. Strong is not traveling down that path and he deserves praise for the stance he’s taking. In an interview with ESPN, Strong made it crystal clear that he’s had enough with the excuses, particularly on the domestic violence front. I’d advise reading the interview to get a true sense of how serious this is for Strong, and how much he believes the coaches are almost condoning bad behavior by refusing to penalize offenders.

The trouble is not going to go away overnight. I get that the coaches are most concerned with wins and losses with the jobs being on the line. But I can’t help but hope Strong will be the big winner here. He’s determined to field a true high character team in Austin and that’s the type of team I want to see playing for championships.


0-2 on Wednesday with the Brewers and Orioles. Rough sledding on the diamond the last two days. I’m sure hoping things bounce back to normal with the Thursday slate. The season to date bottom line is still okay, but it has definitely stalled considering where it was a while back. Time for a hot run to get things back to where I prefer them.

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Kevin Gausman struggled early and the Orioles could never claw all the way back as the Wednesday free play went down. I’m going back to the same well today, though, as I see value at a price that appears a bit inflated to me.

ORIOLES (Jimenez) @ YANKEES (Tanaka)

Take: ORIOLES +140

There’s no question the Yankees rate the chalk role in this series finale. But beating baseball is an exercise in garnering value, which often means being willing to take an underdog even when you don’t think they’re even 50/50 to win the game. This clash is a good example of what I mean.

I make the Yankees roughly -130 to win today’s game. They’re clearly in better form and while it’s close, I would have to give Tanaka and edge over Jimenez on the starting pitcher front. But the line is considerably higher than that, which immediately had me considering the underdog Orioles today.

Aside from what I believe to be an inflated number, there are a couple other aspects here that I’ll add to the mix. The Yankees could be a bit short in the bullpen today. With Andrew Miller recently off the DL and having pitched both Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s doubtful Joe Girardi will use him today. Delia Betances is also off back to back appearances, although his pitch count on Wednesday was very minimal, so he’s probably available. Nevertheless, the fact the O’Day/Britton combo is fresh as a daisy, so if this is close late I see an advantage for Baltimore.

The Orioles should also be treating this as their biggest game of the season to date. They’re on the verge of getting blown out of the AL East race and a wring way sweep here would be devastating to their hopes of a second straight divisional crown. It’s hard to call a game in late July a must win, but this one is pretty to close to being exactly that for the Birds.

One other variable is that Ubaldo Jimenez will be my highest rated underdog pitcher on Thursday. That’s really a simple angle, but it’s also not the worst blind follow in the world. I have a rating for each starting pitcher and among all the underdogs on the slate today, Jimenez wins the award as the top dog.

All that said, it’s still a tough play as again, the Yankees definitely merit being favored here. But taking +140 is garnering me roughly 20 cents value based on the number I came up with, so I’ll tab the Orioles for today’s free play.


FanDuel Value Play, Thursday 7/23


It’s a homecoming for Milwaukee OF Gerardo Parra. He returns to his old stomping grounds and will likely be hitting atop the Brewers order tonight. Parra is having a terrific campaign for the Brew Crew and he’s apparently on the wish list for several teams as we wind toward the non-waiver trade deadline.

Parra has a chance to do some damage tonight. The Diamondbacks are basically stuck with having to throw an emergency starter as Zack Godley has been recalled after just three AA starts to two for the Diamondbacks tonight. I like taking leadoff hitters simply because of the extra plate appearances that can generate more points. The fact that Parra is hitting very well and facing a rookie who could be in over his head is enticing. I’ll be happy to spend a reasonable price on Parra this evening.

Dave’s Free Plays, Wednesday 7/22/15

I’m not a lawyer, nor have I talked to one on this topic. So I’ll just offer an opinion based on common sense here.

The NFL and the DOJ apparently agree that sports gambling in the “skill” category years ago, as we all found out Tuesday thanks to document released.

That doesn’t Roger Goodell has changed his stance, he’s still declaring his opposition to sports gambling. Goodall also claims the league is “studying” daily fantasy games, albeit they’re doing so very cautiously.

Let’s call it straight, commish. There’s no way you’re going to be able to now outlaw the daily fantasy games. It’s simply too late. Also, if the daily fantasy sites were to somehow suddenly become illegal, then how would season long fantasy sites be any different? Good luck trying to shut those down.

Therefore, the way I see it, if the league is allowing daily fantasy because it’s skill-based, and the league also agrees with the DOJ that sports gambling is skill-based, then you’re going to have to explain to me how one can be okay and the other isn’t.

There’s an inevitable conclusion here, which is that sports betting is going to eventually be legalized. In fact, I’ll go so far as to suggest that we might now see some kind of federal lawsuit claiming bias if the NFL continues to fight against it. I don’t see how they can legally give thumbs up to daily fantasy while condemning sports betting, when both are clearly gambling and each is considered to be a game of skill.

Again, I’m not a lawyer so maybe I’m way off base here. But somehow I don’t think so.


Nice run ended on Tuesday as I fired on five dogs and lost all but one. That’s a setback to be sure, but I expect to bounce right back today.

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Dumb call on the Red Sox as the Tuesday free play. Boston did enjoy a 3-1 lead, but they blew that on a Houston stolen base that ended up turning into two runs thanks to a bad throw and it was all downhill from there. I’ll try tonight’s clash at Yankee Stadium for the Wednesday comp.

ORIOLES (Gausman)  @  YANKEES (Nova)

Take: ORIOLES +113 (Don Best consensus line at publication time)

Kevin Gausman was crushed in his most recent outing and the talented Baltimore righty continues to be plagued by inconsistency. The stuff is definitely there, but the ability to keep things together still hasn’t arrived.

I’ll still favor Gausman over Ivan Nova for the time being. Nova just hasn’t looked sharp in his four starts since coming back from his long DL stint and he’s going to have to show me more before I can consider backing him.

The Yankees are establishing themselves as the favorite to win the AL East and Joe Girardi has his team playing with confidence right now. But Nova is at least for the time being the weak link in the rotation. We’re talking small sample with both Gausman and Nova here in terms of 2015 innings, but the meaningful metrics clearly indicate Gausman when compared with Nova. That’s big for me, as I like going with underdog pitchers who own the edges in the key categories I focus on.

I made this game a virtual pick ’em, so while it’s not slam dunk value, grabbing more than a dime with the visitors is a worthwhile wager and I’m taking the Orioles for my Wednesday free play.


FanDuel Value Play, Wednesday 7/22


Since I consider Ivan Nova a major risk tonight, it figures I want to have at least a couple Orioles in my lineup. Travis Snider offers some upside at a very low price, as he’s going to cost only $2600. If you’re looking to roster one of the stud starting pitchers throwing this evening, money has to saved elsewhere and I consider Snider a decent buy at a discount price.


Dave’s Free Plays, Tuesday 7/21/15

The handwriting is on the wall. The long run of serious playoff contention for the Detroit Tigers is in serious jeopardy, and with the farm system pretty much barren, the time has come for change in Motown. The buzz on Monday was that David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, each headed for off-season free agency, are going to made available as the trade deadline nears.

The Tigers are clearly still in the mix to make the post-season this year. But with Miguel Cabrera on the DL and the pitching being what it is, I think it’s fair to say this team isn’t a favorite to playing baseball come October. This is a franchise that is not bashful about spending money and would therefore have a legit chance to ink either Price or Cespedes, maybe even both.

But the wise move is to sell now to the highest bidder and start the rebuilding process before the Tigers turn into the Phillies. This is an organization that has to get some prospects as there’s almost nothing on the farm. That lack of organizational depth has become clear, and needs to be addressed.

It’s also apparent that the Tigers are not about to get better if they stay the current course. The bats are there but that Detroit staff is a mess. Price is a stud. But Anibal Sanchez has had some struggles, Alfredo Simon is basically a back end guy and then there’s Justin Verlander.

I really feel as though the state of Verlander is the catalyst for the Tigers going into sell mode. He can no longer be counted on to be an ace and in fact there’s some concern he can even be a middle of the rotation contributor. Personally, I think there’s still something wrong physically and I’m almost willing to bet Verlander will not finish the season on the active roster. In any event, if the Tigers are indeed about to auction off some stars, it’s to me a very clear indication management is not confident about Verlander returning to anything close to his former self.

Fortunately for Tiger fans, the front office is not going to take the Phillies path to self destruction, which means holding on to what they have and hoping to get lucky, which is that team’s case has led to them becoming the worst team in the game. The Tigers might sink in the standing for a year or two, but getting the overhaul going now looks to be the right decision.


Just one play on the Monday service slate and the Rockies survived despite blowing a 7-0 lead. Tuesday’s card looks significantly deeper.

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The Giants fell to the suddenly streaking Padres on Monday, ending a modest three-game win streak on the daily free plays. I’m going the underdog route with the Tuesday comp.

RED SOX (Johnson) @ ASTROS (Velasquez)

Take: RED SOX +110 (Don Best consensus line at publication time)

I can state with virtual certainty that the Red Sox won’t be getting much public support at the betting windows today. They’re off an ugly sweep at the hands of the Angels. The Halos outscored Boston 22-4 in the four-game series and whatever faint hope Red Sox Nation was still maintaining as far as a down the stretch rally goes has probably been dashed at this point.

Nevertheless, this might be a good spot to take a shot with the Sawx. Brian Johnson has been recalled from Pawtucket to make his big league debut and I think he’s got a good chance to do well as he faces the Astros. Johnson is not a huge stuff guy. But he’s earning a rep as a smart young lefty who’s not going to beat himself and in the process, he’s passed some more touted arms on the Boston organizational chart. Johnson will be facing hitters who’ve never seen him tonight, and I’m admittedly a fan of backing unseen southpaws in their first trips around the loop.

Vincent Velasquez will throw for the Astros tonight, and he probably has a higher ceiling than Johnson. But Velasquez, in spite of having a big arm, has yet to master the ability to command all his pitches. As a result, he’s had some pitch count issues. As lousy as the Red Sox have been, one thing they’re good at is exploiting pitchers who can get a little wild. The Red Sox are a patient bunch for the most part and while they might not light up Velasquez, I expect the Bosox to inflate his pitch count early and that could mean an early entrance for the shaky Houston bullpen.

I see some value with the Red Sox tonight as this line is going to get shaded a little higher than it perhaps ought to be. That’s not hard to fathom as Boston stunk it up on Monday, and the thought process that Houston is rested off a win while the Bosox are off the double dip and traveling makes some sense. But the oddsmakers know that as well and they’ve adjusted the line accordingly to compensate for what so many bettors are going to believe. Thus, a game that probably should be in the pick ’em range is instead one where the Astros are already 6/5 favorites.

If this number drops, it’s sharp money that will be doing the talking. The public is going to be on the Houston side in overwhelming fashion as far as ticket count goes. I’m going to try and get the best plus price I can and I’ll make the Red Sox my free play tonight.


FanDuel Value Play, Tuesday 7/21

Andrew Heaney was an easy choice on Monday and paid off handsomely. I think there’s an equally attractive option on the mound tonight and at a tremendous bargain price.

JOE ROSS, P, $5000

As soon as I glanced at the Tuesday starting pitchers, I circled Ross as a go with as far as DFS is concerned. Ross looked very good in his first three starts as a big leaguer, and now he’s back up with the Nats, and facing the ultra-feeble Mets offense to boot.

I don’t need to write anything about the Mets attack. It stinks and everyone knows it. So Ross should have an excellent chance to put up more good numbers tonight. Yet he’s the fourth cheapest pitcher on the FanDuel board, which to me is a gift. Ross will be my pitcher on any entries I have today.




Dave’s Free Plays, Monday 7/29/15

The Mets were a Sunday winner, as they managed to salvage the finale of their weekend set at St. Louis. The victory, in tandem with a loss by the Nationals, means the Mets are just two games out of first place in the NL East. They’re also just a couple games behind the Cubs in the chase for the second NL wild card spot.

Yet this win was the ultimate illustration of what’s wrong with the Mets. This team cannot hit the baseball. Getting past the Cardinals for an important win was nice. 1/26 with runners in scoring position and an astonishing 25 runners left on base was beyond staggering.

It’s obvious the Mets need to get a couple of respectable sticks and I don’t think there’s any question they’re going to make moves between now and the non-waiver trade deadline that’s just around the bend. But one cannot help but wonder the hell they’re waiting for.

The hesitation is understandable as far as dealing one of their young studs from the rotation is concerned. But I’m not sure they need to do so as they have one exceptionally desirable bullpen piece that could well be enough to land a serious stick.

I know Mets fans might cringe at the thought, but the guy I might consider dangling is closer Jeurys Familia. There would be some gamble involved here as Jenrry Mejia is a health risk and Bobby Parnell no longer has that big heat teams prefer for the pitcher handling the ninth inning. Nevertheless both Mejia and Parnell are capable of getting those last three outs. But neither pitcher is likely to draw much quality in return, if for no other reason than their checkered injury histories.

Familia, on the other hand, might actually move right to the head of the class as far as available closers go. He might not be at the level of Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, but he’s not that far away from that duo based on his current form and his salary. That’s the big lure as I see it. Chapman and Kimbrel are both expensive. Familia is dirt cheap at half a million dollars and he’s got a ways to go before he can even sniff big money.

It’s just my two cents but if the Mets are serious about making a real run at the post-season they’re going to need to offer something of substance to get a meaningful return. I think Familia could well be that one really attractive carrot.


Pretty good Sunday here. I lost a F5 play on the Tigers. But the Indians came through and a rare parlay hit as the Phillies walked off the Marlins and Dallas Keuchel and the Astros rolled the Rangers. Nice weekend overall and the baseball bottom line is looking fairly decent right now.

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The Indians continued their astonishing ineptitude with the bases loaded on Sunday. This has been an ongoing issue for them all season. But they finally got a couple across in extras Sunday and earned me a free play winner in the process. Here’s one for Monday night.

GIANTS (Hudson) @ PADRES (Kennedy)

Take: GIANTS -107 (Don Best Consensus line at publication time)

Tim Hudson returns from his latest DL stint tonight as the Giants open a series at Petco against the Padres. Ian Kennedy, who is one of several Padres supposedly available with the trade deadline nearing, will be throwing for the hosts.

Hudson is obviously not the pitcher he used to be. But the veteran righty should at least be fresh here and we’ve seen in the past that he’s usually pretty effective when reappearing after spending some time on the shelf. Hudson will get to face one of the less imposing lineups around and the Padres could be down another bat if Justin Upton’s pesky oblique keeps him in the dugout on Monday night.

Ian Kennedy has had a terrible time keeping the baseball in the ballpark. He’s allowing a disastrous 2.13 HR per nine innings and his HR/FB rate is an unsightly 20.8%. It’s really tough to win with those type of ratios. Kennedy owns a decent K rate, so he can still miss bats with some regularity. But his mistakes are getting absolutely crushed and he’s simply not a go with pitcher right now.

The Giants are also coming in hot as they once again dominated the Diamondbacks on the road. That’s the norm for the world champs, who remarkably have now won each of their last ten series at Chase.

The Padres have a little momentum of their own. They went into the break off a couple of wins at Texas and extended the winning streak to four with Friday and Saturday wins at home against the Rockies.

The number comparison between Hudson and Kennedy really doesn’t offer much either way, as it’s not like Hudson was pitching well before heading to the disabled list. But I’d still rather have the savvy veteran here as Kennedy appears to be really messed up and he’s also been plagued by horrible defensive support. The Giants are on a roll and I like their chances of maintaining that upward mobility with the series opening win tonight.


FanDuel Value Play, Monday 7/20

Nice work by Taylor Jungmann as the Sunday value play and I’ll go the starting pitcher route again tonight.


Let’s call it straight, Heaney is going to be on loads of DFS cards tonight. So this is hardly a revelation. But at just 7K and facing a Boston lineup that has scored zero runs since the All-Star break, it’s almost a no-brainer. Heaney is averaging 14.6 FanDuel points in his starts, which is the best per game number on the board tonight. Yet he’s only the seventh highest priced pitcher on the salary rundown.

I’m normally going to look for a cheap buy that won’t be claimed by loads of competitors. But I don’t see how I can avoid Heaney here, so I’ll make him my Monday DFS choice.

Dave’s Free Plays, Sunday 7/19/15

I don’t know how it’s possible not to like Charles Barkley. Sure, he’ll occasionally say something that might cause people to want to scream bloody murder at him. But not liking someone simply because they might have a different opinion on some topic is a bit narrow to put it mildly. I’ll take the individual who’s willing to own his or her viewpoints regardless of whether I agree or not.

What I like even more about Barkley is that he’s not fearful of being laughed at. I’m sure Charles would love to be able to contend for the title at this weekend’s celebrity golf event at Lake Tahoe. But the truth is he’s probably the worst golfer on the course. But rather than feel embarrassed, Barkley is playing his 36 holes, and having a great time with the huge gallery that’s following him around the course.

And as it turns out, Barkley is not really being laughed at, because everyone is pulling for him in spite of his obvious limitations at this particular endeavor.

It’s a good life lesson for everyone. Have fun, give it your best shot and don’t sweat what others think.


A pedestrian 2-2 here on Saturday. Caught the wrong side of the Royals/White Sox marathon, made a very bad decision on the Mets, and won with the Phillies and Giants. The Sunday card appears limited based on my early calculations, but I’ll try to zero in on the best value come morning.

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The Saturday free play on the Giants was pretty easy. The Diamondbacks had a first time starter catching and there appeared to be no connection at all between the rookie and starting pitcher Chase Anderson. I think it’s a virtual lock that Wellington Castillo will be flashing the signals for Anderson the next time he starts. Today’s comp is a terrific pitching duel possibility in the one interleague game on the slate.

INDIANS (Carrasco) @ REDS (Cueto)

Take: INDIANS +110 (Don Best consensus line at publication time)

I like looking for matchups where I can get a price with the better pitcher based on the analytics I find useful. This is not an auto-play by any means, just a starting point in determining possible value.

In this instance, the old school data says it’s Cueto all the way over Carrasco. But upon further review utilizing the new school information, that’s not necessarily the case. While Cueto owns the significantly lower ERA, it’s actually Carrasco with the better digits on the analytics scale.

Beyond the starting pitching, and again utilizing the metrics I tend to focus on, the Indians have advantages in several categories over the Reds. It’s not blowout material by any stretch, but if you want lopsided advantages, you’ll only be playing big  chalk for the most part, and that’s not a recipe for long haul success in baseball.

It’s going to be easy for many bettors to make a case for the Reds here. Cueto does indeed have the stellar ERA and his career numbers against the Reds are enviable. Carrasco doesn’t have the star power his rival owns and it’s not like the Indians have been a good road team.

Nevertheless, backing dogs who own a higher ERA but win the key metrics I employ produce decent long term profits and Carrasco fits the bill on that count today. With the Cleveland side also getting its share of head to head team checkmarks against the Reds, I’ll choose the Indians for the Sunday free play.


FanDuel Value Play, Sunday 7/19


Taylor Jungmann might be fool’s gold as far as long term is concerned. But the Brewers rookie has been providing some serious bang for the daily fantasy buck this far. Jungmann is producing an average of 12.1 FanDuel points per appearance since getting called up.

There is some risk here as Miller Park on a hot summer day can be hell for pitchers. But with Jungmann one of the lowest priced starting pitchers available today at only $6800, I think he’s worth the risk.