Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 4/16/14

The 2014 season might still be in its infancy, but the first rumblings of a manager on the hot seat are now underway. Kirk Gibson might well be very close to at least being in the uncomfortable category in Arizona.

The Diamondbacks are easily the biggest flop out of the ’14 starting gate. Nothing has gone right for the Diamondbacks from the get go, as they took a major hit in spring training when Patrick Corbin, their likely number one starting pitcher, was lost for the season. It’s simply been getting worse ever since.

The Snakes can’t pitch at all. The starters have been subpar, the bullpen has been shaky and I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that Gibson has not been making the right moves at the right time on this count. This is not a new observation from this observer, as I’ve commented several times that I’m not a great fan of his in-game decisions, particularly on the pitching front.

Worse than the pitching has been what I consider to be a general malaise surrounding this team. I’m not in Phoenix, and I don’t see every Diamondbacks game. But off what I have been able to witness, it just seems to me like this is a flat baseball team. If that’s indeed the case, blame has to fall to some extent on Gibson. True enough, it’s incumbent on the players to make sure they’re mentally sharp. But you can’t fire all the players, and if this team is dragging from the neck up, it’s not unfair to pin at least some of the blame on the skipper.

Gibson has never been regarded as a great strategist, at least not by me. Great player, absolutely. Inspirational guy, you bet. But like many star players who have tried their hand at managing, they don’t always get that same over the top commitment from their players, and I’m starting to think that’s in play here.

The season is barely started, and it’s tough to envision anything happening at least this early. But the Diamondbacks are heading to LA this weekend for a divisional set with the Dodgers and another bad result could have the Snakes almost buried in the NL West race.  This team needs to start putting something together soon, or the chatter on Gibson is only going to get louder.


I’m on a pretty good tear in baseball right now. Four straight solid days, including three consecutive sweeps. So it’s clearly a very good time to be riding my stuff. That April Baseball Special is still there for the taking, and includes a decent guarantee. The “buy now” menu on this page is the best way to get on, and if you’ve got questions or want more info, please contact me directly at cokin@cox.net.


The Tuesday free play was a winner as the Athletics ended up on the right side of a wild 10-9 decision against the Angels. I’ll stay on the west coast tonight with a look at the rivalry battle between the Giants and Dodgers.



It really doesn’t get much better than Dodgers/Giants when it means something to each team, and the Giants got a leg up on this series with a dramatic extra inning win on Tuesday night. The two teams managed to squander numerous scoring opportunities throughout the game. I think it’s fair to suggest we could be seeing offense tonight as it’s not exactly a marquee pitching matchup, but the oddsmakers have already adjusted for that with a high total for a game in San Francisco.

I’m a bit more interested in the side tonight as Paul Maholm takes on Ryan Vogelsong. This is a pretty rare matchup, as even this early in the campaign, one does not see many games where both starting pitchers have ERA’s of 8.00 or higher, as is the case tonight.

Maholm’s bloated ERA is pretty legit. The veteran lefty is simply not fooling anyone for the most part. The swing and miss is basically not even in the mix for Maholm and if everyone is making contact, it’s generally going to produce some jams and some runs. The Giants have shown some sock against southpaws thus far and they should be able to do some damage here against Maholm.

Ryan Vogelsong has not been good by any means, but some of his statistical issues are a product of some bad luck. Vogelsong has been stung by an inflated .414 BABIP and that number figures to correct. The K rate, even in an admittedly minuscule sample, is nevertheless encouraging. I’m not suggesting Vogelsong is going to be regaining the form he displayed a couple of years ago when he became a deserving All-Star. But there are at least a few indicators that offer hope that he can be an acceptable back of the rotation contributor for the Giants.

The Giants are clearly treating these early battles with the Dodgers with a legitimate sense of urgency. That was evident in true series played at Chavez Ravine and I thought it showed last night as well. With Vogelsong owning an advantage over Maholm, home field and some positive momentum, along with a price that’s easily acceptable, I’ll make the case for the Giants to garner another victory tonight.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 4/15/14

This is usually a gambling oriented piece to some extent. But today I’ll offer what is strictly a fan’s view on what I feel are the best ballparks to watch a big league game. I’ve actually been asked this a few times over the last week, so here’s my take on the topic.

First off, as I’m a native New Englander, everyone seems to assume I’m putting historic Fenway Park at the top of the list. Sorry, but the Fens isn’t even close. It’s a beautiful field, and the proximity of the seats to the action is second to none. But the truth is that, history and nostalgia aside, it’s not a great place to watch a game. The seats are uncomfortable, many of them are literally not facing in the right direction, and unless there’s been a dramatic improvement in the food over the last decade and change, the best thing you can order at Fenway is reservations to an actual restaurant away from the ballpark. But it’s still a great spot for a Red Sox fan.

It also needs to be noted I have not been to PNC in Pittsburgh. From what I’ve been told by more than a handful of friends, it’s awesome, and an absolutely great place to take in a game. PNC is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit.

I’ll just comment on the parks I’ve actually been to, and here’s my rundown.

AT&T in San Francisco is tremendous. The Big Phone has it all.  Okay, the weather is not the greatest, but wearing a jacket is not big deal if necessary. Beautiful facility, great food, and one of the best baseball atmospheres around. Sight lines are perfect from what I’ve experienced. If I were to ever move from Las Vegas simply for baseball reasons, San Francisco would get strong consideration as the destination.

I love Petco Park in San Diego. There’s a bias here as it’s my favorite city, but it’s also a really nice ballpark. Great location as well. Driving to the stadium is not necessary, loads of other ways to get there. Pre and post game amenities are second to none, as the Gaslamp is literally footsteps from the park. Three or four jaunts from LV to SD each summer is mandatory for me.

Angels Stadium is actually very nice. Traffic was less of a hassle than I had assumed prior to my first visit. Good atmosphere for the most part, although there have been a couple of visits where the crowd seemed more interested in virtually anything other than the actual game, and that can be a mild irritation. But overall it’s a thumbs up for Anaheim.

Chase in Phoenix is okay, but nothing special. I really dig the spring training scene in the Phoenix metro area, as one can pretty much catch two games every day if so inclined. Very easy to navigate from one facility to the next. As for the regular season, nothing really negative on Chase, but no wow factor either. If I were grading on a five star scale, I’d give this park three stars.

Chavez Ravine. I guess this was once a jewel of a stadium, but now it’s just kind of old and it’s also in the middle of absolutely nothing. Traffic is the pits. I’ll leave it like this. As much as I like going to MLB games, I have turned down free tickets, and I’m talking good ones, to Dodger Stadium. If I lived in LA, I’m sure I might feel differently. But I don’t, and I won’t, so I’d say the won’t go (to Dodger Stadium, that is) is a pretty strong favorite for me. Time for the franchise to build a new stadium and hopefully, someplace where there’s something to do other stand in traffic before and after the game.

And then there’s the Slop. Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, home of the Rays. Wow.  There is no question in my mind that whoever designed this monstrosity was high on bad drugs at the time.  I’m not going to blame the Rays attendance woes solely on this stadium, but it sure isn’t a plus for the franchise. It’s the worst big league park I’ve ever been to. It’s also the only major league venue I’ve visited where I was able to hear one fan taunting members of the visiting team, and this despite the fact I was on the complete opposite side of the field. Seriously, there is nothing big league about Slopicana. It needs to go, and so do the Rays.  Maybe to Montreal, based on the exhibition game crowds that showed up this spring.

Clearly, loads of parks I’ve not been to and probably will never get to. But there’s my rundown of the ones I’ve taken in. Shoot me some of your favorites or maybe worst choices on Twitter!


Back to back diamond sweeps, and a little good luck sprinkled in on Monday night with the Padres.  I’m sure not going to complain about stealing one, and if you followed my travails in the recent college hoop conference tournaments, it’s fair to say I’ve got a few more coming.

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The price on the Nationals got a little rich for me, so the Monday comp didn’t make the cut on my personal card, but nevertheless I was naturally pleased with the result. I’ll head to Anaheim for tonight’s free play.


Take: (977) OAKLAND ATHLETICS +100

The Angels rally monkey was apparently on the other side last night. It was the division rival A’s that came from behind this time to snare a 3-2 road win. That Halos bullpen has been a problem in the early going, and I’m not sure that’s going to be changing anytime soon.

The Angels are hoping Garrett Richards can get them even in this series with a win tonight. Richards is being talked about as a breakout candidate this season, and he might well be just that. But there’s one fly in his ointment that is going to have to get straightened or that hope is simply not likely to be fulfilled.

Richards has to cut down on the walks. A 6.0 BB rate is not going to sustain good numbers across the board. Richards is definitely generating more swings and misses this season to date. It’s impossible to find fault with that 9.7 K rate. But walks eventually start resulting in runs. They haven’t as yet, but chalk some of that up to a  minuscule .148 BABIP for Richards. That figure is not going to hold up.

The numbers that catch my eye on Richards are his xFIP and SIERA, respectively. Much truer indicators of what a pitcher is really accomplishing, and through his two starts to date, Richards sits at 4.02/4.41. In other words, that sparkling 0.75 ERA is costume jewelry. Looks like the real thing, actually isn’t.

Dan Straily has also had a little good fortune, but not to the extent of Richards. Straily is not much more than a middle of the rotation guy in my estimation, but I see him as a pitcher who will generally be good enough to carve out quality starts that earn his team a decent chance to garner a victory.

The offenses here grade out close to even, although I’d give a slight edge to the home team. But I like the Oakland bullpen by a significant margin if this gets decided late. But for me tonight’s key is the starting pitching, and I’m seeing Garrett Richards being a bit overvalued at this point. Given Oakland’s ability to win on the road where they’re already 6-1, I like the idea of getting even money or better tonight and I’m siding with the Athletics.


Dave’s Free Play, Monday 4/14/14

We’re just two weeks into the 2014 MLB campaign, so it’s way too soon for any teams to be putting the champagne on ice. It’s also too early for any writing off of squads that have not lived up to pre-season billing. But waiting for the results to be tabulated and then pronouncing judgment isn’t what sports are all about. The idea is digest the information at hand and try to figure out what’s going to happen next.

One thing that’s already clear is that, as usual, teams that catch big breaks one year often have things go the opposite way the next time around. The defending World Series Champions are experiencing that unfortunate tendency right now. The Red Sox are limping along at 5-8, they’re already beat up physically and the magic that was at hand last year has been absent thus far in 2014. If the Bosox get the walking wounded back on the field in good health, they should be right back in the mix. But for the time being, Red Sox Nation is breathing some collectively uncertain air.

Other early season flops include the Royals, Diamondbacks and Reds. I was not as high on Kansas City as most, and that opinion hasn’t been altered. The Royals have little in the way of sock, and that lack of a true power threat absolutely has an impact on the approach opposing teams have when facing them. The Diamondbacks can’t pitch, and the Reds aren’t hitting. Plus, that Cincinnati bullpen minus Aroldis Chapman is not nearly as daunting. The Reds have to hope they’re still in the hunt by the time the flame throwing closer returns from his frightening injury.

On the plus side of the early season ledger, there are the Mariners, White Sox and Brewers. Seattle figured to be better this season, as the Robinson Cano signing not only improved the Mariners physically, there’s also no doubt it gave the rest of the roster a legit mental boost. The White Sox are hitting like crazy and they’ve got a little starting pitching worth talking about. The kryptonite for this team is likely going to be a really bad bullpen. But at least this summer is looking to be much more interesting than that of a year ago, when the Chisox were pretty much toast by June.

Then there’s Milwaukee. The Brewers are easily the best story of the season’s initial fortnight. The pitching, particularly the bullpen, has been outstanding. As for the offense, having Ryan Braun back on the field along with a healthy Aramis Ramirez, is making a big difference. With young stars such as Jean Segura and sensational Carlos Gomez, Milwaukee fans have every right to be very excited.

There are roughly 150 games remaining on the schedule, and I’m not one to put the cart before the horse. But with several unexpected early positions in the standings, it certainly looks as though big league baseball fans are in for what should be a terrific summer.


Sunday was very good overall, with the only slight downer a push on the White Sox F5 wager. I was patting myself on the back for being so remarkably smart in avoiding that terrible Chisox bullpen by playing just the first half of the game. Then Alexei Ramirez bombed one out with a runner at first in the bottom of the ninth and the surging Brewers had themselves a sensational walk off win.

No complaints with the day or weekend, though, and the idea is to keep to going and turn a mini-run into something much more exciting. Join me by purchasing any of my available packages. Utilize the “buy now” feature on this page to get started. The best current deal is my April Baseball Special, which covers a full 30 days and includes a solid guarantee. Email me at cokin@cox.net for all the particulars.


The A’s took their sweet time getting on the scoreboard at Seattle, but they eventually got a pair of runs registered and that’s all it took to get the win against the Mariners. My Monday comp is a pretty obvious road chalk piece, but I like it well enough to at least post it as the daily comp.



The Nationals have to be thrilled to be out of Atlanta. This was an as bad as it gets weekend for the Nats. They were swept in the three-game series by their rival Braves, and injury was literally added to insult as the Nats are literally limping out to of Georgia off what could end up being a huge swing weekend for Washington.

This team was already without underrated catcher Wilson Ramos. Now Ryan Zimmerman is out for at least one month after fracturing his thumb while getting picked off on Saturday. Denard Span is out at least one week under the concussion rules and Jayson Werth is playing through another groin strain.

If that isn’t bad enough news, the Nats also played an absolutely horrible series against the Braves. They made numerous really poor decisions on the basepaths, and after rolling to a great start, Washington is once again finding itself looking up at Atlanta in the NL East standings.

The Nats will try and get back on track tonight as they visit Miami, with the Marlins returning home in their own funk following a rough weekend in Philadelphia. Tonight’s clash is a rerun last Wednesday’s mound hookup between Jordan Zimmermann and Brad Hand. For Zimmermann, it’s a bounce back spot even though his team ended up winning that most recent start.

Zimmermann will no doubt be focused for a big effort tonight. He’s off a career worst showing in that prior start. The good pitchers get back on their personal beams very quickly as a rule, and Zimmermann surely qualifies as a high end starter, so I like his chances of finding his normal zone tonight.

Brad Hand will be getting looked at for the second time in just a handful of days by the Nats. Even with all the beat up roster members,  this still should be a good spot for the available Nationals against a pitcher not as likely to fool them this evening.

I’m not nearly as concerned with being on a “public” side in MLB as I am in other sports, most notably the NFL:. So although I don’t think there’s any suspense as to which team will be commanding the biggest square plays tonight, I also think the masses will get this one right. I don’t have a problem with the price, so I’ll be loom to side with the Nationals in this game.






Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 4/13/14

Sometimes the best trades turn out to be the ones that never get made.  One would have to believe the Washington Nationals are feeling pretty good right now about not having moved Adam LaRoche. The rumor mill was churning with LaRoche possibly going to one locale or another with 3B Ryan Zimmerman’s arthritic shoulder issues. The thought was that Zimmerman needed to be moved across the diamond and that meant no spot for LaRoche.

That could well be an eventuality, but not for the time being. In addition to the ailing shoulder, Zimmerman now has a broken thumb as well. He fractured it last night in a loss to the Braves while getting picked off second base. Zimmerman will be out for anywhere from 4-6 weeks, so the convo about what to do with LaRoche is now on hold.

Zimmerman is not the only walking wounded member of the Nationals. Catcher Wilson Ramos is once more on the DL, Denard Span is gone for at least one week with a concussion, and now Zimmerman is sidelined as well. Fortunately, the Jayson Werth groin strain suffered Friday was mild and chances are he’ll be back in the lineup as soon as today.

But the Nationals and their fans have to be shaking their heads at this point. Health was an ongoing pain in the butt for this outfit throughout their disappointing 2013 campaign, and now it’s rearing its ugly head once again.


The Mets, or more specifically Jose Valverde, had me shaking my head last night. Papa Grande was one strike away from an easy 6-3 save, and then he caved in. Single up the middle by Freese, walk to Aybar, and then a meatball right down the pipe to Ibanez, and it’s 6-6. Fortunately, the Halos did nothing against the rest of the Mets bullpen and an Anthony Recker bomb in the 13th ended up as the game winner. That was a pretty big swing game for me, and made for an okay Saturday overall result.

More than likely a short card on Sunday for me. Several conflicts all over the board moved a few games from possible plays to no calls. But I do like a couple of sides, and once the Sunday lineups are posted one or two more could end up on the card. Of course, line moves can also enter the picture as well as sometimes value gets created in this way.

The standard weekly and monthly packages are available via the “buy now” feature on this page, and the April Baseball Special is there as well. That one includes a nice guarantee, so email at cokin@cox.net for all that info. Please note that all correspondence is confidential, as I don’t trade, buy or sell names.

Also, I don’t drop names either. Someone asked me last night whether I had any famous clients.  I answered yes, and when they asked who, I replied #16. Gotta tell ya, I don’t think I could hide my amusement as I could see this guy’s mind churning as to someone who wore a #16 jersey. Eventually, I had to tell him that the #16 was simply his spot on my client ledger and had no other meaning. Anyway, long story short, I don’t talk to anyone about who I do business with.  So don’t ask.


The Indians won as the Saturday comp, although I certainly didn’t get what I was hoping for out of Justin Masterson. I’ve yet to check his chart, but if  his velocity was down again, at this point it has to be a red flag moving forward. Today’s free play is road chalk, which is reasonably priced for the time being at least.


Take: (971) OAKLAND ATHLETICS -130

When Scott Kazmir resurfaced last year as a member of the Cleveland Indians, I really wasn’t expecting much. After all, the once highly regarded lefty had pretty much gone the scrap heap route following a run of injuries and the last I knew he was pitching Independent League ball.

Fast forward to today and Kazmir is now solidly entrenched toward the top of the Oakland rotation. He might not feature the good old days heat, but I don’t think there’s much argument that Kazmir is once again a quality starter.

Kazmir will have to overcome a nemesis today, as he’s had trouble with Seattle 2B Robinson Cano. But Kazmir has remarkably good numbers against the rest of the Mariners he’s likely to face today. Seattle has shown more offense against lefties than projected but I would suspect they’re going to have trouble getting any big numbers on the board today.

Speaking of guys trying to return from nowhere, Chris Young gets the call for the Mariners today. Young looked good in a brief relief outing for Seattle, and if he can find his old form, he would definitely be a nice asset for this team. But I’m assuming this will be a fairly short stint for Young as it’s his first big league start in what amounts to forever. The Mariners have a good bullpen, so I’m not suggesting the A’s are going to blow the M’s staff up here, but I’d rather have the guy more likely to go deeper in the game, and that has to be Kazmir.

I’m basing this play more on projection than anything else. Maybe Young deals like he did in his old days. But that’s really not a strong likelihood and he’s up against an adversary who is in outstanding form to start the season. If everything else here is even, I have to make Kazmir at least one run better than Young, and that could be a bit conservative. Therefore, the price on the game is absolutely justifiable and I’ll go ahead and side with the A’s.


Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 4/12/14

The San Diego Padres don’t garner much attention nationally. That’s with pretty good reason, as the Friars are kind of an ordinary team and let’s face it, they aren’t really very entertaining to watch for most fans. But there needs to be one exception to that rule, which should come up roughly every fifth day when Andrew Cashner takes the mound.

I can state with 100% certainty that my trade analysis is not always on target. I’ve missed on loads of these opinions over the years, and will no doubt continue to do so moving forward. But I also get some of them on the nose, and one that’s falling onto that side of the ledger is the deal between the Cubs and Padres that brought Cashner to the left coast. I thought getting Cashner for Anthony Rizzo was a potential steal for the Padres and it’s turning out to more like highway robbery.

Cashner has gone from being a big arm with potential to pure ace. His name still isn’t being mentioned nearly as much as it ought to by the talking heads on TV. No doubt the fact he’s hurling for what amounts to an anonymous team has much to do with that lack of attention. But if your list of the rising stars in baseball doesn’t include Andrew Cashner, you’d better start working on a new list.

Cashner was absolutely tremendous in completely shutting down the Tigers on Friday night. This was Cashner’s second complete game one-hitter, as he also threw one late last season at Pittsburgh. The big righty just missed the no-hitter here, as the one single was barely out of the reach of second baseman Jedd Gyorko.

The Padres are not likely to have much representation at this year’s All-Star Game. But I don’t think it’s too early to pencil in Cashner as a likely participant. In fact, if he maintains what he’s showing right now, the most imposing Padre might well be in line to make a case for getting the start.


1-2 for me with my Friday baseball. Cashner got me my only win. The Nationals lost a tough extra inning decision in Atlanta, and I was on the wrong side of a rare poor start for Marlins sensation Jose Fernandez. I’ll be expecting a better result with today’s slate.

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The Marlins let numerous scoring opportunities get away on Friday evening, dooming them in the loss to the Phillies as my free play. Following a very nice run, the comps have hit a bit of a roadblock the last few days, so let’s see about getting back in the win column here.


Take: (917) CLEVELAND INDIANS -125

Whenever a pitcher turns in a performance that’s away from his norm and there’s something amiss beyond the box score, it’s something I want to try and get more info on. That was the case following Justin Masterson’s last outing, which saw a significant drop from his usual in terms of his velocity.

The verdict from Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway is that Masterson was having mechanical issues. Callaway explained that the sinkerballer was “kind of landing open with his front leg and getting underneath the ball” and that led to other problems. Callaway said that Masterson eased up on his two-seamer in an effort to throw strikes. In other words, the absence of Masterson’s normal heat was not something anyone needs to worry about.

I wish I had the trained eye to spot these things myself, but being able to get some good quotes from someone who does, in this case Masterson’s coach, is significant to me. Good pitchers are able to use their between starts bullpen sessions to iron out mechanical issues, and the result is often a very strong showing the next time out. If the velocity doesn’t return to normal today, it could be a sign of some underlying physical problem. But I’m willing to bet that the good version of Masterson makes an appearance here.

The White Sox will counter with Felipe Paulino, who had a terrible time at Coors Field in his most recent start. He just could not command his stuff in the altitude and leaving balls up in Mile High Country is a very bad thing to do. I would expect better from Paulino today as well. But he’s facing a Cleveland lineup that, while getting stuffed by lefties so far, has produced well against righties. Paulino is also most definitely not a control specialist and free passes against the Tribe today could result in a big inning or two.

After getting obliterated throughout the 2013 campaign by the Indians, the White Sox have captured the first two games of this series. But this should be a favorable matchup for the road team, and it’s top of the rotation vs. back end. The late inning battle would also likely favor the Indians if the bullpens get involved, and I have to think the visitors are going to be hungry to notch a win off back to back losses to the rival Pale Hose. I’ll give Masterson a good shot at the rebound effort here and I’ll back the Indians.

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 4/11/14

More and more baseball bettors are catching on to metrics-based analysis, particularly when it comes to breaking down starting pitchers. I certainly concur with those who believe this is a far more accurate way of determining why a pitcher is performing the way he is, good or bad, and that can be a huge asset in determining potential overlays or underlays.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the guys who put up the betting lines are using many of the same sites we bettors are to formulate their numbers. So if your thought process is that you’re going to outsmart the bookies, you might want to think again.

But that observation does absolutely nothing to discourage me from keying on metric analysis to determine where the best value is, as dissecting this data goes well beyond just breaking down the starting pitching. In fact, it might well be another aspect of the available information that’s just as, and perhaps even more important than the starting pitching. That would be bullpen metrics.

It’s like this. There are more one-run games being played that at any time since I’ve been involved in this game. That being the case, it’s vital to be calculating what’s most likely to happen in the final three innings, when the relief corps for most teams are going to be deciding the outcome. This is especially true once we get beyond the staff aces and perhaps the #2 guys, who maintain heavier workloads. Once we get down to the middle and back of the respective rotations, you can generally count on at least 1/3 of the game being worked by the pens.

Therefore, I think it’s very advisable to compile substantial data on the relievers. Find out if they’re running true to form, our if their numbers might be skewed in one direction or the other. Unless you’re strictly betting first five inning options, getting on the right side of the various big league bullpens is going to be very impactful on a very frequent basis.


I went the conservative route on Thursday with only one play, but it got there with no trouble as the A’s blew up Mike Pelfrey in a romp over the Twins. The Friday card will be more wide open, with at least three likely plays and perhaps as many as five.

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The free play for Thursday went down as the Braves gave two regulars the day off and Fredi Gonzalez, for reasons only Fredi Gonzalez knows, decided to reinsert BJ Upton into the #2 hole in the lineup.  The play was not on personal ticket, and I would advise following me on Twitter (@davecokin) to find out whether or not the daily comp is on the final card or not. I will generally wait until the game lineup is posted to make that decision.


Take: (951) MIAMI MARLINS -120

I don’t know whether Jose Fernandez can win the NL Cy Young Award this season pitching for what will likely be a losing team. But the Marlins ace might well be the very best pitcher in the game right at the moment. Fernandez was tremendous last season as a rookie. Now that he’s gaining experience, he’s becoming even more dominant.

I’m very interested to see what Fernandez brings to the table tonight as he pitches as cozy Citizens Park against the Phillies. Fernandez was a mere mortal on the road last season, posting a 3-6 record with an okay but not great 3.50 ERA. So ones might argue that based on that record, Fernandez is actually a little overpriced tonight.

I think we’re going to see better numbers as a guest this season for Fernandez. He has been ridiculous at home since arriving in the majors and his two Miami starts this season were spectacular. But unlike his rookie campaign, I like Fernandez to be a very effective road pitcher as well this time around. The ERA and the accompanying stats might not be quite as gaudy as they are at home, but they should be well above average at a minimum.

Make no mistake, the Marlins are now a different team with their stud throwing. I’m not sure the confidence level this team appears to have when Fernandez pitches is even an intangible. It’s that noticeable. If you get a chance to watch tonight’s game, I’ll bet you’ll readily see what I’m saying.

I have little trouble fading the declining Phillies, nor their starter tonight, AJ Burnett. Burnett thrived in spacious PNC for the Pirates, but he’s not about to record similar stats in the Citizens bandbox. Plus, Burnett has exhibited really lousy control in his first couple of starts. The veteran righty has shown diminished velocity out of the gate, and his ground ball rate is not quite as dominant as it has been the last couple of seasons.

Neither bullpen inspires much confidence, but if it gets down to the bullpen late, I’d rather have the Miami pen. I’d also rather have what at least for now is a more productive Marlins offense. But the big key for me tonight is the Fernandez-Burnett battle. I see the kid rising and the old pro fading and even with the adjustment in the price, I still see enough here to side with the Marlins to get the win in this series opener.


Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 4/10/14

Sometimes you just know it’s not going to end well, and yet somehow it does. I was on the right side of one of these finishes last night in the Tigers-Dodgers game. Anibal Sanchez labored through five innings and left with the lead, and with Drew Smyly looking very good in relief the Tigers headed to the bottom of the ninth in command with a three-run lead. That’s when things began to unravel.

Joe Nathan has had an outstanding career as a closer, but right now he’s looking more than a little shaky. Things did not go well at all for Nathan in this game. The lead was shaved to 6-4 as Adrian Gonzalez greeted Nathan with a home run, and it got worse from there. It was patently clear from the outset that Nathan didn’t have much of anything, and sure enough, he failed to protect the lead. Actually, I felt fortunate to get out of the inning still alive at 6-6, with at least a pulse heading to extras.

The good news came immediately as Victor Martinez sent one into the night, giving the Tigers the 7-6 lead. Detroit then used three relievers to get through the bottom of the tenth, and both the Tigers and yours truly went home happy.

The thought, however, remains a constant for me. I understand the value of a closer from a psychological standpoint. Baseball has become a game of defined roles and that’s not changing anytime soon. But when the closer clearly doesn’t have it, why leave him in? Who knows, maybe the Tigers lose the game if manager Brad Ausmus decided to yank Nathan. Or perhaps, he brings in an arm with a little more life and Detroit doesn’t have to sweat extra innings. The bottom line is that managers need to occasionally think outside the box, and go away from what is considered the norm.


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The Wednesday free play went down late as Big Papi turned on an inside fastball for a three-run bomb as the Red Sox rallied to top the Rangers. I’ll head to the NL for today’s comp.

04/10 04:10 PM MLB  (907) NEW YORK METS (908) ATLANTA BRAVES

Take: (908) ATLANTA BRAVES -138

I will go on frequent rants regarding old school managing that is in complete conflict with proven statistical data based on what now amounts to decades of sabermetric study. One such area where there’s been a good deal of conversation and revelation involves batting order construction. According to the metrics, a team’s best hitter is best served hitting in the two hole.

I have no argument whatsoever with hitting the best guy in the third spot, metrics be damned. But one thing that is crystal clear is that many skippers are doing a bad job with their lineups by insisting on putting a contact, move ‘em along type in that second spot, and this is simply not a very good move from a probability standpoint. However, it’s not the worst maneuver either, particularly with pitching dominating as it is right now, making even single runs critical.

What’s unacceptable is putting the worst hitter on the team in the #2 hole, which is what Fredi Gonzalez was doing by spotting BJ Upton as his second hitter. And he was paying for it, as Upton not only is a low BA and OBP type, he’s also not much at just making contact. But Gonzalez made the right move last night, as he moved Andrelton Simmons up to that second spot and in fact, didn’t bother to start the badly struggling Upton. The move paid off as the Braves got some early offense and it proved huge as Atlanta held off a late Mets charge to get the 4-3 win.

I’m expecting some carryover here as the Braves wind up their series with the pesky Mets. Jennry Mejia is yet another live young arm for the Mets, and he’s hardly a pushover. But Mejia is also not a long distance pitcher and while the NY pen has been better lately after a terrible start to the season, I don’t mind the idea of what should be multiple innings against the bullpen.

David Hale goes for the home team, and he’s off a pretty solid initial outing. Hale also has the advantage of never having been faced by any of the Mets, while several Braves have at least gotten a little action against Mejia.

My primary motivation here is the Atlanta offense, though. I’m hoping Gonzalez maintains the same formula he used last night, as I think there’s a decent chance the Braves could put up some decent numbers here. The number is not unreasonable, and while I can’t call this a value spot, I see the Braves being playable tonight.


Dave’s Free Play, Wednesday 4/9/14

I had plenty of action Tuesday on the big league diamonds. But the game I was most interested in was one where I was strictly an observer. Focusing on that game was a good decision, as I got to see a really exciting performance by flame throwing righty Yordan Ventura. The Royals rookie was sensational in his six shutout innings against Toronto, and he has quickly moved into that must see realm whenever his next start comes up.

If you haven’t caught Ventura’s act yet, make sure to do so as soon as possible. He doesn’t look the part at 5’11′ and maybe 180 lbs. But this kid cash bring the heat in spectacular fashion. Triple digits and the amazing thing is that it’s what can best be termed as easy velocity.

Ventura is sure to have a short leash on his innings pitched, as he worked a career high 150 frames last season at three levels, including the last 15 with the Royals. That’s why he’s at the back of the Royals rotation right now, and will probably be skipped here and there for the time being. But if Kansas City stays in the playoff chase all season, management is going to be forced to make a tough decision.

The Royals have James Shields as their established  number one,  but it’s not as though this is a dominant rotation. Jason Vargas looks like a good fit, and Jeremy Guthrie is okay as a back end innings eater. Bruce Chen looks entrenched as the #4, at least for the time being. That’s not the most imposing quartet on the planet. This means Ventura is a good bet to play a pivotal role moving forward, and it’s going be interesting to see how the Royals manage his workload to get the max out of him without exceeding roughly 170-180 innings.

Anyway, if you missed Ventura’s effort last night, circle his next start as one to watch and then get set to be impressed!


As good as it gets on Tuesday with a 4-0 sweep, including three underdogs. The leash is now loose and I’ll have more deep cards as season progresses, although I can tell you that today isn’t likely to be one of them.

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The Brewers went wire to wire in their win over the Phillies as the Tuesday comp. I’ll go the underdog route for today’s free play.

04/09 01:05 PM MLB  (967) TEXAS RANGERS  (968) BOSTON RED SOX


It’s called the Championship Hangover, and it’s a malady that is evidently contagious among title winners regardless of the sport. Right now, the 2013 World Series champs are down with this bug. The Red Sox are a little on the flat side currently. They’re certainly not alone as far as this issue kid concerned. Take a look at the recent kingpins across the board in sports and you’ll readily see that slow starts the next season are really commonplace. I’m not surprised at all to see Boston struggling some at the present time. They’re a little banged up and there’s also no sense of urgency as yet.

I think the oddsmakers are doing a solid job of adjusting for what the Red Sox are right now as opposed to what they were last season. But there are still some nice prices to be had picking the righter spots to try and beat Boston, and I can see that being the case once again in today’s series windup. The Red Sox are heading to New York for a four-game set with the rival Yankees and I think Jake Peavy might be a shade overpriced today.

Robbie Ross looked good in his first start for Texas and I think he’s got a great chance to stick as party of the regular rotation for the Rangers. Ross is sneaky fast, which means he doesn’t light up the gun, but can still generate lots of swings and misses. Peavy is never easy, and he seems to really like pitching at Fenway. But the veteran righty wasn’t lights out in his first start and he’s had some trouble in a short sample of work against the Rangers.

Note that Texas will be without Adrian Beltre today. He apparently did something to a quad, and is heading back to Texas ahead of his team to get an examination. That’s one key component absent from the Rangers lineup . But Shin-Soo Choo is back to his consistently on base ways and it’s not like there aren’t some other pretty good bats in this attack.

I have Ross as a go with pitcher for now. I like lefties who opposing hitters haven’t seen much of, and it’s not like the Red Sox are blowing up southpaws right now. Plus, his confidence should be sky high off last week’s impressive showing. The price is not outlandish by any means, but there’s enough reward vs. risk here to make the Rangers a playable option today.

Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 4/8/14

Some are saying fluke, others are claiming too much parity. Not me. It’s strictly hats off to the champions, as Connecticut proved to be the ultimate underdog en route to winning this year’s National Championship in college basketball. The Huskies did it the hard way as well. They were only favored once in their entire run, and that was in the dramatic win over St. Joe’s in the very first game UConn played in this event. That means five consecutive wins as an underdog for this gritty Huskies squad, and there’s just no way to minimize that accomplishment.

Choosing the MVP was a snap, as Shabazz Napier was sensational throughout for the winners. As for Kevin Ollie, I’d say he’s out of the shadow of Jim Calhoun. This team never let up on the defensive end in their superb run to the title, and Ollie pressed all the right buttons while instilling complete confidence in his guys.

Was UConn the best team in the game this season? Nope. But they were when it meant the most, and that’s what counts come playoff time. Congrats to the Huskies!


Time to step it up in baseball. I stay really conservative until I’ve got some real game data to utilize, but now it’s time to loosen the leash and start firing. I will likely be on three or four plays from the full Tuesday slate, and expect solid results. Join me by taking advantage of my April Baseball Special, which if purchased today, runs through May 7, a full 30 days. Use the “buy now” feature on this page to get rolling, and email me at cokin@cox.net for the details on the guarantee that comes with this package.


Not much sweat with the A’s as the Monday comp. I’ve got one from today’s NL slate for the Tuesday free play.


Take: (927) MILWAUKEE BREWERS  -101

The Brewers are on a bit of a roll as they get their series with the Phillies underway. Milwaukee is off an impressive sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway, and it’s all systems go for this team as they continue this early season road trip.

The 2013 Brewers were a study in inefficiency and lousy fundamentals. I can’t help but wonder how much of a distraction the whole Ryan Braun mess was for this team. Whether that was the issue is something we can’t know for sure, but there was little doubt for anyone who watched them regularly that they were simply not a mentally sharp team.

That’s not the case so far this season. The Brewers have a dangerous lineup, they’re getting some very good pitching, and perhaps the biggest surprise is the bullpen, which has been excellent this far. I have to offer props to manager Ron Roenicke for the success of the bullpen. He actually used sorting training as a job decider. Incumbent closer Jim Henderson wasn’t sharp, and Roenicke didn’t wait for any blown regular season saves to make his move. Roenicke demoted Henderson in favor of old pro Francisco Rodriguez, and K-Rod has looked sharp and energized thus far.

The Phillies are a team in transition, which is a nice way of saying they’re not very good. The lineup is going to occasionally explode, but it’s average at best and vulnerable to injury as well. I don’t have much faith in this team’s bullpen and the overall starting rotation is pretty ordinary behind Cliff Lee.

Today’s matchup finds Kyle Lohse throwing the for the Brewers, while Kyle Kendrick draws home opener honors for the Phils. Kendrick has actually become a better than I thought he would ever be option for the Phillies. That’s not to say he’s anything more than an adequate innings eater, but he has definitely improved with experience. But Lohse is the better guy here and he flashed some serious swing and miss stuff in his 2014 debut. Lohse isn’t really a big K type, so that was a bit fluky. But he’s a solid and consistent pitcher and he’s also had some success against the lineup he’s likely going to see today.

I’m seeing check marks right down the line next to Milwaukee when sizing up this battle. Lohse gets the nod over Kendrick, the currently strong Brewers pen owns a substantial late inning edge and I’ll side with the Brewers lineup ahead of the Phillies. No problem with the price, so the Brewers are today’s choice.


Dave’s Free Play, Monday 4/7/14

I don’t mean to pound the same drum over and over. But whether one is trying to break down a game, or actually managing one, it is simply mindless to ignore available data that can be utilized to gain an advantage. As far as my position is concerned, the more info the better. I don’t think there’s any such thing as an overload. Use what’s meaningful, bypass the rest and while it’s not always going to get the desired result, I firmly believe it has to help more than it can possibly hurt.

Same story for those managing or coaching. I would never recommend that the only way to go is by isolating the strongest probability and ignoring instinct. But thumbing one’s nose at good information is just plain dumb. Yet there’s not a day that goes by during the baseball season where a manager throws the data out the window and actually makes what amounts to the worst move in terms of the statistical information at hand.

Here’s a great example, with Braves skipper Fredi Gonzalez the offender in this instance. Sabremetric studies have shown that the #2 hole is the optimum placement for a team’s best hitter. I have no problem if a manager decides that hitting his top guy third or fourth is preferable. It really depends on what the overall lineup looks like, and I also think that the player type has to be factored in. For instance, Miguel Cabrera in the second slot wouldn’t make much sense to me. I want him getting as many plate appearances as possible, but if there are a couple of good hitters spotted ahead of him, his RBI opportunities will be better served hitting third.

The main idea, however, is to make sure the guy making out the lineup has someone really good in that #2 spot. The old school tendency to stick a situational move the runner along type is actually not particularly smart. Again, that’s not opinion, it’s a conclusion based on decades of statistical research and the numbers don’t lie. But the bottom line, above all else, is to make sure someone reasonably productive is inhabiting that 2-hole.

So what in the wide, wide world of sports is Fredi Gonzalez possibly thinking slotting BJ Upton as the #2 hitter in the Braves lineup? This is, to me, virtually incomprehensible. Upton is an absolutely terrible hitter, arguably one of the worst in all of MLB. He basically doesn’t do anything well offensively. The idea with the older of the Upton brothers has become, simply, put him in the spot where he can do the least damage. That sure as hell isn’t the two-hole.

When managers consistently make what amounts to the worst possible maneuver, it tells me there’s little chance they’re going to get the max out of what they’ve got, and I sure don’t want them running my show when the big games are on the line.


A Sunday split on the diamond with the White Sox winning behind a sterling effort from Chris Sale, and the Braves losing a tough 2-1 decision to the Nationals in a game they could have and probably should have won. I also played an NBA game and lost that as the Thunder flopped in a spot where they’ve generally done well, but certainly didn’t this time.

My April baseball special remains available, and while the cards have been mostly small so far, they’re going to get deeper as more current data comes into play. The special comes with a minimum profit guarantee, and you can email me at cokin@cox.net for that info. Purchase the special or any of the other available packages by using the “buy now” feature on this page,


Sunday’s free play missed as the Blue Jays fell to the Yankees. The short Monday card means I can’t be as demanding on getting a great price, so this one’s a little chalkier than usual, but it’s still a side I like.


Take:  (959) OAKLAND A’S -140

When the A’s managed to convince Scott Kazmir to make the move west from Cleveland, it looked like a nice addition to what already figured to be a pretty good staff. Then, the injury bug came calling and suddenly, the acquisition of Kazmir took on a  whole new meaning for the A’s. Rather than filling out a good staff, Kazmir moved right toward to very front of the rotation. So far, so good as the veteran southpaw is off a very sharp 2014 debut and will look to keep it rolling today at Minnesota.

Kazmir is a great story, in that he was basically done with baseball at the big league level, or so almost everyone thought. But the lefty has come all the way back from some really significant injury issues, and in fact might well be the best he’s ever been right now. Kazmir doesn’t profile as a power pitcher anymore, but he’s certainly a smarter hurler than he used to be, and the results have been pretty remarkable all things considered. Kazmir threw only one four-seam fastball in his win over the Indians on Wednesday. He’s now two-seam dominant, and his command has improved dramatically since his early days.

Kevin Correia goes for the Twins here, and his chart from last week’s start was interesting. Correia has never been a flamethrower. But his velocity was a career low in his start against the White Sox. The results were actually very positive, so I’m not going to read much into this. But it’s worth keeping an eye on moving forward. Correia is strictly back of the rotation fodder regardless, and his model is more of a keep the team in the game type as opposed to a pitcher who will dominate.

One of the things you’ll probably pick up on reading these write-ups throughout the season is that I like grabbing the favorites in games pitting a #1-2 starter against a #4-5 if I can catch a reasonable price. I think that’s the case here with Kazmir facing Correia. The rest fits as well, as Oakland has the better overall bullpen and they can outhit the Twins as well. I won’t call 7/5 odds a bargain price by any means, but it’s actually a little cheaper than I think it ought to be. I’ll side with the A’s to get the win this time.