Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 4/20/14

“Lot of debate on people liking certain sports over the other. How about people dig what they dig and shut the hell up?” That was my favorite tweet of the entire day on Saturday from one of the guys I follow, in this case my friend @WesReynolds1.

Wes hit the nail right on the head. I can’t tell you many people have looked at me like I have some kind of communicable disease when I’ve mentioned that I preferred watching exhibition baseball to other sports, even though the games in the other sports are more meaningful. I’m already bracing myself for criticism when I fail to watch even one minute of the upcoming World Cup.

It’s as if one is committing a criminal act if they don’t follow the flock and watch what they’re apparently supposed to watch. The World Cup will be a perfect example. Yes, it’s a huge international event and hundreds of millions worldwide will be watching. I won’t, because soccer holds no interest for me. I’m absolutely not knocking anyone who loves the game. It’s just not my personal preference.

I also won’t watch professional wrestling. I’d rather watch a rerun of a “Perry Mason” show from the 1950′s where I already know who the guilty party is than ten seconds of the WWE. But that’s just me. If you enjoy pro wrestling, go for it and have yourself a great time.

The bottom line is that people arguing over what we’re all supposed to watch is ridiculous. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sports, news or entertainment. Watch what you want and lay off barking at anyone who doesn’t think along the same lines.

And I’ll extend this to the political arena. I don’t think there’s anything that infuriates me more than people telling me how I should think. Well, actually there is one thing that makes me even more furious. That’s people who end up standing on one side of the aisle simply because that’s what they’re being told they’re supposed to do. Make up your own mind and stick to your own beliefs. End of sermon.

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2-1 Saturday with the Cardinals and Brewers winning, while the Giants got shut down nicely by the Padres and Eric Stults, who pitched a beautiful game for the Friars. Six winning days and two splits over the last eight MLB slates, so it’s good right now.

Join me for all my plays with my April Baseball Special that’s going to be in effect through the end of the month. The package covers a full 30 days and includes a guarantee. Details available, just email me at cokin@cox.net. Or simply buy now by utilizing the “Buy Now” tab on this page and selecting “April Baseball Special” from the drop down menu.

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Ryan Braun played the role of hero as he rallied the Brewers to victory against the Pirates as the Saturday free play. I’m heading to the AL East for the Easter Sunday comp, and by the way, Happy Holidays to all!

04/20 10:40 AM  MLB  (919) NEW YORK YANKEES  (920) TAMPA BAY RAYS

Take: (919) NEW YORK YANKEES +115

It’s the windup of what has been a series of blowouts between the Yankees and Rays. The Pinstripes roared out of the starting gate with a 10-2 romp on Thursday. But the Rays have responded with two slaughters by a combined 27-6 the last couple of days. Needless to say, this set has been a bonanza for Over bettors, and we might get another load of runs today. But I’ll focus on the side for the Sunday free play.

While I’m very reliant on doing the math to isolate the best value on a daily basis, the eye test is always of importance to me. In this particular game, there’s really nothing much to choose on the numbers. But off what I’ve observed, I simply see one of the pitchers having an edge today and I’m going to ride that to what will hopefully be a win.

Cesar Ramos is getting another start for the Rays, and that ought to be good news for the Yankees. Ramos is a fringy lefty. I can see him as a situational southpaw out of the pen, or better yet, the last guy in the pen who eats up some innings in a game that’s lopsided. I don’t see Ramos as a starting pitcher. His stuff is marginal, he sure doesn’t miss many bats and his control is shaky. Ramos is clearly a stopgap for Tampa Bay right now. He’s in the rotation simply because injuries have depleted the staff.

On the flip side, I see Vidal Nuno as a guy with a little potential. I don’t see the lefty as a stud, but he’s a guy who is able to locate three pitches and when someone throwing from the southpaw side can do that, carving out a rotation spot is not at all far fetched. Nuno is never going to blow anyone away with his high 80′s fastball. But he’s also a guy who has shown a knack for throwing strikes and that means he isn’t likely to beat himself.

The Yankees should also have an offensive edge here. They’ve hit lefties reasonably well thus far, something that cannot be said about the Rays. On the other hand, if this is close late, Tampa Bay has the better bullpen. But following two really ugly losses, I expect the Yankees to come out ready to play today, and I prefer Nuno to Ramos. Getting the plus sign on the betting line clinches the opinion for me, and I’ll side with the Yankees to notch the getaway day win.

Dave’s Free Play, Saturday 4/19/14

Mike Redmond has no blanking idea what he’s doing and I don’t know how he’s the manager of a Major League Baseball team. Sorry if that seems harsh, but I would consider the maneuvering he did in what turned out to be a Marlins win on Friday night to be among the worst strategic decisions I’ve ever seen in any sport. And I’ll add at any level, including Little League as far as baseball is concerned.

Bear in mind the Marlins won this game, and I’m not pulling a sour grapes routine as I was on the Marlins, so the result was great for me. Here’s the scenario and a rundown on what took place.

4-4 bottom of the ninth and the Marlins start their turn at bat off with a Reed Johnson single off Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina. Next up is Christian Yelich and naturally, he’s bunting. Note that while I am adamantly anti-sacrifice bunting for the most part, I can accept it here. Get the winning run to second base with the two best Marlins hitters due up next. If there’s a right time to sac bunt, it’s here. Yelich lays down a beauty and it’s a bit mishandled by the Mariners. Result, single. Runners at first and second and no one out. Here’s where Redmond completely screwed things up.

Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton are the next two hitters. There is zero chance Redmond orders another bunt here, right? If Ozuna lays down a perfect bunt and moves the winning run to third base, he guarantees an intentional walk to Stanton, by far the most dangerous hitter in the lineup.

Obviously, or I would not be writing this piece, Ozuna is sent up to bunt, which is not just a bad move, not just a wrong move, it’s freakin’ insane! He’s even still got the bunt on with the count at 3-1. Ozuna, who is more a power guy, lays down a lousy bunt and Yelich is thrown out at third. Mission (whatever the #$^% Redmond’s mission was here) not accomplished.

In an incredible stroke of good fortune for Miami, the Seattle 3B bobbled the ball on the transfer and following a replay ruling, the on field call was reversed. So in spite of Redmond’s monstrously awful managing, it’s bases loaded, no one out. Stanton, who would not have gotten to even swing the bat once had Ozuna successfully sacrificed, crushes a Medina pitch and it’s a walk off grand slam.

So the Marlins won the game, but they did so only because of a failure to negotiate a play they should never have have attempted and a phenomenally fortunate instant replay reversal. The reality is that Mike Redmond made the worst possible decision, one which left even the Marlins own broadcast team aghast.

I said on more than occasion last season that I thought Redmond was getting overmatched, and part of this opinion was based on his constant desire to give away outs with that inane bunt. But he outdid himself here. The idea of having his second best hitter give himself up, and then watching as the opposing team removes the bat from his best hitter is unfathomable.

It’s one thing when a manager makes moves that don’t work out. Part of the game, and that’s true in any game. But when a manager displays that he simply doesn’t have the slightest blanking clue as to what he’s doing, he shouldn’t be managing. End of story.

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1-1 for me on Friday, with the Marlins winner and a loser on the Tigers. Shame on me for stubbornly refusing to play a big chalk piece on the Rangers. This was a great spot to fade the White Sox and the hapless Felipe Paulino, and I didn’t do it.

Nevertheless, baseball is sailing along nicely, and it’s a good time to be riding my plays. My April baseball special is available on the “Buy Now” menu you’ll find on this page, and that includes a minimum net gain of five units over the next 30 days. Email me at cokin@cox.net for all the particulars.

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Wrong side by a mile with the Tigers as the Friday comp. I’ll try to beat what appears to be an ailing lefty for the Saturday free play.

04/19 04:05 PM  MLB  (955) MILWAUKEE BREWERS  (956) PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Take: (955) MILWAUKEE BREWERS -110

No need for a really in depth analysis here. I’m going against Wandy Rodriguez. The Pirates lefty doesn’t appear all the way back from his elbow issues, and he’s getting lit up.

Rodriguez did at least show a bump back up with his fastball velocity last start, but it’s not much of a heater right now, and Wandy isn’t surviving without it. Three more bombs out of the park in that most recent start, and make no mistake, this is a big potential problem for the Bucs.  I’m assuming the Pirates are keeping a close eye on Brandon Cumpton, who is off to a really strong start at Indianapolis, and Jeff Locke will be a consideration if he gets it together down on the farm. Meanwhile, Rodriguez gets another start and the Bucs are keeping their fingers crossed that the tick up in velocity last start is some kind of positive sign moving forward.

I’m going to have to be convinced before I get off the anti-Wandy bandwagon. He’s had all kinds of gopher ball problems with the Brewers he will likely be seeing tonight. Matt Garza will throw for Milwaukee, and he’s probably the shakiest element regarding this call. Garza is a good pitcher, but I’ll have to admit I’ve had problems on occasion getting on the right side of his form.

The bottom line for me is that unless I get priced off a game Rodriguez is pitching, he’s an auto-fade for me until he corrects his form. I’m counting on that not being the case tonight, and I’m siding with the Brewers.

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Friday 4/18/14

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you realize you haven’t. Witness the bizarre happenings in last night’s Blue Jays-Twins game. I thought I was watching bad little League baseball as the Twins put together a six-run “rally” to finish off a doubleheader sweep.

This was a 5-3 Toronto lead when the Twins came to bat against Steve Delabar in the bottom of the eighth frame.  Here’s a rundown of what then took place.

Walk, Walk, Sac bunt. Pitching change for Toronto at that point as they bring in closer Sergio Santos for what is supposed to be a five-out save. Didn’t quite work out that way.

Walk, wild pitch, walk, wild pitch, stolen base, walk, wild pitch, stolen base, walk, walk. Four runs in on nothing but walks and wild pitches with the sac bunt the only ball in play. By this time, J.A. Happ had relieved the beleaguered Santos and Happ finally gave up an actual base hit as Jason Kubel singled to drive in two more runs.

Final tally, six runs on eight walks, three wild pitches and one hit. Like I said, this is something I’ve never seen  and likely never will again.

And that’s the reason I watch. One never knows what’s going to happen. It’s why sports is the real reality TV.

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2-1 with my Thursday plays, so the baseball heater is still on. My loser was the underdog Indians, while the Rangers won and the Under Red Sox/White Sox was a cinch. I’m in a nice zone with the bases right now. +16.15 in MLB already. That’s where almost all my focus will be until exhibition football arrives. I might toss in a little NBA or NHL, but to be candid, I’m just not getting it done in those games, and this is about winning money, not playing because the games are important. So if you purchase anything I’ve got, it’s going to be almost all baseball. In other words, if you’re looking to buy a playoff package, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

The April Baseball Special is for 30 full days, and includes a guaranteed minimum profit. Email me at cokin@cox.net for all the details, or simply head to the “Buy Now” feature on this page and select the special from the drop down menu.

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The latest daily free play winning streak ended last night as the White Sox lost to the Red Sox. Let’s sase about starting a brand new run with tonight’s comp.

04/18 04:05 PM  MLB  (915) LOS ANGELES ANGELS  (916) DETROIT TIGERS

Take: (916) DETROIT TIGERS -112

No one will ever accuse Jered Weaver of not knowing how to pitch. Talk about a guy who is finding a way to still get hitters out, in spite of almost not being able to break glass at this point. Weaver was never a flame thrower, but as the innings and years have piled up, he’s now strictly a soft tosser. Yet Weaver is still going to find ways to win games for the Angels, and he might never fall into the easy fade category.

Nevertheless, Weaver is not at this juncture an ace. He has enough savvy and locates well enough to get wins, and there will still be the sporadic shutdown showing when he has everything working. But Weaver is also now in that danger zone as  a pitcher. When he makes a mistake in the strike zone, it gets hit, and usually quite hard. From an odds standpoint, the adjustment in Weaver prices is taking place. It’s not like the guy who post the lines aren’t aware of the transformation, and Weaver is being priced accordingly. So this play is  not about bargain hunting. It’s simply more a case of this being what looks like a tough matchup for the righty, and one where the Tigers might be able to do some damage.

Detroit will counter with lefty Drew Smyly, who has now been deemed ready to resume a regular spot in the Tigers rotation. I’ll admit to some misgivings about Smyly in this role. He’s basically a two-pitch guy right now, although he’s throwing three different fastballs along with a breaking ball. Whether he can get it done long term with this arsenal is unknown, but for the time being, Smyly should be fine. It’ll also help that most of the hitters he’ll be facing will have had limited exposure to him, and that usually is an advantage for a southpaw pitcher.

Smyly should be revved up for his first start since September of 2012. The lefty has been stretched out to some extent with there-inning efforts in his two most recent outings. I doubt Smyly goes more than five innings or so here, but I’m expecting a good result. After that, it will be up to the Tigers bullpen, which is not currently an area of great strength. But the good news for the Motowners is that even an average pen is superior to the arson squad Mike Scioscia is being forced to work with. The Halos relievers are collectively terrible at this point and that puts a ton of pressure on all the starters to work deep into games.

Detroit’s patience at the plate should pay dividends tonight. Look for the Tigers to try to inflate Weaver’s pitch count with lengthy at bats. At the same time, Weaver is one who needs to nibble with his array of pitches and I fully expect him to be done by the seventh inning, and that’s if he’s on his game to begin with.

The Tigers haven’t exactly been crushing the ball, and I have to give the Angels the offensive edge. But in this spot I prefer Smyly to Weaver, and if it’s close late, the home team has an advantage as well. The price is not great, but it’s also not unreasonable. I’ll side with the Tigers to get this series off on the right foot with the win tonight.

 

 

Dave’s Free Play, Thursday 4/17/14

The major sports leagues remain constant in their condemnation of legalized gambling. It’s the same old story about the integrity of the game, and the concern about the terrible impact widespread betting would cause. We’ve heard this song over and over. So someone explain to me how sports gambling challenges the integrity of the game, but a team clearly throwing a game doesn’t.

I don’t have a problem with what too many NBA teams did virtually all season long. They lost games on purpose. Perhaps the most blatant examples came on the final couple of night of the regular season. The Brooklyn Nets decided they’d be better off with a lower seed for the playoffs and intentionally lost their last two games.

But I do have a problem, and a big one at that, with this practice somehow being acceptable while gambling is going to compromise the integrity of the game. Someone will have to explain to me how throwing a game is somehow okay and doesn’t bring the integrity of the league into question.

To me, the single best argument for legalized wagering was on display all season in the NBA, and it peaked over these last couple of games with what the Brooklyn franchise did. This league needs to shut up about its ludicrous concerns about the negative impact gambling would have when some of its teams are literally fixing the outcome of games. Sorry, but there’s simply no other way to tag what we all just saw.

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2-2 in baseball on Wednesday night. A bit unlucky with the Astros, but very fortunate with the Red Sox. I also was on the short end of a 1-0 Braves win, but had the righter side with Johnny Cueto and the Reds.

I’m probably not going to be doing much with the NBA playoffs. My focus is on MLB right now, and to be honest, the hoops turned for me in March and haven’t been very good. So I’ll mostly be sticking with what’s working and that’s baseball.

Get all my plays by selecting one of the available options on the “Buy Now” tab on this page. The best deal is the April Baseball Special, which includes a guarantee. I’ll be happy to furnish all the details if you want them, just shoot an email to me at cokin@cox.net.

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Free plays are rolling, with the Giants coming through on Wednesday. Tonight’s comp is on one of the American League hookups.

04/17 05:10 PM  MLB  (971) BOSTON RED SOX (972) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Take: 9972) CHICAGO WHITE SOX -116

The Red Sox managed to rally for a 6-4 extra inning win over the White Sox on Wednesday night. But this was anything but easy, and the plain truth is the Red Sox were very fortunate to win.

The Boston offense is asleep right now and they’re not exactly playing stellar defense, either. Two errors got the Chisox on the board early, and as for the Red Sox attack, it was pathetic last night. White Sox pitchers issued a whopping 15 walks, but no one on the Red Sox could get good wood on the ball for virtually the entire 14 innings. In the end, the Red Sox cuahg a massive break when the White Sox ran out of pitchers and had to turn to reserve utility man Leury Garcia.

It gets no easier for Boston tonight as they have to take on Chris Sale. The deceptive southpaw is throwing it very well once again this season. Jon Lester is also dealing to start the campaign, and he should be tough on the White Sox. But the edge here has to go to Sale. The offensive advantage also belongs to the Pale Hose, especially considering how tame the Red Sox bats are currently.

The fly in the ointment is if this is close late and ends up in the bullpen. I don’t think there’s a weaker relief corps in the majors than that owned by the White Sox. But with Sale on the mound against a reeling attack, I can only see the home team here, especially with the price being very reasonable. I’ll side with the White Sox win the series rubber match.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

04/16 07:15 PM  MLB  (913) LOS ANGELES DODGERS  (914) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Take: (914) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS -110

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!

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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.

The April Baseball Special is still available, and that covers a full 30 days with a guarantee. Shoot an email my way at cokin@cox.net if you want the details, along with a detailed explanation of how my deal operates. You can also purchase any of my current packages by utilizing the “buy now” feature on this page.

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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.

04/15 07:05 PM  MLB  (977) OAKLAND ATHLETICS (978) LOS ANGELES ANGELS

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.

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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.

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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.

04/14 04:10 PM MLB (903) WASHINGTON NATIONALS (904) MIAMI MARLINS

Take: (903) WASHINGTON NATIONALS -125

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.

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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.

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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.

04/13 01:10 PM  MLB  (971) OAKLAND ATHLETICS  (972) SEATTLE MARINERS

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.

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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.

04/12 11:10 AM MLB  (917) CLEVELAND INDIANS (918) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

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.

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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.

04/11 04:05 PM MLB  (951) MIAMI MARLINS (952) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

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.