1. #1
    Point Blank
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    PB (4/12) The Playoff Prelude: Can the Warriors "Defend" Their Crown


    The Playoff Prelude – Can the Warriors “Defend” Their Crown…On those early warning signs for Kyle Hendricks…There may be no cause for concern from the Jose Berrios showing vs. Seattle…


    Point Blank – April 12, 2018

    It was fitting that on the final night of an NBA season that brought major tracking challenges throughout, there wasn’t much of anything outside of Nuggets/Timberwolves that brought enough integrity to even go into the database. But that is the season that was, 9 teams failing to reach 30 wins, after there were only 10 that finished at that lowly level over the two previous seasons combined.

    That all goes away now as the second season begins, one in which every game matters, and yet the marketplace has a chance to be a little muddled, those regular-season numbers so many rely on carrying less value this time around. The key here will be sorting through what matters and what doesn’t, starting with Golden State today before getting into individual Game #1 settings tomorrow, and in terms of MLB pitchers there are also some guys on the Thursday card that bring similar sorting issues.

    The jukebox will naturally be plugged in on Friday for the long read through the first round matchups, but I will also set aside a special moment for today, a performance of “Big League” from Tom Cochrane earlier this week as a tribute to the tragedy involving the Humboldt Broncos youth hockey team last week, a bus crash killing 15 and injuring 14 others. It was a chilling moment for Cochrane to perform that song, and for a good read on the backstory you can go here.



    Item: Can the Warriors “defend” their crown

    One of the prime issues in sifting through those regular season stats is to deal with games in which injuries reduced the importance of the numbers, and also when teams weren’t trying to be at their peak all that often, merely looking to get to this stage as fresh as possible. There will rarely be as good of an example of that balancing act than with the Warriors, who are still on the verge of being called the greatest team of all time, yet finished 58-24, a far cry from the 67-15, 73-9 and 67-15 of the three previous campaigns.

    The major question is an obvious one – can they snap their fingers and get right back to their “A” level? Might they even be a bit fresher than usual because the workload was reduced? Let’s compare the last two seasons, both in total minutes played, and the numbers of games missed, for the key cogs (I include Andre Iguodala on the list because it is playoff time, after all):

    2017 2018 2017 2018
    Curry 2638 1631 3 31
    Durant 2070 2325 20 14
    Green 2471 2287 6 12
    Thompson 2649 2506 4 9
    Iguodala 1998 1622 6 18

    But now to narrow the focus. It wasn’t just a case of falling in the standings because of the injuries, when the four key cogs were on the court together (this time I don’t include Iguodala, because it wasn’t playoff time, after all) they did not play nearly as well. The reason is easy to see, with a remarkable offensive consistency being shown, but a major drop-off on the defensive end:

    Min Off Def Net
    2017 955 120.8 98.2 +22.6
    2018 758 120.9 107.6 +13.3

    And to reduce it to Durant/Green/Thompson, which will be the lead cast for at least the first round:

    2017 1031 120.0 98.5 +21.5
    2018 1190 116.8 107.2 +9.6

    The numbers from the previous season shows what they are capable of; I only used the 2017 because of Durant. But what is the proper grade for this team as Saturday’s opener vs. San Antonio approaches – is it a basket higher than the regular season? Perhaps a triple? Or do they have to show it first.

    Let’s go to their own takes, starting with Steve Kerr: ''We need the competitive spirit. We need the juice. We need the joy, and we haven't had much of that. So we got to get our minds right.' Our guys know how to do it, but it’s hard.”



    From Draymond Green: “I think there should always be a question in your mind if that switch is going to flip. As a basketball player, you know switches don’t work like that. Nonetheless, I think if anybody is capable of it, we are.”

    Kevin Durant: “I think there’s been so much movement in our lineups that we let that take a toll a bit. I felt like it killed the morale a bit toward the end of the year.”

    Notice the focus from all on the mental aspects of the sport. Is that “the switch” with this bunch? Are they OK tactically, and indeed at a plus vs. anyone they will play from here on out in terms of playoff experience, and just needing a cathartic moment to get back to the levels we have seen in the past?

    Fate may have dealt them a good hand as Playoff Poker begins – it wouldn’t be out of bounds to call the Spurs the easiest team to guard of any in the playoffs, which brings an opportunity for the Golden State defensive swagger to return. That will be a key point for the Weekend Edition, when I take “The Game Inside the Game” approach to each of the first-round settings.


    Item: Putting Kyle Hendricks under the afternoon microscope

    One of the running themes here for the early MLB season is to put the starting pitches under enhanced viewing in order to develop a better feel for the current level of their game, and the opportunity to get ahead of the curve when a change in performance level may be unfolding. That takes us to the Hendricks start against the Pirates this afternoon at Wrigley, especially as it becomes a bigger challenge, with the temperature finally warming up, and a bit of a hitter’s breeze out to right-center early in the game, though it will be shifting across the afternoon.

    One of my keys early in any season is to focus more on how a pitcher is throwing the ball rather than the outcome of those pitches, and while that might sound confusing, it isn’t. There is a lot of randomness to what happens when bat meets ball; over time the better pitchers control that with more skill than those of lesser talents, but even then the gap is not wide. In short cycles, however, canyons can develop between the quality of a pitch and the quality of an outcome.

    Hence my focus on a series of “rate stats” that take the randomness out of play – Strikeout%, Walk%, Groundball%, O-Swing% (how often a pitcher gets hitters to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone), and Swinging Strike%. When I see a pitcher far off of his norms in those categories, whether it be good or bad, and for Hendricks so far it is all bad, despite a 0-0/4.09 bottom line that isn't sending off any alarms:

    Career 2017 2018
    K% 21.2 21.6 11.8
    BB% 6.0 7.0 7.8
    GB% 49.5 50.1 46.2
    O-SW% 31.7 31.6 27.7
    SWS% 8.7 8.3 7.0



    Yes, there is the on-running caveat of it being early days. But the reason to take this exercise is to be on the alert, and I am going to also have a vested rooting interest in watching Hendricks today, with #902 Chicago/Pittsburgh Over (2:20 Eastern), the value comfort of having 9 as a win number. Even when the Chicago right-hander is on his game it means pitching to contact, and there isn’t much he can throw at the Pirates they have not seen before, with key cogs Gregory Polanco (1.071 OPS) and Josh Harrison (1.032) both having tagged him well.

    The flip side is that the Cubs will get an opportunity to make contact against Trevor Williams, who may not be able to miss enough bats to have much shelf-life in a Major League rotation. Williams is sitting on a 6.9 K/9 through 174.1 career innings, and when the strikeouts are that low the walks and ground-balls need to be effective tools. For him they aren’t. The BB/9 of 3.3 and GB% of 47.6 aren’t good enough to off-set that, hence xFIP rating him at 4.52, and the 2018 Williams hasn’t even been that good, with more walks than strikeouts, a 45.7 GB%, and a woeful 4.6 SWS%, a category in which anything less than 5.0 is Church League Softball.


    Item: Jose Berrios, and the flip side of early tracking

    To show how the on-going process with numbers take place, note that I saw no cause for concern with what looked like an awful showing for Berrios vs. Seattle in his last outing, a single game ERA of 9.64 in which he did not finish the fifth inning. What happened to one of the most promising young arms in the game, after he had worked a shutout in his first 2018 start? Not all that much – some of it can be attributed to Baseball Being Baseball.

    In opening with that shutout at Baltimore, Berrios had a 19.4 K% and 3.2 BB%, but the batted balls found gloves, to a .125 BABIP. Against the Mariners he nearly doubled the strikeouts to 35.0 and did not walk a batter, but BABIP was .417.

    Want a unique way to look at what most will grade as a poor showing vs. Seattle? If we go to xFIP, the game grades at 0.67, the best single xFIP game of his career. Take that with a grain of salt, because while FIP and xFIP are good over time, they are fragile with short samples. But it does help to lend a better perspective in this instance – there may have not been much at all wrong with the pitches that Berrios threw in his last outing, except for bad outcomes, and bad outcomes are simply something that the sport brings into play on occasion.


    If you want to know when PB is ready to go each day, as well as following along for some of the most important Sports Betting news as it unfolds, make @Vegaspointblank a part of your routine.
    Last edited by Point Blank; 04-12-18 at 11:20 AM.

  2. #2
    vegasvee
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    Dave,

    Do you see any value in the LA King at +200 or so on the series line? I liked them heading into the series but thought the value was too short to get in play at +110 or so. Often times I think it is best to see how game one plays out in situations like these if you plan on backing the series dog, and now down 1-0 feel it is time to strike. I am not a believer in Fleury despite his strong 2018 season and the two teams play essentially even hockey aside from 3+ minutes top open the game.

    Season series was split with each team winning one at home and one on the road.

  3. #3
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by vegasvee View Post
    Dave,

    Do you see any value in the LA King at +200 or so on the series line? I liked them heading into the series but thought the value was too short to get in play at +110 or so. Often times I think it is best to see how game one plays out in situations like these if you plan on backing the series dog, and now down 1-0 feel it is time to strike. I am not a believer in Fleury despite his strong 2018 season and the two teams play essentially even hockey aside from 3+ minutes top open the game.

    Season series was split with each team winning one at home and one on the road.
    Let's get some of the hockey experts to chime in here because it is a sport in which I only follow, though this series is of far more interest than usual, but before taking a plunge you might want to wait out whether Drew Doughty (who led all players in minutes at 27:52 last night), gets suspended for Game #2.

  4. #4
    benjy21
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    Hey Dave,

    With the Pirates now at +175, I am getting chimes on them, and think I have to hold my nose and take the plunge. Do you see value on Pittsburgh in addition to the over?

  5. #5
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by benjy21 View Post
    Hey Dave,

    With the Pirates now at +175, I am getting chimes on them, and think I have to hold my nose and take the plunge. Do you see value on Pittsburgh in addition to the over?
    Yes, although the First Half might be a better path. The Pirates are swinging the bats well, so there just isn't that kind of gap in Lineup vs. Lineup or Starter vs. Starter, but the bullpen has been a different story so far. If value can be found First Half is preferred (+160 or more), but even with the bullpen disparity the Full Game does show for me at +170 or higher.

  6. #6
    ikid2groove415
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    Dave the warriors are done if curry doesn’t play ? I really believe this - Durant is a complete joke and doesn’t wanna be a leader !!

  7. #7
    pickNpray
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    Quote Originally Posted by ikid2groove415 View Post
    Dave the warriors are done if curry doesn’t play ? I really believe this - Durant is a complete joke and doesn’t wanna be a leader !!
    Good insight and thought here, way to contribute to the spirit of what this forum is all about.

  8. #8
    fedex11204
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    Quote Originally Posted by pickNpray View Post
    Good insight and thought here, way to contribute to the spirit of what this forum is all about.
    Thatís what I was thinking do we let clowns like this to contribute to this forum ... if you donít have any intelligent thing to add keep it to yourself.

  9. #9
    lanceluna
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    Good morning Dave,

    I am seeing potential value in the Red Sox/Yankees game this evening. The Red Sox team total is sitting at 4. Sonny Gray has a poor history pitching at Fenway in his career. The TT of 4 seems reasonable to me. Further, what do you think about a possible game total over 9? Though Porcellos numbers have been good through his first 2 starts you never know which Porcello is going to show up. Throw in the fact the bullpens from both teams could be fatigued after last nights slugfest, both of these plays seem reasonable to me. Thoughts on both? Thank you as always.

  10. #10
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by pickNpray View Post
    Good insight and thought here, way to contribute to the spirit of what this forum is all about.
    Quote Originally Posted by fedex11204 View Post
    That’s what I was thinking do we let clowns like this to contribute to this forum ... if you don’t have any intelligent thing to add keep it to yourself.
    I just took a sip of coffee, closed my eyes, and pondered for a moment "gosh what if beating the game could ever be just that simple..." And then I went back to charting Wednesday MLB, and accepting that the realities of our world revolves around Fernando Rodney being utterly terrible, yet being credited with a "win".

  11. #11
    ikid2groove415
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    Quote Originally Posted by pickNpray View Post
    Good insight and thought here, way to contribute to the spirit of what this forum is all about.
    It’s not true DUMBASS? Have you seen warriors play without curry? 14PPG less? STFU and learn basketball PUSSY!!

  12. #12
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by lanceluna View Post
    Good morning Dave,

    I am seeing potential value in the Red Sox/Yankees game this evening. The Red Sox team total is sitting at 4. Sonny Gray has a poor history pitching at Fenway in his career. The TT of 4 seems reasonable to me. Further, what do you think about a possible game total over 9? Though Porcellos numbers have been good through his first 2 starts you never know which Porcello is going to show up. Throw in the fact the bullpens from both teams could be fatigued after last nights slugfest, both of these plays seem reasonable to me. Thoughts on both? Thank you as always.
    I think both ends can work. It will be cool in Boston, not cold, and there is a hitter's breeze to left (not that any of the Yankee right-handed hitters need one in Fenway). I might be more comfortable with the Full Game Over, because the Red Sox bullpen got tattered up pretty good yesterday, and with Porcello allowing a lot of contact (career-low 6.0 SWS% so far), I don't know if his stuff is good enough to hold up on a 3rd pass through the NYY lineup. It will likely call the middle relief corps into play, and that group is limited this evening (assume no Hembree, Johnson or Poyner, while it would be 3-in-3 for Kelly).

  13. #13
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by ikid2groove415 View Post
    It’s not true DUMBASS? Have you seen warriors play without curry? 14PPG less? STFU and learn basketball PUSSY!!
    While there is plenty of room here for discussion, there is none whatsoever for that kind of display. One can express themselves in such a fashion all across the internet; hence no need for that kind of graffiti here (not that anyone should ever really feel the need for it anywhere).

  14. #14
    golfnutt67
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    Quote Originally Posted by ikid2groove415 View Post
    Dave the warriors are done if curry doesn’t play ? I really believe this - Durant is a complete joke and doesn’t wanna be a leader !!
    I agree if Curry is not at 85% or so assuming he is back in for the second round they are in trouble defending the title. Durant a joke???? no chance I can go there....too many of the talking heads are taking this short sided view of KD too imho. They are the not the defending champs without him for sure some are still upset that he is in GS. Sure something seems to be off kilter emotionally it wound appear, but I also think the once the series start his impact will be felt, and this kind of talk may look foolish. Still people have to state their take based on what the have seen the season, and I get that's why there is a lot of chatter like this. I firmly believe once the PO tip his status in the game today will be fine and he will once again be viewed as a top 5 player in the league. I respect your opinion ikid just don't agree, but obviously I may be a little bias too, and I'm well aware that may cause some to question my judgment lol

  15. #15
    ikid2groove415
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    Quote Originally Posted by golfnutt67 View Post
    I agree if Curry is not at 85% or so assuming he is back in for the second round they are in trouble defending the title. Durant a joke???? no chance I can go there....too many of the talking heads are taking this short sided view of KD too imho. They are the not the defending champs without him for sure some are still upset that he is in GS. Sure something seems to be off kilter emotionally it wound appear, but I also think the once the series start his impact will be felt, and this kind of talk may look foolish. Still people have to state their take based on what the have seen the season, and I get that's why there is a lot of chatter like this. I firmly believe once the PO tip his status in the game today will be fine and he will once again be viewed as a top 5 player in the league. I respect your opinion ikid just don't agree, but obviously I may be a little bias too, and I'm well aware that may cause some to question my judgment lol
    I live locally in the Bay Area - see every warrior game closely - they are completely different without curry - Durant is a heavy ISO player that doesn’t make his teammates better - he scores 40 points and they lose constantly

  16. #16
    ikid2groove415
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    While there is plenty of room here for discussion, there is none whatsoever for that kind of display. One can express themselves in such a fashion all across the internet; hence no need for that kind of graffiti here (not that anyone should ever really feel the need for it anywhere).
    ya Dave sorry - Durant will get exposed if curry doesn’t come back- I guarantee GSW isn’t going make it far

  17. #17
    GoUCBears
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    I read a great ESPN article "Your New Favorite Reliever Power Rankings: Eight guys to love you've never heard of". I guess I have to follow Kazuhisa Makita SD Padres who has an 80 mph fast ball and a curve ball so slow it doesn't register on the radar gun at times. Number 5 on the list is everyones favorite reliever Fernando Rodney.

    http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/2...never-heard-of

  18. #18
    golfnutt67
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    Quote Originally Posted by ikid2groove415 View Post
    I live locally in the Bay Area - see every warrior game closely - they are completely different without curry - Durant is a heavy ISO player that doesn’t make his teammates better - he scores 40 points and they lose constantly
    for a little counterpoint: Let me ask you this would you rather have the 73 win team rooster or this current version? To me its a no brainer I take this group every day.....and for this reason this team is better suited for playoff series than the 73 win team was an crazy as that my sound. 2016 was an amazing year, but their personal shortcomings were made clear in a couple series.

    What they can do on the defensive side with Klay, Draymond and KD are invaluable in a series where matchup can be dictated, and weaknesses exploited like they cannot during the regular season. Sure some of KD highest scoring games were not win, but these are regular season games that cannot hold the same weigh (to my anyway) as playoff games. Look no further than the beloved Run TMC era to prove this point to us long suffering Dubs fans. Curry is also very key in this equation, but it is what KD brings to the team on the defensive side that makes us special again imho.......for the record since you brought it up I was born and raised in the Bay spent 40+ years there and while I live in AZ these days I am locked into everything that is going on with this club. I Had season tix for many of those years and saw a lot of bad basketball from the home team which very well may influence my lack of panic for what is currently going on.

    Love your passion and can relate to the frustration......

  19. #19
    ikid2groove415
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    Quote Originally Posted by golfnutt67 View Post
    for a little counterpoint: Let me ask you this would you rather have the 73 win team rooster or this current version? To me its a no brainer I take this group every day.....and for this reason this team is better suited for playoff series than the 73 win team was an crazy as that my sound. 2016 was an amazing year, but their personal shortcomings were made clear in a couple series.

    What they can do on the defensive side with Klay, Draymond and KD are invaluable in a series where matchup can be dictated, and weaknesses exploited like they cannot during the regular season. Sure some of KD highest scoring games were not win, but these are regular season games that cannot hold the same weigh (to my anyway) as playoff games. Look no further than the beloved Run TMC era to prove this point to us long suffering Dubs fans. Curry is also very key in this equation, but it is what KD brings to the team on the defensive side that makes us special again imho.......for the record since you brought it up I was born and raised in the Bay spent 40+ years there and while I live in AZ these days I am locked into everything that is going on with this club. I Had season tix for many of those years and saw a lot of bad basketball from the home team which very well may influence my lack of panic for what is currently going on.

    Love your passion and can relate to the frustration......
    I’m just saying Durant isn’t the type of guy that wants to lead a TEAM - he rather have curry lead and not put all that pressure on him- just like in OKC when he defer to Westbrook

  20. #20
    fedex11204
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    This has been a very frustrating game to watch if you have the over with both teams combining to go 1-16 with risp and this umpire sure hasnít helped with his larger than life strike zone which I had a feeling he had based on games he was bhp last year.

  21. #21
    fedex11204
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    And so many hard hit balls finding gloves ....the randomness of baseball.

  22. #22
    OchoLoco
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    Let's get some of the hockey experts to chime in here because it is a sport in which I only follow, though this series is of far more interest than usual, but before taking a plunge you might want to wait out whether Drew Doughty (who led all players in minutes at 27:52 last night), gets suspended for Game #2.
    Doubtful that Drew Doughty will get suspended but you never know ....the hit looks clean at full speed while it looks malicious in slow-mo. + 200 is good value at this point provided Doughty is not suspended imo. Wait it out for now

  23. #23
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by OchoLoco View Post
    Doubtful that Drew Doughty will get suspended but you never know ....the hit looks clean at full speed while it looks malicious in slow-mo. + 200 is good value at this point provided Doughty is not suspended imo. Wait it out for now
    I didn't expect it either but here we go:

    04/12/18 04:14:12pm Pacific
    NHL: Game 55-56 Injury Status
    Los Angeles
    D
    Drew Doughty Suspension OUT
    is downgraded to OUT Friday vs Vegas (1-game suspension)

  24. #24
    josephbacaltos
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    Hi Dave,

    I'm not a big fan of either Stratton or Bryan Mitchell tonight but do you think these offenses can generate enough offense to go over the total? If you do want to back some offense tonight, which route would you take: o8(-132) or o8.5(-110)?

  25. #25
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by josephbacaltos View Post
    Hi Dave,

    I'm not a big fan of either Stratton or Bryan Mitchell tonight but do you think these offenses can generate enough offense to go over the total? If you do want to back some offense tonight, which route would you take: o8(-132) or o8.5(-110)?
    The 8.5 would be the slight preference there, and there is opportunity given how much contact there can be - Stratton doesn't get enough strikeouts or ground-balls to show an upside, and while Mitchell at least gets the ball hit on the ground, his command of the strike zone is not befitting of being in a Major League rotation.

  26. #26
    rickste
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    Good morning Dave. Interested in your thoughts re Oak-Sea.
    Sea at home current line +1.03.
    This game is about as even across the board as I analyze it giving no value to Sea home field.
    Leake in his 1st 2 starts has had some control issue but that is not his M.O.
    SP a wash offenses a wash bullpen I give a small adv to Sea.
    I have Sea being favored at around 1.12.
    ???
    Thanks

  27. #27
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by rickste View Post
    Good morning Dave. Interested in your thoughts re Oak-Sea.
    Sea at home current line +1.03.
    This game is about as even across the board as I analyze it giving no value to Sea home field.
    Leake in his 1st 2 starts has had some control issue but that is not his M.O.
    SP a wash offenses a wash bullpen I give a small adv to Sea.
    I have Sea being favored at around 1.12.
    ???
    Thanks
    I think Leake is going to be fine, and #978 Seattle fits for me at even money or better. But no rush, because the markets seemingly don't like what they see from his early control problems, and in general don't like him because he is not a high strikeout guy. Pinny is up to -115, and I see as high as -117 in a couple of spots, so the value is there - it is just a question of when to pull the trigger.

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