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And So It Goes....

Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
Basis Function: Daubechies4

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

May 20th, 2009 Picks

1-0-0 today as I brought my streak to 7 with the Los Angeles Angels' hits off of Felix Hernandez. The Angels had three singles, by Figgins, Abreu, and Hunter before Hernandez got his first strikeout. King Felix trailed by only 1 after the 2nd inning, with 4 hits given up. Things started to get away from Hernandez in the 3rd inning as he gave up two more hits without striking any batters out. In fact, Hernandez never got his fourth strike out as he gave up 1 hit in the 4th, and 2 hits in both the 5th and 6th innings. The Angels had gotten 11 hits off of Hernandez and were leading 6-4 at that point. Los Angeles held on to win 6-5 and hand Hernandez his third loss of the season. And so, on to some fucking picks.

1) Chennai Super Kings vs. Kings XI Punjab – 299 runs or fewer
2) Werder Bremen vs. Shakhtar Donetsk – Shakhtar Donetsk
3) Arizona Diamondbacks @ Florida Marlins – 4 runs or fewer by the 5th inning
4) Pittsburgh Pirates @ Washington Nationals – Pittsburgh
5) Toronto Blue Jays @ Boston Red Sox – Toronto
6) Cleveland Indians @ Kansas City Royals – Kansas City
7) Minnesota Twins @ Chicago White Sox – Chicago
8) Chicago Cubs @ St. Louis Cardinals – St. Louis
9) Cleveland Cavaliers win margin vs. Rashard Lewis FG made – Cleveland win margin
10) San Francisco Giants @ San Diego Padres – San Diego leads after 4 innings
11) David Wright vs. Rafael Furcal – Furcal records more total bases

1) A spot in the top four will be up for grabs when Chennai Super Kings battle Kings XI Punjab at Centurion Park with either team able to clinch a spot in the semi-finals with a victory.

Kings XI Punjab will try to survive Hayden's onslaught.

Can Chennai Super Kings figure out their bowling woes in time to clinch a semi-final spot?
As always there is a terrific preview of the match from CricInfo. Both teams are in decent form, going 3-2 in their last 5 matches. Chennai's most recent match, against Kolkata Knight Riders, saw 377 runs being scored as Kolkata successfully chased 188 runs by Chennai in the first innings. Captain M. Dhoni called it one of the worst bowling performances all year in the Indian Premier. Chennai won the match previous to the Kolkata debacle, chasing Mumbai Indians' 147 runs successfully by scoring 151 with only 3 wickets against them. Kings XI Punjab are coming off a nail-biting victory over Deccan Chargers, winning by 1 run, 134/7 to 133/8, as they successfully fended of Deccan. They also picked up an impressive victory over Delhi Daredevils by 5 wickets, 123/4 to 120/9. Altogether Kings XI Punjab have collected 17 wickets from their previous two matches. They will need to do that well against Chennai to defeat the Super Kings for the first time ever in the Indian Premier. With orange cap leader Matthew Hayden near the top of the order a few early wickets would greatly boost Kings XI's chances. Their first match of the tournament saw 357 runs being scored as Hayden went ballistic, scoring 89 runs off 58 balls for a strike rate of 153.45! Punjab nearly won the match anyways but for the death bowling of Surresh Raina. He was not up to the task against Kolkata, however, which is a concern for the Super Kings. Punjab's bowlers will still have a difficult task in any case as Chennai's batsmen are all in prime form. These two teams have seen 300 or more runs scored in three of the four matches they have played. All three times the Super Kings batted first, and the one match which saw only 228 runs scored had Kings XI batting first with Chennai completing the chase with 31 balls remaining. For this match purple cap hopeful, Yusuf Abdulla, should get the start in favor of Brett Lee, but whoever starts the Punjabi will have strong bowlers. It should be a great match with the most in-form bowling side facing the most in-form batting side. I think it will be the falling of wickets that will decide if this match goes over 300 runs or under. If Chennai bowl as they did against Kolkata then Kings XI will surely score over 150 runs, but if Kings XI can get batsmen such as Hayden and Dhoni out before they reach their half-centuries the match will surely go under 300.

2) After 37 years the final champion of the UEFA Cup will be crowned before the newly minted Europa League debuts next season. SV Werder Bremen will take on Shakhtar Donetsk FC at Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium for a knockout final to determine the champion. Should the score be tied after 90 minutes there will be two 15 minute halves added on, and a penalty shootout to determine a winner if the score remains tied after the extra time. Both clubs entered the UEFA Cup in the third knockout round thanks to their finishing third in their respective Champions League groups. A detailed summary of their roads to Istanbul can be found here. Werder Bremen will be unable to field their strongest side with star striker Diego and forward Hugo Almeida suspended, and defender Per Mertesacker to miss with injury. Fortunately, Nando, Rosenberg, and Pizarro have all returned to training and will likely figure in the final. In the pre-match press conference Shakhtar Donetsk manager Mircea Lucescu emphasized that the injuries and suspensions are not important with the quality and depth of both clubs, though he would like to see Diego play. When asked how he would solve the task of winning the final Lucescu said:
"I am sure that tomorrow we shall see a very interesting match between two teams representing different styles. Werder are playing attacking football. They have physical presence. Shakhtar’s style is based on individual skills."
A couple of previews give some perspective for the match, one being from Soccer Lens. They highlight Shakhtar Donetsk's excellent form domestically, winning their past 6 matches, and in the UEFA Cup in which they defeated Tottenham Hotspur, CSKA Moscow, Olympique Marseille, and Dynamo Kiev by a combined score of 12 to 4.

Will it be Shakhtar Donetsk or Werder Bremen hoisting the trophy today?
Another nice preview can be found atgoal.com. They point out Shakhtar Donetsk are the healthier side, with only Tomas Hübschman to miss. Both previews predict a 2-1 win for Shakhtar Donetsk despite most sports books very slightly favoring Werder Bremen to be the first German side to win a European competition in 8 years. Part of the reason for this is the German Bundesliga being highly regarded with respect to the Ukrainian Premier League and the fact a Ukrainian club has never won a UEFA Cup or Champions League trophy. I think Shakhtar Donetsk will prove to be the more disciplined side, and with a strong defense will be able to clear most balls before Pizarro, Rosenberg, and Hunt can cause too much danger. The key for Werder Bremen in this match, in my mind, is the play of their backfield and keeper Tim Wiese. Shakhtar Donetsk's Brazilian attack will be on target with shots conceded to them inside the box, so they will have to do well on clearance. On top of that players like Ilsinho and Jadson have the skill to be on target from distance. Wiese will have to be at his very best to deny those opportunities. Overall I think Shakhtar Donetsk will prove to be the more disciplined side and that will make the difference in a 3-2 win in extra time for the Ukrainians.

4) The Washington Nationals are hoping to snap a 6 game losing streak tonight when they host the Pittsburgh Pirates who are the winners of 4 straight. Washington will look to John Lannan and their strong offense to deliver. Lannan has a 4.00 ERA and 1.47 WHIP through 8 starts this season, fairly respectable numbers. They only tell half of the story, however, which is that only half of Lannan's starts would qualify as quality starts. Part of the reason for the lack of quality starts is that he has yet to throw over 100 pitches, limiting how far he can go in a game. He has a good ground out to fly out ratio, but he has some control issues, yielding 7 home runs in his 8 starts. The Pirates have been batting .305 and slugging .500 in their last three games, and have a lifetime batting average of .269 against Lannan. I think they may start to average out, but with the number of poor starts under Lannan's belt Pittsburgh's batting may not drop off much at all. To help ensure they do keep hitting the Pirates are likely to startCraig Monroe against the left-hander Lannan. Wahington's bullpen has been atrocious this season, giving up countless leads the Nationals have earned. With a combined ERA of 6.68 and WHIP of 1.79, they have been very unlucky with the sheer number of runs given up and the Nationals' fielders have not helped. Unfortunately for Washington they will have to do without their starting center fielder, Elijah Dukes. The Nationals lost Dukes in the series against Philadelphia, and have designated infielder Alex Cintron and called up outfielder Justin Maxwell to help patch up the position. Washington also called up reliever Jason Bergmann to hopefully bolster their bullpen. Bergmann has pitched in 12 games for AAA Syracuse giving up 11 earned runs for a 1.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP so he may be able to help some time soon, but not in today's game. If Pittsburgh can get a few hits, hit some foul balls, and generally work the count against Lannan they should see the Nationals' bullpen for 3 or 4 innings. The Nationals will probably need to build a large lead by the 6th inning, and they could do it. I would bet on Washington's offense to score runs over Pittsburgh's on any given day. Paul Maholm, who will be starting for the Pirates, should keep Pittsburgh in the game, even in that scenario. Maholm is coming off a terrific start against Colorado in which he pitched 7 shutout innings, giving up only 5 hits. Although Maholm has not pitched well at Nationals Park in the past I think he will be able to keep Pittsburgh within striking distance, say within 3 runs. Overall I can see Washington winning this game, with Maholm struggling a bit and Lannan pitching well against a Pirates team whose offense has been known to suddenly disappear, but I think it's more likely Lannan is the one who is off and the Pirates come from behind to win a close game.

6) The Cleveland Indians, losers of four straight, are another team looking to discard their losing ways as they continue their visit to Kauffman Stadium. It won't be easy however, as the Royals have one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, though Gil Meche has been struggling lately. Meche's struggles started against Toronto in Kansas City when the Blue Jays bombed him for 7 hits and 5 earned runs. Meche walked 5 batters, only striking out 2. He then suffered through two mediocre starts on the road before another poor outing at home, this time against Baltimore. Meche lasted only 41/3 innings, giving up 5 earned runs off of 6 hits, and striking out only 1 batter. He's disappointed, saying:
"It's pretty much mostly because of my back and all the things going on. So hopefully Wednesday will be a different story and we'll turn the corner."
His back supposedly feels fine today, but one has to wonder about 'all the things going on.' Cleveland have only batted .230 with a slugging average of .390 in their last three games but have a slugging average over .450 against Meche in 254 at bats, so I think they should hit fairly well. If Meche has not regained his form the Royals will be looking at overcoming 5 or 6 runs instead of just 2 or 3. Fortunately, Kansas City has been batting well themselves and will be facing Fausto Carmona, against whom they have a .343 batting average and .496 slugging average in 137 at bats. Carmona has been consistently average in his starts for the most part. He has a 5.70 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in 471/3 innings this season. In his last two starts he's pitched 12 innings, giving up 6 earned runs off of 8 hits. One problem for him has been walking batters onto base. In those two starts he walked 9 batters while striking out only 6, and he has a K/BB ratio of 1.0 all season. I think the Royals only win as long as Meche has a decent outing, keeping the Royals close, or allowing them to take a lead if Carmona has a poor outing. The Royals' bullpen can be counted on to hold a lead, but as in yesterday's game where the Royals scored 4 runs in the 9th inning to win, the Indians bullpen cannot.

8) The St. Louis Cardinals will try to win two games in a row for the first time since the beginning of May, when they won two against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates. Helping them in their cause will be 2005 Cy Young Award winner Chris Carpenter, who will get his first start since injuring himself in a game against Arizona while batting after pitching 3 scoreless innings. He pitched another 7 scoreless innings in his first start, against Pittsburgh, allowing only 1 hit and striking out 7. Ryan Dempster will take the mound for the Chicago Cubs with two starts against St. Louis already under his belt. One game was at Wrigley Field which the Cubs won, and one was at Busch Stadium which the Cubs lost. Dempster pitched 6 innings in both giving up 4 runs at Wrigley and 3 runs at Busch Stadium. Dempster has been alternating between quality starts and decent starts, and is coming off a quality start against San Diego.

Another home run by Albert Pujols would catapult St. Louis' chances of winning.
Prior to that he had a decent start, giving up 4 earned runs in 6 innings at Milwaukee, a game which the Cubs eventually lost 12-6. The Cardinals have continued their futility at the plate without Ryan Ludwick and Ricky Ankiel out of the lineup. Their batting average has sunk all the way to .179 and their slugging average to .305 for their last three games. Ricky Ankiel could return from a bruised right shoulder which might bolster their offense, but will probably help the outfield more than anything as Ankiel is batting .100 with one single against Dempster in 10 at bats. With Dempster pitching away from Wrigley, and potentially due for a mediocre outing, the Cardinals can only hope they figure out how to swing those bats the way they started the season. The Cubs, meanwhile, have also been struggling with their bats, though it may be expected considering the number of injuries they have had to deal with. If Carpenter is still in form after hurting his rib cage the Cubs will certainly struggle to generate offense and it will then be up to Pujols, Duncan, Rasmus, and Molina to deliver Carpenter the win. I think Carpenter will probably give up a couple of runs, and the Cardinals will hit better than they have been, but still not well enough to give themselves a large lead. The bullpens may only see two innings of play, but that would be long enough for either to give up a small lead. Overall, either team has a good chance of winning this game, but I favor the Cardinals with Carpenter pitching at home.

11) The New York Mets try to avoid a three game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers tonight after losing the first game due to costly errors. Starting for New York will be Livan Hernandez, who carries a 5.59 ERA and 1.53 WHIP into the game. Opposite Hernandez will be Jeff Weaver, filling in for the scratched Stults. It will be Weaver's third start of the season. Weaver's WHIP is not much better than Hernandez's at 1.44, the difference being Weaver's WHIP consists of 70% hits and 30% walks, while Hernandez's WHIP is made up of 80% hits and 20% walks. Being walked does not count as an at bat, and obviously, precludes a player from getting a hit in that plate appearance.
Tonight, we're most interested in the number of total bases recorded by David Wright of the Mets and Rafael Furcal of the Dodgers. Thus far this season Wright has been the superior batter, with a .361 batting average and a .544 slugging average compared to Furcal's .239 batting average and .296 slugging average. Unlike last season where each player averaged an identical 2.1 total bases per game
David Wright is currently hitting on base in over 80% of games he's played.
Click on the image for a closer view.
Furcal is only averaging 1.3 total bases per game so far this season. Looking at the chart it's apparent Wright's numbers are greater because of his lack of games with zero hits and the larger number of games with 4 or more hits. The lower chart shows the proportion of each players' games with a specific number of total bases. One can see
that each player went 'oh-fer' at about the same rate, with Wright having more games with 1 or 8 total bases, and Furcal having more games with 2 or 3 total bases. Wright is currently on an 11 game hit streak and might be expected to have a game with zero hits, the caveat being that Wright is 26 years old and likely to have the best season of his career this year or next. Furcal has been dealing with injuries all season and is by no means due to have a huge game batting. Of the two pitchers Hernandez gives up home runs at nearly twice the rate Weaver does, with the bullpens being equal so if there is a home run hit it would most likely be by Furcal, or one of the other Dodgers. Unless Furcal does hit a home run I think this will end up being a very close contest. I have to give the edge to Furcal with Hernandez giving up more hits of the starting pitchers, with Hernandez being more homer prone, and with the prospect of Wright maintaining over 80% of his games played with a hit being highly unlikely.

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