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And So It Goes....

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

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Friday, May 15, 2009

May 15th, 2009 Picks

Well, 1-2-0 today despite the good record for my blog. Started off the day with Leeds United. The Whites and Lions played to a standstill with the score level at nil-nil at the half. Leeds had the better scoring opportunities, but could not convert. It took less than 10 minutes for Luciano Becchio to slide across the goal line, booting home a cross, for Leeds to take a 1-0 lead. They looked strong enough to hold the lead but disaster struck with under 20 minutes remaining. A foul was called on Becchio and Millwall took the free kick out onto the wing. They played it down and towards the box and a fine cross and pass led to Abdou striking from a yard or two out. From there Millwall's defense was staunch and Leeds was unable to get any truly solid scoring opportunities. After 6 minutes of injury time Millwall advanced with a 1-1 draw and 2-1 aggregate victory.

My next pick was Rafer Alston's points and assists. Alston shot the ball poorly and the Magic did as a team overall. I thought the Magic also were shooting with poor confidence, hesitating when they did get a pass and being forced to dribble out of the shot. The clincher for Rondo was when he started making three pointers. The Celtics had 3 of them and Rondo made 2. He was also their leading rebounder. Damn Rondo, too bad Alston stole your pass and blocked your shot down the stretch or you guys might have won.

My final pick was the New York Mets. They took a lead in the first, gave it up in the 2nd, got it back incrementally throughout the game to go up 4-2, then gave up those runs at the bottom of the 8th before finally showing some clutch hitting and scoring 3 runs with 3 runners in scoring position. Rodriguez held on for the save, and Parnell got the dubious honor of being credited with a win and a blown save. So on to the picks.

1) Joe Ogilvie vs. Charley Hoffman – Hoffman cards a lower front 9 score
2) Tim Clark vs. John Mallinger – Mallinger cards a lower 2nd round score
3) Hunter Pence vs. Alfonso Soriano – Soriano records more total bases
4) Scunthorpe United @ Milton Keynes Dons – Milton Keynes Dons win
5) Castleford Tigers vs. Leeds Rhinos – 57 points or fewer
6) Colorado Rockies @ Pittsburgh Pirates – Colorado
7) Chicago White Sox @ Toronto Blue Jays – Chicago
8) San Diego State @ Arizona State – 10 runs or more
9) Los Angeles Angels @ Texas Rangers – Texas
10) Milwaukee Brewers @ St. Louis Cardinals – Milwaukee
11) Kevin Johnson vs. Devin Vargas – 10 rounds or more
12) Jon Lester strikeouts vs. Seattle Mariners hits off Lester – Seattle hits off Lester
13) New York Mets @ San Francisco Giants – San Francisco

1) Charley Hoffman could be considered to be the better golfer this year based on his stats. A look at Ogilvie's stats reveals Hoffman has a better scoring average and birdie average this year on the Tour. Ogilvie has more experience at the Valero Open at LaCantera, however, having played in the event 7 times in the past 8 years. He has done fairly well with two top 25 finishes, though he has missed the cut three times as well. Hoffman has considerably less experience having played the event the last three years only. In that short time he has a top 25 finish and a top 10 finish, though last year Ogilvie finished ahead of him by 8 strokes. As far as their front 9 performances Hoffman has carded the lower score in 7 of the 9 rounds they've both played. In the 23 rounds Ogilvie has played since 2001 his median score and most common score has been even par which he has carded 8 times. Hoffman has played 13 rounds since 2001, and has a median and most common score of -1, which he has carded 5 times. Ogilvie's front 9 scores have ranged from -5 to +3 while Hoffman's front 9 scores have ranged from -3 to +1. Hoffman has carded +1 only once in those 13 rounds while Ogilvie has carded front 9 scores over par in 7 of 23 rounds. I think the odds heavily favor Hoffman in this prop with Ogilvie only having a 38% chance of winning. That's still 38 times out of 100 he could be expected to win. If you think Ogilvie's +2 in the first round is a good sign for Hoffman to win keep in mind that in 2001 Ogilvie carded a +3 on the front 9 and followed it with a -5 in the second round. You can track the action by clicking on the image of the 7th hole.
3) The Houston Astros visit Wrigley Field to take on the Chicago Cubs. We're interested in whether Hunter Pence or Alfonso Soriano records more total bases. Looking at the graphs above one can see that Pence has a higher proportion of games, both this season and last, with zero hits and hence zero total bases. We also see that Soriano has fewer games with one single, instead recording 2 or more total bases in 60.6% of his games. Pence has 2 or more total bases in 47% of his games this season. Including the games they played from last year Soriano had 2 or more total bases in 54.2% of his games while Pence had 2 or more total bases in 43.5% of his games. Clearly, Soriano is more likely to record a higher total base count. As for the pitching matchups Brian Moehler, pitching for the Astros, has an 8.44 ERA and 2.06 WHIP. In his first two starts he gave up 15 hits and 12 runs in 4 innings which drastically inflated his numbers. Since then he has pitched 12 innings, given up 13 hits and 3 runs. Randy Wells is a newcomer to the Majors, and so far has not disappointed with 5 scoreless innings under his belt. He pitched for Iowa in the Pacific Coast League this year before being called up where he had a 2.77 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 5 starts. Overall I think neither team has a great advantage in the pitching as Wells' inexperience may show through and Moehler is back on track for a 4.50 ERA that's been his calling card the past 12 seasons. I like Soriano in this matchup because he is a lead-off batter and will not be walked in that at bat, he is a long hitter so is more likely to hit doubles and home runs, and has fewer games than Pence without a hit. Oh, and keep in mind there is a good chance this game is rain delayed and/or postponed.

4) Milton Keynes Dons are literally infants in the world of English football. The club has only existed for 5 years. They were in line for automatic promotion to the Championship League late in the season but failed to get a win at home against 13th place Walsall and missed out by 2 points. Scunthorpe United secured the bottom seed in the promotion playoffs with a 1-1 draw at home against Tranmere Rovers. A win by Tranmere in the match would have given the spot to the Rovers. Sky Sports carries a brief preview that highlights each team's injury concerns, but the previews from Scunthorpe United and MK Dons do a better job of it. Both sides are essentially unchanged from those that met in the first leg at Scunthorpe which ended as a 1-1 draw. Irons keeper Joe Murphy is mentioned as facing a late fitness test, but if he has been training with the team for a week he will play in this most important game of the season. The bookies at SkySports have MK Dons advancing after injury time with 5/6 odds (49%) while I calculated odds of about 23/10 (46%) for the Dons. I think the Dons have been the better side most of the season, but Scunthorpe has already won 2-0 once at Stadium:MK and seem to play their best football against the best competition.

6) The Colorado Rockies travel to PNC Park to face the Pittsburgh Pirates in a battle of two teams near the bottom of their divisions. Pittsburgh is coming off a 2-1 series over the St. Louis Cardinals after losing 8 straight games. In that series they batted .324 and had a .467 slugging average, about 30 points above their season average at PNC. The Rockies had a tougher time against the Houston Astros, going 1-2 despite outscoring their opponents 26 to 21 in the series. They batted .274 and had a .509 slugging average thanks to 6 home runs. Jorge De La Rosa will be on the mound for the Rockies today. He has a 3.53 ERA and 1.21 WHIP this season. With 8.8 K/9 he strikes out many batters, but tends to keep the ball out of the lower half of the strike zone which limits the number of ground balls hit off of him. In his last outing, against the Florida Marlins, he had 12 strikeouts and walked only 1 batter while giving up 2 earned runs on 4 hits. Paul Maholm will be pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After starting out the season strong he has had a number of poor outings. In his last 4 starts he's pitched 232/3 innings and given up 18 earned runs on 31 hits. He's also walked nearly half as many batters as he's struck out. Maholm does not strike many batters out anyways so he'll be depending on the Rockies' bats to go cold for this game. I would say both teams likely to have quieter games offensively than they have been recently, especially with De La Rosa and Maholm pitching. Both teams have hit well off of the opposing starter in the past, but I think the pitchers will be winning the battles in this game. I think one team will need to have a big lead to assure victory since neither bullpen can be trusted to hold on for a save. With De La Rosa being more consistent and Colorado having the stronger offense this season I favor the Rockies to be the team to get that lead. If it's close through 6 innings, however, it will be anybody's ballgame.

7) The White Sox and Blue Jays are having problems winning games lately with Chicago going 3-7 in their last 10 and Toronto going 5-5. The Blue Jays especially have seen their offense disappear recently, batting .213 and slugging .351 in their last three games leading to all of 9 runs scored. Toronto could fairly be expected to rebound from that lack of production and have a huge game today, but their task will be made more difficult by the presence of John Danks. Danks has been pretty solid this season, with 4 of 6 quality starts resulting from a 3.41 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. His last two starts have seen him facing off against the powerful Texas Rangers batters. In one start, at Rangers Ballpark, he pitched for 51/3 innings before being relieved after giving up 5 earned runs on 10 hits. At U.S. Cellular Field he did much better against the Rangers, going for 6 innings and allowing only 1 run off of 4 hits while striking out 10 batters. I expect Danks will continue to be difficult to get hits off of, especially big hits, even against Toronto at the Rogers Centre. The big x-factor in this game will be the pitching of Brett Cecil. In two starts this season Cecil is 1-0 with 1 run given up in 14 innings pitched. His 0.64 ERA and 0.93 WHIP are impressive for any pitcher in their first two Major league starts. It's questionable whether he'll be able to keep it up, however. In 4 starts with AAA Las Vegas this year he has an 0-3 record with an 8.47 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. I don't know why he did so poorly in Las Vegas, but it makes me question whether his fantastic start isn't about to come to a crashing halt. Both bullpens have been solid so this game will come down to whether Cecil can keep working his magic.

10) Kyle Lohse will take the mound tonight, and according this article he can be expected to pitch much better than he has in his previous two outings. In those games, against Cincinnati and Philadelphia, he got in 101/3 innings total while giving up 13 earned runs from 16 hits. He gave up 3 home runs in those starts after being hit for the distance only once in his first 5 starts. The Cardinals are going to need a good performance against a Milwaukee Brewers team that is batting .280 and slugging .559 in their past three games thanks to power hits such as Weeks, Braun, and Fielder. Having Yovani Gallardo in the lineup tonight won't hurt either. He has a .235 batting average and is slugging .588 with two home runs in 7 games. His pitching isn't bad either, with a 3.09 ERA and 1.05 WHIP this season. He's had 6 quality starts this season, including his last game where he limited the Cubs to 2 earned runs on 5 hits in 5 innings. His only bad outing this season came on April 13th when the Reds touched him up for 7 earned runs off of 3 hits. Yeah, he gave up a couple of big home runs after walking batters on to base. Although the Cardinals are bound to get out of their hitting slump soon I think Gallardo can be counted on to keep things under control. As long as the Brewers can provide him with 3 or 4 runs in support I like the Brewers to win this game handily. If you think Lohse will be back in form and shutting teams down again then I would recommend the Cardinals.

12) Jon Lester is having a pretty good start to his season so far, at least in terms of striking out batters. Through 7 starts he's averaging 7 strikeouts per game, and has already matched his season high last year with 10 strikeouts in one game. Even with the fast start Lester has given up more hits than gotten strikeouts in 3 of 7 games. He's given up 7 hits and had 7 strikeouts twice, and he's struck out more batters than given up hits in the two other games. Last season Lester averaged 4.8 strikeouts per game and struck out more batters in 11 of his 33 starts. Now that he's averaging more strikeouts I suppose one could assume he would give up fewer hits more often, but I doubt his average will stay that high all season. In the graph below there is a faint gray dotted line that represents the Mariners' hits game-by-game this season. The blue line beneath shows 3/4 of those hits each game, assuming a team gets 75% of their hits off of the starting pitcher. The straight dotted lines represent Lester's single game max over the past two seasons (10) and the lower dotted line is his average number of strikeouts over his past 40 starts (5.2). If Lester has an exceptional game and matches his high he will probably win this prop. But if he is within one or two of his 40 game average I think the Mariners have a good shot. In the end it will probably be close with Seattle getting 5-8 hits and Lester striking out 4-9 batters. I have to give the edge to the Mariners, however, with the game being played in Seattle.

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