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And So It Goes....

Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

May 23rd, 2009 Picks

2-1-0 today, with the Alabama Crimson Tide piling on 7 runs in the 3rd inning, then I picked the Pirates. Pittsburgh barely managed two hits off of Gavin Floyd. Zach Duke pitched a good game, 8 innings, 6 hits, 2 earned runs, but when the support is lacking so badly you get only 2 hits, let alone 2 runs, it's tough to pick up a win. My last pick was the Los Angeles Angels. Kershaw and Weaver both did terrific, getting themselves out of jams and giving up only 1 earned run despite putting men on base most innings. Cory Wade gave up a couple of singles and walked a batter to load the bases with only one out in the 8th inning and Figgins drove in a couple of runs to give the Angels a 3-1 lead. Arredondo and Fuentes completed the game without allowing any Dodgers to reach base. So on to the picks.

1) Vijay Singh vs. Davis Love III – Singh cards a lower front 9 score
2) TSG Hoffenheim @ Schalke 04 – Schalke 04 win
3) Duke vs. Stanford – Duke
4) Alabama (v. Jacksonville State) vs. Washington (v. Georgia Tech) – Alabama win margin
5) Cornell vs. Virgnia – Virginia
6) Texas Rangers @ Houston Astros – Texas
7) Baltimore Orioles @ Washington Nationals – Washington
8) Milwaukee Brewers @ Minnesota Twins – Milwaukee
9) Pittsburgh Penguins @ Carolina Hurricanes – Carolina
10) Greg Biffle vs. Kevin Harvick – Harvick has a better finishing position
11) Los Angeles Lakers @ Denver Nuggets – Denver
12) San Francisco Giants @ Seattle Mariners – San Francisco

1) Vijay Singh had arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee after the Mercedes-Benz Championship in January. He missed three weeks on the Tour while rehabilitating and missed the cut of the first two events he participated in and has played about every other weekend since then. He looked good in The Players Championship at Sawgrass, finishing 9th but has been below average so far this weekend. He has played this event every year from 2001 to 2007 but missed last year. Since the event was played on the Cottonwood Valley course for one round until 2008 Singh has played only 21 rounds on the TPC course in that time despite missing the cut only once. He's carded front 9 scores of -1 (6×) and -2 (8×) most often with a best score of -4 in 2004 and a worst score of +3 in 2006.

Vijay Singh and Davis Love III - Front 9 Scorecards - TPC Four Seasons
Love III/1st43452345434
Love III/2nd42344434331
Click on hole # to see a gallery of images.

Davis Love III has been fairly good this season, finishing near the top 25 in most events, though he did miss the cut at the TPC at Sawgrass. This is the first time he has participated in the event since 2002. That year he carded front 9 scores of E, +1, and -1. Looking at the scorecard one can see that Vijay Singh has bogeyed in both rounds on hole #5. Singh overhit his tee shot both times, failing to land on the green and two-putting from 8 to 9 feet after the chip shot. I think Singh will continue to have trouble putting, but also that Davis Love III will not have such a stellar performance on the green as he did in the second round. I think both players will card 34 or 33 and would favor Davis Love III in this matchup if it weren't for Singh showing he was healthy enough to succeed at Sawgrass.

4) Alabama defeated Jacksonville State 9-0 in 5 innings after they exploded for 7 runs in the bottom of the 3rd. Alabama had already defeated Jacksonville State 9 - 0 in 5 innings on February 8th so it was no fluke. Looking over the Crimson Tide's schedule this season has seen them win by nearly 7 runs in 53 wins by limiting their opponents to an average of 1 run in their losses.

Washington will face Georgia Tech for the first time this season after going 3-1 in their regional by outscoring their opponents by an average of 6 runs to 2. Washington is one of 6 PAC-10 schools to make it to their Super Regional, the most of any conference. This season the Huskies have been very successful, defeating #1 Florida 1-0 in 9 innings on February 20th and splitting a pair of games with Alabama, each team winning once 6-0. In 44 wins Washington has held their opponents to an average of 1.3 runs while scoring 6.3 themselves.

Alabama score 9 or more runs in 37.7% of their wins while Washington scored 9 or more in only 25% of theirs, though the Huskies did play a tougher schedule. I think more than anything it will come down to how many runs Georgia Tech and Jacksonville State score and allow and there the advantage goes to seeded Georgia Tech. You can follow each game with NCAA.com's Gametracker application for edge of your seat 'action'.

6) The Texas Rangers visit the Houston Astros in a game that would be an intra-state rivalry if the two teams weren't in separate leagues. The Rangers won the first game 6-5 after Nelson Cruz hit his ninth home run of the season in the top of the 10th. Starting for Texas in this game will be Scott Feldman who has recorded a 4.04 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his fifth season, making this a career year for him.

The Rangers can put their stamp on the state of Texas with a second win over the Astros today.
After struggling through 62/3 innings and giving up 9 earned runs as a relief pitcher Feldman has given up a a total of 7 earned runs in 29 innings as a starter. His last start was against the Los Angeles Angels where he pitched 6 scoreless innings by giving up only 4 hits. Houston should make life tough for him with Hunter Pence being red hot in the month of May. As a whole the Astros' lineup has taken 21 at bats against Feldman, batting .286 and slugging nearly double that. Texas will have to hope Feldman has imporved since then, and I would like to think he has. The Rangers will also return Chris Davis to the lineup after giving him a day off yesterday in the hope it will spark his batting. In his last 5 games he has gone 0 for 16 with 8 strikeouts. If Davis can add his bat to those of Kinsler, Jones, and Hamilton, to name just a few, the Rangers should be able to provide Feldman with all the run support he needs.

Houston will have Brian Moehler on the mound who suffered through a horrendous start to the season, giving up 12 earned runs over 4 innings in his first two starts. Yes, his ERA was 27.00 when he was put on the disabled list. Since coming back he has done much better with Houston winning two of his three starts, including 6-5 over the Cubs in his last start. How he'll do against the slugger heavy Rangers lineup is anybody's guess though I expect him to have a quality start at Minute Maid Park, allowing 3 or 4 runs in 5 or 6 innings.

Both teams are batting fairly well recently with Houston getting more hits on average, but Texas is getting more bases out of their hits in their last 3 games. With Texas, however, the offense can come from anywhere in the order, while Houston is relying on 3 or 4 batters spread throughout the lineup to score runs. One thing that has me favoring Texas in the end is the relief pitching of the Astros. Houston's relievers have given up the second most home runs in the league, behind only the Yankees' bullpen, with every pitcher in their rotation having given up at least 1 home run and the bullpen as a whole giving up a home run every 6 innings they pitch. Against a Rangers team that has racked up 67 home runs in 41 games that is not good news.

UPDATE: Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and Andruw Jones are not in the lineup today. They will be replaced by Omar Vizquel, Hank Blalock, and Josh Hamilton

7) The Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals play the second game of their interleague Beltway Battle today. Baltimore took the first game with a 2 RBI double by Adam Jones in the top of the 12th inning. Washington had only 4 hits in the game, and have not hit too well in their past three games at all with a batting average of .180 and a .260 slugging average.

The Nationals seek just their third win in 11 games.
That's a big slump for a team who is batting .272 on the season. They will be facing off against 34 year old right hander Koji Uehara. The Orioles picked up Uehara from the Yomiuri Giants where he was very successful, winning his first 15 starts as a rookie in 1999. As an Oriole he's done well, recording a 4.34 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. His last start, at Kansas City, was typical of how his season has gone, as he pitched 5 innings, giving up 2 hits and 1 run and then proceeded to give up 4 hits and 3 runs to lead off the top of the 6th. Uehara would have all-star numbers were it not for his tendency to put men on base and give up runs near the end of his pitch count.

Out of the other dugout will be Ross Detwiler who has one start in the Majors this season after pitching for Harrisburg (AA). He was relieved after 5 innings with the Nationals in the lead, but once again the Washington bullpen went down hard, giving up 7 runs and giving Detwiler a no decision start. Baltimore has been batting (.280) and slugging (.500) above average in their last three games and Washington's pitching will be tested.

Yesterday's game saw the bullpens perform well, but Washington's eventually gave out. In this game I think the Nationals' offense will wake up, though probably later in the game given Uehara's track record of quality starts. Hopefully, for the Nationals, the younger Detwiler can live up to his potential and he should give the Nationals an advantage over the aging Uehara and the Orioles. Then it would be a tossup over which bullpen will blow up first, but with Ron Villone joining the team on May 7th and the general management figuring out who should be in their relief sequence I think the Nationals have a very good chance of winning this one at home.

11) The Los Angeles Lakers head to Denver to take on the Nuggets with the series tied 1-1 after a disappointing 3 point loss in Game 2. Los Angeles looked like they might steal another game, literally, when Trevor Ariza stole a J.R. Smith pass and fed Kobe Bryant the ball to tie the game up at 101 apiece. The Nuggets took the lead again and forced a jump ball on the next possession and Ariza simply fumbled the ball away to give Denver possession and eventually the game.

It's been a while since Denver last appeared in a Conference Finals.

The difference between a win and a loss for Denver in the two games was offensive rebounding. They had 7 offensive rebounds in Game 1 and doubled that number with 14 in Game 2. The Nuggets also improved on their free throw shooting in Game 2 with Billups and Anthony taking 30 of their 37 attempts for the game, whereas in Game 1 the duo took less than half of the teams attempts and it showed with Denver shooting 65.7% from the line in the first game. For the Lakers the difference was not much, 3 fewer three pointers in Game 2, 4 fewer offensive rebounds, and that turnover by Ariza. There's really no reason to expect today's game to be anything other than a slug 'em out battle, other than Denver having home court, with the winner being who can deliver strong blows after taking one themselves.

Los Angeles will need to do a better job of fronting Carmelo Anthony, keeping the ball out of his hands, and trapping Chauncey Billups, forcing him to give up the ball early in the possession. The Lakers have an advantage at the foul line when they force other Nuggets players to take those free throws rather than allowing Billups and Anthony to get in the paint and either make close range shots or put them on the line. That will be the biggest factor in Los Angeles winning this game, I believe. On the other end of the court Denver has done a bang up job swarming Pau Gasol, making it difficult for him to take advantage of the smaller defenders so L.A. will need to make the extra pass and have their role players knocking down the open shots available to them.

Denver might like to try a little role reversal and take the Lakers' place in the Finals
Denver will be looking to get better play out of their two bench stars, Chris Andersen and J.R. Smith. Anderson has combined for 10 points, 2 offensive rebounds, and 3 blocked shots in the two games, while Smith has gone 3 for 9 from three point range. With solid defense and offensive rebounding the Nuggets will win this game if those two players can improve in those areas with Smith shooting 40% from three point range and Andersen collecting 4 offensive rebounds and 3 blocks. If they don't get those contributions a random appearance by Andrew Bynum could make their efforts on Gasol, and their victory at the Staples Center, all for naught.

12) The San Francisco Giants have hit a terrible slump, going 2-8 in their last 10 games, batting .178 in their last 3, and scoring only 4 runs in those games. The Seattle Mariners have not been much better, batting .210 and slugging only .219 in their last 3 games on route to scoring 3 runs.
Can the Giants score at Safeco Field?
Amazingly they have gone 2-1 in that stretch behind the strength of their pitching staff and a bullpen sequence that now includes a fully healthy Miguel Batista. San Francisco is hoping they can turn their luck around with Matt Cain pitching. Cain went 15-30 the past two seasons, mostly due to a lack of run support. Against Garret Olson the Giants have a hope of at least hitting their average numbers, around .250 and 4 runs per game. Cain could certainly shut out the Mariners for 6 or 7 innings, much like he did to the Mets in his last start. If the Giants fail to break out of their overall hitting slump, and provide run support early on for Cain, the Mariners bullpen should be able to hold them off and provide Seattle with a victory. I have a feeling the Giants won't let it come to that today and Cain will pick up his fifth win of the season.


  1. Man, too many variables to pick the Nuggs/Lakers.

    Denver really IS good enough to beat LA under several different scenarios:

    Denver plays their best/LA plays poorly/average/well
    Denver plays average/LA plays average AND Denver gets a 2nd half energy boost from the Safeco fanatics.
    Denver plays average/LA plays poorly.

    That would seem to be enough to warrant a Denver pick...BUT...what constitutes, for the Nuggs, playing "Well", "Average", etc??

    And it depends on the effectiveness of so many different players, on both ends of the court. They are SO flexible on defense: the Birdman/Nene/KMart troika can (but might not) neutralize Pau/Bynum/Odom better than any frontline in the league (excepting, maybe, the Magic?). They also have a GANG of players to throw at Kobe (JR/Billups/Jones and even Melo if they want to neutralize the "star power" factor).

    Early on, looks like my "home court energy" theory might have been the right factor to consider...but I didn't have the balls to actually pick it. heh.

  2. And whoever was going to base their pick on the "Last Inbound Pass Lobbed 3 Feet Wide of Melo" Theory would have been golden. Ariza didn't really have to work for that one.

    Also, staying cool as the time clock winds down to the end of the game is one thing, but Billups played the penultimate Nuggs possesion like it was first quarter of a preseason game.

  3. That must have been brutal for Nuggs fans to watch.