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Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

May 28th, 2009 Picks

Nice, 2-0-0 again today, although I have to apologize for coming out with such shitty blog picks… honestly I haven’t looked into them much at all the past few days as I’ve been learning web development (javascript/XML/AJAX/CSS/etc.) I swear I'll break .500 today.

Detroit was solid today against Davies. They fell behind in the 1st but took the lead back, and for good, in the 2nd. The game broke open for Detroit in the 5th and 6th innings. Polanco knocked in 2 more in the 5th with his first home run of the season and 2 more runs scored with 2 outs in the 6th.

Jered Weaver had one inning retired with 7 pitches and others with over 15. The Angels left him in for the 8th inning with a 3-1 lead and he used 9 pitches to retire three, ending up at 103 total. The Angels won the game 3-1. It was the first run Weaver had given up to the White Sox in 23 innings. So on to the picks.

1) Rory Sabbatini vs. Mike Weir – Sabbatini cards a lower front 9 score
2) Sidharth Chand vs. Kavya Shivashankar – Shivashankar finishes better
3) Andy Roddick vs. Ivo Minar – 39 games or more
4) Tampa Bay Rays @ Cleveland Indians – Cleveland
5) Washington vs. Georgia – Washington
6) Boston Red Sox @ Minnesota Twins – Minnesota
7) Geoff Ogilvie vs. J.B. Holmes – Ogilvie cards a lower first round score
8) Missouri vs. Arizona State – Arizona State
9) Alabama vs. Michigan – Alabama
10) Detroit @ Baltimore – Baltimore
11) Scripps Nat’l Spelling Bee – No. of Letters in Final Word: 9 or less vs. 10 or more – 9 or less
12) Los Angeles Dodgers @ Chicago Cubs – Los Angeles
13) D. Howard and R. Lewis pts. vs. L. James pts. – Howard and Lewis pts.
14) Arizona vs. Florida – 4 runs or fewer
15) Atlanta Braves @ Arizona Diamondbacks – Arizona
16) Chicago Fire @ Chivas USA – Chicago win or draw


Rory Sabbatini won the Colonial in 2007 and was 7-under par on the front 9 in four rounds.
1) Rory Sabbatini has had a good year on the Tour thus far with four top 10 finishes 19 weeks in. Mike Weir has also done alright for himself, becoming a millionaire for the year with 2 top 10 finishes. Sabbatini, a Forth Worth resident, has historically performed better on his home town course with a median front 9 score of -1 since 2004 while Mike Weir has a median front 9 score of even par. Sabbatini has carded front 9 scores under par in 11 of 18(61%) rounds played in that time. Mike Weir has carded the same in 6 of 14(43%) rounds. Sabbatini also won this event in 2007 though he failed to make the cut last year. Weir's top finish was 8th place in 2000 with his second best finish being 15th last year.

The course has been altered some from last year and Sabbatini discusses how those changes will affect play. "Under the conditions we’ll play it, I think it’s going to play about four shots harder," said Sabbatini. Four shots harder? "No. Four shots per round, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it play that much tougher." Rain soaked the grounds on Tuesday so there is a question of if the course will be hard and dry in time for the first round, which would increase it's difficulty. Previews of the holes can be found here.

2) It's the semi-finals of the 2009 Scripps National Spelling Bee and as per their agreement ESPN will be televising this event. This will be 12 year old Kavya Shivashankar's fourth straight appearance in the competition, finishing 10th or better the three years previous. At 13 years old Sidharth Chand is making his second appearance after debuting last year with a runner up finish.

Sidharth Chand stays cool under pressure.

At 11 years old Kavya Shivashankar misses a word in the finals last year and let's her emotions show.
Unsurprisingly there are sportsbooks setting odds on this event. BetUS.com is one such site giving odds for everything from who will last longer, to the length of the winning word, even whether a child will vomit during the competition. For what it's worth BetUS has Shivashankar with better odds to go further in the Bee and I'll go with her experience on this one.

Andy Roddick is 3-0 against Ivo Minar in his career, winning once in 2007 and twice in 2008. He's won in straight sets one time, at the ATP Masters last year, with Minar taking a set in each of the other two matches. In their matches the loser of the set has won an average of 4.6 games, with the past 4 sets they've played going to tie break each time. The French Open is a Major on the ATP Tour so it will be a best 3 out of 5 match with the winner of the match taking 18 to 21 games. In order for 39 games to be played each player must win at least 18 games, at which point 38 games will have been played (with 2 tie breaks) with the eventual winner needing at least 1 more game to take victory. You can check out the scores with the SlamTracker widget up top and to the right, or in a new tab by clicking here.

6) The Minnesota Twins will be counting on Anthony Swarzak to help them take 3 of 4 in their series with Boston today. Swarzak had been tearing up the minors with AAA Rochester so he was on the short list of players to be called up when Glen Perkins went on the disabled list with irritated nerves in his elbow.

How many innings will Swarzak extend his scoreless streak?
His first career start in the Majors was a 7 inning shutout of the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers are a good offensive team and it won't get any easier facing the Red Sox who, despite scoring only 10 runs in their last three games, are batting .284 with a .394 slugging average. Swarzak will also have to contend with Jason Varitek who will be returning to the lineup today. Minnesota will be hoping their own bats will play a factor in this game with Delmar Young breaking his hitless streak yesterday and Denard Span returning to the lineup.

Boston will be starting Josh Beckett who has had three straight quality starts after struggling for a couple of weeks. Swarzak's 7 shutout innings look mundane compared to Beckett's last outing, where he limited the New York Mets to 0 runs from 5 hits. Over their careers the Twins' batting order has 66 at bats against Beckett and have recorded a .333 batting average along with a .636 slugging average. If they can duplicate those numbers against Beckett tonight the Twins will win easily.

Overall, I think Ellsbury, Varitek, and the rest of the Boston all-stars will make life a little difficult for Swarzak and his streak of shutout innings will come to a close. It will be up to the Twins' offense to keep themselves in the game. I think Beckett and Swarzak will each pitch well and the game should be close and low scoring. Joe Nathan has converted 12 of 12 save opportunities against Boston in his career and I think he'll get a chance to do so again today.

7) Geoff Ogilvy is the odds on favorite to win the Colonial this year while J.B. Holmes is considered someone who will make an appearance on the leaderboard. Holmes has only played in this event once before, in 2007, and he missed the cut with rounds of 72 and 69. Ogilvy has played in this round five times from 2001 through 2008 and has never missed the cut, with a low round of 66 and a high round of 75 both carded in 2001. Last year he carded rounds of 72, 70, 67, and 70.

10) AL East cellar dwellers Baltimore look to extend their season long winning streak to 4 games today against the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. Both teams are riding hot streaks offensively with Detroit scoring 7.3 runs per game and Baltimore scoring 7.6 in their last three games. Both teams are batting over .300 in those games but Baltimore is batting harder, with a .575 slugging average compared to .455 for the Tigers. That makes for a very interesting ball game.

The Orioles will be grinning at the plate if Armando Galarraga continues to struggle with his command.

Armando Galarraga, who has recorded a 5.74 ERA and 1.55 WHIP through 9 starts this season, will be starting for the Tigers. Galarraga has been working in between starts to fix his mechanics which have been inconsistent of late. His last five startsDET 3 - 4 COL (L)
DET 11 - 7 (W)
DET 2 - 6 MIN (L)
DET 0 - 6 CWS (L)
DET 5 - 6 CLE (L)
have seen him give up 25 earned runs in 222/3 innings.

Facing off against Galarraga will be another young prospect for the Orioles, David Hernandez. On Hernandez potentially starting Orioles manager Dave Trembley said, "Yeah, the guy who struck out 14 the other night, ... He's starting tomorrow." Indeed, Hernandez recorded 14 strikeouts and zero walks in his last outing with the Norfolk Tide on the 22nd. Obviously that was AAA baseball and this is the Majors, but honestly AAA is full of major league players who are missing one or two elements from their game to make the team.

I think Hernandez, like Berken the other day, will prove to be the real McCoy and will put the brakes on Detroit's hot hitting. Galarraga is due to have a good start but I think he's just as likely to continue to struggle until he's placed on the disabled list. He really is a 4.50 ERA pitcher in the majors based on his DICE (defense independent component ERA) from last season so even if he does settle down I think the Orioles will score a few runs off of him. Neither bullpen is that great, with Detroit's being slightly better in terms of strikeouts, home runs, and earned run average, so unless one team has a 4 or 5 run lead going into the 8th it should be anyones game. I give the Orioles the advantage to be the team with that kind of lead.

11) Estimates on the number of words in the English language depend on what is included as a word. For example, to 'run' is a verb, but is a 'run' scored another word? Do run, runs, running, ran all count as separate words? Then there is debate over what constitute an English word. Slate.com has a nice article on this and report that unabridged dictionaries carry between 300,000 to 600,000 words. As for how many contain 10 letters or more the same issues arise, but estimates put the limit at around 60,000 or 10% of all words. The Scripps Spelling Bee website contains a list of winning words from 1925 to 2008. In those 83 years 34 winning words had a length of at least 10 letters, or 41% of the time. It has been three years since such a word decided the contest, but from 2001 to 2005 the winning word was over 10 letters long each year. I favor 9 letters or fewer as there are more words to choose from and plenty of tricky ones.

13) The Orlando Magic visit Quicken Loans Arena to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, up 3-1 and on the verge of the NBA Finals. They have looked very nice in the first five games, with their only loss being on that LeBron James three pointer with one second remaining++. Much has been made of LeBron James' scoring in the three losses, averaging a monster 44 and some fraction points per game while the Cavaliers keep losing.

LeBron passes, Mo scores, and Z, West, Andy and Co. are smiling.

I think the focus for Cleveland, however, isn't how they're going to score points, but how they are going to keep Orlando from scoring theirs. The Magic provide any opponent with a headache on the defensive end, with Dwight Howard dominant in the paint, and a front court that boasts two 6'10" players, Turkoglu and Lewis, who can score from three point range and take it to the rim. Add on to that a crafty Rafer Alston, and two young undervalued guards in Courtney Lee and Mickael Pietrus and the Magic force any opponent to pick their poison. Mike Brown should be smart enough to recognize he won't be able to stop the Magic, as a team, from scoring if he focuses on stopping a specific player. He will need to work on a team defensive concept that has players helping one another out on double teams and moving to set positions before the offensive player does.

Unfortunately for Cleveland, I don't think they have the personnel to implement that kind of a plan. With the three point shooting coming from nearly every position the Magic force a team to stretch their defense which creates passing lanes, and creases to get to the basket for high percentage shots. It would take some sheer speed and quickness to get back and forth between defenders, and the Cavaliers just don't have that. No team does. The Magic will probably go with the defense that's helped them to win three games already and focus on LeBron James, but not too much. That is, they'll double team him, deny him the ball, and front him, but not every possession, not if it means leaving other players wide open. There's a nice preview of the game on Third Quarter Collapse, an Orlando Magic blog. They see the home court helping the Cavaliers' role players to, well, play a bigger role. If that happens LeBron will probably end up with around 30 points, while Howard and Lewis should eclipse 40. Of course, Orlando might have their 'bad game' of the series and score only 80, but I hope not.

++As an aside here's a priceless reaction to LeBron's miracle three from a local Cleveland news team while they're on the air.


Chicago has yet to meet defeat on the road.
Here's a preview of the match from ESPN. Essentially, both teams are at full strength with Chicago boasting the top most goals scored on the road in the league and Chivas USA the fewest goals allowed. At home Chivas USA is 5-1-0 (W-D-L) while Chicago are 3-3-0 on the road. Based on goals scored and allowed I would give Chivas USA about a 41% chance of winning the match outright, meaning Chicago winning or drawing comes in at 59%. With neither team recording a loss through six matches home/away I would consider a draw as a very likely possibility.

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