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And So It Goes....

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

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

May 7th, 2009 Picks

2-0-0 day, and Lord was it a close one. I stuck with Barçelona even though they were hurting in the backfield. It looked bad very early on, as Barçelona's game plan was supposed to involve dominating the possession and giving few shots to Chelsea. In the 9th minute Frank Lampard attempted a cross that caroomed off of a Barça defender straight towards Michael Essien. Essien caught the rebound mid-air and launched a rocket that dropped right, bouncing off the bottom of the top beam and into the goal. It was an incredible goal, and Chelsea took the 1-0 lead. Barçelona was doing well controlling the ball, but they could not quite make the final play, with Dani Alves booting his crosses across the end line all day and Chelsea keeping a man between Cech and the ball at all times.

This continued through the second half, and Chelsea were probably robbed of opportunities to go ahead by more with the officials refraining from calling penalties in the box. At the 65th minute Eric Abidal was sent off for a mild touch and it was all but over for the Catalans. Impressively, Barçelona played some of their best football while a man down, especially on the defensive end. Gerrard Pique, standing in for Puyol and Marquez provided much of the spark. As the match entered injury time Barçelona made a final push. Essien attempted a clearance, but Lionel Messi got a foot on it and crossed to an open Andrés Iniesta who booted it over Cech from 20 yards out. Stamford Bridge erupted, and Barçelona held on to advance to the finals, with the aggregate score 1-1, and Barça holding a 1-0 advantage on away goals.

My second pick was the Los Angeles Lakers' winning margin. It looked like it would be an easy win in the first quarter as the Lakers scored 39 points and took a 14 point lead. Houston's bench would not let the Rockets fade, as Carl Landry and Kyle Lowry played intense basketball, forcing turnovers and grabbing offensive rebounds. It was a tie game at the half and Ron Artest had 5 field goals. The Lakers came out strong behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in the third as they regained a 9 point lead. Artest had 8 field goals, but mid-way through the fourth quarter was ejected for arguing a loose ball foul called on him. The Lakers finished strong to win by 13, 111-98, and Artest finished with 8 field goals made. And so on to the picks.

1) Luke Donald vs. Ian Poulter – Donald cards a lower front 9 score
2) Atlanta Braves @ Florida Marlins – Atlanta
3) Padraig Harrington vs. Steve Stricker – Stricker cards a lower first round score
4) Seattle Mariners @ Kansas City Royals – Kansas City
5) Arizona Diamondbacks @ San Diego Padres – San Diego
6) Milwaukee Brewers @ Cincinnati Reds – Milwaukee
7) Josh Smith vs. Mo Williams – Williams pts.
8) Roberto Luongo vs. Nikolai Khabibulin – Luongo more saves
9) Vancouver Canucks @ Chicago Blackhawks - Vancouver
10) Detroit Tigers @ Chicago White Sox – Chicago
11) Penn State vs. Southern California – Penn State
12) Aaron Hill vs. Bobby Abreu – Hill total bases
13) Detroit Red Wings @ Anaheim Ducks – 5 goals or fewer
14) Detroit Red Wings @ Anaheim Ducks - Detroit

1) TPC Sawgrass is widely considered one of the more difficult courses on the PGA Tour. You can get some information on slope ratings at tpc.com and there’s a nice graphical tour of the course there. From 2003 to 2008 Luke Donald has played 18 rounds at Sawgrass, carding even par or better on the front 9 eight times. His median score is 1-over par, and his average score is 0.1-over par. He’s carded as low as 5 under, and as high as 4 over. Ian Poulter has played 18 rounds on the course as well, from 2004 to 2008. He’s carded even par or better on the front 9 eight times and also has a median score of 1-over par. His average is 0.6-over par, and his range of scores has been from 3 under to 4 over. You can check out Donald’s stats here, and Ian Poulter’s stats here. What jumped out at me was Donald having a lower putting average per green-in-regulation (GIR) by 0.076, a better scoring average by 0.82 strokes, and a higher birdie average by 0.33 per round. Keep in mind the scoring average is weighted by slope ratings and other factors to normalize for the differences in the courses played. I think each player is likely to be within -1 to +1, so it will be close, but with Donald having proven he can shoot 5-under par I have to give him the edge.

3) Traditionally, Padraig Harrington has done better than Steve Stricker at the Stadium Course at Sawgrass. His median score in 28 rounds is an even par 72 and he's shot 16 of his 28 rounds at even par or better. Stricker's median score is 74 in 16 rounds, only 5 of which have been even par or better. His best round was a 3-under 69, while his worst has been a 6-over 78. It's funny because Stricker has done better on that island par-3, birdying it 4 times and hitting bogey or worse 3 times in 16 rounds, while Harrington has only managed to score birdie three times, and hits bogey or worse 5 times. It's the rest of the the course giving Stricker more trouble. In the past three years neither golfer has been able to score better than 70. Right now Stricker has been the much better player on the tour, winning nearly $2 million dollars in 10 events, whilel Harrington is having to make do with just over $300,000 from 9 events. You can see Harrington's stats and Strickers' stats and come to your own conclusions. Either take the more successful golfer or take the golfer who's done better at Sawgrass, historically.

5) Dan Haren faces off against Chris Young in this game of low powered offenses. The Diamondbacks have scored 6 runs in their past three games while the Padres have scored 9 runs. Both teams are batting under .240 on the season and slugging under .390. Dan Haren would appear to be the far superior pitcher as he's started the season with a 1.47 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP. He's been a great strikeout pitcher with his split-finger fastball, striking out 9.8 batters per 9 innings and 6.7 batters for every one he walks. Chris Young has been solid only about half the time this season, with three terrific games shutting teams down, and two awful games, against the Phillies and the Rockies, where he gave up 6 or more runs before the end of the 4th inning. After each of those shellings Young came back with good games, once recording 7 shutout innings and most recently limiting the Dodgers to 1 run in 7 innings at Dodger Stadium. The Padres' batting order has done well against Haren in their careers, posting a combined .320 batting average and .467 slugging average. Still, Haren hasn't always been this nasty so I would put 3 or 4 runs as the most he could possibly be expected to concede. With the run support the Diamondbacks have been providing that could be 3 or 4 runs too many.

6) The Milwaukee Brewers have been absolutely crushing the ball lately. They have scored 30 runs in their past three games by batting .336 and slugging .522 in 113 at bats. Yesterday they faced Cincinnati Reds ace Bronson Arroyo and put 9 runs on the board before he could even get his fourth out. They can be expected to plummet back to Earth, but probably not against Micah Owings. Owings has a 4.84 ERA and a poor 1.61 WHIP to start the season. In his first start of the year he faced Looper and the Brewers and did well to limit them to 6 hits and 4 earned runs in 5 innings. The Brewers ended up with 9 runs after shelling the Reds' bullpen. Braden Looper is starting for Milwaukee and he has done well. With a 3.10 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in his first 6 starts he has been a steady presence on the mound. His second start of the year was against the Reds, against whom he picked up his first win of the season. The Reds got 6 hits and 3 runs off of Looper in the 6 innings he pitched and his bullpen did well to maintain their lead. Milwaukee is sure to disappoint their fans in the near future, but I don't see it being tonight.

Josh Smith Vs. Mo Williams - Points
Above are graphs showing Josh Smith's actual point production in away games with the expected distribution overlaid, and the same for Williams, but using data from his home games this season. One can see that Williams averages about 4 points more per game at home than Smith does on the road. One can also see the Josh Smith has scored 13 points 9 times on the road and that he's a wide-ranging scorer; he's had a single game scoring 10, 14, 19, 22, etc. points. Mo Williams' point totals are more bunched up; in 41 of his 45 games he has scored between 11 and 24 points. It's worth noting that Williams' chart leaves off games of 43 and 44 points, though those numbers were included in his average. Head-to-head Smith won the prop in Game 1, outscoring Williams 22 to 21. It was the first time this season Smith had scored more than 12 points, in Atlanta or in Cleveland. It was also the lowest number of points Williams had recorded against Atlanta all year. In Game 2 I expect Joe Johnson, Flip Murray, and Zaza Pachulia to get back on track and contribute more, leading to Smith scoring less than 20 points, which he has done in 25 of 35 road games. Mo Williams should be able to run circles around Mike Bibby and I see him scoring at least 20 points, a feat he's accomplished in 19 of 43 home games.

8) Any goalie worth starting in the NHL is going to make a save on over 90% of the shots taken at them. During the season both Roberto Luongo and Nikolai Khabibulin had a .920 SV%, though during the playoffs Luongo has made saves on 93.5% of the shots taken at him, while Khabibulin has only made saves on 89.7% of shots. With 30 shots on goal that's really not a huge difference, so for the most part this prop is really about which team will take more shots on goal. The Chicago Blackhawks trail the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 in this best of 7 series and they will be heading back to Vancouver after tonight, so the Blackhawks really need to win this game. One might think that would lead them to take more shots, but that has not always been the case. In a do-or-die Game 7 the Blackhawks took only 18 shots on goal against Calgary in winning 4-1, and Khabibulin made 43 saves. Looking at the chart to the side one sees the Blackhawks average about 5 more shots on goal. One can also see that there is significant overlap between 25 to 40 shots taken between the two teams, but in an exceptional game the Blackhawks take a large number of shots, while Vancouver takes a small number of shots. With Luongo being better in the playoffs, and Chicago taking many more shots on goal in this series, and during the season, Luongo is the better pick.

11) Here's a brief preview of the NCAA Men's Volleyball Final Four, being held in Provo, Utah. Penn State are the defending champs, but USC play in the best conference in the nation and are more used to playing at high altitudes (Provo is at 4551 feet above sea level).

12) Aaron Hill and Bobby Abreu are two sluggers for the Toronto Blue Jays and the Los Angeles Angels, respectively. One his having a fantastic season, batting .366 with 7 home runs while the other is just good, batting .343 with 0 home runs. In terms of total bases Aaron Hill is dominating, averaging 2.5 per game compared to Abreu who is averaging 1.6 per game. Jered Weaver is pitching for the Angels, and he has given up two doubles and a single in 5 at bats to Aaron Hill. Robert Ray is pitching for the Blue Jays, his second start. While he's never faced Abreu he did well in his first start. In the minor leagues he was a good strikeout pitcher with a WHIP of 1.37 through 3511/3 innings. The chart to the right shows the proportion of games in 2008 and 2009 each player had a certain number of total bases. It's apparent that Abreu is more likely to go hit-less while Hill is much more likely to hit a double or two singles. I don't see a home run being given up to either of these batters and without that the odds are squarely on Aaron Hill for this one. Of course, betting on Hill is also a bet on a minor league pitcher having two solid starts in a row in the Majors.

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