Odds On Most Any Matchup: 5dimesSkyBetBetFairBetUS

And So It Goes....

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

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Friday, July 31, 2009

July 31st, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)1-2-0 again today. Started off on the wrong foot with Scott Verplank. Then took the Santana pick in lieu of the two Audi Cup games. It was nice to have one in the bag early on rather than going through two penalty kick situations though I would have had two wins out of it instead one. I waited until the evening to take the 55 points or over and this one turned out like so many other tease-ems with the scoring amping up in the final minutes of the game only to fall three points short. My picks have been way off lately. After the past few weeks of heavy favorites winning practically every game I've been slow to adjust back to the norm of actual 50/50 toss ups where the apparent underdog pulls off the win fairly often. And so on to the picks.

Steve Lowry Makes Early Morning Run To Top Leaderboard At -9, Tiger Woods Outside Cut For Now
Front 9 Scores: S. Appleby 35, S. Verplank 36
I really figured Verplank, with a series of top 10 finishes the past few weekends, would outhit Appleby who hadn't played at Warwick Hills since 2005. Mid-range putting is such a big factor towards your final score.
``Two weeks ago in the British Open, Woods was 7 over during a six-hole span and ended up missing a cut for the first time in three years. If Woods fails to break 70 in the second round on Friday, he will put himself in danger of missing cuts in consecutive tournaments for the first time as a pro. It's too early, though, to count him out for the weekend at Warwick Hills even though the cut is usually 3 or 4 under. He opened the 2005 Buick Open with a 71, bounced back with a course-record tying 61 and finished tied for second. Lowery took advantage of perfect conditions -- smooth, receptive greens and calm winds -- in the morning by tying a course record with a 29 on the front nine and finishing 9-under 63. John Senden also did, making five straight birdies in the morning and finishing with nine to end up only a shot off the lead. Y.E. Yang, James Nitties, Vaughn Taylor, Brian Vranesh were two strokes back with 65s."
Read More....LeaderboardPhotosHighlights

Rockies Remain Feeble In New York As Santana Joins 12-Win Club
New York Mets 7 - 0 Colorado Rockies
Colorado finally won a game in New York in the second game of the doubleheader, so they're something like 4-24 now in their last 28 in New York against the Mets.
``Santana (12-8) struck out eight and walked one in his first career outing against Colorado, allowing just four hits. The two-time Cy Young Award winner closed out July with a 3-2 record and a sparkling 1.82 ERA in five starts. Bobby Parnell and Tim Redding each pitched an inning to finish the four-hitter. New York, posted its highest run total in a Santana start since they beat the Nationals 7-4 on June 27. The Rockies have lost three straight for the first time since they dropped four in a row from May 31-June 3. They haven't scored since Clint Barmes' solo homer in the fifth inning of Monday night's 7-3 loss in the series opener. Ian Stewart narrowly missed a grand slam with a long foul ball off Santana in the fourth, then struck out to end the inning."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

Ray Stamps Out Alouettes' Perfect Season
Edmonton Eskimos 33 - 19 Montreal Alouettes
Things got off to an ominous start for anyone hoping these teams combine for 55+ points. Montreal marched down the field on their first two possessions only to be stopped once they got within striking distance.
``Montreal efficiently marched the ball up the field on its first two possessions, but Edmonton held them to a pair of Damon Duval field goals. Eskimos kicker Noel Prefontaine responded with a field goal of his own and the Alouettes held a 6-3 lead after the opening quarter. Montreal recorded its first touchdown of the game with 7:40 to play after a 39-yard punt return by Larry Taylor eventually led to a one-yard TD run by Avon Cobourne to cut the score to 26-16. The Eskimos looked like they were going to restore their lead after a 65-yard kick return from Arkee Whitlock, but Ray was picked off at the Alouettes 15 by Jerald Brown. A 31-yard field goal by Duval to cut the lead to a converted touchdown with three and a half minutes to play. However the Eskimos rebounded under pressure as Ray was able to hit a wide-open Stamps for a 48-yard TD pass with two minutes remaining to put Edmonton back ahead with a comfortable margin."
Read More....Box Score

1) Tiger Woods' Score On The Back 9: 33 or lower vs. 34 or higher - 33 or lower
2) West Indies vs. Bangladesh - Bangladesh
3) Y.E. Yang vs. Jim Furyk - Yang cards a lower or equal front 9 score
4) SV Josko Ried @ SC Magna Wiener Neustadt - SV Josko Ried win or draw
5) Will A MotoX Rider Land A Front Flip: Yes vs. No - No
6) Boston Red Sox @ Baltimore Orioles - Boston
7) Chicago Cubs @ Florida Marlins - Florida
8) Minnesota Lynx @ Detroit Shock - Detroit
9) Julio Diaz vs. Victor Manuel Cayo - Cayo
10) Los Angeles Angels @ Minnesota Twins - Minnesota
11) New York Yankees @ Chicago White Sox - Chicago
12) Milwaukee Brewers @ San Diego Padres - San Diego
13) Philadelphia Phillies @ San Francisco Giants - Philadelphia
14) Toronto Blue Jays @ Oakland Athletics - Oakland records more hits in innings 4 through 6

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

July 30th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)1-2-0 today with Man U doing right by me but then just pure patheticry. First the danger in picking Duke I pointed out, they like to pull him early, was spot on. 7 shutout innings, 87 pitches, 6 hits. I guess that's not the kind of pitcher you want to keep in, not when you can pinch hit for them with two outs and nobody on base. Cain got a complete game shutout and a no-decision. Sad. Philadelphia then decided to celebrate the acquisition of Cliff Lee by tickling one another's taints in the dugout while spazzing out at bat, allowing Yusmeiro Petit to dominate them. I guess they figure pitching is their strength now. Hahah, but seriously nice one Petit, way to save your job. And on to the picks.

Anderson, Valencia Tally First Career Red Devils Goals In Defeat Of Boca
Manchester United 2 - 1 Boca Juniors
Manchester United showed they'll still be a tough club with or without Ronaldo and Tevez though Alex Ferguson did express some concern over their play.
``Anderson, whose 75 senior appearances for United have so far produced not a single goal, ended his barren run, albeit in a non-competitive fixture, with a curling left-foot free-kick on 23 minutes of this Audi Cup clash in the Allianz Arena. Had Ronaldo still been a United player, it is unlikely that Anderson would have been allowed anywhere near the set-piece, yet the former Porto midfielder displayed rare accuracy to send the ball past the statuesque goalkeeper Roberto Abbondanzieri. Ferguson has conceded that expecting Valencia to prove a direct replacement for Ronaldo would be a tall order, but the 23 year-old was bright and positive before he extended United's lead with a long range strike on 42 minutes. Having received the ball from Wayne Rooney 40 yards from goal, Valencia raced past two Boca defenders before aiming a right-foot effort goalwards from the edge of the penalty area. Abbondanzieri should have saved comfortably, but ball squirmed under the Argentina No 1's body, enabling Valencia to claim a welcome debut goal."
Read More....`Boca Were The Better Team In The Second Half'Manchester RecapBoca RecapHighlights
See Anderson's 1st Goal
See Valencia Put ManU Up 2-0

Cain Misses Chance For 13th Win As Giants Finally Tally In The Tenth
San Francisco Giants 1 - 0 Pittsburgh Pirates (in 10)
M. Cain 9 IP, 0 ER; Z. Duke 7 IP, 0 ER
It's difficult to truly criticize Pittsburgh for pulling Duke after 87 pitches even though he had not given up a run. His replacement, Grabow, pitched two perfect innings before Capps blew it in the 10th.
``Randy Winn lined an RBI single down the first-base line with two outs in the 10th inning and the San Francisco Giants beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 on Wednesday for a three-game sweep. Cain, named an NL All-Star but unable to participate because of an arm injury, struck out four and walked two in an impressive 111-pitch outing. He hasn't lost in six starts since a June 26 defeat at Milwaukee. Pirates left-hander Zach Duke hung tough with Cain, working out of some tough jams to keep the game scoreless. The Giants squandered scoring chances in the second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

Phucking Phillies Dominated By Yusmeiro
Arizona Diamondbacks 4 - 0 Philadelphia Phillies
Petit is a guy who got chased by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 41/3 innings in his last start. This kind of shit really happens in baseball. 9 runs in one inning against Cueto one day, zero runs in 9 innings against YPet the next.
``Facing the potent Phillies lineup, Petit gave up a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins, then began to cruise. He allowed a single to Raul Ibanez leading off the second before retiring 15 of the next 16 batters, including 13 straight at one point. `It feels good, especially against that team,' Petit said through an interpreter. `It's a strong and pretty good-hitting club. It makes you feel good about yourself.' After Ryan Howard singled and Ibanez doubled to open the seventh, Petit left to a standing ovation from the Chase Field crowd. Juan Gutierrez came on and struck out Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs before walking Carlos Ruiz to load the bases. Gutierrez escaped the jam by retiring pinch-hitter Pedro Feliz on a fly to center. `To come out of that unscathed is pretty much the story of the game in that one inning,' Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

1) Stuart Appleby vs. Scott Verplank - Verplank cards a lower front 9 score
2) Colorado Rockies @ New York Mets - New York
3) Boca Juniors vs. AC Milan - Boca Juniors
4) Kansas City Royals @ Baltimore Orioles - Kansas City
5) Tiger Woods' Score On The Four Par 5's: 18 strokes or fewer vs. 19 strokes or more - 18 or fewer
6) Larry Mize vs. Tom Watson - Watson cards a lower first round score
7) San Antonio Silver Stars @ Sacramento Monarchs - Sacramento
8) Manchester United @ Bayern Munich - Bayern Munich
9) Phoenix Mercury @ Atlanta Dream - Phoenix
10) Los Angeles Dodgers @ St. Louis Cardinals - St. Louis
11) Montreal Alouettes @ Edmonton Eskimos - 55 points or more
12) Philadelphia Phillies @ San Francisco Giants - Philadelphia
13) How Many Runs Will Be Scored In Innings 4 Through 6 (Philles @ Giants): 2 or less vs. 3 or more - 3 or more


Tiger Woods' Par 5 Scores
5) Tiger Woods has played this course each year from 2002 to 2006, making the cut all four years, and winning the tournament twice. This is his first year playing the Buick Open since then, however. In those five years he played 20 rounds and managed to complete the four par 5's in 18 strokes or fewer 13 times. In 2003 he took 14 strokes on the par 5's one round, carding two eagles and two birdies. In the five first rounds he played he took 18 or fewer strokes only twice, however. The par 5's on this course are all fairly easy with the most difficult of them being the 13th most difficult over the past 24 years. The average score on all four par 5's over those 24 years is under par. One might wish to look at completed rounds on the leaderboard to get a sense of how many players are taking 18 or fewer strokes on these holes but I imagine that list will include players who are not even going to make the cut. In other words, it won't take Tiger being Tiger to go under here today.

July 29th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)Gah, I knew I shouldn't have drowned that baby kitten the other day as I'm currently being raped by karma for it. 0-2-0 today with the Braves and Blue Jays. Two walk off hits, two losses. Whether it was a home run or a single chipped off the dirt (check out the Mariners video to see the hit) the team I picked against got what it needed. Oh well, I'm going to drown a baby kitten tomorrow anyways. Take that karma!

Florida Marlins 4 - 3 Atlanta Braves
Gload pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth and gave Rafael Soriano his second blown save in 18 tries this season. This kind of thing just happens.
``Starters Jair Jurrjens and Ricky Nolasco departed with the score 2-2. Jurrjens pitched six innings, Nolasco seven. Atlanta's Garret Anderson hit a go-ahead homer to lead off the top of the ninth against Leo Nunez (3-3). Pinch-hitter Ross Gload hit a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth, and the Florida Marlins rallied past the Atlanta Braves 4-3 on Tuesday night. Cody Ross walked against Rafael Soriano (1-2) to start the ninth and advanced on a sacrifice. Gload pulled a 3-1 pitch into the right-field seats and was mobbed by teammates when he reached the plate. Soriano blew a save for only the second time in 16 chances."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

Seattle Mariners 4 - 3 Toronto Blue Jays
First off, I can't believe Ichiro hasn't had a walk-off hit before today. Second of all, check the 'read more' link. What a great hit. I still think baseball players are the least athletic of any sport though. Look at the medium trot the Blue Jays fielders use to try and get to that one. Plops down right between them.
``Ichiro Suzuki dumped an 0-2 pitch from Toronto reliever Scott Downs into center field with two outs in the ninth inning to score Rob Johnson, and the Seattle Mariners snapped their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. Suzuki golfed the pitch nearly off the dirt and served it over the head of shortstop Marco Scutaro and in front of center fielder Vernon Wells. It was the first game-ending hit of Suzuki's career. Seattle loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth off Downs. He got two quick outs, but couldn't sneak the last pitch past the league leader in hits."
Read More....Box Score

1) Boca Juniors vs. Manchester United - Manchester United win
2) AC Milan @ Bayern Munich - Bayern Munich win
3) Zach Duke vs. Matt Cain - Duke pitches more innings
4) Kansas City Royals @ Baltimore Orioles - Kansas City
5) New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays - Tampa Bay
6) Los Angeles Sparks @ Chicago Sky - Chicago
7) Detroit Tigers @ Texas Rangers - Detroit
8) Los Angeles Dodgers @ St. Louis Cardinals - St. Louis
9) Everton vs. MLS All-Stars - MLS All-Stars win
10) Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona Diamondbacks - Philadelphia
11) Result Of Ryan Howard's 2nd Plate Appearance: Hit or Walk vs. Any Other Result - Hit or walk


This shows how often Duke and Cain have pitched a certain number of innings. Note: `6' is 6 to 6.2 innings.
Click image for larger view.
3) The graph on the right is a histogram showing how often Zach Duke and Matt Cain have pitched a certain number of innings. They've each started 20 games this season. Matt Cain's starts add up to 19 because he has one start where he pitched 12/3 innings and had to leave after being struck in the arm with a line drive. That was on July 11th and since then he's come back to pitch two games for 7 innings so he's fine, health-wise. Aside from that one game Cain is averaging 6.8 innings per start while Duke is averaging 7 innings per start. The graph shows that Cain has a couple more complete games under his belt but that Duke has finished 8 innings six times while Cain has gone through the 8th in only those three complete games. San Francisco has shown a greater willingness to let Cain finish games but Duke has shown a greater ability to get through innings efficiently.

Duke really is a more economical pitcher and that is the main reason I give him the nod in this prop. So far this season batters are swinging at 29% of his pitches outside the zone and making contact with 69% of those pitches. Compare that with Cain who is getting batters to chase on only 25.3% of his pitches. Batters are only making contact with 59.5% of those pitches. Overall, Duke gets batters to put the ball into play with fewer pitches then and with a 1.23 WHIP those are generally turning into outs. One can also look at each team's plate discipline. The Giants are `tops' in the league when it comes to swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone. The Pirates aren't great but nowhere near as bad as the Giants. The last time Duke pitched against San Francisco he used up 82 pitches to complete 7 innings. Matt Cain also pitched 7 innings in that game but it took him 107 pitches to get there. The one danger picking Duke is that Pittsburgh likes to relieve Duke early in his pitch count, especially in close games. They have a lot of faith in the bullpen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

July 28th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)1-0-0 today with The Freak, The Franchise, Timothy LeRoy Lincecum. With picks like that there's no limit to how high a streak might go. It was a pretty easy day for the Streak with all the majority picks winning except the Rockies who continued their futility in New York against the Mets (I think they're 2-19 in their last 21 there). Most of the picks won easily like with this Lincecum pick. Tomorrow looks like it might be a bit tougher. I'll wager Felix and the M's would have garnered a high percentage today against Ricky Romero. Think Washburn can do better? Good luck y'all, and on to the picks.

Lincecum Earns First Win Since All-Star Break With 15 Strikeouts
San Francisco Giants 4 - 2 Pittsburgh Pirates
Tim Lincecum 9 IP, 15 K
King Felix Gives Up 7 In Worst Start Of Season As Toronto Heats Up For West Coast Trip
Toronto Blue Jays 11 - 4 Seattle Mariners
Felix Hernandez 52/3 IP, 2 K
Tim Lincecum pitched a complete game, striking out his first batter faced and his last along with 13 others in between.
``Tim Lincecum looked like his old self, pitching a four-hitter and bouncing back from a rough outing with a career-high 15 strikeouts in the San Francisco Giants' 4-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night. The hard-throwing right-hander earned his fourth complete game this season and sixth of his career, finishing his 115-pitch gem in 2 hours, 6 minutes. This marked the sixth time this season and 17th in his career that Lincecum struck out 10 or more."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos
Ouch. Felix Hernandez matched his season low for strikeouts as the Blue Jays got to him early and often, finally chasing him in the 6th inning with four earned runs.
``Marco Scutaro matched his career high with four hits and the Toronto Blue Jays took advantage of Felix Hernandez's worst start of the season, beating the slumping Seattle Mariners 11-4 on Monday night. Lyle Overbay and Rod Barajas homered for the Blue Jays, who finished with 15 hits. Ricky Romero (9-4) pitched six innings for his sixth win in seven decisions. Counted on to stop any Seattle skids, Hernandez (11-4) allowed seven runs and 11 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He had won a career-best seven consecutive decisions and was 10-2 with a 1.94 ERA following a Mariners loss this season."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

1) Dynamo Dresden @ SV Wehen Wiesbaden - SV Wehen Wiesbaden win
2) Benjamin Becker vs. John Isner - Isner
3) New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays - New York
4) Atlanta Braves @ Florida Marlins - Atlanta
5) Phoenix Mercury @ Connecticut Sun - Connecticut
6) Seattle Storm @ San Antonio Silver Stars - San Antonio
7) Houston Astros @ Chicago Cubs - Houston
8) Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona Diamondbacks - Arizona
9) Toronto Blue Jays @ Seattle Mariners - Toronto


SV Wehen Wiesbaden were relegated from 2. Bundesliga last season after finishing in last place. They'll try to turn their 3. Liga campaign around at BRITA-Arena against Dynamo Dresden tonight.
1) The second week of Germany's third-tier 3.Liga football gets underway today and Dynamo Dresden make their way to BRITA-Arena to take on SV Wehen Wiesbaden (SVWW). SV Wehen Wiesbaden were relegated from the 2.Bundesliga last season after finishing dead last at 5-12-17 (W-D-L). Clearly, they weren't up to the competition in the second-tier Bundesliga and may enjoy more success in the third-tier league. Unfortunately, their season got off to a rough start with a 1-2 loss away at FC Carl Zeiss Jena. They went down a goal early in the second half and then conceded a second from a direct free kick just outside the box. They manged to pull within one goal in the 74th minute, but despite numerous chances they were unable to equalize. SVWW's coach, Hans-Werner Moser, was still pleased with the way his team fought after going down by two goals on the road. FC Carl Zeiss Jena were one of the lesser teams in the 3.Liga last season, however, making this an unimpressive result even if it was on the road.

Dynamo Dresden also got off to a rough start with a 0-1 loss at home to VfB Stuttgart II (Stuttgart reserves). VfB Stuttgart II were a middle of the pack team last season. Unlike SV Wehen Wiesbaden, Dynamo Dresden did not put forth a good effort as the media and their coach felt they were more or less outplayed on their home pitch. They failed to create any serious goal opportunities and manager Ruud Kaiser was disappointed in their overall effort though he went on to say it would just be a matter of time for the squad to develop the discipline to make their tactics work.

This is a matchup where the odds indicate picking Dynamo Dresden, hands down. With the sportsbooks profits accounted for and converted into moneylines these odds from BetFair indicate SV Wehen Wiesbaden are a +140 underdog against the win/draw combined. Both teams are trying to integrate new players into their sides as they try and improve. They each also have to deal with some top level talent moving on to larger teams during the offseason. They may be going through a transition period here at the beginning of the season but with SVWW in better form, scoring on the road and creating goal opportunities, I favor them to pick up a win at home.

Monday, July 27, 2009

July 27th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)It was a terrible day for my blog picks today, but I managed to wring a 2-0-0 day out of them with Cavendish and the Phillies. I really did not look at the picks too closely and just went with odds for the most part and as the results from yesterday showed that's not always the best way to pick winners. I don't know if sportsbooks hand out these kinds of stats, but I imagine for favorites up to -200 or -250 the win% is around 50-55%, kind of like the win% for popular favorites on `Streak'. The Dodgers might need to rethink Jason Schmidt as a regular rotation man after the Marlins throttled him. Kershaw, Billinsgley, Wolf, Kuroda, Weaver, seems like a perfectly fine staff to me though lacking a true ace. Tomorrow looks like some solid MLB picks, the risky ones, to me, are Philadelphia @ Arizona and the Yankees @ Tampa. The Phillies have been fantastic on the road though and Moyer has been pretty good lately. Good luck and on to the picks.

Alberto Contador Takes 2009 Tour de France Crown
Stage 21 Results: 1. M. Cavendish 4h 02' 18"; 2. M. Renshaw 4h 02' 18"; 3. T. Farrar 4h 02' 18"
Team Columbia executed the lead out so well for Mark Cavendish that one of his teammates (Renshaw) finished second.
``Contador finished a comfortable four minutes, 11 seconds ahead of Team Saxo Bank's Schleck in the overall standings, solidifying his place as one of the Tour's most dominant competitors - and putting him in place to be Armstrong's successor as the perennial favorite. Then again, Armstrong might not be ready to pass him the mantle just yet. In 2010, all bets are off. After a year of playing the good soldier, Armstrong has announced he will bolt team Astana for his own newly-formed squad, Team RadioShack, for another run at yellow. British sprinter Mark Cavendish won Sunday's 21st and final stage, along the Champs-Elysees in Paris, his sixth stage win this year, though he fell short of the green jersey - given to the Tour's best sprinter. Cavendish finished second to Thor Hushovd of Norway."
Read More....StandingsCommentaryHighlightsCavendish: Mission Accomplished

Two Run Shots Abound As Utley, Howard, Rollins, Ibanez Break Cardinals' Backs
Philadelphia Phillies 9 - 2 St. Louis Cardinals
The recap kind of paints it like Wellemeyer was taken out early, but he really did a pretty good job for the first few innings. When Philly's on, they're on and offense like that is going to carry them far with the pitching staff overachieving, seemingly.
``Blanton has been Philadelphia's most dependable starter the last two months and put a slow start way behind him. He's lost only once since May 9 (6-1) and the Phillies are now 20-12 in Blanton's 32 starts since he was acquired from Oakland last season. He received a huge standing ovation from another sellout crowd when he struck out Matt Holliday to end the eighth inning. It matched his longest outing of the season. Holiday's sacrifice fly in the first and DeRosa's fourth homer of the year in the fifth were the only runs off Blanton. No matter who pitches for the Phillies, the big bats are usually out. The Phillies wasted little time rocking righty starter Todd Wellemeyer (7-9). Wellemeyer continues to struggle and lasted only 5 2/3 innings when the Cardinals could have used a longer outing to give the bullpen a needed break. Instead, Utley, Howard and Rollins all took him deep to build a 7-2 lead before he was yanked in the sixth. Ibanez made it 9-2 in the seventh when he hit his 26th homer of the season off Blake Hawksworth. Ibanez moved into second place in the NL in homers and the Phillies lead the league with 138 homers."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

1) AGF Aarhus @ Randers FC - AGF Aarhus win or draw
2) Lyon vs. FC Porto - Lyon
3) New York Yankees @ Tampa Bay Rays - Tampa Bay
4) Colorado Rockies @ New York Mets - Colorado
5) Los Angeles Dodgers @ St. Louis Cardinals - St. Louis
6) Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona Diamondbacks - Philadelphia
7) Felix Hernandez (v. Blue Jays) vs. Tim Lincecum (v. Pirates) - Lincecum records more strikeouts


AGF Aarhus visit Essex Stadium to take on Europa League participants Randers FC. Randers play Hamburg SV in the third qualifying round on Thursday.
1) Randers FC will try again to start their SAS-Ligæn season off on the right foot after losing 0-1 away at SønderjyskE in the first match of the season last week. That match came sandwiched between the two legs of their Europa league second round qualifying tie against Lithuanian club FK Suduva. Fortunately, they made up for their loss against SønderjyskE by taking a 1-1 draw against Suduva, good enough to advance to the third qualifying round where they will host Hamburg SV this Thursday. Before that, however, they'll take on local rivals AGF Aarhus (the two clubs are located only 25 miles apart). AGF Aarhus started their season off right with a 1-0 victory at home against AaB Aalborg. Peter Graulund scored 16 seconds in to the match and from there Aarhus were able to hold on for the win. Unfortunately for Aarhus Kim Madsen was forced to leave the game early with an injury and will miss the match against Randers today. Aarhus will also be without regular starter Jeremiah White at midfield who returned to the U.S. for personal reasons. On the plus side Michael Lumb (D) played the full 90 minutes against Aalborg after being out since last December with a knee injury.

Randers F.C. will have a full squad to choose from but with a huge match against Hamburg SV looming they may choose to rest some of their regular starters though I think it is unlikely. Against SønderjyskE they played Berg and Nygaard up front along with their starting midfield choosing only to rest Bobbie Friberg da Cruz and Allan Jepsen from the team their fielded against FK Suduva. I think that with such a big name opponent coming up and after losing their first league game Randers will be looking for a big win to build confidence and so will want to field their best team. Still, the way Randers performed against SønderjyskE is a concern. They started the match well, but after they went down a goal their aggressiveness disappeared and they never really threatened to score from that point on. Whether they lacked intensity because of a preoccupation with their Europa league tie or because they were on the road is tough to say but they struggled to create offense even with their regular attack on the field.

Last season Randers played at home twice against Aarhus, winning 3-1 one game and drawing 1-1 the other. It's very difficult to say who will be the more aggressive team in this match. The odds from BetFair currently have Randers F.C. as the favorite to win, but when considering a draw as a loss for them they are +125 underdogs. I think it's safest to assume Randers will field a full strength squad until there's news otherwise (there isn't at the moment) but with Peter Graulund and Nando Rafael leading the attack along with Benny Feilhaber at midfield I like Aarhus to pull off a draw. Randers just needs to play more confidently, keep possession, and eventually they'll find their way into the net, but until then it's tough to pick with them.

Olympique Lyonnais purchased FC Porto stars Lisandro López and Cissokho in the offseason, now they will get a chance to face their former team.
2) The 12-team 2009 Peace Cup got under way over the weekend with FC Porto sitting out of the action. Defending Peace Cup champions Lyon played their first match in their four team group against Turkish Super League club Beşiktaş to a 1-1 draw. FC Porto were the Portuguese Super Liga and Cup winners last season while Lyon finished third in Ligue 1. in France so one might expect the Dragons (Porto) to be favorites in this match. While neither team is greatly favored it is Lyon being given slightly better odds, as for example at WilliamHill where they are +130 to +170 for Porto. A big reason for that probably has to do with the transfer of Porto stars Lisandro and Cissokho away to Lyon which you can read about here. With the addition of two of Porto's best offensive players I would have to make Lyon the more dangerous team on the attack. Of course, this being a preseason tournament the best players on either side, including Porto's striker Hulk (remember him?), will likely see 45 to 65 minutes of play at most. With the opportunity of the push the odds of not losing ones streak are fairly good, say -200 for a pick with Lyon and -160 for a pick with Porto.

Strikeouts by start, 2009. (inset) Number of games with a certain K/9.
Click image for larger view.
7) This prop asks which pitcher will record more strikeouts, Tim Lincecum (against the Pirates) or Felix Hernandez (against the Blue Jays). Right off the bat one might favor Lincecum as he sports a K/9 near 11 while Felix Hernandez's K/9 is just below 9. Lincecum also averages about 1.5 more strikeouts per game started (8.4 to 6.9). The graph on the left shows the number of strikeouts for each pitcher in every game they've started this season. One can see that in 13 of 20 starts Lincecum has recorded more strikeouts. The inset shows the number of games each player has put up a K/9 within a certain range: 0-5, >5-10, >10-15, and >15. Lincecum is striking out at least one batter per inning in 2/3 of his starts while Hernandez is striking out fewer than one per inning in 2/3 of his starts. The only factor that might tip the scales in favor of King Felix is the opponent each pitcher faces. Looking at how often the Pirates and Blue Jays strike out, however, shows the Blue Jays are the 2nd best team in the league at avoiding strikeouts while the Pirates are 19th in the league. It doesn't help that Pittsburgh play in the National League where the pitcher is part of the batting order. It won't be all that hot and humid this evening in San Francisco so I think Lincecum will do well to strike out at least 8 while Hernandez might top out at 6 against Toronto.

NYY @ TB - A.J. Burnett gives up fewer hits than Shields but has a bigger issue with his control, giving up more walks. Their ERA's are comparable (near 3.50) but Burnett has better career numbers against the Rays. He's already pitched a gem against Tampa Bay this season while Shields has yet to face the Yankees. The Yankees have a better offense but Tampa Bay is always tough to beat in their humid home.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

July 26th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)0-1-and-fucking-1 today. I had the Galaxy locked into my sights this morning but after looking at the Manny matchup I talked myself into taking a solid Mike Bliss pick in NASCAR, my first NASCAR pick ever. Here on BLAC I've made a ton of NASCAR picks and I seem to remember thinking back week after week ``Oh well, I could've picked up a win with that NASCAR pick" after ending the night with a loss. Well, took Bliss knowing it was a gimme unless he wrecked. Pretty good odds, since most drivers wreck in a small percentage of their races and in each race the vast majority of drivers do not wreck. So of course Bliss wrecks in the first 30 laps, thanks for causing that and placing anyways Keselowski, you ripe rank snogridocious carton of shit! At least it unlocked in time for me to pick up another push. Ai ai ai on to the picks.

Carl Edwards Takes Kroger 200 As Bliss Crashes Out
J. Allgaier 21st 1 lap back, M. Bliss 33rd 85 laps back
``What a terrible day."

---Mike Bliss
Brad Keselowski bumped Scott Lagasse Jr. sending him into the wall which he bounced off of caroming out in front of Mike Bliss. Bliss did not have time to slow down or veer away and drove right over Lagasse's #11 effectively taking them both out of the race. It was disappointing as Justin Allgaier ran a hohum race and never made a move past 15th place. Bliss would have stomped him except for Keselowski clipping Lagasse which you can se in the video.
``Edwards had the dominant car after starting from the rear of the field because he missed qualifying to participate in a practice session for Sunday's Sprint Cup race at nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Edwards led twice for 72 of the race's 200 laps but lost the lead with 30 laps to go under caution. Edwards' No. 60 Ford was pinned behind Scott Wimmer's Chevrolet in the pits, and Edwards mistakenly put his car in the wrong gear. Busch led coming to the green flag on Lap 174, but Edwards battled him hard and finally made the pass for the lead on Lap 179."
Read More....ResultsPhotosHighlightsVideo Of Bliss' Crash

Kuroda, VandenHurk Duel It Out But Dodgers Overwhelm Marlins Bullpen With 8 Hits
Los Angeles Dodgers 4 - 3 Florida Marlins
Hanley 1 Total Base, Manny 1 Total Base
Manny finally had a single single in a game which he was long overdue for. Too bad he couldn't have one of his typical extra base hits today.
``After Rafael Furcal's one-out bunt single in the ninth, Orlando Hudson singled to left off Dan Meyer (2-1). Luis Ayala then struck out Manny Ramirez, but walked Andre Ethier to load the bases before Blake dropped his hit into shallow right-center, finishing Los Angeles' 27th comeback victory of the season."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

1) Mark Cavendish vs. Any Other Cyclist - Cavendish wins Stage 21
2) Fred Funk or Loren Roberts vs. Other Golfer - Other golfer wins the Senior Open Championship
3) Brøndby @ Esbjerg - Brøndby win
4) St. Louis Cardinals @ Philadelphia Phillies - Philadelphia
5) San Diego Padres @ Washington Nationals - Washington
6) Jimmie Johnson vs. Tony Stewart - Stewart has a better finishing position
7) Atlanta Braves @ Milwaukee Brewers - Milwaukee
8) Mexico vs. United States - United States
9) San Francisco Giants @ Colorado Rockies - Colorado
10) Phoenix Mercury @ New York Liberty - New York
11) Pittsburgh Pirates @ Arizona Diamondbacks - Arizona
12) Florida Marlins @ Los Angeles Dodgers - Los Angeles
13) Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers - Detroit

8) U.S.A. vs. Mexico - Just keep in mind there is not a single player on the U.S. team currently that played on the Confederations Cup team that beat Spain and was up 2-0 on Brazil at the half. It's a younger team and Mexico will certainly be a challenge. SkyBet has the United States at +125 to win in 90 minutes + injury time and Mexico at +190. They also have the U.S. at -135 to win the Championship with Mexico at +210, so decent odds. Mexico has always played better down south and had trouble up here. I don't think they've ever won against U.S.A. here in the States, but today will be their best chance ever to do so.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

July 25th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)A quick preview of the cycling matchup tomorrow morn. I'm looking at IF Bromma- well, BP as they're called in Sweden (yea, it's a mouthful even for the Swedes I guess). They just lost to Kalmar in their last match and now are doing the home-and-away thing. It's difficult to double a team and I imagine even more so on the road a week after playing them. Still, Kalmar, defending champs, they should be able to win though they've only got 2 wins on the road this season. I'll try and post some injury news in the early morning. And it looks like my streak will bump up to 7 with Clayton Kershaw fanning six while Josh Johnson only knocked down four. The Marlins going up by three runs was a terrific turn of events for Kershaw pickers as the Marlins could take the opportunity to take out the man at 100 pitches after seven. *phew* And thanks to the Anon who pointed out Lugo's actual first name. I assume he'll hurt the team later on, but today, against lefty Happ he went for a triple and a homer. Not too shabby even if he was overshadowed by Matt Holliday's arrival. And so on to the picks.

Fish Escape Dodgers' Hook After Johnson, Kershaw Battle To Draw
Florida Marlins 6 - 3 Los Angeles Angels
C. Kershaw 6 K, J. Johnson 4 K
Even though Josh Johnson was the better pitcher tonight it was Clayton Kershaw with more K's.
``Pinch-hitter Jeremy Hermida drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning, pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan homered in the eighth and the Florida Marlins kept rolling up the West Coast with a 6-3 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. The Marlins also handled Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' 21-year-old left-hander who hasn't lost since June 10. Kershaw never retired the side in order, allowing nine hits and three walks in six innings while yielding two earned runs for just the second time in eight starts. Johnson allowed five hits and three runs while winning for the sixth time in seven decisions."
Read More....Box ScorePhotos

1) Vincenzo Nibali vs. Christian Vande Velde - Nibali has a better finish
2) Kalmar FF @ IF Brommapojkarna - IF Brommapojkarna win or draw
3) Jason Leffler vs. Joey Logano - Logano has a better finishing position
4) New Zealand @ South Africa - South Africa
5) Tampa Bay Rays @ Toronto Blue Jays - Toronto
6) Chicago Fire @ Seattle Sounders FC - Chicago win or draw
7) WNBA All-Star Game: West All-Stars vs. East All-Stars - East All-Stars
8) Edmonton Eskimos @ Saskatchewan Roughriders - Saskatchewan
9) Chicago White Sox @ Detroit Tigers - Chicago
10) Atlanta Braves @ Milwaukee Brewers - Atlanta
11) Mike Bliss vs. Justin Allgaier - Bliss has a better finishing position
12) San Francisco Giants @ Colorado Rockies - Colorado
13) Los Angeles Galaxy @ Kansas City Wizards - Los Angeles win or draw
14) Hanley Ramirez vs. Manny Ramirez - Manny records more total bases


The final climb up `Mount Baldy' will push even the toughest climbers.
1) It's the penultimate stage of the 2009 edition of the Tour de France and with a 4'11" lead over the field Alberto Contador looks to have the yellow jersey locked up. Thor Hushovd has the green jersey settled and Franco Pellizotti appears to be in an unassailable position for the King of the Mountain's polka dot jersey. Five time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault gives his views on the stage and you can hear his comments by clicking here. Essentially he sees those at the top of the general classification standings as being on top, literally, when the first riders cross the finish line after a grueling 21km climb. It's an especially tough climb coming after a number of category 3 climbs during the stage.

Nibali and Vande Velde are 7th and 8th, respectively, in overall time with Nibali 7'15" behind Contador and Vande Velde 10'08" behind. Nibali is only 1'54" behind Lance Armstrong for third place so he will have some incentive to push hard on this stage, though it is very unlikely he will actually overtake Armstrong as Team Astana will want to guard their positions on the podium. Vande Velde, being 4'47" back from third place has less incentive. Additionally, if one clicks on `climber' in the standings one will see Nibali in 13th place with 54 points and Vande Velde in 54th with 7 points meaning Nibali has been faster through the mountain portions of the Tour consistently. Finally, the odds at SkyBet, BetFair, and WilliamHill all have Nibali with better odds to win the stage outright. SkyBet has Nibali at 25/1 and Vande Velde at 100/1, for example. This will be a stage for the Tour leaders to reassert their positions and I think Nibali being closer to third place will show why he's there and place better today.

IF Brommapojkarna seek revenge for a 3-1 loss at Kalmar last Saturday while Kalmar FF try to rebound from a disappointing Champions League exit.
2) Kalmar FF look to complete the double over IF Brommapojkarna (BP) when they visit Grimsta today. Kalmar was dumped out of Champions League competition last Wednesday on away goals after tying Debreceni 3-3 on aggregate but conceding one more away goal. In between the two legs of that tie they faced BP at home, coming away with a 3-1 victory. BP took an early lead with a fifth minute goal by Imad Chhadeh and held on to that lead for most of the match despite being without five regular starters. Second half sub Daniel Mendes drew a penalty at 75' and Rasmus Elm converted to tie the game and from there BP buckled, conceding two more goals in the final 10 minutes of the match. Brommapojkarna were not pleased with the way the match was called going so far as to characterize Mendes as a `notoriske filmaren' (notorious actor) and noting they've had more than their fair share of calls go against them with Johan Hamlin refereeing. It all sounds a little bitter to me and they'll need to be focused on playing technical football rather than feeling victimized if they hope to have a chance against Kalmar at home.
Recent Results
IF BommarpojkarnaKalmar FF
Malmö FF (1:1)Malmö FF (2:1)
GAIS Göteborg (1:0)GAIS Göteborg (2:2)
Hammarby IF (0:1)IFK Göteborg (1:2)
Bommapojkarna (home results); Kalmar (away results)

Kalmar at least know the difficulty in defeating a team at home and away in league play and should be prepared for Bommapojkarna. Kalmar will field the same side that defeated Debreceni 3-1 at home and lost to them 0-2 away. In other words, they're at full strength. BP will have some reinforcements as defender and captain Jon Persson, midfielder Philip Haglund, and goal keeper Kristofffer Northfeldt all return from illness or injury. All three missed the 1-3 defeat in Kalmar. They will still be missing Richard Henriksson and Markus Karlsson on defense, however, forcing Mauricio Albornoz into an unfamiliar backfield role. WilliamHill has Kalmar to win at +106 after accounting for the sportsbooks profits and converting to American moneylines. The odds are very close in either direction, but I favor BP considering their strong showing last week on the road, without their captain and their first line goal keeper. Kalmar are defending champions and at full strength but they have only two wins on the road this season. Bommapojkarna are 2-2-3 (W-D-L) at home this season which ranks as next to worst in the league for home records so for them to lose would not be a big surprise. Good luck taking this one.

9) The Detroit Tigers are two games in front of the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central lead after taking both games of a doubleheader yesterday. The White Sox will try and keep pace today in a rematch of starting pitchers that saw Chicago come away with a 4-3 win back in June. Gavin Floyd five hit the Tigers in that game over eight innings with a solo shot home run being the only offense he conceded. Bobby Jenks nearly blew the save but managed to hold on to give Chicago the win. Edwin Jackson took 99 pitches to get through 5 innings but did decently allowing only 2 runs from 5 hits. His problem in that game was walking 4 batters and he was fortunate Jim Thome hit his home run leading off rather than behind some of those batters walked by Jackson.

Gavin Floyd looks to earn a win for the second time this season over Edwin Jackson and the Tigers.

Jackson has been having one of the best seasons of his career with a 2.52 ERA and 1.08 WHIP through 19 starts so far. He's getting batters to chase his pitches more than ever before, his strand rate is approaching 80% for the first time in his career, he's giving up fewer home runs per fly ball, and his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is down to .250. Unfortunately, I don't see him continuing this success through the end of the season. It's a pattern he's followed the past few years, posting terrific stats before a poor end to the season. His BABIP is 25 points below average meaning he's been lucky to get batters out rather than give up hits and he's given up 5 home runs in his past three starts while walking 11 batters. I don't think he's going to go in the tank completely, but at some point he's going to give up a home run with runners on base instead of a solo shot and his strand rate will go down along with his ERA rising.

So overall I think the pitching matchup favors Chicago here. Gavid Floyd, despite his struggles earlier in the season, has managed to lower his WHIP to 1.27. Not including line drives he has a ground ball to fly ball ratio of 1.37 and with Fields out of the lineup those are actually a good thing for the Sox. The one area where Jackson has shown himself to be a better pitcher is an ability to get batters to swing and chase more of his pitches. Overall, I think if the White Sox can get a solid performance out of Beckham and Wise (assuming they start) at the bottom of the order they will generate enough offense to at least take a small lead into the latter innings. From there either team's bullpen is unenviable with ERA's over 4.50 and give up nearly a home run for every three innings pitched but overall I like Chicago's 'pens ability to strike batters out and think they'll be able to hold on.

(top) Deviation of % of games with 'N' total bases from 2008.
(bottom) % of games with 'N' total basees in 2009.
Click image for larger version.
14) The graph to the left shows how much Hanley Ramirez (.559 Slg%) and Manny Ramirez (.667 Slg%) are deviating from their performance from last season in terms of games with a certain number of total bases. Points above the mid-line show a player had a higher proportion of their games recording that number of total bases than they are this season and suggest they will have more of those games as the season continues. Points below the mid-line suggest a player will have relatively fewer numbers of those games. Manny Ramirez is looking to hit more singles and is still trailing his home run per game rate from last season. Hanley Ramirez has been lights out in avoiding going 0-fer so far this season but I expect he'll go into a bit of a slump at some point in the future, not tonight necessarily. I think the main advantage for Manny in this matchup is in the pitching. Rick VandenHurk, in his limited Major league playing time, has shown a propensity for striking out and walking left-handed batters while giving up hits and home runs to right-handed batters like Manny Ramirez. Hanley is also right handed but Hiroki Kuroda has shown a very small split between rightys and lefties performing a little bit better against right-handers even. I think Hanley may be cruising towards a no-hit game he's due for while Manny should be getting an extra base hit or two.

Friday, July 24, 2009

July 24th, 2009 Picks

(skip to picks)Thanks to Club Benny, a.k.a. Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv, my streak has been pushed to 6. Yes, it is difficult to retrospect on picks that would have pushed my streak well past 10 over the past few days, but tortoise, hare, and the asshole bear as they say. So on to the picks.

Bnei Yehuda Battle To 1-0 Win In Daugavpils, Book 3rd Round Match With Paços de Ferreira
Bnei Yehuda 1 - 0 Dinaburg
Bnei Yehuda Tel Aviv join fellow Israelis Maccabi Netanyu FC in the third qualifying round of the Europa League.
``Earlier yesterday, Bnei Yehuda put away Dinaburg FC 1-0 their second-round qualifier in the Latvian city, after beating the club 4-0 in last week's first leg. Pedro Galvan set up Eliran Atar for the game's lone goal in the 32nd. "We came here at the peak of concentration and I'm happy we advanced to the next stage," said captain Assi Baldout. The orange-clad squad from south Tel Aviv will now face the winner between Pacos of Portugal and Moldova's Zimbru Chisinau."
Read More....MinutesBnei Yehuda Recap (in Hebrew)Dinaburg Recap (in Russian)

1) What Nation Will The Stage 19 Winner Hail From: Spain or France vs. Any Other Nation - Any other nation
2) Celtic FC vs. Al Ahly - 2 goals or fewer
3) Tottenham Hotspur vs. FC Barçelona - FC Barçelona win
4) Leeds Rhinos @ Wigan Warriors - Wigan wins or loses by less than 8 points
5) St. Louis Cardinals @ Philadelphia Phillies - St. Louis
6) Tampa Bay Rays @ Toronto Blue Jays - Toronto
7) Toronto Argonauts @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Winnipeg
8) Chelsea vs. AC Milan - Chelsea win
9) Atlanta Braves @ Milwaukee Brewers - Atlanta
10) New York Mets @ Houston Astros - New York
11) San Francisco Giants @ Colorado Rockies - Colorado
12) Pittsburgh Pirates @ Arizona Diamondbacks - Pittsburgh
13) Antonio Escalante vs. Cornelius Lock - 8 rounds or fewer
14) Cleveland Indians @ Seattle Mariners - Seattle
15) Josh Johnson vs. Clayton Kershaw - Kershaw records more strikeouts
16) Calgary Stampeders @ BC Lions - Calgary


Riders will roll into Aubenas, a first time stage town, after 178km.
1) This Tour de France is a bit anti-climactic as Alberto Contador pretty much had the yellow jersey wrapped up before yesterday's time trials and merely cemented his position by winning that stage as well. The main focus for Team Astana should be avoiding crashes and simply keeping up with everybody else. Stage 19 has been touted as a stage for aggressive cyclists meaning whoever decides to make a break early on has a good chance of winning the stage. Looking at the stage profile it's a mostly flat stage but without many sprint for points sections. There's a category 2 climb near the end up Col de l'Escrinet before a flat and fast final five kilometers.
Tour de France - Stage 19 Odds
3 of 8 cyclists with worse than 20/1 odds
and better than 30/1 odds from Spain or France.

So the stage itself favors no particular style of racing and the winner will be one of a group of say 6 to 20 cyclists who decide to break away early. It's really a bit of a tossup, so let's look at some odds. The odds in the table to the left are from SkyBet and they are different from odds one might find at BetFair or at WilliamHill. The table to the left shows four of the top six cyclists are from Spain or France but that outside of that top group it's all non-French/non-Spanish cyclists competing. BetFair has three of the top five being Spanish or French cyclists and WilliamHill has Kirchen and Hushovd favored over Freire and Sanchez. I'm going to say `any other nation' since cyclists who aren't overwhelming favorites have a good shot of winning anyways. With the stage wide open and with 99 of 158 of the riders being from any other nation I think they have a decent chance of winning, but it's just a guess.

2) The first thing I looked at for this match were the odds given by some European sports books. SkyBet has under 2.5 goals favored at 8/11 to even odds for the over while BetFair has the under favored at 9/10 to 27/25. WilliamHill has the odds broken down into over/under 2 goals with a bet for 2 goals exactly but even with the odds for 2 exactly combined with under 2 goals WilliamHill favor 3 goals or more. Taking into account the sportsbooks profits SkyBet have the under favored at -116, BetFair has the under favored at -109, and WilliamHill favors the over at -106. So it looks like people can see this going either way and the under tends to be favored since soccer is usually a low scoring sport.

Celtic F.C. look to hone their skills ahead of their Champions League match against Dinamo Moscow while Al-Ahly try to forget a 2-0 loss in the Egyptian Super Cup to Haras El Hodood.

Both teams are coming off matches where they failed to score. Al-Ahly lost in the Egyptian Super Cup to Haras El Hodood 2-0. The match report notes Al-Ahly are under a new coach who is implementing a 4-4-2 formation the team is unfamiliar with and that there was too much space in their central defense. There are video highlights of that loss in the link and to me it looked like Hodood made some very difficult shots. Of course, Celtic F.C. have the talent to make those same shots. Unfortunately for Celtic they were unable to finish their own chances in their 0-0 draw against Cardiff City. It was just a tune-up match for Celtic, but they were still disappointed with the result. They know they'll need to be in top form to take a lead from their first leg match with Dinamo Moscow in Champions League play (note: Al-Ahly is participating in the ACF Champions League, Africa's UEFA counterpart). Celtic's matches with Al-Ahly and on Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur will be tune-ups as well so one can expect some reserves to get some playing time at the half as Celtic try to find the best combination of players on the pitch. Al-Ahly will be without striker Mohammed Barakat but will return midfielder Ahmed Hassan who missed the 2-0 Super Cup loss.

With Al-Ahly still learning the 4-4-2 (incredible, I know) their defense will be suspect and Celtic should be able to take advantage. Celtic scored 2 or more goals in 23 of their 33 league matches last season but only managed to score 3 goals or more in 11 of those matches. With a tough defense that held a clean sheet in 15 matches and solid keepers in Artur Boruc and Lukasz Zaluska it will be difficult for Al-Ahly to score. I think Celtic can win 2-0, but 3-0 against a very good Al-Ahly team might be too much. The odds on this match are close enough that either pick has a good chance of winning.

FC Barçelona kick off their preseason against an injury depleted Tottenham Hotspur and may take the opportunity to give their youth some time on the pitch.
3) FC Barçelona are currently the champions of Europe after beating Manchester United 2-0 in Rome last May. Like Tottenham their domestic league season does not begin until August, and they will probably want to avoid some of the injury woes that have beset their opponents, Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs look to be in some serious trouble with three of their central defenders, Jonathan Woodgate, Michael Dawson and Ledley King, currently out with injury and potentially doubts for the beginning of the season. Additionally, strikers Robbie Keane and Roman Pavlyuchenko are out along with midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng. Spurs still have good attacking players in Darren Bent and Jermain Defoe but their defense will surely be tested by the likes of Thierry Henry and Lionel Messi. While Barçelona will be leaving a few players back home (Carlos Puyol, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Dani Alves to name a few) they will still have some of their best in the lineup and will display high quality even with their reserves. I would expect most of their first line players to be substituted rather early in the match, unless they are losing.

I would expect that even with Messi and Henry playing only half the match that FC Barçelona's reserves would be strong enough to merit being heavy favorites against Tottenham, but perhaps we're underestimating the North London club. Sportsbooks seem to have Tottenham as only slight underdogs. SkyBet, for example, has FC Barçelona at +110 to win, a draw at +200, and Tottenham to win at +225 which comes out to Tottenham win or draw at -135 and FC Barçelona at +135 without the sportsbooks profits. To me Barçelona should still come out on top in this match. They will want to show well their first time out after winning the treble and give an entertaining match to their fans in London.

St. Louis tries to deal Philadelphia's J.A. Happ his first loss of the season with Joel Pineiro on the mound. The Phillies are 6-5 in games where Happ starts.
5) This is probably one of my more bold (awful) predictions of the day. The Phillies are white hot offensively and are starting J.A. Happ who is 7-0 to start the season, never mind that Philadelphia is 6-5 when he starts. Philadelphia is batting .261 in their past three games despite getting caught in a 13 inning low-scoring win against the Cubs. Where the Phillies have been lacking is their slugging with a .361 average in those games. They have too many power hitters to keep that up for long but it's not going to help that they're facing Joel Pineiro today. Pineiro is sporting a 1.66 ground ball to fly ball ratio through 18 starts this season and has yielded only 3 home runs so far. He's also demonstrated excellent command by walking only 12 batters through 1221/3 innings. He also has yet to walk a batter in his last four starts spanning 292/3 innings.

Philadelphia has one of the elite offenses in the Majors, however, scoring 41.4% of baserunners. That Pineiro is unlikely to put many men on base through balls could be a big factor in St. Louis winning this game. I think the pitching matchup overall favors the Cardinals. Even though Happ has the lower ERA he's done so through fewer innings and has been fortunate to give up only 11 home runs with a mediocre ground ball to fly ball ratio of 0.64. Pineiro also has a better grasp of a wider variety of pitches and he likes to switch around which pitch he favors. It's difficult to pick against the Phillies but I think Happ is overdue to be knocked around for 4 to 5 runs which may be all the Cardinals need to win here. Recently acquired Julio Lugo may provide the needed kick against the left-handed Happ so keep an eye on the pre-game lineups to see if he'll be in.

Josh Johnson (left, 5.74 SO/gm, 7.7 K/9) faces off against Clayton Kershaw (right, 5.47 SO/gm, 8.7 K/9) tonight.
15) The Florida Marlins continue their West coast road trip with a series against the Los Angeles Dodgers after sweeping the San Diego Padres. Los Angeles owns the best record in baseball at 61-34 and have been a half-game better at home than the Yankees at 33-15. The starting pitchers are the focus of tonight's matchup, however, as we look to whether Josh Johnson or Clayton Kershaw will record more strikeouts. The table on the right gives some relevant statistics on the two pitchers. Josh Johnson averages more strikeouts per game than Kershaw, but by less than one. He does have a higher median meaning he has fewer low strikeout games. In fact, he has thrown 5 or fewer strikeouts in only 8 of 19 starts whereas Kershaw has failed to break 5 strikeouts in 13 of his 19 starts. Kershaw has been plagued by inefficiency and has failed to make it through 6 innings in 9 of his starts so while his overall strikeout numbers are low his K/9 is greater than Josh Johnson's. So far this season Johnson has pitched one more inning per game than Kershaw.
Strikeout Stats
J. JohnsonC. Kershaw
Median SO65
5 K or less813
Both pitchers have started 19 games.

Lately Kershaw has been more dependable going for 6 or more innings in five of his past six starts. Johnson can generally be counted on to complete seven innings. So, one thing to keep in mind here is that Johnson is likely to have an extra inning or two to work with in getting strikeouts. The one factor I think tips the scales in favor of Kershaw is that he's pitching against the Marlins. Florida ranks 29th in the Majors in terms of plate appearances per strikeout while the Dodgers rank 11th. True to form the Marlins were struck out 9 times by Kershaw earlier this season. I like Kershaw to strike out the Fish again tonight, but it's definitely no gimme with Josh Johnson capable of going a full nine.