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And So It Goes....

Overall: 7-1-0 (0.875)
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

May 11th, 2009 Picks

Oh man, my 5 streak went down the drain as I followed the herd and took the Lakers. I mean I knew the Rockets could play competitively without Yao or Mutumbo, but I thought the Lakers would at least play a tiny bit of defense. Magic Johnson put it best when he said it was embarrassing for a Lakers team to put forth that kind of defensive performance.

I avoided Rashard Lewis afterwards, NBA having shafted me and all, and took the Tampa Bay Rays. Papelbon was a whiz after allowing batters on 1st and 3rd with no outs. He struck out Carlos Pena, who found it prudent to swing the bat with the count 1 and 3. Upton and Crawford fared no better, getting balls when they rested the bat and strikes when they swung it. Bitterness aside the Red Sox did well to get 3 runs off of Garza and their relief pitching was 100% solid. Ah well, on to the picks. It's only going to get better.

1) Deccan Chargers vs. Rajasthan Royals – Rajasthan
2) Middlesbrough @ Newcastle United – Middlesbrough win or draw
3) Washington Capitals @ Pittsburgh Penguins – Pittsburgh
4) Chicago White Sox @ Cleveland Indians – Cleveland
5) Delonte West vs. Josh Smith – West pts. and ast.
6) Atlanta Braves @ New York Mets – New York
7) Vancouver Canucks @ Chicago Blackhawks – Vancouver
8) Denver Nuggets @ Dallas Mavericks – Denver
9) Cincinnati Reds @ Arizona Diamondbacks – Cincinnati
10) Washington Nationals @ San Francisco Giants – Washington

1) Hyderabad Deccan Chargers and Rajasthan Royals are tied in the standings with 5 wins apiece and the Chargers with a game in hand. You can find the standings for the Indian Premier at www.iplt20.com. Deccan lost to Rajasthan on May 2nd, the last time they played. It was a very close game, however, with Rajasthan winning by 3 wickets with 2 innings, out of 120, left. Since then Rajasthan have continued their good form, winning by 78 runs over a Kings XI Punjab team who have allowed 138 runs per match so far this season. They also won by 7 wickets with a full 30 innings remaining over Bangalore Royal Challengers. Deccan Chargers have continued to lose a series of close games, most recently by 3 wickets with 1 inning remaining to the same Kings XI Punjab team Rajasthan beat so soundly. As usual Cricinfo have a terrific preview of the match. Another nice preview can be found at The Hindu. The consensus seems to be that Rajasthan have superior bowling ability and that will give them the edge in this match. If Deccan are to win they will need big performances from Gibbs, Gilchrist, and especially Symonds with Dwayne Smith being tied to his West Indies side for a test match. You can check each sides homepage for stats and news by clicking on their logos. I think Deccan Chargers have a good shot to win this match, they should not be losing so many matches so closely, but I will go with the team with the better recent form. Of course, we all know how quickly teams can go from hot to cold in baseball, and I expect it's much the same in cricket.

2) Widely considered one of the biggest relegation battles of the season and one of the most important Tyne-Tees 'derbys' ever. Both Newcastles United and Middlesbrough would catch Hull City for the last safety position in terms of points, though Middlesbrough would need a 2-0 victory to catch Hull in terms of goal differential. Still, both teams are battling to avoid relegation and I expect they will give it their best. Both teams have been in rather poor form recently, with Middlesbrough going 1-1-3 in their past 5 matches, and 0-0-5 in their past 5 away matches. Newcastle United are 0-2-3 in their past 5 matches at home, and overall with one of those draws being against Everton. There is a good preview from goal.com who predict a 1-1 draw out of this match. The EPL webpage also carries a preview of the match. They point out the injury concerns and suspensions for each side very clearly. Middlesbrough is missing captain Pogatetz and Riggott on defense, and Newcastle United is missing Joey Barton at midfield, Enrique on defense, and Ameobi at forward. The odds on a Newcastle United win are around 45.8% to 47.4%. The draw gets the next best odds, around 27.3% to 28.6%, and a Middlesbrough win around 24.7% to 25.8%, though the injuries to Riggott and Pogatetz hurt 'Boro's chances. If I had to guess the score it would be 0-0, a draw.

4) Both the White Sox and the Indians are coming off of poor series, with the White Sox going 1-2 against Texas and scoring 4 runs in those three games and the Indians going 0-3 against Detroit while scoring 3 runs. Both teams batted under .200 and slugged under .225 in those series. The starting pitching for tonight's game is cause for hope in both teams. Gavin Floyd has an ERA of 6.29 and a WHIP of 1.75 this season and is coming off a 6 run, 6 hit, 5 inning outing against the Royals. Carl Pavano has a 6.61 ERA and 1.53 WHIP this season, but has been doing rather well lately. His first start of the season put his numbers in a hole when he pitched 1 inning and gave up 9 runs against Texas. In his past 131/3 innings pitched he's given up only 4 runs on 11 hits. Cleveland and Chicago have each enjoyed success against the opposing pitcher, with Chicago batting .268 in 41 at bats against Pavano and Cleveland batting .323 in 62 at bats against Floyd. With both teams due to rebound in the hits department I would give the advantage to Cleveland who have better overall batting numbers this season than the Sox and who have a pitcher on the mound who has been successful recently. Their bullpen won't help out any, but I think they'll have a large enough lead after 6 to get the win.

5) The Cleveland Cavaliers look to sweep the Atlanta Hawks and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. It's nearly assured with the way the Cavs have been playing in these playoffs and so the matchup today pairs Delonte West's points and assists on the road against Josh Smith's points at home. Looking at the two it appears to be a very even matchup. Delonte West has averaged 14 points and assists on the road during the season and through the playoffs while Smith has averaged 15.8 points at home. Looking at their numbers facing the opposition, however, the advantage goes to Delonte West with their numbers being switched. In Atlanta this season West has had 14, 16, and 14 points and assists, while Smith has had 12, 8, and 18 points against the Cavaliers at home. Looking at their histograms it appears that each player is about as likely to score above or below their average as they are to score right at their average. If Josh Smith puts in an inspired performance in this elimination game he should win easily, but Delonte West has been pretty steady in netting 15 assists and points. It's very close, so bet on Smith if you believe he will pull out his best game of the year against Cleveland tonight.

8) The Denver Nuggets are also looking to sweep their opponents, the Dallas Mavericks. Game 3 ended with the Nuggets winning after a controversial finish, where Antoine Wright attempted to foul Carmelo Anthony intentionally. When the foul was not called Anthony continued to get in position and sink a game winning three-pointer with 1 second remaining. The Dallas Mavericks played their guts out in that game, with strong defense helping the Nuggets along to 6 of 24 shooting (.250) in the first quarter. They did a terrific job playing with the Nuggets on the fast break, limiting their chances at open layups or dunks. It would be understandable if the Mavericks came out a bit deflated and were unable to match that intensity from Game 3, but that wouldn't befit a playoff basketball team. The Mavericks should come out with just as much, if not more intensity that the Nuggets will be hard pressed to match. We all saw what happened to the Lakers when they played the Rockets without Yao Ming, and they weren't even in as secure a position with the series 2-1 instead of 3-0 as it is here. Still, I think the Nuggets will play better offensively than they did in Game 3 and that should at least partially make up for the drop off in defense I see coming from the Nuggets. What it adds up to is another close game that will come down to the wire. I have Denver winning here by putting faith in their killer instinct. If they drop off on the defensive end by much they won't be able to pull off another miracle win like they did in Game 3. If you think the Nuggets will be satisfied with a series win in Denver in Game 5 then you would do well to take the Mavericks here.

10) The Washington Nationals still have the worse record in baseball, but after wins against the Cardinals, Astros, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks are only a game or two behind Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Colorado, and Oakland. A big part of their recent success has been a surge of offense from Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Cristian Guzman. For the season the Nationals are batting .274 and slugging .438 which is significantly better than the Giants' numbers, .247 batting and .354 slugging. San Francisco is 2-1 in their last three games, and even though they have been batting well they really haven't been able to get any extra bases out of their hits. They will be facing Daniel Cabrera who has a 4.85 ERA and 1.82 WHIP so far this season. Cabrera has a tendency to walk batters and it gets him into trouble and keeps him from going past 5 innings many times. I can see the Giants finding some long balls against Cabrera and scoring 4 or 5 runs before Cabrera is relieved before the 6th inning. The big question for this game is which Randy Johnson will show up. He pitched against Colorado in his last two starts, pitching 7 scoreless innings in one start and then giving up 7 earned runs in 52/3 innings in his very next start. If Johnson shuts down the Nationals it will be a win for the Giants, but if Zimmmerman, Dunn, and Guzman can swing at the right pitches the Giants will find themselves in a difficult hole to climb out of. Even if Johnson does not give up 7 earned runs, if he is unable to pitch late into the game the Nationals will have the advantage batting against the bullpen.

May 10th, 2009 Picks

1-0-0 today, and I'll consider myself beyond lucky to have gotten it. After I passed on Kenny Perry, Fulham, Tiger Woods' 69 or worse third round, the Rays, and the Braves I knew I had to get one before my picks started to go south, so I took the Denver Nuggets. It was brutal watching their performance in the first half, with so many shots of every kind just refusing to fall. It was a tad heartening to see them actually up 3 at the half, but I had a feeling they were on a path to defeat.

The second half was a close fought battle all the way, but it appeared the Mavericks had momentum on their side, especially after Jason Terry's late three put them up four points. Carmelo Anthony made a dunk with 28 seconds remaining, and Nowitzki followed it with a miss and Denver got the rebound with 6 seconds left. Out of the timeout they ran an isolation play for Anthony who nearly lost the ball while moving to the right wing. Antoine Wright appeared to foul Anthony but the whistle was not blown and 'Melo followed through with a go-ahead three pointer with a second left! Dallas missed their catch and shoot opportunity and the Nuggets won Game 3 106-105.

After that result I knew I'd better stay away from any of the other matchups. So on to the picks.

1) Ernie Els vs. Geoff Ogilvy – Els cards a lower front 9 score
2) Chelsea @ Arsenal – Arsenal win
3) St. Louis Cardinals @ Cincinnati Reds – Cincinnati
4) Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers – Chicago
5) Alex Cejka vs. Rest Of Field – Cejka wins the tournament
6) Juventus @ AC Milan – AC Milan win
7) Kansas City Royals @ Los Angeles Angels – Los Angeles
8) Los Angeles Lakers @ Houston Rockets – Los Angeles
9) San Francisco Giants @ Los Angeles Dodgers – San Francisco
10) Ryan Getzlaf vs. Johan Franzen – Getzlaf goals and ast.
11) Carolina Hurricanes @ Boston Bruins – Carolina
12) Ray Allen vs. Rashard Lewis – Lewis pts.
13) Tampa Bay Rays @ Boston Red Sox – Tampa Bay

1) Geoff Ogilvy has been having a very good Tour this year. He’s made the cut in all 10 events he’s participated in and has two wins already on his way to making over $3 million. Ernie Els has been fairly impressive in his own right, making the cut in 11 of 12 events participated in, but with only two top 10 finishes to his credit. The two events Els finished in the top 10, the WGC Accenture Match Play tournament and the Mercedes-Benz Open, happen to be the two events Ogilvy has come away the winner. Results-wise then Ogilvy has been the better golfer this year. A quick look at Ernie Els’ stats and Geoff Ogilvy’s stats shows Ogilvy has a slightly better scoring average and a fairly large advantage in putting average. He also averages one more birdie per round than Els. The one stat where Els has an advantage is driving accuracy and that has held true in this tournament, with Els driving 59.5% of his fairways through three rounds and Ogilvy driving 47.6% of his. On the front 9 Els has been better too, with 8 birdies, 2 bogeys, and 1 double bogey compared to 6 birdies and 5 bogeys for Ogilvy. Els has also had a lower putting average per green in regulation in this tournament. Since 2001 Els has an average front 9 score of -0.3, and a median score of even par in 29 rounds at Sawgrass, though he’s carded 2 under par more often than any other score. Geoff Ogilvy has an average score of even par and a median score of -1 in 21 rounds at Sawgrass since 2001. Since 2005, however, Els has been a bit better, with an average score of -0.4 and a median score of even par in 19 rounds while still carding 2 under par more often than any other score. Ogilvy has an average score of +0.5 and a median score of even par, while carding 1 under par most often in 15 rounds. Ogilvy has had 7 of those 15 rounds at even par or better on the front 9, while Els has 13 of 19 rounds at even par or better. This will be only the 4th time in 8 tries Ogilvy has made the cut at TPC Sawgrass, where his previous final round front nine scores have been even par, -2, and +3. This will be the 7th time in 8 tries Els has made the cut, with his final round scores being even par, -2, -4, -1, +1, and -2. The historical performance only slightly favors Els, but I’ll go with the player who has done better on the front 9 this weekend and has had the more accurate drives.

Ogilvy has bogeyed the first and third holes shown above the past two rounds each. Els double bogeyed the middle hole last round. Click on the image for a Readers Digest tour of TPC Sawgrass.

2) Chelsea visit the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal with both teams coming off of disappointing Champions League exits. Disappointing for Arsenal because of their poor overall form, and disappointing for Chelsea because their superior form was not enough to overcome a single goal after 183 minutes of shutting the opposition out. Arsenal will want to regain some of their form which has seen them go undefeated in Premier League play against Manchester United, Chelsea, and Liverpool so far this season. Chelsea will be looking to put the past behind them and play with the same form and added composure. Here is a preview from SkySports which foresees both Arshavin and Drogba starting for this match. The Daily Mirror, a British tabloid, had five analysts make predictions with three calling for a win by Arsenal, one a win by Chelsea, and one a draw.They point out Arsenal have won only twice in 13 previous matches against Chelsea in any competition. Goal.com offers a 2-2 draw as a prediction. Then there is a great preview with a number of trends from BBC News. Notably, Chelsea has not had much success in the Premier League against the Big Four, with only a single draw to go along with a string of losses thus far. Finally, the Daily Telegraph offers a short preview. They highlight the matchup between Theo Walcott and Ashley Cole and have neither Drogba nor Arshavin in each team's probable Starting XI. I have to give Arsenal the advantage at home with Almunia and their defense conceding fewer goals at the Emirates than Cech and Co. have conceded away from Stamford Bridge. Based on that I computed odds of 38.5% for an Arsenal win, 30.9% for a Chelsea win, and 30.6% for a draw. SkyBet has fractional odds that convert to 37.9% for an Arsenal win, 32.9% for a Chelsea win, and 29.2% for a draw. The online books cataloged by livegoals.com have Chelsea's odds a couple of percentage points better at the expense of Arsenal's odds. Chelsea really has appeared to be the better side recently, but there is a lot of history that suggests Arsenal will get the result here.

3) The Cincinnati Reds look to complete a 3 game sweep of the visiting St. Louis Cardinals today with Edinson Volquez on the mound. Volquez started out the season a bit rough against the Mets and the Brewers. Since then he's recorded 27 terrific innings, allowing 4 earned runs and 9 hits total. He does have a tendency to walk a large number of batters, but his high ground out-to-fly out ratio, over 1.20, helps him get out of jams. The Reds' recent string of success is also due to strong hitting. In their past three games, all victories, they have batted .330 and have a slugging average of .543, which is about as good as it gets in the Majors. They will attempt to maintain that level of offense against Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has done well for the Cardinals, racking up a 3-1 record with a 4.08 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in his first six starts of the season. He is coming off a poor performance against the Phillies in which he pitched for 6 innings and gave up 6 earned runs off of 9 hits. The Cardinals have also been slumping at the plate, with a .237 batting average and .318 slugging average in their last three games. I imagine the Reds will hit worse than they have been, and the Cardinals a bit better, but not too much so with Wainwright still allowing hits and Volquez limiting the Cardinals' return to normalcy.

6) AC Milan have been playing incredible football lately, having overtaken Juventus for 2nd place in Serie A. Their last 5 matches have been wins, outscoring their opponents 13 to 1, including a 3-0 defeat of 7th place Palermo. Juventus have been going the opposite direction recently, having not won a match since March, a 4-1 thrashing at AS Roma. Since then they have suddenly been unable to keep the opposition out of the net, racking up a string of 4 draws and a 2-3 loss away at Genoa. Two of those draws were at home against relegation clubs Lecce and Chievo Verona. Both teams have their fair share of injury concerns and you can see a list of them in this terrific goal.com preview. Nobody has had trouble recently scoring on Juventus, so the main concern for A.C. Milan is the health of their second string keeper Nelson Dida. If he is unable to play then their third stringer, Zeljko Kalac, would be slotted to make his first start of the season. Dida has been named to the squad and you can see the other Rossoneri who have been called up at Milan's homepage by clicking on their logo. Based on the overall form for the season I would give AC Milan a 46.6% chance of winning, or about +115 on a money line. Based on each team's form form their previous 10 matches I would put AC Milan at 52.3% or about -110. The big questions here are whether Dida or Kalac will be in goal for AC Milan, and whether Juventus will continue their poor form of the past month.

7) The Kansas City Royals were beginning to look like they had truly improved from last season, going 8-1 from the end of April into the beginning of May, before hitting a major road black in the Los Angeles Angels. Including their 3-1 victory over Washburn and the Mariners the Royals are 1-2 while scoring just 4 runs in their last three games. They've only managed to bat .180 and at .213 their slugging percentage has been atrocious. The Royals will start Kyle Davies on the mound, who started well, but has also been having problems lately. He started out decently, pitching 6 or 7 innings and yielding three earned runs or so, nothing too terrible. Since then he has pitched 15 innings, giving up 23 hits, and 16 earned runs. He has walked 8 batters, which is not bad, but has only struck out 4. One of those games was a 5 innings stone which the Royals won, showing how important their batting has been to their success. He will certainly need run support against the Angels who have found plenty of offense without Vlad Guerrero behind Napoli and Matthews, and even Figgins and Izturis. Kansas City may be able to get that support off of Shane Loux who has been an off-and-on pitcher this season. He's on at the moment, however, with a couple of 1 run, 5 hit, performances most recently. I think Loux will aid in continuing the Royals' woes and the Angels will find themselves up early. With their bullpen starting to perform well it's a lead they should keep.

9) Starting for the Giants tonight is Tim Lincecum, the freak of nature. He's fairly diminutive compared to many pitchers out there, but his stuff is about as nasty as it gets. Still, he's young, and as you can see to the left even Lincecum gets rocked for a home run here and there. In 85 at bats against Lincecum the Dodgers have a batting average of .235 and a slugging average of .329, so while Lincecum slows them up, and can shut them down, they can also hit off of him. I have a sneaking suspicion that Lincecum will be having a difficult time tonight in this game. Not so difficult that he is relieved early in the game, but difficult enough that the Giants will have a hard time providing him with enough run support. San Francisco is batting .252 and slugging .330 in their last three games, and were shut out yesterday against the Dodgers. Jeff Weaver has thrown 9 scoreless innings so far this season, but before he left the majors for a year in 2008 the Angels' lineup had his number. In 86 at bats they had 3 home runs, slugging for .453 and batting .256 off of Weaver. I'll pick with Lincecum to hold the Dodgers' heads in the dirt, but let me go on record as saying I have a bad feeling about this one.

12) I'll let the graph do most of the talking. The curves represent a Poisson distribution of points based on each players' average number of points. One of them is based on their points on the road, for Ray Allen, and at home, for Rashard Lewis. The second curve is based on their average number of points against the opposition, Boston or Orlando, from both home and road games. The bars are a histogram of games with a certain number of points, with the second set of bars being for the games against the opposition. Ray Allen's average includes his 51 point game but was left off the graph to fit everything in. Allen scores more points on the road than Lewis does at home but Rashard Lewis averages more against Boston than Allen does against Orlando. I think Lewis represents a mismatch for whoever the Celtics use to defend him, and Courtney Lee can do a good job against Allen and that is why you see a disparity in their points production.