Articles

Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB Previews and Odds - 08/02/2021

by Big Al Staff

Monday, Aug 02, 2021

The Monday sports card features action in MLB. Eight games are on the MLB slate.Toronto hosts Cleveland at 3:07 PM ET in the opening game of their four-game series. The Blue Jays have won four in a row after their 5-1 victory against Kansas City on Sunday. The Indians have lost two of three after a 2-1 loss in Chicago against the White Sox yesterday. Toronto pitches Robbie Ray against Cleveland’s Eli Morgan. The Blue Jays are a -310 money line favorite with the total set at 9.5.Philadelphia visits Washington on ESPN at 7:05 PM ET in the opening game of their four-game series. The Phillies ended a two-game losing streak with a 15-4 victory at Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Nationals won their fourth game in their last six with a 6-5 victory against the Chicago Cubs. Philadelphia pitches Ranger Suarez against the recently acquired Josiah Gray for Washington. The Phillies are a -125 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9.The New York Yankees are at home against Baltimore at 7:05 PM ET. The Yankees have won five of their last six games with their 3-1 win at Miami yesterday. The Orioles’ two-game winning streak ended with a 6-2 loss in Detroit. Andrew Headley makes his debut for the Yankees against Jorge Lopes for Baltimore. New York is a -240 money line favorite with a total of 9.5. The New York Mets travel to Miami at 7:10 PM ET in the opening game of their four-game series. The Mets have lost three of four games after a 7-1 loss to Cincinnati yesterday. The Marlins have lost four in a row after their loss to the Yankees yesterday. New York pitches Tylor McGill against a starting pitcher yet to be determined for Miami. The Mets are a -150 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7. Tampa Bay hosts Seattle at 7:10 PM ET in the first game of their three-game series. The Rays have won four in a row after their 3-2 victory against Boston yesterday. The Mariners lost their fourth game in five in a 4-3 loss at Texas on Sunday. Michael Wacha pitches Tampa Bay against Chris Flexen for Seattle. The Rays are a -155 money line favorite with a total of 8.5. The Los Angeles Angels visit Texas at 8:05 PM ET. The Angels lost their third game in their last four with an 8-3 loss to Oakland yesterday. The Rangers won their second in a row with a 4-3 victory against Seattle. Texas pitches Dane Dunning against a Mariners’ starting pitcher yet to be determined. Milwaukee plays at home against Pittsburgh at 8:10 PM ET. The Brewers won their fifth game in their last six contests with their 2-1 win at Atlanta on Sunday. The Pirates had their two-game winning streak end with a 15-4 loss to Philadelphia yesterday. Eric Lauer pitches for Milwaukee against Bryse Wilson for Pittsburgh. The Brewers are a -225 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. San Francisco visits Arizona at 9:40 PM ET in the first game of their four-game series. The Giants won their fifth game in their last seven in a 5-3 victory against Houston on Sunday. The Diamondbacks have lost two in a row after a 13-0 loss against the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday. San Francisco pitches Anthony DeSclafani against Arizona’s Taylor Widener. The Giants are a -160 money line road favorite with a total of 8.5.

Read more

2021 CFL Preview: Montreal Alouettes

by Sean Murphy

Monday, Aug 02, 2021

We continue our series of CFL team previews heading into the 2021 season with the Montreal Alouettes - the league's upstart team from 2019. Here's what to expect as they try to prove their surprising run to the '19 East Division Semi-Final was no fluke.On offense the Als are relatively set. Vernon Adams Jr. is back under center and one of the most dynamic offensive players in the entire league. He has plenty of support around him as well, with RB William Stanback poised for another big season after putting in time in the NFL. Stanback is a threat both on the ground and through the air and will be critical to the team's offensive success. At wide receiver, the Als added Naaman Roosevelt to a group that already boasted a lot of potential. Rashad Ross is another name to watch as he has impressed throughout training camp and would serve as the perfect compliment to Roosevelt and Geno Lewis.Defensively, the Als need some work. They got picked apart by the league's better offenses in 2019, allowing over 27 points per game, largely due to their inability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks (they posted a league-low 27 sacks). A new-look defensive line should help their cause with the additions of Almondo Sewell and Nick Usher, who both come over from Edmonton. Michael Wakefield joins the line from Ottawa where he was a disruptive force for three seasons. Montreal's linebacking corps could serve as the strength of the defense with plenty of returning talent and a new coach in Mickey Donovan (he formerly led the Als special teams). The Alouettes will have to wait an extra week to start their season as they kick things off on August 14th against Edmonton. The betting marketplace isn't giving Montreal much respect as the Als boast the second-longest odds to win the Grey Cup, currently priced around 10-1 at most books. 

Read more

2021 NFL: Looking at the AFC Over/Under Totals

by Will Rogers

Monday, Aug 02, 2021

AFC EASTCan the Jets get to 7-10 in a season in which the AFC East has three solid teams? Gang Green would probably have to go 2-4 in the division to have a shot at beating the posted 6.5 win total, and it’s hard to see that happening with so much inexperience – including at the two most important spots, quarterback and head coach. New York’s chances of getting to seven wins depends on Zach Wilson having a Justin Herbert-like first season, and the rest of the roster more than pulling its weight for new boss Robert Saleh.***Division favorite Buffalo (10.5) went 6-0 in the East last season, but that is unlikely this time around. OTOH, the Bills have more depth than at any time in the last two decades.***New England’s number (9) seems just about right, but to cash an Over ticket at 10-7 they have to figure out whether they are going to ride it out with Cam Newton or turn the club over to rookie Mac Jones.***Miami is also at 9, and a lot depends on how the Dolphins react to a tough early schedule. There is no easy game until Week 6 (Jacksonville). The Fins got to 10-6 last season, but were even better (11-5) ATS.AFC NORTHSteelers fans weren’t sure that Ben Roethlisberger would be under center again this season, and that pretty much sums up the uncertainty surrounding this franchise. Pittsburgh’s number has been set at a modest 8.5, which befits a team that lost four of its last five last season after starting 11-0. The Steelers are disappearing from annual Super Bowl discussions, and now the question is if – and how – they can maintain their elite status as a playoff team and prevent a slide into the NFL muck. This is perhaps the toughest O / U bet on the board this season.***Will running QB Lamar Jackson actually make it all the way through a 17-game season? Are opponents starting to figure out the Ravens’ offense? If the answer to either question is yes, 11 appears to be a high total.***With an improved secondary and every key player back, Cleveland (10.5) will get a long look from Over players. Getting to 11 would signify that the franchise has indeed turned the corner.***Joe Burrow should be back and healthy, but the low number (6.5) tells us that oddsmakers don’t like the Bengals’ chances in what could be the best division in the NFL.AFC SOUTHCarson Wentz’s foot injury has scrambled the betting for every team in the division. The Colts’ QB still doesn’t know how much time he’ll miss – the team says he will be back at some point in 2021 – and that has taken the Colts’ number completely off the board. Indy was projected at 9.5 before the injury, and that was even with a questionable left side of the O line. Even if the Colts deal for a QB (there was talk of a trade with Minnesota before Covid hit the Vikings’ QB room), the next number will be much lower than 9.5.***If Wentz is missing for the two Titans games (Sept. 26 and Oct. 31), the path to 10 wins (the number is 9.5) gets much easier. A word of caution to those looking at the Over: Tennessee won a lot of tight games last season. If the law of averages catches up with the Titans . . . well, you know.***Jacksonville’s Trevor Lawrence looks like the real deal, but can he drag the Jags to seven wins? The number is 6.5, and seems just about right. They would likely need three wins in the division to get there.***You would think that a team could go 5-12 just by showing up, but this is Houston and the Deshaun Watson mess and a bad roster all-around says that Under players will be cashing even with the total being a meager 4.5.AFC WESTEighty percent of the offensive line will be newcomers, and that’s a bit of a red flag for anyone figuring that an Over play on Kansas City (12.5) is a lock. Still, there is plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball, and the Chiefs have enough depth there to just wear down teams over the course of the season. Going 5-1 in the division is more than reasonable as the Chargers, Broncos and Raiders are all in the decent-but-not-yet-there muddle.***The Chargers’ number has been pinned at 9.5, so bettors need to decide if LA has improved enough to go 10-7. Only two games last season were blowouts.***The Broncos (8.5) are another team that could go anywhere, but without a franchise QB it’s hard to justify an Over play. There is talent up and down the roster, though, but perhaps not enough to complete for the last of a playmaking QB.***Join the club if you can’t figure out what’s going on in Sin City, where the Raiders (7) have been hemorrhaging players and the quarterback situation always is fluid until David Carr wins the job back.

Read more

Sunday MLB Baseball on ESPN: Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays Preview and Odds - 08/01/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Aug 01, 2021

Sunday MLB ESPN Preview: Boston Red Sox versus the Tampa Bay Rays.The Tampa Bay Rays host the Boston Red Sox on ESPN at 7:08 PM ET to conclude their three-game series. The Rays won their third straight game in a 9-5 victory against the Red Sox. Rookie Wander Franco gave Tampa Bay the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning with a triple before producing a run-scoring single in the bottom of the eighth inning. Ji-Man Choi and Francisco Mejia both clubbed home runs. The win elevated the Rays into first place in the American League East with a 63-42 record. They have won eight of their last 11 games. Manager Kevin Cash’s team averages 5.0 runs per game, with a .233 batting average, a .309 on-base percentage, and an OPS of .716. Brandon Lowe leads the team with 22 home runs. He has 52 RBIs and a .223 batting average. Randy Arozarena is hitting .257 with 14 homers and 48 RBIs. Auston Meadows has 20 homers and a team-leading 76 RBIs that accompany his .242 batting average. Shane McClanahan takes the mound for Tampa Bay tonight. The left-hander gave up three runs in six innings of work in his last start against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. He has a 4-4 record this season with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. The Rays’ bullpen has a 3.17 ERA and a 1.28 WHIP. They have earned 27 saves and blown 11 of their save opportunities. Boston is out of first place in the AL East for the first time since June 28th. They have allowed 29 runs during their three-game losing streak. Their pitching staff has had a team ERA of 4.93 since the All-Star break. They have a league-leading 32 comeback victories this season.The Red Sox got home runs from Xander Bogaerts and Bobby Dalbec in their losing effort on Saturday. Manager Alex Cora’s team averages 5.0 runs per game, with a .257 batting average, .315 On-Base Percentage, and an OPS of .755. Bogaerts leads the team with a .309 batting average. He has added 16 home runs and 55 RBIs. Rafael Devers leads Boston with 27 homers and 87 RBIs. He is hitting .286. J.D. Martinez is hitting .289 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs.Nick Pivetta takes the ball for Boston tonight. The right-hander has an 8-4 record with a 4.51 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP in 20 starts. He pitched last Monday at home against Toronto, allowing four runs in 4 2/3 innings of work. The Red Sox bullpen has a 3.70 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. The pen has collected 34 saves but blown 14 save opportunities after yesterday’s setback.Boston gets tomorrow off before continuing their ten-game road trip with a three-game series in Detroit against the Tigers. Tampa Bay hosts Seattle tomorrow in Game 1 of their three-game series with the Mariners that concludes a nine-game homestand.DraftKings lists Tampa Bay as a -170 money line favorite, with the total set at 9.

Read more

CONCACAF Gold Cup Preview: USA vs Mexico - 08/01/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Aug 01, 2021

Sunday CONCACAF Gold Cup Finals Preview: Mexico versus the USA.The knockout stage of the CONCACAF Gold Cup concludes on Sunday with the championship match between Mexico and the United States. The game is on FS1 at 8:30 PM ET. Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is the site.Mexico advanced to the finals with their 2-1 victory against Canada in the semifinals on Thursday. Orbelin Pineda got El Tri on the scoreboard in the second minute of stoppage time in the first half. Les Rouges leveled the score in the 12th minute into the second half with Tajon Buchanan’s goal. The match appeared destined for a 30-minute extra period before Hector Herrera scored the dramatic game-winning goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time in the second half. El Tri reached the semifinals with a 3-0 victory against Honduras on Saturday. Rogelio Funes Mori opened the scoring with a goal in the 26th minute. Jonathan dos Santos added a second goal five minutes later. Pineda gave Mexico their final goal seven minutes later. Manager Gerardo Martino’s group won Group B with a 1-0 victory against El Salvador in their final group stage match. Mexico opened their defense of the 2019 Gold Cup title with a 0-0 draw with Trinidad and Tobago. They followed that up with a 3-0 victory against Guadeloupe. El Tri has scored nine goals and had not conceded a goal in their first four matches before Canada blemished their perfect defensive record on Thursday. Martino has assembled most of the nation’s top players to compete in this event. The notable exceptions on the roster were forwards Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Raul Jimenez, and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. Mexico lost for Napoli forward Hirving “Chucky” Lozano for the tournament after incurring a head injury in the opening match against Trinidad and Tobago. Mexico is led by Porto forward Jesus Corona, Atletico Madrid midfielder Hector Herrera, and Ajax defender Edson Alvarez. El Tri is ranked 11th in the world by FIFA. The ELO ratings place them 15th. The US Men’s National Team advanced to the finals with their victory against Qatar in their semifinal match on Thursday. Gyasi Yardes scored the lone goal for the Americans in the 86th minute. The Stars and Stripes beat Jamaica, 1-0, in the quarterfinals last Sunday. That match was deadlocked until the 83rd minute when Matthew Hope scored the lone goal for the Americans. The Yanks began the tournament with a 1-0 win against Haiti before a 6-1 thumping against Martinique in their second match. They got their lone goal from Shaquell Moore in the first minute against Canada to give the USMNT their third victory in their three group stage matches. The USMNT has scored ten times and conceded only one goal. Team USA claimed the CONCACAF Nations League title last month with a 3-2 victory in extra time against Mexico. This rematch offers the Stars and Stripes the opportunity to win the Gold Cup for the eighth time after last winning the first place trophy in 2017. They finished in second place to Mexico in the 2019 Gold Cup. Manager Gregg Berhalter is testing his B team at this event, with many of the players that lifted the trophy last month now training with their professional teams. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna, Werner Bremen’s Josh Sargent, and Manchester City’s Zack Steffan did not compete. Nineteen of the 23 players on Berhalter’s roster play on an MLS squad, led by Orlando City striker Daryl Dike. The Yanks are on a 13-1-1 run in their last 15 matches. They have not lost on home soil since an upset loss to Venezuela in a friendly on June 9th, 2019. In their most recent 14 games in the United States, the USMNT has scored 50 goals and has conceded only five times, with ten clean sheets. FIFA ranks the USA at 20th in the world. The ELO ratings place them 22nd. MGM lists Mexico as a -0.5 goal line favorite with the total set at 2.5.

Read more

Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB and CONCACAF Gold Cup Previews and Odds - 08/01/2021

by Big Al Staff

Sunday, Aug 01, 2021

The Sunday sports card features action in MLB and the CONCACAF Gold Cup.Fifteen games are on the MLB slate. Two games start at 1:05 PM ET. Philadelphia plays at Pittsburgh to conclude their three-game series. The Phillies pitch Kyle Gibson in his debut with the team after he was acquired at the trade deadline from the Texas Rangers. The Pirates pitch Mitch Keller. Philadelphia is a -145 money line road favorite with the total set at 9 (all MLB odds from DraftKings). Washington hosts the Chicago Cubs in the final game of their three-game series. Erick Fedde pitches for the Nationals against the Adbert Alzolay of the Cubs. Washington is a -115 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Toronto is at home against Kansas City at 1:07 PM ET. The Royals pitch Brad Keller against a Blue Hays starting pitcher yet to be determined. Toronto is a -280 money line favorite with a total of 10.Three games start at 1:10 PM ET. The New York Yankees play at Miami in the final game of their three-game series. Jordan Montgomery pitches for the Yankees against a Marlins pitcher yet to be named. New York is a -155 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7. The New York Mets are at home against Cincinnati in the third game of their three-game series. The Mets pitch Marcus Stroman against the Reds’ Vladimir Gutierrez. Detroit hosts Baltimore in the final game of their four-game series. The Tigers send out Tyler Alexander to face the Orioles’ Spenser Watkins. Detroit is a -130 money line favorite with a total of 10. Atlanta plays at home against Milwaukee at 1:20 PM ET. Charlie Morton pitches for the Braves against Brett Andersson of the Brewers. Atlanta is a -155 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Chicago White Sox are at home against Cleveland on TBS at 2:10 PM ET. The White Sox pitch Dylan Cease against the Indians Cal Quantrill. Chicago is a -210 money line favorite with a total of 8.5. St. Louis hosts Minnesota at 2:15 PM ET. Adam Wainwright pitches for the Cardinals against Michael Pineda of the Twins. St. Louis is a -140 money line favorite with an over/under of 8. Seattle concludes their three-game series at Texas at 2:35 PM ET. The Mariners pitch Marcos Gonzales against the Rangers Mike Foltynewicz. Seattle is a -145 money line road favorite with a total of 9.San Francisco plays at home against Houston at 4:05 PM ET. Logan Webb pitches for the Giants against Luis Garcia of the Astros. San Francisco is a -115 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Los Angeles Angels are at home against Oakland at 4:07 PM ET. The Angels tap Reid Detmers to make his professional debut against the A’s James Kaprielian. Los Angeles is a -130 money line favorite with a total of 10. Two games start at 4:10 PM ET. San Diego hosts Colorado in the final game of their four-game series. The Padres pitch Chris Paddack against the Rockies Austin Gomber. San Diego is a -170 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The Los Angeles Dodgers are at Arizona in the third game of their three-game series. Julio Urias pitches for the Dodgers against Caleb Smith of the Diamondbacks. Los Angeles is a -250 money line road favored with a total of 9. Boston plays at Tampa Bay on ESPN at 7:08 PM ET. The Red Sox pitch Nick Pivetta against the Rays’ Shane McClanahan. Tampa Bay is a -140 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. The finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup take place on FS1 at 8:30 PM ET. Mexico reached the finals with their 2-1 win against Canada in the semifinals on Thursday. The United States joined them with a 1-0 win against Qatar on Thursday. MGM lists Mexico as a -0.5 goal line favorite with a total of 2.5. Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas is the site of the match. 

Read more

Combating Losing Streaks: My Self-Audit Process

by Hollywood Sports

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Losing streaks are inevitable. If a bettor is making one to four bets a day on average (and more during football and college basketball season), then there are going to be some dry stretches over those 1000 or so tickets. The key to long-term betting success is not avoiding losing streaks as much as how to handle losing streak. First and foremost, do no harm. Don’t chase bad money with good money. Now is the time to remain ever-vigilant in maintaining your standards regarding what is a worthwhile situation for investment and what is not. Stay consistent. For me, if I am not handicapping well, it is because I have lost the balance between my qualitative analysis and my handicapping fundamentals. By qualitative analysis, I mean my understanding and appreciation of what is going on between the two teams in question. Do I have the right take on a team being undervalued or overvalued? Am I missing information regarding injuries? Are there changes in tactics that are impacting things? Have I fallen into the trap of accepting conventional wisdom?By handicapping fundamentals, I mean remaining sensitive to the betting situation independent of the particulars of the two teams in question. Am I investing in situations that I would otherwise draw red flags? Am I ignoring situations that I would otherwise jump on? I am betting on too many plays? Am I not getting enough action out there?When I am most successful, the decisions I am making on a daily basis take into account the specifics of the two teams in question and then balancing those thoughts with the handicapper situational perspective independent from the two teams in question. When the qualitative assessments and handicapper instincts are in unison, that should lead to strong plays. If those two perspectives are in conflict, I should be passing. When the picture is muddier, I should be weighing evidence and making decisions to play or pass. After losses, I conduct autopsies to discern if I made a judgment mistake. If the losses coincide with ignoring some of the handicapping fundamentals I have accrued over the years, then it is a pretty easy fix to get back to prioritizing those values. If the autopsy exposes that I did not know as much about the issues that would decide the game, then I need to get in the trenches and learn more about the teams. Sometimes that is simply a function of harder work. But sometimes this work requires the difficult decision that the sources I am leaning on are not making a winning difference. That requires me to dump sources of information in the search for better analysis to help inform my conclusions. More often than not, if I get stuck in a losing streak in a sport, it is because the research I conduct is not providing enough actionable information. As the years have gone by, I rely less and less on ESPN (TV and their print/web) sources to help inform my thoughts. 538.com has all but dropped off the planet for me. In an ideal world, I could read it all. In practice, I need to make choices in a 24-hour day. Making better choices as to where I get my supporting research is often the solution to losing streaks. But given all this, sometimes the best response to a losing streak is not change anything. Sometimes the breaks don’t go our way. It is called bad luck. It happens. Sometimes well-informed choices backed by sound handicapping fundamentals do not lead to a winning ticket. Successfully identifying those situations — and then not changing course — is the best route to long-term success. The most important quality to embrace when conducting a self-audit is brutal honesty. Perhaps the choices are bad? Or perhaps the knowledge of the teams is simply rudimentary. But if conducting an autopsy of past losses leads to the conclusion that the choice was sound and the handicapping of the situation was spot-on, then perhaps the best conclusion is to simply accept that we can’t win them all. And regarding the losing streak, this too shall pass.Best of luck — Frank.

Read more

Starting Pitcher Observations from July

by Team Del Genio

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

What started as a hot month for TDG in baseball carried through until the final few days of July where we have gotten stuck behind some teams that hit below our expectations. Bad days at the plate will happen. If we continue to identify starting pitchers of value opposing starting pitchers with red flags, we should see good results.Our July Game of the Month was on Saturday, the 31st, on the Milwaukee Brewers. Brandon Woodruff had only allowed one run through five innings before getting in trouble in the top of the sixth with Atlanta scoring two more runs. Yet it was the Brewers' offense that was the bigger disappointment as they managed to score only once against Braves’ rookie starting pitcher Kyle Muller. The Milwaukee bullpen then gave up another five runs in an 8-1 loss. Woodruff will remain on our radar despite the setback. Woodruff entered the game with a 7-5 record with a sparkling 2.14 era and a 0.84 whip. The right-hander was striking out 30.4% of the batters has faced due to a nasty combination of a curveball and changeup that keeps batters chasing. In his previous start against the White Sox last Sunday, he induced 22 swinging strikes with 45% of his pitches resulting in a called-strike or a swinging strike. He combines his elite strikeout skills with a ground ball rate of the balls he allows into play of 45.6% before the start against the Braves. Woodruff’s hard-hit rate of the balls allowed into play of 25% is a career-best. Woodruff had been even better when pitching on the road where he has a 1.96 era and a 0.72 whip in ten starts. Milwaukee had won eleven of their last twelve games when Woodruff is pitching in a game where the oddsmakers install the over/under at 9 or 9.5. He should be fine. We will monitor Eduardo Rodriguez closely after getting burned with him in our American League Total of the Month on Thursday. With hindsight, perhaps Rodriguez was rusty after only pitching one inning in his previous start due to a migraine headache. Reports coming out of Boston is that he felt fine. Yet he struggled in the opening frame against Toronto before leaving that game on Thursday, July 29th, after allowing six runs in 3 1/3 innings. We thought the 5.23 era and 1.38 whip he had at the time was sending the wrong message to bettors. The left-hander did not pitch last year due to COVID, and he started slowly in spring training. Yet he was striking out 27.4% of the batters he faces while walking just 5.8% of the batters he had faced before that final start of the month. The hard-hit rate of the balls he was allowing into play of 27.8% is the second-lowest in his career. In his four previous starts, Rodriguez had a 2.15 era and a 1.08 whip as he appeared to have found his stride. Opponents were hitting just .209 against him this month. He had struck out 20 batters and walked five in his 17 2/3 innings in July. If his start against the Blue Jays was just one of those things after not pitching much, there could be quite a bit of value with him in the next two months (and playoffs).We looked poised to win our FS1 Game of the Month on Saturday, July 24th, in part because of the value we identified in Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi. He allowed only two runs in 7 2/3 innings of work. Yet the Boston bullpen allowed four runs in the eighth inning and failed to rally in the bottom of the ninth inning in a 4-3 loss. Eovaldi began the game with a 9-5 record with a 3.57 era and a 1.20 whip in 19 starts this year. The right-hander had a 2.55 era and a 1.01 whip in his previous four starts which did not include the scoreless inning he pitched against the National League in the All-Star game. Over those 24 2/3 innings, he had struck out 28 batters and walked just two. He is combining his elite strikeout-to-walk ratios with a hard-hit rate of the balls he is allowing into play of 26.3% which is the lowest mark in his last nine seasons. Some tough luck results. Yet we begin August on a 39 of 51 (76%) MLB run. Good luck - TDG.

Read more

The Underlying Greatness of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s NBA Title Run

by Team Del Genio

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo deserved to win the Most Valuable Player award of the NBA finals. He put up incredible offensive numbers. He averaged 35.2 points per game, rebounded 13.7 boards per game, and added 5.0 assists per game in their triumph against the Phoenix Suns in six games. For the entire postseason, Antetokounmpo averaged 30.2 points per game, 12.8 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game. Antetokounmpo was a force on the defensive end of the court as a rim protector and defender throughout the playoffs. He took away the Suns’ Deandre Ayton in the finals as that series moved on. Yet perhaps the more impressive aspects to Antetokounmpo’s first NBA title go beyond those numbers. For starters, the fact that Antetokounmpo evened played in the NBA finals was extraordinary. When he hyperextended his knee in the Eastern Conference finals, his ability to even compete for a championship looked in doubt. He was questionable up until tip-off for Game 1 of the finals against Phoenix. But not only was he able to play, but he also seemed to have no ill effects with that knee injury. The physical and mental conditioning he went through to prepare to play through that injury was incredible. Antetokounmpo worked through a mental battle with his free-throw shooting. He lost his confidence at the free-throw line somewhere in the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Brooklyn Nets. After making 67.5% of his free throws in the opening round against Miami, he made only 6 of 19 free throws in the first three games against the Nets. Then came the jeering from fans and his taking all ten seconds at the line as his battle with what the golfers call the yips was for all to see. Antetokounmpo missed more than half his free throw attempts in both the Brooklyn and Atlanta Hawks series in the Eastern Conference finals. Removing Antetokounmpo from the game in clutch situations became a topic of conversation. Yet he worked through the problem. Free throw shooting has never been the strength of his game, yet he recovered to shoot 62% from the charity stripe on his 85 free throw attempts in the NBA finals. In the Game 6 clincher, Antetokounmpo nailed 17 of his 19 free throw attempts. His success over this mental battle was critical in leading his team to a championship. Antetokounmpo led his team to a title by accepting his limitations. After struggling with his 3-point shooting despite defenses begging for him to take open 3s, he changed his game and shot fewer 3s. After going 1 of 8 from 3-point land in Game 4 of the Brooklyn series, he does not even attempt a 3-point shot two games later in a critical Game 6 when they are down 3-2 in the series. In his ten games against Atlanta and Phoenix, only once does he attempt more than three shots from 3-point land. Antetokounmpo also accepted not being the primary ball-handler in crunch time as the playoffs went on with Kris Middleton having success making key shots. Antetokounmpo’s offensive numbers and outstanding play on defense made him the obvious choice for the NBA finals MVP. Yet what may have been more impressive during this championship run was his perseverance, his success in confronting adversity, and his growth as a player by accepting his limitations. These are all qualities that will serve him quite well as his career continues to progress.Good luck - TDG.

Read more

Someone, Please Kill the “Mike Budenholzer Won’t Make Adjustments” Narrative.

by Hollywood Sports

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

OK, I’ll do it. The notion that Mike Budenholzer lacks the wherewithal to make adjustments on the fly or from game to game in the NBA playoffs was always a tired and lazy criticism. It is the American pastime to second-guess coaching decisions — it is the sports equivalent of the joy audience members have in ridiculing the bad singer on American Idol or the craven power-hungry losers on Survivor. The programming serves the self-satisfying ego of the viewer by offering a few fleeting moments of superiority. The same dynamic works in sports with sports radio, the 24-Hour Hot Take TV Industry, and much of the color commentary in-game focused on the mistakes made by the coaches and players. And when the drive to feel superior to someone on TV can combine with the beehive mentality of jumping on an establishing bandwagon for some good ole confirmation bias feedback loops, the makings of conventional wisdom form. It is not uncommon for this conventional wisdom to be flat wrong that is beside the point. Flattering the ego of the individual presenting the Hot Take is the medium and the message. I don’t know how good of a basketball coach Mike Budenholzer is. I am not qualified to assess his tactical decisions. I also lack the inside knowledge regarding what his realistic options were at hand when a chance in tactics was perhaps needed. But I did take careful notes of the adjustments he made in the 2021 postseason which ultimately led to his Milwaukee Bucks winning the NBA title. I’ll identify a few.(1) Played his best players for more minutes in the playoffs. A common criticism Budenholzer received during the NBA playoffs in the bubble last year was that he was not playing his Big Two of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton's higher minutes. In Games One-Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against Miami, Antetokounmpo averaged 37.9 minutes per game before getting injured in Game Four which completed the Heat’s four-game sweep. Middleton averaged 39.2 minutes per game in those four games. This critique is always troublesome for outsiders who lack the inside knowledge regarding how comfortable the player is in playing extended minutes. Interestingly, Budenholzer appeared to give Antetokounmpo the green light to take himself out of the game in this postseason. Perhaps that was seen as a necessity since Antetokoumpo was playing through injuries? Despite acquiring Jrue Holiday in the offseason to give his team a Big Three, Budenholzer did play those stars for longer periods in this postseason. Antetokounmpo averaged 40 minutes per game in the Brooklyn Nets series before average 39.8 minutes per game in the NBA Finals. Middleton averaged 42.5 minutes per game in the NBA Finals. Holiday averaged 41.7 minutes per game in the Finals. Predictably, I recall seeing some who criticized Budenholzer for not playing his stars enough last postseason now blame him for overworking his Big Three in these playoffs. Once the conclusion is determined (Budenholzer Bad!), the most important thing for some becomes confirming one’s prior assumptions. (2) Break the Giannis defensive wall by putting the ball in Middleton’s hands. Much was made of the defensive strategy that the Miami Heat deployed last year where they positioned three or four players into a wall-like formation to take away Antetokounmpo’s driving ability. In theory, the Bucks “adjustment” is simply for Antetokounmpo to drive-and-dish to an open shooter behind the arc to punish the tactic with 3-pointers — but the shooters need to make shots. It is hard to blame Budenholzer for shots not falling. However, this might be an offensive strategy that works better during the regular season rather than during the pressure of playoff basketball (see the James Harden Houston Rockets). Budenholzer’s adjustment in the playoffs this season was to take the ball out of Antetokounmpo’s hands as the primary ball-handler and let Middleton dictate the offense. Not only did Middleton thrive in this role with clutch baskets, but it allowed Antetokounmpo to crash the glass for second-chance scoring opportunities. (3) Pairing Bobby Portis with Antetokounmpo. Budenholzer did this early in the playoffs but got away from him in the Nets series since Portis was a liability on defense. But after falling behind 0-2 to the Suns in the NBA Finals, Coach Bud got back to getting Portis on the court with the Greek Freak. Portis was a three-point shooting threat that Phoenix had to respect. As opposed to when Brook Lopez or P.J. Tucker is on the court when Budenholzer could give Antetokounmpo stretches of the game where he was surrounded by four shooters to create more space for him to drive to the hole. When coaches like Ty Lue make elementary adjustments like this, they are lauded as geniuses. (4) Pick-and-roll defensive subtleties. It seemed like it was June of 2021 when many in the analytics community were introduced to the concept of drop coverage defense against pick-and-rolls. Rather than engage in a full-on switch to combat the offensive team’s pick, drop coverage has the switching defender accept the new defensive assignment but play off the ball. This move temporarily takes away a driving lane or a cut by the picker while giving time for a potential switch-back. But the drop does give space to the ball handler for an open jump shot. Chris Paul punished this tactic in the opening game of the Finals with his great mid-range game. It was a fascinating development to watch many in the analytics community calling the 2-point midrange shot the worst shot in basketball now blasting Budenholzer for a defensive tactic that lulled the opposition into taking this very shot. OK, whatever. Brook Lopez is an outstanding defensive player on drop coverage. Rather than completely abandoning this defense, the Bucks had Lopez just not drop back so much and play a step or two closer to the potential CP3 jumper to offer more resistance — and hand closer to the face. Paul was never as effective on these shots the rest of the series. (5) Deploy Holiday to start defending Paul in the backcourt. A question the Bucks’ brain trust had entering the NBA Finals regarded how to use Holiday as their best on-the-ball defender. Should he draw the assignment against Paul or Devin Booker? In Game One, Holiday defended Booker — and Paul had his big game. In Game Two, not only did Budenholzer switch assignments, but he had Holiday begin his defensive assault on CP3 as soon as he got the ball in the backcourt — forcing the veteran to exert more energy just to get into their half-court offense. Within three games of this tactic, Michael Wilbon was reduced to making excuses for his self-proclaimed best friend regarding a secret injury that we must not know about. These adjustments are just from my notes. I am sure there is more than those with a more sophisticated knowledge of the game appreciated. But coaches should not necessarily be judged on the adjustments they make. Sometimes the best tactical decision is to resist the urge to abandon ship on the strategies that have succeeded in the past. And every adjustment comes with a tradeoff. The Bucks led the league in defensive free throw rate in the regular season and the playoffs. That was not an accident. It was by design. Drop coverage on pick-and-rolls helps to lower foul rates since it is disincentives the player with the ball to drive the lane. Shooting midrange jump shots are less likely to draw fouls. And when your team is so dependent on Antetokounmpo, perhaps ensuring he does not get into foul trouble is a smart tactic? I don’t know if drop coverage on pick-and-rolls is better than switching with tight coverage or even not switching and fighting through the pick. I do know that if Wilbon or any of the other ankle-biters on the bandwagon want to criticize a tactic, they should at least engage the argument regarding why the tradeoff from the adjustment does not make things worse. Unfortunately, the notion that Budenholzer does not make adjustments will likely continue. Zombie narratives continue even after championships. But, those who continue to make the argument do serve a public good by telling on themselves. Best of luck — Frank.

Read more

These NFL Teams Will Improve, But Will They Go Over?

by Power Sports

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

Based on Vegas win totals, the four teams expected to improve the most this NFL season are: the 49ers, Jaguars, Falcons and Cowboys. My metrics are in line with these assessments by the oddsmakers. But can these teams exceed their rather lofty win projections? Let’s break them down on a case-by-case basis:Jacksonville - Record Last Year: 1-15 | 2021 Win Projection: 6No team is expected to improve more than the Jaguars. This may seem shocking to you. Obviously, improvement is all but guaranteed after a one-win season that allowed the team to land QB Trevor Lawrence in the Draft. But first year head coach Urban Meyer inherits a team that is on a 15-game losing streak and has gone an NFL worst 39-105 straight up over the last nine seasons. Meyer strangely signed Tim Tebow. As far as former Heisman winners go, Lawrence’s game is much better suited to the pros than Tebow’s ever was. It should be noted that the Jags only win last season (27-20 in Week 1 vs. the Colts) came in a game where the defense failed to force a single punt! There is not much talent on hand. But … the last seven coaches who made the transition from college to the pros have improved their NFL team’s win total by an average of four wins in year one. The Jaguars had six one-score losses last year. Lawrence is probably the most talented QB to come out of college since Andrew Luck. The AFC South is not going to be all that good this year. But I still think seven wins is a lot to ask from the 2021 Jaguars. San Francisco - Record Last Year: 6-10 | 2021 Win Projection: 10.5Another team expected to improve by a lot this season is the 49ers. No team dealt with more injuries last season. They had a -11 turnover margin. Now they are expected to be healthier and face the easiest schedule in the league this year. It was just two years ago that they made the Super Bowl. Oddsmakers currently have them as the favorite in 14 of their 17 regular season games! But despite a schedule that’s perceived to be easy, the Niners do play in the NFL’s toughest division where both the Rams and Seahawks are also expected to make the playoffs. Arizona is not “slim pickings” either. In three of Kyle Shanahan’s four years here, the team has won six games or fewer. The health of QB Jimmy Garoppolo is huge. Shanahan is 24-9 straight up with Garoppolo as his starting QB, but just 7-27 SU without him. Rookie Trey Lance now waits in the wings. There is no doubt in my mind that the Niners will improve on last year’s disappointing win total. After all, the same plexiglass principle that predicted they would regress in 2020 says they will improve this year. But getting to 11 wins will be difficult in the ultra-tough NFC West. Dallas - Record Last Year: 6-10 | 2021 Win Projection: 9.5 The Cowboys are expected to improve along the same lines as the 49ers and for many of the same reasons. They too were immensely banged up during the 2020 season. The biggest injury was the one that ended QB Dak Prescott’s season in Week 5. I think Mike McCarthy is a pretty bad coach, but this is a win total I would bet Over. I have Dallas winning the NFC East, which has two weak teams (Giants, Eagles) and last year’s division champ (Washington) isn’t likely to be as strong on the defensive side of the ball. The Cowboys’ offense, when healthy, is among the most efficient in football. They had the worst fumble luck in the entire league last year and much of that can be tied to Prescott being out. Remember that there are 17 regular season games now. Dallas going 10-7 (or better) seems rather reasonable. Atlanta - Record Last Year: 4-12 | 2021 Win Projection: 7.5I also like the Over on this win total. The Falcons were perhaps the unluckiest team in the NFL last season. They led in 13 of 16 games. They led at the half nine times. Only six teams in the last 30 seasons blew more halftime leads. They were 2-8 straight up in games decided by eight points or less and 0-4 in games decided by three or less. They were only outscored by 18 points despite being 4-12. Over the first three quarters of their games, they were +28 in point differential. They blew five leads in the final two minutes. It was a tough schedule. QB Matt Ryan has thrown for 4,000+ yards in 10 consecutive seasons. Though he loses WR Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley will step up and Kyle Pitts is one of the top TE prospects EVER. Only 7 of their 17 games this year will be played at home (lose one to London), but the Falcons can absolutely finish second in the NFC South. 

Read more

Big Al's Daily Angle: MLB Previews and Odds - 07/31/2021

by Big Al Staff

Saturday, Jul 31, 2021

The Saturday sports card features action in MLB. Fifteen games are on the MLB docket.Three games take place in the afternoon. Toronto hosts Kansas City in the second game in their three-game series. Alek Manoah pitches for the Blue Jays against Mike Minor of the Royals. Toronto is a -210 money line favorite with the total set at 10 (all odds from DraftKings unless indicated otherwise). Houston plays at San Francisco at 4:05 PM ET in the second game of their three-game series. The Astros pitch Zack Greinke against the Giants Alex Wood. Houston is a -120 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. Oakland is at Los Angeles against the Angels on FS1 at 4:05 PM ET in the third game of their four-game series. Cole Irvin pitches for the A’s against Jaime Barria for the Angels. Oakland is a -120 money line road favorite with a total of 9.5.Three games start at 6:10 PM ET. The New York Yankees play in Miami in the second game of their three-game series. The Yankees pitch Domingo German against a Marlins starting pitcher yet to be determined. New York is a -145 money line road favorite with an over/under of 7.5. Detroit is at home against Baltimore in the third game of their four-game series. Matt Manning pitches for the Tigers against Jonathan Means of the Orioles. Both teams are priced at -110 with an over/under of 9. Tampa Bay plays at home against Boston in the second game of their three-game series. The Rays pitch Ryan Yarbrough against the Red Sox’s Nathan Eovaldi. Both teams are listed at -110 with a total of 8.Three games start at 7:05 PM ET. Philadelphia plays at Pittsburgh in the second game of their three-game series. Aaron Nola pitches for the Phillies against J.T. Brubaker of the Pirates. Philadelphia is a -160 money line road favorite with an over/under of 8. Seattle is at Texas in Game 2 of their three-game series. The newly acquired Tyler Anderson pitches for the Mariners against Kyle Gibson of the Rangers. The Chicago Cubs are at Washington in the second game of their three-game series. Kyle Hendricks pitches for the Cubs against a starting pitcher yet to be named for the Nationals. Two games start at 7:10 PM ET. The Chicago White Sox host Cleveland in the second game of their three-game series. The White Sox pitch Dallas Keuchel against the Indians Triston McKenzie. Chicago is a -170 money line favorite with a total of 9. The New York Mets play at home against Cincinnati in the second game of their three-game series. The Mets pitch the recently acquired Rich Hill against the Reds Wade Miley. New York is a -120 money line favorite with an over/under of 8.5. Minnesota plays at St. Louis on FS1 at 7:15 PM ET in the second game of their three-game series. The Twins pitch Bailey Ober against a starting pitcher yet to be determined for the Cardinals. Milwaukee is at Atlanta at 7:20 PM ET in the second game of their three-game series. Brandon Woodruff pitches for the Brewers against Kyle Muller of the Braves. The Brewers are a -145 money line road favorite with a total of 8.5. The Los Angeles Dodgers play at Arizona at 8:10 PM ET in Game 2 of their three-game series. Merrill Kelly pitches for the Diamondbacks against a starting pitcher yet to be determined for the Dodgers after they traded impending starter Josiah Gray to the Washington Nationals in the haul that brought back Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. Los Angeles is a -165 money line road favorite with an over/under of 9. San Diego is at home against Colorado at 8:40 PM ET in the third game of their four-game series. Yu Darvish pitches for the Padres against German Marquez of the Rockies. BetOnline lists San Diego as a -200 money line favorite with a total of 7. 

Read more

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

© 2021 Al McMordie's BigAl.com. All Rights Reserved.