AL Wild Card Game- Rays win with depth.

Charlie Morton (Tampa Bay Rays) at Sean Manaea (Oakland Athletics)

Starting Pitcher: Advantage…..

Every part of me wants to say the Rays have the advantage with veteran Charlie Morton on the mound. Morton has the most experience of any pitcher on either staff, spending the last two seasons with the Houston Astros, most notably his performance in the 2017 World Series.  Morton came out of the bullpen, dominating his 10+ innings. Morton has found success in his curveball even more in 2019, throwing it as a much higher rate.  Opposing batter are hitting just .151 against old Uncle Charlie. 

Sean Manaea has returned from injury, immediately regaining his form has the A’s frontline starter(1.21 ERA with with a 30-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Manaea lack of experience is a big deal under the pressure of what the Wild Card game brings.  He has a great future ahead of him.  This game will be what allows us to find out what and who he is.

Bullpen: Advantage Rays

The Athletics have a premier closer in Liam Hendricks as well as a “secret weapon” Jesus Luzardo. The Athletics don’t have the depth of the Rays, but they do have two guys that can be impactful if the they get the lead.  

The Rays finished first in the MLB with a 3.71 bullpen ERA and in September the ERA was a staggering 2.87. Tampa Bay has multiple assets that can be called upon at any moment.  Chaz Roe, Emilio Pagan, Oliver Drake and Diego Castillo could all be called upon as soon as the first sign of trouble comes. In a one game scenario the matchups will be the difference.

Lineup + Bench: Advantage Rays

Tampa Bay doesn’t have the premier big bats that Oakland brings to the table.  They don’t have a Matt Olson, Marcus Semien or Matt Chapman. The Rays will utilize their matchups Tommy Pham, Travis d’Arnaud, Avi Garcia and the returning Yandy Diaz all have great numbers versus lefties on the season.

Oakland will need the middle of the order to step up and make things happen. Marcus Semien and Matt Olson bring the power and name recognition that the Rays don’t have.  The bottom of their order doesn’t have the same pop.  The Rays will carry more depth into this matchup. Whi

Prediction

I want to go with the Athletics.  Every part of me says they are going to utilize their power.  I have a tough time backing Sean Manaea in this situation.  While his ERA is very appealing there seems to be a regression on the way for the Oakland lefty.  Of his five starts only one was against a winning team.  Charlie Morton’s experience and Kevin Cash’s ability to play the matchup game will be too much for the Athletics. I am rolling with the Rays.

NL Wild Card Game Prediction

Brandon Woodruff (Milwaukee Brewers) vs Max Scherzer (Washington Nationals)

Offense: Advantage Nationals

The Nationals will enter this game with their MVP candidate Anthony Rendon while the Brewers will still be without Christian Yelich. Depth is the difference in these lineups.  The Nationals bring power and speed in nearly every part of their lineup.  

Trea Turner, Juan Soto, Adam Eaton and the aforementioned Anthony Rendon all have the ability to make an impact on the game early.  The Nationals speed is going to be the key to jumping the on top early.  Yasmani Grandal’s defense came into question last season during the Dodgers playoff run, his ability to help manage the run game. Grandal’s offense has overshadowed his defensive struggles this season, throwing out 27% of would be base stealers is solid, but his -.04  defensive WAR is a cause for concern. 

The Brewers miss Yelich, but they have found solid replacements for a short period of time.  Trent Grisham, Ben Gamel and a hot Ryan Braun has helped the offense.  Braun’s questionable status for Tuesday’s contest could be a crushing blow to an already limping offense.  

Bullpen: Advantage Brewers

The Nationals bullpen troubles have been well documented during the last few seasons.  Finding some stability towards the latter end of the season, Sean Doolittle moving into a set-up role as Daniel Hudson cemented himself in the back end. The Nationals may have found their answer at the end they still are playing from behind in the bullpen.  

The Brewers have shown that they are deep with bullpen depth.  The emergence of Drew Pomeranz as a weapon against either side of the plate gives them a pitcher that can cover multiple innings.   I would look to see Josh Hader enter the game in as early as possible if the Brewers are able to grab a lead.   Milwaukee has played this game before and will not hesitate to make a move when necessary. 

Starter: Advantage Nationals

Keeping this simple. Max Scherzer, when healthy, is the best pitcher in baseball.  Brandon Woodruff All-Star first half but was hampered by injuries in the second half. Both pitchers have great strikeout stuff, it’s Scherzer who will be looked on to take control of the game.  The leash for Woodruff will be very small, if the Nationals jump out to an early lead the rug will be pulled out from under Woodruff.  

The debate between whether Scherzer or Strasburg should start the game could be pointless, reports are saying that Stephen Strasburg will be one of the first to make an appearance out of the bullpen. Scherzer hasn’t been perfect this season but he will give them hard innings, lasting until the 7thwhere Washington will utilize their new bullpen pieces and strategy.

My Prediction

The NL Wild Card game has ultimately favored the road team since its inception.  Only two home teams have found their way into the next round. While history favors the road team the Nationals have been terrific at home in 2019 with a 50-31 record. The Nationals also come in hot winning eight straight games at home to end the season. 

Brewers Manager Craig Counsell has become the poster boy for utilizing every advantage his bullpen brings. While Woodruff is the starter, it would not be surprising to see Milwaukee make an early change to play the matchups against the dynamic Washington offense.

The Brewers went on an unbelievable run just to get to where they are, but they face a team that is simply better.  Max Scherzer will dominate an offense that is missing way too many key pieces.  Anthony Rendon will cement himself as the league MVP. The Brewers had a nice run and they are a nice story, I’m not betting against Mad Max in this situation.  Give me the Nationals 6-2.  

NCAA Picks ATS Week 5

Northwestern Wildcats at Wisconsin Badgers -24.5, Total 46.5

Northwestern blows. The chalk bet of last weekend was Northwestern +7 against Michigan State.  That bet didn’t work out for most and never made sense in the first place. The Wildcats have one of the worst offenses in college football, they are now going to be greeted with a dominant Wisconsin defense.  

Northwestern has had no success on any part of their offensive end.  They especially have had issues with their passing game only connecting on 48% of their passes with just one touchdown to go along with six interceptions. Wisconsin has the #1 pas efficiency defense in the nation. That means that the Wildcats are going to have to try and run the ball.  That game plan will not be very effective as the Badgers have given up a total of 20 yards per game this season.  

Wisconsin is at home versus a team that can’t score.  This should be a cake walk.

Pick: Wisconsin -24.5

Rutgers Scarlett Knights at Michigan Wolverines -28

Michigan is coming off of one of their most embarrassing losses in the Jim Harbaugh era.  Getting embarrassed at the hands of Wisconsin last week has left a bad taste in the mouth of all Michigan players.  Rutgers will now have the aggression of that loss taken out of them on Saturday.  

I understand that Dylan McCaffery is most likely out and Shea Patterson is very beat up, leaving the quarterback play as a question mark.  They seemed to figure it out at the end of the game after it was all but wrapped up.  The Wolverines are at home, they are not facing the offensive and defensive lines of Wisconsin.  This is Rutgers.  

Again, this is Rutgers. Michigan has to dominate this game to work their way back into relevance.  Look for pain.  

Pick: Michigan Wolverines -28

Virginia Cavaliers at Notre Dame Fighting Irish -11

Notre Dame is coming off of a valiant effort against Georgia.  They now get a quietly interesting showdown with the Virginia Cavaliers.  The Cavaliers have a dominant defensive front.  They lead the ACC in tackles for a loss and lead the nation in sacks.  They have yet to give up 100 rushing yards in any of their four games this season. 

Virginia has been a tough out ATS against top teams. The Cavaliers have gone 13-3 ATS over their last sixteen games versus teams with winning records. The Irish have to feel a let done after the loss to Georgia and will come out sluggish.  The Virginia front will be a tough challenge for Norte Dame, while their offense lead by Bryce Perkins has enough to keep them in the game. Notre Dame wins, but it won’t be easy.

Pick: Virginia +11

Other Picks:

Texas Tech +27.5

USC/Washington over 61

Bets that should have won week 3

Giants beat the Buccaneers with a rookie QB. Took Tampa Bay

The matchup between Tampa Bay and New York was the definition of gambling  gone wrong. A rookie Quarterback on the road versus a well-rested Buccaneers team coming off of a huge upset victory over the Panthers. 

Jamies Winston came out firing, finding his number one target Mike Evans for 135 yards and three touchdowns in the first half! Tampa Bay took a 28- 10 lead into half time. This game was not only over but the -6 cover was a given.  No way a rookie Quarterback is going to lead a comeback victory on the road when their best player Saquon Barkley is no longer a part of the game plan. 

The Buccaneers then decided that it was time to be the Buccaneers.  Despite their dominance through the air Byron Leftwich decided it was time to lean on a non-existent run game.  Instead of relying on what was working they decided to go in the opposite direction.  Not many would agree with leaning your game plan on Jameis Winston, but it was working!

Daniel Jones went on to torch the Buccaneers along with our dreams of covering.  Jones became the first ever rookie quarterback to throw for 300 yards, touch owns and run for two touchdowns.  The media will play up Jones as a savior of New York Giants football. While he killed me this weekend, I will be fading him next week.  

Panthers win without Cam. Took Arizona +2.5

Kyler Murray and the Cardinals were at home, the Panthers were without their Quarterback.  Arizona was coming off of two large late game comebacks versus the Ravens and Lions.  The momentum of Arizona rightfully put them as the favorite.  The Cardinals were going to face Kyle Allen, an undrafted free agent out of Houston. 

The Cardinals fast paced offense was supposed to lead to big points, the pace worked against Arizona as Allen was able to pick them apart utilizing CMC and the ageless wonder Greg Olsen. Arizona has a strong future ahead of them but they let us down in week 3 and continue tough matchups in week 4. 

Seahawks lose at home to a backup QB. Took Seattle -4

I had two locks this week. The first of those being the Seahawks at home -4 versus the New Orleans Saints without Drew Brees.  This was a game that I though Vegas had lost its mind. The Seahawks were coming off of two victories in a row where they dominated on the offensive end.  Seattle was playing at home against a Quarterback that hadn’t played a full game in like two years.  

Seattle decided to pick this weekend to lay an egg.  Literally seems like Chris Carson believes the ball is an egg and it can only stay safe on the turf. New Orleans showed up on defense and special teams allowing Teddy Bridgewater to play the role of game manager.  New Orleans got a boost from their ancillary pieces, something they cannot rely on in the weeks to come.  

Seattle’s defense is not what I thought they would be when they picked up Jadaveon Clowney, continually giving up big plays.  Their offense makes for a great matchup for week 4 when they face the Cardinals.

MLB DFS Breakdown: Sept 17

Pitcher Spotlight- Marco Gonzalez, Seattle Mariners

Marco Gonzalez will be a popular play at his low cost of $6.3K.  There are multiple factors for that.  His low cost will allow you to pay up for secondary pitching options or collect the top bats on the slate.  

Gonzalez’s matchup is a juicy one in Pittsburgh versus a Pirates lineup that will not have two of its key hitters in Starling Marte and Josh Bell. Without the key cogs in the middle of the order completely changes the look of the Pittsburgh lineup.  Placing Erik Gonzalez and Melky Cabrera in their places.  Marco is a cost play versus a watered-down lineup, but his upside is ideal in this situation.

Top Stacks- Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians

Focus: Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks will be an under owned potential stack.  The matchup with Caleb Smith is a solid one for the righties.  Smith has given up a .250 ISO versus righties on the season as well as over a +1.30 road ERA.  The focus of the lineup build should be the affordable pieces Christian Walker and Adam Jones at just $3.6K. Add on the perspective power/speed of Ketel Marte at $5.2K and you have a solid mini stack.  

Focus: Cleveland Indians

Cleveland will matchup with Spencer Turnbull but seems to be priced as if they are matching up with a stronger starter.  Mathew Boyd was the original starter for Detroit, DraftKings did not seem to price the change correctly. Getting Franmil Reyes and Roberto Perez for a combined $7.K are bargains if that allow you to complete the three-man stack along with the high-priced Francisco Lindor. 

Sneaky Stack: Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have a chance to break the slate against Chandler Shepherd, former Red Sox farm hand that spent his 2019 getting blistered in AAA.  Shepherd has an 8.55xFIP before being cast to Baltimore.  The Toronto hitters are all affordable outside of Bo Bichette and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. Combining the power potential of Vlad Jr. and Randall Grichuck seems like the most ideal point per dollar plays. 

P: Marco Gonzalez, Seattle Mariners, $6,300

P: Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs, $11,200

C: Roberto Perez, Cleveland Indians, $3,600

1B: Christian Walker, Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,600

2B: Ketel Marte, Arizona Diamondbacks, $5,200

3B: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, $3,900

SS: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians, $4,800

OF: Franmil Reyes, Cleveland Indians, $3,500

OF: Adam Jones, Arizona Diamondbacks, $3,600

OF: Randall Grichuck, Toronto Blue Jays, $4,300

Put up or Shut up. Previewing the Nationals/Cardinals Series

The Cardinals had a chance to bury their division rivals, the Christian Yelich-less Milwaukee Brewers. They found themselves in a position to establish themselves as the true frontrunner for the National League Central race. The Cardinals hopes for dominance were crushed by Ryan Braun’s ninth inning grand slam off of rookie Junior Fernandez.

St. Louis was bit by the hand that had been feeding them all of 2019.  Their young bullpen arms were not able to handle the late inning situations as they had previously the entire season. The Cardinals still sit two games up on the second place Chicago Cubs and three games up on the aforementioned Milwaukee Brewers. The redbirds have a very interesting clash in front of them against the uber talented and desperate Washington Nationals.  

Oh, they also get to face the murderer’s row of starting pitching Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Max Scherzer.

St. Louis will counter Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright.  Comparing the overall starting pitching is an obvious advantage to the Nationals. Washington comes into this series with a 6-8 record in September including getting smashed by the Atlanta Braves which has all but ended their chances at the eastern division crown. Both teams are in a must win situation the rest of the season.  The Cubs and Brewers are both hot on their heels ready to take over their positions at the top.  

The Cardinals will have the advantage in the bullpen which in a playoff like atmosphere Mike Schildt will have to be ready to make the move before it is too late.  The Nationals have a powerful offense that can turn a one run lead into a four-run lead before you know it.  Schildt will have his first real playoff like atmosphere at Busch, Cardinals fans will find out if he is the one that will take them to the next step. 

The Nationals have the superior depth in their lineup with bench players like Howie Kendrick, Gerardo Parra and Matt Adams.  They can put out multiple lineups that will be tough to matchup against over a three games series.  The key for St. Louis will be to get ahead early and force the Nationals to utilize their subpar bullpen.  If the Cardinals can get a lead it will also allow Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas and Adam Wainwright to attack the zone.  They are pitch to contact pitchers, it can be an advantage for them to have the freedom to throw in the zone and not worry about one long ball putting them behind. 

Who has the advantage?

Starters- Advantage Nationals

Bullpen- Advantage Cardinals

Offense- Advantage Nationals

My series prediction.

In game one St. Louis will need to a strong performance in game one from Dakota Hudson, if he can give them a solid six innings and keep the ball in the ballpark it can set them up for the rest of the series.  Strasburg is a vaunting task for any offense but is hittable when off, it is going to be hot for game one so the ball should be taking off and the usual pitcher friendly Busch Stadium.  Cardinals take game one 4-3. 

Game two is a much more even matchup with Mile Mikolas taking on Patrick Corbin. Corbin’s one start versus St. Louis he was erratic in the strike zone, walking four over his six innings. Corbin has the stuff to shut down the Cardinals but with St. Louis’s heavy right-handed lineup they should have the advantage.  Mikolas on the other hand found himself at home against the Nationals, giving up seven hits over six innings but only one run.  This game will come down to who is the first to fold.  Cardinals take game two by getting to Corbin early, Cardinals win 7-3.

Game three is simple. Scherzer in St. Louis will dominate. Cardinals will scratch across a run early, but it won’t be enough.  Soto and Rendon will punish Wainwright in the first and the third.  Nationals win the game but lose the series.  Nationals 8-2.

NCAAF Picks ATS Week 3

Ohio State Buckeyes -17.5 at Indiana Hoosiers Total 60

The Buckeyes trampled the Cincinnati Bearcats last week 42-0. Justin Fields and company rolled through a Bearcat’s squad that was able to out muscle the UCLA offense the week before. Ohio State’s offense will always make the headlines while their defense got little recognition for pitching a shutout.  

In come the Indiana Hoosiers who had a scare versus Ball State (34-24) in week one and followed it up with a dismantling of Eastern Illinois (52-0).  It has been a complete team effort with two quarterbacks combining for five touchdowns and to five different receivers.  Their rushing attack is led by Stevie Scott’s 109 yards over the first two games.  

Ohio State has a 24-0-1 record against Indiana over their last 25 meetings.  They have also went 5-1 in their last six road games in September. 17.5 seems like a large number of the road against a Big Ten team but I see Indiana having trouble moving the ball against the stout Ohio State defense.  

Pick: Ohio State -17.5, Under 60

USC Trojans -4.5 at BYU Cougars, Total 55.5

USC is entering this game fresh off a beatdown of Stanford, (45-20) putting them in the top 25.  Freshman Kedon Slovis came out of nowhere to lead an offensive explosion.  USC has a clear advantage in talent all over the field including a very young and talented defense, the Trojans top eight tacklers are all underclassman.  While the inexperience hurt them last year, it is paying off early in 2019.  

While USC has the talent, BYU is coming off of an inspiring victory of their own against Tennessee.  The Cougars faced two power five schools in their first two games, holding both Tennesee and Utah to just 30% conversions on third down.  BYU has the ability to deflate the freshman QB who will be facing his first road test. This smells like a trap for USC.

Pick: BYU +4.5

Stanford Cardinal at UCF Knights -9.5 

Stanford just blew a 17-3 lead versus a freshman quarterback in a division game.  They now get to face a UCF team that seems to have a never-ending chip on their shoulder. Stanford is limping on the offensive end and they will need every bit of it against UCF.  Stanford QB Davis Mills has only thrown for 318 total yards over their first two games, if they fall down early, they don’t have the offense to overcome.  

The Cardinal are giving up 351 yards per game over their first two as well as 7 touchdowns.  Those two teams don’t bring the same fire power as the Knights.  UCF should win this by two touchdowns.

Pick: UCF -9.5

Oklahoma Sooners -23.5 at UCLA Bruins

UCLA can’t score, even in a Chip Kelly system.  Oklahoma scores like they are playing intramural flag football with no refs.  Jalen Hurts and Lincoln Riley seem to have a great repartee in this offense which could lead to bigger things for Hurts in the long run. UCLA has name recognition and that’s about it right now.  This game is to easy, not much more analyses needed. 

Sooners roll by four touchdowns

Pick: Oklahoma -23.5

Other Picks:

Florida/Kentucky Under 47.5

Colorado State +10

Maryland -7