Bowl Picks ATS- Dec 15

The bowl season is here, starting off with five games on Saturday.  With no real marquee matchups these games won’t get the love the deserve. A

Autonation Cure Bowl: Tulane -3.5 vs Louisiana Lafayette

A meeting between to Louisiana teams that got off to a slow start in 2018 will face off in Orlando.  Both teams feature top 30 rushing attacks which will make for slow paced game. 

The Ragin Cajuns under first year Coach Billy Nappier, former Nick Saban assistant, as turned around a ULL team that coming off three straight sub-.500 seasons. ULL has been battle tested starting the season at 1-3 with losses to SEC powers Alabama and Mississippi State.  They rebounded from a tough start to the season by winning six of their final nine games and the Western Division of the Sun Belt.  

Tulane has moved on from their offensive coordinator, hiring Will Hall.  Tulane will enter this game with a sub par offense versus a ULL sub par defense.  Tulane will have problems on the offensive end against the battle tested Cajuns.  ULL will run the ball more effectively than their counterparts which will make this close.  

ULL +3.5

Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. Fresno State -6

The Las Vegas Bowl will be the highlight of the bowl matchups featuring the Mountain West Champion Fresno State Bulldogs versus the Pac-12’s Arizona State Sun Devils. 

Perhaps the biggest headline for this game is Sun Devils leading WR N’Keal Harry has chosen to sit out this game.  Fresno State has experience defeating a Pac12 team, taking down UCLA, they also have beaten San Diego State. Arizona State lost to the same Aztec team during the season. 

The Mountain West doesn’t get the respect that they may deserve.  Without Harry, Arizona State doesn’t have much of a chance.  

Fresno State -6

Take notice of Russell Wilson

Last night Russell Wilson was not great.  10/20 with no touchdowns and an interception are not MVP numbers, but to not consider him as a candidate is just wrong. Pat Mahomes and Drew Brees are throwing out numbers that you can only getting while playing Madden on easy.  They are flashy and dominate offenses, but are they the singular reason their teams are winning?  Not to the level of Russell Wilson.  

He’s set to post career-highs in touchdowns (39), yards per attempt, and passer rating, while only throwing it about 27 times per game. In a season when quarterbacks are shattering records for completion percentage and Patrick Mahomes is virtually a lock to go over 50 touchdowns, Wilson is doing it his own way while still keeping pace with some of those prolific scorers in the league. When the game was on the line last night Wilson made the play that changed the momentum, his 40-yard scramble that led to the 2-yard TD from Chris Carson was a thing of beauty in a game that was dominated by defense. 

The Seahawks have made wholesale changes to their offense.  Jimmy Graham, gone, Darrel Bevell gone, Doug Baldwin injured most of the season.  Wilson has found a way to make a star of Tyler Lockett and relevance to WR David Moore a former 7th round pick  and TE Nick Vannett. These are not premier players, they may not even see the field on most teams that are playoff relevant.  Wilson works with what is around him and makes them play to his level.  

Wilson has the third best passer rating on the road behind the  aforementioned Mahomes and the veteran slinger Phillip Rivers.  He has 21 touchdowns and 2 interceptions against the NFC this season.  He is the reason that the Seahawks are able to score, his ability to move and create allows the running game to develop as it has, becoming the #1 rushing attack in the NFL, averaging an astounding 153 yards per game.  Wilson will most likely not win the MVP but he is by far the single most important player on any playoff team.  

Draftkings Picks December 10

December 10 2018- DFS Draftkings pick.

11 game slates make for multiple options, there are three games on the slate that have caught my attention. Let’s make some decisions.

PG: DeAron Fox, Sacramento Kings ($7,600)

Fox has seen an increase in salary over the last few weeks.  But with the lowly Bulls on the slate this game should be full of offense. Fox will have a great opportunity for high upside.  The Bulls rank bottom ten against point guards this season.  Fox can go off for 50 any night, tonight could be one of those.

SG: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings ($6,300)

Let’s continue the stack of Kings against the Bulls.  Bogdanovic has hit above 25 for six straight games.  He is also blow out prove as he doesn’t sit usually start.

SF: Trey Lyles, Denver Nuggets ($3,700)

With the injury to Millsap, Lyles saw a huge up in minutes.  This play is mainly a price play for a guy that looks to play at least 30 minutes tonight.  The matchup with Memphis is not ideal, but a player playing a that many minutes at $3,700 is always worth a shot.

PF: Marvin Bagley, Sacramento Kings ($4,700)

Bagley is questionable tonight but if he plays he can be another asset at an affordable cost. Bagley is a double double machine in a pace up spot. Play him if he is able to play.

C: Karl Anthony-Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves ($9,200)

The return of Draymond green could make for a fun matchup for Towns.  Towns will bring a large amount of offense to this game.  With the questionable status of Anthony Davis, Towns seems like an easy play.

G: Colin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers ($4,900)

No George Hill means more time for Sexton.  Lots of minutes against coming for a point guard with few options behind him.

F: Otto Porter Jr., Washington Wizards ($6,100)

No John Wall tonight opens up more points for secondary players. Otto Porter will be the recipient of those points against a Pacers team that seem like a bad matchup.  Porter will bring multiple value spots.

UTL: Zach Lavine, Chicago Bulls ($7,400)

Potentially the play of the night.  Lavine has a chance to flourish in potentially the biggest game stack of the night.  Lavine has more options to work with after the return of Lauri Markkanen.  Lavine will not have a player to match him on the defensive end.  Lavine should net close to 50 tonight while his price continues to drop.

Good luck tonight!

Cardinals struck Gold! Whats next?

An impact bat, someone that can strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers, a player to build your lineup around.  These were the comments most associated with the St. Louis Cardinals heading into the offseason. A team that has the ancillary pieces to win but lacked the true star that can change an organization. Enter Paul Goldschmidt, the silent assassin that has been hidden in the desert. St. Louis was able to make a deal for the perrennial MVP for a catcher that was not going to play for two years, a pitcher that was 9th on the depth chart and player that feels like the last resort throw in Brad Pitt and Jonah hill were looking for in Moneyball.  Now that the power bat has been added its time to move on to the next step.  Cardinals fans don’t want Mo and Girsch to settle.  Let’s look at some different scenarios that could happen. 

Dream Scenario-Sign Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and find a suitor for Dexter Fowler.  

The Cardinals still have a need for a left-handed swinging outfielder that they can rely on for the upcoming season. Currently the projected bench consists of Yairo Munoz, Jedd Gyroko, Jose Martinez, Dexter Fowler/Tyler O’neil and whomever the backup catcher will be.  That is a litany of right handed bats to go along with the switching hitting Fowler.  The need for a left-handed swinging outfielder is obvious.  Enter Bryce Harper, the most decorated of potential free agent signings could fit right into a lineup in need of left-handed depth.  The endless ways that this lineup could be constructed with bats like Goldy, Carp, Harper and Ozuna would be a murderers row of potential OPS. dominance.

Lets be realistic in the idea that after the season someone will have to walk.  Try and lock up Harper for 10year/$350,000 deal with a player option after four years.  You then proceed to let Marcell Ozuna walk after the 2019 season and take more of your finances to lock up Goldschmidt for 3-4 years at about $25 million a year.  While that is a lot of money attributed to two players, you have to take into account that Yadier Molina’s $20 million a year will be coming off the books in 2020. 

Next you get Craig Kimbrel, the model of consistency over the last decade to be your close, eat the money for Dexter Fowler and hopefully find a suitor willing to take him on just to cut him loose. All of a sudden you have filled every hole your team has with the premium player that those positions. 

Nightmare Scenario- Cards do nothing to build on their momentum.

This is a simple answer, if the Cardinals front office decides that the bullpen is complete, the struggles to finish off games will continue.  The great offense that Goldschmidt will provide could be negated because Jordan Hicks has been overused for the week.  While bringing in an accomplished closer is not a walk in the park, the Cardinals may still be burned by their most recent moves in free agency to bolster their bullpen. Memories of the Brett Cecil and Greg Holland contract are still haunting Mozeliak, so Andrew Miller and Craig Kimbrel may be to much for him. 

If Dexter Fowler is still in the plans for the Cardinals they are banking on a player that had a historically bad season entering his age 33 season. 

Realistic Scenario- Extend Mikolas, add reliever and lefty bench player.

Miles Mikolas doesn’t bring the flash of a high-level starter.  He doesn’t have the Carlos Martinez stuff or the youth of Jack Flaherty.  What he brings is a vital ability to todays game that has gotten lost in the emergence of the bullpen era.  Mikolas is an innings eater that relies on pitching to contact and being efficient.  He will lead the team in innings pitched next year (barring injury) and will save innings for your core bullpen arms. Lock him up and throw away the key.  

Signing Tony Sipp should be the next move that completes the bullpen.  Allow your relievers to work out who the closer will be going into next season and solidify the left side. Sipp not only held lefties to a .191BA last season but also held a 0.90ERA in Minute Maid Park!  With Anthony Rizzo and Christian Yelich being the premiere players on your opposition Sipp would be the perfect addition to a staff that is unproven to say the least from the left side. 

Bryce Harper makes a lot of sense, but the addition of Goldschmidt will be the move that Mozeliak will justify over spending more for Harper.  Adding Micheal Brantley would be ideal after the pickup of Goldy, but to live more realistic I could see a reclamation project like Matt Joyce or a proven bench player like Gerardo Parra.  While these are sexy options they could fit the need of a lefty handed bat in the outfield.  Sadly though I see a platoon of Fowler/O’Neil coming into the season.  

Finally, they need to trade Jose Martinez to an American League club.  He brings limited power and basically zero defense from your bench.  He was great in 2018 but there is no where for him to go from here.  

Thanks and let me hear your opinions.

Lee Smith- True Hall of Famer

Lee Smith established himself as one of MLB’s most dominating closers over his 18-year, 8-team career. Smith converted an astonishing 478 saves (3rd all time), had 7 All-Star game appearances, and was the all time saves leader in major league baseball history until dethroned by Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman in 2006.  Smith will not make it to the Hall of Fame but his legacy should not be tarnished for that fact.  Despite the opinions of the voters Smith was worthy of the honor. Smith is the perfect indication of a flawed system when rating what a relievers true impact can be.  

A native of Jamestown, La., Smith was discovered by Negro Leagues legend Buck O’Neil, who spent decades as a scout for the Cubs. While dealing with control issues early on in his career Smith was converted into a reliever by the Cubbies and found immediate success. Making his debut in 1980 Smith had fixed his control issues and become a cornerstone in the bullpen.  When Closer Bruce Sutter was traded to the Cardinals in December of 1980 Smith assumed the role of closer after the strike shortened season of 1981. Now in the closers role Smith showed that he had what it took to be a dominant reliever earning his first All- Star appearance in 83′, leading the national league with 29 saves and pitching to a 1.65 ERA in 103 1/3 innings—the type of performance that would unfortunately become nearly obsolete by the end of the decade with the Eckersley-driven move to the one-inning closer (A point that will come up later). Smith continued his model of consistency placing top five in the national league in saves as well as ERA over the next four seasons. A trade to the Boston Red Sox in 1987 was a blip his career, most notably taking the loss in Game 2 of the ALCS  against the Athletics.  It was a trade to the St. Louis Cardinals at the beginning of the 1990 season that put his career back on track. 

The Cardinals gave Smith a stellar opportunity to close, allowing him to cement himself in closer allure.  Raking up saves like dirt on Craig Biggio’s helmet, Smith put together three of the most impressive seasons any reliever has ever put on, breaking Bruce Sutter’s NL saves record with 47 in 1991, followed by three straight 40+ save seasons.  Smith was so great during the 91′ season he finished second in the NL Cy Young voting behind Tom Glavine.  Smith took over the career saves record in 1993 passing then leader Jeff Reardon. Smith spent the rest of his career as a bit of a journey men, moving around from team to team.  His effectiveness didn’t end though as he collected 33 saves with Baltimore in 1994 and 37 saves with California in 1995.  Smith spent his final years in a setup role before calling it quits in 1997, retiring as the all time saves leader in professional baseball, but at the time only two career relievers, Hoyt Whilhelm ’85 and Rollie Fingers ’92 had gotten the call of immortality into the baseball Hall of Fame.  Smith had a tough hill to climb.

There were multiple reasons why he should have been a Hall of Famer:

 1.)Third All-Time in MLB saves behind Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. 

2.)7-time All Star

3.)Smith’s 169 long saves (four outs or more) ranks fourth behind Rollie Fingers (201), Goose Gossage (193) and Bruce Sutter (188), all of whom began their major league careers several years earlier. Smith’s 1,022 total appearances ranked ranked third when he retired, behind only Wilhelm and Kent Tekluve, but he is now tied for 12th.

4.)First pitcher in history to 400 career saves.

5.) Four straight 40 save seasons

The biggest reason why Smith should be in the Hall of Fame cannot be broken down by sabermetrics. Smith was the model of consistency at a position that at the time was not a one inning relief role.  For ten years Smith was the standard of what to look for in a relief pitcher.  While the late 90’s and early 2000’s Rivera and Hoffman became the highest ceiling of a reliever, they were both looking up to the standards that were set by Lee Smith.  He consistency and bulldog approach were the things that made him great sadly those are not the standards we vote by anymore.  Smith never lead a team to the World Series, he was constantly on the move during his career.  He was not a dominant WAR player, he was just the best of his time for 5+ years.  It’s a shame he is not in the Hall of Fame.  

Championship Week Picks

Pac 12: Utah Utes vs. Washington Huskies -5

The Pac 12 may not be heading to the College Football Playoff but a champion must still be crowned and a participant in the Rose Bowl.

Washington hopes to build off the big victory over rival Washington State in their regular season finale. Washington will have the advantage at QB with Jake Browning, who threw for 2,692 yards and 16 touchdowns during the season.  He will lead an offense that will look to jump out early on Utah.

The Huskies defense was able to hold a powerful Washington State offense to 15 points. The Utes don’t possess the offense to compete with Washington.

PicksWashington -5.5

Big 12: Texas Longhorns vs. Oklahoma Sooners -7.5

Let me set the scene.  Two hated rivals.  One looking to not only avenge their only loss but also give themselves a shot at the college football playoff.  The other with the chance to beat their rival twice and keep them out of the college football playoff. This game has ESPN 30 for 30 written all over it.

Kyler Murray has been as good as advertised all season.  He will keep that going against a stout Texas defense.  All season Murray has not been the problem.  The Oklahoma defense is going to the be issue in this game.  Texas QB Sam Ehlinger was impressive in their first matchup throwing for 314 yards and two touchdowns.  Texas is a tough matchup for the Sooners,  they are 6-0 ATS versus Oklahoma in their last six.  Oklahoma wins but its close.

PicksTexas +7.5

AAC: Memphis Tigers vs. UCF Knights -3.5

Mackenzie Milton’s injury season ending injury may be to much to overcome for the “National Champs”.  Memphis enters this game with thoughts of last years epic showdown in the AAC Championship game, losing by a touchdown in double overtime.  The Tigers are out for blood in this one, looking to end the UCF 24-game win streak and any hope for the Knights to make it into the College Football Playoff. 

Memphis will run the ball straight down the throats of the UCF defense, managing the clock and dominating the time of possession. Look for Memphis to stack the box and make unproven true freshman QB Darriel Mack Jr. make throws down field.  Even if Mack Jr. does play well it will still be a lot to overcome.  I like Memphis to cover the +5.5 and I may even look to the moneyline.

PicksMemphis +3.5

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide -13.5 vs. Georgia Bulldogs

The Bulldogs have seen Tua in their nightmares for about a year now.  They will have a chance to face their fears on Saturday as they go into the SEC Championship.  

The betting public is going to look at Georgia’s loss to LSU and compare it to the domination Alabama showed against LSU.  I am looking at these two teams differently.  I see a Georgia team fighting for their life with a QB Jake Fromm that has no fear of Alabama. Georgia surrenders the 10th-fewest points per game at 17.2 and the 14th-fewest passing yards per game at 175.1. 

Alabama is a juggernaut of offense but their defense has shown holes this season. Georgia will come out and take an early lead and ride it until the 4th quarter where Tua makes the big plays necessary to overcome them.  This game is going to be a good one and a lot closer then the point spread is going to be. 

PicksGeorgia -13.5

ACC: Clemson Tigers -26.5 vs. Pittsburgh Panthers

I’m not wasting a lot of time on this one.  Pittsburgh is overmatched this one should be a beatdown of epic proportion.  Do I hope I am wrong? Yes.  But unlikely, Clemson rolls into the College Football Playoff. 

PicksClemson Tigers -26.5

Big 10: Northwestern Wildcats vs. Ohio State Buckeyes -14.5

Ohio State opened some eyes last week in their beatdown of rival Michigan last week. The Buckeyes defense finally showed up in the win against Michigan, but they still have to prove that they can consistently play at a high level. As good as the defense looked it has been Dwayne Haskins that has been playing at a NFL level.  He was second only to Gardner Minshew in passing yards this season, had five more touchdown passes than runner-up Will Grier, and torched the FBS’ top defense from Michigan for 396 passing yards, six passing TDs and 62 points in The Game.

Northwestern enters this matchup as over achievers in a matchup that does fit their strengths.  The Wildcats are 79th ranked passing defense in the country giving up 238 yards per game on average.  

The Buckeyes not only need to win this game but they have to show that they are a dominant force.  Urban Meyer won’t take his foot off the gas in this one. 

PicksOhio State -13.5

3 trades the Cardinals could make if Harper says no.

The St. Louis Cardinals are at the forefront of almost all offseason talks.  Bryce Harper,  Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Michael Brantley and basically anyone that has a pulse have been referenced as potential pickups.  The Cardinals have also been linked as a potential trade candidate for Diamondbacks Star Paul Goldschimdt.  If any of these scenarios were not to play out there are a few options that would make a lot of sense for Mo and Girsch to look into.

Kirby Yates, RP, San Diego Padres

The Cardinals have made it apparent that they are in need of a swing and miss pitcher at the backend of their bullpen.  Yates has quietly been one of the most consistent relievers for a bullpen that has been widely underrated. Yates has posted a staggering 29.% K-BB ranking him 7th among all pitchers that have pitched 40 innings or more. He has two pitches that cause above average swing and miss rates, his split-change (45.9%) and slider (44%).

Yates can fit right into the Cardinals bullpen as a late inning reliever and potential closer.  His contract is also very team friendly as he is controlled until the 2020 season. The Padres have an asset that they can move for more young talent that can help continue their rebuild .  Yates at 31 years old is not a player that the Padres are looking to build anything around.  Take advantage of the situation and get your self a swing and miss pitcher.

Justin Smoak, 1B, Toronto Blue Jays

Like the Padres, the Blue Jays are looking at a rebuild.  Rowdy Tellez showed that he is ready for the majors.  That means Smoak will be on his way out. Cardinals fans will have their issues with the Smoak pick up.  Known more for his inconsistency after being a highly touted prospect, Smoak followed up a breakout 2017 season with a respectable 2018 season. Smoak also brings a switching hitting aspect to his game, more effectively from the left side (A need for the Cardinals), from the left side Smoak excelled with a .867 OPS, hitting 20 of his 25 homers.

Smoak doesn’t bring much with the glove sitting at about league average over the last four seasons in defensive runs saved. A team in need of offense, however, could be willing to overlook these drawbacks for a switch-hitter who has created 28 percent more runs (128 wRC+) than the average big league hitter over the last two seasons.The 31-year-old has an .854 OPS and 62 homers over the last two seasons. Good stuff for a guy whose 2019 club option will only pay out $8 million.

David Peralta, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

The Diamondbacks have a litany of great players up for grabs.  The most underrated of them all could be Outfielder David Peralta.  Peralta has seen a jump in power statistics in 2018.

  ISO SLG wOBA wRC+
2017 150 444 342 104
2018 223 516 368 130

The increases led to the most productive season of Peralta’s career.  Peralta has his issues most notably with left-handed pitching, hitting only .237 against southpaws.  It got to the point that Peralta had become a platoon player for the D-Backs.  With a $7.7MM arb projection and two years of club control left for a D-backs team that has looked at some degree of rebuild this winter Peralta is a relatively expensive but reliable piece that the Cardinals can make work.

If the Cardinals are committed to moving on from Dexter Fowler in they can look at a platoon of Tyler O’Neil and David Peralta to compliment Marcell Ozuna and Harrison Bader. While a platoon is not ideal Peralta will be able to cover the inefficiencies of Tyler O’Neil.

Adding these three players will not make most fans happy.  Cardinal nation is screaming for a big time star.  While we wait and see the outcome of  MLB’s version of “The Decision”, fans have to understand that maybe the big star the fanbase seeks is not in this years class.  Next year Nolan Arenado will be a free agent…..just sayin.