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Derby Week: Let's focus on humans, for today at least

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

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We begin the stretch run to Kentucky Derby weekend with a look at the “human element” in Saturday’s race. That plus NBA and NHL recaps…MLB and NFL stats racing your way right here in VSiN City.

Kentucky Derby: Handicapping the human element
Obviously the horses have to run the race! But smart handicappers also evaluate jockeys and trainers before making their final decisions at the track. For those of you who have already read a lot about the horses and the odds, but little about “the human element,” we’ve compiled records in the Kentucky Derby for this year’s jockeys and trainers. 

Jockey records in the Kentucky Derby (ranked by victories, records show first-second-third)

  • Gary Stevens (Royal Mo): 3-3-1 in 22 tries (will join 20-horse field if there’s a defection)
  • Kent Desormeaux (Sonneteer): 3-1-4 in 20 tries
  • Victor Espinoza (Gormley): 3-0-1 in 8 tries
  • Mario Guiterrez (Irap): 2-0-0 in 2 tries
  • Mike Smith (Girvin): 1-4-1 in 22 tries
  • John Velazquez (Always Dreaming): 1-1-0 in 18 tries
  • Joel Rosario (Practical Joke): 1-0-0 in 7 tries
  • Jose Lezcano (State of Honor): 0-1-0 in 4 tries
  • Rajiv Maragh (Irish War Cry): 0-0-1 in 4 tries
  • Florent Geroux (Hence): 0-0-1 in 1 try 
  • Javier Castellano (Gunnevera): no placements in 10 tries
  • Julien Leparoux (Classic Empire): no placements in 9 tries
  • Luis Saez (J Boys Echo): no placements in 4 tries
  • Jose Ortiz (Tapwrit): no placements in 2 tries
  • Corey Lanerie (Lookin at Lee): no placements in 2 tries
  • Ricardo Santana Jr. (Untrapped): no placements in 2 tries
  • Christophe Soumillon (Thunder Snow: no placement in 1 try
  • Brian Hernandez Jr. (McCraken): no placement in 1 try
  • Rookies: Tyler Gaffalione (Patch), Channing Hill (Fast and Accurate), Flavien Prat (Battle of Midway)

Remember that the Kentucky Derby has a HUGE field every year…making it very difficult for even elite jockeys to crack the top three consistently, let alone win the race. The results above give you a sense of who has been able to perform in The Run for the Roses as well as the varied experience levels throughout Saturday’s roster. Note also that the current market favorites (Classic Empire, Irish War Cry, Always Dreaming, and McCraken) are being ridden by men who only have one Derby victory between them to date. 

Trainer Records in the Kentucky Derby (ranked by victories, records show first-second-third)

  • Doug O’Neill (Irap): 2-0-0 in 5 tries
  • Todd Pletcher (Always Dreaming, Tapwrit, Patch): 1-2-3 with 45 entries in 16 derbies
  • Graham Motion (Irish War Cry): 1-0-0 in 4 tries
  • John Shireffs (Gormley, Royal Mo is a possible late entry): 1-0-0 in 3 tries
  • Steve Asmussen (Hence, Untrapped, Lookin at Lee, Local Hero): 0-1-2 with 15 horses in 11 derbies
  • Dale Romans (J Boys Echo): 0-0-2 in 7 tries
  • Keith Desormeaux (Sonneteer): 0-1-0 in 1 try
  • Saeed bin Suroor (Thunder Snow): no placements in 7 tries
  • Mike Maher (Fast and Accurate): no placements in 5 tries
  • Jerry Hollendorfer (Battle of Midway): no placements in 5 tries
  • Mark Casse (Classic Empire, State of Honor): no placements in 3 tries
  • Chad Brown (Practical Joke): no placements in 2 tries
  • First time in the Derby: Joe Sharp (Girvin), Antonio Sano (Gunnevera), Ian Wilkes (McCraken)

The draw for starting positions will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET. You can watch a livestream courtesy of the Louisville Courier-Journal at that time here. 

We’ll provide newsletter notes on head-to-head matchups and odds updates as the focus shifts back to the horses Thursday and Friday. In the meantime…

Some extra viewing:
Kentucky Derby authority Ed DeRosa visited Ron Flatter Tuesday on “My Guys in the Desert” 

Articles of note:
Results from Tuesday’s draw for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (Louisville Courier-Journal)
Paradise Woods installed as Kentucky Oaks Favorite (VSIN)
Latest Kentucky Derby odds, lineup, and info (Bleacher Report)
Everything you need to know about the Kentucky Derby (Sporting News)
5 horses to watch (USA Today)
Assorted Derby articles from ESPN’s horse racing home page (ESPN)

NBA: Celtics survive in OT, Warriors coast
A lot of drama in the first game of Tuesday night's NBA doubleheader. Not so much in the nightcap...

Boston (-5) 129, Washington 119 (in overtime)

  • Two-Point Pct: Washington 55%, Boston 62%
  • Three-Pointers: Washington 10/34, Boston 13/36
  • Free Throws: Washington 16/22, Boston 26/34
  • Wall: 40 points, 13 assists, 4 turnovers
  • Thomas: 53 points, 4 assists, 2 turnovers

Definitely one that got away for the Wizards. They led through most of regulation. Though, it was never comfortable because their defense isn’t good enough to stop Boston. The Celtics rallied late to force extra time at 114-all. Washington had nothing left in the tank. Once again Wall came close to counter-acting Thomas when you consider the points that come from his assists. But, Isaiah played amazingly clean as he continued to fly at the basket. Seven of his extra 13 points compared to Wall came from the free throw line. 

The pace count was 97, pro-rated to 48 minutes. So, faster than the first game’s 93 possession count. Scoring sums have landed on 234 and 228 at the end of regulation, continuing to provide a challenge to a betting marketplace that isn’t used to seeing such soft two-point defense in the postseason. 

Golden State (-12.5) 106, Utah 94

  • Two-Point Pct: Utah 55%, Golden State 62%
  • Free Throws: Utah 9/12, Golden State 19/21
  • Fast Break Points: Utah 6, Golden State 29

Even in a slow game with only 92 possessions the Warriors managed to post a huge edge in fast break points. They won scoreboard by a dozen despite shooting only 7 of 29 on treys and getting out-rebounded 44-37. So...the Jazz caught a break that played into its rebounding strengths and still lost big. What's it going to look like when GS hits their treys?! 

Wednesday’s point spreads (Cleveland and Houston lead 1-0)

  • Toronto at Cleveland (-7, total of 214); 7 p.m. ET on TNT
  • Houston at San Antonio (-5.5, total of 215); 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT

NHL: NY Rangers get on the board, Nashville now up 3-1
Wins for the home teams Tuesday night, as the Rangers climb back into their series with Ottawa and the Predators continue to feed.

NY Rangers (-170) 4, Ottawa 1

  • Shots: Ottawa 27, NY Rangers 30

A must-win spot for New York after they lost both games in Ottawa. The Rangers came out breathing fire, winning first period shots 15-5 on the way to a 2-0 lead. They would double that to 4-0 by late in the second period. Ottawa could afford a night off…but the pre-series underdog better not get too complacent.  

Nashville (-150) 2, St. Louis 1

  • Shots: St. Louis 33, Nashville 26

You see the effort from the frantic Blues in the shot count. But Nashville continues to play the best hockey in the Western Conference. Their 3-1 series lead here puts them at 7-1 in the postseason, with a combined goal count of 24-11 vs. Chicago and St. Louis. 

Wednesday’s moneylines

  • Washington (-125, total of 5--Over -140) at Pittsburgh; 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network
  • Anaheim at Edmonton (-120, total of 5.5--Under -130); 10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

MLB still stands for Michael Lambourne’s Baseball!
An update for you on Michael Lambourne’s pitchers to watch for regression. Michael, the producer and cohort of Gill Alexander on “A Numbers Game” every weekday, added in some extra stats this time for more context. The lists below will show you:

  • ERA: standard earned run average, often very misleading
  • xFIP: fielding independent pitching, a better metric that ERA on the same scale
  • BABIP: batting average on balls in play, where extremes are caused mostly by luck
  • LOB%: left on base percentage, as stranding runners is also influenced by luck

The average numbers in those stats heading into the new week are:

  • ERA and xFIP: both 4.09
  • BABIP: .287
  • LOB: 73%

Keep those numbers in mind as you read the lists. You’ll see at a glance why the “disasters waiting to happen” have been pitching with good luck to this point in the season, while those who are “better than their ERA would suggest” are likely to post some good numbers going forward when regression becomes their friend. 

Pitchers are ordered by the difference between their ERA and their xFIP. We start with the guys who aren’t pitching nearly as well as their ERA’s would lead you to believe. The reasons for that will become clear when you see that batting average on balls in play and left on base percentages in parenthesis.

Disasters waiting to happen

  • Jeremy Hellickson (Phils): 1.80 ERA, 5.28 xFIP, -3.48 differential (.196 babip, 86% lob)
  • Ervin Santana (Twins): 0.77 ERA, 4.10 xFIP, -3.33 differential (.129 babip, 100% lob)
  • Derek Holland (CWS): 2.17 ERA, 4.95 xFIP, -2.78 differential (.229 babip, 71% lob)
  • Gio Gonzalez (Nats): 1.62 ERA, 4.18 xFIP, .2.56 differential (.258 babip, 89% lob)
  • Hector Santiago (Twins): 2.43 ERA, 4.93 xFIP, .2.50 differential (.276 babip, 85% lob)
  • Dylan Brody (Orioles): 1.65 ERA, 4.09 xFIP, -2.44 differential (2.64 babip, 89% lob)
  • Ian Kennedy (Royals): 2.30 ERA, 4.59 xFIP, -2,29 differenial (.184 babip, 86% lob)
  • Cole Hamels (Rangers): 3.03 ERA, 5.20 xFIP, -2.17 differential (.219 babip, 79% lob)
  • Blake Snell (Rays): 3.42 ERA, 5.59 xFIP, -2.17 differential (.234 babip, 66% lob)
  • Andrew Triggs (A’s): 1.84 ERA, 3.97 xFIP, -2.13 differential (.233 babip, 73% lob)

Very difficult to hold opposing hitters to the low .200s in batting average on balls in play “on purpose,” which means balls will start hitting the ground soon vs. this group. And, that will be happening when runners are on base. These are pitchers you should consider fading if the market is giving them too much credit for their ERA’s.

Now to the other end of the spectrum. Pitchers you might want to invest in even though they have ugly ERA’s at the moment. 

Better than ERA would suggest

  • Tyler Anderson (Rockies): 7.71 ERA, 4.65 xFIP, 3.06 differential (.304 babip, 58% lob)
  • Adam Wainwright (Cards): 6.12 ERA, 3.17 xFIP, 2.95 differential (.439 babip, 67% lob)
  • Jeff Samardzija (Giants): 6.32 ERA, 3.41 xFIP, 2.91 differential (.321 babip, 60% lob)
  • Kenta Maeda (LAD): 6.58 ERA, 3.87 xFIP, 2.71 differential (.306 babip, 64% lob)
  • Bronson Arroyo (Cincy): 7.20 ERA, 4.92 xFIP, 2.28 differential (.260 babip, 56% lob)
  • Kevin Gausman (Orioles): 7.50 ERA, 5.64 xFIP, 1.86 differential (.350 babip, 68% lob)
  • Jhoulys Chacin (Padres): 5.82 ERA, 4.09 xFIP, 1.73 differential (.304 babip, 59% lob)
  • Lance McCullers (Astros): 4.34 ERA, 2.71 xFIP, 1.63 differential (.342 babip, 76% lob)
  • John Lackey (Cubs): 5.10 ERA, 3.58 xFIP, 1.52 differential (.286 babip, 66% lob)
  • Jake Arrieta (Cubs): 4.68 ERA, 3.21 xFIP, 1.45 differential (.324 babip, 72% lob)

Remember that the key to finding value when betting baseball is to focus on what’s most likely to happen moving forward based on skill sets and true talent rather than letting your judgment get clouded by misleading stats from the recent past. 

NFL Regular Season Win Totals: Searching for sleepers
Continuing now with this week’s series on NFL Regular Season Win Totals, we look at eight teams who are priced between 7.5 and 8.5 flat at the South Point. Our key indicator stats from the 2016 season are yards-per-play differential (offense/defense in parenthesis), turnover differential, and schedule strength as rated by Football Outsiders.

Philadelphia 8.5

  • Minus 0.6 ypp differential (5.0/5.6), plus 6 turnovers, #2 schedule

Philadelphia got a lot of strong early season press, but limped to a poor season in terms of offensive yards-per-play. That low 5.0 mark did come against a tough schedule though. Interesting team. They could step forward if young stars show improvement. They could find that you can’t make a run at a Wildcard with a negative YPP differential. Volatile situation.

New Orleans 8.5 (Under -120)

  • Plus 0.2 ypp differential (6.2/6.0), minus 3 turnovers, #15 schedule

About as generic as you could get, close to even in YPP differential and turnovers while playing a league average schedule. Still a case of a great offense paired with a horrible defense, which leaves no margin for error in big games. Can the defense improve enough to put this team back in the title discussion?

Tampa Bay 8

  • Minus 0.6 ypp differential (5.2/5.8), plus 2 turnovers, #7 schedule

Tricky here because the offense struggled under a young, inexperienced quarterback while facing a tough schedule. The Bucs went 9-7, but weren’t really that caliber of team based on their YPP and scoring differential (-15 points for the season). If you assume things get easier this year on the right side of the learning curve, then the Bucs can become very important very quickly. But, they probably weren’t as good last season as you were thinking. 

Detroit 8

  • Minus 0.4 ypp differential (5.5/5.9), -1 turnovers, #18 schedule

Similar to Tampa Bay in that they went 9-7 while getting outgained per play and outscored for the season (-12 points here). The Lions had a friendlier schedule while compiling those mediocre stats, which could be a strike against their potential to surge this season.

Arizona 7.5 (Over plus 125)

  • Plus 0.6 ypp differential (5.4/4.8), even turnovers, #30 schedule

Arizona outscored its opponents by 56 points and had a losing record! So many conflicting indicators. Their schedule is very likely to be tougher because there’s so little room for it to get easier down at #30. Carson Palmer imploded in a way that could signal doom. The talent is here for a 10-win season in 2017…but the pieces aren’t exactly fitting together any more.

Washington 7.5

  • Plus 0.6 ypp differential (6.4/5.8), even turnovers, #3 schedule

If you can erase the image of Kirk Cousins gagging out of your head, there’s really a lot to like here. Washington posted great offensive numbers and a solid YPP differential while playing a very tough schedule. True contenders are better in the turnover department than that…so Cousins will have to clean up his act. If he can do that against a softening schedule…the playoffs aren’t out of the question. With today’s hunk of teams, “can I trust this quarterback?” is going to loom large for Over consideration up and down the list. Searching for sleepers, finding heartbreak. 

Miami 7.5

  • Plus 0.2 ypp differential (5.8/5.6), plus 2 turnovers, #26 schedule

Miami went 10-6 last season, but wasn’t anywhere near a 10-6 type team. You can see from the numbers above that they would have negative YPP and turnover differentials if they had faced a league average schedule. They were outscored by 17 points for the season by the #26 schedule. Probably a good handicapping exercise for you to do would be to rank everyone from 1-32 on scoring differential rather than won-lost records when transitioning to the new season. 

LA Chargers 7.5

  • Plus 0.2 ypp differential (5.6/5.4), -7 turnovers, #17 schedule

The 5-11 record wasn’t a reflection of team quality. This was basically a .500 type team that had a few too many brain lapses in close games against a league average schedule. The market realized that, and stuck them near .500 for a 2017 projection. Then San Diego was only outscored by 13 points all season. Sharpen up the offense, and exploit what could be a strong home field advantage at a small temporary home…a true sleeper could emerge.

That wraps up Wednesday. If you have any comments or suggestions for discussion here in VSiN City, please drop us a note. Website readers can subscribe to receive this newsletter via email every weekday morning by signing up here. Don’t forget to follow us on twitter @vsinlive for news and programming bulletins throughout the day.

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