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First-round clues for Masters handicappers

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

charley_hoffman
Charley Hoffman had nine birdies on his way to a 7-under 65.
© USA Today Sports Images

A lot to talk about today…and we’re coming to you again EARLY since you’ll be waking up to golf action in Augusta. 

Hoffman’s stats show what matters at the Masters
You surely know by now that former Nevada-Las Vegas golf star Charley Hoffman is the first-round leader at the 2017 Masters. Hoffman carded a stellar 7-under par 65, four shots clear of William McGirt, and five shots ahead of third-place Lee Westwood. 

Hoffman compiled some very interesting stats in his round. And, we’re not just talking about NINE BIRDIES on a day when most of the field struggled in high winds. Let’s take a closer look at what Hoffman did well, and did poorly.

#1 in puts-per-green in regulation at 1.786
Not a surprise given all the birdies. Obviously if you’re draining all of your putts you’re going to rank well here. It’s not necessarily something that’s going to hold up for this particular golfer, even if the ultimate winner does shine in this category. 

#2 in greens-in-regulation at 77.8%
Handicappers appearing on VSiN all week have emphasized the importance of giving yourself chances to make birdies. You have to get your approach shot on the green for that to happen. Great job here from Hoffman. 

#25 in yards-per-drive at 271.5
Not elite…but almost in the top quarter of the field (top 27%). It’s very hard to win this tournament if you’re not getting distance off the tee. For the day, Hoffman trailed the likes of Jason Day and Rickie Fowler (both at 275.5). But, he out-drove Phil Mickelson (269.5), and both Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth (both 266.5). 

#76 (of 93) in driving accuracy with just 50%, tied for seventh WORST in the field
This wasn’t a case of “fairways and greens” for Hoffman. He only hit half his fairways (while shockingly scoring birdies on all four par threes). Distance off the tee matters at Augusta. Accuracy doesn’t as much because the rough can be relatively forgiving. Hoffman managed 77.8% greens in regulation on only 50% driving accuracy. 

Note that driving accuracy was not a priority for the tournament’s two co-favorites (after Dustin Johnson dropped out). Rory McIlroy was worst in the field at 38.5%. Jordan Spieth tied for second worst at 42.9%.

As you handicap the rest of the weekend, be thinking about what Hoffman’s stats are telling us about what matters most at the Masters. Then, do your best to find golfers whose approach best lines up with those lessons.

For additional Masters coverage:
Matt Youmans here at VSiN on market adjustments after the first round.
Interesting Masters-related stats and tour skill set rankings from Fantasy Golf website futureoffantasy.
Specific stats from the same site about the best golfers in the wind since 2014 (the forecast is for another windy day at Augusta Friday before conditions calm down over the weekend.
An article from David Purdum of ESPN Chalk yesterday regarding how various sportsbooks handled the withdrawal of Dustin Johnson.

Oh, you can play around with Round One stats of all golfers here (Just click on the "Player Stats" header. You can further sort by clicking on the separate categories)

Stick with VSiN all through the weekend for more discussion of matchup betting angles and futures possibilities!

Boston Celtics hungover in Hotlanta
About 150 miles due West from Augusta...the Boston Celtics were certainly still feeling the effects of Wednesday night’s one-sided loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Not only were spirits down after that national TV spanking. But fatigue appeared to be an issue because Boston didn’t play much defense in a blowout loss Thursday in Atlanta. The Celtics allowed 71 points in the first half to the hot-shooting Hawks.

Atlanta (plus 2) 123, Boston 116

  • Two Point Shooting: Boston 47%, Atlanta 50%
  • Three Pointers: Boston 15/43, Atlanta 11/23
  • Rebounds: Boston 38, Atlanta 52

For much of the night, Atlanta was hitting better than 50% on two-pointers and three-pointers. The Hawks ultimately came within one trey of exactly 50% in both areas, which is tough to do against a playoff caliber opponent in a very fast 104-possession game. You can see Atlanta owned the boards. The Hawks also won fast-break points 17-10 and points in the paint 44-36

These last two nights don’t mean that Boston is a pretender with no shot in the playoffs. But the Celtics are a vulnerable team that doesn’t appear to be ready right now to make a run at the league finals. The offense is too reliant on one man. The defense has been anything but a brick wall these past two nights when the games were being decided. Outsmarting regular season opponents who are playing three-quarter speed is easier than outplaying focused opponents when a result really matters

Atlanta may be rounding into playoff form at just the right time. A few weeks of blah won’t matter if the Hawks soar like this into the postseason, where they currently sit in the #5 slot after Thursday’s victory.

In other games involving NBA East teams trying to lock in playoff positioning…

Chicago (-5.5) won at Philadelphia 102-90 despite Rajon Rondo missing the game with an injury. The Bulls jumped ahead early knowing the importance of this win. A 57-50 rebounding advantage proved helpful, as did Brooklyn shooting a miserable 7 of 33 on treys. 

Indiana (-4.5) beat Milwaukee 104-89. The Pacers won in the paint with a 55% to 47% superiority on two-point shooting, a 44-32 edge in rebounding, and 20-12 advantage in made free throws. Very slow 92-possession game (playoff style), yet the two teams combined for 37 turnovers (21 for Milwaukee, 16 for Indiana). That’s very bad news for the first round of the playoffs, where both will be facing opponents who are better than they saw tonight. 

Are NBA “need to win” teams covering point spreads?
It’s a popular betting strategy late in the regular season to invest in teams who have extra motivation to play well because they’re trying to make the playoffs. Oddsmakers know this, and try to shade the line against anticipated action. What’s been happening in recent days with the several teams in the Eastern logjam just below the “big four” of Cleveland, Boston, Washington, and Toronto? Let’s take a look! (ATS means "against the spread")

East “Need to Win” Teams

  • #5 Atlanta (40-38) has covered three of its last four, but is 8-15 ATS its last 23 games
  • #6 Milwaukee (40-39) is 2-6 ATS its last eight games 
  • #7 Chicago (39-40) is 2-2 ATS last four, 8-3 ATS its last 11
  • #8 Indiana (39-40, loses tie-breaker) has covered three straight, but is 6-9 ATS its last 15
  • #9 Miami (38-40) is 1-2 ATS last three, 4-5 ATS its last nine…but was super-hot before then
  • #10 Charlotte (36-43) has failed to cover its last two, and has been otherwise treading water
  • #11 Detroit (35-43) is 2-6 ATS its last eight, and 3-9 ATS its last 12

That’s not a lot of good news for bettors. Atlanta and Indiana are on mini-runs….but these teams have been in “need to win” mode for more than a week and weren't covering earlier. Chicago has been cashing tickets since Dwyane Wade got hurt. Will they keep cashing if he comes back?! We’ve already talked about Detroit’s apparent intention to miss the playoffs, which the team now succeeded in accomplishing. Charlotte hasn’t been defending with alacrity. Miami’s months-long hot streak cooled down in crunch time.

Atlanta, Chicago, and Indiana all did look very good Thursday night though. Milwaukee may have been saving peak intensity for a Saturday road game at also-ran Philadelphia, where win #41 will loom large for survival. Going forward, this angle may be worth your attention even if the past few weeks saw some ugly ATS results.

In MLB, Houston’s Minute Maid Park 0-4 to the Under
We talked earlier in the week about how Houston’s Minute Maid Park was the best pitcher’s park in Major League baseball last season. Though, it has a reputation as a bandbox, it can be surprisingly difficult to post big scoring totals at that site. 

The first four games of the 2017 season have been a reminder of that. All four games between the Seattle Mariners and Houston Astros stayed Under the total, with a nine-inning peak of six runs scored (one game was decided in extra innings). If you like betting 5 inning lines, all four of those stayed Under too, with a peak outing of three runs last night. 

  • Five-Inning Scores: 2-0, 1-1, 2-0, and 2-1.
  • Final Scores: 3-0, 2-1, 5-3 (in extra innings), and 4-2.

The 5-3 game was 2-2 after nine. 

Games at this site last year went 29-45-7 to the Under according to the lines posted in the game log at covers.com. So, that’s a combined 29-49-7 to the Under this season and last. 

That doesn’t mean the Under is a lock every night, or that Unders will cash at a great rate for weeks to come. The market should adjust eventually. Houston’s offense will hit better than it’s hit so far. What seems clear to this point is that this stadium’s reputation for being a bandbox is blinding market influences to the current run-reducing characteristics of Minute Maid. We’ll keep an eye on this for you as the 2017 season progresses.

Clarification on MLB Park Effects
Thanks to everyone who’s been providing comments and feedback on the content here in VSiN City. We’re here to serve you. Let us know what you’d like to see.

Based on reader questions, we’d like to quickly clarify how “ballpark effects” are determined. We linked to ESPN’s “park factor” data earlier this week. The numbers you see there reflect efforts designed to isolate the impact that a stadium has on scoring. 

To do that, you compare what happened in that team’s home games to what happened in that team’s road games. That takes out “pollution” that could be created by each team’s talent. Each team’s talent plays in the home games AND the road games, cancelling out. 

So, Colorado isn’t seen as a great hitter’s park because the Rockies just happened to be loaded with fantastic hitters and horrible pitchers. Those same hitters and pitchers played in their road games too. Yet…

In 2016:

  • 985 total runs were scored in Colorado’s home games
  • 720 total runs were scored in Colorado’s road games

Since 985 represents a 37% increase over 720, Colorado’s park factor is 1.37 (or 1.368 as ESPN takes it to three spots past the decimal point). 

We can deduce that San Francisco kills home run production because only 119 total home runs were hit at AT&T park last year, compared to 169 in Giants’ road games. That represents a 30% decrease. 

It’s not perfect of course. Nothing is when measuring complex systems. Understanding ballpark factors helps analysts draw more accurate conclusions and make better predictions.

That wraps up the day and the week in VSiN City. We'll be back with you again Monday for this special weekday feature. As we mentioned a moment ago, please feel free to send us any feedback or suggestions. Click here to drop us an email.

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