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Getting ready for weekend: Bulls, Rockies-Dodgers, football previews

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

June 23, 2017 09:23 AM

The Chicago Bulls immediately plummeted to 150/1 to win the NBA title in global sports books when “the trade heard ‘round the world” sent Jimmy Butler to Minnesota moments before the start of the 2017 draft.

NBA: Draft overshadowed by shocking trade that sent Jimmy Butler to T-wolves
Based on early reactions, it may go down as one of the worst trades in NBA history! The Chicago Bulls traded star Jimmy Butler and a draft pick (which became Justin Patton) to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and a draft pick (which became Lauri Markkanen).

Both Chicago and Minnesota had been roughly 100/1 to win the 2017-18 NBA Championship in Las Vegas and offshore. Offshore sports books reacted immediately to the big news. Chicago plummeted to 150/1 after losing Butler. Minnesota rose to anywhere from 50 to 1 to 33 to 1 depending on the store.

Now, some trades that seem one-sided at first don’t always turn out that way. Zach Lavine may be destined for greatness. Kris Dunn is still young (though a year older than Lavine). The Bulls might be getting three future contributors who will lead the team to greatness in 2020.

But, RIGHT NOW, Butler is a true impact player on both sides of the floor, and ranked #7 of all NBA players last season in ESPN’s “Real Plus-Minus” calculation. He’s already a three-time All-Star. At age 27, he should have several more good years ahead. 

Lavine (age 22) is coming off a knee injury that may or may not slow his development. Dunn only averaged 3.8 points-per-game last season in 17.1 minutes-per-game. 

Chicago traded a sure thing for a couple of gambles, signaling to the league (and the markets) that they may be ready to dive into a full-fledged rebuilding mode rather than try to make a dent in the LeBron era. 

Be sure to watch VSiN programming Friday to hear how the South Point oddsmakers have adjusted their futures prices. 

MLB: Thursday notes
A few things to update in the bases…

  • Arizona pounded Colorado 10-3 to win that huge series in the NL West. The Diamondbacks pull within a game of the Rockies thanks to a pair of blowout victories. Truly a statement week for Arizona amidst all the Colorado hype. 
  • The “O’s Woes” pitching story continued, as Baltimore lost to Cleveland 6-3. That’s now 19 straight games allowing at least five runs or more. The national media is picking up on this. We’re glad we could put it on your radar after that dreadful series with the Yankees halfway through this stretch. The updated runs allowed number line is now: 5-7-5-6-6-8-16-14-10-6-6-5-11-7-5-12-5-5-6.

Baltimore is 6-13 in those 19 games, with none of their losses coming by one run (following up on our discussion about laying -1.5 run lines vs. poor pitching staffs at favorable prices).  

  • We haven’t talked about Houston’s road offense in awhile. It was getting so redundant! Might as well pop in after they posted a dirty dozen in Oakland Thursday afternoon. Houston sweeps the four-game series, scoring 4-8-5-12 in the process. This after their prior road trip clocked in at 16-7-17-7-6-7-7-7-5-6. The Astros make all pitchers look like Baltimore pitchers. Well, on the road anyway. Too many fans and analysts still don’t realize Houston plays its home games in one of the Majors’ best pitchers parks
  • Yesterday we mentioned “odds to reach the playoffs” as tabulated by fangraphs. The, Brent Musburger brought up the topic Thursday on “My Guys in the Desert” when talking about the NL West. Let’s quick run through the top contenders, using at least a 30% chance as a cut-off. Again, these are based on the formula used by fangraphs. You can read a much more comprehensive report by clicking here (and those numbers will likely be slightly fresher than what you see below).

AL East: Boston 84.2%, NY Yankees 70.3%, Toronto 34.4%
AL Central: Cleveland 96.8%
AL West: Houston 100%

Not much drama left if those are right! Fangraphs uses a mix of current and projected performance, which is why Cleveland is a virtual lock with just a slight lead in today’s standings.

NL East: Washington 98.2%
NL Central: Chicago Cubs 85.5%
NL West: LA Dodgers 99.9%, Colorado 86.9%, Arizona 86.9%

Same story here…as the Cubs should still have enough talent to pull away for a return trip to the postseason. 

MLB: Preview of the Colorado/LA Dodgers series (plus quick notes in Twins/Indians)
Another big series in the NL West begins Friday when the Colorado Rockies visit the Los Angeles Dodgers. Let’s take a look at the “three true outcome” stats for this weekend’s probable pitchers. 

Friday (early line: Dodgers -200, total of 8)
Kyle Freeland: 14.1% K’s, 9.0% walks, 0.9 HR/9, 4.73 xFIP
Alex Wood: 29.8% K’s, 6.2% walks, 0.3 HR/9, 2.56 xFIP
Wood has been fantastic when he’s been healthy enough to throw. He’s basically a second Clayton Kershaw. Well, to this point more effective because he’s not allowing a lot of home runs. Big edge on the mound over Freeland. Though, Kyle’s xFIP would look better if he didn’t have to throw have of his games at altitude. That low K-Rate is an issue though for Freeland…because “pitch-to-contact” is tough to pull off against these potent Dodgers bats. 

Saturday
Tyler Chatwood: 20.1% K’s, 11.4% walks, 1.3 HR/9, 4.03 xFIP
Clayton Kershaw: 28.8% K’s, 4.3% walks, 1.5 HR/9, 2.95 xFIP
Part of Kershaw’s dinger issues involve his lack of concern about giving up home runs when he has a comfortable lead. The Dodgers have been giving him run support…and he’s been coasting with leads rather than grinding batter-by-batter. Still a fantastic K/BB ratio…and the inside track to the Cy Young because of name recognition and what’s likely to be a gaudy won-lost record. Chatwood has always been a pitcher who has to exceed around the edges to make the most of what he’s got. Does he have enough to hang with Kershaw and the red-hot Dodgers?

Sunday
German Marquez: 20.7% K’s, 8.1% walks, 0.9 HR/9, 4.60 xFIP
Brandon McCarthy: 20.1% K’s, 6.6% walks, 0.5 HR/9, 4.07 xFIP
This is Colorado’s best chance to steal a win in the series. Put these pitchers in the same parks all season, and those HR and xFIP numbers would be even closer. The Rockies may be battling to avoid a sweep. It would be something if they won the series on the road after having drawn Wood and Kershaw out of the gate. 

We have a series in the American League that matches the top two teams in their division. It’s a return engagement for Minnesota and Cleveland. The Indians swept four games from the Twins last weekend, flipping the AL Central race in their direction. 

Here’s a quick look at the xFIP numbers for the projected starting pitchers…

Minnesota at Cleveland
Friday: Adalberto Mejia (5.30 xFIP) vs. Trevor Bauer (3.53 xFIP) (Cle -185/10)
Saturday: Kyle Gibson (5.03 xFIP) vs. Corey Kluber (2.99 xFIP)
Sunday: Ervin Santana (4.92 xFIP) vs. Josh Tomlin (4.08 xFIP)

Edges across the board for the hosts…with really big edges Friday and Saturday. Minnesota’s pitching staff has really let them down vs. quality this season. Both Houston and Cleveland embarrassed them in the Twin Cities recently. Let’s do a Baltimore-style scoring line for Minnesota pitchers. 

Runs allowed since June 11: 9-2-7-5-6-9-8-2-6-7-14-13

That’s only 12 games instead of Baltimore’s 19…and there are a couple of two’s in there. But, pretty horrible needless to say. Cleveland has a good chance to stay hot!

College Football: South Point posts 33 more “Game of the Year” matchups
South Point sports book director Chris Andrews posted betting odds for 33 more big matchups throughout the coming college football season. That brings the total to 99 games you can attack now. Get smart and bet early!

VSiN Senior Editor Matt Youmans put the full list up on our home page Thursday afternoon. A few quick highlights:

September 9: Georgia opened -1 at Notre Dame, while USC opened -6.5 at home vs. Stanford (with early betting moving that to the full seven).

September 16: Florida State opened at -8 at home vs. Miami.

October 7: LSU opened -3 at Florida

November 18: Wisconsin opened -10 vs. Michigan

Also Thursday, the Golden Nugget put up their college football “Game of the Year” prices. The Las Vegas Review Journal posted this full rundown

NFL: West easily the most exciting division in the AFC
We close out our two-week series of NFL team capsules by looking at the AFC West. This is definitely “saving the best for last” in this conference…and might be for the whole league if the top three contenders all play near their ceilings.

We start with the future Las Vegas Raiders, who just signed their star quarterback to a big money contract this week. 

Oakland Raiders
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 9.5 (Over -135)
Odds to win AFC: 6/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 12/1

2016 Record: 12-4 
Yards-per-Play: 5.7 on offense, 6.1 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 38% on offense, 39% allowed

Passing: 6.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 29 TD’s, 7 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 7.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 27 TD’s allowed, 16 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 30 takeaways, 25 sacks

If you only focus on the won-lost record, and Derek Carr’s impressive TD/INT ratio, it’s easy to project him as the next big thing for a budding champion. But, this wasn’t really a “great” offense in terms of yards-per-play and moving the chains. And, that defense! Good luck making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons while allowing more than six yards-per-play and almost eight yards-per-pass. The Raiders did make enough impact plays to overcome those weaknesses. They weren’t as good as the 12-4 record suggests, which is why the market is thinking something closer to 10.  

Kansas City Chiefs
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 9 (over -130)
Odds to win AFC: 9/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 20/1

2016 Record: 12-4 
Yards-per-Play: 5.5 on offense, 5.5 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 38% on offense, 43% allowed

Passing: 7.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 19 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 6.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 23 TD’s allowed, 18 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 33 takeaways, 28 sacks

Another team that wasn’t as good as its record, but used defensive impact plays to make up for weaknesses elsewhere. The Chiefs are great at winning the percentage game. That approach typically runs into a wall in the playoffs because opponents there have better fundamentals. 

Denver Broncos
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 8.5 (Under -145)
Odds to win AFC: 6/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 15/1

2016 Record: 9-7 
Yards-per-Play: 5.1 on offense, 4.7 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 34% on offense, 36% allowed

Passing: 6.9 yards-per-pass attempt, 20 TD’s, 11 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 5.8 yards-per-pass attempt, 13 TD’s allowed, 14 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 27 takeaways, 42 sacks

Our final team this fortnight for the “great defense, horrible offense” list. The Broncos won a Super Bowl that way. Since then, they’ve had trouble finding a quarterback who could even match a “bad Peyton Manning.” A defense this elite puts you in position to compete every week. They basically make all opposing offenses look like the LA Rams! Can they find a quarterback who can at least approximate league average? Like Houston, they’re a Super Bowl threat if they can. If not, another wasted season. The market currently expects a wasted season. 

Los Angeles Chargers
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 7.5 (Under -130)
Odds to win AFC: 30/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 40/1

2016 Record: 5-11 
Yards-per-Play: 5.6 on offense, 5.4 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 42% on offense, 40% allowed

Passing: 7.6 yards-per-pass attempt, 33 TD’s, 21 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 7.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 21 TD’s allowed, 18 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 28 takeaways, 35 sacks

The stat differentials are all positive…which suggests this was more like an 8-8 or 9-7 team rather than 5-11. The problem shows up in the interception category. Philip Rivers still forces things when he shouldn’t…which means the team loses tight games they should win because of those devastating miscues. At least they know what they need to fix. This is definitely a team that can shoot into the playoffs with a tweak here or there. Their stat profile is basically identical to Tennessee, but with 10 extra interceptions. If Oakland’s defense stays soft…if Denver’s offense stays helpless…if Kansas City turns in their usual season…the Chargers just might play some football that matters in the City of Angels. 

Another week in the books. Thanks for your continuing feedback and comments. If you have any questions about VSiN City or VSiN programming, please drop us a note. Are you one of the stragglers who hasn’t yet subscribed for weekday email service? You can take care of that by clicking here. Don’t forget that subscribers receive the daily betting sheets from the South Point in a PDF file. Follow us on twitter so you have easy access to programming bulletins. You never know when news is going to break!

Have a great weekend! See you Monday.

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