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Rizzo leads off for Cubs and this newsletter

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

June 14, 2017 04:21 AM
© USA Today Sports Images

Desperate to get his offense in gear, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon moved slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo into the lead-off spot Tuesday night against the New York Mets…

MLB: Rightso Rizzo! Slugger’s move to leadoff spot ignites Cubs offense

Might as well get as many at bats as possible for one of your most lethal hitters! To say it was the right move at the right time is an understatement. Rizzo led off the game with a solo home run (career home run #31 leading off an inning in for the 27-year old). He drew a bases-loaded walk in the second inning, before coming around to score on Ian Happ’s grand slam home run. Batting again in the third inning, Rizzo drilled an RBI double. That’s two extra-base hits and a walk, with 3 RBI, in the first three innings.

Chicago went on to win 14-3, ending the nine-game road losing streak we discussed yesterday

Other Wednesday baseball notes:

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers won a surprisingly high scoring 7-5 decision over the Cleveland Indians. Starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer allowed just two runs apiece. A 2-2 eighth inning tie broke wide open as the Dodgers scored two in the eighth and three in the ninth off the best bullpen in baseball(!) before the Indians scored three in the ninth in a failed comeback try. Kershaw’s overnight price of -160 would surge all the way up to -180 through the day. The Dodgers have won Kershaw’s last eight starts, and are 12-2 in the 14 games he’s started so far this season. 
  • Baltimore is now 9-22 its last 31 games after another poor pitching performance from a starting pitcher. Alec Asher allowed six earned runs in five innings of work in the Orioles’ 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. An odd line move here as Baltimore opened a short dog, only to rise up near -130 (depending on the sportsbook) despite this horrible recent run. Baltimore has been outscored 60-17 in its last six games. 
  • Do they need a humidor in Minnesota?! The Twins bounced back from Monday night’s 14-3 loss to Seattle with a 20-7 win Tuesday. The Twins prior six home games have seen 17, 27, 23, 9, 24, 14 runs scored with the Mariners, and then Houston and Tampa Bay on the prior homestand. ESPN’s Park Factors page shows Minnesota as a top five hitter’s park thus far in 2017, even better than the New York Yankees’ launching pad. 

US Open Golf: Favored Dustin Johnson bet down to 3/1 at the South Point

Despite the fact that golf tournament favorites rarely offer attractive betting prices, Dustin Johnson was bet all the way down to 3/1 Wednesday at the South Point to win this week’s US Open. Earlier pricing in the range of 13/2 suggested he’d win the event about 13% of the time. A price of 3/1 suggests 25%!

A huge field…a very demanding course…and DJ would have to win better than 25% of the time to make money for stragglers. 

Other top contenders (late Tuesday South Point odds):

  • Jordan Spieth 8/1 (11%)
  • Rory McIlroy 9/1 (10%)
  • Jason Day 10/1 (9%)

Most shops across the globe have the men we’ve mentioned so far as a “big four” relatively clear of the field. In fact, the Westgate created a prop where you can bet on those four vs. the field to claim the championship trophy. “Yes” for the foursome returns plus 250 (not far off backing just DJ at the South Point), while you have to lay -300 for “No,” which gives you every other golfer. 

The South Point has a fifth golfer in the elite, with young Spaniard Jon Rahm priced along with Jason Day at 10/1. Other notables: Rickie Fowler 15/1, Justin Rose 18/1, and Phil Mickelson 30/1. Mickelson has yet to withdraw even though he’ll be attending his daughter’s graduation from high school Thursday during the first round. If there’s an extended weather delay, he might still be able to make his tee time. Both the South Point and Westgate will refund any bets on Mickelson if he’s unable to start. (Be sure you check with your sports book for rules on this dynamic…some will just call it a lost bet.)

Gill Alexander devoted much of his VSiN show “A Numbers Game” Tuesday to handicapping the Open, which will be held this year at Erin Hills in Wisconsin. Gill and guest Brady Kannon both have their eye on Rickie Fowler as a golfer well-suited to thriving on this wide-open course (click here for a bird’s eye view from the Erin Hills website). Guest Dave Tindall discussed a system that isolated Kevin Kisner as a longshot to watch. Though in Tindall’s article for betfair (that Gill referenced on the show), Tindall also picked Fowler. 

Betting exchanges in Europe like Betfair offer more attractive prices than you see in the states because it’s a much more liquid market that allows you to bet “Yes” or “No” on each player. Here’s a link you can monitor all week to see those prices. A bit of explanation is in order first so you can translate what you’re seeing at Betfair to what you’re used to seeing in the states.

On the page linked, you’ll see a blue column for each golfer called “Back all,” and a pink column called “Lay all.” As we’re preparing this newsletter for you, Dustin Johnson’s numbers in those columns show 9.2 and 9.4 (you may see slightly different numbers when you click during the day Thursday). How do we translate? Simply knock 1.0 off each number, and turn that into odds or a moneyline (whichever you prefer).

Knocking 1.0 off 9.2 and 9.4 gives us 8.2 and 8.4. So,

  • Backing DJ to win pays 8.2 to 1, or 820 on a moneyline
  • Betting that DJ WON’T win means you have to lay -840 on the moneyline

The difference between -840 and plus 820 is what the exchange pockets for setting up the bet. 

Using that, here would be the payout odds in U.S. parlance for the players we’ve mentioned, as of our late Tuesday night publication deadlines…

DJ: 8.2 to 1

Rory: 13.5 to 1

Day: 15 to 1

Spieth: 16 to 1

Rahm: 22 to 1

Fowler: 23 to 1

Kisner: 59 to 1

You can see the global marketplace has a “big four” showing separation before Rahm and Fowler. Other notables just below Fowler overseas are Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia, both at 27 to 1, Adam Scott at 31/1, Henrik Stenstrom at 35/1, and Justin Thomas at 37/1. 

You can be sure that handicapping and betting the US Open will be a hot topic all day long Wednesday on our programming. Head-to-head golfer matchups posted by the South Point will be particularly fun to analyze. Then, once the action begins Thursday, “Follow the Money” with Mitch and Pauly, “A Numbers Game” with Gill, and “My Guys in the Desert” with Brent Musburger and Ron Flatter will provide constant scoreboard updates. 

Matt Youmans will also be providing comprehensive coverage through the week on our home page. Look for a tournament preview Wednesday, and then day-by-day summaries through the weekend. No matter who your favorite golf writer is…only Matt will be providing on-the-fly articles from a betting perspective. 

Golden State Recap: Remember that talent AND tactics keyed the Warriors’ historic run

Analytics website 538 posted an interesting article by Chris Herring Tuesday explaining the impact that Golden State’s offensive schematics had on their success. We strongly encourage you basketball bettors to read it. For those that just want the cliff’s notes:

  • Golden State was LAST in the NBA in 2017 in pick-and-rolls run by its ballhandlers
  • Golden State was FIRST in the NBA in 2017 (by a lot) in setting off-ball screens

Great ball movement and off-ball screening put their sharp shooters in position to either make open three-pointers, or fly at the basket for easy dunks. 

Much of the conversation about “next year” in the NBA involves what opponents can do in terms of building a super-team that can beat the Warriors. But the Warriors themselves aren’t a collection of superstars in the vein of the Miami Heat with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. It’s a “tactical” super-team that has outsmarted the league by putting puzzle pieces together in the most effective way possible. Yes, Kevin Durant helped put them over the top this year (they won without him two years ago). It’s not a roster of Kevin Durants. It’s a roster of role players who are excellent at executing their brilliantly designed roles.  

Cleveland doesn’t beat Golden State just by adding Paul George or Carmelo Anthony. The Cavs must solve the riddle of those ball screens first and foremost. The San Antonio Spurs showed some hints at how to do that in the Western Conference Finals before Kawhi Leonard got hurt. If the Spurs get better by adding Chris Paul in the offseason, their point of emphasis will still be denying open looks to the Warriors rather than just letting Paul run their offense and hoping that’s enough. 

The analytics revolution, in its essence, is a strategic revolution. The word “analytics” is just a fancy way of saying “analysis.” It’s the stuff you do to figure things out. Golden State has figured out how to maximize three-point production and easy dunks with an intense onslaught of off-ball screens. Preventing a dynasty will involve outsmarting THAT, not star acquisition. The next evolutionary tick will be defensive as opponents try to find a solution to slowing down the Warriors. 

In terms of your own betting, what analysis can you do to improve your performance? What puzzle pieces need to be put together more intelligently? What should be tossed aside because it’s not part of a money-making strategy? How can you stay one or two evolutionary ticks ahead of the market?

NFL: NFC North may learn greatness is out of its reach

We continue our pro football capsule previews Wednesday with the four teams in the NFC North. If you missed yesterday’s look at the NFC East, please click here and scroll down to the last section. We’ll close out the NFC the next two days with the South and West. Next week, we’ll run through the four AFC divisions in this format.

Each capsule includes current betting odds for the coming season, and a recap of key quality indicator stats from the 2016 regular season. 

Green Bay Packers

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 10 (Over -130)

Odds to win NFC: 5/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 10/1

2016 Record: 10-6 

Yards-per-Play: 5.7 on offense, 5.9 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 47% on offense, 41% allowed

Passing: 7.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 40 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 8.1 yards-per-pass attempt, 32 TD’s allowed, 17 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 25 takeaways, 40 sacks

The Packers are clear favorites to win this division…but they’re unlikely to survive a playoff gauntlet if they can’t shore up their defense. They allowed almost six yards-per-play last year (poor), while allowing more than eight yards-per-pass (worst in the whole NFC). It doesn’t do any good to have Aaron Rodgers as your quarterback if you make opposing quarterbacks look like Aaron Rodgers! On the whole, championship caliber offense (particularly in TD/INT ratio), but the defense must improve to go the distance. 

Minnesota Vikings

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 8.5 (Under -130)

Odds to win NFC: 9/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 18/1

2016 Record: 8-8 

Yards-per-Play: 5.0 on offense, 5.1 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 38% on offense, 39% allowed

Passing: 7.0 yards-per-pass attempt, 20 TD’s, 5 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 6.6 yards-per-pass attempt, 22 TD’s allowed, 14 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 27 takeaways, 41 sacks

Like the NY Giants, whom we discussed yesterday, we have a championship caliber defense but a very poor offense. In fact, this defense was a little better than the G-men across the board…and NYG’s stop unit was terrific. Can the offense find a way to truly replace Teddy Bridgewater after his tragic injury? Sam Bradford wasn't the answer. 

Detroit Lions

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 7.5 (Over -130)

Odds to win NFC: 18/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 40/1

2016 Record: 9-7 

Yards-per-Play: 5.5 on offense, 5.9 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 43% on offense, 46% allowed

Passing: 7.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 24 TD’s, 10 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 7.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 33 TD’s allowed, 10 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 14 takeaways, 26 sacks

Detroit finished with a winning record last year…but you can see that their stat differentials were all negative. Run your finger down the categories, and you’ll see how lucky they were to even reach .500 let alone surpass it. That’s why the market isn’t giving them much respect in the NFC and Super Bowl picture. The most important thing to remember is that this team probably wasn’t as good last year as you were thinking. And, 24 passing TDs on just 7.3 yards-per-attempt is not an impressive combo for a veteran quarterback in the modern game.  

Chicago Bears

2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 5 (Over -130)

Odds to win NFC: 60/1

Odds to win Super Bowl: 125/1

2016 Record: 3-13 

Yards-per-Play: 5.9 on offense, 5.5 allowed

Third Down Conversions: 38% on offense, 40% allowed

Passing: 7.4 yards-per-pass attempt, 19 TD’s, 19 interceptions thrown

Pass defense: 7.2 yards-per-pass attempt, 22 TD’s allowed, 8 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 11 takeaways, 37 sacks

We know that Bears fans felt helpless last season. But look at that positive yards-per-play differential! Casual followers of the league have the Bears rated down with teams like Cleveland and San Francisco. In terms of nuts and bolts production, Chicago was actually a lot better than those two on a per-play basis even if it didn’t show up in the standings. Cleveland’s YPP numbers a year ago were 5.1 and 5.9, while San Francisco’s were 5.1 and 6.1. Rebuilding the Bears might be quicker because last year’s hole isn’t as deep as it looked.

That wraps up Wednesday. You can subscribe to receive the newsletter in your email box every weekday morning by clicking here. Don’t forget that subscribers receive the daily betting sheets from the South Point. Those will be very handy Thursday and Friday for the US Open head-to-head matchups! 

You can follow us on twitter by clicking here. If you have any questions or comments about content, please drop us a note. See you again Thursday.

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