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Take me out to the Ball game: Vegas Summer League action set to open

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

ball
Magic Johnson's prize draft pick, Lonzo Ball, makes his Lakers debut in the Las Vegas Summer League today.
© USA Today Sports Images

Marketing juggernaut and potential NBA superstar Lonzo Ball begins his Los Angeles Lakers experience Friday in Las Vegas Summer League action…plus more on the Cubs collapse and a weekend MLB preview.

NBA: Lonzo Ball’s Lakers Experience Begins Friday in Las Vegas
The NBA Summer League is about to take over Las Vegas for the next week-and-a-half, as 24 franchises have sent entries to this showcase for first and second-year players. 

There are many young standouts to check out. But, most eyes locally (and nationally on ESPN) will be on #2 draft pick Lonzo Ball out of UCLA. The Bruins were a huge betting team at Nevada sportsbooks this past season…and that was even before they played the Pac 12 tournament at the T-Mobile arena. Now Ball will be playing three times in the next four days at the Thomas & Mack Center. 

Lakers preliminary schedule

  • Friday vs. LA Clippers at 8:30 p.m. ET, 5:30 p.m. in Las Vegas on ESPN
  • Saturday vs. Boston at 8:30 p.m. ET, 5:30 p.m. in Las Vegas on ESPN
  • Monday vs. Sacramento at 10:30 p.m. ET, 7:30 p.m. in Las Vegas on NBATV

We can assume those three games will be rowdy spectacles because it’s such a short trip from LA to Las Vegas…and because Ball’s family has a knack for creating spectacles. 

We listed the TV networks for those three preliminary Lakers games. If you love NBA basketball, be aware that EVERY game from Las Vegas will either be televised by the NBA Network or the ESPN family of networks. To get you started…

  • Friday at Cox Pavilion: 3 games televised by NBATV (6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. PT)
  • Friday at T&M: 3 games televised by ESPN or ESPN2 (6:30 p.m. ET, 3:30 p.m. PT)
  • Saturday at Cox Pavilion: 4 games televised by ESPNU (4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m. PT)
  • Saturday at T&M: 4 games televised by NBATV (4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. PT)
  • Sunday at Cox Pavilion: 4 games televised by NBATV (4 p.m. ET, 1 p.m PT)
  • Sunday at T&M: 4 games televised by ESPN or ESPN2 (4:30 p.m. ET, 1:30 p.m. PT)

If you’d like to see the full schedule, you can click here for a rundown provided by the NBA’s website. Be aware that all 24 teams will play 3 preliminary games. Results from those will set up seedings for a knockout tournament that begins Wednesday and runs through Monday July 17. 

The Westgate currently has the LA Lakers and Phoenix Suns as co-favorites to win the event at a price of 6/1. Sacramento is right on their heels at 13/2. For everyone else…

  • 9/1: Spurs
  • 10/1: Bulls, Celtics
  • 15/1: 76ers, Bucks, Mavericks, Warriors
  • 20/1: Clippers, Hawks, Nets, Trailblazers
  • 25/1: Jazz, Nuggets, Raptors
  • 30/1: Miami
  • 50/1: Grizzlies, Rockets
  • 60/1: Cavaliers, Pelicans, Wizards
  • 100/1: Timberwolves 

Additional Reading
An informative preview by Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal 
Helpful Fansided profiles of “prospects to watch” for all 24 teams
The Los Angeles Times with the Lakers perspective
The Orange County Register with additional context
The Silver Screen and Roll Lakers Blog

That LVRJ and Fansided articles are great for all-purpose fans. We included three links specific to the Lakers because of the buzz around Ball. 

Look for discussion and betting analysis this weekend and all through the NBA Summer League on VSiN programming. 

Sports Betting Industry: Is there a possible “Doomsday” in play for Nevada sports betting?
This hasn’t been discussed much amidst all the hoopla about New Jersey’s bid to offer sports betting reaching the Supreme Court. But a recent article in the Duke Law Journal suggests there’s an outside chance that SCOTUS could provide a ruling that bans sports betting EVERYWHERE in the US!

That possibility was outlined Thursday in an article by Dustin Gouker at the Legal Sports Report website. Gouker was referencing a submission to the Duke Law Journal by Ryan Rodenberg and John Holden (Associate Professor and Visiting Scholar respectively at Florida State University). 

Here’s a link to Gouker’s article
Here’s a link to “Sports Betting has an Equal Sovereignty Problem” at DLJ

This is a complex issue. The best way to simplify the potential “doomsday” scenario is to point out that New Jersey wants PASPA thrown out as unconstitutional so they can offer sports betting. But the Supreme Court could theoretically rule that the carve out for Nevada (and a few other states) was unconstitutional…meaning that sports betting must be banned in all 50 states. 

We’re a long way off from such a scenario. And obviously, the state of Nevada would react in very dramatic fashion to such a ruling.

MLB: Cubs collapse continues with blowout loss to Milwaukee
Chicago’s 11-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers Thursday happened to coincide with a lengthy article presented by analytics site 538 regarding what’s shaping up as a historic World Series Championship hangover. 

It may not seem so bad at first glance…because the Cubs are still heavy market favorites to win the NL Central this season despite a current record below .500. But they’ve fallen from a juggernaut to a mediocrity in a relative finger snap.

  • 2016 record: 103-58 (plus 252 run differential)
  • 2017 record: 42-43 (plus 8 run differential)

There’s a lot of blame to go around. It can get messy divvying that up because run production is so much higher this year across the sport. Let’s compare how the Cubs have performed in comparison to their league this season and last in scoring and run prevention. Starting with offense…

  • 2016: Cubs scored 5.0 runs per game in a league that averaged 4.4
  • 2017: Cubs are scoring 4.6 runs per game in a league that’s averaging 4.6

Last season, the Cubs were more than a half-a-run better per game than its league…which is huge in a sport where you have to produce daily in nine-inning sprints. This season’s offense is exactly league average. The offense is down 0.4 runs per game, but in a league that’s up 0.2 runs per game. Chicago’s finding it much more difficult to score despite the conditions that are helping offenses this year. 

  • 2016: Cubs had an ERA of 3.15 in a league with an ERA of 4.17
  • 2017: Cubs have an ERA of 4.04 in a league with an ERA of 4.33

Wow…last year’s pitching staff was a full run better than its league. Though ERA is up a bit in the sport because of a change in ball construction (and other factors), Chicago’s ERA has risen almost a full run. It’s still better than league average…but nowhere near last year’s dominating force.

Tricky to parse. Essentially…the pitching staff is better than the offense this season…but the pitching staff has fallen off much further from last year’s championship form. 

We wanted to add some context to a comment today from “A Numbers Game” guest co-host Chuck Esposito, sports book director for Stations Casinos. An avid Cubs fan, Chuck mentioned to fill-in host Matt Youmans that Kris Bryant hasn’t been hitting in the clutch this season. A quick look at baseball-reference bears that out. (Numbers through Wednesday’s action.)

Kris Bryant with runners in scoring position…

  • 2016: .263 batting average, .366 on-base pct., .474 slugging pct.
  • 2017: .207 batting average, .338 on-base pct., .414 slugging pct.

Bryant is only hitting .207 in these important situations, with not enough pop.

MLB: Red hot Royals hope to slow down Dodgers dynamo
The amazing Los Angeles Dodgers continue to run into hot opponents. This weekend the Kansas City Royals come to Chavez Ravine for an Interleague series just before the All-Star Break. Amidst summer headlines for teams like the Dodgers, Astros, and Diamondbacks, it may have gone under-reported that the Royals are 18-6 their last 24 games. 

And Kansas City split a four-game set with the awesome Astros the series before that streak started. So high level play from the Royals has gone on for a full month. 

Can they slow down the Dodgers this weekend? It might be a good chance to catch LAD flat. You know that Dodger Blue is coming off a high profile divisional showdown with Arizona, a recent four-game freeway rivalry series with the Angels, and a divisional battle with then-scary Colorado. 

Here are the “three true outcome” stats for this weekend’s probable pitchers. It was great to hear Brian Kenney reference that phrase with Mitch and Pauly during his guest spot the other day. These are the key numbers many “smarts” used to handicap in the analytics era.  

Friday (early line: Los Angeles -200, total 8.5 Over -125)

  • Jason Hammel: 17.4% K’s, 7.2% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 5.29 xFIP
  • Kenta Maeda: 23.7% K’s, 6.3% walks, 1.4 HR/9, 4.12 xFIP

You can see why the Over has such high juice. The combined xFIP’s are up near 9.5 (that stands for fielding independent pitching, and the scale runs parallel to ERA). Hammel isn’t a great strikeout pitcher…which could really hurt against an offense like the Dodgers. Maeda’s having issues with the long ball, but is otherwise better able to impose his will on proceedings. If the Dodgers aren’t flat, then they’re positioned to win a high scoring game. If they are, the Royals may sneak through if they can take Maeda deep. 

Saturday

  • Ian Kennedy: 20.8% K’s, 10.5% walks, 1.8 HR/9, 5.22 xFIP
  • Brandon McCarthy: 19.7% K’s, 6.9% walks, 0.5 HR/9, 4.17 xFIP

Another tough spot for a Royals pitcher. Their ace starter Jason Vargas didn’t see his turn come up in this series. Kennedy has both walk and home run problems, which will play right into the strengths of the potent Dodgers offense. McCarthy isn’t really ace material with that xFIP. But if you can avoid giving up walks and home runs, while a great offense is scoring behind you…then you’re going to win some games. Just the kind of guy many juggernauts have at the back of their rotation. Teams can’t have long winning spells like LAD is enjoying without adequate performance from all their rotation spots.  

Sunday

  • Danny Duffy: 18.7% K’s, 8.7% walks, 0.5 HR/9, 4.83 xFIP
  • Clayton Kershaw: 30.9% K’s, 4.7% walks, 1.2 HR/9, 2.84 xFIP

Kershaw will become ineligible for the All-Star game unfortunately if he takes his normal spot here. Barring a surprise rainstorm or act of God, that’s what’s going to happen. It might take an act of God to allow any opponent to get a win over this amazing lefthander. Duffy has the best composite of any Royals pitcher going this weekend...but lines up against the wrong guy. 

Intangibles are used less often by handicappers in baseball than in other sports. But, it is possible for top teams to take their eyes off the ball for a bit if they run into an opponent that doesn’t get their juices flowing. The pitching stats suggest the Royals will need that kind of break to win this series. 

CFL: The underdog streak is over!
We were going to wait until Monday to recap the full weekend of CFL action. But we wanted to break in here with word that the first favorite has covered in the 2017 season. British Columbia (-3.5 after a game-day sharp money move through a key number from -2.5) beat Montreal 23-16 Thursday night. 

As our stat preview suggested, it was a grinder (9-6 BC entering the fourth quarter). BC played the cleaner game (only 4 penalties, with 0 interceptions) while winning total yardage 342-334. Montreal had an issue with staying on the field for the third straight week with only 51 plays from scrimmage.  

British Columbia moves to 2-1 on the season after scoring road wins over Eastern entries Toronto and Montreal the past two weekends. The Alouettes fall to 1-2, but the victory was by just one point at home over league doormat Saskatchewan. 

Underdogs are now 8-1 ATS this season, after sweeping all games vs. the number in the first two weeks. 

That closes out another week in VSiN City. We greatly appreciate all of you who have signed up for subscriptions and sent in feedback. If you’re reading this on the home page of our website, don’t forget that subscribers are automatically entered into a drawing to win a free spot in the Westgate SuperContest. That’s a $1,500 value! Our twitter feed continues to percolate seven days a week with programming bulletins and audio/video snippets from special segments. Click here to follow us so you don’t miss a single highlight. 

Back with you Monday with a weekend recap that will include baseball, the Las Vegas NBA Summer League, Canadian football, and whatever else pops up between now and then. Have a great weekend!

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