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MLB ♦ ''Opening Day'' ♦ Sunday 4/3/16

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    April Pitchers Report
    By Marc Lawrence

    Major League Baseball trades places with March Madness as the sports flavor of the month in April. And as we usher in America’s favorite pastime, let’s open the season with one of our favorite handicapping angles – good month pitchers.

    Listed below are hurlers that have enjoyed a two-to-one or better success ratio in team-starts over the course of the last three seasons during the month of April. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in April, winning 33% percent or less of their team-start efforts. To qualify pitchers must have made a minimum of 10 starts, with at least one start each April over the last three years. And for your convenience alongside each record we break down each pitcher’s greatest success or greatest failure either home (H) or away (A) within his good or bad month.

    Note: * designates a categorical repeat appearance by this pitcher, maintaining status quo from last season’s April list.


    Colon, Bartolo – 11-4 (6-2 H)
    Will be a fifth starter until Zach Wheeler returns. Throws almost exclusively fastball and moves this pitch all around the zone. Places batters under pressure by throwing strikes.

    *Gonzalez, Gio – 11-5 (7-1 H)
    Tricky delivery and has great motion on fastball and changeup. Has gotten in more trouble the last two years by telegraphing curveball. Usually more effective early than late.

    *Greinke, Zack – 11-2 (6-0 A)
    Premier starting pitcher who adds and subtracts on fastball to get more movement. He can also spot inside and out. Has late breaking slider and can dial up 12-to-6 curveball when necessary. Tremendous talent.

    *Hammel, Jason – 11-4 (7-2 H)
    Back of the rotation starter for Cubs who still can throw in low to mid-90’s, but has to keep the ball down or will be knocked around. Slider is second-most effective pitch.

    *Hamels, Cole- 10-4 (5-2 H)
    Has all the pitches and can throw any for strikes. Still has good fastball but has developed excellent cutter the last four years, which has come at the expense of arguably best changeup in the game. Has half dozen curves, which are different in velocity and shape.

    *Kazmir, Scott – 9-3 (6-2 A)
    Knows how to pitch with four-pitch assortment he can throw strikes with. Both his two-seam and four-seam fastballs are back in the 90’s, but they have straightened out a bit and do not miss as many bats. Lots of pressure to replace Greinke.

    Scherzer, Max – 10-5 (7-2 H)
    Top line pitcher who dominate with mid-90’s fastball, sweeping curve and biting slider. Extreme confidence with loose repeatable delivery and great bet early.

    Teheran, Julio – 13-2 (7-1 A)
    Talented hurler being wasted on bad team Atlanta team, but is still young enough at 25 to be in prime if Braves rebuild quickly. Inconsistent command of fastball hurts, but when he’s right with this pitch, slider and curve are nasty. FYI: these numbers represent Teheran’s career starts during April.


    Bailey, Homer – 4-8 (1-6 A)
    Recovering from Tommy John, probably a couple months away from pitching for Cincinnati.

    *Cahill, Trevor – 2-10 (0-4 A)
    Now working out of Cubs bullpen as setup man, but could be spot starter if needed. Note: 0-7 last seven April starts.

    Cashner, Andrew – 4-8 (1-5 A)
    Have never understood why Cashner does not to throw his mid to upper 90’s fastball more often. Secondary pitches all a little above average, but has spooked himself by tossing heat down the middle instead of going up the ladder with fastball based on count.

    Hughes, Philip – 5-10 (2-6 H)
    Looks to regain 2014 form with Minnesota after reverting to Yankees numbers in 2015. Has good command of fastball and cutter and curve is tightly spun with excellent dropping motion. Will get into trouble early, seemingly not focused or feeling pressure if all pitches are not working.

    Kluber, Corey- 3-9 (1-6 A)
    Legit ace who got off to slow start last year trying to live up to winning Cy Young award. Has mid 90’s fastball that darts in or out and he can control at batters knees. Also delivers hard curve and occasional changeup. Return to 2014 numbers expected, but like all pitchers will need some run support.

    Samardzija, Jeff – 5-11 (2-7 A)
    Is 47-61 with a 4.09 ERA for career, yet is making 9.8 million with San Francisco. Still has good fastball and when he hits his spots, can be hard to hit. All other pitches are ordinary. If he cannot win with Giants, his usefulness is all but done.

    Weaver, Jered – 4-8 (1-3 H)
    Former Angels ace spent the spring throwing fastball in the low 80’s. Not being a Mark Buehrle-type, that renders most of his other pitches almost useless because the differences in speed do not fool batters. Claims to have found arm slot to add velocity and movement. Not a Play On pitcher.


    National League games
    Pirates @ Cardinals

    Liriano was 3-0, 3.54 in his last five starts LY. Over was 7-2-1 in his last 10 starts. He was 1-1, 3.71 in four starts vs St Louis LY.

    Wainwright’s last start was April 25, 2015; he was 2-1, 2.16 in his last four starts before getting hurt. He is 11-6, 4.29 in 23 career starts against the Pirates.

    Cardinals won season series 10-9 last year.

    American League games
    Rays @ Blue Jays

    Archer was 1-3, 5.11 in his last seven starts LY. Over was 6-1-1 in his last eight. He was 3-2, 3.11 in six starts vs Toronto LY.

    Stroman was 5-0, 2.91 in his last seven starts LY; his last four starts went over total. Stroman is 1-1, 5.73 in two career starts against Tempa Bay.

    Rays won season series 10-9 last year.

    Interleague games
    Mets @ Royals

    Harvey was 3-1, 2.64 in his last seven starts LY; over was 8-1-1 in his last ten. He was 0-0, 3.21 in two World Series starts vs the Royals in October.

    Volquez was 0-1, 5.29 in his last three starts LY. He was also 0-0, 3.21 in couple of starts against the Mets in the World Series.

    Royals beat Mets in five games in World Series last fall.


    Preview: Cardinals at Pirates

    GAME: St. Louis Cardinals (0-0) at Pittsburgh Pirates (0-0)
    DATE/TIME: Sunday, April 03 – 1:05 PM EST
    WHERE: PNC Park, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    The Pittsburgh Pirates won 98 games last year – their most since 1991 – but were eliminated in the National League wild card game for the second consecutive season. “Every year, we’re a little more hungry,” reliever Tony Watson told reporters as Pittsburgh prepares to kick off the 2016 season against the visiting St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. “Ninety-eight wins is nothing to hang our heads about, but we definitely want to win a division, raise a World Series flag in Pittsburgh.”

    Part of the problem for the Pirates is that they are members of a Central Division that also boasts perennial playoff contender St. Louis and the upstart Chicago Cubs, who eliminated Pittsburgh in the wild card game last season. The Cardinals face challenges with shortstop Jhonny Peralta (thumb) likely out until mid-July while right-hander Lance Lynn (12-11, 3.03 ERA in 2015) could miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Pirates, meanwhile, boast 2013 NL Most Valuable Player Andrew McCutchen, who could be sitting on a monster year after “slumping” to fifth in MVP voting last season. St. Louis’ Adam Wainwright makes his fourth consecutive opening day start (fifth overall) and opposes Francisco Liriano, who takes the hill for his third straight opener (fourth overall).

    TV: 1:05 p.m. ET, ESPN, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), ROOT (Pittsburgh)

    Cardinals RH Adam Wainwright (2015: 2-1, 1.61 ERA) vs. Pirates LH Francisco Liriano (2015: 12-7, 3.38)

    Wainwright makes his first start since going down last April with an Achilles’ injury and after pitching six games in relief – three postseason – in September and October. The 34-year-old Georgia native yielded eight runs and 19 hits while walking six and striking out 11 in 15 innings over four starts during spring training. “My arm feels great, and that, I think, is the most important thing going forward and into the season,” Wainwright told reporters. “There are a couple of very minor things that make a big deal of difference that I’m going to do between now and the next start.”

    Liriano, who becomes the first Pittsburgh pitcher to make three consecutive opening day starts since Doug Drabek in 1990-92, hopes to reach 200 innings for the first time as his career high is 191 2/3 while with Minnesota in 2010. “I think it means that I’m being more consistent than I used to be before,” the 32-year-old Dominican Republic native told reporters about the opening day nod. “I wish I can continue to do that and be more consistent, hopefully go deep into games and throw more innings this year.” Liriano permitted nine runs and 19 hits while walking two and striking out 16 in 13 1/3 innings over four starts during spring training.


    1. Pirates new acquisition David Freese is projected to bat third and start the season at third base with Jung Ho Kang (knee) sidelined.

    2. According to the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, Pittsburgh has a under-over win total of 86.5 behind St. Louis (87.5) and Chicago (93.5) in the NL Central. The Cubs are 4-1 favorites to win the World Series ahead of the 18-1 Cardinals and Pirates.

    3. St. Louis has won the last two season series while winning 21 of the 38 contests with Pittsburgh going 6-4 at PNC Park in 2015.

    PREDICTION: Cardinals 3, Pirates 2


    Preview: Blue Jays at Rays

    GAME: Toronto Blue Jays (0-0) at Tampa Bay Rays (0-0)
    DATE/TIME: Sunday, April 03 – 4:05 PM EST
    WHERE: Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

    The Toronto Blue Jays came within two wins of reaching the World Series last fall and begin their quest to advance one more round Sunday with the first contest of a four-game road series against the revamped Tampa Bay Rays. The Blue Jays, who scored 127 more runs than anyone and led the majors in homers in 2015, will be tested in the season opener against talented right-hander Chris Archer.

    Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and American League MVP Josh Donaldson combined for 120 home runs last season and the Blue Jays will get a full season of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup. The biggest loss for Toronto is starting pitcher David Price and a lot will depend on new ace Marcus Stroman, who gets the ball in the opener. The Rays finished below .500 the last two seasons after making the playoffs in four of the previous six campaigns, and added some juice to an offense that finished second-to-last in the American League in runs scored in 2015. Newcomers – including first baseman Logan Morrison, outfielder-designated hitter Corey Dickerson, shortstop Brad Miller and catcher Hank Conger – are all expected in Tampa Bay’s lineup Sunday.

    TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Sportsnet (Toronto), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)

    Blue Jays RH Marcus Stroman (2015: 4-0, 1.67 ERA) vs. Rays RH Chris Archer (12-13, 3.23)

    Stroman missed most of last season after suffering a torn ACL in the spring and was outstanding when he returned, including three decent postseason starts. The 24-year-old Duke product went 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA in 26 games his rookie season in 2014, including 1-1 against the Rays. Stroman won his only start at Tampa Bay in September 2014, allowing two runs and seven hits over six innings, and gave up three runs in 13 2/3 frames this spring.

    Archer became an All Star for the first time in 2015, breaking the club record for a single season with 252 strikeouts in 212 innings. The 27-year-old North Carolina native was only 3-8 at home last season, but had a better ERA (3.11) and batting average against (.213) at Tropicana Field than he did on the road where he went 9-5. Archer is 5-3 with a 3.26 ERA in his career against the Blue Jays and has held Bautista and Encarnacion to 10-for-69 with four homers.


    1. Tampa Bay CF Kevin Kiermaier, who won his first Gold Glove last season, battied .315 in 16 games against Toronto in 2015.

    2. The Blue Jays acquired RHP Drew Storen in the offseason and the club announced he will set up for 21-year-old closer RHP Roberto Osuna.

    3. The Rays won the season series against Toronto last season 10-9 and Archer had three of the victories.

    PREDICTION: Rays 4, Blue Jays 3


    Preview: Mets at Royals

    GAME: New York Mets (0-0) at Kansas City Royals (0-0)
    DATE/TIME: Sunday, April 03 – 8:37 PM EST
    WHERE: Kauffman Stadium, Kansas City, Missouri

    The Kansas City Royals begin defense of their World Series crown against the team they sent home last fall when they host the New York Mets on Sunday. The two-time defending American League champion needed five games to top New York and claim their second World Series title, and has largely kept its core intact, re-signing star left fielder Alex Gordon and filling small holes elsewhere to form a roster that they said could even improve upon 2015.

    “We’ve got the same pieces. We’ve got a little better,” third baseman Mike Moustakas told reporters. “And we’ve got the same mindset, so there is no telling what we can accomplish. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.” There has been talk in recent days of Kansas City retaliating for a purpose pitch by Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard to open Game 3 of the World Series, adding an element of intrigue to this two-game, three-day series, but several Royals shot down such talk. New York, which opened 2015 at 13-3, will be looking to get off to another solid start behind right-hander Matt Harvey, who struggled during the spring and also recently dealt with a blood clot in his bladder. The Mets went winless in their final 13 Grapefruit League games before splitting a pair with the Chicago Cubs in Las Vegas.

    TV: 8:37 p.m. ET, ESPN

    Mets RH Matt Harvey (2015: 13-8, 2.71 ERA) vs. Royals RH Edinson Volquez (2015: 13-9, 3.55)

    Harvey had a solid rebound after missing all of 2014 to recover from Tommy John surgery, ranking in the top 10 in the National League in ERA and WHIP (1.019) and winning the league’s Comeback Player of the Year Award. He rebounded from the bladder issue to toss two innings Wednesday against Washington but gave up a three-run homer to lift his spring training ERA to 7.50, some of which was the result of nine walks in 12 innings. The 27-year-old gave up five runs in 14 innings in two World Series starts – both no-decisions – against the Royals, but has never faced them in the regular season.

    After several down years, Volquez has put up 13 wins and a sub-4.00 ERA in two straight seasons and he was on the mound opposite Harvey in the Game 5 clincher Nov. 1. The 32-year-old, who is 2-5 with a 5.70 ERA in nine career starts against the Mets, tossed a career-high 200 1/3 innings in 2015 before adding another 28 2/3 in the playoffs. New York right fielder Curtis Granderson, third baseman David Wright and second baseman Neil Walker are a combined 5-for-39 with seven strikeouts against Volquez.


    1. Syndergaard gets the nod for the second game Tuesday and will likely oppose Royals RHP Chris Young, who is expected to replace RHP Ian Kennedy (hamstring).

    2. Royals CF Lorenzo Cain hit .337 at home last season.

    3. This marks New York’s first regular-season visit to Kansas City since 2004.

    PREDICTION: Royals 4, Mets 3



    Risked 5 units to win 4.24
    Pittsburgh Pirates -118 vs St. Louis Cardinals

    Risked 5 units to win 4.63
    Toronto Blue Jays -108 vs Tampa Bay Rays

    Risked 5 units to win 5.55
    Kansas City Royals +111 vs New York Mets


    StatFox Situational Power Trends™ – FoxSheets

    KANSAS CITY is 32-11 (+18.4 Units) against the money line in Home games at home when the total is 7.5 or less over the last 2 seasons.
    The average score was: KANSAS CITY (5.3) , OPPONENT (3.3)



    2* (904) Rays -$102

    2* (908) Royals +$108

    2* UNDER 3.5 (-$150)(1st 5)
    Pirates / Cards



    2016 MLB Season Win Totals

    UNDER 85 (+100) KANSAS CITY…($1,000) – BIG MOVE

    UNDER 86.5 (-115) PITSSBURGH…($1,000) – BIG MOVE

    OVER 82 (-105) TAMPA BAY…($750)

    OVER 85.5 (-125) CLEVELAND…($750)

    UNDER 82.5 (-110) ARIZONA…($750)

    OVER 70.5 (+100) MILWAUKEE…($750)


    LA DODGERS +1000…($250)

    CLEVELAND INDIANS +2000…($250)



    TAMPA BAY RAYS – OVER 82 WINS (-105)





    MLB Season Total

    Under 78.5 Wins Baltimore Orioles
    The Baltimore Orioles have overachieved the past few seasons, very quietly averaging 89 wins per year the past four. The wheels look like they are starting to come off, though, for this group after posting their worst year of the last four overall last season going 81-81. They lost their best starter in Wei-Yin Chen to free agency and replaced him with a much worse Yovani Gallardo during the offseason. They now have arguably the worst starting pitching rotation in the American League coming into this season. Offensively it looks like they’ve placed way too much of an emphasis on building a power hitting team to fit their hitter-friendly home ball park, but this means their a total mess when they have to go on the road and we seen that a lot last year as they posted the worst away record in all of the American League for 2015. This also is a very top-heavy looking team, and if one or more of their better players get hurt the O’s could be in for a world of trouble this year. They also play nearly half of their games against arguably the best division in baseball, the American League East, where all the other teams in the East are projected to be .500 or better this year. Added all up and this looks like a team trending down and one that will fall short of their season win total.

    Play the Baltimore Orioles win total ‘Under’.



    MLB Season Win
    Padres UNDER 73.5 wins -140

    PalmTree likes the play. As do other MLB experts.
    As a Handicapper of handicappers, I LOVE the play. The Padres had HUGE expectations with key acquisitions and expected to contend in 2015. Instead they floundered, winning 74 games.

    Fast Forward to 2016. The optimism is gone. The team is in a clear cut ‘rebuild’ mode, jettisoning Contracts, and likely looking to unload any pitchers who are having good years in 2016. With Az improved, and the Dodgers and Giants in the Division, this team is competing with the Rockies for last place……….a race I expect them to ‘win’.

    Go UNDER 73.5 here, I can see this team losing 100 games. I have not followed MLB so far this year, and I have made very few wagers, but I UNLOADED on this one!




    8* NY Mets – UNDER 89.5 wins



    5 unit – Cardinals – 1st 5 innings +110

    5 unit – Los Angeles Angels -110

    5 unit – Mets – 1st 5 innings -115

    5 unit – Blue Jays – 1st 5 innings -105


    Wagerline Investments

    MLB top play for Sunday
    1,000 dimes – St. Louis Cardinals +110

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