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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM

The Boston Red Sox opened as favorites of -150 in Saturday Night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Aaron Cook of the Sox is coming off three quality starts. Carlos Villanueva of Toronto is a reliever turned starter who isn’t likely to go more than six innings, and is throwing for a team that is dealing with multiple injuries.

Yet, it was Toronto who was getting the sharp money. Boston is now laying just -130 as we go to press. And, there’s a chance that will drop even lower before first pitch at Fenway Park this evening.

What’s going on?

Aaron Cook’s impossibly low strikeout rate is what’s going on! Those who monitor strikeouts on a per game basis noticed it fairly quickly. The baseball statgeek world has been all over the story. And, since sharps place a lot of weight on the ability to get strikeouts, they logically stepped in on the dog at what they saw as a very high price for a “pitch to contact” hurler.

How extreme has Cook been this year? Well,

*Sharps will typically bet against starting pitchers who average only five strikeouts per nine innings. They want the big guns earning money for them…usually at 8 per nine innings or higher.

*Sharps LOVE to bet against starting pitchers who average LESS than five strikeouts per nine innings. There are hardly ever any of these around because it’s so hard to survive as a Major League Pitcher without getting K’s.

*Cook only has two strikeouts this year in 29.2 innings. That’s not two per nine innings, which would already be horrible. That’s two in more than 29 innings! And, both of those strikeouts came on the road at Seattle which is a great pitcher’s park. Cook has ZERO strikeouts in four of his five starts in 2012.

Here’s a quick rundown from Cook’s abbreviated season:

5/5: 2.2 innings, 6 earned runs, 0 K’s vs. Baltimore (horrible start)

6/24: 5 innings, 2 earned runs, 0 K’s vs. Atlanta (after a long layoff)

6/29: 9 innings, 0 earned runs, 2 K’s at Seattle (shutout in paradise)

7/4: 6 innings, 3 earned runs, 0 K’s at Oakland (barely a quality start)

7/16: 7 innings, 0 earned runs, 0 K’s vs. CWS (very effective)

Note that Villanueva of Toronto has 57 strikeouts in 50.1 innings this year, better than nine per nine innings.

The only pitcher who’s been able to maintain anything like a season’s worth of productivity with a low K-Rate was Chien-Ming Wang when he was with the Yankees. He had more than two seasons of sterling play getting a lot of ground ball outs. The laws of math that eventually blast all low K guys eventually got to Wang…and he hasn’t pitched at Major League quality for awhile now.

The questions for handicappers are…has Cook figured out how to make his sinker work to a degree that he can have a good year or two like Wang did? Or, is his recent success mostly luck, helped along by pitching a couple of games in pitchers’ parks in Seattle and Oakland?

Sharps have answered, even though Toronto isn’t at 100% full strength at the moment. Sharps at least believe that Cook -150 and -140 was too high. Monitor line movements throughout the day for additional developments.

The sharpest minds in the handicapping industry have posted their selections for Saturday. Among the highlights:

*Kelso Sturgeon goes for ANOTHER big play winner. Friday he won with Detroit over the Chicago White Sox 4-2. That’s on the heels of CWS over Kansas City (Sunday), Detroit over the LA Angels (Monday), Philadelphia over the LA Dodgers (Tuesday), Pittsburgh over Colorado (Wednesday), and Tampa Bay over Cleveland (Thursday). Saturday’s 100-Unit Solid Gold Play is yours for just $20. Be there when Kelso goes for SEVEN IN A ROW!

*Wayne Root is 27-12 so far in the month of July. Double Crusher Saturday brings his top two plays for just $25.   

*Jim Hurley’s has put together a two-for-one weekend special for those of you interested in trying out the service. Get THREE plays SATURDAY and THREE MORE SUNDAY all for a one-time payment of $20. That’s less than four bucks a play!

Be sure you visit the website every day for big play announcements on the home page and complete package details on the “buy picks” pulldown page. Early bird packages for football are available along with this great baseball. Hot handicappers are always waiting to hear from you!

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