Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 12:00 AM
IT’S A 4TH OF JULY HOLIDAY WEEKEND SPORTS FEAST—WE’RE COOKING OUT WITH MLB AND THE NFL TOO!
By Jim Hurley
We know the deal:
The barbecues are cranked up, the kids are doing belly-flops in the swimming pool and you’re staying tuned with the sports world on this 4th of July holiday weekend by checking us out here at "Jim Sez" and watching all the Major-League Baseball action on your flat-screen TV… good for you!
Now that the USA is a goner in the World Cup, we’re sure lots of folks are getting back to baseball and so here’s some weekend observations…
Maybe you’re not a big fan of the run differential stat in baseball (we are!) but hear us out:
The defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox entered the holiday weekend ranked third-from-worst in the AL with a minus 43 runs after getting swept three games in a row at home to the woe-be-gone Chicago Cubs. Only the Houston Astros (-72) and the Texas Rangers (-70) are worst and that really makes the baked beans go down hard this 4th of July holiday weekend…
Want to know who’s one of the hottest hitters around?
Minnesota Twins OF Chris Parmelee entered the four-game set against the New York Yankees with a .489 batting average in his last 12 games as Parmelee is 20-for-41 with five runs scored and four doubles in his last dozen games. The Twins— who rank just ninth in the league in runs scored and 10th in home runs— have been getting major mileage from Parmelee especially with star 1B Joe Mauer down recently with an oblique injury.
Fun stat heading into the weekend:
Seattle Mariners’ closer Fernando Rodney’s 24 saves led the AL and his 38 Ks in 33.1 innings isn’t too shabby either.
The Atlanta Braves (47-38) just polished off the hapless New York Mets in straight sets— 5-3, 5-4 and 3-1— and so that put the Braves’ winning streak at seven in a row heading into the 4th of July weekend set against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks.
Note that the Braves put outfielder B.J. Upton in the leadoff spot right around that time but also keep in mind that the defense played by 2B Tommy LaStella has been terrific— in the final game of that series versus the Mets he robbed 2B Daniel Murphy of a single up the middle and turned it into a force play at second. True, LaStella is hitting just .143 (that’s 8-for-56) in his last 16 games but the Braves’ up-the-middle defense with “platinum glover” SS Andrelton Simmons has been wonderful in recent weeks…
Finally, the San Francisco Giants have shown major slippage the past couple of weeks but it’s hoped the return of 1B Brandon Belt— who fractured his left thumb some eight weeks ago— will perk up a dying Giants offense. Go back the past nine games and the Giants have scored a measly total of 17 runs and that included four runs in RHP Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter versus San Diego back on June 25th.
Fun stat heading into the weekend:
Miami Marlins RF Giancarlo Stanton leads the NL in both home runs and RBI with 21 and 61, respectively, and yet the latest reported All-Star balloting showed he was in fourth place. Hey, no slight against the first three guys in the balloting— that’s Pittsburgh’s Andrew McCutchen (the reigning league MVP), Milwaukee’s Carlos Gomez and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig—but doesn’t Stanton belong atop this OF class? Hmm.
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And now hear this…
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners.
Plus, the Football Season isn’t that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear on August 3rd with the NFL Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants versus the Buffalo Bills— can’t wait!
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES
It’s summertime and that means the annual "Jim Sez" report on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks continuing today with the Oakland Raiders, the Cleveland Browns, the New Orleans Saints and the Detroit Lions… and check out our quickie pointspread ditties here too.
Folks, this brings us halfway through the NFL— and we’ll continue with our team-by-team NFL glances later on next week after a short break:
OAKLAND— So, who’s your favorite “new Raider” this year?
No question this AFC West team really made some major changes with this 2014 roster and one that we’ll be paying close attention to is at running back where former Jacksonville Jaguars’ star Maurice Jones-Drew is trying to win the starting spot over fellow oft-injured RB Darren McFadden.
Jones-Drew suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in 2012 and was clearly not his old self last year, but the guy folks call “MJD” says he feels better and stronger than ever and believes he can be counted on for a 1,000-yard rushing season and maybe even a 1,500-yard rush/receive campaign.
If you’re wondering about such things, last year McFadden rushed for just 379 yards (a 3.3 yards-per-carry average) with 5 rushing touchdowns as the Raiders’ top ground-gainer was Rashad Jennings (733 yards rushing and 6 TDs) who now lines up in the backfield of the New York Giants.
Pointspread Notes— Talk about your month-long swoons! The 2013 Raiders went a rotten 0-4 ATS (against the spread) in December last year and thus the silver-and-black closed out a shabby 4-12 SU (straight-up) season with an 8-8 spread log. Note that Oakland is 5-11-1 spreadwise at home dating back to the end of the 2011 season, and did you realize the Raiders are 8-10 ATS in divisional play the past three years after going a combined 10-2 ATS against the AFC West in 2009-10?
CLEVELAND— Okay, so we’re gonna attempt a short-but-sweet team capsule here and not mention rookie QB Johnny Manziel… whoops!
The Browns won only four games last year— victories against Minnesota, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Baltimore— and didn’t register a single SU win from Nov. 10th on, and one major reason why Cleveland lost its final six games of the ’13 season was a non-existent ground game that ranked 26th in the NFL (averaged just 86.4 ypg) and so it came as a minor surprise that the Browns didn’t draft a running back until late in Round 3— the 94th pick overall— with Terrance West (Towson) getting the call.
Note the current Browns’ depth chart lists former Houston Texans’ RB Ben Tate as the penciled-in starter… but who knows who will get the lion’s share of the carries behind QB Brian Hoyer or you-know-who.
For what it’s worth, rookie head coach Mike Pettine claims it will be a running back-by-committee approach for these Browns, but Pettine did say, “You’ve got to be able to get fresh guys out there.”
Pointspread Notes— Last year was a tale of two seasons from a spread standpoint as the 2013 Browns registered a decent 5-4 ATS mark prior to the Week 10 bye, but following the break this AFC North crew tanked it with a shoddy 1-6 spread finish. If one spread category stands out in recent years, it’s that Cleveland is a bum bet whenever laying points— the Browns are a collective 4-9-2 ATS as chalk sides since the start of the 2010 campaign.
NEW ORLEANS— Fantasy owners out there may want to take a flyer on Saints’ rookie WR Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), who has been spending plenty of quality time with iconic QB Drew Brees this summer.
Cooks— whose graduating class finished up late this past spring— was behind after missing some OTA action, but he and Brees have been working out their games and the one-time Super Bowl-winning slinger said Cooks is an “explosive player with great speed” and hinted that the former Beavers star could be utilized much in the manner of former Saints RB Darren Sproles who often spread out wide in the N’Orleans pass attack.
Might it be that Cooks is a 75-to-80 catch guy in Year One with the Saints?
We think that’s very possible plus the new kid on the block could alleviate some pressure on TE Jimmy Graham, who always gets his fair share of double coverage and varied zone looks.
Pointspread Notes— The Sean Payton Era (albeit interrupted by his one-year suspension in 2012) has included the following spread facts: The Saints are a collective 66-53-3 versus the vig when you minus out that ’12 season and that comes to a decent .555 winning rate, but dig a bit deeper here and you’ll see this NFC South squad is a solid 4-2-1 spreadwise in season-opening games under Payton (including last year’s 23-17 home win against Atlanta as 3 ½-point betting favorites) and N’Orleans also is 19-8-1 vig-wise as favorites in Payton’s last two seasons at the helm.
DETROIT— Let’s just say that the 2013 Lions didn’t exactly win many of the close ones:
The Motowners finished the year at 2-6 SU in games decided by four points or less, and that’s just one reason why head coach Jim Schwartz was shown the door back on Dec. 30th. New head coach Jim Caldwell hopes he doesn’t have to fiddle around too much with the NFL’s fifth-best passing attack (280.1 ypg), and keep in mind the Lions just drafted TE Eric Ebron (North Carolina) who claims he’ll be lining up “everywhere” for QB Matthew Stafford in this offense.
The other high-profile rookie the Lions drafted was OLB Kyle Van Noy (BYU), who can be a menacing force at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. If Van Noy— the 40th player picked overall in last May’s NFL Draft— can be the sure tackler he was in college, then the Lions figure to improve the league’s 16th-best defense and one that ranked just 23rd versus the pass.
Pointspread Notes— The Lions have been cash-burners for three years running now as the Motown gang is a collective 18-30-1 ATS overall since the start of the 2011 season (a .375 winning percentage) and get a load of this… Detroit’s 9-16 ATS away the past three years and a not-so-hot 9-14-1 against the odds at home and that includes two-of-three home spread setbacks to both Green Bay and Minnesota. Finally, the Lions are an electric 8-3 vig-wise in season-opening games… so you’ve been alerted to a possible Week One play against the New York Giants.
NOTE: Lots more Baseball News & Notes in the coming editions of Jim Sez… enjoy the 4th of July holiday weekend!