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Free MLB Pick Friday

#961 Arizona Diamondbacks (Ray) -125 over San Francisco Giants (Pomeranz) 9:15 PM CT

Arizona had a pair of tough-luck losses vs. lefties in San Diego earlier this week but the Diamondbacks have nine wins vs. southpaw starters this season, tying for the most in the NL while a season OPS of .825 vs. left-handed pitching is also an elite figure that trails only a few teams in baseball. Mired in five straight losses, yesterday’s off-day should help the team re-group while they get to face a demoralized Giants team that lost in 13 innings in a game the Giants led most of the way Thursday afternoon. A strong start from Madison Bumgarner and a lot of bullpen innings were wasted in a loss that will make this Friday night game a difficult turnaround contest.

The Giants are 9-10 in May but -26 in scoring as a short-term surge early in the month appears to have been a mirage. San Francisco has very poor offensive numbers vs. left-handed pitching with a season OPS of just .619, posting only 11 home runs in 626 plate appearances while the Giants are 6-10 vs. southpaw starters on the season. Robbie Ray remains one of the top strikeout producers in baseball and after an injury-plagued 2018, he appears to be back in his 2017 form, posting a 11.5 K/9 with a 3.25 ERA. Ray has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts and he pitched well vs. the Giants last week.

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San Francisco has a great bullpen but six key relievers were used yesterday for double-digit pitch counts and Drew Pomeranz will be hard to count on for a long outing. Pomeranz owns a 5.66 ERA this season and once in eight starts has completed six innings. He has a 4.6 BB/9 and his numbers don’t improve much at AT&T Park. Right-handed batters have hit .292 vs. Pomeranz this season and Arizona can generally feature a lineup with eight right-handed hitters. These teams are only a few games apart in the standings but are 75 runs apart in scoring differential and the losing streak puts Arizona at a very reasonable price in a favorable matchup and situation Friday.

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Free MLB Pick Wednesday

#909 Arizona Diamondbacks (Godley) -115 over San Francisco Giants (Rodriguez) 9:15 PM CT

Zack Godley has 13 wins but a 4.59 ERA for Arizona this season but his FIP is only 3.68 and with a 9.6 K/9 Godley remains a threat for a great outing most nights. His last two starting efforts have featured 14 strikeouts but 11 runs allowed after Godley had allowed just 13 runs over his previous seven starts combined with his ERA 3.79 with a 2.00 FIP over his last nine starts. Godley has had mixed results against the Giants this season but San Francisco has been ice cold at the plate in August.

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In the past 25 games San Francisco has hit .217 while posting a .589 team OPS with only 14 home runs and averaging 3.4 runs per game. Arizona has dropped four of the last five games including getting shutout in the first two games of this series. They now sit tied with the Rockies in the NL West with the Dodgers now within a game and the Diamondbacks have four games at Dodger Stadium this weekend.

Arizona has a .751 team OPS the past 23 games with steady production. Arizona has improved its numbers vs. right-handed pitching since the trade deadline and Dereck Rodriguez has suspicious numbers in 15 games as a rookie. Rodriguez is 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA but with a 4.07 xFIP, benefiting from a .247 BABIP on the season. Rodriguez has made only three starts in August and Arizona has faced him before which should help the cause Wednesday.

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NFC West Staff Changes

NFC WEST 2018 COACHING STAFF CHANGES

ARIZONA CARDINALS

Over/Under Win Total: 5½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 100/1

Staff Change: Bruce Arians retired and Arizona hired Steve Wilks as the new head coach. Wilks has been an assistant with Carolina since 2012 and a defensive assistant in the NFL since 2006. Al Holcomb comes with Wilks as a Carolina assistant and is the new DC. Former Chargers HC Mike McCoy is the OC after being let go midseason in that role with Denver last season and there is an entirely new set of QBs in Arizona.

Probable QB Rotation:

Sam Bradford

Josh Rosen (rookie – via UCLA)

Mike Glennon

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LOS ANGELES RAMS

Over/Under Win Total: 10

Odds to win Super Bowl: 12/1

Staff Change: After leading the NFL in points the Rams have to replace OC Matt LaFleur who signed with Tennessee. With big shoes to fill OL coach Aaron Kromer and TE coach Shane Waldron are sharing the OC duties in 2018. Wade Phillips is back as DC for a second season.

Probable QB Rotation:

Jared Goff

Sean Mannion

Luis Perez (rookie–via Texas A&M-Commerce)

Brandon Allen

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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Over/Under Win Total: 8½

Odds to win Super Bowl: 20/1

Staff Change: Keena Turner and DeMeco Ryans were given promotions on the staff but DC Robert Saleh is back for a second season while head coach Kyle Shanahan did not hire an offensive coordinator at his hiring and will remain handling those duties in his second season.

Probable QB Rotation:

Jimmy Garoppolo

C.J. Beathard

Jack Heneghan (rookie – via Dartmouth)

Nick Mullens

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Over/Under Win Total: 8

Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1

Staff Change: Kris Richard was let go as DC for the Seahawks despite great numbers and former star linebacker Ken Norton, Jr. will be in that role in 2018 after stops in Oakland and San Francisco. Darrell Bevell was also let go after seven years as OC with Brian Schottenhiemer now with his seventh franchise in two decades though not as a NFL OC since 2014 with the Rams.

Probable QB Rotation:

Russell Wilson

Austin Davis

Alex McGough (rookie – via FIU)

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Early Pac-12 Preview

Early Pac-12 Preview

This is a big season for the Pac-12 coming off a disastrous bowl campaign with only one win from nine postseason squads. That win came from Utah in a minor game as marquee game defeats from Stanford, Washington, USC, Washington State, and UCLA led to an ugly national storyline out West. The poor results led to a number of coaching changes with five of 12 programs making moves in the off-season.

Despite a few transition seasons underway the Pac-12 has a few teams that could make a run in the national picture. The balance of power is tilted north with Oregon, Washington, and Stanford considered threats for a championship but the depth in that division might make it difficult for a clear cut national playoff contender to emerge. The conference has just one touchdown over the past three College Football Playoffs but getting a team through this conference 10-0 might prove to be a challenge.

 

Pac-12 North

Washington: Following an appearance in the College Football Playoffs expectations remained sky high last season as Washington went through a mildly disappointing 10-3 season, falling short of the North division title and ending the season with a Fiesta Bowl loss to Penn State. For a program that went winless a decade ago a third straight double-digit win season looks possible in 2018. Washington returns Jake Browning at quarterback and Myles Gaskin at running back while a defense that allowed just 16.1 points per game last season returns nine starters. The schedule gets a major upgrade this season with an opener in Atlanta against Auburn that will determine whether or not the Huskies are a national threat. USC and Arizona are absent from the South draw and Stanford visits Seattle as the Pac-12 slate lines up favorably for the Huskies to finish on top.

Stanford: Stanford lost five times last season but David Shaw is now 73-22 in seven seasons with last season’s 9-5 mark the second worst record for the Cardinal in that span. The Cardinal has not cracked the College Football Playoff yet but this year’s team has that potential. K.J. Costello and an elite receiving corps will surround Heisman candidate Bryce Love as this should be a very effective offense even if not among the nation’s most prolific offensive teams. Stanford actually had its worst defensive numbers under Shaw last season and that unit has question marks for 2018 as well. The biggest hurdle for Stanford is the schedule however with two very tough non-conference games plus road games vs. the two chief division threats while drawing South division favorite USC. Stanford has a team capable of beating anyone but running the table looks unlikely with the path ahead.

Oregon: Oregon rebounded to win seven games last season after the stunning 4-8 2016 season but after just one season Willie Taggert left the program for Florida State. Offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal steps in as it won’t be a complete transition and Cristobal has head coaching experience. The Ducks have decent returning experience and if Justin Herbert can stay healthy they have the makings of a high quality offensive team. Oregon actually had its best defensive numbers in several years last season but a down Pac-12 was a factor. Oregon will play an extremely light non-conference schedule as a strong start should be expected and this is a sleeper in the North as both Stanford and Washington visit Eugene while Oregon avoids USC from the South. If things break right Oregon could be back in the national spotlight again.

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California: A 5-7 season doesn’t generally earn a lot of praise but first year head coach Justin Wilcox inherited an inexperienced team and turned in a pair of prominent non-conference wins last September. A 3-0 start fizzled with a 2-7 Pac-12 mark but the Bears were very competitive in most games and this team could take a big stride forward in 2018. 18 starters are back to top the conference in experience but the statistics from last season offer some concern as the Bears were ultimately out-gained by 45 yards per game on average. The challenge for Cal will be that the three North powers all visit Berkeley as a tough home slate is waiting and this team won just once on the road last season.

Washington State: Mike Leach has revitalized his career at Washington State with the Cougars going from being one of the nation’s worst power conference teams to three straight bowl bids while Washington State has often been in the Pac-12 North race into November. The 2018 season presents an impossible challenge however with Luke Falk graduating and the sad death of Tyler Hilinski leaving the team with inexperience at quarterback and only 10 returning starters. Washington State has one of the most difficult South draws and while they nab five home games in Pac-12 play it is a difficult set of games. Making a fourth straight bowl game would be a great accomplishment for Leach and the Cougars given the circumstances.

Oregon State: There is nowhere to go but up for Oregon State with Jonathan Smith taking over a Beavers team that didn’t win a FBS game last season. After an awkward coaching departure the Beavers did produce a few competitive games down the stretch and improving on awful turnover luck from last season could lead to improvement. The Beavers are likely still the clear bottom team in the conference and they have to open the season at Ohio State but there are a few decent opportunities ahead in Corvallis as signs of progress look possible. With a couple of legacy pieces back on the staff there should be renewed enthusiasm for the program and in a Pac-12 that wasn’t very good last season and has several programs in transition, the opportunity to close the gap may be there.

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Pac-12 South

USC: USC has 21 wins the past two seasons under Clay Helton but a playoff invitation was expected of this powerhouse program that featured one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. Sam Darnold is off to the NFL and while a few other key players also depart from last season’s 11-win squad, there is solid returning experience to make the Trojans the clear favorite in the Pac-12 South. USC has taken on a daunting schedule in recent years and two heavyweight non-conference games are again ahead while the conference slate features five road games including playing at Stanford. Avoiding Washington is a plus however and the Trojans won’t likely need to be perfect to win this division.

Arizona: Off the field allegations opened the door for Arizona to make a coaching change after last season even with a comeback bowl season for Rich Rodriguez. The Wildcats nabbed Kevin Sumlin to provide credibility in the transition and this is a team that can compete immediately. Khalil Tate was one of the most exciting players in the conference last season and Arizona draws an ideal conference schedule with five home dates while avoiding both Washington and Stanford. The defense has nine returning starters even if it was a unit that allowed 471 yards per game last season as Arizona is likely to be back in the postseason and lurks as a serious threat in this division should USC falter.

Colorado: After the 10-win breakthrough in 2016 Colorado fell to just 5-7 last season needing to replace most of the key players from the South division championship team. This year’s team again is light on experience but the Buffaloes have a fairly attractive conference slate ahead as getting back to postseason eligibility is within reach. Colorado won just twice in a down season for the Pac-12 last year but most defeats were in tight games and the defense is likely to post improved numbers in 2018 after taking a big step back last season. Mike MacIntyre has the opportunity to stabilize the Buffaloes into a steady bowl performer in the years to come.

Utah: Utah has declined in win count the past two seasons but last year’s squad was likely better than the 7-6 record indicated. The Utes shuffled through two quarterbacks and had much better statistics that the record suggests, out-gaining foes by 75 yards per game but losing four single-score results in Pac-12 play. Utah will play five conference road games while pulling all three of the North contenders as Utah has a difficult path ahead. This was a bowl team and the lone bowl victor from the Pac-12 last season even with a 3-6 conference record and Kyle Whittingham has provided consistent success in Salt Lake City in now his 14th season.

Arizona State: Arizona State made one of the more curious coaching hires in recent years luring former NFL head coach Herm Edwards out of the TV studio. While Edwards hasn’t been on the sidelines in a decade he is a well known football mind that will resonate with players in a talent rich recruiting base. Unlike most new head coaches Edwards takes over a team that was pretty successful with Todd Graham leading the Sun Devils to a bowl game in five of the past six seasons and the Sun Devils won six Pac-12 games last season. The offense should remain productive but Edwards will have work to do rebuilding the Sun Devils on defense. Relative to its South division peers Arizona State has a more difficult schedule pulling the top three North teams and featuring five Pac-12 road games.

UCLA: Chip Kelly returns to the college coaching ranks at UCLA but instant success seems unlikely with a dramatic scheme change and the loss of quarterback Josh Rosen. The Bruins couldn’t maintain Jim Mora’s early success with back-to-back losing seasons but injuries played a significant role in the failure to meet expectations. UCLA has a tough non-conference schedule to open the season and while the Bruins get five Pac-12 home games they are all difficult games as there are not many sure-wins ahead on this schedule particularly for a program that has gone 1-11 on the road the past two years. The first year for Kelly might be a challenge resembling his failed season up the coast with the 49ers.

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Free MLB Pick Tuesday

#904 Philadelphia Phillies (Velasquez) -105 over Arizona Diamondbacks (Ray) 6:05 PM CT

Arizona leads the NL with a 15-6 record but only a modest +31 scoring differential. Arizona has only played two games outside of the division however with most of the NL West rivals off to slow starts. Robbie Ray was a big part of Arizona’s rise last season winning 15 games with great strikeout numbers but he wound up with a FIP nearly a run higher than his ERA and so far this season his struggles have grown with a 4.98 ERA and a 5.30 FIP.

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Ray has faced the weak-hitting Giants in two of his starts as there is valid concern for the left-hander with Arizona’s rotation now being stressed with the season-ending injury to Taijuan Walker. Philadelphia presents a difficult matchup for Ray with the Phillies 5-0 vs. left-handed starters this season and 10-0 in games outside the division. Philadelphia is also 9-1 at home this season while scoring 7.8 runs per nine vs. southpaw pitching this season.

Arizona has actually hit just .217 while scoring only 3.6 runs per nine vs. right-handers despite the big names in the lineup and the successful start to April. At nearly 26 Vince Velasquez is no longer the highly regarded prospect he was when he was acquired ahead of the 2016 season but he is a candidate to show great improvement on last season’s tough campaign. So far his FIP is just 2.24 this season with a 10.1 K/9 despite taking two losses. After a tough opening start he has pitched well in three straight quality starts and this will be just his second home start of the season where his numbers have been stronger in his career.

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Free MLB Pick Monday

#910 Arizona Diamondbacks (Walker) +105 over Los Angeles Dodgers (Ryu) 8:40 PM CT

Arizona finished 25-17 against left-handed starters last season and the Diamondbacks will be up for the first meeting with the Dodgers this season, finishing 11 games behind Los Angeles in NL West standings last season. The Dodgers are just 2-2 on the young season after splitting four games with the Giants at home and the road opener will be a challenging matchup with Arizona getting an off day Sunday while the Dodgers had a late night contest.

Hyun-Jin Ryu made just 24 starts last season with up-and-down results. He had a 3.77 ERA but was just 5-9 despite pitching for the team with the best record in baseball. Ryu had a FIP nearly a full run higher than his ERA and he had worse numbers on the road while allowing six runs in four innings at Arizona.

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Taijuan Walker was a steady pitcher for Arizona last season with good strikeout numbers and only six runs allowed in three starts vs. the Dodgers spanning nearly 17 innings of work. The Dodgers had five left-handers in the lineup last night against a right-handed starter and Walker held left-handed batters to just a .225 batting average last season.

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Free NCAA Pick Friday

#109 Arizona Wildcats -23.5 over UTEP 9:15 PM CT

The Wildcats fell just short last week hosting Houston in a fairly even game. Arizona has rushed the ball extremely well through two weeks but little has been accomplished in the passing game. Losing badly to Oklahoma was understandable for UTEP but last week’s home opener with Rice offered a favorable opportunity.

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The Miners fell behind early and were not competitive in a 31-14 home loss, managing only 229 total yards. Junior quarterback Ryan Metz hasn’t come close to his very solid 2016 numbers while the Miners still haven’t topped 100 rushing yards in two games combined. Metz was injured last week as things could get worse for UTEP. If Rice was able to post over 300 rushing yards on the Miners there is little promise for UTEP to keep up in this matchup.

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