Wednesday, August 28, 2013

2013 American League East

The American League East is always one of the most competitive divisions in baseball and this year is no exception.

The Boston Red Sox are getting back to their winning ways this season. They missed the playoffs the last three seasons. New manager John Farrell has helped turnaround the fortunes of Boston’s most beloved team. However, there is help from some faces that have been around a while. Mainstays David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia lead a balance Boston offence. The Red Sox can produce runs from the top to the bottom of their line-up. On the mound Clay Buchholz is having a season reminiscent of his 2010 breakthrough campaign. The Boston bullpen has had trouble closing out games, so that could be a concern down the road. The Red Sox have 16 games in the month of September with the Yankees, Baltimore and Tampa Bay.

Speaking of Boston’s arch rivals, the New York Yankees are not ready to concede anything to the Red Sox let alone the division. Robinson Cano is comfortable with his role as New York’s marquee star. He continues to put up some of the best all-around numbers in baseball. The rest of the offence got off to a slow start, in part due to injury, but just might have enough gas to complement Cano. The Alex Rodriguez saga gets stranger by the day and New York sure could use anything he has left in the tank. The Yankees’ starting pitching has been inconsistent, but have the talent to turn their struggles into success. CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes know their way around the mound. One positive as far as the starting staff is concerned is that Hiroki Kuroda has been extremely dependable. There does not get any more dependable than Mariano Rivera in the bullpen. The ageless one is still feared.

The AL East is even deeper than those two, as Baltimore and Tampa Bay look to contend. Baltimore wants to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year after its surprise run a year ago. Chris Davis is turning into MLB’s premiere power hitter. He is backed in Baltimore’s line-up by Adam Jones and J.J. Hardy. Manny Machado is also a professional hitter at such a young age and Matt Wieters can get hot at any moment. On the mound, Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez are stepping up to lead the rotation. Closer Jim Johnson is having an up and down year, so that might be a concern come crunch time.

As far as Tampa Bay is concerned Evan Longoria and James Loney are spearheading the Rays’ offence. Plus Desmond Jennings is a terror on the base paths when he is on base. Tampa Bay seems to lose key pieces every year, but always put together a winning team. On the mound, Matt Moore has picked up the slack from the previously injured David Price nicely. Price still cannot be counted out from contributing down the stretch.

Toronto is the other team in AL East. The Blue Jays were a popular pick at the beginning of the season to make the playoffs. Yet, a slow start and injuries derailed their hopes. Looking to get back on track they hope to prove anything is possible in the MLB’s wackiest division.

Baseball Odds - Baseball Betting

NHL 2014 Preview

The NHL moves headlong into a new era with realignment beginning for the 2013-14 season. The new four-division setup will produce the new Stanley Cup champions. The Chicago Blackhawks are the defending champions and are looking to repeat.

Chicago has the Conn Smythe winner Patrick Kane back. He along with center Jonathan Toews and forward Marian Hossa help handles the scoring for the Blackhawks. Duncan Keith is a top notch defender and Corey Crawford is strong in goal. Backup goaltender Ray Emery left via free agency so Crawford will be the man for a full season.

A team that could possibly meet Chicago in the Cup final is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh was favoured to reach the final series last season before bowing out in the playoffs. As always the health of Sidney Crosby will factor in the Penguins success. Crosby missed 12 games in last year’s strike shortened season. Pittsburgh depth of scoring helps complement and ease the absence of Crosby. Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, James Neal, and Evgeni Malkin are all point producers.

The Boston Bruins did play Chicago for the championship last season, losing in six games. Still, the Bruins did not stand pat on their roster. Boston acquired forward Loui Eriksson from Dallas in a move that saw them give up Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley. The Bruins also lost Nathan Horton in free agency, but returns Brad Marchand, David Krejci, and Patrice Bergeron as well as Tuukka Rask in goal.

A western conference threat to Chicago is the St. Louis Blues. St. Louis lost in the first round last season, but returns key cog Chris Stewart. Stewart led the Blues attack and is helped by Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund, David Backes, and David Perron. Their goalie situation is solid with Brian Elliot, Jaroslav Halak, and Jake Allen.

The team that is affected most by realignment, the Detroit Red Wings, moves from the western conference to the eastern conference. Detroit gave the Blackhawks all they wanted last season, losing in seven games. The Red Wings added Ottawa forward Daniel Alfredsson, to go along with the offense of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. Jimmy Howard remains the man in net for Detroit.

The Vancouver Canucks hope to get over the hump with new coach John Tortorella. Tortorella will have Henrik and Daniel Sedin at his disposal, but goalie Cory Schneider is gone. Vancouver may again have to depend on Roberto Luongo in net. The Canucks are in a tougher division now, but still have firepower to make some noise.

Unable last season to defend the Stanley Cup, the Los Angeles Kings will try to win it again this year. Los Angeles lost in the conference finals a season ago. It helps to have Jonathan Quick in goal and Jeff Carter scoring goals if the Kings want to win back the Cup.

San Jose is another team out west to keep an eye on. The Sharks have a good foursome in Logan Couture, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Pavelski. Their scoring along with the net play of Antti Niemi keeps San Jose in contention.

The New York Rangers have Henrik Lundqvist in goal and good point producers in Derek Stepan, Rick Nash, and Ryan Callahan, while Anaheim, who finished second in the west last season, is led by Ryan Getzlaf.

Other teams to watch in the east are Montreal, Ottawa, Washington, Toronto, and the New York Islanders. Nashville and Edmonton out west may surprise.

 Ice Hockey Odds - Ice Hockey Betting

2014 Women’s Wimbledon

The Women’s Wimbledon tournament in 2013 was expected to be a wide open competition, with a number of contenders for the title. However, nobody could have expected the events of that fortnight in London, as the tournament favourites all crashed out to lower ranked opposition, many in the first week, and Marion Bartoli emerged victorious, claiming her first ever Grand Slam title.

However, it is a big ask for Bartoli to retain her title in 2014. Although Wimbledon is her favoured Grand Slam, with her victory in 2013 adding to a final appearance in 2007 and a run to the quarter finals in 2011. Aside from Wimbledon, she only has 1 more semi-final and 2 more quarter final appearances in her Grand Slam career. Although she deserved her victory, she may find that fortune may not be on her side so much in 2014.

Sabine Lisicki was the beaten finalist, continuing her fine form at Wimbledon in recent years. She has now reached at least the quarter final stage there 4 years in a row, and is getting closer to winning her first Grand Slam title. Another player who enjoys playing at Wimbledon is Agnieszka Radwanska. After being defeated in the 2012 final, she may have thought that 2013 would be her year, but she was beaten by Lisicki in the semi-finals. She also been a quarter finalist in Australia and France recently, and perhaps a maiden Grand Slam win is on the horizon.

In 2014, there will be a number of players looking to make amends for their showing in the previous year. Serena Williams in particular will be looking to win her 6th Wimbledon crown, after losing to Lisicki in the 4th round in 2013 after being the pre-tournament favourite. However, a year is a long time in tennis, and Williams will be 32 years of age by the time the next Wimbledon tournament comes around.

Maria Sharapova suffered a second round shock in 2013, crashing out to Michelle Larcher de Brito. Despite being a regular in the latter stages of Grand Slams in recent times, she hasn’t won a Wimbledon title since 2004 and has reached just one final there since. However, her career win record at Wimbledon is almost 80%, proving that she can perform well there.

Victoria Azarenka was expected to do well in the 2013 tournament, but she was forced to retire in the second round due to a knee injury. Previous to the tournament, she had reached the semi-final stage in 5 of her last 6 Grand Slams, and been a semi-finalist in the last 2 years at Wimbledon. If she can stay fit for the 2014 tournament, she will again be one of the favourites to win.

Petra Kvitova has a great record at Wimbledon, since 2010. She was a semi-finalist that year, and followed it up with a victory in 2011. She went out at the quarter final stage in both 2012 and 2013, but Wimbledon is by far her most successful Grand Slam venue, and she will be looking to reach the latter stages again in 2014. Li Na is also a regular quarter finalist at Wimbledon, including her 2013 campaign. She has been a winner in the Australian Open before and a finalist in the French Open, and will be looking to better her previous Wimbledon appearances at the next opportunity.

Tennis Odds - Tennis Betting

Thursday, August 8, 2013

US PGA Championship Golf 2013

The best golfers in the World will be heading to Rochester, New York from August 8th - 11th, 2013 for the final Major of the season, the USPGA Championship. Heading up the list of potential titlists this season is Tiger Woods, who will be looking to snap his long streak without a Major title. Woods has produced some sublime form over the course of 2013, heading into the warm up of the WGC Bridgestone International he was bang on top of his game and looking unstoppable again. Comfortable with the putter and at ease off the tee (although accuracy could be improved), Woods is certainly primed to make a run at the USPGA Championship again, a title which he has won four time before in his tremendous career.

But the last time that Woods stood at the top of the pile in a Major was at the US Open back in 2007. But are the stars aligning for him in Rochester? He carded top ten finishes in two of the three prior Majors for the season, and with the titles he has gained under his belt this season, all important confidence boosters for him, can he finally get himself back in the winners circle? Trading as strong favourite, he is being heavily backed to win the 2013 US PGA Championship. He took a share of eleventh away from last year's tournament and given the majestic performance that he produced at Firestone for the Bridgestone International, where he equalled his lowest ever score for a round of professional golf, he really fulfils his role as favourite.

But what about the contenders behind him in the field? There will be interest on Rory McIlroy, who was in sublime form last year on his way to winning the US PGA Championship. It was a record breaking win as well, the largest margin of victory ever in a Major as he beat David Lynn by a massive eight strokes at Kiawah Island. However, 2013 has been a struggle all through for the Northern Irishman, who just can't pull everything together. Even shot selection has been an issue for him at times, and the two time Major winner has been describing his golf as "brain dead". His performance in missing the cut at the Open Championship recently at Muirfield, won't attract too many backers, but if he can dig into the positives of his form this time last year, who knows.

Taking seven of the top nine places on the leader board last season were European golfers. So it may be worth leaning towards a strong European challenge against this time. Notable performances at Kiawah Island came in from Justin Rose, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson. Throw into the mix Lee Westwood, Luke Donald and Henrik Stenson and you have some serious threats. McDowell, Westwood and Rose have all been enjoying very strong seasons, with Rose shining the brightest when he took the US Open title earlier in the year. Is it too big of an ask to see him land two Majors in a single season? Lee Westwood keeps knocking on the door, but Ian Poulter may be a stronger option. Poulter took a T2 at The Open 2013 and also finishes T3 at last season's PGA Championship as well and could be a good dark horse. But Henrik Stenson, who has been enjoying a tremendous month of golf, and has produced well in the Majors this season, could be fantastic value.

Phil Mickelson will be hoping to make another impact after winning The Open at Muirfield in dramatic fashion. He also has history at the US PGA, winning once before and taking seven other top ten finishes, although he hasn't been in top ten since the 2008, he is carrying good form. Keegan Bradley, who won the 2011 US PGA title could be a big presence in the field. Like Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson, he put in a great performance at Firestone for the Bridgestone International also. Bradley has a tremendous record at the US PGA in his two prior attempts, winning in his debut in 2011 and the going back for a title defence and coming close to doing that with a T3. There are a strong clutch of American players like Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar are all worth considering as well for your 2013 US PGA Championship golf betting.

US PGA Championship Golf Odds - US PGA Championship Golf Betting

Boxing Wladimir Klitschko v Alexander Povetkin

Wladimir Klitschko will put his WBO, IBF, IBO, and WBA “super” heavyweight titles on the line against Alexander Povetkin. Klitschko will come into the fight 60-3 and on an 18-fight winning streak. He has not lost since 2004. Povetkin has never lost. The 26-0 Povetkin holds the WBA “regular” heavyweight title. Klitschko will have four inches on the smaller Povetkin and he generally outweighs him by somewhere in the neighbourhood of 15 pounds.

The two had been scheduled to fight twice in the past. In 2008, an injured foot caused Povetkin to back out of the fight. Then in 2010, a fight had been set, but Povetkin backed out because he felt he was not ready. It is easy to feel inadequate when going up against Klitschko. He and his brother Vitali have dominated the heavyweight division for much of the past 10 years. The younger Wladimir is now 37 years old. Still, age has not begun to show on Klitschko. He stopped Francesco Pianeta in the sixth round this past May to retain his titles. Klitschko uses his jab effectively not just to set up his power punches, but to keep his opponents at a safe distance. Some of his more effective power punches are the left hook and straight right hand. They have helped Klitschko score a knockout in 51 of his 60 wins. Klitschko is also a well-rounded fighter. The late Emanuel Steward helped him improve his defence.

Even in all of his greatness, if hit right, Klitschko has shown that he might not hold up. All three of his losses have occurred via TKO. So does Povetkin has a chance to dethrone Klitschko? Can his aptitude to get inside and work the body work against Klitschko? Povetkin is an aggressive fighter and might not be able to get through the Klitschko jab. Povetkin’s power is a matter of debate, but he has stopped 18 of the 26 fighters he has faced – included in that are three out of the last four. In his last outing he only needed three rounds to dispatch previously undefeated, but rarely tested Andrzej Wawrzyk. Fighting Klitschko will be a big step up in competition.

So far in his career, Povetkin signature wins are over an aging Chris Byrd, Eddie Chambers, Ruslan Chagaev, and a bulked-up cruiserweight in Marco Huck. It is safe to say that a fight with Klitschko is a different experience than any of the aforementioned bouts. Still, there is one bit of competition that both Povetkin and Klitschko have in common. Both fighters won Olympic gold medals. Klitschko won a super heavyweight gold for the Ukraine in the 1996 Olympics. Povetkin won a super heavyweight gold for Russia in the 2004 Olympics.

Is Povetkin the one to finally beat Klitschko? Or is Klitschko the guy to hand Povetkin his first loss. The fight will take place in Povetkin’s native Russia in October. Povetkin will be 34 years old when he get in the ring. The outcome of the fight will continue Klitschko’s reign or mark a shift in the heavyweight division

Wladimir Klitschko v Alexander Povetkin Odds - Wladimir Klitschko v Alexander Povetkin Betting

Boxing Juan Manuel Marquez v Timothy Bradley

Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez are set do battle in a ring in Las Vegas’ Thomas & Mack Center come October and the fight has created an apparent anomaly. One fighter is the WBO welterweight champion. That same fighter is undefeated and yet he is the underdog. Bradley still has the gift decision over Manny Pacquiao that gave him his title and kept his record perfect hanging over his head. Pacquiao clearly beat Bradley, but Bradley was awarded the decision. Bradley’s only fight since that June 2012 showing was a slugfest unanimous decision over Ruslan Provodnikov. Bradley showed heart in the contest, surviving the first and second rounds and getting knocked down in the 12th round.

Like Bradley, Marquez’s last time in the ring was a memorable one as well. Fighting Pacquiao for the fourth time, Marquez finally got a victory over his rival. He knocked Pacquiao out in chilling fashion in the sixth round. This came on the heels of losing twice and drawing to Pacquiao. The win sent Marquez’s record to 55-6-1 with 40 of those win by K.O. Marquez has improved his physique at the age of 39 and he will be 40 when he meets Bradley. He looked amazingly in shape in the win over Pacquiao. He also won the WBO junior welterweight in April of 2012. Marquez is seeking to become the first Mexican fighter to win championships in five divisions.

If Bradley is going to beat Marquez, it would be surprising if it is by knockout. Of his 30 victories, only 12 are by knockout. His eighth round stoppage of Joel Casamayor is his only sign of power in his last 13 fights, though he did bust up the face of Provodnikov. Bradley is going to have to outbox Marquez. He will have to use his jab effectively and pick good spots to come over the top with his right hand. If he has Marquez reeling, he also has a great left hook that could inflict more damage. Bradley will also have to be aware of Marquez’s power.

The elder Marquez now brings a lot of power to the table, just ask Pacquiao. Bradley likes to be aggressive. That could set up Marquez for his counter right hand, the same one he used to floor Pacquiao. Throughout his career Marquez has been known as a counter puncher who could change the tempo of fights with his combinations. Will that Marquez show up or will he rely strictly on his power against Bradley? It could be troublesome to rely strictly on his power, because Bradley has shown that he can take a beating and get up from knockdowns. Marquez might have to win his share of the exchanges if he wants to win the fight.

Marquez is the favourite and is considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Bradley is still looking for the respect from the public. He can get that by beating Marquez. Marquez can get a historic fifth division title by beating him.

Juan Manuel Marquez v Timothy Bradley Odds - Juan Manuel Marquez v Timothy Bradley Betting

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Boxing Manny Pacquiao v Brandon Rios

Manny Pacquiao returns to the ring in November to take on Brandon Rios. Pacquiao, long considered one of the best fighters in the world, will come into the fight on a two-fight losing streak. He was virtually robbed of a decision against Timothy Bradley and he was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Marquez. It was the Bradley fight in which he lost his WBO welterweight title. Pacquiao, who is now 34-years-old, will be looking to get his career back on track. After years of failed attempts to get a Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather fight to happen and with Marquez fighting Bradley, Pacquiao’s team chose Rios as his next opponent.

Rios will be making the move from the 140-pound junior welterweight limit to the 147-pound welterweight class and he will be coming into the ring with a 31-1-1 record. His only loss occurred his last time out when he dropped a unanimous decision to Mike Alvarado. That was after Rios stopped Alvarado in the seventh round in a previous fight. Despite coming up in weight class, Rios could be potentially a dangerous opponent for Pacquiao. Of Rios 31 wins, 23 have come via knockout. In fact, 11 out of his last 13 fights have been stopped because of KO/TKO. It will be interesting to see how Rios very aggressive and heavy pressure style works with Pacquiao. Rios will try to work from the inside and throw his trademark uppercut. If he makes a mistake and Pacquiao tags him with a good shot, Rios’ chin once again will be tested. That might be a good thing for him though, as the 27-year-old has never been knocked out in a fight.

Pacquiao (54-5-2) has knockout power, but that has not shown in recent years. The last time Pac-Man’s punches caused a fight to be stopped early was back in 2009 when he defeated Miguel Cotto. For his career he has 38 knockouts. Pacquiao has seemed to have lost a step and some quickness and his past few bouts. It remains to be seen how he will recover from losing in such devastating fashion to Marquez. Still, Pacquiao has a hall-of-fame type jab and he may be able to use that to thwart the oncoming Rios. But, what strategy will he try to use? Will he try to use his experience or will he throw caution to wind and trade punches with Rios? Pacquiao is the favourite, but is that based on his reputation and prior history?

Fighters usually become vulnerable as they get older and Pacquiao, who has been a fitness marvel in his career, will try to avoid that. Rios jumps into the welterweight waters with one of the biggest fish in the game. Just how much weight will he carry and how will he carry it? One interesting fact about the fight is that it will take place in Macau, China. It will be Pacquiao’s first fight outside the United States in seven years. Rios has only fought in the United States and Mexico, fighting two fights in Mexico the last being in 2009. The question of just how much Pacquiao has left will be answered when he meets Rios in China.

Manny Pacquiao v Brandon Rios Odds - Manny Pacquiao v Brandon Rios Betting