Midweek Report: NBA, Baseball Grades, NFL AFC East

OUR JIM SEZ MID-WEEK REPORT HAS IT ALL COVERED -THERE'S MLB NEWS/NOTES PLUS WE BEGIN OUR NFL DIVISION-BY-DIVISION POINTSPREAD REPORTS AND THERE IS MORE NBA FREE AGENCY BUZZ TOO!

By Jim Hurley:

Finally, the clock strikes midnight on NBA Free Agency tonight and -all 'round the land -there will be pro hoop owners, general managers, coaches and various other celebrities all making the pitch to the much ballyhooed free-agent class in league history.

But just one thing, folks:

Don't expect a whole lot of folks to sign on the "dotted line" right away as the immediate futures of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar'e Stoudemire (among others) likely won't be decided right away but still we will have plenty to say right here about a slew of Free Agents shortly in today's column space plus there's Baseball and NFL Pointspread News too.

We will get to our Mid-Week edition of Jim Sez in just a moment but first this important reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the MLB winners every day when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or when you go right here online. Make sure you're with Jim right through the month of July with a batch of Major-League Baseball Winners and remember that NFL Preseason play begins August 8th when the Cincinnati Bengals play the Dallas Cowboys in this year's edition of the Hall of Fame Game in Canton. The daily check-in times are as follows: Anytime after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon Baseball games and note there's lots of matinee tilts all during this holiday week; After 1 p.m. ET for all weeknight games; And after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays. Go ahead and pile up your summertime Baseball profits with America's #1 Handicapper ... Mr. Jim Hurley!

 

THE MID-WEEK BASEBALL REPORT: HANDING OUT SOME MID-TERM GRADES

Believe it or not, most MLB teams are right at/about the real halfway point of this 2010 season -just check out how many teams are closing in on 81 games played as we begin our venture into the month of July -and so we thought this was a good time to hand out some "Mid-Term Report Grades" to a handful of teams/managers/players ... enjoy!

GRADE: A+

THE SAN DIEGO PADRES, UBALDO JIMENEZ, RHP, Colorado and JOSH HAMILTON, OF, Texas -No doubt you have some other teams/players in mind if you wish to expand this list but we give head-of-the-class grades to this trio of subjects:

The SD Padres (45-31) are -no ifs, ands or buts about it -the biggest/best surprise in all of MLB this year and especially when you consider that just about every single preseason publication had Bud Black's club residing in the basement in the National League West. The Pods are a rollicking 22-14 on the road (only Tampa Bay's 24-12 away mark is better) and the pitching has been magnificent with late-inning relief the best in all the bigs ... how about an All-Star spot for non-closer Luke Gregerson (51 Ks in 39.1 IP -and only 4 BB)?

Meanwhile, we've been busy singing the praises of the Rockies righty Jimenez (14-1, 1.83 ERA with a 102-to-40 K-to-BB ratio) all year long and the really good news here -especially for the long-suffering NL All-Stars -is that he's right on target to start the All-Star Game in Anaheim on the evening of Tuesday, July 13th because he should be hurling this Saturday (versus San Francisco) and then the following Thursday (against St. Louis) and then Jimenez will have four full days before the All-Star Game.

Last but not least on our Jim Sez A+ list is the Rangers' ultra-talented outfielder: The Hamilton stats entering Tuesday night's game at the Los Angeles Angels were mind-numbing stuff with a .346 batting average to go along with 18 home runs, 57 runs batted in and a .620 slugging percentage. Sure, there some folks around this Texas team that will tell you the Rangers (46-29) were winning even before Hamilton heated up in recent weeks but they weren't winning like this! Hamilton entered Tuesday's game on a 22-game hitting streak in which he was batting -get this -- .477.

GRADE: C -

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES -Or maybe you believe the two-time defending NL champs should be getting an INC (as in Incomplete) considering all the injuries that have ravaged Charlie Manuel's club in the first three months of this season. The latest bad news to hit the Phillies (41-34 and third place in the NL East) was word that both 2B Chase Utley (thumb) and 3B Placido Polanco (elbow) have been put on the DL and so neither will be back prior to the upcoming All-Star break. Okay, so we'll give the Phils some credit for nabbing Tuesday's 9-6 extra-inning win at Cincinnati without those two infielders but wasn't this supposed to be a runaway in the NL East when the so-called experts all weighed in back in March?

The Phils just welcomed back SS Jimmy Rollins from a two-month stay on the DL -his right calf injury apparently finally has healed -but there are other areas of concern this season including a wobbly bullpen that's always hurt and there's alleged chemistry issues with this 2010 team as that famed all-for-one attitude has not been evident as in recent years past.

The fact that Philadelphia is getting a less-than-average grade at the near mid-point of this season is noteworthy when you consider RHP Roy Halladay was going to make this a 100-win type team in the 2010 regular season. Not so ... or, at least, not yet.

GRADE: F

BALTIMORE ORIOLES (and Team President Andy MacPhail) -Hey, it doesn't really give us any great pleasure to kick a bad team when it's down but these O's (23-53 following Tuesday's 4-2 home loss against Oakland) officially have become the biggest laughingstock in baseball ... and to think most folks thought Baltimore would escape the American League East basement this year!

The Orioles actually entered that Tuesday tilt on a four-game winning streak but playing .303 ball heading into the last day of June is ugly and inexcusable and incompetent owner Peter Angelos can't get all the blame now, can he? The O's probably will deal away seven or eight players (at least) from this current 25-man roster to contending teams out there and we won't be surprised when/if the likes of 1B Ty Wiggington and RHP Kevin Millwood help to push someone else over the top in their playoff chase.

A major-league "thumbs down" to the worst organization in baseball -and this year's worst team on the field. Boo!
     

NFL POINTSPREAD NEWS/NOTES

The National Football League Training Camps are just around the bend with all 32 NFL teams hunkering down by the end of July and so let's go 'round the league with a Division-By-Division look at some Pointspread News/Notes. We'll start it off with the AFC East:

BUFFALO -Last year's Bills made it 10 straight  non-playoff seasons for the upstate New York crew but bettors know that Buffalo cranked out a rather decent 8-7-1 ATS (against the spread) mark that included three-of-four spread covers when in the favorite's role and a solid 3-2-1 spread log inside divisional play.

The Bills also copped a Week One cover last year -that heart-wrenching 25-24 loss-but-cover at 13-point favorite New England -and that marked the fifth consecutive campaign that Buffalo covered their regular-season lid-lifter. One other positive spread stat for the Bills: They're now a collective 27-21-1 versus the vig away since the start of the 2004 season and note that includes covers at Foxboro last year, at Denver in 2008 and at Indianapolis in 2006. Not bad!

If you're looking for a negative note here than keep in mind Buffalo is just 5-13-1 spreadwise in head-to-head battles with the NE Patriots dating back to the second meeting in 2000.


MIAMI -Betcha didn't know that the Dolphins have not sported a winning spread season since 2002! Back then the Fish registered a 9-7 ATS mark but ever since it's been .500 or worse -Miami's 48-62-3 versus the Las Vegas prices the past seven years and that includes last season's 8-8 ATS mark that "featured" three consecutive season-opening spread setbacks and then back-to-back pointspread losses to end the regular season. Overall, Miami really has really cost its backers in home games as the Dolphins covered just three-of-eight home tilts last year and are a ragged 16-40-1 against the odds as hosts dating back to the start of the 2003 season (folks, that's a slip-shod .286 winning percentage!).

Meanwhile, Miami is a dismal 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven season-opening games and note the Fish have failed to cover their home opener in each of the past four seasons.


NEW ENGLAND -If you trace back to the last time the Patriots won a Super Bowl (see 24-21 over Philadelphia in SB XXXIX) then you'll notice that this AFC crew is a collective 46-40-3 against the Las Vegas price tags ... not bad but certainly not nearly on a par with those 14-4-1 and 13-5-1 ATS seasons in 2003 and '04, respectively. The fact of the matter is Bill Belichick's crew has not handled that "big favorite" role quite as well in recent years as New England is just 7-15 spreadwise as betting favorites of more than 7 points while dating back to midway of the 2007 season.

Now here's another thing you may not have known about these Pats: They're 0-and-5 spreadwise in all post-season games since that AFC Championship Game loss at Indianapolis back in 2006. In that time, the Patriots have failed to cover post-season games against the Indy Colts, Jacksonville, San Diego, the New York Giants (see SB 42) and last year's AFC Wild Card Playoff Game against Baltimore (a 33-14 loss as 3 ½-point home favorites).
 

NEW YORK JETS -Last year's 11-8 pointspread season (that included two-of-three covers in the playoffs) marked the third time in the past six years that the J-E-T-S actually finished a year with 11 spread "W's" as they also cranked out that many covers in 2004 (see 11-7 ATS) and '06 (see 11-6 ATS). Maybe the most amazing part of last year's run that pushed the Jets all the way to the AFC Championship Game was that NYJ enjoyed three different spread streaks of three-or-more wins in a row and two separate three-game spread losing streaks ... hmmm.

Dig  a little bit deeper and you'll see the Jets actually managed a winning spread season as betting favorites as Rex Ryan's guys went 6-5 ATS as the chalk last year but add up the team's prior two seasons and you see New York was a crummy 4-10-1 ATS as favs.

Note that the Jets are a rock-solid 5-2-1 ATS in season-opening games dating back to the 2002 season.

 

MORE NBA FREE AGENT NOTES

Hey, this isn't a case of "burying the lead" but if you checked in on our Jim Sez column at the start of this week, then you know where we had all the premier free agents going -yes, including our belief that LeBron James would be staying put in Cleveland -but in today's column we'll get to a handful of the so-called second-tier free agents and where they're liable to wind up. Here goes ...

DAVID LEE -The 27-year-old forward knows there's no chance he'll be back in New York for the 2010-11 season as the Knicks will re-shape the look of their team with our without Mr. James. Look for Lee to go deep into the summer before he finds the right match. It's ... HOUSTON.

PAUL PIERCE -We've never gotten the sense that Boston Celtics' GM Danny Ainge wants to completely "break up" his team even though we've forecasted free agent two-guard Ray Allen will be moving on but Pierce won't be. It's ... BOSTON.

JOHN SALMONS -The trade deadline pick-up by the Milwaukee Bucks was a major cog in that franchise's resurgence last year but odds are he wants lots more dough than they're gonna offer here and so he shops for the best place for a two-guard with no conscience. It's ... DALLAS.

RAYMOND FELTON -Doesn't look like the Charlotte Bobcats (read head coach Larry Brown) really wants to deal with this 25-year-old point guard anymore and so expect a change of scenery for this former North Carolina Tar Heel. It's ... LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS.

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL -No question there's not a whole lot left in the tank but might be 38-year-old, four-time champion have enough for one more big push in 2010-11? O'Neal has barely been a blip on the free agent radar screen this summer but he could make a big splash somewhere this summer. It's ... PHILADELPHIA.

NOTE: More MLB action and NFL Pointspread News/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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