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Cincy could be surprise in NL Central

Let’s talk about baseball, the Kentucky Derby and the Academy Awards, in that order.

I received a lot of good reaction to my baseball column last week so we will continue looking for winners as the season closes in on us.

Cubs: Their 1-2 starting pitchers – Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster – are questionable to say the least (sorry Cubbie fans). They were a combined 20-16 last year, and when your top two guys are just four games over 500 that will not get them to the Promised Land.

I like all the rest of the Cubs. They are a year older and the Cubs front office has done very little to bring youth and speed into their lineup.

Finishing second behind the Cardinals with a record of 83-78 they have added no one to their lineup to justify an eight game improvement. In fact, the improvements in the Cincinnati Reds, and even the Pittsburgh Pirates’ wins, will be more difficult for the Cubs this year in a mediocre NL Central. So if you have some extra cash lying around go bet under total wins, which is 83½.

Two big questions to be answered this year are:

Will Zack Greinke repeat as a Cy Young candidate and was his 2009 year an indication of what’s to come in 2010 or, as they say, was it just one of those things?

How much will the Minnesota Twins miss their home field advantage?

For years the Twins had the best home field advantage in baseball with their rock-hard infield and roof that made fly balls an adventure.

This year the Twins move outdoors into Target Field and some games will be mighty cold to say the least, and a new experience for home and visitor alike. The Twins will no longer benefit from the home field advantage so treat these early Twins games like they are being played on a neutral site until they figure things out.

If you are looking for some info for future betting or fantasy betting, the Baseball Prospectus, one of the key baseball information sites, has developed PECOTA, which stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm. They have issued their projections for the 2010 season. PECOTA projects the following division winners:

AL East-Yankees (94-68)

AL Central-Twins (83-79)

AL West-Texas (87-75)

NL East-Phillies ( 88-74)

NL Central-St. Louis (84-78)

NL West-D-Backs (87-75)

I love betting baseball and have no problem making some bets on the exhibition games, but I do not like laying -120 or higher. There is a great spot in town that is offering a dime line. The Hilton takes $2,000 on the sides and has a dime line all the way up to -190, which you will not see in a preseason baseball game. If you are inclined to bet some baseball the Hilton is a must.

As a follow-up to my previous future bet, PECOTA also projects the Cincinnati Reds as the SURPRISE TEAM OF THE YEAR finishing second to the Cards. Get down on those Reds to win the pennant as you never know.

This past Saturday they ran the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita with the closer, Alphie’s Bet, winning by more than two lengths and Setsuko running second, well clear of the third place finisher. If you logged on to you would have received this exacta that returned $81.80 for two bucks. I think we can safely say there are no Kentucky Derby winners exiting this race.

On Sunday at Santa Anita in race one there was a maiden running by the name of Good Measure who is four lengths faster than any of the horses that ran in the Sham.

At one time I loved to watch the Academy Awards. But the last few years I have taken a pass as there were very few movies that attracted my attention, and it seemed like everyone who won had some agenda they wanted to talk about.

This year I decided to watch a little since it was in my early time zone (I hit the sack early). Most of it I really enjoyed, especially the Martin and Baldwin comedy team; they were great. I was rooting for almost all the winners, especially Sandra Bullock for the “Blind Side,” a true and heart wrenching story. I also loved it when Jeff Bridges won for “Crazy Heart.”

These were two down-to-earth movies. What has happened in La La Land?

Fashion is a big thing and Bullock looked like a winner and a very classy lady. There was no war bashing and, in fact, the best movie, Hurt Locker, is about our men and how they risk their lives every day for our freedoms. Hurt also gave us the first woman, Kathryn Bigelow, winning for best director. She gave a very gracious acceptance speech.

Good job to all this time around.

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