MLB’s 10 best games of 2017, and some extras

I finally took the type to complete this list, drawn from the synthesis of 2 variables, determining the 10 best games of 2017. I also chose one representative for the playoffs.

Here’s the full list. Look for the tab marked ‘bestof2017’:

The 2 variables I use are these:
combined Game Score of the starting pitchers
combined aLI for each team.

I ranked the top 40 of aLI for the year, then added in the top 25 Game Scores…then worked backward until I had enough ranked high enough together to count.
My initial list was drawn from Baseball Reference, finding every game where both starters had at least a 60, and also every game where there was at least one team that scored 1.50 aLI.
The games I rank top 3 are the only ones that were bonafides, appearing in the top list for both. Others I had to use descending rank until I came up with a top 10.
I provide here links to condensed games and box score and play-by-play for each game.

The list I originally drew from, using Baseball Reference’s Play Index, is here:



Enlightened Trails update (Turfway Park, Laurel Park)

We’re already into the penultimate races that will determine the Enlightened Trails results as well as the real ones. All but one of the races in my Minor divisions final racing in the Minor divisions take place Saturday. Those divisions are headed by races whose best races that would normally fit on the actual Trail is non-graded.
We’ll start with the fillies, who have 2 of the 3 races tomorrow, and one more on 3/25 within the division. The Beyond The Wire Stakes is being run at Laurel Park, 8 furlongs, 100k. My top 3 here are Fools Gold, Limited View, and Frigid Sister.
Fool’s Gold has run on the NY circuit, breaking maiden last time out at the 60k level, 80 BRIS. All 4 of her races have runs from 77 to 80. Best breeding in the field (Medaglia d’Oro/Moment of Majesty, out of Saint Liam). 7 weeks off, same period of time as when she won. Only filly running with influence from recent small new top. 4 works during layoff, last one 28th of 99 over 4 furlongs.
Frigid Sister is a projected overlay here. Winner of maiden debut, then an optional claimer at 50, 84 BRIS. Bounced to 75 and 8th in the Smart Halo. Then on a muddy Laurel track, was 4th in the Wide Country, down to 70 BRIS. Only deep closer in the field.
Stakes On A Plane the other overlay here. A muddy win last out herself in a 50k claimer, spiking upward to 83. That race was first after claim and layoff, improving sharply at 2nd call in that mile, and 3 lengths vs leader at that point.

The Bourbonette Oaks is a Grade 3 event for top 3YO fillies, running 1 mile on the Turfway Park all-weather surface, purse being 100k. Top 3 here are Consolida, Hey Negrita, and Homemade Salsa. Overlays: Hey Negrita and Mauk’s Tuff.
Consolida makes her 2nd US appearance since 2 competitive races at Newmarket, one turf, one all-weather. After a 4 month layoff, she won the California Oaks at Golden Gate Fields last time with an 84, estimated to be a lot faster than her prior 2 races. Best breeding (Sir Percy/Red Larkspur, out of Red Clubs, all GB/IRE stock).
Hey Negrita won her maiden debut right here at the 19k level….then after claim she finished 5th in a turf route, optional claim event. Only filly here with some sort of pace pattern going (both lifetime races were 76 and 78). Reclaimed by Claude Godsey for this race. Live overlay longshot here.
Homemade Salsa has run in ungraded stakes company for 6 months now. Winner of the Gulfstream Park Juvenile Fillies Turf with an 80 last time out, better than her prior 2 races which were mid 80s. Last time out saw a sharp spike up to 84, finishing 3rd first time on the allweather, in a 50k stakes event. She traveled in the 6 path for that race, and still managed to have room to produce her typical closing kick. 85 BRIS is fastest of these for the distance.
My other longshot overlay is Mauk’s Tuff. Won her 2nd maiden race last summer. Comes out of 2 2nd place finishes (both her first on all-weather), the last one a small new top to 83. Only pure sprinter in the field…Might have to rely on that fast pace to wire the field and pull out the upset.

The Private Terms Stakes at Laurel is 8.5 furlongs, 100k, for top 3YOs. This is the last of the Minor division races for the colts. My top 3 here are longshot overlay Whirlin Curlin, favored Still Havin Fun, and California Night.

Whirlin Curlin brings back Jevian Toledo aboard, who rode this horse to both lifetime wins…both stakes/restricted races last fall. Waiting 7 weeks to stretch out, he’s worked 3 times, one work very fast. Peaked at 93 3 races back. The jockey/trainer influence here makes for a tasty overlay.
California Night gets blinkers for the first time. Won his maiden debut at Aqueduct in December, then was 5th in the Jimmy Winkfield..both races were off-track conditions. BRIS numbers were 89 and 80. Strong sprinting speed with first call numbers in the 90s. 3 works at Belmont, 2 fast, 1 bullet. Sprinters have won at 8.5 furlongs 40% of the time. Positions 1-3 have won 17%.

my 4 2018 NCAA bracket sheets

I’ve just created and submitted 4 brackets, one each at different major sports services, to see how far I can take various stats and pick as many winners as possible.
Here, in brief, are the stats I used in each.

Bracket 1 values coaches and schools’ experience in the tournament, plus greater weight for those who have more upperclassmen. By the round of 16, I see just 2 upsets in Loyola-Chicago and Texas. Here’s how this bracket looks at ESPN:


Bracket 2 takes into account a team’s record vs the current Top 50, a team’s closer location to the game site (unless both teams are very far away) and also wins vs better conferences than their own. Upsets: Georgia State, S Dakota State, Iona, New Mexico State. Here’s the bracket, at Yahoo!:


Bracket 3 uses stats at … offensive and defensive %, difference between offensive 2pt and 3pt %, and turnovers per possession. Loyola-Chicago is the lone upsetter here. Here’s the bracket, at CBS:


Finally, the composite. Here I had 2 3-way ties to break…one being Gonzaga/Ohio State/S Dakota State….then Cincinnati/Loyola-Chi/Tennessee. I picked out just 5 consensus choices in the South, while the East seems much more solid, giving 9 firm choices.
Here’s how this bracket breaks down:

Loyola-Chicago is my true Cinderella pick….great balanced offense, good defensive efficiency. Their Achilles heel are turnovers. But I like them a ton and hope they can get to the Elite Eight at least.

my PGA Tour player rankings for 3/15/18


In the Valspar Championship, I ranked only Ryan Palmer and
Jordan Speith for this tournament as possibles for winning.
Ryan Palmer definitely did well with his Par 5s and ranked
among leaders with GIR and driving distance, plus tee to green
and approaches. His weak areas were around the green,
driving accuracy and putts per GIR. Overall, he shot 72-66-
70-74, good for -2 and a 28th place finish.
Speith had a much tougher time, with a 76-71, and was cut
being +5. He birdied one of each type of par, but had a tough
run of holes in his first front 9 that he never recovered from.
Next on the PGA Tour is the Arnold Palmer Invitational, held at
the Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. Here are my current
ranking of players, plus top-5s in stats:
Justin Thomas – not playing
Kevin Chappell ** Approaches 200-225 yards, round 4 and
final round scoring
Dustin Johnson – not playing
Paul Casey – not playing
Alex Noren ** Scoring average, scrambling 10-20 yards,
putting from 6′, par 5 scoring, par 5 birdie or better
Rickie Fowler ** Total driving efficiency, left rough tendency, scrambling from under 10 yards, round 2 scoring, front 9 scoring, late scoring
Hideki Matsuyama ** Approaches from 100-125 yards, putting from 3′, par 3 scoring (leader), final round performance (leader)
Jason Kokrak ** Round 1 and Par 5 scoring.
Ryan Palmer -not playing
Lucas Glover ** Approaches 225-250 and 175-200 yards

2018 Derby/Oaks Future Wager selections

Here’s how my future wagers got entered….and didn’t.
For the Oaks, I waited until the last 2 minutes to get the win and exacta wagers done. I did this because Monomoy Girl, my top selection, was 6-1, and I wondered if she would actually get bet down to 5-1. Once I decided she was steady at 6-1, I put in these wagers:
$2 win bets on Monomoy Girl at 6-1, Wonder Gadot at 21-1, Coach Rocks at 60-1.
$1 Exactas: Monomoy Girl, Wonder Gadot, Coach Rocks over and under the field.
Best possible exacta payout: Coach Rocks/field: $478

I was about to cinch the exacta box between those 3 horses to each other, which would have set up hundreds to thousands as a payout….and then I get the dreaded red box that proved the closing of the virtual window. Rats. I normally wouldn’t let that happen, but it’s the risk I take for watching the numbers a bit too much.
The $6 I would have played in that box will go toward Pool 4
Ultimately, yesterday’s Honeybee Stakes only made Cosmic Burst a mild choice but not enough to make a difference.

For the Derby future wager, I did accomplish what I set out to do. But, as with the major race results, the rankings didn’t change much at all. My pace rankings barely moved, thanks to Bolt d’Oro’s DQ win.
$2 win wagers:
Bravazo (40-1)
Catholic Boy (21-1)
Free Drop Billy (44-1) (double dip, as I have already at 33-1 in a prior pool)

$1 exactas:
Bolt d’Oro (7-1)/Free Drop Billy (44-1)/Good Magic (11-1) exacta box
Bolt d’Oro/Free Drop Billy/Good Magic over and under field (4-1)
Lowest exacta payout: Bolt d’Oro/field: $32.10

Highest: Free Drop Billy/Good Magic: $798.40

I want to mention here that I had to extrapolate results based on tweets from’s Twitter feed, which posts the winning Brisnet speed of selected major race winners. Of course, there were more than just 2 big races this weekend. I called up Twinspires, who did post another tweet about a 3rd major race. All I really needed was the Honeybee Stakes result. I called up Brisnet, spoke to a very receptive customer service, and instructed me on how to access the data. It is on their legacy site, and it’s $2-5 depending on how much info I need. But the big advantage is that it does post their speed figures within a day. No more need to guess, tho it’s not for free.

Laurel Park picks for 3/10/18; Enlightened Trails update

Lots happening Saturday with major stakes races involving the Derby and Oaks Trails as well as my own versions of the Trails. The third pool of the Derby Future Wager is also in focus, plus the lone Oaks future pool.
But first, analysis of 8 Laurel Park races for Saturday as part of The Racing Biz’s semi-monthly free handicapping contest. One selection per race, win and place cashes only.

Laurel Park race 2: 6 furlongs, 21k purse, 11k claimers for 4YO+. Top 3 are 1-4-3…Phil’s Cocktail, Sam Sparkle, and Hey Willie. No overlay in this race.

Race 3: 25k maidens, 3YO fillies, 1 mile. Top 3 are 5-1-4: Be Humble, Rein Supreme (overlay), and Pictura.
Rein Supreme is a sprinter who has great 1st call numbers, showing strong tactical speed. Despite this, he’s never led at any call in his 3 lifetime races. He is, however, running his 1st race under reclaim by Ferris Allen. Sprinters at a mile during the meet are winning 34% of the time. Rail horses are winning 21%.

Race 4: 5.5 furlongs, 6.5k claimers for fillies/mares 4YO+, non winnners in the last 6 months. Top 3 are Fly and Flutter, Our Gabrielle, Greely’s Striker. I didn’t have ready past performances for this race, so I relied on the combined win% of jockey and trainer. Capuano has 31% as trainer.

Race 5: 1 mile for 3YOs, 25k claimers. Top 3: 7-9-5….Wonder How (overlay) ahead of 2 favorites in Bannon and Oldfashioned Club.
Wonder How scored 2 new small top in his last 2 races, both of him were his first route races. Both races were outside trips, 75 BRIS last time out. One fast work here at Laurel since then, 5 furlongs at 1:01:2, 4th fastest of the day.
Other overlays in this wide open race: Edify, running 2nd start after claim. Following a 7 week layoff upon claim and maiden win, he improved in both 1st and 2nd call in a 50k optional-claimer, a muddy track at that.
Raphael’s Promise with best AWD numbers in the field (Include/Code Name Cassie, out of Partner’s Hero). Pace surged to 75, then 73, then 72 in last 3 races. Gained 3 lengths on leader at 2nd call last out.
Port Louis won his maiden debut with a 70 BRIS, then switched to a route at 50k claim level, dropped to 52, then went back to a sprint at the 25k claim level on a sloppy Laurel Park track, finishing 4th with a 69 score. Only late closer in the field.

Race 6: 42k purse, non-winners of 2 races. 8.5 furlong race for 4YO+. Top 3 are 2-3-6….Brighton Lane, Royal Hussar, Dreamliner (overlay)…. Dreamliner ran his lifetime best of 78 3 races back, his debut at 4. Reclaimed by Jennifer Shannon, he would finally break maiden after 10 races, then ran 4th in a 42k allowance race. Gets 7-pound allowance, running at 113 lbs.

Race 7: 16k claimers, 4YO+, non-winners of 3 races; 6 furlongs. No past performances to draw from this, either. Top 3 are Worth His Salt (8-1), Far From Aweome (9-2), Off Road (8-1). Albeit a small sample of races, Vargas has 3 wins in 5, and Ness 2 wins in 5 in this meet.

Race 8: Optional-claimers, 7 furlongs, 16k purse, 4YO+. Top 3 are Hurricane Bear (overlay), Chargin Storm and My Train.
Hurricane Bear with last 4 races 82 to 87 BRIS. Adds blinkers for the first time.

Race 9 pits 16k maiden claimers running 6 furlongs, fillies/mares 3YO+. Top 3: 8-4-5….Presenter (overlay), Soft Landing, Fortunate Queen.
Presenter is a first time starter, first time for a tag of course. Best workouts of the field, with 2 fast ones in prep.

The Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park promises to be a great collection of filly talent. 200k, 8.5 furlongs is the distance for this Grade 3 event. My top 3 are Amy’s Challenge, Red Ruby, and Stronger Than Ever.
Stronger Than Ever may prove to the only real price play. Winner of her maiden debut, and a 67k allowance race, fell to 7th in the Grade 2 Golden Rod, then 3rd in the 100k Trapeze, and began her 3YO career with a narrow longshot win in the Silverbulletday. 2 months off should not be an issue, given her win in her first start. She’s definitely the speed here as the deep closer, with all 5 race between 78 and 87 BRIS. In the Silverbulletday she gained 8.5 lengths and 5 places before wearing down Wonder Gadot.

The Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct is 1 mile, Grade 3, 300k purse for top 3YOs. Top 3 for me are Dial Operator (overlay), Firenze Fire, and Beautiful Shot. Looks like a wide open race.
Dial Operator won vs fellow NJ bred horses last July at Monmouth with a 77 BRIS. Followed this up last month here with a 91 vs 50k optional claimers. No rust for him, as he gained 8 points at the 2nd call compared to his debut, and also one length on leaders before closing wide and winning by 4.5.
Other overlays:
Cove Blue took 4 tries to win at the maiden level and did so with a 96 BRIS. Then ran 3rd with 91 vs 75k optional claimers. Both of those races were at Gulfstream following a 7 week layoff, a nice start to his 3YO career. Great early tactical speed. 47% of mile races during the meet have been won by sprinters.
The other 2 sprinters bear watching. Old Time Revival broke maiden in his 3rd try with a 90 BRIS. Began his 3YO career 7th in the Frank Whiteley here with a 76, then 2nd in he Miracle Wood , nearly wiring the field first time at a route, with a 94. Had a wide trip in that race; he might have won. Then again, 4 of his 5 races had some trouble.
Nine Route has only run vs NY horses. Won his 2nd maiden race with an 86. Won an optional claimer with a 79. Won the 100k Gander with an 86, small new top.

Tampa Bay Derby is a Grade 2 event, 8.5 furlongs, 400k. Top 3 are 2 overlays in Caloric and Tiz Mischief, and World Of Trouble 3rd.
Caloric was 5th in his 50k maiden race. 2nd race was a win at 25k, 79 BRIS. Won again after layoff and claim, first route race, an 85 score. That race saw a match in 2nd call pace and move to the lead then. Proven to win off layoff, stretchout and claim. Very live longshot.
Tiz Mischief won in 3rd maiden start, then was 2nd in the KY Jockey Club, then 3rd in the Grade 2 Holy Bull while running wide. Alternating runs of 93 and 90 last 4 races.
Also: Arazi Like Move won his debut vs 40k maiden claimers, then was 4th and 2nd in optional claimers at Laurel. 2nd in the Inaugural here with small new top of 86, then bounce to 67 stretching to 7 furlongs in the Pasco. Waiting 7 weeks to stretch out, he runs his first route race, and also gets blinkers for the first time.

Finally, the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita, for top 3YOs going 8.5 furlongs, for a 400k purse. Top 3 are Bolt d’Oro, longshot/overlay Calexman, and McKinzie.
Calexman with 3 big gains in his races after his maiden debut, peaking at 90 in the El Camino Real Derby (80). Owns 1 shipping win. 69% of races at the distance have been won by sprinters. Blazing 1st call numbers of 112, 84, 95, 93 lifetime.

UPDATE: With the scratch of Calexman…my new top 3 are Bolt d’Oro, McKinzie and overlay Peace.  Peace was on blinkers for the first time in the Robert B Lewis Stakes, and is now off them today. 4 fast workouts in prep, one a bullet work.

2018 Oaks Future Wager analysis

The Oaks Future Wager was the one I scored close
to $500 on, thanks to some solid picks that stuck
with me as others fell out of the actual Trail. Can I
score another upset?

I chose the top 7 horses from each category, then
ranked those with the most top-7 placements,
breaking ties as necessary.
Here are the benchmarks that were set in the Oaks
Combined AWD: 14.4
Best class: Grade 3
Best Churchill Downs BRIS: 78
Best Binomial Pace: 553, translating to a 92.
Longest distance win: 8.5 furlongs
8 horses had sufficient pace progress from 2YO to

I ranked 10 of the 23, with 2 in a virtual tie. I had to
break that tie based on the quality of the category.
Horse A has better AWD (or, breeding) stats, and a
faster run at the track.
Horse B has better back-class and faster pace.
Which one do you choose?
I’ll side with horse B, as pace is a better indicator of
future performance that stats regarding more
historical or inherent quality.

Here’s how I rank the 10 fillies:
10: Midnight Bisou was 2nd in her maiden debut at
Santa Anita, tho scored a 91 BRIS. Next was 2nd in
the 100k Desi Arnaz at Del Mar. Then she won the
Grade 2 Santa Ynez, and also the Grade 3 Santa
Ysabel (latter 2 at Santa Anita, and both with a 93).
I like the class, the great finishes, and the
consistent, fast numbers. Never raced prior to
Labor Day, doesn’ t match well in breeding.

9: Sassy Sienna is one of 4 fillies racing Saturday in
the Honeybee Stakes. Won her maiden debut at
Indiana Downs. 3rd in the PG Johnson at Saratoga.
4th in the Grade 1 Alcibiad Stakes at Keeneland.
2nd in a 62k allowance race at Churchill, removed
from turf, peaking at 87 BRIS, a fast number for this
field. Next, a 5th place finish in the Trapeze Stakes
at Remington Park. Then won a 62.5k optional
claimer at Oaklawn Park, and then nearly wired the
field last time out in the Martha Washington also at
Oaklawn. Good AWD numbers (Midshipman/Tap
for Gold, out of Pleasant Tap). Pace progress was
definite since her 3rd race. Class still in question,
pace has yet to breach 90, and she hasn’t won past
a mile.

8: Red Ruby was Horse B in my example. Won her
2nd maiden race at 8.5 furlongs. Both races were at
Churchill, peaking at a strong 92. She then won the
aforementioned Martha Washington. Good AWD
numbers (Tiznow/Caroni, out of Rubiano. Caroni
herself is the dam of Beautician, who placed in
multiple stakes races. Rubiano himself was a
multiple stakes winner, many of them beyond age
3, tho never ran the Triple Crown races). Class is
good but she has yet to run in a Graded event. Pace
is a bit slow for the field of 23. Debuted in October. Will run in the Honeybee.

7: Caledonia Road is Horse A in the example above.
Won her debut at the 83k maiden level in Saratoga.
2nd in the Grade 1 Frizette, then won the Breeders
Cup Juvenile Fillies at 8.5 furlongs. Great pace
numbers of 98, 100, 89. AWD numbers a bit slow
for the field. No runs at Churchill. Debut came in

6: Paved took 3 tries to break maiden, and it was a
success with 100 BRIS at 9 furlongs. Then she
matched it with a 102, winning the 100k El Camino
Real Derby. Good AWD numbers: Quality
Road/Simione, out of Cozzene. No Graded stakes
entries, no runs at Churchill, debuted in October.

Next 5 horses scored in 4 of 6 categories.
5: Patrona Margarita won her maiden debut at
Churchill. 8th in the 100k Debutante. 3rd in the
Texas Thoroughbred Futurity. Won her Graded and
route race debut in the Pocahantas, back at
Churchill, with a lifetime best 88 and at 8.5
furlongs. It also represents great pace progress.
Watch that race here:–k

4th last out in the Rachel Alexandra, matching her
best effort. AWD and pace numbers still slow
compared to others.

4: Dream Tree is undefeated in 4 races. Won her maiden debut last October at Santa Anita. Won the 100k Desi Arnaz, the Grade 1 Starlet at 8.5 furlongs (94 BRIS), and the Grade 2 Las Virgiennes. Lifetime pace numbers range from 91 to 94. Great AWD numbers (Uncle Mo/Afleet Maggi, out of Afleet Alex). Might consider for wins if odds are
Watch her run of the Starlet Stakes here:

3: Coach Rocks has run 7 times as a maiden, finally breaking out with a 8.5 furlong win last time out and with a big jump in pace to 93. Best AWD numbers in the field (Oxbow/Mexican Moonlight, out of El Prado). Scored a borderline 78 BRIS at Churchill. Certainly her lack of class can be faulted as well as overall pace. But look at that maiden race winner:

2: Wonder Gadot won her maiden debut on Woodbine’s turf course last August. 3rd in the Grade 1 Natalma. 2nd in the Grade 3 Mazarine there also. 6th in the BC Juvenile Fillies on her dirt debut, with a small new top of 91. Won the Grade 2 Demoiselle at 9 furlongs, matching that speed figure. 2nd in the Silverbulletday, then 3rd in the Rachel Alexandra, with a 92. Good AWD numbers: Medaglia d’Oro/Loving Vindication, out of Vindication. Hasn’t run at CD yet, and pace numbers, tho consistent, are a bit low for this field.
See how she won the Demoiselle:


1: Monomoy Girl is highly regarded in the wager, and I agree, tho 5-1 ML might be low. Winner of 4 of 5 lifetime, his only blemish the Grade 2 Golden Rod, nearly wiring that field. He still managed his best race there at Churchill with a 99 BRIS. Won his maiden debut on turf at Indiana Downs. Won a 75k optional claimer race. Won the 80k Rags To Riches. Won the Grade 2 Rachel Alexandra. Debuted only in September, and AWD numbers low for this field. Still she will be involved in my exactas, probably not for wins though.