I did not make this headline up
Jeremy Gallon, an electron-sized wide receiver from Florida, has just committed to Michigan. He's the #74 prospect in the country to Rivals but only a three star (and the #132 player in the southeast) to Scout; other offers were from Auburn, Iowa, and a bunch of non-Big Three Florida schools. Informative update coming.
Informative Update: I'd actually gone out and collected items of interest on Gallon earlier this week after he named Michigan his leader in a Rivals article, so this is relatively quick.
At Apopka -- the Orlando Sentinel's #1 team in the state for 2008 -- he is a old-school single wing quarterback, which took a little getting used to:
"I was confused. I was like, no quarterback? What kind of offense is this?" Apopka running back Jeremy Gallon. "But then as the days went on and we started to play ... I started to like it."
He's variously listed as 5'8" or 5'9". Yes, he is another one of those guys.
Gallon has a super-weird disconnect between his Rivals rating, which is about as high as a 5'8" kid not named Noel Devine will ever get, and those offered up by Scout (as mentioned: meh) and ESPN. ESPN rates him a 77, also meh, and says($):
Ideally, he is a scatback/slot receiver/corner candidate with outstanding speed, quickness and change-of-direction skills. He is undersized, but compensates with his movement skills and toughness as an overall player. Has great feet and is really slippery as a runner-- is very tough to get a clean shot at.
The evaluation is can be summed up as "nice but electron-sized and thus limited." His offers -- Michigan, Auburn, Iowa, Kansas, and some others, no attention from the instate powers -- line up with the skeptical view.
Why is Rivals so high on him? This article gives an indication. Prepare for some gushing:
Rivals.com recruiting expert Barry Every got a chance to evaluate Gallon and loved what he saw.
"He's a cross between Noel Devine and Chris Rainey," said Every. "He's super quick, his change of direction is probably in the top 1/10th of the top 1 percentile. He's got good speed. He's magic with the ball in his hands. He could make a great punt returner. He could be receiver, cornerback and possibly a running back."
Jeepers. Some choice quotes from his coach:
"He really plays every position," Darlington said. "He plays quarterback for us but we run the single wing offense so our QB is really like a tailback. In 14 games though, he completed 65% of his passes. He was 6A [largest classification, btw -ed] player of the year in our area and he was runner-up in the state. He runs a 4.4 and he power cleans 300 pounds." ...
"Any college that's seen him has been flabbergasted by him," Darlington said. "But nobody has seen him. A lot of the bigger schools don't come by here, I guess because we're out here in the middle of the state."
Despite the limited recruitment activity, Darlington is sure that Gallon has high end potential and he should know. Darlington has coached players such as former Miami standout and current New England Patriot Brandon Meriweather.
"When he runs, he doesn't look like he's running very fast but nobody can catch him," Darlington said of Gallon. "He's very wiggly. He's a lot like Percy Harvin. He's got amazing hands. You can throw the football at him from anywhere and he catches with his fingers. He just snatches it out of the air like a baseball."
Percy Harvin, Noel Devine, and Chris Rainey: this serves as your explanation. A little more from his coach:
In Apopka's second-round playoff victory against Edgewater, Gallon rushed for 257 yards, caught a touchdown pass and covered Edgewater's best receiver the whole game.
"Jeremy Gallon may be the best player that's every played at Apopka," Darlington said of the school that was home to NFL players Warren Sapp and Brandon Meriweather.
And, what the hell, one more:
"This is the same staff that had (former North Fort Myers star) Noel Devine at West Virginia last year," Darlington said. "I think that's what they're thinking with Jeremy, to move him around and find different ways to get him the ball. He's a special athlete and he's a great fit for what they're going to do on offense."
Gallon is only 5-9, 165-pounds but is one of Apopka's strongest players. He led the team in six of eight categories and had the third highest point total in school history in the "Super-Darter" test, which measures strength, speed, agility and endurance. His led his team in the power-clean lift and had a 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds.
You get the idea.
Gallon is the second receiver to commit and will likely be joined by two or three more with Michigan thin on receivers during their transition to the spread 'n' shred; one of the two running back recruits will also get a look in the slot. He's Michigan's first commit from heavily-scoured Florida in this class and Michigan's fifth Rivals 100 recruit.
Now... uh... maybe some linemen or something? (TN OL Alex Bullard picks Friday but most expect it to be Tennessee.)
Baseball recruiting turns out to far more byzantine and arcane than football or basketball recruiting. There are thousands of players coming into college and no authoritative, free scouting service to cover it. Players can come in with as little as a quarter of a scholarship, and a huge number of top kids sign big-bucks contracts after the draft. Who has the top recruiting class? Ask on August 16th, the day after the deadline for major league teams to sign their draft picks. It won't be Michigan, or anyone in the Big Ten.
PerfectGame.com does have a primitive ranking where their top recruit is worth 1585 points, their number 1584 is worth one point, and you can extrapolate from there. The Big Ten according to them:
|Rank||College||Recruits||Total Points||Top Ranked Recruit||Ranked Top 200||Conference|
|49||Iowa||10||6857||Phil Schreiber||0||Big 10|
|72||Michigan||7||4017||Tyler Mills||0||Big 10|
|76||Michigan State||4||3783||Clayton Vanderlaan||0||Big 10|
|84||Illinois||5||3205||Corey Kimes||0||Big 10|
|108||Penn State||3||2300||Joey DeBernardis||0||Big 10|
|109||Indiana||4||2226||Blake Monar||0||Big 10|
|127||Minnesota||5||1483||Kurt Schlangen||0||Big 10|
|129||Purdue||6||1415||Joe Haase||0||Big 10|
|133||Ohio State||1||1350||Ross Oltorik||0||Big 10|
|192||Northwestern||3||205||Zachary Morton||0||Big 10|
Providing points per recruit here is pointless since no one knows exactly how many scholarship are being spent: Ohio State's one guy might be taking up a full slot and Indiana's four might all be on the minimum.
Some guidance from a couple guys who are more familiar with the scene then I am. First, Dan Kittell:
I assume you have seen the list of guys Maloney signed in the fall. [uh... now I have! -ed] lots of pitchers (one from Pioneer & one from Mass. they are high on, among others), a catcher from Cali and a couple SSs (one from TC, one from Ill who is ranked the #8 guy in the state, apparently). i wouldn't worry about finding out how good these guys are until the MLB draft in June. unless there is a Putnam-type kid (i don't think there is), there won't be much to read about. even if there is a putnam type kid, he would be a late rounder b/c they have signed w/ M and are probably firm commits (putnam was drafted out of HS IIRC, but was a late flyer pick by the local Tigers b/c he knew he wanted to go to M).
I think the usual mode of operations at this level is to sign pitchers w/ potential, RS them to develop their fundamentals and hope they come around by year 2-3. rules of thumb at this level: RHers w/ low 90s fastballs are a dime a dozen. they need other pitches (ZPs splitter, actually he throws 4-5 pitches for strikes according to maloney). ANY lefty that throws in the 90s is a good pitcher & most likely a high end guy.
As far as position players, they signed 2 SSs, so expect Christian to bolt. not sure
how to gauge position players at this level, unless they are obvious high end guys. Abraham was a hockey player, Reck started out at Oakland. guys who hit .450-.500 in HS are a dime a dozen, so it's hard to tell who the high end guys are until the draft.
A slight correction from Colin:
I think Dan was a little much with 90+ from RHP being standard. ~92 is average MLB from a RHP, iirc, so for the Big Ten it isn't quite that. But if the program is thinking of itself as a national power, then it needs a little more than Big Ten average. But Dan is right about secondary offerings. Everyone I saw out there yesterday had a hell of a time throwing anything but a fastball belt high for a strike. That has to change.
So bear all that in mind.
C Coley Crank
Kittell offered this up on Crank:
This catcher from Cali mightbe a good one... 6-2 220 or so and can hit for power. played on plenty of Cali HS all star travel teams i think. Size is the only thing (w/o the benefit of draft evals) that i can use as a gauge. Berset is a good player, but a 5-10 185lb catcher is not a good prospect at any level. Look for him to get pushed.
PerfectGame.com on Crank:
Coley Crank is a 2008 C from Pinole Valley HS, residing in Pinole, CA, listed at 5'11" 215 lbs. Body - strong, physical, stocky. Offense - 2 for 4 with a 2BL, 3 Rs in two games, strong, flat swing, physical, good present power, balanced, easy power, short swing, ball exits bat well, power to all fields, middle of order bat. Defense - ok arm, consistent pop times, simple technique, takes time, flashes competitive pop times.
That scouting report was from '06 and may be a little outdated. They gave him an 8 -- "solid D-I prospect, mid-round draft pick" on their ten point rating scale. Maloney echoes the assessment:
A catcher out of Berkeley, Calif., Crank is an all-league selection in both baseball and football, and will add power to U-M's lineup. He was named to the 2007 Junior Sun Belt Oklahoma All-Tournament team, and played in the 2007 Area Code Games in Long Beach. "Coley Crank is a really strong, young man," Maloney said. "He's six-foot, 220, just built like a house. He'll give us added depth at the catcher position, and provide a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup."
A possible replacement for Recknagel's power, it appears, and probably a guy who will see significant time as both a catcher and a DH.
SS John Lorenz
According to someone -- who, exactly, is never revealed -- Lorenz was the #8 prospect in Illinois this year:
An honor roll student, Lorenz is listed as the No. 8 player in Illinois' class of 2008 as a shortstop and is captain of both the baseball and basketball teams. As a junior, he set school records with 9 home runs and 45 RBIs while hitting .422 and was named MVP of the Griffins' conference and regional champion team.
"John Lorenz is an outstanding infield prospect. He has a strong arm, a good bat and is very athletic," Michigan coach Rich Maloney said.
Lorenz only looked at Big Ten schools, visiting a "plethora" of them before deciding on Michigan. Do you need more evidence Jason Christian is outta herrrre? Everything you need to know is encapsulated here:
Lorenz, who will automatically be entered in to the amateur baseball draft, has talked with several professional scouts and expects to be drafted. However, Lorenz will only forgo his freshman year at Michigan if the contract offered is substantial.
Meanwhile, the Griffin shortstop expects to get immediate playing time at Michigan as the Wolverines' current shortstop is expected to leave after this season to play professionally.
Lorenz was a three-sport star early in his high school career and only recently gave up serious travel basketball, so his skills are a little more raw than guys who've played every day. He may have more upside than most.
SS Kevin Krantz
Krantz is an instate kid with the usual insane stats (.475, 8HR, .848 slugging and .617 OBP) garnered against questionable competition: Krantz is from Traverse City. Though he was a D-I caliber pitcher (Michigan State recruited him there), he'll be a position player at Michigan:
"The recruited me solely as an infielder and a shortstop," Krantz said. "I feel my best position is shortstop."
There's another article that says basically the same things, with one more confirmation that Christian is gonzo:
Michigan has a returning junior at shortstop in Jason Christian. But Maloney told Krantz that he expects Christian to be a high draft pick next June and leave school early.
Is Jason Christian returning for his senior year? It's hard to tell.
Krantz doesn't have any accolades or rankings, and the articles on him specifically state his scholarship is a partial one. (That may be an artifact of his home state: if you're from California or Illinois tuition is like 30 grand.)
A request for assistance from the Hoover Street Rag:
Normally I would have just posted this on HSR and hoped for the best, but it just came into me and is mildly time critical.
A small favor to ask, and while I don't think it's in the cards, I would be remiss if I didn't ask.
My pal at work is getting married next weekend. She and her father want, for the father/daughter dance at the wedding, this jazz vocal version of "The Victors" by a woman named Pat Suzuki. Apparently it was played about once a year back in the day by JP McCarthy. Anyway, I know it's a long shot, but if you or the readers could help me out, even just letting me know where to look, it would be huge. Thanks in advance.
Anyone have any ideas? Email or leave it in the comments.
Remember that national-champion, undefeated (club) lacrosse team? Well, check this out:
FYI - a first in Major League Lacrosse:
In the fifth (and final round of the MLL draft) round, a Michigan player was drafted - no player from a non-NCAA program had been drafted before. Also, he was picked ahead of Notre Dame's highly regarded face-off specialist, who was still on the board.
Brekan Kohlitz, M, Michigan
Whoa. This is a first. An MCLA guy taken. Never heard of this guy, but I know Michigan won the MCLA title this year and John Paul is one of that division's best coaches. This kid's got good size and can face off. So maybe the Bayhawks had this guy tucked away all draft and that's why they passed on Brennan and Eck.
I've always kinda liked lacrosse; hopefully Michigan will bump it to varsity status once the capital projects are done.
Some questions I have on the 'Boren situation':
1. Will he be good enough to start at OSU? Granted he would have been one of the better M lineman this year, but that isn't saying much really. Any productivity he had last year was somewhat a function of the fact that nearly all the pressure and focus was put on Long and Boren really only needed to be adequate, which he was only sporadically.
2. Given player comments with regard to Boren's attitude and lack of drive in term of workouts and preparation, is he in for a big surprise at OSU and will he run into the same problems? He grew fat and lazy, it would seem, on the Gittleson laissez-faire approach to conditioning and obviously had problems with the new regimes focus on conditioning and the intensity of their practices. While I do expect there to be massive improvements from the Barwis effect, it really is only returning us to a level that is competitive with other programs. Won't Boren be entering a system at OSU that has high expectations for conditioning and likely an intensity level that might make him a little 'uncomfortable', especially when his status is at zero?
Before he committed to OSU I wished him the best and wasn't too bitter, but afterward I think it is OK to hate. Now I just want to see him whine himself onto a bench seat this year as not only he abandoned his team and left an even bigger gap in a position of need for the season. Probably more the latter, if pressed to choose.
What thinks ye?
Boren was really really good against Notre Dame's Trevor Laws, blowing a soon-to-be second round draft pick all over the field in FBDII, and I thought he was destined to be awesome. That did not so much happen. He wasn't outright awful or anything, but he did nothing to distinguish himself. I don't know what OSU's depth chart looks like, but I believe they lose both guards after this year and Boren's got a year of starting under his belt... it's likely he plays. I know all that stuff about him being a wussy coddled quitter and so forth and so on, but the guy was an Army All-American, passed on a redshirt, and started as a true sophomore without being notably terrible.
I think Boren's issue wasn't an inherent laziness but a sense of entitlement stemming from his last name. Rodriguez came in, declared every starting position open, and demanded his linemen run everywhere whilst being called uncomplimentary names. It's a culture shock from "I'm Mike Boren's son." Rodriguez's response to that was undoubtedly "who the hell is Mike Boren?" I've heard that Carr let Boren miss certain workouts to go help with his dad's landscaping company. If true... uh... yeah. Things are mighty different these days.
Boren's a talented guy who will no doubt find plenty of motivation at Ohio State. He'll probably start, and probably be pretty good. Should Michigan fans care? Well, yes. His asshat father orchestrated his transfer to Michigan's top rival and needlessly blasted a program willing to let him go quietly, and with a completely unrestricted transfer. No one gives unrestricted transfers. Some thanks Michigan got. The next time that guy tries to show up at a football alumni function someone should punch him in the face.
But also no. Rodriguez has proven he can instill a winning culture in a program and he has set about doing that. Michigan will be better off without people who, for whatever reason, whine and complain. Both parties are better off.
On to fellows still with us:
I was just curious about how the current roster will adjust to the spread, and also how RichRod will recruit for the new offense.
Who is going to take the role of Owen Schmitt and be the rumbling beertruck? I have watched West Virginia the past few years and I think he was just as valuable as Slaton or White because of his blocking and the power he brought to the run game. Right now it seems that we are not recruiting any of these guys, and I am not convinced that we have a guy sufficient for this role on the current roster (Helmuth? Moundros?)
Also, it seems to me that the new staff must have seen a sale somewhere on jitterbug slot guys because Michigan seems to be recruiting every one of these guys in the country. Do we really need all these guys? Personally, I don't want a USC situation where we have 10 guys stacked at one position and we just waste talent. (Even though that is a good problem to have)
This unidentified emailer makes an excellent point. Yesterday Mark Richt was quoted saying you needed a "big, thick joker" in the middle of your defense who could take on blocks and pound tailbacks, and that the spread has started a shift away from the Sam Swords of the world. If they felt like it, teams facing West Virginia could just dump the middle linebacker entirely and line up with eleven gazelles.
Except they would then get 260 pounds of rage in their face in the form of Owen Schmitt. As the thunderous counterpart to Slaton and White, Schmitt kept defenses honest. Actually, that might sell him and his 5.7 YPC short.* Schmitt kept defenses scared.
No one on Michigan's team is going to be Schmitt, who was that once-a-decade fullback who becomes a crunching fan favorite despite his infrequent deployment. But I'd watch out for Helmuth, the top-ranked fullback in his recruiting class and a big, pounding runner for Saline when he was in high school. Michigan's other option is to go with two running backs, one a speed merchant like Brown or Horn and the other a Grady-Minor north-south type.
As to Michigan offering every 5'6" electron-fast WR/RB/QB they can find: this could be something of a mirage. The recruiting board has given up on listing every kid with a Michigan offer because Rodriguez and Co are sending letters to way more kids t
han Carr ever did. Naturally this includes a large helping of electrons, who are always more notable than another safety offer because they have zippy highlight films and weigh 110 pounds.
Keep in mind that Michigan had zero of these guys on the roster when Rodriguez arrived, and only has two now. Most teams like to have four guys with a pulse at every position, so it's reasonable to recruit somewhere between two and four more this year. Four? Well, some of them might end up in the backfield and some might end up at outside receiver or in the secondary. This is not recruiting 6'5" water buffalo quarterbacks. Guys who get beat out at slot receiver have options.
Michigan will probably take two, which is reasonable.
A little more on playoffs:
I wholeheartedly support a playoff system that also preserves the regular season. But I thinks it very important to note how the current system seriously waters down the 'all-important' regular season. The current ranking system is so dominated by number of losses that the contenders and everyone else schedule patsies to avoid losses at all costs. At the top of the heap, the contenders try to make a BCS bowl, and the middle to lower tier try to get to bowl eligability. Number of losses must be around 80% of the rankings basis - see Hawaii and other unworthy WAC teams with 0 losses, and their drop from top 5 or 10 to oblivion with a single loss, or their unjustified inclusion in the top 10 to begin with, based solely on 0 losses (except of course for Boise State). Its well-known that the football factories play about 4 serious games a year. I think Michigan v osu needs to stay meaningful, but I view the Utah, Toledo, MAC crap as extortion of the lesser team and of me paying for a full-priced ticket to see an exhibition scrimmage that just happens to count. The "regular season drama/every game counts" crap that seems to be 1 of 2 or 3 serious negatives to a playoff is itself as much a myth as the MNC. A playoff would so magnify a team's credentials by making someone beat 2 or 3 top 10/top 5 teams consecutively.
In a word: word. The problem with BCS blowouts is not so much the uncompetitive nature of the games themselves. The problem is that the system picks two and only two teams when college football usually offers up somewhere between 4 and 6 candidates only slightly distinguishable from each other, then pairs up the excluded teams with other excluded teams nearly as good (or randomly selected 9-3 teams with quarterbacks who can't hit the broad side of Charlie Weis). The frequent result is an arbitrarily awarded crystal football.
A small playoff includes all reasonable "best" teams and naturally results in the winner having the best resume of any team in college football. Team #7 might have a grumble they should have gotten in over team #6, but by the playoff's conclusion they have no claim whatsoever to having the best record.
*(Distorted by the "runaway beer truck" event in the Fiesta Bowl? Undoubtedly, but remove that entirely and his average is still 4.7 YPC, which is pretty decent for a feature back, let alone a fullback.)
Did we know this already?
"I've decided to go to GVSU," Quintin Patilla told GVReport last night.
The 6'1, 230-lber is a native of Flint and has spent the past two seasons with the Michigan Wolverines. He has been dealing with asthma, something that limited him in his time with the maize and blue.
"I had a lot of inflmation," he explained, "the doctor told me I was using only 65% of my lung capacity, so it made conditioning hard because I would get light headed and almost pass out. I still played, still worked and still competed."
It appears Patilla was not on the spring roster, though that passed with little note; now he's gone. I've updated the depth chart by class.
Michigan now has at least 19 scholarships to offer in the 2009 class; the departure of the third-string fullback is not likely to impact Michigan's fate.
Michigan Hockey Summers. All due caveats apply, but it looks like defenseman Chris Summers is sticking around for his junior year. There's a Wolverine article titled "Summers committed to future at Michigan"($) that teases he's "shown no signs of wanting to be anywhere but Ann Arbor next year" and has some direct quotes from Summers to that effect.
With Mark Mitera publicly stating an intent to return, the lone guy on the watchlist who hasn't made his intentions explicit is freshman forward Max Pacioretty. Most observers expect him to return.
Also, I am terribly sorry for the bad pun.
Metagame. This is either going to crush my standing in the eyes of readers or be perfectly obvious given my status as a computer engineer/blogger, but for a brief time I was kinda into the online version of Magic: The Gathering. I stress online here... no conventions wherein I wear a "VULCANS DO IT LOGICALLY... BUT ONLY ONCE EVERY SEVEN YEARS" tshirt. At least not since high school.
Anyway, during this brief period I read a number of articles about Magic tournaments, which are pretty interesting strategically. There are draft and sealed formats in which you attempt to make the best deck out of a random assortment of cards, but more interesting for our purposes are "constructed" tournaments wherein you can bring whatever you want from home.
Magic, like many games, has a distinct rock-paper-scissors aspect to it. If you have a Goblins deck it could tear through anything that's particularly slow but be weak against a "Control" deck designed to keep everything dead or immobile. And Magic, like many games, often inspires copycats when one strategy tends to win a number of tournaments in a row. Once Goblins start rampaging everywhere, everyone thinks that's the way to win and runs them, and it's at this point your lame-o Control deck can show up, lock everything down, and coast to victory. If this happens a bunch, the metagame starts getting split between Goblins and Control and a third thing that might do okay against both gets added in and so on and so forth. At any one time, there are usually two or three dominant archetypes and then scattered weirdos trying to invent a new one and almost always failing. When a weirdo breaks through, though...
The parallel to football is obvious. Rich Rodriguez and Urban Meyer and a few others were the breakthrough weirdos running a spread-option look; now the metagame has started to shift towards lots of little guys on the field at once. The Big Ten by offensive style:
- Spread Option: Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Penn State(? - probably), Northwestern, Indiana
- Passing Spread: Purdue.
- Three yards and a cloud of dust: Ohio State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa
If you've gonna play in a league where everybody's going to pound the ball down after down, you better have some big strong interior defensive linemen and your middle linebacker better be a big, thick joker that can take on a fullback and knock him back.
But if all of a sudden those guys get spread out and there are some really quick cats running around there, you want to have some defenders running around, too. I think people will even get to run more light defensive personnel, their quicker, faster guys that can keep up with that.
Once you put these great athletes out in space -- most coaches will say space is the enemy of a defender because it's tough to wrap up a guy where there so much space to deal with -- you better have a bunch of quick guys who can pursue and close in on those offensive players.
Jack Siedlicki (Yale's coach):
I'm the contrarian in the group. The last two years, we have the best tailback in the league. We gave him the ball 400 times last year. It's kind of worked to our advantage. What Mark's saying, defenses are standing more guys up, getting more guys with speed that can spread out and line up with all these teams. It's kind of worked to our advantage that we're at the other end of the spectrum right now. We're a conservative, by modern standards right now, running football team with the best back in the league. He was the player of the year in the league and we got him back next year. I think it's worked to our advantage that people have gotten smaller, quicker, lighter. We're going after them.
You can see an echo of this in the success of Michigan State and Ohio State last year despite having barely adequate quarterbacks.
My main concern with Rodriguez going forward is that Michigan missed the optimal window for the spread. Even if it remains effective, everyone's going to run it and Michigan's comparative advantage will again be based on talent and motivation. That's not exactly a downer given that Michigan now has the highest-paid S&C coach in the country and Rodriguez made a living off unearthing Pat White and Steve Slaton, but I do think the likelihood Michigan ever reaches the lofty YPC numbers West Virginia did is low.
Is it the "coming demise" of the spread, as predicted in the "via" link above? Not likely. The I-formation was just a fad for 40 years, and then West Coast passing games, etc. If you can effectively use all eleven players on a run, that's a lasting advantage all the 220-pound defensive ends in the world can't eliminate. Just ask Rutgers and their notoriously undersized, quick, and effective defensive line.
Etc.: UMHoops reviews Deshawn Sims' season.
5/30/08 (and 5/31/08) - Michigan 7, Kentucky 5
5/31/08 - Michigan 3, Arizona 4
6/1/08 - Michigan 6, Kentucky 12 - eliminated
Surely a college first baseman has to be amongst the least likely athletes in all of sports to be struck down with injury. You're somewhere between 18 and 22, which means you can take a gunshot and be relatively chipper the next day. Your top speed is "saunter." Every once in a very long while you have to bend over or dive or something, but only just frequently enough to prevent wholesale muscle atrophy.
If you are bound and determined to get injured your options are limited to 1) having a runner plow into your arm after a poor throw, 2) getting drilled with a line drive, or 3) spontaneously combusting. If you consider poker a sport, sitting around a table riffling chips is probably less dangerous. It's hard to come up with anything else. Golfing, I guess, but there's always the chance your caddy goes insane and beats you with your five-iron.
So, yeah, Michigan's first home regional in over twenty years didn't go quite as planned. As per usual, I blame Angry Michigan Baseball All American Hating God, who rudely interrupted Zach Putnam's start against Kentucky with a thunderous barrage of rain, then had the audacity to actually break some part of Nate Recknagel's anatomy as he was standing on first base. Despite another cosmic middle finger, the difference between Michigan and these other teams was wafer thin until Maloney's weird decisions at the beginning of the Kentucky elimination game, about which more can be found in the bullets at post's end.
Tweak Recknagel's freak injury or any number of other fateful moments -- Adam Abraham's run-scoring error, Jason Christian swinging at ball four during the first at-bat, Chris Fetter leaving the Jeremy Bonderman impression on the shelf -- and Michigan could have gone into the ninth inning against Arizona with a slight lead, held it, and been the team to batter a wearied pitching staff in the late game Saturday.
Do they say "that's baseball"? If so, that's baseball. If they don't, good for them for avoiding easy cliches.
All that was mildly depressing and something of a letdown after the storybook finish of last year's regional. But it didn't feel like it walking out of the stadium after the Arizona game Saturday.
This is what happened in the ninth inning: the somewhat rowdy young folks in front of me stood up. Since this is Michigan, within nanoseconds a crabby voice grumbled "down in front," and when it was joined by several others the somewhat rowdy young folks begrudgingly sat down. Then Ryan LaMarre fended off a pitch and squeezed it through a gap in the infield for a one-out single. Fisher Stadium stood, and this time the somewhat rowdy young folks turned around and urged everyone to get to their feet, arms waving like storks with their wings on backwards.
I turned around just in time to see a ponderous elderly couple glance at each other in resignation. They arose, joints grinding ponderously, and it seemed like the birth of a new thing as they craned their necks to glimpse what they could.
- About those weird decisions: I know he has single-handedly turned the Michigan program into something worth paying attention to, but starting a guy with 15 IP all season is weird. Following him with another guy who had the third-highest ERA on the team is also weird, and following him with Canadian Mike Wilson, who was valiant last year but sported a 8.73 ERA going into the UK game is super weird. Travis Smith and Tyler Burgoon were fresh and had better stats both traditional and peripheral. OTOH, it's not like you can extrapolate anything useful statistically from 30 or 40 IP.
- Said group of mildly rowdy young folk included in their number two guys who periodically burst into little baseball chatter songs like "hey whaddya say one-nine, gotta be smart, be smart one-nine, hey whaddya say hey" and it kind of felt like a time warp every time they did that.
- Michigan returned every major contributor aside from one starting pitcher and the catcher for 2008; next year looks like a bloodbath by comparison. Seniors: VanBuskirk, Recknagel, Mahler. Draft-eligible juniors: Putnam (sandwich pick or second-rounder, likely gone), Christian (4th to 8th round, possibly gone), Abraham (?), Fetter (?). I know less than zero about how Michigan's recruiting. Does anyone out there want to fill me in? Send me an email.
- I wonder if Michigan's sustained success will spur Ohio State to beef up their program? They've scraped into the NCAA tournament of late by winning the Big Ten tournament from somewhere between third and sixth place but are basically Just Another Northern Team. Much like Notre Dame hockey hiring Jeff Jackson, anything that makes the Big Ten a more legit place to play is good by me.
- Holy crap is there a lot of ridiculous sacrifice bunting in college baseball. During the first Kentucky game Michigan had men on first and second with no outs and the guy with the highest BA on the team, Kevin Cislo, at the plate. He bunted. Later it became apparent that this was probably not a sacrifice attempt, as Cislo's fast as hell and in the Arizona game the corner infielders were about halfway to the plate during a Cislo at bat with no one on base. But still, man... the guy hits .350. Kentucky did it all the time, including consecutive bunts when down six runs!
I just don't get it, man. Baseball statheads are fervently against bunting in the majors, where a .300 batting average is pretty dang good. In aluminumbatland a .300 BA means you hit eighth. How can bunting be anything other than violent stupidity?
- Section Six has my back on this with its "Sac Bunt Irk Level":