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Michigan went into Bloomington this weekend for a three game set to open conference play. The first two games were high intensity with plenty of drama, the last game was a huge let down. Despite that let down, Michigan currently sits tied for first place with 4 other Big Ten teams as we emerge 2-1 on the weekend. That's more important than how badly the team face planted on Sunday.
So for full recap, take the jump. My thoughts on the series come after the individual game recaps.
This game doesn't get my usual statistical emphasis, as the game story here is too much.
Game one of the series was packed with the action and drama that usually is reserved for late in the season. Michigan threw itself under the bus in the first five innings, committing 5 errors in route to 5 unearned runs and a 9-3 Hoosier lead. Alan Oaks was out after giving up 8 runs (3 earned) on 5 hits, 3 walks, 2 hit batsmen, and only 3 strikeouts. Indiana fans were their normal obnoxious selves, and Michigan appeared to be in a tailspin that it would never escape from.
But in the 7th inning, Michigan had it's first turn in fortune. After reliever Matt Gerbe finally calmed the Hoosier bats with 3.2 innings and only one run scoring, Michigan finally had their big inning at the plate. With Indiana closer Chris Squires temporarily removed from the pitching rubber (he would return), Michigan reeled off a 5 run inning that was sparked by a Mike Dufek lead off double. A hit batsman and walk later, Hoosier closer Squires would return to the mound (legal as long as you don't exit the lineup), and Mike Kittle came through with a sharp ball back up the middle for an RBI single. Dennis would make it back to back RBI singles, plating Lorenz and Urban. After a groundout to the first baseman to move up the runners, Toth would deliver a 2 RBI single of his own. All of a sudden, it's a one run ball game.
Katzman would come in for the bottom of the 7th, inducing easy ground outs by two of the best hitters in the Big Ten, Jerrud Sabourin and Alex Dickerson. After walking the next two batters, Tyler Burgoon shut the door on the Indiana rally with a deep fly ball to center.
In the 8th, Lorenz would reach base again, but be pinch run for by Ryan LaMarre, making his return to the team for the first time since the thumb was broken. LaMarre stole second and would later score on a Derek Dennis RBI single to tie the game. The atmosphere at Sembower was sucked out the moment the ball left the bat. Dennis would steal second before the Hoosiers intentionally walked Patrick Biondi. They'd both move over, how I can't remember anymore, I want to say wild pitch. It's not in the box score. That leaves Toth then singles to the pitcher for the suicide squeeze. Michigan takes the lead 10-9. Pandemonium.
The lead wouldn't last long though as Indiana's leadoff man Micah Johnson grounded one deep to shortstop, but Dennis threw the ball just out of the reach of Dufek allowing the runner to move to second. The next batter would plate the unearned run to tie the game at 10 a piece.
Michigan managed two base runners in the ninth, but couldn't push the run across. Then the drama was cranked up to max. With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, Indiana right fielder Michael Early hit a low liner to center field. Biondi misplayed it allowing it to go all the way to the wall. The race was on. Biondi chases, Early rounding second. The throw to Dennis, the perfect relay as Early just barely slips rounding third. Play at the plate… HE'S OUT. HE'S OUT! WE'RE GOING TO EXTRAS. Benches clear as there's pushing and shoving at the plate. The crowd is going nuts. To the tenth!
With one out, Biondi works the count to full and earns the walk. Toth would then line out to right field and the two out rally is on. Biondi steals second, so the Hoosiers give Berset the intentional walk to face Crank, who's been a quiet 1/6 on the day. That backfires as he is pitched around, walked on four pitches. This brings up white hot Mike Dufek. He pulls a hard one through the hole on the right side, two runs score. Michigan leads 12-10.
But it's not over. Urban was hit by a pitch to load the bases again. With Garrett Stephens up, pull out the rye bread and mustard, grandma, it's GRAND SALAMI TIME! A towering bomb to center field, a monster flip of the bat, and a couple of "primal rage screams" from Garrett Stephens and Michigan has a 16-10 lead. Benches clear again this time as the Hoosiers feel Stephens was showing them up. The crowd is ecstatic again.
In the tenth, the Hoosiers get a lead off double, a glimmer of hope peers in for Indiana. The next batter singles, runners at first and second. Pressure is starting to build on Burgoon. A pinch hitter comes in, Burgoon Ks him looking by painting the corner. The next batter flails at a slider and then the high heat. A ground out from the lead off hitter to second seals it. Michigan wins. Huge sigh of relief from the Maize and Blue hopeful. Your's truly is going nuts from the emotional rollercoaster that was the last four hours and twenty-six minutes, by far Michigan's longest game of the season.
Great day to be a Michigan baseball fan.
- The bullpen(Gerbe/Katzman/Burgoon) – 7.2 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 11 H, 6 K, 4 BB, W
- Mike Dufek – 3/6, 3 RBI, 2 R, 2B, Game winner
- Anthony Toth – 3/6, 4 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, SB
- 7-9 Hitters – 7/16, 7 R, 9 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB
- Derek Dennis – 3 errors, big part of the 5 unearned by Indiana in 2nd inning
- Mike Kittle – 2 errors, bigger part of the 5 unearned by Indiana in 2nd inning
- Alan Oaks – While he wasn't helped by the fielding of the aforementioned, he was getting roped as well.
W- Brosnahan(3-2)… Save- Burgoon(3)
For as high scoring and high theatrics as game one was, coming into game two, you had to expect more of the same. Michigan was starting Bobby Brosnahan in his first conference game on the road. He's been a bit sporadic on control as it is, and he gets pretty emotional, something easily tested in a park with fans as – we'll say vocal – as those in Bloomington. On the flip side, Indiana was throwing Matt Igel who had an ERA over 7 to start the game.
So yeah, if you wanted offense, you'd be genuinely disappointed with this game. Both pitchers pitched extremely well. Michigan jumped out early following back-to-back walks to Biondi and Toth, when Crank singled sharply through the hole on the left side to score Biondi. Dufek would follow that up with a soft grounder to short that went off the end of his bat. Urban would follow that with a chopper through the hole to plate two runs. Michigan would finish with 3 runs with no ball being hit considerably hard.
The game went quietly from then until the 3rd when Crank would work a one out walk and Urban would triple to right center on the hardest hit ball of the day for Michigan. Crank would score just ahead of the throw. Kittle would follow that up with a suicide squeeze to score Urban. Man do I love small ball. This gave Michigan a 5-0 advantage, with the game deciding run.
Indiana would get one run back in the 3rd. Brosnahan got two quick outs before giving up a single through the left side, a walk, and a single to center for an RBI. Luckily, it what had been a recurring theme this weekend, Indiana's base runners were incompetent for much of the first two games. On the cut off to the play at home, Dufek threw to third to get the runner way off the base. He'd been out had Lorenz corralled the throw. Instead the ball got a little bit away from him, but not nearly as far as the base runner thought. He was gunned out at the plate to end the threat.
The Indiana 4th was a near mirror to the Indiana 3rd. Two quick outs were followed by a single through the left side, a walk, and a single to center. After a Brosnahan wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, Johnson singled up the middle for two more IU runs.
The Indiana 5th was where I thought Brosnahan's day was going to end. After giving up back to back singles and a walk to lead off the inning, a coaching visit to the mound sized up Brosnahan. The coaches left him in to face the top hitter in the league Jerrud Sabourin as to keep the lefty on lefty match up. Sabourin would pop out to Lorenz on a great defensive play reaching over the railing for out number one. The next hitter was a pinch hitter, who knocked one right at Lorenz. John cushioned the ball to his belly, took a step and delivered the strike to home to get the force out and keep the run from scoring. Two great defensive plays from the sophomore. Brosnahan then struck out the final Indiana batter to get out of the inning unscathed. Huge inning for the team.
Brosnahan kept the fans and the Hoosiers on their heels the next two innings. Just when he would get in trouble, with a hitter reaching base in the 6th, or the heart of the lineup in the 7th, it seemed like this would be the inning that he'd let the damn break. But no, he made it through both innings easily, providing Michigan's bullpen the break they needed after game one. Brosnahan went 7 innings giving up 10 hits and 3 walks, but only giving up 4 runs and striking out 7. Great game for the kid.
Sinnery would get the 8th for Michigan, where he uncharacteristically hit two batters, but managed to get out without giving up a run. Berset made a great play picking a ball out of the dirt to catch a runner hoping the ball would get away from the catcher. The play was close, but the umpires made the out call.
The bottom of the ninth brought the drama again in game two. Sinnery gave up a single to start the frame, and Maloney went with the lefty versus lefty match up as Sabourin and Dickerson were due up. So in comes Katzman, and man was he electric. He had Sabourin on the ropes before inducing a desperation swing and pop up to Lorenz. Dickerson had even less of a chance as he swang wildly through Katzman's pitches. Two huge outs for Katzman, hopefully signaling his return as a solid contributor or even better. Burgoon came in to close the door after that, giving up a single and then a line out to right field to seal the win.
As you can tell by the recap, lots of pitching:
- Bobby Brosnahan – 7 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 7 K, W
- Eric Katzman - 0.2 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K, 2 best hitters in the league in a huge pressure spot
- Nick Urban – 3/4, 3 RBI, R, 3B, BB
- Dufek/Lorenz – Both had great defensive plays, Lorenz 2x mentioned, Dufek over the head slid near the bullpen
- Nick Urban – I have to stretch here as it was a good game all around. He did get caught stealing twice.
As I write this, Michigan is down 20-3 in the 7th inning. While there is no definite way that this game will end, I'm well within the realm of confidence that Michigan will still end up blown out. This game was ugly from the start. Sure, Michigan grabbed that one run lead to start the game, but the bottom of the first was a sure fire sign of impeding doom.
The bottom of the first could have been much different. The guys on the call for the Hoosiers radio were quite confused with several pitches that appeared to be strikes to them. Eric Katzman, making his third appearance of the weekend, the other two both being 0.2 IP, just couldn't buy a strike from the home plate umpire. With that frustration, his alter ego, Evil Katzman came through.
It would end fairly quickly for Katzman, yet another 0.2 IP, but this time facing 7 batters, giving up 3 hits and 2 hit batsmen for 5 runs. This set a bad tone for the rest of the game, which to this point has included 7 pitchers so far as Travis Smith enters as I type. It's been one hell of a bummer. Wood struggled. Sinnery struggled. Maloney gambled on going back to a lefty, and big surprise, DeCarlo gives up a hit, a walk, and a grand slam. Indiana scored 11 in a 34 minute bottom of the 5th.
Offensively, Michigan never could get a good inning going. I guess it shouldn't surprise me that Michigan's gets a hit from pitcher Travis Smith as I type this. It's one of only 8 hits so far in this game as compared to Indiana's 26. The rest of this game is just garbage time, so let's just move one.
- Anthony Toth – 2/3, 2 R, 3B, BB
- Nick Urban – 2 Errors
- Dennis/Crank/Smith – An error each
- Pitching staff U-Pick'em – Smith is the only pitcher so far not to give up a run. He's faced two batters, one of which was an RBI single.
- Gambling on left handed pitchers
Needless to say, Sunday's finale was nothing short of a huge let down after the excitement in games one and two. I somewhat wonder if Maloney didn't play to the lefty versus lefty match up this weekend. Katzman made an appearance in 3 games, including the start in game 3.
Numbers Game - Lefties vs Lefties
I'm not sure if this was because Maloney sees him as a member of the starting rotation permanently or if he was just trying to get the lefty in against the heavy left handed lineup of the Hoosiers. If it was the latter, Maloney might have struck lucky with Brosnahan and Katzman in game two, but he was burned in game three.
Not being able to see Katzman outside of games, I still feel like this was Miller's game to start. He's been about as good as Katzman was last season, and he's got the innings logged to show he can make a decent start. For Katzman to make his first real start on the road in the Big Ten was dicey in my opinion, and it came back to bite the team. I can see the logic, it just didn't play out.
The Rotation – Worries
I'm getting somewhat concerned with the starting rotation, particularly the Sunday starter, as alluded to in the lefty versus lefty section above, and Alan Oaks. While I don't need to spell out some of the inconsistency of the back end of the weekend rotation, Oaks has been slipping a bit in the last two to three weeks. Sure, he's had solid outings, but he's not dominating lineups like he was to start the season, even against the good teams. I'm worried he's either wearing down under his first year as a starter or just going through a funk. I'm inclined to say the latter as his innings haven't been excessive.
Michigan really needs him to dig deep and put up some better numbers moving forward. He shouldn't have to face another lineup as good as Indiana's any time soon, so that may bode well.
Indiana – Better than I thought
Indiana is a much better team than I gave them credit for going into the weekend. I think Matt Igel threw well beyond his normal potential, but the big surprise was just how good the IU bats were. Sabourin and Dickerson are the best 3-4 hitters in the league, hands down. Both are batting well over .430, and both are capable sluggers.
Their bullpen after Squires is very suspect, but if they can get a quality start out of someone other than Leininger, they'll be a tough series win for any team in the Big Ten. Michigan's talent gap wasn't enough to win two games, it also took a bit of luck.
Michigan faces Central Michigan on Wednesday. No idea who pitches that game as nearly the entire team pitched today. We might see Ballantine as he was the lone guy not to go this weekend. We need a good start out of him, or whoever starts, to get some guys rested.
Next weekend is Purdue. The Boilermakers stole one game from Minnesota, and had another victory in the bag before imploding in the ninth inning on Sunday. We'll look at them more later this week.
This weekend marks the opening weekend to Big Ten play for the baseball team, so now seems the appropriate time to give an update on how well the other teams are performing around the conference. First, the standings, taken directly from BigTen.org:
|Team #s||National #s|
As we can see, Michigan is doing pretty well here with a winning record against a decent schedule (that's out of 301). But we knew that about the Wolverines already. So let's take a walk through the other teams, and we'll go in order of RPI, a better indicator of how well they've done.
For those interested, my preseason outlook.
The Spartans are the national headliners as far as the Big Ten goes right now. They lead the nation in fielding at .987 have handled the medium to bad teams on their schedule as they should. That shiny 16-4 record is justified, with two great pitchers on the front end of their bullpen and some good hitting to back it up.
As of right now, they're the national pick for taking the Big Ten crown, but the local coverage (particularly the bloggers of the Big Ten) tends to be more skeptical. Michigan State has played a meh schedule for the most part and lacks any wins over a major opponent. All four of the Spartan losses came against quality opponents, including a blow out at the hands of Louisville, a close loss and blow out loss at Mississippi State, and a 10-2 game in the opening week at Clemson. The rest of the schedule has been pretty light. There aren't many creampuffs, but the competition has not been strong. For instance, a sweep of Oakland dropped MSU 4 spots in the RPI.
There is definitely this feeling that much like any other Spartan team, they're due for a collapse somewhere in the middle of the conference season. They haven't had that consistent, successful season to build on yet, and this will be that learning year for a leap next year. I still like them to finish in the top 3-4 of the conference, but I just don't see them going wire to wire in the driver's seat.
The Buckeyes are probably the best team in the conference if their coach would maximize their players' potential, or provide any sort of motivating force. I've long heard rumblings from some Ohio State fans that Bob Todd isn't a great coach, that he's just rode the talent he's found through blind luck. While I'm a bit skeptical of all that, I recently did a guest post and statistical break down of Ohio State over at Buckeye State Baseball and the way he handles his lineup does make me question just how great of a coach he is. The number of pitchers that have missed seasons due to arm injuries would worry me, too.
This season that the Buckeye players have been playing well below their projections. Add that they are playing a seriously light schedule, the players just don't seem motivated. That is reflected most by their losses to DII Rollins and NAIA Webber International. That will probably change in conference, but if Todd's goal is to win the Big Ten and host a regional, he has to have a better OOC record with better OOC opponents.
When it comes to the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will probably pick up the slack. They still have the best lineup in the Big Ten. Their starting rotation is the only one in the Big Ten comparable to Michigan, so it's hard not to see them in the top two to finish the year, and probably in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament.
The loss of Ryan LaMarre was devastating for the Maize and Blue. It probably cost them at least one win per weekend against Texas Tech, St. John's/Louisville, UNC, and Coastal Carolina and sunk any hopes of an at-large bid. Who knows how much better the season would be going with their star, especially with the emergence of Coley Crank and Chris Berset. Now that Mike Dufek is getting hot, they've got the best 3-6 hitters in the conference. On top of that, they have the deepest pitching staff.
I think we see Michigan run through conference season and really get themselves worked back into the national picture. They probably finish between Michigan State and Ohio State in the final standings, and I think they're the team to give the Buckeyes a run for their money in the tournament. The series at Ann Arbor between the two will be huge. [Ed: rest of the conference after the jump.]
Youth and inconsistency were the two words that coach Tracy Smith used to describe his team in the preseason, and those words have held through in non-conference play. They've claimed wins over San Diego and West Virginia, two solid teams this year. They've also lost close games to Vanderbilt and Louisville (twice). So they can hang with the big boys. They've also been blown out by teams like Miami (NTM) and Yale. It's been tough to peg what type of team they are.
But the Hoosiers definitely do have one thing in their favor, sophomore, lefty Drew Leininger. Leininger is 3-1 on the season, taking his first loss on Tuesday in relief against Louisville. His ERA is just 1.22 in 37 innings, with a complete game shutout to boot. We'll preview him more in a post coming out later this week, but the guy is going to be a force on Friday nights.
Indiana is young, but I think they're definitely capable of rolling with most of the Big Ten. They've got a couple very good hitters in Alex Dickerson and Jerrud Sabourin. Those two and a pitcher who is a near lock to win on Fridays should be a potent combination. A winning record in the Big Ten is likely. I like them to finish fourth behind the aforementioned three.
I'll have a bit more depth to this tomorrow.
The Illini have also been erratic this season, but they do have a nice shiny win over Coastal Carolina on their resume. But for every decent win the Illini have, they have an equally puzzling loss. The Illini have beaten teams like Ball State, but they've also lost to teams like Lipscomb.
Part of the problem plaguing the Illini is the starts to the season for Josh Parr and Pete Capetta. The two both finished last season with averages above .335. Neither is above the Mendoza line this year with Parr hitting .197 and Cappetta hitting .160. Joe Dittman and Willie Argo are doing their best to make up for the loss, but they can only do so much. Dittman is currently hitting .500 with a .705 slugging and .617 on base. Argo is hitting .400 with a .583 slugging percentage. I can't see those two keeping that high of production over the entire season.
Luckily the Illini have a bit more depth than usual on the mound. Will Strack is leading their starters with a 4.28 ERA and Mike Sterk has accumulated 7 appearances and a save so far. The pitching may keep the Illini in games with the middle of the conference, but they just don't have a well rounded enough team to be up with the top 4-5 teams.
I think the Illini make the Big Ten Tournament as the 6 seed. They've got talent that most of the other teams don't when it comes to their lineup. That talent will eventually force itself to produce.
The Hawkeyes have a chance to play "Cinderella" of sorts with the Big Ten Tournament this year. Their record may not show it, but they've taken quite a few great teams to the brink, including a game at Texas that wound up in the Longhorns favor 2-1 after 10 innings. The Hawkeyes also have a nice win at ranked Kansas, with what was the Big Ten's best win for a few weeks in a row.
At the same time, the Hawkeyes have a few bad losses in Texas-Pan Am., Texas-San Antonio, and South Dakota State. Even those aren't that bad when taken in comparison to recent Iowa baseball program history.
Iowa also has a really solid ace on their staff in Jared Hippen. The sophomore lefty ended up with the tough no-decision against Texas when the bad Iowa bullpen had to take over. Hippen spread 5 hits and a run over 8.1 innings of work while striking out 8. He was just unfortunate as Taylor Jungmann for Texas threw 7.1 striking out 17 and giving up only one run.
I like Hippen to help get Iowa to a winning record in the Big Ten, but that's about as good as it will get for the Hawkeyes. I think they end up just outside of the tournament this year, being unable to "finish" because of a weak bullpen.
The Nittany Lions are the one team I've seen in person this season (I've seen a little bit from most teams via internet streams) and they seem improved from last season, but they've still struggled. As Happy Valley Hardball writer Larry Fall points out in his interview with Illinois Baseball Report today:
If you dissect our 9-12 record, you find that we’ve 0-5 against top 50 RPI schools with our losses coming to #13 Texas A&M (2) and #40 Texas State (3). So that makes us 9-7 against the rest of the world. Given that the entire Big Ten only has three wins in forty four games against RPI top 50 schools, maybe we can hold our own in conference.
However, to be honest, I don’t expect us to. I think our pitching is suspect, particularly the bullpen, and without good pitching, we’re going nowhere. I see us struggling to play .500 ball in conference.
I think that's a fair assumption, especially since the one game I saw in person was the 17-1 loss at Texas A&M. Penn State has a few pretty good players on offense, and Wannamaker returns to the rotation, but neither are going to be enough to overcome a weak bullpen.
I see the Nittany Lions finishing around 7th or 8th in the Big Ten.
The Golden Gophers have been a train wreck this season. That 2-1 series win over Akron had all the Gopher fans worried and it only got worse from there. Minnesota lost its next 6 in a row, including multiple games against Loyola-Marymount. Yikes. The continued with epic struggles against the likes of Samford (lost 2/3), North Dakota State (1/2), and South Dakota State. Last weekend the opened Target Field by losing 9-1 to Louisiana Tech in front of the second largest attendance to a college baseball game ever (39k).
There isn't one single aspect holding the Gophers back. They've lost games on offense, defense, and pitching. They just haven't put a whole game together consistently, if at all.
Despite the inconsistency, I have to think that they are just waiting for it all to click, and when they do the Gophers aren't a bad team. I think we'll see them struggle for another few weeks before they hit that point. They'll be in a race to make up positioning in the standings, and I think they pull out the 6 spot in the Big Ten tournament. They've got players who've been there before, and they could be a dangerous match up for whichever team gets the bye to face in the second round.
I'd love to give Purdue credit for rebounding after the abysmal start they had to the season, especially in light of yesterday's error-filled win over Missouri in Columbia, but I'd be remiss not to note just how bad the Boilermakers started this season. Purdue was swept in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, lost a series to Southern Illinois, lost to Morehead State, and split with Eastern Kentucky. That's a pretty rough start to any season.
Luckily, they've rebounded by sweeping the #300 team in pseudo-RPI and split with Mizzou on the road during the mid-week, in what might be called some of the ugliest baseball ever. They lost Tuesday 22-14. They won today (Wednesday) 6-3 in a game featuring a combined 7 errors. But as they say, wins are wins.
I can't see Purdue competing with even the middle of the pack in the conference. I'd call today's win a fluke if anything. It's the mid-week with several backups playing against the bottom of the pitching depth for both teams. It's going to be a long season in West Lafayette.
The Wildcats showed some promise in the Big Ten/Big East Challenge, but that promise was short lived, and extinguished like nearly every other NU men's athletic teams' hope. Outside of the challenge, Northwestern has only managed wins over Loyola-Marymount, Maryland-Baltimore County, Stetson, and UNLV, of which only UNLV is of any significant value.
Meanwhile, they've been obliterated by George Mason twice and Marist once. They also lost series to Stetson, Cornell, and UNLV. It's been an ugly year and the Wildcats will struggle for the foreseeable future. I expect them in last place, lucky to get 5 wins.
A home game is now in the books as Michigan downed the IPFW Mastodons for a three game series sweep. Michigan brought the offense, collecting 47 hits for 30 runs. IPFW was the bad team that was expected, and our players didn't disappoint, at least on offense. Pitching had some less than stellar moments, but in the end, the guys that got into trouble kept the losses to a minimum.
Game by game review, series thoughts, and a look at Tuesday's Eastern Michigan game follow:
This game was all Michigan all the way through. Every spot in the lineup had at least one run or one RBI, led by Coley Crank who went 2/4 with a no doubt home run, 2 runs scored, and 4 RBI.
Alan Oaks made a short start in game one, going only 5 innings while giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, one walk, and striking out five. His game was still pretty solid, as the first run was a single followed by a couple of easy outs, including the ground out that the run scored on. Those type of innings happen, and Oaks battled through to get the outs.
Meanwhile, on offense, Dufek led off the inning with a double to left center, and he was followed by an Urban double to right and a Lorenz single up the middle for a pair of runs in the 2nd. In the 3rd, Berset reached with a single through the right side and Crank hit the aforementioned home run. According to Paul live at the scene, there was no doubt it was gone, just if it was going to land in the softball field or not.
The fourth inning saw a couple of Michigan hits by Dennis and Biondi (with an RBI), but it also featured a pair of errors on IPFW, including a fielding error on the first baseman allowing Stephens to reach, as well as a poor throw by the second baseman trying to salvage the play to advance him to second. Berset and Crank would also add sacrifice flies for an RBI a piece.
The second IPFW run came in the fifth after a one-out walk and a hard hit RBI double. Oaks was able to get out of the inning with a strikeout and a fly out to finish the inning and his day. With a 7-2 lead, Maloney had was ready to get some others work, and we wouldn't see any more major offensive threats from the Mastodons as Sinnery, Katzman, and Clark shut them down over the next 4 innings.
But Michigan's offense wasn't done, Biondi reached base with a single through the hole on the right side, and on Toth's sac-bunt attempt, the pitcher threw the ball wildly. Berset would get his second sac-fly of the night before Crank and Dufek would knock back-to-back doubles to post 3 runs on the inning.
The rest of the game was just going through the motions as Michigan cruised to a 10-2 win to open the home schedule.
- Coley Crank – 2/4, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, K
- Chris Berset – 2/3 2B, 2 RBI, R, 2 SACF
This was a great outing between Brosnahan, Wood, and Ballantine. The three combined for Michigan's 2nd shut out in as many weeks. Brosnahan set a new career high with 8 strikeouts over his 5 innings of work. He allowed just two hits, but he did allow 4 walks which is somewhat bothersome, but perhaps it was a case of being effectively wild? Seven of those strikeouts were of the swinging variety.
Kolby Wood also had a good 3 innings of work. He struck out 5 and allowed just 3 hits as he faced 12 batters. Ballantine worked a scoreless 9th, working himself into some trouble with a pair of singles back up the box, but he induced a tricky 1-6-3 double play to get out of the inning and finish the game.
On offense, Michigan exploded for four in the first inning to start things on the right foot. Biondi led off the game with a triple, setting the tone. Toth would score him on a ground out, but Berset would get runners back on with a double. Dufek would score him with a single, with Urban and Lorenz notching back to back RBI singles. Michigan ended up batting through the order in the inning.
In the second, Biondi again led off, this time singling through the right side. He would later steal second, and following a Crank hit by pitch, Dufek would knock in Biondi with a single. Urban would plate the second run with another double.
In the fourth, Berset led off with a double, and after advancing to third on a Crank ground out, would score on a Mike Dufek single up the middle. That 7-0 score would hold until the 8th when John Lorenz hit a solo homer, his second of the year.
- Brosnahan, Wood,&Ballantine – 9 IP, 14 K, 7 H, 0 R, SHUTOUT
- Nick Urban – 4/5, 2B, 2 RBI, R, SB
- Patrick Biondi – 4/4, 3B, 2 R, SB, SACB
- You, the fan. Attendance was 1,120. First of many 1k+ games we're sure to have this year.
- Coley Crank – 0/4 - I kid. He still had an RBI.
Completing the Saturday double header, Michigan kept the cruise control on, scoring in 5 different innings, capped of with a big one in the 8th. Matt Miller started this game and I'm left wondering if Burgoon doesn't get the start next week. While his first inning went perfect, his second definitely did not. After hitting the first batter, Miller uncorked the first gopher ball of the inning to the second batter. Two outs, he would give up another, this time of the solo variety. His third inning was a bit better, giving up a single, and after a John Lorenz fielding error, Miller would throw a wild pitch. Luckily, he managed to get a strikeout to finish the inning.
Burgoon cam in to relieve Miller after that and was brilliant. He spread two hits over 5 innings while striking out 5 and not giving up a walk. He probably could have gone another inning easily, but Maloney wanted to give Gerbe the inning, were he struck out the side.
The offense was consistent throughout the game, led by Chris Berset, Coley Crank and Mike Dufek in the 3, 4, and 5 holes. The three combined for a 11/15 day with two doubles,4 runs scored, and 8 RBI. That's a monster day from the middle lineup. Only two batters ended the game without a hit in Lorenz and Urban.
- Crank – 4/5; 3 RBI, R. Really made up for Game 1.
- Berset – 4/5; 2 RBI, 2R, 2B.
- Dufek – 3/5; 3 RBI, R, 2B, CS
- Burgoon – 5 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 5 K, 0 BB
- John Lorenz – Not his game. 0/4; 2 K, 4 LOB
Michigan took care of a weaker opponent like they should this weekend in front of some solid crowds of 869 and 1,120 despite some blistering cold on Friday.
Our bullpen was phenomenal, but our starting pitching was mixed at best. Oaks and Brosnahan had good starts despite the short outings. Oaks worked well to get out of a pair of jams. Brosnahan is walking a fine line. Bad pun intended. He needs to keep cutting down the walks, because he won't be that lucky against better lineups. I think we see Burgoon get the start next week over Miller. Matt's had it rough this season, not dominating like he has out of the bullpen over the last year. Burgoon, meanwhile, is making his case to stay in the starter role. He might not have dominated the better lineups he's faced this year, but he's capable of competing at that level, and he does dominate the weaker competition. I don't have the confidence in Miller yet to say the same.
Mike Dufek is getting hot at the right time. He absolutely destroyed opposing pitchers over the last two weeks. His average has jumped .071 points and his slugging has raised .120 bases per at bat. That's quite the sizable increase, and hopefully this keeps going into Big Ten play next week.
Mike Kittle has had three good games at the plate in a row now, going 5/11 with 4 RBI and 3 runs. Something tells me we see him get the next big chance to play left until LaMarre returns, which still projects as after the Indiana series from some of the rumblings at the ballpark this weekend. Stephens hasn't been producing, and Krantz left the first game of the series after only one at bat (I missed what happened, whether it was injury or just benching). That leaves Kittle and Mills as the next two in line, and Mike has been getting it done in his opportunity.
Eastern Michigan (8-14)
|Tuesday 3:05pm, Ray Fisher Stadium|
|Eric Katzman ||vs||TBA|
|Notes: My guess is Smith on the start, but he'll 1) be on a short leash |
and 2) will only be slated for 3 innings max to get other pitchers
work in. Record is as of Saturday night.
Michigan will host Eastern Michigan on Tuesday in their yearly battle of Washtenaw County "rivalry". Michigan holds a 111-53-2 record against the Eagles, including a 2-2 split last season. EMU won the last game last season—the back end of a pair of 7 inning games—so Michigan must exact revenge in a merciless bloodletting.
I'm not planning on spending too much time previewing mid-week games against MAC or lower opponents unless they particularly stand out, like Toledo will next week. Beware the Rockets (my early warning). Mid-week games are more a test of depth than anything, and I think I'm safe in assuming Michigan has more depth than Eastern Michigan. The test will be if our mid-week pitching can keep the Eagles at bay. I'm hoping yes, but it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if EMU puts up a couple of runs.
The Eagles do have one win of note, a 23-0 win over WVU on the back end of a double header. That was a head scratcher to all the national pundits at the time, and it still is. The rest of their schedule is a couple wins over bad teams, or losses to anyone with a plus, including Michigan state, and Jacksonville State – who Michigan obliterated to open the season- three times.
Could be a tough one as EMU views Michigan as a great opportunity for a win. The team must keep focus in the last tune up before Big Ten play next week.
It's home-opener week, which seems like a great time to start looking at cumulative stats. This will be one of a few of these I do over the rest of the season.
Baseball has a long lived on the forefront of statistics in sports. From the heavy emphasis on batting over .300 or advanced sabermetrics, baseball's history is forever linked with teaching kids that not all math is useless. In honor of that longstanding tradition, today we look at some stats from our baseball team and then wonder what the hell they might mean. College baseball stats are not just loosely kept, but they fluctuate wildly over periods of time.
First, because of the nature of college baseball's shortened season (compared to major leagues), pitching statistics don't really offer enough data until very late in the season, if at all. There's just not enough to say about 17 innings of work for a starter or 8 innings, if that, for a reliever. So we're going to focus on just batting statistics in this and most future posts of this type.
Second, college baseball stats are very basic. There is no way to track pitches accurately without either a dedicated sports information director or someone at games. It's painstakingly, eye-gouging-ly monotonous to calculate batting averages with runners in scoring position. You have to hope your team has play-by-play on the bottom of their box score, and then you have to read through each at-bat, and all surrounding at-bats in order to come up with the raw data. Just to come up with the data that I have, I had to go through each box score and type in each statistic to have a game log for each player.
This is just the way things are.
The first thing I always like to post is a track on how our team batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage have progressed over the season.
This year I've tried to add a fourth line to represent the quality of competition Michigan has faced. The purple line represents RPI, with a team registering a 1.000 as the #1 team in the nation, a team at .500 being the 151th team in the nation, and a team scoring zero as the 302nd team in the nation, with the RPI coming from Boyd's World (in this case, the data was taken on Sunday 3/21). I felt this would help identify certain peaks and valleys as a reference.
Other than the realization that we've played a tough schedule this year, what jumps out to me is the lower slugging percentage. Last year, Michigan regularly slugged around .475. The last graphic I made last year was this one, 37 games through the season:
We're slugging just over .440 this season, where last season was spent hovering around .475. Sure, the competition has gotten a bit tougher, but something else seems spotty here. We'll look at the slugging percentage and other non-Excel visualizations after the jump…
So let's take a look at those slugging percentages (if this embed will work properly):
The original interactive embed didn't, so we're going with just the image--ed.
The larger squares represent the batters with the most at-bats. The darker squares represent the batters with the highest slugging percentage. I'm a big proponent of slugging as the most important of the three major derived stats (batting average and on base percentage are the other two). As you can see, Crank, Biondi, and Berset are really carrying the load with LaMarre out. Dennis is also performing solidly.
What catches my eye tough, is Mike Dufek. Dufek is slugging a measly .397 this year. This is coming from a guy who slugged .627 last season. That's a significant drop off. The only thing I can imagine is that Mike is working on cutting down the strikeouts. He's gone from striking out one in every 3.8 at bats last year to just one in every 6.6 this season. Dufek hit 17 homers and 19 doubles last season. At this point in the season, he's on pace for 15 doubles and ZERO homers. I'm not sure if that's all that bad, Dufek is also on pace to knock in 61 RBI this season, 17 more than last season. Win some, lose some. With LaMarre due back soon, this drop in slugging percentage will probably reverse course and hopefully raise to a level above last years by the time we get too far into the conference season.
If you interact with the same visualization above and switch over to the on-base-percentage instead of slugging percentage, you can also notice that those three slugging leaders (Crank, Biondi, and Berset) are also the on base leaders as well. Biondi's .494 on base percentage is phenomenal for a true freshman playing the caliber of baseball Michigan has faced this season. Looking at Berset's 1.058 OPS (slugging plus on base) makes me wonder just how different last year could have been with our current captain. That broken finger he suffered sliding into second was devastating, even more so than LaMarre has been this year.
And while I can't quite give you batting average with runners in scoring position, this same visualization does offer a comparison of runners left on base compared to RBI.
Clicking the image should take you to a clearer version
What this diagram shows is player tiles sized by their number of RBI and the color shaded by the number of base runners they've stranded to end an inning. Lorenz has had it a bit rough this season, hitting in only 5 RBI while leaving 24 on base. This has really been amplified the last two weekends as he's stranded 19 over the last 7 games.
Anthony Toth also stands out as under-performing in several of these visualizations. In the two hole in the lineup, he should be hitting for a solid combination of average and power. He's definitely improved over the last year, but he's still not a best case second place hitter, especially with the .365 slugging percentage.
Toth's chart is somewhat strange again this year. Last year, he started off the first 8 games of the season with an identical batting average and slugging percentage. He was single or nothing. He's done a bit better this year with the walks though, and that's encouraging, as he's at least getting on behind Biondi and setting up the middle of the order to score runs. Toth's strikeout rate is still pretty high as it was last year. He's currently striking out once in every 4.625 at bats, even more frequent than his one in 4.95 last season. This may be a concern moving forward, but I don't see anyone worthy of taking his spot from him at the moment. Maybe if Dennis can solidify himself a bit more as the season goes along, we may see a change.
Speaking of the freshman, a look at his chart:
Dennis struggled a bit with the top clubs we've faced this season, but he's been one of the hottest hitters over the last two weeks. The best news is his climbing slugging percentage and massive drop in strikeouts. During the week against FGCU and UNC, Dennis struck out 9 times. The last two weeks, he's struck out just 3 times, and he's also belted 3 homers. His slugging percentage has risen .222 points in that same span. That's definitely encouraging.
I think the offense has rebounded well since the week following LaMarre's exit. Berset and Crank are way out-performing my expectations, and Biondi has been a monster in the lead off spot. I'm not so concerned about Dufek as he hasn't been relied on as much as last year, and his cut down in strikeouts hasn't affected his RBI production at all. He's performed much better behind two, and soon to be three, other big hitters in the lineup, and he's getting his job done.
I am keeping my eye on Toth vs Dennis in the lineup. I don't think it's time for a change yet, but if Dennis keeps producing, we could see Toth move to the bottom of the lineup and act as a lead off man for Biondi to hit around/in. Just something to watch come next stat watch, which will probably come after conference play begins next week.
|Friday 2:30pm, Mets Spring Training Complex #7, Port St. Lucie, FL|
|Matt Miller (0-2, 4.58 ERA)||vs||J.P. Mack (0-2, 9.58ERA)|
|Notes: This is on field #7, and the first meeting between the programs|
|Saturday 11am, Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, FL|
|Alan Oaks (1-3, 2.73ERA)||vs||Max Krakowiak (0-2, 4.64ERA)|
|Following Game One, Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, FL|
|Bobby Brosnahan (0-2, 7.71ERA)||vs||Rich Anastasi (0-1, 3.07ERA)|
|Notes: Second game of a double header.|
|Sunday 11am, Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, FL|
Notes: Michigan trails 0-1-1 in the all time exhibition history. This game
I'm still swamped with real life – hence the lack of a Coastal review- so shortened version of the Fordham preview after the jump. No Mets as this game means nothing.
The Rams enter the weekend at 4-11 (#136 RPI) with their wins coming from a 3 game sweep (not all in the same weekend) of NYIT and a big mid-week upset of #11 Miami this past Tuesday, and almost upsetting them again on Wednesday – falling 8-9. Despite that big win, they also have a couple of moderately bad losses in Old Dominion and Pittsburgh. They aren't a horrible team, and they should be near the top of the Atlantic 10 again this year.
The starting pitching for Fordham has been subpar on the season, with no regular starter posting an ERA below Krakowiak's 4.64. Krakowiak, a righty, has started 4 games, going an average of 5.1 innings with only 15 Ks.He is also among team leaders in hit by pitch.
In an attempt to get better results, the lefty Anastasi has been promoted to the rotation for this weekend. In 6 appearances, he's thrown 14.2 innings, striking out 12 and allowing only 3 walks. The 6'-5" freshman shouldn't be too imposing on Michigan as we've seen pitchers like him before.
J.P. Mack will be making his 3rd start of the season after starting the year in the bullpen. In his four appearances, he's only thrown 10.1 innings, allowing 18 runs, only 11 of which are earned, and striking out 7. His opponent batting average is .391 and his opponent slugging percentage is .478. That should bode well for Michigan in the opener.
The bullpen has a couple of decent arms in closer Brandon Casalicchi and Jordan Grangard. Casalicchi is 0-1 with 2 saves, posting a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings pitched. He's struck out 7 and walked 3 in his time on the mound with one hit batsman. Grangard has thrown 8 innings without a decision while posting a 2.25 ERA. He's struck out 4 and walked 7. The rest of the bullpen has either thrown too few innings or has been bad.
On offense, Chris Walker is their big (only?) bat in the cleanup spot. Walker is batting .362 with a .466 slugging and .397 on base percentage. The junior catcher is leading the team with 13 RBI (next closest is 8), and is tied with the team lead in total bases (27). The only other batter of note is Mike Mobbs. Mobbs is a senior centerfielder, currently sporting a .302 batting average and a team leading .519 slugging percentage. He has 4 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run on the season hitting in the 3-hole. Coincidentally, he's the team leader with 13 runs scored, the same number of RBIs as Walker.
The rest of the team is nothing to write home about, combining for a .293 slugging percentage as a group (minus Walker and Mobbs).
Michigan Daily – Wolverines swinging for sweep against Rams, will take on New York Mets in exhibition. Money quote:
“We gotta sweep this series,” Berset said. “It’s kind of needed right now with our record what it is. We’re gonna go down there and that’s what we’re gonna try and do … we’re definitely not overlooking them.”
I think we sweep the Rams pretty easily. This should be a bit of a stat padding weekend for our hitters, and hopefully some of our bullpen can get some work in. I have no idea who pitches against the Mets. The way we used Burgoon last week, I have to assume there's something up with him, sick maybe? I don't think we would have started Brosnahan against Coastal if Burgoon would have been fully healthy. So with the potential of another starter, I'm expecting another score like 2009 with a 17-8 or so game. I don't see another tie with Billy Wagner-esque throwing-at-our-batters-type situations from 2008.
Hopefully I'll catch up with all the real life work by the end of the weekend and will have a bit more constructive recap this week.
[Editor's note: due to a super screw up on my part, I neglected to post this until after Michigan's first game, a 12-8 win over Ball State.]
I'm trying out a new game set for tournaments. I think I'll try and use something similar for weekend series (previous version). I'm open for suggestions on how to present the information consistently. For now, game set comes before a jump if on the front page, and details come afterward.
|Matt Miller (0-2, 4.80 ERA)||vs||Brothers (0-0, 8.64 ERA)|
|Notes: 16-1 All Time Record, Last win(s) in 2009, both ends of a 7 inning double header. Also beat them at Coastal Carolina in 2008|
|Burgoon or Brosnahan||vs||Ross (0-0, 5.19 ERA)|
|Notes: 0-0, first meeting|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||Birmingham 2-0, 1.23 ERA)|
|Notes: 2-1, Split a pair in a similar tournament in 2008, W 4-1 and L 11-9. This is Coastal's home field. Audio is Coastal's.|
|Oaks, Burgoon, or Brosnahan||vs||TB|
|Notes: That split from 2008 was on this field both games. Audio is Coastal's.|
Long preview after the jump.
Ball State enters the tournament at 3-8 on the season, with a good win over then #15 Arkansas. This will be the second weekend in a row that Ball State will play in a Coastal Carolina tournament. Last week the Cardinals went 1-3 with a win over Albany and losses to Pittsburgh and Coastal (2x). The two losses to Coastal were closely contested, both by scores of 3-2. I have no idea who will pitch for Ball State. They're starting pitching has been pretty bad and they have a pair of midweek games against quality competition on Tuesday and Wednesday. Depending on how well or poorly that may go, we could see just about anyone. At this point, I have to guess it will be starting second baseman Kolbrin Vitek. Vitek has 3 starts on the season, going an average of 4.1 innings per start. He gives up quite a few hits, and isn't much of a strikeout guy, but he's the best starter statistically on the team. The bullpen for the Cardinals isn't bad. They have a couple arms capable of keeping games close in righties Seth Hobbs and Michael Sandman, and freshman southpaw Jon Cisna. They are short their closer though, as Aaron Hammons is going to miss the rest of the season due to surgery. On offense, Vitek is also their leader. He's hitting .391 with 11 RBIs and 14 runs going into their mid-week games. He also has the team lead with 4 home runs. The College Baseball Blog has him as their #84 player in their top 100. Catcher Zach Dygert is next on the team in RBIs with 10. Michigan will re-order the rotation to save Oaks for Coastal. Ball State should be a pretty easy win for Michigan, but as they showed against Arkansas, they are capable of stealing a win from a good team. I like Miller in this spot. Not the toughest team, but he's more than capable of dominating the lineup.
The Bison are currently 3-7 with a pair of wins over Canasius and one over Tennessee-Martin. They've also been swept by a weak Tulane and Murray State. They do have a couple of decent hitters in Tyler Wilson and his little brother Lee. Tyler, a senior, is the top regular starter on the team with a .386 batting average, scoring 7 runs and knocking in 2. He leads the team with 9 steals in 11 attempts. His brother, the freshman Lee, is only a part time starter, but he's got a bit more power. He leads the team in batting average at .500, but only has 22 at bats. Andrew Nickerson and Zach Messer are tied with 7 RBI for the team lead. Nickerson is hitting .344 with a .667 slugging percentage as their biggest power hitting threat. Messer had a solid weekend to boost his RBI stats, but his overall numbers (including the .325 slugging percentage) are weak. I have no idea who to expect from starter Alex Ross. The lefty has three appearances on the season including one start. He's thrown just 8.2 innings, giving up 14 hits and 4 walks while striking out 3. His lone start was a 4 inning no decision against Canasius, giving up 4 runs (3 earned) while walking and striking out two. Michigan needs to blow Lipscomb out of the water and save as much pitching as they can. I wouldn't be surprised to see our mid-week pitching crew in this game. I'm personally hoping for Brosnahan here. I'm not sure Bobby is ready for Coastal just yet, and it'd be nice to see him get a good start in for development.
The Chanticleers are currently ranked the #10 team in the nation according to the NCBWA, but they are #1 in the current RPI. They took two from UC Irvine, a preseason top 10 team two weeks ago, as well as host wins over a couple of top100 teams in North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. They're lone loss comes to Kentucky, who is ranked #35 in RPI. Impressive to say the least. The Big South favorites have quite the lineup, featuring Preseason Big South Player of the Year Rico Noel. Noel is a shorter center fielder capable of both high average and big power. On the season he's hitting .368 with a .547 on base percentage and .658 slugging percentage. His 11 RBI is second on the team. Leading the team in RBI is Jose Iglesias with 14. Iglesias is hitting .415 on the season with a .707 slugging percentage. His 6 doubles lead the team. He's a 6'-5" catcher batting lead off. That's ridiculous. Hitting lower in the order is Chance Gilmore. The left fielder has been on fire to start this season, batting .441 and slugging .765. His 3 homers lead the team. Gilmore hits in the 6th hole and is backed up with Noel in the 7-hole. That deep of a lineup is scary for any pitching staff. Coastal has been consistent in their pitching rotation all three weeks of the season, but they are shaking things up a bit this weekend. Laney had been their #3 starter each week previously, but it appears he's either being skipped or demoted. Laney hasn't done so well this season, averaging just over 3 innings per outing. In his 10.1 innings, he's given up 8 runs on 12 hits, 10 walks, and 11 Ks. He may still start the Sunday game. On the other side of the coin is Birmingham. He's given up his fair share of base runners, but he's also been stingy with the runs. In 14.2 innings, he's given up 10 hits and 7 walks, but he's only give up 3 runs, only 2 of those being earned. He has only struck out 9 this season, so that might be good news for Michigan as well. He doesn't seem to be an overpowering ground ball pitcher, as most outs recorded are fly outs or pop outs. The defense for Coastal has also been very good. If you have the chance, they put out some excellent highlight videos for several of their home games. Their 9-4 victory over Wake Forest on Tuesday has some very solid defensive gems, including ca catch into the wall.
I think Michigan wins their first two, but loses their third with Coastal having a solid performance from Birmingham, and Michigan losing a bit of focus during a blowout win over Lipscomb. Sunday's game is a total wildcard. We don't really know who is going to pitch, so that limits projections greatly. I think that is probably best for Michigan, as we may get a fresh starter with little experience, or even Laney who has struggled for Coastal. I think Oaks get the game in the Saturday night cap, pitching valiantly, but with little run support. I think we'll see Burgoon Sunday, and it will be a close game depending on how much our offense has left in the tank.