Posts by formerlyanonymous
While North Carolina isn't quite the Goliath they have been in the past, Michigan did have to go into Chapel Hill and face the #12 team in the nation with what's been a suspect offense at best. It didn't turn out all that well. Michigan was swept on the weekend, losing two extremely close games on Friday and Saturday, and was blown out on Sunday to fall to 4-7 on the season.
Starting pitching on Saturday and Sunday just wasn't good enough to compete with the Tarheels, but there was some life shown by the offense.
Full Recaps and Series Thoughts after the jump
(photo to right from minervacat's photo stream)
W-Harvey … L-Oaks (2-1)
Alan Oaks didn't deserve this loss, and the bullpen and the offense owe him better than that. Oaks threw 7 innings, giving up two runs on 3 hits, 6 walks, and 3 strikeouts. Oaks retired ten of his first eleven batters he faced before allowing a walk and a homerun back to back in the fourth. Oaks walked two in the fifth, plus gave another base on balls intentionally before getting out of the inning without giving up a run. He finished his night retiring 7 straight batters, with Michigan trailing just 2-0.
Then the bullpen came in, first with Travis Smith. Smith walked both batters he would face to open the 8th, and then would get the quick hook for Eric Katzman. He too would be on a short leash, as he walked one batter before being pulled. Kolby Wood entered with the infield pulled in for the play at the plate. The gamble on infield positioning failed, however, as the first batter Wood faced chopped a ball that bounced just over the head of Toth, plating two runs. No fault to Wood in this one, he did his job to get the ground ball, it was just unfortunate for Michigan who was playing to keep the game at two. Wood completed the inning with three more ground balls, including a great defensive play by Dufek to get a player at home.
The offense for Michigan actually wasn't that bad this game, they just waited too late to string together an inning. Several innings saw Michigan strand a runner on base, but the best scoring chance Michigan had came in the 4th. With one out and two runners on base, Berset flew out to right field. The UNC right fielder had a perfect throw to beat Dufek to the plate, and Michigan ended up with no runs.
Michigan did put the pressure on in the top of the ninth. Toth and Dufek led off with back-to-back singles, and after a pair of strikeouts by Crank and Lorenz, Berset singled in the first run. Urban would follow that with another single for a run. With the rookie Mills coming up, Garrett Stephens came in to pinch hit, but for naught. He would fly out to end the game.
- Alan Oaks… obviously. That was a tremendous start.
- Mike Dufek – 2/4 R, K, great defensive play to get a runner at home
- Smith and Katzman – Combined 0 innings with 3 walks.
- 13 Ks – Dennis and Mills both went 0/3 with hat tricks
W-Johnson … L-Miller (0-2) … Save-Holt
While this isn't quite a slugfest like I predicted in my weekend preview, 12 hits for Michigan probably should count as one. Matt Miller could just not settle down in this game, lasting just 3 innings (he started the 4th but didn't get an out) while giving up 10 hits, 6 runs (only 4 earned), 2 walks, and striking out four. It was a bad day, and run-scoring errors from Biondi and Anthony Toth. Bad starts happen, but the good news is the Michigan managed to stay in the game.
Matt Gerbe was able to keep UNC from tacking on too many runs in the 4th, giving up a two walks and the ground ball that Toth booted. Both runs scoring on that play were charged to Miller, the first unearned. Gerbe did pitch better in the 5th, retiring the side in order, and managed to navigate out of trouble in the 6th after hitting the leadoff batter. His official line looks a bit better than real life at 3IP, 1H, 0R with 2BB and a K, but he still had a solid outing to give Michigan time to wake themselves up on offense.
After Gerbe, Jeff DeCarlo and Kevin Vangheluwe both worked out of some trouble with minimal damage. DeCarlo threw a scoreless inning despite walking two and hitting a batter, which I consider to be a great inning for him. Normally it's a walk, a hit batsman, and at least 2 runs. Vangheluwe gave up a leadoff single, but after a stolen base and sacrifice bunt, Kevin balked in the 7th and game deciding run for UNC.
Michigan's offense was in full swing in this game, lead by Patrick Biondi's 4-for-4 day. Michigan had a hit in each inning, but would not get on the board until the 4th. Dufek and Berset both walked, and Urban knocked a single up the middle for the first run.
The 7th inning was when the Michigan offense really started to click. Dennis lead off the 7th with a double and scored when Patrick Biondi knocked a triple. Toth followed that up with a sac-fly. That cut the UNC lead to only 6-3.
In the 8th, Lorenz walked and Urban was hit by a pitch. Biondi would single through the left side of the infield to score Lorenz. The game was then 6-4.
In the 9th, down 7-4, Crank singled and Berset homered to deep left to pull the game to just a one run margin with only one out left in the inning. Lorenz would walk and be pinch run for with Tyler Mills. Urban singled and the tying run was in scoring position, winning run on first. Michigan had two chances to tie the game, but they'd come up short as Derek Dennis and pinch hitter Garrett Stephens would both strikeout swinging.
The radio announcer really put emphasis on the balk being the deciding issue in this game. I don't think so. The run would have scored on the next ground ball. Still, we had the UNC fans on the edge of their seats, especially when the umpire decided not to ring up Urban on a pitch 6 inches outside, that the umpire had been calling all day.
- Patrick Biondi – 4/4 3B, 2 RBI, R, BB
- Chris Berset - 1/4 HR, 2 RBI, R, BB
- Crank, Dennis, Urban – 2 hits a piece
- Matt Miller – Tough start. Never could settle.
- Biondi and Toth – Errors leading to runs will always land you here.
W – Bates … L-Burgoon (2-1)
So while my predictions came close to true in game one and two, game three went nothing like the win I had expected. Burgoon was in no way his normal self. He gave up two runs in the first on two hits and a walk, while also uncorking a wild pitch. One of those two hits was a triple down the right field line. It definitely didn't set a good tone for the game.
Tyler did manage to settle down over the next two innings, allowing just one runner on base via a hit batsman. In the fourth, Burgoon gave back-to-back singles and a RBI double. A sac-fly would score another run. The sixth inning was the big inning for UNC. Burgoon gave off a leadoff homer and a double before leaving the game.
Sinnery would enter, but he wasn't very successful either. He gave up a double, a single, a walk, another double, and another single, to give UNC five runs on the inning. Luckily Chris Berset nailed a runner trying to steal second to end the inning. Sinnery wouldn't make it through his next inning. Brosnahan would eventually retire the last batter of the inning.
Wood threw the last inning for Michigan as the last of the subs made it in for mop up duty. He gave up a single and struck out two in the scoreless frame.
On offense, Michigan had a couple hitters have a good day, but outside of the first inning, it was just sporadically peppered throughout the game. The one run came on the third batter of the game. Biondi walked, and Toth and Berset each singled, with Biondi scoring on the latter's.
- Chris Berset – 2/2 RBI, 2 HBP
- Toth and Lorenz – 2 hits a piece. Berset with the RBI
- Coley Crank – 0/4 with 3 LOB (batting fourth)
- Team – 1/11 with RISP
While a sweep is never desired, I don't think losing all three will kill us in the national picture, it certainly doesn't help our cause. North Carolina isn't quite up to their normal level of dominance, and I think with LaMarre, we definitely had at least one win from the series. We didn't have him though, so it's time to just move ahead.
There was a lot of shifting in the lineup this weekend. A quick look:
Berset has been doing quite well this season, and he's earned his move up the lineup. Lorenz has also done really well, and he may overtake Dufek if things don't improve for Mike soon. We'll see how that goes. I don't think things are set just yet, and I'm planning on looking in more detail at some of the less refined stats in a later segment.
It's still any one's game in left field. Mills, Kittle, Krantz, Stephens, and Crank have each had a crack at it, but none of the new guys has produced enough at the plate. I don't have enough on Kittle yet, but any of the other three are alright replacements. No one has been tested just yet on defense, and only Stephens poses any sort of major power threat.
I think this was a good series to show that Michigan isn't quite as inept as it was last season. Michigan can hang with some of the big boys when they're on, and that bode wells for the Big Ten season. If there was one disappointment with the weekend, it was the lack of Sinnery and his short struggle. I think the starting pitching woes should be better the next time around, and we've got a good week to prepare for a bit easier schedule next weekend.
Around the Big Ten
Not a lot to good to say about the Big Ten this week. Leader Ohio State brought in a bunch of tomato cans to play in a tournament they hosted in Florida. They still managed to lose to Saint Louis.
Minnesota obliterated any mention of them in the national picture on Friday. After losing to Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the mid-week, the Gophers lost to Loyola Marymount 4-3. Saturday, they were blown out by Oklahoma State, a middle of the road Big12 team by a score of 16-9. All of these were at their home park, the Metrodome. They did manage a win against Northwestern today in a non-conference game, but that's nothing impressive. Huge hit to them on the season.
Speaking of Northwestern though, they did manage to beat Loyola Marymount, and kept it respectable in the weekend opening loss to Okahoma State at just 7-5.
Indiana had a great weekend, taking two games, one from Illinois State and another from a pretty good Kent State team. They're currently in extra innings with Vanderbilt as I type this. That's pretty good regardless of how the game ends. If they take it, it's a huge win.
Iowa had an impressive win against #25 Kansas. It's the Big Ten's lone win over a ranked opponent, and it didn't even come in a Jared Hippen start. The Hawkeyes went 1-3 in Lawrence against the Jay Hawks. That's actually great for a program as low as Iowa's. I still maintain that they are a dark horse to finish in the top 3 of the conference this season.
Michigan State split their weekend, beating Southeast Missouri twice and losing twice to Mississippi State in Starkville. Nothing to write home about with any of those results.
Penn State picked up a solid win over Dallas Baptist, and another decent win over McNeese State in Beaumont, Texas. They did lose their final two games against the host Lamar Cardinals. Those aren't horrible losses for the Nittany Lions. Lamar does hold a win over Rice this season.
Outside of Minnesota, the worst showing in the conference was Purdue who lost two of three at Southern Illinois. They might have won Friday 13-2, but they lost 13-12 each of the next two games.
But even that was rivaled by the Illini, who were swept in their tournament at East Carolina. Illinois lost to East Carolina 7-5, Western Carolina 4-2, and West Virginia 11-8. They blew a 5 run lead in that last game.
- Friday 3pm ET – Live stats, CiL Live Blog
Alan Oaks (1-1) vs Matt Harvey (1-0)
- Saturday 2pm ET – Live stats, Live Audio
Matt Miller (0-1) vs Patrick Johnson (1-1)
- Sunday 1pm ET – Live Stats
TBA vs Colin Bates (2-0)
Opponent Record (rank): 7-1 (#13 in CBI's composite poll)
Michigan Record (rank): 4-4 (unranked)
All Time Series: 7-3 (Last game – W 1-0, neutral site, 3/6/2005)
Chapel Hill, NC
This weekend, Michigan takes on the University of North Carolina as an underdog. The Tarheels enter the series ranked as high as #12 in the coaches' and writers' poll. The lowest ranking they have is #20 in the BaseballAmerica poll. They've got a 7-1 record over nobody of importance and a loss to Maine.
UNC is one of the more talented teams Michigan will face this season, coming off a College World Series berth and one of their best teams ever. The good news is they lost the anchors to last years team, including pitcher Alex White and hitter Dustin Ackley, the #15 and #2 overall picks in the last MLB draft. They also lose their second starter and their second and fourth best hitters. This isn't the same Tarheel team.
As such, this year's UNC team has struggled despite their pretty record. Like Michigan, they've had games with big offensive numbers, but decent to good pitching spells trouble. They aren't scoring as few runs as Michigan, but they aren't blowing out the teams they've played. Given their quality, they probably should have. In their loss to an unusually solid Maine pitching staff, the Tarheels managed 11 hits, but scored only 3 runs and stranded 9 base runners.
They sound, not only from the Maine loss but their entire season, like a team reminiscent of Michigan last year. A type of team where a pitching duel would leave them in some hot water. That's exactly what Michigan wants to do this weekend.
Plus, recent history is on our side. In our last game against UNC in 1995, Michigan won in a pitchers duel by a score of 1-0. Michigan registered a game winning double in the top of the 9th to secure an upset of #10 UNC at a tournament in Greenville, NC. [Continued after the jump.]
Looks good so far. Winds are a little strong on Friday. The field faces predominantly south, but slightly to the west. I wouldn't even call it south by southwest it's so little. That means winds are going to be blowing almost straight out to left. The left field line is 335' and the gap is 370'. That's pretty good distance, but not out of reach even without the wind.
Like Michigan, UNC has three solid starters who have performed admirably this season. Friday night starter Matt Harvey was their third best starter last season posting a less than awesome 5.40 ERA in 21 appearances (13 starts). The right hander's 7-2 record was fourth best on the team. Over 75 innings last season, Harvey struck out 81 and walked 42 while giving up 88 hits, 21 for extra bases. This season, Harvey is looking better at 1-0 in 2 starts, averaging 6.2 innings pitched and giving up just 4 runs. His strikeout rate is good at just under 1 per-inning.
Saturday's starter has been the best by the numbers this season. Patrick Johnson is another right handed junior who sports a 1-1 record and a 1.38 ERA. He's struck out 12 in 12 innings of work this season, and was the recipient of some bad defensive play in the loss to Maine. His defense gave up two unearned runs, the difference in the game. It's also worth noting that Johnson already has 3 pick-offs to his name this year. Someone learned a thing or two about pick-offs from Alex White.
On Sunday the Wolverines will face redshirt junior and righty Colin Bates. Bates was the one of the primary relievers out of the bullpen for UNC last season, posting a 4-4 record in 34 appearances. His 6 saves was a team high. This season has been a little bit rougher with a 4.50 ERA, but he has a team leading two wins in his record and has struck out 12 in 12 innings of work.
UNC, being a southern baseball powerhouse, has quite a bit of depth behind their starters. So far, Michael Morin, a freshman, has seen the most time out of the bullpen with 5 innings over 3 appearances. He's given up 1 run while striking out 4 and walking two. Jimmy Messer is a sophomore with limited time as a starter and reliever last season. He's thrown 4 innings over 3 appearances, striking out 4 and giving up 2 runs (1 earned).
Most of their bullpen seems to be freshmen and sophomores with little experience. While that may sound all well and good for Michigan, they're almost all some of the top pitchers from their respective states, and they've all done well in their limited time pitching this season.
As much as I've downplayed UNC's offense in trying to inspire hope, it's still a very good squad overall. Their second leading hitter from last year, Ben Bunting, returns this season and has picked up where he left off last season. Last season Bunting held a .336 batting average and a .854 OPS. He was a solid average hitter with just a little bit of power. This season looks to be much the same. The lead off batter is hitting .444 in 27 at bats with a .559 on base percentage. He's still been predominately a singles hitter, knocking in only 3 RBI and scoring 4 runs.
The big hitter for UNC has been Dillon Hazlett. Hazlett is a JUCO transfer who was a 2nd Team All-American at the junior college level. So far this season, he's batted .458 with a team high 10 RBI while slugging only .583. He's been in the bottom of the order so far for the Tarheels, but I have to imagine he might get moved around a bit.
Speaking of moving around the lineup a little bit, I think that might just be in the cards for the Tarheels based on how this season has been going. Their 2-hole hitter Tommy Coyle is performing this season. The freshman isn't really putting the ball in play much, although he has managed to walk 7 times already this season. His current slugging percentage is just .174. He's made the most of his walks, scoring 8 times this season, tied for the team lead.
Behind him in the 3-hole, there hasn't been a ton of production either, but third baseman Levi Michael has performed when pitched to. He's walked 11 times this season for an on base percentage of .576. He may not be hitting them in (6 RBI), but he is scoring (tied for a team high with 8 runs).
As per usual, I'll provide links that might not have come out late for my last update or relevant other media links here.
- Baseball America interviews Alan Oaks. Good stuff about pitching mentality, but my personal favorite is his description of the 2007 home run off Pitcher of the Year David Price to secure the greatest upset in college baseball in the recent era:
I was just a freshman and wasn't really expecting to be in the game. Then coach yelled at me because of the matchup we had—we had another freshman in who hadn't really hit much, so I pinch-hit for him. I got to a 3-1 count, and I was just sitting dead-red. I knew he was going to try and throw it by me—he throws 95. So I hit it and I didn't really know what happened at first, and then I saw it go out. I was just on cloud nine for about a week until we went to Oregon (for super regionals against Oregon State).
- Tarheels.com does their pre-weekend preview remembering back to UNC's defeat of Michigan in the 1978 College World Series. They didn't win it, obviously, as no ACC team has won the CWS since 1955. Michigan's won a CWS since then. Minnesota has won 3. And people call the ACC a baseball power. Yes, that's a bit of sarcasm.
As positive as I'm trying to be, it's tough going into a series like this. If Michigan wins one, I think it's a victory of a series. I think we have the chance to win two, most likely Friday and Sunday, assuming our rotation stays the same as last weekend. I think the ability to throw Oaks and Sinnery as well as Burgoon and Sinnery is a great combination that will make any team struggle. Saturday will come down to how well Miller performs and if we can save as much of the bullpen as we can from throwing in the Friday game.
Also as a note, Burgoon is the tentative Sunday starter, but if we need him to secure a victory on Friday, or possibly even Saturday, he may come in to help clinch a game. That's the idea of the TBA for Sunday each of the last two weeks.
I'm encouraged by the way the offense started to at least show signs of life against USF, and Florida Gulf Coast could be a big sign of things to come.
To throw a definite prediction out there, I think Michigan wins the Sunday game, drops Friday in the last inning, and Saturday loses in a slugfest.
Opponent Record (Ranks): 6-1 (none, receiving votes)
All Time Series: 0-0 (first meeting)
Fort Myers, FL
The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles of the Atlantic Sun conference aren't one of the normal middle of the road Florida teams Michigan has scheduled in the past. Unlike Jacksonville, Jacksonville State, or North Florida, FGCU is actually a solid baseball school, and home to multiple players on the preseason All-American watch lists. They are very capable of competing with big-time programs, and they are more than capable at scoring runs.
Weather should be good if not a bit windy tonight. Temperatures are in the low 50s, but winds are expected to be 15-20 mph from the WNW to start the game. The field looks directly north, so it should be a cross wind with a little bit of it coming in from left field. This should lead to a few less homers to left, but could also spell trouble on the infield.
FGCU's primary star is pitcher Chris Sale, who Michigan won't be seeing tonight. He's just that good that he warrants mentioning even in this space. The kid was the MVP of the Cape Cod League this past summer, and he's widely speculated to be a first round if not top 5 draft pick in this year's MLB draft.
But like I said, Michigan is lucky enough to skip that. Instead, they will see junior righty Jack Wagoner, a vagabond pitcher who is on his third school in 3 years. Nothing is available as far as stats in his sophomore year at St. Petersburg College, but in his freshman year, Wagoner started 11 games (13 total appearance) with a 5.84 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 57 innings pitched. He did throw two complete games, but the school being Sacred Heart, he did go 2-8 on the season. This season, Wagoner has two relief outings totaling 4 innings, giving up just 2 hits and striking out 4. One of those two outings was a save.
The Eagles are lead by first/third baseman Zach Maxfield. Maxfield was listed on a few preseason All-American teams, and he's batting at a .370 clip with a team leading 13 RBIs out of his clean up spot. His .519 slugging percentage is 4th on the team.
What should be pointed out, though, is that Maxfield is only the 7th best batting average among starters… at .370. No one in the FGCU lineup is hitting under .333. Only one player is slugging below .415. No player has an on base percentage lower than .438. This team has put up pinball numbers, predominantly from a ton of singles, but it does come against some VERY weak competition. The Eagles swept Temple and took 3 of 4 from Sacred Heart. So take the numbers for what the baby seal clubbing numbers they are.
If I had to pick to players to keep your eye on, it'd be Austin Gaines and Stephen Wickens. Both are hitting over .420, but Gaines has been the slugger with 10 RBIs and an .800 slugging percentage. Wickens is the primary base stealer on the team with 7 steals already this season without being caught. Mikel Alvarez is the secondary base stealer, with 4 in 4 attempts.
Rich Maloney will be sending out Bobby Brosnahan as the mid-week pitcher. Brosnahan is a redshirt freshman and one of the teams two primary left-handed pitchers. Brosnahan has two appearances this season for 4 innings of work. In that time, he's given up 2 runs on 5 hits, 3 walks and 4 strikeouts. Bobby came highly recruited as one of the top pitchers out of high school before having Tommy-John surgery, and he was to be one of our top starting pitching prospects. Hopefully this goes well, but I wouldn't be surprised if he only went a maximum 4 or 5 innings before being removed, regardless of the score. It will be a good sign if he lasts that long against the FGCU lineup.
The weekly game notes have Kevin Krantz returning to start in left field. This probably isn't a bad idea. His defense is probably the best of the three so far, and a mid-week game might give him a chance to warm up his bat. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Stephens get an at-bat or two tonight with time in left field.
I have a feeling Michigan loses this game. Brosnahan is in his first start, most of our relievers that we'll use tonight will probably be back end of the bullpen. I still can't feel that solidly that our offense has awaken yet. It's just hard to predict a win.
- Ft. Myers News-Press: FGCU baseball prepares for big week. Newspaper outlook on the Eagles.
- FGCU SID: FGCU Set to Host Michigan in ‘Swingin at Swanson’. Getting psyched for a BCS program coming to their stadium. Also the source of the picture at the top.
- Michigan SID: Video journal of team fishing trip pictures. See the team OMG SHIRTLESS.
- MGoBoard: Rumor-mongering is what the internet is for. A mgoboad poster may be throwing out the first pitch. Plausible story, but we'll believe it when we get the pictures. If anyone else actually is there and catches him throwing the pitch, give him a solid razzing.
About halfway through the St. John's game, I had come to the conclusion that Michigan 2010 (minus Ryan LaMarre) is Michigan State of 2009. Last year, the Spartans were a dark horse contender in the Big Ten with a couple good batters but were unable to score runs. They relied on their pitching to an extreme, winning several games of the 2-0 variety but also losing games 4-1. Each game was a test of patience for Spartan fans as they hoped and prayed that their offense might give their pitchers just enough support. They finished the Big Ten season at 13-11, good for fifth in the conference.
So now we look at Michigan. A team that, since the LaMarre injury, is averaging 4 hits per nine innings and 1.88 runs per nine innings. That's not going to have us competing in the Big Ten, at least from a championship perspective.
Let's take a broad perspective of the weekend in an attempt to stay positive. It's still early in the season. We're still tinkering with the lineup. Our pitching has been spectacular. Our offense showed signs of life by Sunday. We were never completely out of any game; everything was a pitchers' duel. Despite the struggles, it isn't all doom and gloom for Michigan right now. As a matter of fact, Baseball America's Aaron Fitt has some good things to say after catching parts of each of our games this weekend:
the Wolverines have enough pitching to keep them afloat. Michigan went just 1-2 this weekend, but it allowed just two runs in each of its three games. Righties Alan Oaks, Matt Miller and Tyler Burgoon all turned in strong starts this weekend and showed good stuff. Oaks sat at 90-92 and showed a good 80 mph slider and a 78 changeup […] A scout I talked to said Miller was up to 92 and showing a good four-pitch mix Saturday, and Burgoon racked up seven strikeouts over six innings Sunday thanks to an 87-91 mph fastball, a big-breaking slurve and a decent changeup. And sophomore righty Brandon Sinnery will be a rock in the bullpen thanks to a nasty 74-76 breaking ball.
So with that, a recap of the weekend's games, the left field situation, and the pitching staff: [Ed: after the jump.]
vs. Louisville, L 0-2
For all the press that Thomas Royse of Louisville is getting for this game, Alan Oaks (right from mgoblue) was just as impressive. After a shaky first inning that would plate a run on a sacrifice fly, Oaksie settled in and mowed through the Louisville lineup. His 7 inning, 2 run performance was Michigan's first "quality start" of the season, and might have just solidified Oaks's spot at the top of the rotation. He would strikeout 7 and walk only 1, giving up one solo homer as his only blemish after the first inning. Baseball America's Aaron Fitt is planning something special on Alan going into next weekends games.
Brandon Sinnery, who we'll talk more about later, came in and closed down Louisville over the last two innings giving up just one hit, facing the minimum 6 batters. But despite giving up only two runs, Michigan couldn't plate a single run.
In fact, Michigan could only muster two hits all game long. Those were registered by Patrick Biondi and Anthony Toth, unfortunately they couldn't come in the same inning.
What plagued Michigan most was their lack of aggressiveness at the plate. Home plate umpire Mike Gillis had a strike zone that was from the ground up. The catcher for the Cardinals was routinely dropping to his knees anticipating the need to block a ball in the dirt. They were called strikes in critical times of the count more than not. It was crushing. Michigan ended up striking out 12 times on the night.
I will point out that Gillis's strike zone was actually consistent for the entire game. Louisville made the adjustment to paint the low pitch with their pitcher and swing at them when on offense. Michigan watched several strike two's slide in just above the dirt, give a look back to the umpire in surprise, and then swing wildly at a similar pitch out of their zone. It was tough to deal with I'm sure, but Louisville managed to at least put the balls in play, whether they amounted to hits or not.
vs. St. John's, L 1-2
So everything I said about the Louisville game about good pitching but no offense… you can re-paste that here. Matt Miller threw a great 6 innings of baseball, giving up 7 hits but managing to escape with only 2 runs scored against on 2 walks and 5 strikeouts. He looked really good, working out of a couple innings with runners on base and not surrendering the big inning.
Behind him, Bobby Brosnahan and Kolby Wood pitched a scoreless 3 innings. It was good to see Brosnahan bounce back after his rough second appearance last weekend. He went 2IP with 2 hits, a walk, and 2 strikeouts. Wood threw a perfect 9th with three straight ground ball outs.
I guess you could say our offense progressed in this game, but that's not saying very much. The team registered 5 hits, two of them by Chris Berset (above left from mgoblue), one of which was a double off the wall. Berset also claimed our only run scored on a Nick Urban sacrifice fly.
The best news was the cut down in strikeouts. Only 4 came in this game as the strike zone was a little bit closer to normal for most of the game. There were a few that fooled the announcers, particularly late in the game, but nothing like Friday night.
Finally, a victory. Finally, run support. It's amazing how things work when you score more runs than the opponent.
This game featured more great pitching from Michigan, again only allowing 2 runs from another solid offensive unit. Tyler Burgoon (right from mgoblue) started this game, giving up 3 hits and 2 runs in 6 innings of work. His walk to strikeout ratio was 0 to 7. That's always a good day. He also registered 4 straight 1-2-3 innings in the middle of his outing. Great start.
Behind Burgoon, Brandon Sinnery got his second appearance of the weekend throwing 3 perfect innings, striking out 5. Sinnery earned himself the only mention of Michigan in the All Tournament Team as an honorable mention from his work in this game. Not that our starters weren't deserving of credit, there were just quite a few other pitching gems this weekend.
Offensively, we got to see some fireworks in this game. John Lorenz knocked his first home run of the year, a solo shot to left aided by the wind. Chris Berset added one as well. In all, Michigan registered 9 hits, including multi-hit games by Berset, Lorenz, Biondi, and Toth. We still struck out an a ridiculous rate, 12 Ks in the game, but we managed to string in a few hits between them this time around. So while I'm not happy with the 12 strikeouts, they guys did enough to win.
Left Field Situation
With LaMarre sidelined and Biondi moved to center, we've had 3 different left fielders in the mean time. Those three are backup first baseman Garrett Stephens, backup third baseman Kevin Krantz, and backup catcher/designated hitter Coley Crank (right from mgoblue). Stephens has yet to produce too much in the outfield, with a lone hit and RBI coming from Stephens. Krantz is 0-for-the-two games he's played, but did make a great defensive play to gun a runner at second. Coley Crank was the latest starter, getting in some time against South Florida. It's nice to have the bat in the outfield, but I have this feeling that Michigan is lucky he hasn't been tested defensively yet.
Even with Coley filling in the left field slot, that only opens up another spot in the lineup for a designated hitter. In the game with Crank in left, Maloney tried the freshman Cam Luther, a kid with the potential to be the next big basher a la Dufek. That didn't quite pan out, but it was just the kid's first game. There's still a big question in who can produce in the lineup. It's up for grabs between any of the names mentioned here, and I can't see it being taken by anyone else.
If there's one thing to really make me feel good about this season, it's our depth at starting pitcher. Oaks looks like he'll be a workhorse, Miller looks like he'll dominate with power, and Burgoon can dominate with control. That combination is tops in the BigTen, hands down. It was the top staff out of all the teams I watched this weekend. That's got me smiling.
What has me just as excited is Brandon Sinnery (left from mgoblue). I've been pretty high on this kid since his first starts last season, probably a bit too high some would argue. It's great to see him dominating like this. I feel like he's taking the spot Ben Jenzen would have occupied the year before, or even 2009 had he been healthy. He's a guy capable of going a couple innings and dominating you all the way through. If there is one hope against the Angry Michigan Pitcher Hating God this year, Sinnery will be it.
Around the BigTen
I wanted to include something a bit different in my weekend recaps this season, particularly a look around the BigTen to gauge how our competition is doing. Unlike football, it's easy to miss college baseball happenings around the country, or this weekend, around the corner from us.
It ended up being a pretty bad weekend for the upper echelon of the BigTen, specifically Minnesota being swept and OSU losing one to Cincinnati 4-12. Minnesota was widely considered to be a near lock for making the NCAA tournament this season. So far they've lost 1 to Akron and lost three straight to UCONN, St. John's, and Louisville. While all of their games were VERY close, they just couldn't manage to get a run across when it mattered most, like a good team should.
OSU, on the other hand, notched two solid victories over USF (and BigEast preseason Pitcher of the Year Randy Fontanez) and a Notre Dame team that doesn't appear half as good as preseason expectations. The latter of those games was a blowout. The Buckeyes loss was somewhat disappointing, but also gives you an idea of the depth of their pitching. They've got Wimmers and Wolosiansky as their 1-2, after that, it gets thin quickly.
Michigan State and Iowa both had solid tournaments, logging a pair of wins each. The biggest surprise might have been Northwestern winning two. For the rest of the conferences, it was a pretty disappointing showing to say the least. Illinois won just one game. Purdue got swept by the bottom of the BigEast. Indiana managed one win against a decent WVU team, but they subsequently fell to two from the BigEast cellar.
- Maine took one of three from North Carolina this weekend. The only reason that's important is because guess where we're headed to next weekend… That's right, North Carolina. The Tarheels are also in an offensive quagmire right now, and the word on the street is that good pitching could steal us a win… or two according to Baseball America's college podcast today.
- The Tuesday game against Flordia Gulf Coast was listed at 7pm. The correct time is 6pm. I may not get a preview up before the game, so know they aren't some pushover team. While we won't be seeing Chris Sale, their ace and one who is widely regarded as one of the top 3 pitching prospects in the NCAA, their team is very good.
- Chris Berset was listed in the Johnny Bench Watch List. I doubt he beats out OSU's Burkhart in the conference, but being listed is great.
Today, I'm reminded of a story.
It was during that  southern trek that he watched a University of Georgia baserunner try to score from second base on a single to center when a strong throw home seemed to beat the runner. When the umpire yelled “safe,” Michigan catcher Goodloe Rogers spun about and hit the umpire while players swarmed onto the field.
“Rogers was always getting into fights,” said Rickey later, in barely concealed glee. “I never could find out whether or not he started them, but he was always involved. We were down playing Georgia. I was on crutches as a result of a broken leg [a batted ball in practice had fractured a small bone in his foot]. Well, as usual, a fight started around home plate, and I hobbled off the bench and must have prodded several players with my crutches.”
Rogers, the team’s colorful, zany, and angry man - the sort of person Rickey always loved to have on his ball clubs - watched his coach in action.
“When the brawl was over, there lay B.R. flat on his back near home plate, his leg in a cast sticking straight up in the air. On of his crutches was found in the Georgia dugout. The other was in the stands.”
That came from an biography of Branch Rickey. It's been a rough year as a Michigan sports fan. Sure, volleyball was fun, but the last year has been one disappointment after another in the big sports that most of hang on to dearly.
Last year's opening day post at Varsity Blue came in a much different time. It had been a mild winter, and spring had already been starting to crack through to end the dreary season. Michigan was coming off 3 straight BigTen regular season titles. There was a warm feeling all around.
Every Opening Day, I have this tradition. I pray -- hard. One prayer for each loss in the previous season. It usually takes all day. But I think it's working. - Royals fan "Troy" in Liberty, Mo.
This year was something a little bit different. The Michigan athletics curse of 2009-2010 began to creep. After a dominant start in the BigEast/BigTen Challenge, Michigan started to struggle. Pitchers fatigued, players were injured, and ugly losses began to rear their head.
It ended up being a tough year, but as the saying goes, hope springs eternal. This spring is no different. Michigan has reloaded with the #18 overall recruiting class in the country, something nearly unheard of for a Northern program. The Wolverines return all but one major contributor to the 2009's best Big Ten pitching staff. Several key players have an extra year's experience.
This year we're hungry. Last season was a bad call by some crack-pot, home-cooking umpire from Georgia in 1912. This season is a fight for respect. Michigan is back at full health and they've got no other use for these crutches. Michigan is coming out swinging.
Weekend preview after the jump.
Quick note: I'll be doing these a bit shorter than I did last year (example: here), especially not for the non-conference. I found out rather quickly that too many games come up too quickly to offer as good of previews as I'd like. Hopefully I can devout enough time to the Big Ten when the time comes.
Quick note: I'll be doing these a bit shorter than I did last year (example: here), especially not for the non-conference. I found out rather quickly that too many games come up too quickly to offer as good of previews as I'd like. Hopefully I can devout enough time to the Big Ten when the time comes.
Michigan Preview Links
Just a reminder, I've recapped the following previews for those of you who missed them: Initial Schedule Reaction, Maloney Podcast, A Look Back, Pitching, The Infield, The Catchers and Outfield, Breaking Down the BigTen. This weekend has the chance to be a little tough on the Wolverines, but neither opponent is that daunting.
Or ask commenter TTUWolverine. He's a meteorologist and at Texas Tech.
- Friday 1pm CT – Live Stats
Tyler Burgoon vs Daniel Watts
- Saturday 1pm CT – Live Stats
Alan Oaks vs Jordan Beistline
- All Time Series: 0-1 (Loss 1-3 in 2000)
Jacksonville State is picked to finish second in the Ohio Valley Conference and is home to Todd Cunningham, a junior outfielder listed as a 1st Team Preseason All-American in Ping! and Baseball America's rankings. He was also voted the Cape Cod League’s Outstanding Pro Prospect by the MLB. That's one heck of an honor.
However, after Cunningham, Jacksonville doesn't have many other names of note. Their Friday starter, Daniel Watts, was their third best starter last year with mediocre stats (5-5, 5.16 ERA, 53 Ks in 59 innings). Their Saturday starter had similar numbers (3-4, 4.56 ERA, 26 K in 51 innings). Their closer Bill Henke is worth keeping an eye on. He registered 9 saves in 25.2 innings last year, striking out 21.
Michigan should do well against the Gamecocks, but with just one day to practice outside, we'll have to wait and see.
- Saturday 4pm CT – Live Stats, Watch ($)
Matt Miller vs Bobby Doran
- Sunday 11am CT – Live Stats, Watch ($)
TBA vs Louis Head
- All Time Series: 0-0 (150th opponent to ever play at Law Field)
Texas Tech, despite being a Big 12 team, isn't a very good one. They've been picked to finish last in the Big12 this season, despite returning almost their entire squad that made the Big 12 tournament championship last season and a 93 RPI. Either way, a win over a Big 12 team is a handy skin to our backs if we can take it.
We don't know much about either pitcher yet. Doran is a JUCO transfer that had been drafted in the 36th round out of high school. His stats at the JUCO level were pretty good, but that isn't always relevant to Division 1 ball. He's their number two starter behind the ace Bettis, so it'll be wait and see. Head is a sophomore with meh stats last year as well. He's their fourth starter, so I don't expect him to be outstanding.
The Red Raiders do have two solid batters in their line up with shortstop Joey Kenworthy and Taylor Ashby. Kenworthy hit .335 last year, but he is contact or nothing. He didn't accumulate many walks (.378 on base percentage) and his slugging percentage was only .417. Ashby is much the same with an average of .330, slugging percentage of .420, and on base percentage of .392.
Catcher Jeremy Mayo is their top returning slugger, with an OPS of 1.071. His 11 homeruns is top among returners. His arm will also be tested this weekend. Last year, 42 of 66 base stealers were successful, which is about average for college catchers.
“We’ve actually got a great indoor facility, but its not the same as being outside,” [Rich Maloney] said. “Our guys are chomping at the bit just to get outside and see a fly ball, see a pitch that’s out in the open versus in between walls.”
Continuing the baseball previews in a build up to opening day this Friday, I'll look at how the team is pitching is set up this year. Previous preview posts: Initial Schedule Reaction, Maloney Podcast, A Look Back.
Michigan led the Big Ten in ERA last year and returns 74.3% of their innings. Chris Fetter was a big part of, but the returning pitchers had a collective 5.08 ERA. That would have have been good enough for second in the Big Ten. Top returner Eric Katzman, the only starting lefty, is expected to top the rotation upon his return from hernia surgery. Katzman went 7-4 last season with a 3.53 ERA. He'll be in the pen until he's comfortable with longer starts. While I'm expecting more consistency from him this season, I'm somewhat concerned about entering the season late out of the bullpen. If he gets pushed into the rotation too early, the results could be disastrous.
The depth behind Katzman should be better. Alan Oaks will start the year as the Friday guy. Oaks was used almost exclusively on offense to start the year, but after the pitching depth issues of last year started to take their toll Rich Maloney moved him back to the hill. Oaks had four starts at the end of the year. In those starts, he lasted an average of just over five innings per start, but one of his early starts against Indiana was particularly short and ugly at two innings. He had two impressive starts of seven and 7.2 innings respectively with just six earned runs between them.
While I don't expect Oaks to be a lights out starter this season, he is capable of eating a ton of innings, exactly what Michigan was missing to start last season. Other than Fetter, no one could start a game and make it through the 7th inning. It will be interesting to see how spending the entire off season preparing to enter the starting rotation will affect his performance. While I'm skeptical that he has the ability to be our ace, Alan is a key player if Michigan is going to be better this year.
Along with Oaks, I'm expecting good things from Brandon Sinnery and Kolby Wood. I've took a shine to Sinnery since his start against Eastern Michigan as a freshman. The kid has potential and a pretty good combination of pitches. He's not at a dominant level yet, but I can see him being a force in the third or fourth starter. Maloney thinks he's really making a jump, so it'll be exciting to see.
Kolby Wood has just as impressive this off season as his team's closer, registering a 1.45 ERA and 4 saves over 19 games. He's got a jerky motion, but his tall frame gives him good leverage on his fastball and the splitter he added this offseason. He should be in better shape this year. Rumor had it he had a sore wrist to end last season.
Tyler Burgoon (pictured right from BostonWolverine's flickr, which you should check out if your a photo fan, great stuff*) also makes his return to the starting rotation this season after spending the last year and a half in the closer's role. Burgoon began his career at Michigan as a midweek starter during his true freshman season. He had some success, but was pushed into late innings during the weekend because he was too valuable to use just midweek. Burgoon has also fully healed his shoulder. He has a solid repertoire of pitches, most notably his fastball and wicked slider.
Matt Miller, one of our top relievers last season, will make some starts this season. Miller was 1-2 last season with 3.70 ERA, second best behind Dufek in the bullpen. He registered 3 saves in 23 appearances with 43 K's in 41.1 innings. He did start one game last season, but it was against Eastern Michigan and Michigan was just getting guys innings. He went two hitless innings, striking out one.
*(Boston Wolverine also writes Roar of the Tigers.)
The bullpen should be better this season just due to increased depth. The pitching star of the 2009 freshman class, lefty Bobby Brosnahan (pictured at right), will return from Tommy John surgery. Brosnahan is an Ann Arbor native and during his junior year he was listed in the Michigan All-State 2nd team honorees. He had a solid offseason with the Lima Locos, so hopefully that's a good start.
Brandon Sinnery, Kolby Wood and Matt Miller might be seeing time in the bullpen as long relievers, but I think we'll also think we'll see more Matt Broder, Tyler Mills, and Kevin Vangheluwe. Broder pitched well at a lower level summer ball team, the Michigan Rams, but he's yet to get any innings at UM. Tyler Mills was Michigan's Gatorade Player of the Year his senior season at Mt. Pleasant HS but redshirted last season. Kevin Vangheluwe was coming off a serious injury coming out of high school and still hasn't quite found his stuff yet. Brian actually did a solid run down of him as a recruit back at mgoblog v1.0, with this now archived Detroit News clip:
"His (right) arm was discolored," Collins said. "It was like if you held it out of a car window and lost circulation. His dad (Mark VanGheluwe) took him to get examined and they gave him some medication to disperse the clot. He contacted (U-M coach Rich) Maloney and he told them to come immediately to U-Hospital. On Thursday, he had surgery to break up the blood clot and they said his muscles were pushing against the rib cage on that (right) side. I was told it was a normal case to remove that top rib on that side. And that was done Friday. Both were successful."
Kevin looked a little bit better this summer, but he's nowhere near the level of dominance he had before the injury.
Our top regular returner that is strictly a bullpen pitcher is Mike Dufek. When away from first base, he's been used here and there as a closer. His fastball can touch the 95-96 range and his slider is pretty good. Dufek probably won't be utilized as much this year, but he'll get his chances depending on how the closer by committee goes.
Travis Smith will spend more time in the bullpen this year. He's had a rough time as a starter over the last year both at Michigan and his summer gig in the Texas Collegiate League. All of these starter/reliever combinations should be huge assets in the pen if they aren't starting on the weekend.
Rounding out the returners are Matt Gerbe and Jeff DeCarlo. Gerbe hasn't shown too much yet during his time at Michigan or his stint with the Winchester Royals of the Valley League this summer. He had an atrocious stint as a starter with the Royals that saw his ERA balloon over 36. He managed to pull it under 9 by the end of the season.
Jeff DeCarlo, well, I've always made it a point to try and not speak that poorly of him. The guy is an Academic All-Big Ten player, not a All-Big Ten player. I respect that. I just cover my eyes and cross my fingers every time I see him on the mound, partially hoping he won't give up 3 runs in an inning, the other hoping he only pegs one guy in the 1 inning he might last. And this isn't an exaggeration. His 2009 stats:
So as this season goes on, if I make references to the "DeCarlo-type outing", this is what I mean. We won't see much of him this year, but when we do, consider it a David Cone like moment, but with less Febreeze. It's a blow out one way or the other, and as a bonus, DeCarlo will have an ERA comparable to David Cone's completion percentage—not the fraction, but the fraction multiplied by 100.
Michigan has solid depth and a concentration of guys who could start or go in the bullpen. Several of those are in the running for closer, and it's always good to have a bunch of guys capable of closing out games. Hell, even DeCarlo was collecting saves with his summer team, so the future has to look brighter, no?
Michigan returns more quality pitching than the rest of the league, and it's had had a year to develop. They also get a few promising prospects back. If they stay healthy, this year's pitching could be just as good as last year's by spreading Chris Fetter's load over five or six players who weren't available for last year. The depth should be enough to keep Michigan from losing random games against conference bottom dwellers Iowa, Northwestern, and Penn State, teams that they had a 3-6 record against last year.
That makes me an optimist. An outsider's view of the pitching staff is a little bit different. Most saw Fetter as the be all end all of our staff. That was true about one in every three weekends, but again, I point to the depth issues and a couple inconsistent players. This off season was a promising one for a wide variety of pitchers. If Katzman can get fully healthy before we start to push him for innings, Fetter's loss will be survivable.