“He was on the other side of the court, screaming: ‘Good shot, Kev!’” Durant said, shaking his head in delight. “I’m thinking, this guy’s an All-American type of teammate right there.”
Continuing the baseball previews in a build up to opening day this Friday, I'll look at how the team's outfield and catchers look this season.. Previous preview posts: Initial Schedule Reaction, Maloney Podcast, A Look Back, The Infield.
There is no more valuable person on our team than Chris Berset. Sure, there's a guy at this end of this post that most of you will say is more important. I would counter that with asking who touches the ball the most on the team? Who is the rock that holds the pitching staff on his shoulder? Who played for the
prestigious Great Britian National Team this summer? No, not that guy, Chris Berset.
Berset is now entering his third year as one of the full time catchers (I consider two catchers being full time), after splitting his freshman year with Doug Pickens, commanding the plate virtually to himself his sophomore year, and missing about 20 games last year due to a broken finger. Over his career, Berset owns a .277 batting average, with one particularly bad sophomore slump season at .244 and two other seasons right around .300. Berset quietly is a solid 6 or 7 hole hitter, providing decent power and decent average.
Behind the plate, Chris's arm is only average at best. Berset has caught 33 of 119 attempts on him, giving opponents a .723 stolen base percentage, but where Chris excels is on blocking. There has been an apparent difference in our pitching staff's confidence when Berset is behind the plate compared to his replacements the last two years. Sliders look sharper, fastballs have a little more cut on them. Look no farther than Berset's 2 passed balls last year. In about a third as much playing time, Tim Kalczynski had 11. Berset has a trust level with our pitchers that allows them to be more aggressive, something invaluable.
I've been pretty sold on the idea that Berset was the missing piece last season that cost us just as much as the depth. His broken finger left us void the leader on the field and with the pitchers. Without him, pitchers lost confidence in themselves and the season went down the drain.
Our backup catcher again this year is Coley Crank. As a freshman last year, Crank had quite a bit of playing time, mainly due to Berset's injury. Coley, like Lorenz, didn't appear totally ready for college pitching last year. It'll be interesting to see how he improved over the off season. His stats in the Alaska Summer League didn't look particularly good, but such is baseball when you're out there with wood bats.
Crank didn't have quite the repertoire with his battery mates last year, posting 8 passed balls and not catching any of the 8 runners that tested his arm. I'm hoping he shows improvement this season as he appears to be slated the starter next year. We definitely need him to give Berset days off, and he'll get playing time fairly often. From what I understand, he's shown improvement at the plate and will vie for the DH spot as well.
This year's team is probably the fastest outfield we've had at Michigan in years, and if there is one player on this year's team that epitomizes speed, it's freshman Patrick Biondi. Biondi was drafted by the Tigers in the 35th round but opted to go to Michigan and improve his draft stock. Biondi was clocked with a 60 yard dash time of 6.44 seconds. That's "special speed" as Rich Maloney calls it. That's four out of five fakes for all you football recruitniks.
Biondi will be a force on the basepaths, but getting on base will be the adventure. Maloney plans to lead off with Biondi right out of the gate. This is a tough spot for any freshman, and it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. The current plan is the "Willy Tavares circa 2005" play. Biondi will be bunting and slow-roller-to-the-infield his way to a record setting number of infield base hits. At least that's the hope. I'm pretty skeptical about this to start the season, but I guess I'll have to see him play first.
As I mentioned in the Preview: The Infielders, I wouldn't be surprised to see him drop to the 8 or 9 hole if he struggles and Lorenz or Dennis can really light it up to start the season. Anything could happen, though.
In right field, Nick Urban will be holding on to his starting spot he earned last season. Nick came to Michigan as primarily a middle infielder, but after falling behind the depth chart to Cislo and Toth, he made the move to the outfield where he has been one of our best defenders. He started the season just filling in for Alan Oaks, but Oaks became a liability defensively and never found his swing on offense. Urban is quite a bit quicker than Oaks in the field and was only a bit behind Oaks in terms of arm strength.
Offensively, Urban never really tore the cover off the ball, but he was quietly efficient. He hit .288 over last season with a .418 slugging percentage (.366 on base). Those numbers will work in the 6 or 7 hole, but I'd like to see him boost both of those this season.
Saving the best hitter on the team for last, Ryan LaMarre will probably be making his last hurrah at Michigan this season and playing center field. Ryan is a special talent and has gained Pre-season All-American 3rd Team honors at a laundry list of websites and magazines that hand out such honors. Between his dominant last season, hitting .344 with 12 home runs, 55 runs scored, 62 RBI, and a .599 slugging percentage, and his solid season in the Cape Cod League, Ryan definitely could go pro. Like some of you, I've heard his plan was to go to the show after his junior year for quite some time now. I've got no inside knowledge, so take it FWIW.
LaMarre is definitely poised to be a 1st Team All BigTen again this season, and will be anchoring the 3-hole in the lineup. LaMarre doesn't really have any holes in his college game. He is a solid college outfielder with a great bat and great work ethic. There isn't much else to say about him. The kid is a player and he'll probably be drafted in the first 10 rounds of the draft this next year. Here's hoping he might just stay.
For those interested in stats:
Coming Up Next
I'm hoping to get a look at the conference and the schedule one more time before the season starts, but life is getting busy at just the right time.
I've always looked at Phil Steele's returning starters as a guide to help betting early in the year. As we have struggled the past couple of years I have found myself continually waiting for next year as we have so many people coming back(I still think 2011 is the year for us to move back into the BCS permanently).
There was a post a while back summing up the returning starters in the Big Ten and I was surprised how many teams had similar amounts returning. Looking at say an Illinois who loses their 4 year starter at QB and their top WR I thought boy those 2 losses of returning starters sure hurt more than us losing G. Matthews and D. Moosman.
On the flip side saying Michigan returns 8 starters on defense sounds good until you mention the 3 we lose. So I tried to quantify the losses in my chart below. Obviously this has a lot of subjective analysis to it, but I think it helps quantify where a team is potentially headed.
I think it would be interesting to try and chart the other Big Ten teams in this way, but I don't think I have an intimate enough knowledge of their 2 deeps to make a thoughtful analysis, if anybody does I'd love to see you take a shot at it. Well here's my chart. Let me know what you think
- 10=Brandon Graham
- 8= All Big Ten
- 6=Pretty solid starter, helped more than hurt
- 4=Ok, but message boards are pretty fed up
- 2= Can someone plant dope in his room so we can go Saban?
- 0= Why are we playing walk ons??
|QB||5||7.5||Tate and Denard showed flashes last year, Frosh to Soph is biggest jump|
|RB||5||6||Hard to vote here, we should have been a 8 last year, but injuries killed us|
|WR||5||5||Replacing Stonum with Matthews seems like a push|
|WR||5||7||Time for Hemingway to shine|
|Slot||5||7||Depth, experience and some potential Odoms, Roundtree, Gallon, Trob should be good|
|TE||5||6||Koger was an 8 to start year and a 2 to end it. Between the 3 they'll find someone to step up if Koger falters|
|LT||6||5||Ortmann was solid..now who knows but talent is there.|
|LG||6||7||Last year for Schilling, usually you get real focused|
|C||5||7||Molk was hurt and Moosman was ok, it'd be an 8 for Molk but I'm not sure he'll be a 100%|
|RG||4||5||Moosman was ok but he was moved for most of the year|
|RT||3||5||A problem area all year, we have talent we just don't know how ready it is|
|TOTAL||54||67.5||I really like where this offense is going, RB's are a question mark and the OL hasn't quite matured, but I think the fact all these guys were able to grow in this system over the last couple years will help them be better than their individual talent.|
|LE||10||6||You can't replace a Gary Bartere….RVB will try hard we know that|
|NT||6.5||6||Martin was solid, but I think he was dinged up much of the year, I was hoping for more. Renaldo and Will should be ok.|
|DT||5||7.5||I think Martin for last years RVB will be a Big Step up|
|DEATH||4||7||Playing as a true Frosh at that spot is ridiculous, I expect him to explode this year|
|LB||3||5||Horrid has to be better, just because of continuity in system and competition|
|LB||3||5||Horrid has to be better, just because of continuity in system and competition|
|QUICK||6||4||Stevie was good for us last year, this year is unknown though I'm more hopeful than 4 (love Hawthorne) I'm trying to be realistic|
|CB||7.5||5||Warren was good, hopefully Turner lives up to the hype|
|CB||3||4||Boo Boo, Floyd, me, you, Troy whoever it was it didn't help us. I'll bump it to 3 since Troy held it for half the year, but it could have been a 1|
|BOX||2||4||Williams and Kovacks struggled it can't get worse they are back and have another year, if they get beat out even better|
|DEEP||4||6.5||Woolfolk should solidify this spot this year|
|TOTAL||54||60||I'm a big believer in actually knowing what you are supposed to be doing helping out, so I'm thankful we have Greg back.|
I'm a little surprised I had the offense and defense tied last year and figured I must have made a mistake, but Graham and Warren skew things a bit so I think it holds up as useful analysis. If anyone is intimately familiar with another Big Ten team, I'd be curious how it would shake out. I did this exercise to go inside the numbers of just returning starters to see if there was something more meaningful because Tate and Roh returning as starters is more important than Mike Williams and Perry Dorrenstein.
Interesting article this week about how many arrests Urban Meyer has had during his tenure with Florida; 26 arrests in 5 years! That is over 5 arrests a year, and goes to ruin the theory that if you can run a 4.4 40, you can outrun the law. Back in June, ESPN paraphrased comments from Urban, at the time of his team’s 24th arrest, “he's disappointed with the incidents but he and his staff are determined to educate his players and by and large they are "a pretty good group."" I guess the term 'pretty good' has changed since I was in school, because that used to mean no felonies on the record and no recent mug shots taken. Now as long as you aren’t wanted for murder one you are still Florida eligible as a 'pretty good' kid?
I’m not against taking a chance on players or people for that matter, but it is so important to balance the risks with good kids. Tebow was obviously a good kid, but you need more than one voice in the locker room to be that voice of influence, and Florida has obviously had challenges finding those other voices. As Michigan goes forward and takes pretty good kids and good kids, I realize that coaches can only be one part of the formula. It is so important for every pretty good kid we take a risk on, that we put 3 good kids around them like Craig Roh. Then the coaches will have a fighting chance to make a difference.
I don't question Urban's heart, but I do question his recruiting, because a pretty good kid, will only become a good kid, if you put so many examples around him that he can't help but make a change in his life.
Continuing the baseball previews in a build up to opening day this Friday, I'll look at how the team is infield, offensively and defensively is shaping up this year. Previous preview posts: Initial Schedule Reaction, Maloney Podcast, A Look Back, Pitching.
On a side note, you can see the baseball television schedule here.
The infield is a tale of two halves, the right and the left. On the right, we have solid returners with solid, not quite stellar, offensive and defensive play. They're proven with a full year's experience. On the left, we have a pair of unknowns. Our third baseman played semi-regularly last year, but could never solidify himself, while our shortstop is a true freshman with a great pedigree.
The only full time starter returning to the same position for the Wolverines this year is Mike Dufek at first base. Dufek will be in his second full season at first base, his freshman year was spent split with Nate Recknagel. Dufek's defense is pretty good at first, but he does lack a bit of range. For this reason sometimes you'll see him replaced by Garrett Stephens, or even true freshman Cam Luther if Maloney finds himself unable to red shirt the exceptional talent. Both of those are expected to be potential defensive upgrades over Dufek, and they will allow Dufek a chance to DH a bit more often.
Speaking of DH'ing, Dufek isn't in the lineup for his defense anyway--the guy can swing the bat. Mike hit 17 home runs last season, tied for third best in school history, and his .627 slugging percentage was 5th best in the BigTen.
The big question surrounding Dufek this season is can he cut down on the strikeouts? Last season saw him strike out one in every 3.8 at bats. High risk/high reward batters may have their merits, but those type of batters need to be hitting 6th, not clean up.
After debating this lightly with commenter Colin over the last few days, I've still yet to be able to accept Dufek as living up to the needs of the teams just because of his 17 home runs last season. Yes, Dufek's OPS was 1.001 last season. Do I think that was enough? No. It sounds weird as a 1.000 OPS is generally regarded as very good. I just don't think his .374 on base percentage is what it should be in the middle of the order. He should be at least .400 to be gaining the sort of praise he's been getting. Even his .304 batting average, that's got to rise up. This is college, not the pros. A great hitter like Dufek has the potential to be needs to be hitting in the .320s. Call it tough love, call it what you will, but I think he's underachieving.
But that also gives me hope. With another year of experience under his belt, I feel like this should be the year that Dufek hits one all cylinders. He's gotten better every season he's been at Michigan, I expect the same thing of him this year. I expect him to be more patient and more explosive.
Moving to second base, our other returning starter, Anthony Toth, will be playing after moving from shortstop. I think this is a positive for the team and Toth. Toth's a little small for shortstop in the big leagues, so he might as well get accustomed to second base now. I think this will also help with his tendency for errors as he'll have easier plays at second than the massive area he had to cover at short. Hopefully he can cut that team high 16 errors last season by at least half if not 3/4.
At the plate, Toth will hit second, and by all current indicators, that's where he'll stay all season. Anthony is a pretty good contact hitter who can put the ball in the gap. This should work well in moving our lead off hitter around the bases and setting up LaMarre with easy RBI opportunities. Like Dufek, though, Toth has a high strikeout rate, and that needs to be fixed this season. We can't win if our 2 and 4 hole hitters strikeout at the rate they did last year.
Unlike Dufek though, Toth had a solid on base percentage of .410. He really started to produce after being moved down in the order, and continued to do pretty well when bumped back to the top of the lineup following Cislo's injury.
At third base, John Lorenz will once again start at third base to open the season. If he's able to lock down the position is still a big question. Last year saw him have to split time with senior walk-on catcher Tim Kalczynski. Being a true freshman starting in college is tough, especially when you miss your entire high school senior season. Defensively, Lorenz has a very good arm, but he too had trouble on the left side of the infield last year. His 14 errors was second highest on the team (the next closest was 6). If he's going to hold on to his position, he must field the ball better.
Offensively, Lorenz was a non-factor in the lineup. He was relegated to the 8-spot in the lineup, generally reserved for the worst hitter on the team. His .375 slugging percentage would likely have been a BigTen low last season for third basemen had he enough at-bats to qualify. Lorenz will most likely stay in the 8 spot as far as I can tell. If for some reason he comes out on fire, look for a possible move to the 2-spot and Biondi to drop in the lineup, especially if Biondi struggles – more on that in a later post.
Putting pressure on Lorenz this season will be redshirt freshman Kevin Krantz. Krantz is a converted shortstop that has spent the last year prepping for a move to the corner, especially with the signing of Derek Dennis to lock down shortstop for the foreseeable future. Krantz put up pinball like numbers in high school playing weak teams in the Traverse City area, but he was widely considered a D1 prospect anyway.
That brings us to short stop and the aforementioned Derek Dennis. Dennis is widely heralded as Michigan's best signing in the last decade, maybe two. The kid was drafted in the 7th round of the MLB draft by the Rays and turned down their $700,000 contract to play at Michigan. He's a 5-tool player with a good glove, solid arm, quick bat speed, some gap-to-gap power, and a pretty good base runner on top of all that. Hopefully his size and range will help solidify our defense at shortstop, a place we had quite a bit of trouble with last year.
That's Dennis legging out a triple in the fall game against an overmatched team from Ontario. You can also see a video of his first hit in the game, a double off the brick monster in left. You can see he has some power and speed, also looks like a baseball player in the build. Now to see him live up to the last player to wear #19, Kevin Cislo.
We still have to see how Dennis adjusts to college pitching, though, so don't set your standards too high just yet. Maloney will be batting Dennis at the bottom of the lineup to work him in slowly. This seems like a solid place for the freshman as your third best contact hitter is usually placed here as a lead off man at the bottom of the order. Coach Maloney's current plan has Dennis here to start the year, and whenever LaMarre finally leaves for the pros, Dennis will take over the 3-hole.
Coming Up Next
I'm going to lump the catchers and outfielders together in the next post as this is getting a bit long already. After that I'll move to a look around the BigTen and our schedule overall. I'll try to have a weekend preview up for the Texas Tech tournament by Friday.
(re-posted from thread)
Just got back. Great time.
The judges were: some hater from the media (a Michigan grad) named Ryan, who was the Simon Cowell-esque bad guy. Seriously, that is the exact role he played. Softball coach Carol Hutchins, who gave out only decimals (8.2 for example). A little girl, 8 years old, and former Mott's patient, who gave out 10's to every act (but one), and Woodson, who was a reasonable judge.
You got your usual "let's wear tights in flamboyant colors and rub up against each other with glowsticks acts" (men's tennis, men's swimming and diving)
You got your AWFUL acts. Women's tennis tried a magic show and it stunk. Men's lacrosse attempted a rap about..lax bros. Being a bro. It didn't work out. And Women's Water Polo parodied commercials. Yeah. They brought out the Aflac duck, for example. It was so bad, even the host made fun of it.
Women's rowing attempted "I'm on a Boat!" That SNL skit. It was pretty good, funny in some parts. The level of costume detail was incredible.
The athletic trainers had their own skit, which was cool to see. Themed "Athletic Trainers after hours". They had a song and dance, with props like medicine balls, huge balance balls, etc. But they got a 8 from the little girl, which like WTF haha. The entire crowd gasped.
But women's cross country/track stole the show. They performed a Mo-town skit, a la Soul Train, and took us through some 70's funk. The Temptations, Jackson 5...etc. I loved it, and it got first place.
Let's see...mens track did Toy Story, which was pretty cool..one of the judges claimed to have never seen Toy Story. WTF.
Marching Band, lead by my friend D-Hinez (drum major) took it to another level. They created an Alice in Big Ten Wonderland Skit, about a girl trying to decide where to go to college between us, OSU, MSU, PSU.
featuring the Mad Hatter and the PSU crew, who like to party all day..
Two little, Sparty-gear donning twins who Alice said to "Aww, you're so cute! Like my little Brothers!"
...and the Queen of Hearts as the "Queen of Buckeyes", who got a hearty boo. Then they danced to "Poker Face" by lady Gaga.
Men's soccer was probably the funniest. Contemporary Dramatic Readings + Britney Spears lyrics = HILARITY. Something like this
Football? They just hopped around to this song
Their performance was alright, but nothing special. It got a 10 from a clearly biased Woodson, who admitted as much.
I kept waiting for the men's basketball team to burst out onto the stage...It didn't click till more than an hour in that they were in Iowa.
*EDIT* How could I forget? The sheer awesomeness of Men's Rowing Star Wars skit! Luke! Yoda! X-fighters and Tie-Fighters! a Death Star! Han Solo, R2D2, C-3P0, Darth Vader.. Lightsabers...and a narrator.
P.S. I had my own geekout session when I walked out and saw the Brandons (Graham and Minor) talking to Greg Robinson and his family. That was cool. I mean, they're normal people and all...but still awesome.
We've got the schedule from the BTN for both their streaming and televised schedules for both softball and baseball this season. The coverage has really stepped up this year, showing 41 games in baseball (not including ALL the tournament games, unlike last year only showing most of the tournament games) and 47 softball games.
The network will nationally televise up to 33 Big Ten baseball games, including the entire Big Ten Baseball Tournament, and stream an additional 20 games for www.BigTenNetwork.com. Twenty Two Big Ten softball games will be televised this spring, plus an additional 29 games for the internet. A selected number of streamed games will be televised on delay through the network’s Student U initiative.
Every telecast will be produced in high definition.
“We’re thrilled to expand our coverage of Big Ten baseball and softball this spring through our streaming initiative and to provide these student-athletes with a national and international stage for their talents,” Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman said.
Michigan baseball will have 9 appearances on the BTN network, all in April. Three of those games will be on the actual television while the other 6 will be pay-per-stream on BTN.com's new video streaming technology.
Softball has 9 currently scheduled games on the network spread over April and May. Six of the softball games will be broadcast over television while the remaining 3 will be streamed live. There is also a chance of gaining a Wildcard spot, as May 14 and 15 are currently not announced yet and will be later in the season.
It's great to see the extended coverage of non-conference games this season. Games like the one against Notre Dame in baseball would have been virtually off limits last year. It looks like there will be plenty of more midweek material to take the place of campus programming, and that's always a solid win.
April 7 Central Michigan at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 3 PM BTN.com
April 9 Purdue at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 7 PM Big Ten Network
April 10 Purdue at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 1 PM Big Ten Network
April 10 Indiana at Ohio State Columbus, Ohio 1 PM BTN.com
April 11 Purdue at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 12 PM Big Ten Network
April 13 Toledo at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 3 PM BTN.com
April 16 Michigan at Illinois Champaign, Ill. 7 PM BTN.com
April 17 Michigan at Illinois Champaign, Ill. 4 PM BTN.com
April 18 Michigan at Illinois Champaign, Ill. 2 PM BTN.com
April 20 Notre Dame at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 6:30 PM BTN.com
April 14 Central Michigan at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 6 PM BTN.com
April 17 Northwestern at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 6 PM Big Ten Network
April 18 Northwestern at Michigan Ann Arbor, Mich. 3 PM Big Ten Network
April 21 Penn State at Michigan (DH) Ann Arbor, Mich. 4 PM BTN.com
April 28 Michigan at Ohio State (DH) Columbus, Ohio 4:30 PM Big Ten Network
May 14 Michigan at Iowa Iowa City, Iowa 7 PM Big Ten Network
May 15 Michigan at Iowa Iowa City, Iowa 5 PM Big Ten Network