One of my favorite types of mgo-posts before the days of m.go.podcasts were segments called Vicious Electronic Questioning (VEQ). To quote Brian circa the 2009 ND game:
Hello once again. When Michigan plays the sort of opponent that actually has opposition bloggers this here blog tends to flag one of them down and relentlessly grill them until they are convinced their team will meet ignominious defeat.
Never does the phrase "sort of opponent that actually has opposition bloggers" come more into play than with college baseball. The Big Ten has a surprising amount of baseball coverage (and amazingly, we're fairly organized), and one of those fine blogs is Behind the Plate, covering this weekend's opponent, the Indiana Hoosiers.
So while I may not get quite as vicious as Brian in his VEQ's with House that Rock Built, I can also promise at least 75% less Tom Hammond:
He makes me hate Indiana for reasons I can't explain
What does posting a picture of Tom Hammond, a Notre Dame football announcer, have to do with Indiana University's baseball team? It just doesn't make any sense. If Tom Hammond is linked to IU, you must acquit. The defense rests.
Anyway, I return the favor by writer IUBaseballFan by answering some questions over at Behind the Plate, in which I predict a series sweep with a low confidence rating. Probably even lower now that I look into a certain ace on the IU staff, more about him after the jump. This will also act as the preview for the weekend, but I'll have a few more thoughts to post up tomorrow.Q&A after the jump...
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.]
Roundtree broke out last year and had 32 receptions for 434 yards and 3 TDs but he really put almost all of those numbers up in the final 4 games where he had 30 receptions for 390 yards and 2 TDs. Odoms missed the final 4 weeks but still had decent numbers reeling in 22 receptions for 272 yards and a TD. His freshman year Odoms put up much better numbers with 49 receptions for 443 yards. Koger also missed 4 weeks but still put up decent numbers for a Sophomore TE. He had 16 receptions for 220 yards and 2 TDs. Besides those three guys the only other players that put up good receiving numbers last year were the now graduated Greg Matthews (29-352-1) and the often injured Junior Hemingway (16-268-2). Stonum showed promise but he didn't exceed 200 yards. I think the numbers show that Michigan's offense is at its best when Odoms, Roundtree and Koger are playing.
But this is where the problem is. Odoms and Roundtree are both slot WR. Koger is a TE. Michigan plays at most two slot players at one time. Sometimes, they go down to just one slot player. This really handicaps Michigan's offense so I was trying to come up with possibilities to get all three out on the field as much as possible. I came up with a handful of possibilities:
Option #1: Move Roundtree to the outside receiver position.
Option #2: Move Koger to more of an H-Back role.
Option #3: Move Koger to an outside receiver position .
Option #4: Rotate out 1 of the 3 every play.
I think each option has positives and negatives. Option #1 lets Koger play as a TE and lets Odoms play the slot but Roundtree is just 6 feet tall and he is more shifty then fast. Also, Roundtree is a key player on the offense and excelled in the slot. Why change something that worked so well? He clearly has a connection with Forcier and Forcier looked for him first at the end of last year. A full season of these two would be amazing to watch.
Option #2 lets the slot WRs stay in the slot. This is ideal since Odoms and Roundtree are better offensive threats then Koger, so if anyone should have to move it should be Koger. Koger in the backfield can help with the blocking, especially cutting back against the line, and gives Forcier another option when he is scrambling around. However, having a 6'4 250 pound TE in the H-Back role might slow down the offense (V. Smith running into Koger) and Koger's blocking skills aren't good enough to go 1 on 1 with a DE or OLB. Michigan experimented with Koger here last year and it had some success. Certainly when Michigan is running a lot of QB Reads having Koger there helps since he is fast enough to get outside the containing linebacker but on runs up the middle he seemed lost and useless.
Option #3 lets Odoms and Roundtree stay in the slot (which once again is key) and it helps fill a void at outside WR. Hemingway and Stonum didn't do much last year. Stonum showed some signs of breaking out but I don't trust him to be the #1 outside WR this year. Having Koger, Odoms, Roundtree plus a RB and QB that can run all on the field with Stonum should allow Stonum to flourish. He'd be the #1 deep threat and he'd almost never face double coverage since the safeties would have to be worried about the slot WRs.
Koger isn't slow but he's not a speedy outside WR that is going to stretch the defense. However, neither is Hemingway (especially if he did gain more weight). Koger seems to have as good of hands as Hemingway and he is much taller, which gives Michigan a jump ball candidate for endzones. Additionally, Koger is a better blocker then Hemingway and he can probably pancake a containing safety or a LB concentrating on the RB. Finally, this lets Michigan red-shirt Jackson and MIller and bring Stokes along slowly. Now if Stokes is solid this spring and ready to start I think he should play over Koger since outside speed is sorely lacking but if he needs to come in and start slowly gaining experience this plan could work.
I'm not saying Michigan should go to this every down but this could be a base formation. Now if Michigan is in 2nd and 10 or 3rd and long I'd suggest replacing Koger with a faster option but besides that I think having him out there most the time makes sense. When defenses go to zone (to help their LBs/S/DBs) cover Odoms and Roundtree this would let Koger run nice 3-5 step routes where he could set up in a whole in the zone. Having an elite speedster at WR would be great but it's not realistic this year.
Option #4: Odoms and Koger and Roundtree and Hemingway all have injury problems. Most likely in an average game one of these guys is hurt, which, eliminates most of the depth problem. Also, no way can Roundtree and Odoms play every snap. They will wear out and having Koger step in and replace them makes sense. However, with the lack of depth outside and the numerous depth at the slot, I really think Michigan should look elsewhere for a sub for Odoms or Roundtree. Michigan has numerous options at the slot like Terrence Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, Kelvin Grady, Drew Dileo, Austin White, DJ Williamson and probably Denard Robinson. I just think keeping that having all these guys on the sidelines doesn't make sense. I also think moving Roundtree or Odoms makes little sense since they are elite slot WR and why mess with a great thing?
That leaves me with moving Koger to either an H-Back role or outside WR. At first moving Koger outside made no sense but after thinking about it I now think it's possible. How much slower is he then Hemingway? I think his hands and size and blocking ability more than make up for Hemingway. Stonum is speedy and if he's on the opposite side of the formation the defense will still need to drop their safeties back and Michigan can always move Koger to H-Back when they need an extra blocker. Plus, when Michigan is in a 3rd and long they could always sub Koger out for a faster WR like Stokes or Denard.
Am I crazy for thinking this is possible? Do you have another solution? Let me know.
Just finished cleaning up my database for the 2009 football season and got 2008 added as well. Hopefully will have the other 5 years or so of play by play data that the NCAA's website posts added to my database before football season starts, but its mindless data entry and I can only handle so much at a time!
For now I wanted to compare 2008 vs 2009 and see how valuable it was to have returning starters and what positions it mattered the most at. To this I used my opp adjusted team values (explanation here) from 2008 and 2009 as well as the handy Phil Steele Returning Starts* by position by team. To make the data manageable, I grouped the 120 FCS teams into deciles of 12 teams each, and used them as a composite group. The least experienced teams would be decile 1 and the most experienced would 10. I then looked at how much the returning starts meant for both outright success and improvement vs prior year as measured in points/game.
*I used returning starts as opposed to starters because there is a little more depth and separation to the numbers then. 7 returning starters could be 50 returning starts or it could 150 depending on how long some of the players had been starting.
Bottom two deciles = death!
Teams in the bottom two deciles, on average, were 4.1 points per game (3 points per game = about 1 win over the course of a season) worse in 2009 than they were in 2008. In essence, this was Michigan 2009. Technically, Michigan fell into D3 thanks to the valuable returning starts of Nick Sheridan. Michigan's 8.4 pts/game offensive improvement was 2nd best nationally of any team returning less than 10 starts at quarterback.
Overall, the impact of a returning QB starts goes beyond the passing game. Each decile of experience is worth about a quarter of a point per game passing, but about a third of a point a game per decile on total offense. Moving 5 deciles in experience is worth about a 1.5 a game for the offense.
No position on the field came close to running backs in terms of lack of value for returning starts.
There was literally no correlation from returning starts from running backs to on field success. No improvements in running game or total offensive output.
Michigan certainly has some questions at running back going into this season, but there is nothing in the numbers from 2008-2009 that says that bringing in an untested face at running back is a red flag.
This was the position that shocked me. I always considered the wide receiver position to be largely talent driven with little thought given to the value of experience for receivers.
In one of the strongest correlations I found, each decile of returning wide receiver experience was worth a half a point per game improvement. Even more surprising, the improvement wasn't restricted to the passing game. Of the half point improvement, only .3 ppg could be attributed to the passing game. Veteran wide receivers play a huge role in a team's progress. This may have been a fluky correlation for 2008-2009 but within the data set, it had one of the highest R squared values I found at 0.72.
This was one of the hot theories going into last year, even sparking a Wall Street Journal article singing its praises. The hidden secret to success was returning offensive line starts.
What did I find, not that much. I found that like quarterbacks, if you are in the bottom 20% of returning starters, your offense is in trouble, but beyond that, there wasn't much fire to the smoke. Among the top 8 deciles, there was almost no correlation between returning OL starts and offensive success. In fact, the top 20% of teams in returning starts were on average worse offensively in 2009 than in 2008.
After breaking down the position groups, I took a look at the offensive unit in total. There were two interesting trends that popped out in the aggregate look:
1. Either you are in or you are out, there is no in between. The top 50% was 2 ppg game better than the previous season, whether they were in the 6th or 10th decile. The bottom 50% was 2 ppg worse than 2008, whether they were 5th decile or 1st.
2. Overall returning starts plays a huge role in the running game. Even though running back returning starts didn't matter much, the totality of the offensive's returning starts had a third of a ppg per decile correlation with a 0.92! R squared value, the highest of any metric I looked at.
Defense is a bit more of a fluid group, so although I looked at them individually, it seemed best to talk about them together. Returning starts from the defense in total were much more valuable than returning starts from any single position group. And like the offense, the biggest observation about the defense is that you don't want to be at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to returning starts. The teams with the fewest returning starts were again, 5 points worse per game than even team in the bottom third.
By position groups, the values were not as strong by position group as they were on offense. There was also more intuitive results on the defensive side, DL starts were most valuable against the run, DB starts most valuable against the pass and LB in between on both.
Returning starts don't matter as much as people think. The way they are most likely to affect a team is if you have very few. A whole host of returners isn't necessarily more valuable than a solid group. Just don't be stuck at the bottom, even a low ranking in a single position group can be worth a game or two.
In the big picture, there is no difference between the 2nd decile and the 8th decile. The 1st decile (last year anything less than 200 returning starts) was an unmitigated disaster, with only 3 of the bottom 12 improving at all and 4 of 12 showing double digit declines. On the top end, the 9th and 10th decile were the only groups to show separation from the pack, but nothing like the separation at the bottom.
Side Note on turnovers
This topic has been covered very well on this site previously, so no need to add much more to it than to agree and say, turnovers are random! Both forcing them and committing them shows virtually zero correlation from one year to the next. If anything there is a slight negative correlation between turnovers one year to the next.
Now that I have 2008 loaded, if there is anything anyone out there would like to see, please let me know. I have a couple of ideas loaded up. I now have player positions loaded for 2009 and can therefor compare the seasons of BG, Suh and anyone else to see how they stacked up to their positional peers and how good their seasons really were. I am also planning a post on the luckiest and unluckiest teams of 2009. Let me know what you want to see and I will put a diary or forum post with what I can.
[Ed: Excellent diary that helps orient everyone to the 3-3-5.]
One of the greatest difficulties Michigan faces in the Big Ten is that there are a vast array of offenses deployed. You have the Wisconsin’s and Michigan State’s of the world still running two TE with a FB and slamming down your throats, and Northwestern and Purdue on the opposite end of the spectrum. Then you have all those teams in between, the single back look from Iowa, the mixed attack of Penn State, and the offense that periodically exists in Columbus and Champaign. Because it is unfeasible to switch defenses to match offenses in college football (see move to 3-3-5 against Purdue in 2008), it is important to find a base defense that can be implemented to at least some degree of success against these different teams. >
This means two things, one, you need some versatility in your players. Two, you need to put your players in the situation that helps them the most. I’m not going to say either way that the 3-3-5 is that, I just want to give a brief overview of the defense and then make a few points at the end.
First I’ll cover some basics.
This is the numbering system I’ll be using, where the dark circle with the X is the center:
Note, that for linebackers, the numbering system adds a zero to the end. For example, if a LB is lined up off the line, but stacked above a 4-tech DE, he would be playing a 40 technique. Pictured below is the base formation.
Defensive ends (DE) are in 4-techniques, or head on with the offensive tackle. Nose tackle (NT) is on the nose of the ball. Outside Linebackers (OLB) are in a 40-tech, while the middle linebacker (MLB/Mike) is in a 10-tech. The strong safeties (SS/Spur) are three yards off the line and three yards outside of the last man on the line. Corners (CB) are 5-9 yards off the line over the wide receivers, and the free safety (FS) is deep center. While this seems like a 2-gap system for the NT, it will be typical to apply some sort of slant to make it actually more of a 1-gap system.
Next you will see a basic coverage that will be run. This is a cover-3, zone under. Notice that there are no stunts or blitzes here. This is a very vanilla defense and would only be run in obvious pass downs most likely. Red is deep zones (in this case thirds), yellow indicates flats/seems, and green is underneath zones for hooks and curls (the MLB in this case covers the “hole”).
The next look is at a very simple outside linebacker blitz. This is still a cover-3, zone under. [Ed: continued after the jump, with lots more diagrams and some simple bullets on pros and cons.]
Whatever the reason, Trevor Yealy really likes playing against Minnesota-Duluth. The junior attackman scored 9 goals against the Bulldogs on Saturday, just two shy of the team-record 11 that he put on them last year. By himself, Yealy outscored UM-D by a score of 9-7, and his teammates chipped in five more goals to provide the 14-7 final score in the victory.
This Michigan team is starting to really round into form, dominating opponents like they did last year (when the Wolverines' top scorer could have beaten the opponent by himself 4 times, and tied them 6 others). It may seem like a discredit to his teammates, but it often seems as though this Michigan team plays some of its best ball when Trevor Yealy is the Wolverine stuffing the statsheet. Of course, that may just be an illusion, as four different Wolverines led the team in scoring in the four MCLA tournament games last year, but I digress.
This game was played at a neutral site on the campus of Marquette University in Milwaukee, with the Bulldogs serving as the nominal home team. It was the Wolverines, however, who seemed right at home, scoring the first two goals of the game and rushing out to a 5-1 lead by the end of the first quarter, with four goals from Yealy and one from Jordan Kirshner. Yealy put in three more during the second period of play, and Kevin Zorovich added one of his own to give Michigan the 9-2 lead going into the half. Following the break, Svet Tintchev and Yealy each notched a goal, with Duluth only able to manage one, to build Michigan's lead to 11-3 going into the fourth quarter. The Wolverines substituted liberally in the final quarter, allowing Duluth to keep the game somewhat close, but Kirshner, Thomas Paras, and Yealy each scored a goal, providing the final 14-7 margin.
This game was dominated from start to finish by the Wolverines (which, duh - one guy outscored the entire other team), as they had scored as many goals halfway through the second quarter as Duluth would all game. They managed to scoop up 62 to ground balls to the Bulldogs' 47, and won 54% of faceoffs. The opposition did win a couple of categories, tallying more shots than Michigan and clearing the ball slightly better. Complacency with a big lead was likely to blame for some of this (along with Michigan's sloppy play, as the Wolverines committed 35 turnovers).
Mark Stone got the start in net, and played the first three quarters before yielding to Andrew Fowler. He seems to be the first option in goal this season, after Fowler seemed to play slightly better for much of last year (and went wire-to-wire in the National Championship Game). Faceoff specialist David Reinhard had a subpar game compared to his lofty standards, winning just 54% of his faceoffs when he entered the game winning nearly 73%.
The Wolverines host two conference opponents next weekend, taking on Western Michigan on Friday, and Central Michigan on Saturday. Both games are 7PM starts in Oosterbaan Fieldhouse. Both the Broncos and Chippewas are in the CCLA North - Michigan's division of the conference. Warning on these previews: the worse teams in the MCLA don't have the most accurate statkeeping, so some of this stuff might not be quite right.
Record: 4-1 (0-0 CCLA)
Rankings: Prodigy NR, MCLA Lax Mag NR, LaxPower NR, Computer 69
Common Opponents: None
Previous Meetings: 2009 Regular Season.
Offensively, the Broncos have a trio of players scoring over 3 pts/gm. Senior attackmen Mitch French and Evan Pavlick are at 4.75 and 4.5, respectively, With french getting slightly fewer goals, but more assists. Sophomore attack Greg Lindow scores 3.5 pts/gm, with the majority of those coming via assists.
The team's top three ground ball leaders are midfielder Ryan Juntunen, LSM Charlie Thibault, and defense/midfielder Nicholas Facca. Western has played four different goalies, but the main man is senior Patrick Riley. He allows 5.25 goals per contest, and saves 68.2% of shots he faces.
Offensively, the Chippewas are led by sophomore Attack Jeff Wood and junior Attack Justin Shaufler, the only players over 2 pts/game. Both are goal scorers rather than setup men, and it's a pair of midfielders, senior Darren Rivard and sophomore Nick Culp who have the most assists on the squad.
Defensively, it's tough to really know how good players are without having seen them play, but junior Brad Bialaniek and senior Chuck Vierk lead the team in ground balls with 17 and 10, respectively. In the cage, junior James Latini has gotten the most run, and has stopped 54.9% of shots he's faced. Sophomore Sean Coates has also played for the Chippewas.
Not too much extra material this week, though there should be some good news coming out pretty soon (not varsity-status related, at least not directly so that I know of). I'll also work on a couple other pieces for the next update.