a terrible blight on our fine country
Spartanburg quarterback Jones gets offer from Michigan
What about Beaver/Newsome? This Jones guy is a rising junior. And this is how he got his offer:
Cornelius Jones hasn't played a down for the Spartanburg Vikings varsity football team yet, but Michigan has seen enough to offer him a scholarship.
The junior quarterback received his first offer Tuesday, after Vikings coach Freddie Brown sent the Big Ten school a five-minute video of Jones from a scrimmage.
That is a hell of a five-minute video. The article mentions that Jones hasn't played forSpartanburg in "a couple of years" because he "got in some trouble"... what kind of trouble can an eighth-grader get in? Don't answer that.
Burl Ives. The NHL draft approaches, and Red Line Report ranks incoming blueliner Brandon Burlon one of the top ten available. Okay, it's #10, but still:
Brandon Burlon rounds out Red Line's top 10 list. There's not much buzz about him, but we feel he'd be a solid choice anywhere after No. 20. He's got great feet and a mean edge. He's as fundamentally sound in his own end as any defender in the draft, and we think he's got some untapped offensive potential as well.
Yost Built has a little more on Burlon and notes Greg Pateryn is projected by one Sabres site as a potential fifth-round target. Not bad for a guy who was promised very little scholarship money.
Stones. Michigan's baseball team may have received some unexpected good news in the MLB draft, when two draft-eligible juniors fell to the fifth round. Jason Christian, rated at about the end of the third round, was picked by the As. He's widely expected to sign and the relatively small drop probably won't affect that.
Zach Putnam, however, has to be disappointed after he fell to the second-to-last pick of the fifth round after widely being projected as a sandwich pick or even a late first-rounder. Juniors usually sign because they lose their leverage if they return, but Putnam's drop might motivate him to return. Baseball America:
The Indians finally put Zach Putnam out of his misery, taking him with the penultimate pick of the fifth round. If the Indians put him in the bullpen, expect him to move quickly with his fastball-splitter mix. However, Putnam might prove to be a tough sign this low. Suffice it to say he's had an enigmatic career when it comes to scouts, who seem to like him less than his performance would indicate.
A recent change in the draft rules allows teams that draft college juniors to retain their rights until a couple weeks before the next year's draft. (High schoolers have to be signed by August 15th.) If Putnam thinks he's been shorted, he could return to Michigan in the hopes he has a wicked pissah of a senior year and either forces the Indians to shell out considerably above slot or watch him re-enter the draft (and hopefully go much higher). His situation bears watching, which is more than you could say before the draft.
Meanwhile, the Indians went Michigan mad, drafting Adam Abraham with the 411th pick and Nate Recknagel with the 591st. Cislo and Fetter were not drafted; Mike Powers went in the 31st round to the Mets. We'll know about everyone's fate by August 15th.
Raise a glass to the NCAA hockey rules committee. In marked contrast to the constantly blundering football committee, they've made every effort to improve the game. To wit, the rules changes for this year:
No change after an icing. As per the NHL rule that everyone loves.
Limited-application shootout. When I heard college hockey might be considering the addition of a shootout, I was pretty leery. The Pairwise is so jittery and shootouts are so random that instituting them would add even more weirdness to the NCAA's selection criteria. But this seems okay:
In a release from the NCAA today, it says the rules committee has voted to maintain the current game structure of 60 minutes, followed by a five-minute overtime, but individual conferences are allowed to use a shootout at their discretion.
The shootout could be used to award points towards the league race, though any game decided by a shootout would go into the record book for NCAA Tournament qualifying purposes as a tie.
I'm still not a big fan of the idea -- seems gimmicky -- but if those are the rules any grumbling I have is minor.
All games have two referees now. This one I'm not so sure of. The CCHA had zero competent referees at last count and will now have twice as many incompetent ones. OTOH, cutting down an incompetent ref's responsibilities should edge him towards competence, or at least consistency. We'll see how it goes.
All faceoffs are held on faceoff dots. This is a minor change but a good one. Those faceoffs right inside the blue line have always bothered me. Your reward for winning one is the puck outside of the zone and a dump-in. Now those will be from the proper dots inside the zone, and winning one will lead to a scoring chance. More chances == always good.
Only in Ohio. Ha-ha:
A Cleveland-area principal says he's embarrassed his students got proof of their "educaiton" on their high school diplomas.
Westlake High School officials misspelled "education" on the diplomas distributed last weekend. It's been the subject of mockery on local radio.
Etc.: You remember these?
Mike Barwis had one, and some wolves.
Continued from yesterday.
RHP Tyler Mills
Mills was Michigan's Gatorade player of the year and was the highest-rated recruit M picked up according to PerfectGame. Despite that, he may be the player with the least information available. High school stats:
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior right-handed pitcher started 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA, recording 75 strikeouts in 51 innings at the time of his selection and leading the Oilers (24-3) to a third consecutive Saginaw Valley League championship and a berth in the Division II postseason regional tournament. A returning First Team All-State selection, Mills, also an outfielder, had produced a .426 batting average, 33 runs scored, 30 RBI and five home runs through 27 games.
LHP Bobby Brosnahan
Brosnahan will almost assuredly redshirt after undergoing Tommy John surgery just seven innings into his senior season. That sounds like a sure way to use up a scholarship on a guy who's never going to contribute, but these days TJ surgery has a super-high success rate. It just takes forever to recover:
Tommy John surgery is considered one of the major advancements in sports medicine in the last quarter century. The New York Times reported in 2007 that the surgery has an 85 percent success rate and that one in seven pitchers in the major leagues had the surgery.
"I'm not worried about it. The surgery has been around for about 30 years ... they've got it down to a science," Brosnahan said. "Most of the guys they repair now come back stronger.
"Nobody likes to have it, but if you work hard through rehab you can come back better than ever."
Before the unfortunate pop in his elbow, Brosnahan had the requisite silly numbers, going 8-0 with an ERA of under one as a junior. Kentucky, Michigan State, and "some southern schools" were interested.
RHP Kevin VanGheluwe
VanGheluwe is also injured, and real scary-like:
"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."
Jesus. As a junior, he had some wicked impressive stats:
VanGheluwe was 11-2 with a 0.79 ERA last season. He also hit .454 with 10 home runs and 55 RBI. He was named to The Detroit News first team All-Metro and to the All-State Dream Team by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association.
High school stats are, as always, totally meaningless. But this guy from some little Michigan newspaper says...
He is one of the best prep baseball players I've ever seen (maybe the best) and here's hoping for a full recovery.
...and he's seen literally dozens!
Elsewhere, an Indians blogger who appears to know his drafting like whoah singled him out as a guy who might be an excellent late pickup:
6'2" and 205' and a University of Michigan signee he was all-state as a junior and had a 21-2 mark coming into his senior year but he had blood clots in his right arm and had a rib removed this off-season and so is out for the entire season.
Dude... rib removed... you don't think? Nah.
His coach, and a bit on his skillz:
"He's still growing," Kuppe said of the three-year starter. "I think what's most impressive is that he's gotten better all three years, and he's going to keep getting better."
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound ace has four pitches in his arsenal, including a fastball that he can dial up to 89 mph and a curveball that hits 79 mph.
Unlike Brosnahan, VanGheluve should be ready in the fall.
RHP Brandon Sinnery.
Michigan has now hit for the cylce at New England prep schools, picking up players in basketball (Courtney Sims and Kendrick Price), hockey (many; Max Pacioretty is the current hotness), football (Mike Cox), and baseball (Sinnery). Hopefully Sinnery is closer to Patch than Sims.
Though the other offers Sinnery received don't exactly seem impressive -- Vermont and Manhattan, with Elon and Florida Atlantic mentioned among the suitors in contact -- the articles on him state specifically that his scholarship is a full one. Baseball teams have only 11.7 scholarships to offer and often carry many more players than that*. A full ride is something usually reserved for the Putnams and Abrahams of the world.
PerfectGame.com rates him an 8.5 on their ten-point scale. 8 is "mid-round pick and definite D-I prospect"; 9 is "top ten rounds, top D-I prospect." Their scouting report:
Brandon Sinnery is a 2008 RHP from Worcester Academy, residing in Franklin, Massachusetts, with a 6'4"/170 pound frame. Lean and lanky frame, projectable body, short circle arm action, good arm speed, solid mechanics, FB [fastball] has life at 86 mph, solid CB [curveball] with bite at 71 mph, CH [changeup] has sink and fade at 74 mph, pounds the zone, good student
They rate him the #3 pitcher in Massachusetts. He is purported to have four pitches, and his mom likes him:
His pitching repertoire is impressive - a fastball in the upper 80s, along with a curveball, changeup and splitter. But his mother has been more impressed with the lessons he has learned off the mound.
"We've seen him lose with dignity, and seen him win in very difficult pressure situations," Donna said. "It's been interesting to see the life lessons that have come out of baseball."
A right handed pitcher for Worcester Academy (42K's, 7BB's, 0.88ERA, 5-1 record with 2 saves, 30 2/3 IP, 12hits), he was selected to the 1st Team All League-Central New England Prep School League.
"What sets Brandon apart from others who have talent is his determination, focus, and the ability to perform under pressure," said Peter Kostacopoulos, his 2007 Varsity Baseball coach. "These are the qualities that define success and give some athletes a competitive edge. I am sure that Brandon will continue to combine his baseball abilities with his personal qualities to ensure himself continued success in the future."
Maloney called him "wiry" and specifically said that he could be good "with development"; a redshirt may be in order.
I dunno, man, and it doesn't sound like anyone does, either. There does not appear to be a Putnam or an Abraham amongst the recruits, but they again locked down the best guy in the state and picked up three guys from elsewhere who should contribute.
Baseball recruiting turns out to far more byzantine and arcane than football or basketball recruiting. There are thousands of players coming into college and no authoritative, free scouting service to cover it. Players can come in with as little as a quarter of a scholarship, and a huge number of top kids sign big-bucks contracts after the draft. Who has the top recruiting class? Ask on August 16th, the day after the deadline for major league teams to sign their draft picks. It won't be Michigan, or anyone in the Big Ten.
PerfectGame.com does have a primitive ranking where their top recruit is worth 1585 points, their number 1584 is worth one point, and you can extrapolate from there. The Big Ten according to them:
|Rank||College||Recruits||Total Points||Top Ranked Recruit||Ranked Top 200||Conference|
|49||Iowa||10||6857||Phil Schreiber||0||Big 10|
|72||Michigan||7||4017||Tyler Mills||0||Big 10|
|76||Michigan State||4||3783||Clayton Vanderlaan||0||Big 10|
|84||Illinois||5||3205||Corey Kimes||0||Big 10|
|108||Penn State||3||2300||Joey DeBernardis||0||Big 10|
|109||Indiana||4||2226||Blake Monar||0||Big 10|
|127||Minnesota||5||1483||Kurt Schlangen||0||Big 10|
|129||Purdue||6||1415||Joe Haase||0||Big 10|
|133||Ohio State||1||1350||Ross Oltorik||0||Big 10|
|192||Northwestern||3||205||Zachary Morton||0||Big 10|
Providing points per recruit here is pointless since no one knows exactly how many scholarship are being spent: Ohio State's one guy might be taking up a full slot and Indiana's four might all be on the minimum.
Some guidance from a couple guys who are more familiar with the scene then I am. First, Dan Kittell:
I assume you have seen the list of guys Maloney signed in the fall. [uh... now I have! -ed] lots of pitchers (one from Pioneer & one from Mass. they are high on, among others), a catcher from Cali and a couple SSs (one from TC, one from Ill who is ranked the #8 guy in the state, apparently). i wouldn't worry about finding out how good these guys are until the MLB draft in June. unless there is a Putnam-type kid (i don't think there is), there won't be much to read about. even if there is a putnam type kid, he would be a late rounder b/c they have signed w/ M and are probably firm commits (putnam was drafted out of HS IIRC, but was a late flyer pick by the local Tigers b/c he knew he wanted to go to M).
I think the usual mode of operations at this level is to sign pitchers w/ potential, RS them to develop their fundamentals and hope they come around by year 2-3. rules of thumb at this level: RHers w/ low 90s fastballs are a dime a dozen. they need other pitches (ZPs splitter, actually he throws 4-5 pitches for strikes according to maloney). ANY lefty that throws in the 90s is a good pitcher & most likely a high end guy.
As far as position players, they signed 2 SSs, so expect Christian to bolt. not sure
how to gauge position players at this level, unless they are obvious high end guys. Abraham was a hockey player, Reck started out at Oakland. guys who hit .450-.500 in HS are a dime a dozen, so it's hard to tell who the high end guys are until the draft.
A slight correction from Colin:
I think Dan was a little much with 90+ from RHP being standard. ~92 is average MLB from a RHP, iirc, so for the Big Ten it isn't quite that. But if the program is thinking of itself as a national power, then it needs a little more than Big Ten average. But Dan is right about secondary offerings. Everyone I saw out there yesterday had a hell of a time throwing anything but a fastball belt high for a strike. That has to change.
So bear all that in mind.
C Coley Crank
Kittell offered this up on Crank:
This catcher from Cali mightbe a good one... 6-2 220 or so and can hit for power. played on plenty of Cali HS all star travel teams i think. Size is the only thing (w/o the benefit of draft evals) that i can use as a gauge. Berset is a good player, but a 5-10 185lb catcher is not a good prospect at any level. Look for him to get pushed.
PerfectGame.com on Crank:
Coley Crank is a 2008 C from Pinole Valley HS, residing in Pinole, CA, listed at 5'11" 215 lbs. Body - strong, physical, stocky. Offense - 2 for 4 with a 2BL, 3 Rs in two games, strong, flat swing, physical, good present power, balanced, easy power, short swing, ball exits bat well, power to all fields, middle of order bat. Defense - ok arm, consistent pop times, simple technique, takes time, flashes competitive pop times.
That scouting report was from '06 and may be a little outdated. They gave him an 8 -- "solid D-I prospect, mid-round draft pick" on their ten point rating scale. Maloney echoes the assessment:
A catcher out of Berkeley, Calif., Crank is an all-league selection in both baseball and football, and will add power to U-M's lineup. He was named to the 2007 Junior Sun Belt Oklahoma All-Tournament team, and played in the 2007 Area Code Games in Long Beach. "Coley Crank is a really strong, young man," Maloney said. "He's six-foot, 220, just built like a house. He'll give us added depth at the catcher position, and provide a powerful bat in the middle of the lineup."
A possible replacement for Recknagel's power, it appears, and probably a guy who will see significant time as both a catcher and a DH.
SS John Lorenz
According to someone -- who, exactly, is never revealed -- Lorenz was the #8 prospect in Illinois this year:
An honor roll student, Lorenz is listed as the No. 8 player in Illinois' class of 2008 as a shortstop and is captain of both the baseball and basketball teams. As a junior, he set school records with 9 home runs and 45 RBIs while hitting .422 and was named MVP of the Griffins' conference and regional champion team.
"John Lorenz is an outstanding infield prospect. He has a strong arm, a good bat and is very athletic," Michigan coach Rich Maloney said.
Lorenz only looked at Big Ten schools, visiting a "plethora" of them before deciding on Michigan. Do you need more evidence Jason Christian is outta herrrre? Everything you need to know is encapsulated here:
Lorenz, who will automatically be entered in to the amateur baseball draft, has talked with several professional scouts and expects to be drafted. However, Lorenz will only forgo his freshman year at Michigan if the contract offered is substantial.
Meanwhile, the Griffin shortstop expects to get immediate playing time at Michigan as the Wolverines' current shortstop is expected to leave after this season to play professionally.
Lorenz was a three-sport star early in his high school career and only recently gave up serious travel basketball, so his skills are a little more raw than guys who've played every day. He may have more upside than most.
SS Kevin Krantz
Krantz is an instate kid with the usual insane stats (.475, 8HR, .848 slugging and .617 OBP) garnered against questionable competition: Krantz is from Traverse City. Though he was a D-I caliber pitcher (Michigan State recruited him there), he'll be a position player at Michigan:
"The recruited me solely as an infielder and a shortstop," Krantz said. "I feel my best position is shortstop."
There's another article that says basically the same things, with one more confirmation that Christian is gonzo:
Michigan has a returning junior at shortstop in Jason Christian. But Maloney told Krantz that he expects Christian to be a high draft pick next June and leave school early.
Is Jason Christian returning for his senior year? It's hard to tell.
Krantz doesn't have any accolades or rankings, and the articles on him specifically state his scholarship is a partial one. (That may be an artifact of his home state: if you're from California or Illinois tuition is like 30 grand.)
5/30/08 (and 5/31/08) - Michigan 7, Kentucky 5
5/31/08 - Michigan 3, Arizona 4
6/1/08 - Michigan 6, Kentucky 12 - eliminated
Surely a college first baseman has to be amongst the least likely athletes in all of sports to be struck down with injury. You're somewhere between 18 and 22, which means you can take a gunshot and be relatively chipper the next day. Your top speed is "saunter." Every once in a very long while you have to bend over or dive or something, but only just frequently enough to prevent wholesale muscle atrophy.
If you are bound and determined to get injured your options are limited to 1) having a runner plow into your arm after a poor throw, 2) getting drilled with a line drive, or 3) spontaneously combusting. If you consider poker a sport, sitting around a table riffling chips is probably less dangerous. It's hard to come up with anything else. Golfing, I guess, but there's always the chance your caddy goes insane and beats you with your five-iron.
So, yeah, Michigan's first home regional in over twenty years didn't go quite as planned. As per usual, I blame Angry Michigan Baseball All American Hating God, who rudely interrupted Zach Putnam's start against Kentucky with a thunderous barrage of rain, then had the audacity to actually break some part of Nate Recknagel's anatomy as he was standing on first base. Despite another cosmic middle finger, the difference between Michigan and these other teams was wafer thin until Maloney's weird decisions at the beginning of the Kentucky elimination game, about which more can be found in the bullets at post's end.
Tweak Recknagel's freak injury or any number of other fateful moments -- Adam Abraham's run-scoring error, Jason Christian swinging at ball four during the first at-bat, Chris Fetter leaving the Jeremy Bonderman impression on the shelf -- and Michigan could have gone into the ninth inning against Arizona with a slight lead, held it, and been the team to batter a wearied pitching staff in the late game Saturday.
Do they say "that's baseball"? If so, that's baseball. If they don't, good for them for avoiding easy cliches.
All that was mildly depressing and something of a letdown after the storybook finish of last year's regional. But it didn't feel like it walking out of the stadium after the Arizona game Saturday.
This is what happened in the ninth inning: the somewhat rowdy young folks in front of me stood up. Since this is Michigan, within nanoseconds a crabby voice grumbled "down in front," and when it was joined by several others the somewhat rowdy young folks begrudgingly sat down. Then Ryan LaMarre fended off a pitch and squeezed it through a gap in the infield for a one-out single. Fisher Stadium stood, and this time the somewhat rowdy young folks turned around and urged everyone to get to their feet, arms waving like storks with their wings on backwards.
I turned around just in time to see a ponderous elderly couple glance at each other in resignation. They arose, joints grinding ponderously, and it seemed like the birth of a new thing as they craned their necks to glimpse what they could.
- About those weird decisions: I know he has single-handedly turned the Michigan program into something worth paying attention to, but starting a guy with 15 IP all season is weird. Following him with another guy who had the third-highest ERA on the team is also weird, and following him with Canadian Mike Wilson, who was valiant last year but sported a 8.73 ERA going into the UK game is super weird. Travis Smith and Tyler Burgoon were fresh and had better stats both traditional and peripheral. OTOH, it's not like you can extrapolate anything useful statistically from 30 or 40 IP.
- Said group of mildly rowdy young folk included in their number two guys who periodically burst into little baseball chatter songs like "hey whaddya say one-nine, gotta be smart, be smart one-nine, hey whaddya say hey" and it kind of felt like a time warp every time they did that.
- Michigan returned every major contributor aside from one starting pitcher and the catcher for 2008; next year looks like a bloodbath by comparison. Seniors: VanBuskirk, Recknagel, Mahler. Draft-eligible juniors: Putnam (sandwich pick or second-rounder, likely gone), Christian (4th to 8th round, possibly gone), Abraham (?), Fetter (?). I know less than zero about how Michigan's recruiting. Does anyone out there want to fill me in? Send me an email.
- I wonder if Michigan's sustained success will spur Ohio State to beef up their program? They've scraped into the NCAA tournament of late by winning the Big Ten tournament from somewhere between third and sixth place but are basically Just Another Northern Team. Much like Notre Dame hockey hiring Jeff Jackson, anything that makes the Big Ten a more legit place to play is good by me.
- Holy crap is there a lot of ridiculous sacrifice bunting in college baseball. During the first Kentucky game Michigan had men on first and second with no outs and the guy with the highest BA on the team, Kevin Cislo, at the plate. He bunted. Later it became apparent that this was probably not a sacrifice attempt, as Cislo's fast as hell and in the Arizona game the corner infielders were about halfway to the plate during a Cislo at bat with no one on base. But still, man... the guy hits .350. Kentucky did it all the time, including consecutive bunts when down six runs!
I just don't get it, man. Baseball statheads are fervently against bunting in the majors, where a .300 batting average is pretty dang good. In aluminumbatland a .300 BA means you hit eighth. How can bunting be anything other than violent stupidity?
- Section Six has my back on this with its "Sac Bunt Irk Level":
Should have done this yesterday, but: have at it. Arizona pulled away from EMU in the eight inning yesterday and Michigan has just finished a 7-5 win over Kentucky after a rain suspension. EMU and Kentucky have an elimination game starting at 2; Michigan and Arizona play at seven.
Relevant pitching bits: Putnam had to leave after five innings due to the rain delay, leaving Eric Katzman (2.1 IP) and Michael Powers (1.2 IP) to finish the job. Neither is likely to be available for Arizona.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, saw their starter chased after just 4.1 innings and had to use all three of their big bullpen guys for more than an inning. It'll be interesting to see how effective they are.
One big downer for Michigan: Nate Recknagel left the Kentucky game with a hand injury; unconfirmed reports say it's a broken wrist and he's done for the year.
Update: M loses 4-3 to Arizona and will face Kentucky in an elimination game in a couple hours. The good news: Wildcat ace Chris Rusin, who got chased in the second inning of the Friday game and could hypothetically go again today since he had such a limited outing, is injured and won't be available. Also, with Chris Fetter going 8 full innings last night Michigan will have everyone except the two starters available. Game starts at 2.
In cool but not immediately relevant insider news: the Mets are planning on replacing their enormo-scoreboard sometime soon and Wilpon plans on donating it to Michigan if they can just figure how to move it cross-country.
Your warrior-poets were completely dominant against any team north of the Mason-Dixon line, setting a Big Ten record for most conference wins and sweeping through the conference tourney in three games. But college baseball being what it is, most of those teams suck hard. According to some guy named Boyd, Michigan's schedule ranked 114th -- actually not that bad since nearly 300 teams play D-I baseball. According to some guy named Warren, Michigan's schedule was #125 despite a challenging-ish nonconference schedule that featured four games against #1 seeds.
At this point, Michigan's program is the college baseball equivalent of Gonzaga in 2000. In 1999, Gonzaga's basketball team ignited by making a run to the Elite Eight; last year Michigan took out national #1 seed Vanderbilt and reached the super-regionals. Like Gonzaga, Michigan looks poised to totally dominate a mid-major conference, hover around the high teens in the polls with consistency, and totally rely on the NCAA tournament to validate its program as legitimate.
Michigan will trot out two excellent pitchers in second-team All-Americans Zach Putnam and Chris Fetter. Fetter had the slightly better year, going 10-1 with a 2.39 ERA and striking out 7.8 per nine innings. Putnam was slowed by injury early but recovered well, going 8-0 with a 2.64 ERA and striking out 9.4 per nine innings. Michael Powers also has a 2.64 ERA and is the primary reliever; expect to see a lot of him.
Past that, things get a little dicey. No Wolverine other than Putnam and Fetter started more than 9 games, and the nine game starter is Canadian Chris Wilson, who imploded this year after a promising 06-07. His 8.73 ERA is worst on the team. Eric Katzman (36 IP, 3.25 ERA) or Travis Smith (43 IP, 4.40 ERA) will probably get the starting not in a hypothetical third (or fourth) game as Michigan uses its bullpen liberally.
At the plate, first basemate Nate Recknagel is also a second-team All American; Kevin Cislo, Adam Abraham, and Putnam are the other big bats.
The baseball field is not strictly seeded like the basketball field, but if you extrapolate from Michigan's potential super-regional matchup with the winner of the Miami regional you can infer these things:
- Arizona is the last #1 seed (which is why they're the only one getting shipped).
- Michigan is the top #2 seed.
- Kentucky is the worst #3 seed.
I present the "worst #3": a 42-17 team that went 26-3 outside of the loaded SEC (which is so strong nine teams got bids this year). Yerk.
|Oakland||W 7-4||W 15-5, W 12-2|
|Eastern Michigan||W 5-3, W 20-5||W 18-5, W 8-6|
|Purdue||W 6-1, W 3-2||W 3-2, W 6-1, W 4-3|
Not much to choose from.
Michigan will be facing Friday night starter Chris Rusin, who's actually from Michigan. Baseball America on Rusin:
Rusin has a legit four-pitch mix highlighted by a plus curveball and a lively 88-89 mph fastball, and he gives Kentucky an experienced Saturday starter.
Rusin's 6-2 on the year with a 2.84 ERA, striking out 6.8 per nine innings; he sat out Kentucky's WLL performance in the SEC tournament and will be well rested for Friday's game. Read this if you want to be slightly depressed at both the vagaries of fate and the state of newspapers:
He'd grown up attending Michigan football games at The Big House, hailing the victors valiant. And when it came time to choose a college baseball program, the two-time All-State Dream Team member had hoped to sign with the Wolverines.
But, remember, things never actually work out the way you want them to.
There are two periods during which high school baseball players can sign national letters of intent.
Rusin was determined to sign with a university in the fall. The Wolverines, though, were in pursuit of a two-sport star who hadn't yet chosen between football and baseball scholarships.
Michigan asked Rusin to wait.
Even for the Wolverines, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
"(UK) was the next-best school I was ready to go to, so I got it done," Rusin said.
I'm pretty sure the article is in error and two-sport star Michigan was courting was Adam Abraham, who could have been a mid-round NHL draft pick if he chose to play hockey. Abraham did sign with Michigan and is currently hitting .342.
Two big bats in the outfield power Kentucky's lineup. Sawyer Carroll leads the SEC in batting average (.416) and RBIs (77). This is his OPS: 1.172. Zounds. Colin Cowgill, meanwhile, returned from an injury that cost him the entire 2006-2007 season and bashed 18 home runs whilst batting .362. Baseball America mentions that UK's numbers are inflated by their 17-0 start against terrible competition, FWIW.
Michigan's main advantage over UK is their heavy reliance on lefthanded pitching. Rusin, their second starter, and their main reliever are all lefties. Michigan's big bats are all righthanded.
Earlier in the week I was concerned that Arizona would throw out their #3 starter against Eastern and give themselves a huge advantage against the rest of the field for the remainder of the regional. Baseball America, however, indicates that Arizona might not have much of a distinction between their top three arms:
the starters have had their ups and downs this season. Of particular concern is ace righty Preston Guilmet (6-4, 3.89), who went 0-2, 10.29 in his final three conference starts. Lefthanders David Coulon (7-3, 3.54) and Eric Berger (7-3, 4.53) both pitched well in wins against ASU in the final weekend.
(If none of those ERAs looks intimidating in relation to Fetter and Putnam, please keep in mind that Arizona's SOS is an outstanding 21st.) Arizona can either keep the ace on the shelf if they're eying a potential matchup with Michigan's aforementioned right-handed sluggers or they can get his wobbly pitching out of the way against Eastern. Either way, it looks like Michigan will be facing a lot of quality:
Arizona's calling card is its pitching depth, and it has an unrivaled trio of power bullpen arms in lefthander Daniel Schlereth (2-0, 1.73 with 73 strikeouts in 52 innings) and righties Jason Stoffel (3-2, 3.51 with 67 strikeouts in 41 innings) and Ryan Perry (5-3, 3.21 with 63 strikeouts in 67 innings). All three have mid-90s fastballs and devastating breaking balls.
That kind of depth doesn't get called into play much during the season; in the regionals, however, it can be critical.
Offensively, Arizona goes deep. Four players have more than ten home runs, led by first baseman CJ Zeigler's 19. Bryce Ortega and Colt Sedbrook are both averaging better than .340, but many of the BAs are low for college baseball. If Michigan can keep the ball in the park they might have a shot.
|Notre Dame||W 15-12||W 16-0|
|Arizona State||L 4-15, L 4-8||L 5-6, L 13-6, W 4-3, W 7-4|
Herein is the reason Arizona got the #1 seed in this regional over Michigan: a season-ending series against power Arizona State during which they took two of three games (the 5-6 loss was much earlier in the year). Michigan, playing on the road early in the season, got housed twice.
...should be happy to be here. In four games against Kentucky and Michigan, the Eagles were outscored 51-19. They're under .500 for the season and are only in the tourney because someone had to win the MAC tournament. Baseball is a weird game, but if they do anything other than two-and-out it'll be a minor shock.
I think Michigan has a slight advantage against Kentucky because of their predominantly lefthanded pitching. They were basically a .500 SEC team, and much of their record outside the league was built on teams like... uh... Oakland and Eastern Michigan. When they played Purdue the results were basically the same as when Michigan played Purdue. Anyone who expects Michigan to advance is being foolish, but it might be 55% or 60% instead of a coin flip.
If they win their first game they might have a decent shot at Arizona, either getting AU's struggling "ace" or another lefty. I would pitch Fetter in game one with the hope of getting Putnam up against Arizona's HR-heavy lineup. Putnam's a ground-ball pitcher with a killer sinker; he's only given up four HRs all year. Win that game and you're forcing Arizona to play another game against UK and killing their pitching depth. Lose either of the first two, and you're looking at a long, tough road with dodgy pitching.
So: I think Michigan has a pretty decent chance as long as they stay out of the loser's bracket, but Wilson's implosion has really stressed the pitching depth and if they have to eat an extra game's worth of innings as Arizona eats cheeseburgers they'll be scratching and praying in the finale, assuming they get that far.
The Big Ten Network couldn't scramble trucks or whatever to get the regional on the BTN, even though it was expected well ahead of time that Michigan would get to host, and there is thus no TV. Big Ten Network: minus 450 points.
But! If you don't mind staring at your computer, MGoBlue.com will stream Michigan games live. if that doesn't work, you can listen to a radio call. It's better than nothing. Unless it doesn't work, in which case it's just taunting evil.