the just released schedules were a flat-out statement that the B10 doesn't believe SOS will matter in playoff selection
It may be in the 20s and snowing this week in Ann Arbor, but baseball's opening day is just 10 days away. And with baseball comes great hope that perhaps this last year of pain in Michigan sports may be washed away. The team comes in off a disappointing season plagued with depth issues, injuries, and just a few too many strikeouts but looks to be vastly improved in depth on both the mound and field.
As the first in a series of seasons previews, I've interviewed Michigan's coach Rich Maloney. Some highlights:
- Freshman Derek Dennis will be starting at shortstop and batting ninth. The hope is he'll be our #3 hole hitter in the next two years.
- Freshman Patrick Biondi will be starting in left field and leading off. The kid has "special speed." The kid ran a 6.44 – 60 yard dash. The average MLB player is between 6.7-6.9. Biondi will be laying down plenty of bunts looking to get on base.
- The rotation as set up today would be Oaks, Burgoon, Matt Miller, and Brandon Sinnery. Coach sees Sinnery making a huge jump this year. Katzman is coming off surgery and won't be available to start games to start the season. He may be ready for the bullpen by season's start.
- At closer, we're going by committee from the sound of it. Sinnery may be used as closer if he doesn't get a weekend spot. Bobby Brosnahan is fully healed from Tommy John surgery and could be a left handed closer. He also has a shot at a starting spot. Kolby Wood also has a chance. Woo depth!
- Coach really would love a football player to try out for the baseball team. They were co-recruiting a player last year with football, but the recruit chose elsewhere.
- We're hosting Texas Tech for a midweek series in 2011. That's… like huge for Northern baseball.
- It's somewhat disappointing that the Big Ten Tournament is going to be in Columbus every year for the next three. Coach says they have to treat it like any other road games, just like Vanderbilt or any other tournaments.
- Kevin Krantz and freshman Cam Luther may be getting considerable time on the field.
More good stuff inside the podcast, so give it a listen. You too can catch up with the team Wednesday February 10th at the Junge Champions Center (between Crisler and Michigan Stadium) at "Meet the Wolverines Night." There will be photo and autograph opportunities as well as snacks and beverages for all of you broke college kids looking for free food and entertainment.
- Clayton Richard was traded from the White Sox to the Padres in the Jake Peavy deal (sorry to hear about that Tigers fans). Richard had just come off back-to-back 8 inning gems (again, sorry Tiger fans) with the White Sox allowing just one run in each game. Now with the Padres, he's started 2 games, going 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA. He also collected his first RBI as a batter this week.
- Also related to that trade, recent graduate Chris Fetter of the Padres minor league system was moved back down from Single A Fort Wayne TinCaps back to the Short Season A-Ball Eugene Emeralds to make room for another one of the pitching prospects from the trade. Fetter is 2-1 in 8 starts and one long relief appearance (a 4-inning save?) with a 2.57 ERA. His 47 Ks in 42 innings is impressive, but his numbers at Eugene definitely weighted the totals down.
- Bobby Korecky of the Diamondback's Reno Rattlers Triple A team had been dominating this year as their closer (13 saves by the all star break), but his season was ended due to Tommy John surgery this last week. The injury caused him to miss the Triple A All Star game.
- Rich Hill also is out for the season with shoulder surgery on his labram. He's expected back for spring training.
- Mike Cervenak (pictured to the right by Joe Gill of Express-Times Photo) continues to do great in Triple A for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the Phillies. Cervenak is hitting .294 with 57 RBIs and a .765 OPS. I'm still surprised he hasn't been traded by the Phillies. He's getting to the age where the Phillies probably won't be able to use him, especially behind Ryan Howard and Pedro Feliz in the depth chart. He's a two time Triple A All Star as it is, some other team could use him.
- No new updates on the drafted recruits (previous update here). The last I've heard on each recruit is that they plan on being enrolled at Michigan in the fall. Supposedly, not even batting practice with Evan Longoria could sway Dennis from his commitment. The recruits could leave at any time until the season starts, much like Derek Jeter did back in the day. I'll keep my eye on transaction lists until the season starts.
Current Team/Player News
- Tyler Burgoon is also listed as the 18th best player this summer by Church Of Baseball.
- Michigan backstop Chris Berset has been named a finalist for the Great Britain baseball world cup team. What the hell this means? I have no idea, but it sounds awesome. I'll be investigating this further if he makes the 25 man roster which seems unlikely given the other catchers on the 40-man roster includes minor league guys for the most part.
- Yahoo! college baseball writer Kendall Rogers wrote this last week a report card for the BigTen teams last season. Perhaps it was his opening statement's stupidity (he seems to think the BigTen hasn't had very good success the last five or so years), but his grade of Michigan seemed a little off base.
Season analysis: The Wolverines entered the season with high hopes, but had much trouble establishing consistency in conference play. Michigan compiled a 9-15 conference record and actually still finished the season with an overall record of 30-25. If not for winning overall record, the Wolverines would’ve finished the season with an F. It was a season to forget for coach Rich Maloney and his players.
Michigan lost its top pitcher, top two hitters, and its entire infield over the off season. It lost it's closer and catcher for nearly half of the season. We didn't get our every day right fielder back until a month into the season. We lost our second baseman and on field leader for the last 2 weeks of the season. It's no surprise Michigan wasn't competing for the conference crown. I'm not saying we deserved higher than a C+, but to say the .500 record saved us from an F is a bit over the top.
Summer ball updates after the jump due to length
Hi. I'm formerlyanonymous. You may recognize me from other Michigan sports blogs as Maize 'n Brew and Varsity Blue. For those of you not familiar with my posts, my primary topic has been Michigan baseball. Obviously the season is a well over, but I'm also following our players through their summer leagues. There are plans on the table to include more non-revenue sports in the future, and info on that will come after the dust of MGoMerger settles.
Also, for those with concerns about "non-revenue sports clogging your mgoblog internet tubes," the current plan is for my posts to be presented on Sundays. Brian's previous football season schedules have generally left Sunday open for reflection on the previous days game with the column like post on Monday. I'm hoping these non-revenue posts will take up that open space and not interfere too much with your football dependency – at least during the football season.
To see the previous summer baseball update, visit Varsity Blue (July 4th Edition). Also, those of you familiar with the team or my previous posts, I'll try to remember to include some information on who these players are in this post, but I'll go ahead and apologize up front. You're basically walking into the last line before the credits of a movie. You've missed all of the introductions, action, climax, and a majority of the falling action. I promise there will be less parentheses in future posts.
Honors – Several players have received honorable mention for Pitcher and Hitter of the Nights, as well as Team Players of the Week. Hitter and Pitcher of the Night are named by SummerBall. Charts:
|7/9||Tyler Mills||Northwoods||Hitter of the Night Honorable Mention||2/4, HR, 3 RBI, R|
|7/11||Tyler Burgoon||Cape Cod||Pitcher of the Night Honorable Mention||1 IP, 3 K|
|7/16||Kevin Vangheluwe||Northwoods||Pitcher of the Night Honorable Mention||1 IP, K|
|7/17||Matt Miller||Northwoods||Pitcher of the Night Honorable Mention||2 IP, BB, 4 K|
|7/24||Mike Dufek||Leesburg||Player of the Week||On Sunday,went 3/5 with HR, and a walk of single|
The Cape Cod League (the most respected league) – Tyler Burgoon (Michigan's sophomore closer) has continued to be the best Michigan player this summer and ergo making the most news. As of the 20th, he’s racked up 17.1 innings of work with a 1-1 record and a 0.00 ERA. His 9 saves lead the league and his 27 strikeouts (14.2 per 9 innings) is ridiculous. He made the Cape Cod All Star Game at Fenway, but alas, the rain ended the game in just the 4th inning. He was slated to throw the 9th (or as necessary). Meanwhile, Ryan LaMarre (Michigan's starting left fielder and 3-hole hitter) still struggles, but less badly by comparison. He’s now got his average up to .243, good for third on the Gateman team. He’s also second on the team in RBIs with 12.
Prospect League – Garrett Stephens (back up 1st baseman who sees time when Dufek pitches) represented UM and the Richmond RiverRats at the Prospect League All Star game. He’s currently 8th in the league with 21 RBIs. John Lorenz hasn’t seen much playing time since the last update.
Lima Locos – Lots of good has been coming out of Lima lately. Kolby Wood (occasional 4th starter) has his ERA down to 0.66 in 11 relief appearances stretching 13.2 innings. His three saves are good for second on the team, which makes me contemplate his role next season for Michigan. Could we see another attempt at moving Burgoon to starter and put Kolby Wood as the closer? Looks good on paper right now.
Meanwhile, Bobby Brosnahan (redshirted last year as a freshman) is cruising right along with a 2.35 ERA over 15 innings pitched thus far. He’s making his case to be a middle inning or set up guy next season as a redshirt freshman. The last Michigan player with the Locos is short stop Anthony Toth (starter) has raised his average from .215 to .281 and has played solid defense.
Also, Toth was interviewed in a piece about baseball gloves by the LimaOhio.com. To give you a small sample of why baseball budgets are fairly large:
“We have a contract at Michigan with Louisville Slugger. The rep just came, had a bunch of models out and we got to pick out whichever one felt best. I went with that one and it worked out pretty well. … I think this is a $320 glove.”
That’s just one glove for one player. Not multiply that by the 20 or so on the roster, plus backup gloves each player probably has, you’ve got yourself quite the bill just for fielding gloves.
Alexandria Beetles – Again with the closers Michigan’s been developing, Matt Miller (one of our setup men) has 7 on the season, 4 in the last three weeks. He’s dropped his ERA a full run over that time. Kevin Vanghelwue (saw very limited time during the season and what he did wasn't good) also is pitching better and has lowered his ERA almost 2 runs. Tyler Mills (redshirted as a freshman this year) isn’t playing much. The freshman is just 6/36 hitting in limited playing time.
Valley League – At Fort Royal, Jeff DeCarlo (left handed reliever who saw little time) is pitching so far above his normal level I’m just perplexed. The guy has a 2.35 ERA now, and since the last update he’s thrown 5 appearances (9.2 IP) and only given up one earned run. He hasn’t even hit a batter in that stretch. He got a save? Who is this guy? His teammate Kevin Krantz (redshirted as a freshman this year) has tailed off and seems to be seeing less and less playing time. Krantz's defense has been spotty at best at third/shortstop. His batting average has also fallen .050 points to .239.
At Winchester, Brandon Sinnery’s (another occasional fourth starter) had a rough 3 starts, but his team has bailed him out each time. His ERA jumped from 2.00 to 4.31, but he has kept his 9 K’s-per-9-IP. Teammate Matt Gerbe (one of our setup men) continues to watch his ERA fall, this time from 9.69 to 6.29. It’s good to see he’s doing better since moving back to the bullpen.
Mike Dufek for the Lightning
Leesburg Lightning – Alan Oaks (right fielder and pitcher) went 1-1 over three starts in the last 3 weeks. His ERA has dropped to only 3.89, but his strikeout to walk ratio over the last 3 starts is 9:7 which isn’t good. Those walks have to go down. Eric Katzman (left handed pitcher) has just one relief inning in three weeks. He’s become buried in the pitching depth it looks like.
Mike Dufek (first base and sometime closer) has held down the closer role for the most part, recording 2 saves in 3 outings in the last three weeks. Not much playing time, but he’s made the most of it to a 0.93 ERA. At the plate, Dufek is only hitting .268, but he has cut down his K’s per At-Bat to just about 1-in-5. During the season he was closer to 1-in-4 at bats. It became crippling at times. I think our strategy for next season should mimic the MLB All Star Game. Let’s just throw 5 closers to shut down every game.
Travis Smith – Looks like Smith (3rd or 4th starter) has lost his spot in the rotation. After a few tough luck losses of the 1-0 variety, he lost two ugly starts over the last 3 weeks and was then used out of the bullpen. He’s currently 0-5 with a 4.58 ERA. Not good my friends.
Coley Crank – Crank’s (backup catcher or designated hitter) struggling. He’s still the everyday catcher, but his average is down to .198, third lowest on the team and lowest regular starter.
Matt Broder – Despite Broder's (redshirted as a freshman this season) team’s horrible website, I ran by an article in The Observer. Broder went the full 7 innings complete game, facing only 24 batters in the effort. Great job Matt.
WOOOOOOO! WOOOOOO! MUPPET
BRAIN OFF WOOO ZACH GIBSON WOO MANY HARRIS WOOO
ONE… OTHER! WOOO
Programming Note: I'll be on WTKA with John U Bacon this afternoon from 4-5. WTKA streams live for those in the diaspora.
It wasn't a total head implosion weekend. Lost in the dual frustrations from hockey and basketball was the baseball team's strong start: 4-0 against an array of Big East teams (and, oddly, Purdue), including two walk-off wins to open the season. Formerlyanonymous is now blogging up a storm about the baseball team at Varsity Blue; his article on the weekend is probably the most detailed recap of a Michigan baseball weekend ever written(!).
Michigan is in Jacksonville Wednesday through Sunday taking on a wide array of meh-sounding teams: North Florida, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Jacksonville, and Akron. Their major opportunity to get some committee-impressing nonconference wins comes in mid-March when Michigan goes to Arizona for a three-game series.
Hello again, Elliot. Elliot Mealer's unfortunate life story has made him perhaps the most-chronicled anonymous redshirt freshman offensive linemen ever(!). His local paper has a story on him, and this one deviates from the usual fluff and goes for a couple of interesting quotes:
"The speed of the game is just incredibly different from high school," reflected Mealer. "I talked to guys who I had played with at Wauseon and told them about the first time I faced speed in practice. I was playing left tackle against Tim Jamison (2008 starting defensive end). He comes at me and in high school you are taught to get your hands on him and move, but he slapped my hands down before I ever got them up. The next thing I realize I'm on the ground asking what happened and he's sacking the quarterback."
There's also a story about John Thompson crushing Mealer backwards, causing him to wonder if he'd been concussed; it's a step up from the usual stuff you get in these things.
One downer: it sounds like Mealer's on-field future may have been damaged by the car crash.
For Mealer, the challenge is restoring lost shoulder strength which may never return.
"The team has been doing a lot of upper arm strengthening in the weight room, but I'm not allowed to start that until after spring break (Feb. 20-28)," said Mealer. "At that time, I will start out with two to three days of upper body strength training and I'm not sure how long that will last, but it could last my whole career just to stay on top of it."
Mealer was a top-250 sort who certainly projected to playing time; with lingering effects from the injury he won't be in the conversation to start this year, at the very least.
…Rodriguez is in danger of falling behind in the spread offense arms race in terms of sophistication. I discussed that phenomena with Purdue as a pass-first spread team over the last decade, but it's of a slightly different order with Michigan. In the spread's nascent days, the spread-to-run innovators included Rodriguez and Kevin Wilson and Randy Walker at Northwestern, with Urban Meyer following shortly after. Wilson is now at OU and of course Meyer is at Florida. Compare their offenses with Rodriguez's: there's not much difference from a run-game standpoint (though Meyer and OU mix up their sets a bit more and use more tight-ends now), but the passing games have seen a wide departure. Wilson now uses what Chuck Long put in at OU, with some schematic residue lingering from Mike Leach and Mark Mangino, while Meyer, along with Dan Mullen and Mike Sanford, assembled a pro-style one-back approach gleaned from John L. Smith and Scott Linehan from Louisville and Joe Tiller and Jim Chaney from Purdue. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Meyer's passing game, but it's definitely more sophisticated than what Rodriguez has going on.
But Rodriguez is a bright guy and his passing game originally derived from (though is a long way now) the old run and shoot. So you'd think he could remedy this. Yet with nothing but true freshman, that evolution will have to wait. The longer they wait, however, the farther behind they fall.
This is more of a restated concern than a new one, and it's worth pointing out that the situation Rodriguez inherited last year was not conducive demonstrating any sort of great leap forward in passing sophistication. The larger issue is that Rodriguez, scrambling to do a thousand different things to reshape the Michigan football program, is probably not spending a lot of time keeping ahead of the game. It's all conjecture until walk-ons have been banished from the depth chart, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
I'm hoping this is more of a Pat White effect than a Rich Rodriguez one; West Virginia's passing offense of late didn't look sophisticated because 1) it didn't have to be and 2) it didn't play into White's strengths. Even if White did well at the combine keep in mind that Rodriguez was deploying the guy as a freshman/sophomore/junior, so the bulk of his recent forays into passing games were with a wobbly underclass jet engine; risk would be stupid in a situation like that. Tate Forcier, the most accurate passer EVER, figures to change that equation significantly.
More attrition? Buried in this recruiting chat from Josh Helmholdt is an interesting bit of speculation:
The WR position was a disappointment this past year, so I certainly understand the need to recruit as many WR's as possible. Also, the depth at the slot WR position is shallow and could get even thinner before the freshmen come in next year.
That points squarely the departure of a slot receiver currently on the team. Martavious Odoms was Michigan's leading receiver a year ago and has two teammates joining him, so it's unlikely to be him. Terrance Robinson is a redshirt freshman who didn't play because of injury. Rodriguez recruited him to play in the slot, too. He's probably going to stick around and try to earn playing time. There's only one other guy on the roster who played in the slot last year: Toney Clemons. There have been erratic transfer rumors about Clemons for months now, but never anything concrete. This is also not concrete, obviously, but Helmholdt doesn't just say things without sourcing.