...says Denzel Valentine of Big Ten Tourney favorite MSU, which is 5-7 in its last 12 games. Cumong, man.
Baseball season doesn't end with the College World Series. For most players, it continues all summer long. It's here, and the weight room in the fall, that players make their big jumps for next year. So with that in mind, we'll keep an eye on some Michigan players over the course of the summer.
With games starting over the last week, here's an overview of the destinations of Michigan players.
- Wareham Gatemen (Cape Cod) - Derek Dennis and Anthony Toth
- Butler Blue Sox (Prospect) - Ben Ballantine and Matt Broder
- Quincy Gems (Prospect) - John Lorenz
- Richmond RiverRats (Prospect) - Kevin Krantz and Garrett Stephens
- Anchorage Bucs (Alaska) - Coley Crank
- Lake Erie Monarchs (Great Lakes)- Travis Smith
- Lima Locos (Great Lakes) – Logan McAnallen, Cam Luther, and Tyler Mills
- Alexandria Beetles (Northwoods) - Patrick Biondi, Kevin Vangheluwe and Kolby Wood
- Winchester Royals (Valley League) - Kyle Clark
- Michigan Rams (AAABA) - Brandon Sinnery (really?), John DiLaura, and Sam Cleary (incoming freshman)
Not a lot of super interesting notes here. The one that really stands out is Brandon Sinnery pitching for the Rams. Nothing against the Rams, but Brandon seems like he'd be a bigger pick up for ANY other league. The Rams have been home to many of our freshmen who haven't seen playing time, not a guy who is poised to be Michigan's #2. This is a pretty large step down for Sinnery from his stint last summer with the Winchester Royals of the Valley League.
Lima, Alexandria, and Richmond continue to have multiple Wolverines. Coley Crank and John Lorenz both are sticking it out with their clubs from last year. Travis Smith moved from the Texas Collegiate League to the Great Lakes, and hopefully it serves him better. Last summer with the Brazos Valley Bombers was forgettable.
In the marquee division, Michigan sends two to the Cape, both with Wareham (Ryan LaMarre's club last season). Toth and Dennis appear to be working on their double play combos as regular players. Neither has hit very well, both around .285, but sometimes it takes time to get used to the wood bats.
Looking over the returning roster, a few guys I couldn't find.
- Ricky Samuel (P, So)
- Matt Gerbe (P, Sr)
- Bobby Brosnahan (P, Rs So) – Once was listed on Lima Locos roster, no longer.
- Michael Kershner (P, Rs Fr)
- Zach Johnson (C, Rs Fr)
- Ben Paskus (2B, Rs Fr)
Gerbe was in the Valley League last season, but he doesn't appear on any active roster I've been able to find. Brosnahan is also a strange one to be missing. He was with Lima last year. It could be that they're in summer school and will join a team later. As for now, it's unknown.
The other players on that list have yet to make an appearance in a game. Ricky Samuel is supposed to be a major part of the bullpen next season, so I'm somewhat surprised he's not on a roster somewhere.
I'll probably post an update on how seasons are going closer to the start of school, or if I hear about players joining teams late.
In a little over two seasons of Michigan baseball coverage, I've seen highs and I've seen lows. In 2008, Michigan had an outstanding class of upperclassmen, perhaps their best since the 1980s. When they left, some to graduation, others who left early to the draft, Michigan was left with a huge void. In one year, Michigan went from a first place team in the Big Ten to one of the worst teams in the conference.
The 2010 season was supposed to be the first step to rebuilding. Michigan had two powerful senior captains. They had Ryan LaMarre, a guy now looking at being drafted in the first two rounds of the MLB draft. The pitching depth was there. They may have lacked the big star on the mound, but they were going to be good.
On Saturday, Michigan faced Iowa in a chance to make the Big Ten Tournament Championship. The game went much like the rest of the season. Michigan opened with a bang. The offense exploded. After it went quiet, the pitching held strong. But when the pitching left, so did much of Michigan's hopes for the NCAA.
Recap, and a look back at the big picture… or excel graph. However you want to look at it…, and a look forward after the jump.
Michigan took two of three games at Penn State this weekend to claim a #2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. While all three games had many great positives, the ending to game two is how this series will be remembered. Michigan held a 4 run lead going into the bottom of the 9th, and the bull pen collapsed.
Weekend recap, series thoughts, and a look at the Big Ten bracket after the jump
Michigan beat Ohio State on Friday and Sunday to secure one of the more exciting series wins in Ann Arbor in quite some times. This series saw surprises abound: a first round draft pick get scratched from the starting lineup with an injury, nearly every pitcher in this series pitched to or beyond their potential, great defense, and most importantly, the good guys coming out on top.
For full recap, follow the jump:
Now that we've reached the conference midpoint and looked at the conference outlook, it's time to take a look at the team stats. Unlike in previous editions, the graphics will include some pitching related stats despite too small of a sample size to be that meaningful. The pitching stats are starting to show some trends, though.
As another reminder, these stats aren't official, but they should be pretty close. I have to compile these by going through every box score and input them into Excel tables. Many times, box scores contain errors that are corrected in the official statistics, but they may not be adjusted in the online box score.
So, as I start each of these posts, we'll look at the three major derived stats that are readily available in the college game (batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage):
In that AWESOME EXCEL GRAPH, you can see each of the percentages as they accumulate over the season. It should be pretty obvious that as the season goes along, the lines should normalize to the average as more data comes in. What may be a bit more difficult to see is that Michigan's offense peaked in the Central Michigan game. At that time Michigan was hitting .328 (BA) and .411(OBP). The slugging picked up a bit since then, peaking in the offensive explosion in Illinois game one, with a .477 slugging percentage.
Michigan currently sits at .321 (BA), .404 (OBP), and .470 (SLG). That ranks 3rd, 3rd, and 4th in the Big Ten respectively (more on this below). In terms of conference only stats, Michigan is at .322 (BA), .411 (OBP), and .469 (SLG), which means we've done a little bit better in conference in terms of getting on base, but everything else has been pretty similar to the non-conference season. That's pretty surprising given the difference in talent we've faced, but at the same time, Michigan has had a couple of anemic offensive games against some of the Big Ten's best pitchers (Hippen, Bischoff, Leininger), and they've had some explosive games against some of the not so good (Illinois win).
Speaking of talent difference between conference and nonconference, the purple line in the above graph, for those who didn't pay attention last time, represents the RPI of our opponents. The number one team in Boyd Nation's pseudo-RPI would be a 1.000, and a team holding the #302 RPI (or any non-D1 opponents if you're a Buckeye who plays AND LOSES to D2 and NAIA teams) would register as a 0.000 score. From that, you can see that our non-conference schedule was pretty difficult with two games against #1 Coastal Carolina, but our last few games, as well as the Big Ten regular season are quite a drop in competition.
The second graph I tend to post up is per nine innings stats, particularly runs, hits, strikeouts, and walks. These are just the sum of our total stats accumulated over the number of innings Michigan has batted (a home win normally only has 8 innings, as compared to any road game having 9 innings). Taking a peak:
Looking at the above, we can clearly see the differences between "OMG WE LOST LAMARRE" and the the team becoming stable. LaMarre came back against Central Michigan, where we can see a small jump in hits and runs, but not much in terms of long term changes. The only long term pattern that comes from the post-LaMarre return is a slight drop in strikeouts, a product of Krantz and Stephens getting less at bats.
At the time of LaMarre's return, I probably would have predicted an increase in hits and runs per game, but as we'll see in a bit, a couple of players have really cooled down over the last few weeks, most notably Coley Crank.
For individuals and a brief look at pitching, follow the jump. Warning, it gets long. Probably unnecessarily long. But it is what it is.
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.