"Rodrick Williams Jr.'s 10-month old, 2-foot-long savannah monitor named "Kill" gets the RB some strange looks when they go for walks together."
Michigan (25-14, 7-5)
Ohio State(23-13, 7-5)
|Friday 6:35pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Alex Wimmers (9-0, 1.61 ERA)|
|Notes: Michigan is 157-89-1 all time, Last year: 1-2 series loss.|
|Saturday, 6pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Drew Rucinski (3-2, 4.34 ERA)|
|Notes: Barry Larkin jersey retirement starts at 5:45p|
|Sunday 1:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI|
|TBA||vs||Dean Wolosiansky (3-5, 5.95 ERA)|
The Buckeyes come to Ann Arbor this weekend with the rivals tied for first place in the Big Ten. The stakes are huge. The winner is in the driver's seat for the regular season championship and a number one seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The loser could conceivably fall as far back as a tie for 7th place if the cards fall the wrong way.
As an added bonus, Michigan will be celebrating the career of Barry Larkin. His #16 jersey will be added to the walls of the Fish, where it shall remain forever retired into Michigan lore.
Final notes and thoughts after 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.
About being back… not so much. (image from MGoBlue)
If you would have asked me what the worst case scenario would be walking into the Iowa series, my answer would have been Jarred Hippen throws a complete game in the first half of the double header, and that momentum would carry Iowa through game two for Michigan to be swept on Friday. I would have then said that rain would cancel Saturday's game for the first Iowa sweep of Michigan in Ann Arbor in recent memory. Unfortunately, the first half of that prediction came true.
Luckily, Saturday had only overcast skies and Michigan was able to redeem themselves (somewhat) by salvaging a 1-2 weekend. Michigan exits the series half a game back of the Big Ten leading Buckeyes, who visit Ann Arbor next week. That's right people, it's HATE WEEK for the baseball team.
But before we get to that, we look at the Iowa series. Recaps after the jump:
As a follow up to yesterday's Illinois recap, the Big Ten Conference tabbed two Michigan players for POTW honors. Patrick Biondi won Player of the Week and Tyler Burgoon earned Pitcher of the Week.
Press release notes:
Burgoon remained unstoppable out of the bullpen, posting saves against Toledo (April 13) and Bowling Green (April 14) and the victory at Illinois (April 18) to secure the series victory for the Maize and Blue. On the week, Burgoon threw 8.0 innings, allowing just three hits and striking out 11 batters. His biggest performance came in the weekend finale when he came out of the bullpen and scattered three hits over 5.1 innings with seven strikeouts for his team-leading fifth victory.
Biondi had an historic week, beginning with breaking Bruce Fox's 55-year-old rookie record for stolen bases, swiping his 20th bag of the year in the victory over Toledo. Biondi reached base and scored to lead off all five games last week, posting a .526 average with three doubles, a triple and a home run. After becoming the first Wolverine since 2003 to lead off a game with a home run on Saturday (April 17), Biondi went 3-for-3 with two walks, coming up a home run shy of the cycle in the weekend's last game.
Michigan earned both weekly awards for the first time since April 15, 2002, when current MLB catcher Jake Fox (2001-03) and pitcher Rich Hill (2000-02) swept the awards for their performances, which also came in Champaign against the Illini.
Burgoon edged out Alan Oaks and Alex Wimmers of Ohio State who both had very impressive 8 inning starts a piece, and Indiana's Drew Leininger who went 7.2 innings giving up just one unearned run.
Biondi's weekend edged out Zach Hurley's 8/15 weekend with a triple and a homer and Ryan LaMarre's 10/19 week with a homer, a triple, two doubles, 10 runs, and 6 RBI.
Guess who's back? Courtesy of Illinois Baseball Report
Michigan (22-12) went into Champaign looking to keep pace with the league leaders and came out with a 2-1 series victory over the Illini to keep a hold of their first place tie with the Buckeyes at 6-3 in conference. The series definitely had some wild moments, including a Michigan offensive explosion on Friday accompanied by a sterling start from Oaks. That was followed up with a Michigan collapse on Saturday and a hard fought but ugly game on Sunday.
Full Recap after the jump:
Michigan took both games in the midweek, beating Toledo by a score of 8-4 and Bowling Green State by a score of 8-5. I'm not going to get into either game too much as the midweek games are pretty meaningless from a long term perspective, but there were a few notable players and storylines worth recapping.
Eric Katzman was brilliant in relief of Matt Miller on Tuesday. Katzman went 5 innings, allowing just one hit and two walks to earn the win. It was great to see him get a solid long relief appearance and hopefully this builds his confidence when it comes to the weekend relief corps. He was mixing up pitches really well, and had some stretches of "effective wildness" that kept hitters off balance and rolling over pitches.
On offense, Ryan LaMarre kept his offensive tear rolling, knocking a 2-run homer in the first inning, his first long ball since returning from the injury. But not everyone enjoyed the LaMarre homer. Chris Berset, still feeling the "sting" of losing his 3-hole spot last weekend, came up on the next pitch to hit a solo home run of his own, the first back-to-back homers Michigan has had since February 2009.
John Lorenz also added on in the early innings to remind some of us that he's just as capable of producing in the 8-hole. Biondi also went 3/4.
This game was a bit more bothersome from an offensive perspective. For the most part, Michigan was kept off base for the first 5 innings. Biondi and Toth combined to produce a run in the first inning, and then the offense went into hibernation mode as Apthorpe chewed through our lineup.
Upon Apthorpe's exit, things picked up. Anthony Toth picked up his first career homer, and LaMarre and Berset both followed that up with hits. After a Crank hit by pitch, the Falcons made their only error of the game on a would be double play ball to end the inning. Instead, it opened the flood gates to a 5 run Michigan inning.
Things weren't all sunshine and happy following the inning. On Berset's double, LaMarre went 1st to 3rd and came up holding his hamstring, stretching it out thoroughly during a pitching conference at the mound. LaMarre would stay in and score on a Dufek sac fly, but he left the game as a precautionary move to start the next inning. He's expected to be fine for the Illinois series.
On the mound, Matt Gerbe made a good start, making it through 4 innings and giving up just one run. He gave up a lot of baserunners, but he managed to escape time and again. That changed in the 5th inning. After loading the bases, with only one out, Gerbe threw a wild pitch through Crank's legs. That plated the first Falcon run of the inning. The next batter would line one right back to Gerbe who made a great snag to catch the ball for an out, but when Gerbe went to throw out the runner at third for not tagging up, the ball was thrown away. Two more runners would score and Gerbe would be pulled.
Kolby Wood came in and did alright in earning the win, but the team did have to use Burgoon again for 2 innings. Tyler was lights out as usual, but I have to wonder what his availability is this weekend. I imagine he won't be in Friday unless it's a dire necessity.
Bonus update from The Daily's game wrap:
“I want to thank Tyler Burgoon for my inspiration for my first home run,” Toth said. “He inspired me by telling me I am never going to get one. He tells me that every single day, whether we have a game or not, so I’m glad I got that monkey off my back.”
Illinois questioning [ed: and awesome excel graph!] after the jump: