Michigan (24-12, 6-3)
Iowa (14-20, 3-6)
|Friday 2:30pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI |
|Alan Oaks (4-4, 3.60 ERA) ||vs ||Jarred Hippen (2-3, 3.86 ERA) |
|Stats ||Audio (WCBN) || || || |
|Notes: Michigan is 100-43 all time, Last year: 2-1 series win. Hippen |
is a LHP.
|Friday 30 minutes after Game One, |
Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
|Bobby Brosnahan(4-3, 4.26 ERA) ||vs ||Nick Brown (2-4, 7.27 ERA) |
|Stats ||Audio (WCBN) || || || |
|Saturday 1:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI |
|TBA ||vs ||Phil Schreiber (3-3, 5.29 ERA) |
|Stats ||Audio (WCBN) || || || |
|Notes: My guess is Burgoon if available, Sinnery otherwise. It may |
not matter due to weather.
The Hawkeyes come to Ann Arbor this weekend to close out the first half of Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes started the year with an inflated RPI by losing almost every game they had to some of the best teams in the nation, but since returning north, they've struggled offensively and fallen to #169 of 301 (Boyd's Pseudo RPI).
Full preview after the jump:
Iowa faced a tough nonconference schedule this year, including a series at a ranked Kansas squad and at top 5 Texas. They also faced 3 of the hottest and underrated teams in the Big East, which has exploded this season, to the point where it may get as many as 4 NCAA bids. Iowa has wins over top 75 teams in Rutgers and Kansas, and they also have a win over a solid Villanova squad. Despite having those two wins, the Hawkeyes also have a coupe of bad losses in Austin Peay, South Dakota State, and Northern Illinois.
In the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes have lost a series 1-2 against Michigan State, taken a series from Illinois 2-1, and was swept by Indiana.
They rank last in the Big Ten in both team batting average (.277) and team ERA (6.60).
Much like Purdue, starting pitching has really carried the Hawkeyes this season. They are anchored by left handed sophomore Jarred Hippen. Hippen is a great contact lefty, inducing a lot of ground balls. That's somewhat contrary to what Michigan fans may remember, as in Hippen's debut as a starter last season, he struck out 9 in 6.2 innings of work. That start last year was enough for me to dub a future Big Ten star, and man has he delivered in a hurry.
Despite his 2-3 record in 9 starts (stats say 10, but rain delay had him pulled before throwing a pitch), Hippen has given up just 24 earned runs over 56 innings. He's given up only 15 runs and struck out 39. He's become a workhorse for Iowa, throwing 5 quality starts.
His best game had to be the 8.2 inning start at Texas, giving up just one earned run and striking out 8. The Hawkeyes ended up losing in extras, and Hippen's performance was overshadowed by Texas's Workmann, but it's definitely the type of start that should catch the eye. Hippen's best Big Ten start this year was a complete game in East Lansing, giving up just 3 runs in the Hawkeyes lone victory over the Spartans. He spread out 3 earned runs and struck out two in the win.
Hippen will be on somewhat "short rest." He threw against Indiana on Sunday when the Hoosiers rocked him good.
Following Hippen is righty sophomore Nick Brown. Brown had been one of the Hawkeyes top relievers up until just a few weeks ago (also the one who lost that previously mentioned Texas game). This is only his 3rd start of the season, but over his 7 appearances, he's thrown 26 innings, giving up 21 runs on 26 hits, 10 walks, and 21 strikeouts. Brown tends to give up the long ball a bit more than most of the Iowa starters,, leading the team with 5 given up. In his first start, he did have a quality start against Illinois, pitching 8 innings and giving up just 3 runs on 2 strikeouts and 2 walks.
Phil Schreiber is the third game starter, but he's probably their #2 guy if you were to rate them by success. Schreiber, a right handed sophomore, has made 9 starts this season with mixed results. In 47.2 innings, he's given up 28 earned runs on 51 hits, 20 walks, and 24 strikeouts. Schreiber was also knocked around by Indiana this last weekend, but he did have a great start the week before that against Illinois. He went 8 innings giving up just one earned run on 1 walk and 3 strikeouts.
Iowa's bullpen is why they are last in the league in team ERA. The top statistical reliever is Patrick Schatz who is 1-0 in 15 appearances spanning 21.1 innings. He's given up 21 runs in those 21 innings, and 14 of those were earned, good for a 5.82 ERA and a .326 opponent batting average. When that's the best you've got, you've got problems.
The Hawkeye close is Kevin Lee, who has accumulated 6 saves in 11 appearances. His ERA is 8.44 in 10.2 innings, recording 6 strikeouts and walking 3. That doesn't sound so imposing.
Iowa at Bat
Iowa does not hit well. The leader on offense is awesomely named Zach McCool. McCool is batting .348 on the season and lead the team in slugging with a .539 slugging percentage. In comparison, that slugging percentage would be around fourth or fifth on Michigan's roster. No one on Iowa's roster has more than 2 homers, and only one player has more doubles than McCool (8), and that's Ryan Durant. Durant is fourth on the team in batting average at .311, but he's only slugging .451.
Another name to keep an eye on is lead off man Kurtis Muller. Muller is hitting .345 with a team high .445 on-base percentage. Muller is the major base stealing threat, with 19 steals in 24 attempts.
Outside of second baseman Mike McQuillan, the rest of the team has no one batting over .300. The line up is right handed heavy, so this should be a good test for Brosnahan in Game 2.
As you can see in the game set, we're playing two on Friday for a reason. Weather is looking poor on Saturday and Sunday, and it'll be a challenge to get Saturday's game in. The weather is supposed to start getting wet Saturday morning around 7am. It peaks at 1pm, just in time for game three. If the game isn't played on Saturday or Sunday, the game probably won't be made up unless it becomes a tie breaker. Even then, it may be unlikely.
The Iowa game notes (pdf) had a fun comparison:
That seems quite one sided across the board. That slugging percentage should be .468.
Iowa leads the conference in sacrifice bunts with 26 on the season. Michigan leads in sacrifice defense. SHOWDOWN!
Michigan really needs to sweep this series, but given our history against Hippen and our propensity to make decent pitchers look great, I've got some worries. I'm still going to predict a sweep, but my confidence level isn't that high. I think if Nick Urban can show some signs of life this weekend, it could be huge. He offers us better defense in the outfield and more speed on the bases. Kittle may be more valuable as a pinch hitter late in the game.
The key to this weekend is "Jump ahead, stay ahead." Michigan has to get past the starting pitchers and Alan Oaks needs to pitch like he did last week. Michigan can't afford to lose game one and have that momentum carry over into game two.
Looking around the conference, Ohio State takes on cellar dweller Penn State, so in order to keep pace, we need to win every game we can this week. Michigan State travels to Illinois, and I can't see them sweeping there, but it is possible.