Really like taking the family there for a PSU whipping.
Baseball Schedule Released
Yes, it's that time of year, when baseball rules supreme. The World Series is coming up in short order, and while Michigan doesn't have any horses in the playoffs, that doesn't mean that the Wolverine baseball team isn't making news. That news, at least for today, is the announcement of Michigan's 2011 schedule.
The University of Michigan baseball program and head coach Rich Maloney announced on Tuesday (Oct. 12) the 2011 schedule, which features games against at least four teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, a mid-week home series against Texas Tech, and the full 27-game Big Ten slate.
Looking over the schedule, this year seems a little bit harder than in years past, and that's saying quite a bit. The big weekend series of the non-conference, at Stanford March 18-20, will be a giant test for the Wolverines; we've known about it since last year's season opening podcast.
Michigan did upgrade some of their other series as well, particularly in the mid week. Along with the annual home and home with Notre Dame (May 3-4), the Wolverines will play host to Texas Tech (May 10-11), marking the first time Michigan has hosted a Big XII opponent.
Coach Rich Maloney on bringing on the tougher schedules:
"I think you want to play a challenging schedule so that when you're coming to Big Ten play, you're ready to challenge yourself," Maloney continued. "Hopefully, you have worked on some things that maybe you hadn't worked on as much. But you've had experience against quality teams so you've been challenged. […] We felt it was a benefit to our kids because you learn about your team and yourself when you battle through the rigors of a tough non-conference schedule and this will be no different. We're going to have to play well to win those games early in the schedule, but ultimately it will prepare us for the Big Ten season."
Other non-conference opponents include a three-game series with a Rutgers (February 25-26) team that just missed the NCAA tournament last year, a weekend at Winthrop (2 games vs Winthrop, 2 against Stony Brook), a four-game weekend in at Sam Houston State (March 4-6, which I undoubtedly will be attending at least Saturday and maybe Sunday), and the season-opening Big Ten/Big East Challenge, with matchups yet to be determined. Michigan is also continuing their series with Florida Gulf Coast, who had a great Michigan alumni showing last season.
As for the conference season, Michigan misses Michigan State during the official Big Ten season, but like last year, the two schools have managed to secure a series against each other. Unlike last year, the schools will play a three-game weekend series (March 25-27) in place of the tomato cans both would usually face in their respective home openers. The Wolverines will host Friday and Sunday, with the Saturday game in East Lansing. I love this scheduling tactic as it eliminates the annual RPI vacuum surrounding IPFW, Oakland, or worse.
In the REAL conference season, Michigan does get two of the toughest series at home, with Indiana in week one of conference play (April 1-3) and Minnesota near the end of the season (May 6-8). They will also host Illinois and Penn State. That leaves road series at Purdue, Iowa, Ohio State, and Northwestern. That's a pretty tough road schedule, with Purdue and Iowa returning plenty of talent and Ohio State having a new, aggressive coach.
Unlike last year's schedule, I'm not sure I can even get close to predicting a win goal for Michigan right now. Questions are a plenty in the starting rotation and in the outfield. I want to put out a guess around 36-19 overall and 15-9 in conference, but that's a lot of guessing. If that were to come true, Michigan would almost have to win the Big Ten Tournament to make the NCAA. Right now, until I see our starting rotation prove themselves, I think that's probably a reasonable baseline -- neither too high nor too low, but also not a concrete floor.
UPDATE: According to Chris Webb of Buckeye State Baseball, Michigan's Big East opponents in the challenge are UCONN, St. John's, and Louisville. That's three tournament teams from last year added to the schedule and one tough weekend to open the season.
Those late March and early April games in Michigan are brutal. Making contact with a metal bat in that cold is painful! Its an obstacle for both teams (and thus no team has a weather advantage, per se) but its still unfortunate that the Big Ten has to play in the cold. I actually remember at least one game being snowed-out when I was in school up there. Crazy.
Obviously it's a big concern. I was talking with some Spartan fans about it the other day. I really hope the weather turns out like the last few years. It's been chilly, but there hasn't been any snow or rain to derail the home opener in a few seasons now.
Now watch, just because we finally eliminate one of those 275+ RPI teams, we'll get a blanket of snow and not get to play at all.
Does MSU rotate back onto the Big Ten schedule next year? I'm not certain how the scheduling works.
I'm not sure with the addition of Nebraska. Two teams will have to fall of the schedule, but I'd assume they'll try and rotate teams that have been off back on to everyone's schedule.
FA... I don't know if you have posted anything about the Maize and Blue game yet... Were you there... I was in attendance and i'm a little concerned about the bats... Bobby, Sinnery, Kolby, Mills, and Clark stood out as pitchers... Any thoughts?
I live in Texas, so no, I wasn't at the game. I've got some concerns about the lineup, but that's still secondary to the rotation. Until I see them play somebody in February, I'm not sure there is much else I can learn or see.
Going back to the lineup, I'm still uneasy with Lorenz in the top of the lineup. He's been pretty inconsistent and strikes out quite a bit for the little production he's had in the bottom of the lineup the last two years. I'm still waiting for Dennis to have his break through year. The outfield is a total wildcard. I think Biondi can continue to produce, but the new guys? Big question mark. I think we might set a team record for K's this season, but I'm trying not to think about that too much. They've got a long time until the Challenge.
Bumped with the Big Ten/Big East Challenge matchups announced. Michigan faces 3 NCAA tourney teams from last season in what has to be the toughest draw of the Challenge.