Baseball: Conference Midpoint Recap

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on April 25th, 2010 at 11:43 PM

Side Note: Derek Dennis's status is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury.

With half of the Big Ten regular season complete, it's time to take a look at the conference to see where Michigan is and what it will take to get a good seed in the Big Ten Tournament. In this post, we'll walk through the series we've already completed and then look at the opponents we still have on the schedule.

So, for all you late comers to the baseball season, here's what you need to know.

Where We've Been

@Indiana

Series Record

2-1

Indiana Recap

Scores

16-10

6-4

6-26

Game One

Wild and crazy high scoring affair as it goes back and forth
after Michigan was all but dead early. Dufek wins it in the
10th with a RBI double. Two bench clearings. Crazy.

Game Two

Brosnahan is sporadic but his emotion carries him through
for the win in a well pitched game by both teams. Michigan's
early lead is enough to get by.

Game Three

Katzman makes the start and can't get through the first. Yours
truly quits the game early as Michigan was down 17.

Outlook Then

For as exciting and tense as the first two games of the series
were, the last game left a sour taste in the mouth. IU was
better than expected and Leininger is the real deal.

While not much has changed in terms of outlook, Indiana hasn't turned out just as good as I expected either. They've been quite inconsistent, with their top hitters going ice cold the weak after they torched us. That freeze of course happened against Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes a pretty easy 2-1 series victory. They did sweep Iowa, though, something Michigan couldn't do.

Purdue

Series Record

2-1

Purdue Recap

Scores

5-8

6-4

9-4

Game One

Alan Oaks continued to struggle and Michigan could do nothing
with Purdue's Matt Bischoff in the loss.

Game Two

Big inning early and a solid Brosnahan start allows Michigan to
coast to a victory with Burgoon locking down the 8-9th.

Game Three

Brandon Sinnery gets his first start and makes good. A 7-run
4th inning caps off Ryan LaMarre's POTW winning series.

Outlook Then

Michigan is going to continue to make decent to good pitchers
look great. We're hitting well overall though, and attendance
has been great. We'll take 2-1 if the loss is Bischoff.

The loss to Bischoff is still nothing to worry about. It really would have helped for Michigan to get a sweep. Ohio State isn't on their schedule, but I'm not sure if that helps or hurts us. Purdue may be able to steal a game from the Buckeyes, or they may get blown out in all three.

@Illinois

Series Record

2-1

Illinois Recap

Scores

17-1

2-6

11-4

Game One

Alan Oaks is back! 8 innings of great pitching and the offense
explodes for 17 runs? We're rolling.

Game Two

The bats fall asleep and Brosnahan has his shaky start that
should be good enough for a win. Bad defense doesn't help.

Game Three

After 3 ugly innings by both teams, Tyler Burgoon steps in and
shuts down the Illini for Pitcher OTW honors. Offense explodes
late, sparked by POTW Patrick Biondi.

Outlook Then

2-1 series win over a BTT contender will work. We really had
a good chance to sweep if offense can stay consistent.

Things haven't changed much here in a week. Illinois lost 2 of 3 at Michigan State, which means the Spartans are just keeping pace with us.

Iowa

Series Record

1-2

Iowa Recap

Scores

2-5

3-5

7-5

Game One

Jarred Hippen is really good. He overshadowed anything
Michigan related in this game.

Game Two

Due to rain in the forecast, it was a double header, & Hippen
momentum carried right through game 2. Michigan grabbed an
early lead then blew a big inning. Brosnahan's luck runs dry.

Game Three

Michigan jumps ahead and, for the most part, stays ahead.
Offense finally shows up late in the game.

Outlook Then

1-2 isn't going to cut it. Losing one to Iowa in the Hippen
start would have been alright. Letting game 2 get away
shows lack of leadership.

That happened. Nothing has happened in our season and it still stings. I can't wait for this weekend to come so I can get it out of my head. Plus, the Buckeyes did us a favor losing a home series to Penn State just so we could keep pace.

After the jump, we look at the present and then haphazardly predict the future.

Where We Are Now

  Big Ten Total
# Team W-L % W-L %
1. Michigan State 7-5 .583 26-11 .703
  Michigan 7-5 .583 25-14 .641
  Ohio State 7-5 .583 22-13 .629
  Northwestern 7-5 .583 15-23 .395
5. Purdue 6-6 .500 23-16 .590
  Indiana 6-6 .500 20-18 .526
  Minnesota 6-6 .500 16-24 .400
8. Illinois 5-7 .417 18-18 .500
  Iowa 5-7 .417 16-21 .421
10. Penn State 4-8 .333 17-22 .436

The Big Ten is a cluster. No team has run away with anything, and even the teams at the top haven't been able to secure a sweep. With so many teams at the top right now, it's not even worth going into too many tie breakers. The only ones I'll note for now are OSU>MSU and OSU>NU. With 8 teams within 2 games and all ten teams within 3 games, I'll leave it up to you to check out the head-to-head results.

Where We're Headed

Ohio State (7-5): This series could be epic. Ohio State's pitching after Alex Wimmers has hit a new low, gaining negative articles from the newspaper (GASP! NEGATIVE OSU ARTICLES! THAT NEVER HAPPENS!) and a scathing review of how Bob Todd runs his pitching into the ground from the BuckeyeNine. The Buckeye offense isn't anything to scoff at, but the team just doesn't have it's head on straight at the moment, as evidenced by the home series loss to Penn State. Don't expect that to be the problem next week. They'll come to Ann Arbor focused, and Alex Wimmers will look to continue where he left off last year, throwing a no hitter against Michigan on the BTN. If we can get past him, we have a decent chance on Saturday and Sunday.

@Minnesota (6-6): Like much of the middle of the Big Ten, no one can really make heads or tails of the Gophers. They have a lot of talent on their team both at the plate and on the mound, but they just find new and interesting ways to both win and lose. They'll win one game of a series 9-1, then lose the next two 14-2 and 2-1. The next week, scramble those scores around. No consistency. One day, the best team in the Big Ten, the next the worst.

@Northwestern (7-5): The Wildcats are anchored by some quality starting pitching and has found a bit more offense this year than years past. The consensus is they aren't very good, but every time there's been a consensus, they break our mold and take two of three from Minnesota or Purdue, two other teams that no one can really peg as good or bad. I guess that was to be expected from a team that was labeled a dark horse contender in the pre-season.

Penn State (4-8): The Nittany Lions have a pretty solid offense, but their pitching depth is probably one of the weakest in the Big Ten. Their starters have struggled most of the season, but they managed to hold just solid enough this last weekend to hold off Ohio State for a series win. Much will change before we see them to close out the regular season, but they probably won't be making too much noise in the meantime.

Projections

Last year, I took a look at our competition for the final Big Ten Tournament spot. This year, it's not so easy to figure out what Michigan is aiming for, much less who to limit as our direct competition. Almost every team is still in contention for 1st place at this point. I'll caveat this with a note from last year's similar post:

Baseball is a funny sport sometimes, and weird things can happen.  Teams can get hot or cold with the flip of a switch.  So take these as you may, this is just my guess as of today.

With that in mind, here's what I see the final standings looking like:

  Big Ten
# Team W-L %
1. Michigan 16-8 .667
2. Ohio State 15-9 .625
3. Purdue 13-11 .542
4. Indiana 13-11 .542
5. Michigan State 13-11 .542
6. Northwestern 12-12 .500
7. Minnesota 10-14 .417
8. Iowa 10-14 .417
9. Illinois 10-14 .417
10. Penn State 8-16 .333

This assumes no rain outs, something I'm not sure has ever happened in a Big Ten regular season. It also assumes tie breakers from head to head matchups, some of which that haven't happened yet. First thing I think to myself after making these projections: man, lay off the Kool-aid. The more I look at it, the more I want to have us tied with Ohio State at 15-9, but dammit, I'm not giving them the pleasure this week. And as a side note, picking winners in any series featuring any team from Purdue to Illinois was nearly impossible.

In this scenario, Michigan would face the lowest seeded winner of Purdue vs Northwestern and Indiana vs Michigan State. Just looking at the teams making the BTT in my projection, dear god we need the bye. First round pitching match ups are going to be insane.

With all of that in mind, my predictions have been less than stellar this season, unlike last year at VarsityBlue where I was hitting about 85%. This year is quite a bit closer to the Mendoza Line (.200).

That leaves us with just one more note:

Beat Ohio State

Comments

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

April 26th, 2010 at 9:36 AM ^

FA, what do you think it would take to get M into the tournament as an at-large if they don't win the Big Ten tourney? Miracle? There isn't much in the way of big OOC wins, but I've seen a couple bracketology projections where Michigan is listed as a "last team out" kind of thing.

formerlyanonymous

April 26th, 2010 at 9:46 AM ^

Losing 2 of 3 to Iowa pretty much sealed Big Ten Tournament title or bust. Our future opponents have only a .473 winning percentage. Of the 60+ teams ahead of Michigan, only 3 have a lower future opponent winning percentage. Strength of schedule (and thus opponent winning percentage) is a huge part of the RPI formula, which is why nine teams from the SEC will probably make the NCAA tourney, but decent to better teams like Rhode Island last year get robbed.

If Michigan goes 16-0, maybe loses in the conference title game of the tournament, if they beat the right teams to get that far, maybe they could get a real shot at consideration for an at-large. Pundits will say that anyone with an RPI of 60-80 is considered, but that's just not reality for most cases.

If you're not under 50, you're very unlikely to get an at-large bid, especially for mid-majors this year. There are quite a few mid-majors in the top 50 this year, and you can guarantee that strength of schedule will boost a lot of Big12, SEC, and ACC teams into the tournament.

Michigan Arrogance

April 26th, 2010 at 11:25 AM ^

1) you skipped the midweek series with MSU (i guess that doesn't count toward the B10)

2) we still have to play 2 of the 3 teams currently tied for 1st, plus msu (so 3/4 which is everyone excluding us). i kind of doubt any of the top 4 there has to do that, except M, yet still you have us at the outright B10 champs playing .750 baseball the rest of the way against most of the top teams.

your optimism astounds.

thanks for the read!

formerlyanonymous

April 26th, 2010 at 11:45 AM ^

Correct on why MSU was kept out of the conference recap. Our series with them counts the same in the standings as playing Notre Dame or any directional Michigan teams. This has to do with conference only. At this point, I think we split with them, but feel good about a potential sweep. Our starting pitching depth is quite a bit better.

On part two, it was tough, Michigan or not. I gave us a sweep of PSU for reasons I can't logically explain. I gave us the series win over the Buckeyes for two reasons. Their pitching has really slipped up lately and they lack depth. Best has been way overused lately and he's not quite what he was before the shoulder surgery. The second is there was no way I'd let OSU sit on top of the standings this week. Like I said, I think 15-9 is more probable, which is 2-1 on average. I think it's doable given that two of the teams we still have left to play are still lower tier (I don't care what NU is currently in the standings, they aren't great).

I'm never usually this optimistic. Ever.