Baseball: Minnesota Preview

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on May 6th, 2010 at 8:42 PM

Michigan (28-15, 9-6)

@

Minnesota (20-26, 8-7)


Friday 6:35pm CDT, Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
Eric Katzman (4-1, 4.03 ERA) vs Seth Rosin (4-4, 4.43 ERA)
Stats (Minn) Audio (Minn, $)      
Notes: Michigan is 84-84 all time, Last year: 1-2 series loss.

Michigan

@

Minnesota


Saturday 2:05 CDT, Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
TBA vs TJ Oakes (3-3, 4.19 ERA)
Stats (Minn) Audio      
Notes: Audio available through Friday's link ($9/month).

Michigan

@

Minnesota


Sunday 1:05pm CDT, Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN
TBA vs Phil Isaksson (4-0, 3.16 ERA)
Stats (Minn)        
Notes: Isaksson  is a LHP

Michigan takes its first Big Ten road trip in three weeks, traveling to Minnesota for what is going to be yet another huge series in terms of the conference standings. The Gophers had a truly rough start to the year, but they currently sit tied for third place, only a game behind Michigan. They also lead the Big Ten in ERA and third in batting during conference games. They're getting hot when it counts, and Michigan looks to cool them off.

Q&A with the Daily Gopher, weather, thoughts, and predictions after the jump:

About that WMU Game

Michigan defeated Western Michigan in a sloppy mid-week game by a score of 9-8. It came down to the last batter to secure the win, and if it weren't for Mike Dufek's two homers, including a grand slam, Michigan probably has one hell of an embarrassing loss.

The defense was particularly poor, including two errors by our catchers (one on Crank, one on Berset). Urban and Dennis also claimed an error each. This is particularly frustrating after a great weekend against Ohio State. I'm hoping this was just a fluke game – the first road game in a while at a crappy opponent. The team will need to focus much more closely going into the weekend.

In the long run, a win is a win. Midweek doesn't matter that much as the Big Ten is almost certainly a one bid league. This game, surprisingly, didn't hurt the RPI, which stays steady at #57. The only way we might finish with an at-large is if we win out and maybe lose in the conference championship, and that might even be a stretch. 

Vicious Electronic Questioning

On to Minnesota. I caught up with Tom of the Daily Gopher this week to get a quick preview of the Gophers. The Q&A:

What is the storyline of the Gopher season?

This season has been inconsistent and was an extremely slow start.  The loss of center fielder, likely lead off and an freshman all-American Justin Gominsky certainly has set this team back but other holes are there as well.  Early in the year the Gophers went 0-3 in the Big East Challenge, but those games were close and against good competition.  But following that they have done on to be swept by South Dakota State for the year (0-3), lost to North Dakota State and took 12 innings to defeat DIII St. Thomas. 

The Big Ten season has been much more kind to the Gophers and they are within a game of 1st place (along with 4 other teams).  A sweep has been elusive but they are in the thick of it with some key series coming up obviously with Michigan this weekend, Penn State comes to town and then at Ohio State to finish the Big Ten season. 

The Gophers are now in the top 3 in both team ERA and batting average in conference. Has something finally clicked with the team?

Batting Average?  I show we are sitting 8th in BA and third in ERA.  Hitting has been incredibly inconsistent and there are a couple too many holes in the 2010 Gopher lineup (more on that later).  I don't have the averages or splits to show improved hitting, but since the start of the Big Ten season the Gophers are averaging 7.2 runs per game after after averaging just 4.3 in their first 25 games.  Over both sets of games they allowed 5.5 runs per game so the pitching/defense has remained relatively consistent and the hitting is coming around. When your lead off and #2 hitter are both hitting .285 (approximately), it becomes difficult to score runs no matter how well your 3-4-5 hitters are hitting. 

Tell me about your starting rotation. Who are they and what's your opinion on each? 

Our main three starters are junior Seth Rosin, freshman TJ Oakes and sophomore Phil Isaksson.  Rosin is very solid and consistent. He will likely be drafted and not compete as a Gopher next year.  He leads as a strikeout pitcher who rarely walks batters (just three on the season).  TJ Oakes is a true freshman and has been very solid posting a 4.19 ERA and a 3-3 record.  The surprise of the staff, at least for me, has been Phil Isaksson who has been very good as the Sunday starter for the Gophers.  The Gophers have been 4-1 in Big Ten game threes.  In his last two starts he has given up just one earned run in 13.2 innings pitched with 8 Ks. 

Three walks on the season? Holy cow.

The big prospect name from Minnesota is Kvasnicka. Tell me a little bit about him.

Kvasnicka has been a stud for three years now. And his junior season has not disappointed in spite of losing some very good hitters around him like Eric Decker and Derek McCallum. Interestingly, Kvasnicka has greatly increased his walks this season. I cannot comment on how many of these have been intentional but in 2009 he earned just 14 free passes, according to the official stats on Gophersports.com he currently has worked out 36 walks in 2010 boosting his OB% to .469. And of course he is hitting the ball great as well. .357, 6 HR and 36 RBIs isn't going to earn him any All-American awards but it is very good. If Petterson and Larson were able to get on base more often you can reasonably assume his RBIs would be much higher. 

I keep hearing his name as the top catcher in the league. I can't see him staying there at the next level. Perhaps more of an outfielder. Defense isn't that great, wouldn't want to waste those knees. Past Kvasnicka, who are the other names in the lineup Michigan fans should know about? 

First baseman Nick O'Shea is having a season equally as impressive as Kvasnicka's.  The sophomore is hitting .348 with 9 HRs and 37 RBIs.  A year ago he started all 59 games and hit just .287 so this has been a dramatic improvement and is helping to solidify a lineup that struggled early in the season to get on base and score runs.

Yeah, he was a monster when he broke out last season. What's the atmosphere like at the Metrodome?  I've heard grumblings that Seibert will be renovated sometime soon? Any chance for outdoor baseball returning for the Gophers?

The Twins move to Target Field has been welcomed by the Gophers with open arms.  In fact DII, DIII and local high schools have loved it was well.  Without having to move out for the Twins the Gophers have been able to play all of their games indoors.  Now the Dome seats something like 56,000 for baseball so it is rather cavernous for Gopher games.  The atmosphere is nothing special but they have not had to postpone/cancel any games this year.  Looking down the road, they do not want to renovate Seibert, they want a brand new stadium and practice facility.  This a much needed facility for the program.  Sooner or later the Dome will go away and practices and games become a real issue for the Gophers.

Any predictions on the weekend?

Any prediction would be a 100% guess.  So I'm going with a Gopher sweep as they move into the Big Ten driver's seat!

Ballsy. I disagree.

Weather

It doesn't matter. The game is indoors. The forecast is lots of Astroturf and a 20% chance of Dufek hitting the Baggie.

Thoughts

After the great baseball last weekend, I'm wondering if we don't return to the mean this week. Can Katzman, Oaks, Sinnery, or whoever else starts keep up the intensity and dominance from last week? Can they do it on the road? Both are tough questions, neither of which I have an answer for.

Speaking of the road, let's hope that Tuesday's WMU game was enough to get the road hiccups out of our system. Playing in front of the "crowds" at the Metrodome should be interesting. As Maloney put it in his WTKA interview this week, "a crowd of a few thousand can feel like a crowd of 5." It's pretty much Olympic Stadium during the Expos last few seasons in Montreal, except probably better baseball.

With our speed in the outfield, we should be good covering the grounds. It'll be interesting to see how the infield defense plays. They should have plenty of practice indoors over the long off season, but it's been a few weeks since indoor baseball.

Someone please wake up Patrick Biondi. It's now an 0-for-27 stretch with 3 walks (he scored each time). A third of his total strike outs (8 of 24) have come over that stretch. Now that classes are over, hopefully he's got time to focus on his swing. He's not alone with the downward trends either. Toth, Berset, Crank, and LaMarre are also on slides that aren't as serious, but there's still an obvious trend with each. Now is not the time to go cold. May the big gaps of the Metrodome boost everyone's double and triple totals.

On a final note, several schools have switched over to NeuLion's live stats system. I really dislike it. Live mode has way too much unnecessary movement and not enough info, often crippling the browser. Their summary version is slow and the information is poorly sorted. Minnesota is one of the few Big Ten schools to use this. They also don't have any live streaming capabilities in the Metrodome. I can't wait for Seibert Field to be renovated or otherwise for an on-campus ball park.

Predictions

Two men enter, one man leaves. I've got a particularly bad feeling about this series. Minnesota is getting hot (beating #26 Kansas State in Manhattan on Wednesday for a series split), Michigan is slumping a bit offensively and is due for a regression on the pitching side of things. The gut tells me that Michigan loses the series 1-2, with the win coming on Saturday, but that's without knowing what the starting rotation is at all. Hopefully the team will prove otherwise.

Comments

Quag77

May 7th, 2010 at 6:17 AM ^

when I read that FA predicts a 1-2 loss.   I'm thinking just the oppo.  The guys know what's at hand.  They know what they need to do.  You will see a much more aggressive offense this weekend and coach will run, run and run.   Pitching is coming back and the confidence is there. Oaks, Katz & Sinn will all have solid starts and Gerbe/Burgoon will continue to shut down.  You will see a Minn team reminiscent of the early 2010 season who will struggle to put up numbers.    This very well could be our first sweep... but a solid 2-1 series win. 

Go Blue!

formerlyanonymous

May 7th, 2010 at 9:36 AM ^

I was hoping that now that finals are over, he'd have less pressure on himself, and that the meh pitching we would see at Western Michigan would get him a hit. It didn't. He'll snap out of it sooner or later, but predicting when isn't going to be easy.

formerlyanonymous

May 8th, 2010 at 2:12 PM ^

Ended up 14-7 last night. We all but threw in the towel late, just to have a 4 run rally. Crank caught a few innings, a couple of guys who haven't had work lately pitched. Heard back that there's no audio again today. Nothing to do with availability of technology, just a sore throat. Cest la vie.  Game is at 3pm ET today.

Quag77

May 8th, 2010 at 4:11 PM ^

ok...play by play says scored 2, score board says 1 run.  which is it?   And are we the worst hitting club in the nation when it comes o striking out?  wow

formerlyanonymous

May 8th, 2010 at 4:22 PM ^

It is two runs. LaMarre hit into a fielder's choice, Toth safe at 2nd on a E4. Dufek knocked in two.

You know as well as I that we strikeout a ton. From what I've seen, it's no constant philosphy problem. Some are too aggressive, some aren't aggressive enough, some are just jobbed by umpires (this is very limited, but happens occasionally). The last few streamed games I tried to find what might be the problem, so many staring to watch the last pitch down the pipe. At the same time, so many bad swings. Not enough data to know what the deal is.

Quag77

May 9th, 2010 at 5:12 PM ^

Another close one...but I like the results of this one MUCH better.   Great pitching today.  Nice job Brandon & Bobby!    Cut down on the K's a bit today and defense good again.  Not a series win (FA right again) but in a tie for first.  Let's hope Sparty comes out strong tomorrow and at least takes 1 from Purdue creating a four way tie.

Go Blue!

formerlyanonymous

May 9th, 2010 at 5:15 PM ^

We're half a game back of Purdue with them finishing their series tomorrow with the Spartans. Well pitched game. A lot of walks from Sinnery had me worried. Brosnahan threw well.

10 left on base for the offense was tough. Crank was also lifted for Garrett Stephens pinch hitting. I think that's pretty indicative of where Crank is hitting right now.