Baseball: Toledo & BGSU Preview

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on April 13th, 2010 at 12:12 AM

Michigan (18-11)

vs

Toledo (21-9)

Tuesday 3:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Matt Miller (0-2, 6.89 ERA) vs TBA
Stats Audio (WCBN)   BTN.com ($)
Notes: 33-11-1 All Time, Last game was a 12-4 W in 2008. No game
notes yet, so no official probable starters in either game. This gets
addressed in Series Thoughts below.

Michigan

vs

Bowling Green State (9-17-1)*

Wednesday 3:05pm ET, Ray Fisher Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
Matt Gerbe (1-0, 2.84 ERA) vs TBA
Stats Audio (WCBN)  
Notes: 38-13-1 All Time, Last game was a 3-8 L in 2009. *Record is
as of Tuesday morning. They have a game with Cleveland State
Tuesday.

Michigan takes on the second highest ranked remaining team on their schedule on Tuesday with a game against #83 RPI Toledo and will follow that up with a game against a lower tier MAC opponent (RPI of #215 is about equal to that of Purdue or Northwestern). Dare I say Michigan may lose to a MAC opponent this week?

Take the jump to find out:

Toledo

The Rockets aren't your normal MAC snack cake that most football fans may think they would be. The Big Ten is just a step or two better than the MAC, and the teams at the top of the MAC can usually compete with the middle or top of the Big Ten. So as Michigan faces off with the Rockets, keep it in mind that by RPI standards, Michigan can be seen as an underdog in this game. I'm not sure that's a totally accurate depiction because Michigan does have quite a bit more depth and quite a bit better talent when it comes to potential major leaguers.

At the plate, Toledo has quite solid offensive numbers. As a team, they hit .337, lead by Joe Corfman at .390, .441 on base, and .602 slugging. He is tied for the team lead in doubles with 15 and leads the team with 37 runs scored.

In the lead off spot (most probably), Michigan will face the biggest power threat for the Rockets, Jared Hoying. Hoying has 10 homers on the season already, while batting .317 and slugging .698. This guy is a lead off? Yikes. What's funny, is the better on base guy, Chris Dudics used to lead off, but switched out with Hoying into the 3-hole. I won't pretend to understand coach Corey Mee's philosophy, as he's winning, but it sure is perplexing.

On the mound, if recent trends hold, I think we see Cody Umbright. He's thrown the first midweek game against D1 opponents for the Rockets the last few weeks in a row. He's a right handed freshman with 7 appearances and 5 starts on the season. His record is 2-0 with a 5.12 ERA. In 31.2 innings, he's given up 21 runs on 32 hits, 9 walks, 4 hit batters, and 21 strikeouts. His last start was 6 innings against Cleveland State, giving up 5 hits and 4 runs with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts for the win. Not a great start against a horrible team.

The bullpen behind him has been pretty good. Toledo's staff ERA is just 4.10, which is very good for the college ranks, even if it is against the #148 SOS.

Bowling Green State

Last season, Bowling Green was the straw that broke the camel's back in my coverage of the debacle that was 2009. Michigan lost what should have been a gimme game against a weak opponent and I had pretty much given up on any future mid-week games. Money line from last year's recap post:

Michigan had 5 hits in this game, 3 of them came in the 7th. Dufek opened the frame with the longball, scoring the first run of the game. After a McLouth walk, Oaks followed up with a homerun of his own. Toth knocked a single (his second of the game) with two outs, but he was caught stealing.

That’s pretty much it. Fellows had a double in the 6th with 2 outs but was stranded. Three runs against a team that ranks 232 out of 288 NCAA teams ranked in ERA? Striking out 9 times against a team that only averages 5.7 a game? Ouch.

Pitching was just as bad as Sinnery was pulled mysteriously early for Matt Miller, who was rocked pretty well. Dufek also was roughed up in the last two innings.

This year, BGSU comes in just as bad if not worse, and we'll be looking for revenge. To better understand our enemy, I've brought in Roll Along Baseball author David Paul Arnold, aka BGwolverine13. He covers baseball for BGSU in a way only a frequent mgoblog fanatic would, with detail and MS Paint Apple Paintbrush.

FA: Summarize for me BGSU's season. Are things good, bad, worse, or worst both in general standards and BGSU standards? Who have you beaten? How strong has the schedule been?

Bowling Green’s season this year can aptly be described as disappointing.  The club won the regular season MAC title last year and only graduated one player who played in any significant amount of time.

This team this year has just played brutally, albeit the overall record is a little misleading on account Bowling Green played a pretty decent non-conference schedule that included three series in Kentucky (Louisville, Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky) all of whom have pretty decent teams. The overall SOS is 198th and the out of conference SOS is ranked this year at 170th.

FA: Obviously defense has been a problem. Is that a problem localized to a player or two, or is it just all over the place?

Lets just put it this way… if Michigan football’s 09 secondary played baseball… they would be Bowling Green out in the field.  In 229.1 innings of defense the Falcons have committed 58 errors… and opponents have only committed 45 total errors in the same games. Of the 217 runs the pitching has given up, 41 of those runs have been unearned. That’s 1.52 extra runs a game given up by the defense. 

Up the middle has been the issue for Bowling Green. Shortstop Jon Berti is the most gifted defensive player for the team, but him and second basemen Matthew Pitzulo/Logan Meisler have really had problems cleanly fielding the ball and getting it over to first base. Also center fielder TJ Blanton, our best hitter, has really struggled in the field. Just this past weekend against Ball State I saw him drop an easy fly ball and bobble two grounders to him, allowing two runs to score that would’ve been otherwise stuck at third base. 

Right fielder Mark Galvin has made some spectacular plays though so watch out for him. And as I’m bashing the defense I do have to say they played the best defense all year this past Sunday against Ball State, committing no errors and making at least five superb defensive stops that made you go… “ooohhhhh”.

FA: Those errors probably make your pitchers look worse than they really are. Are your pitchers decent but plagued by bad defense, or are they meh to worse as well? Is there anyone Michigan will face on the mound that has been particularly good?

In one word.  No.  This staff is paper-thin and doesn’t really match up well against any MAC team let alone the University of Michigan. The starters have been up and down but the bullpen is just brutal. Not one pitcher on the staff that’s pitched more than five innings has an ERA under 4.00 and only three pitchers have an ERA under 5.00. Not only is the staff weak already, but also the game with Michigan Wednesday will be the 5th game in six days. 

I am really not sure who BG will put on the mound, especially with rival Toledo coming up this weekend, but I suspect BG is going to get a lot of guys work so you’ll probably see at least six or seven pitchers. The best pitcher for Bowling Green that you’ll see is going to be Ross Gerdeman and/or Kevin Leady. Leady has 4 of Bowling Green’s 9 wins this year and leads the team with a 4.06 ERA.  Ross is the best reliever for BG with his only blemish being a three-run home run in the 8th inning against Eastern Michigan that put EMU up 4-1.

FA: Who are the batters that Michigan fans should be watching out for?

TJ ‘Towering Jacks’ Blanton, as our baseball SID likes to refer to him, is our best hitter without a doubt.  He is riding a 21-game hit streak, which is tops in the MAC and top five currently in the country. He started out the year as our second lead off man hitting in the 9th spot for the first 20 games of the year, but has moved to the 3rd spot in the lineup because of his team leading 7 home runs, 25 RBIs, .482 ob%, .427 batting average, and .760 slugging %. The kid just knows how to hit and is darned good at it too.

Shortstop Jon Berti has a .382 batting average and a team-leading 12 steals on 14 attempts. He is just a fast little dude and will get you with a bunt-single every once in a while freshman Matthew Pitzulo has also been a nice surprise in the lineup with a .343 batting average.

FA: Prediction for the game? Will be be treated to any awesome Michigan related MS Paint pieces like the Florida spring trip?

My prediction is a solid 13-5 victory for the school with the best fight song in all the land.  Michigan’s bats will be too much for a weak pitching staff and horrible defense. Last year Danny Schmitz got his 500th win in Ann Arbor in a surprise victory for the Falcons, but he’ll get no such luck this year.

And I have to work BG’s press conference today as they announce their new hockey coach, longtime Miami assistant Chris Bergeron, but after that I’ll try to whip something together for ya. BTW, don’t mean to disappoint ya, but being an apple guy I use Apple’s “paintbrush” application instead of MS paint.  ☺ Just thought I’d throw that in.

FA: As you face Toledo this weekend, have any general thoughts on them? I figure as a MAC blogger, you may have some information for Michigan fans that will see them Tuesday.

Toledo is a good, solid baseball team having a great season. Last year it seemed BG got all the breaks and this year the luck traveled up I-75 about 15 miles... (maybe by the fall it will travel 50 miles north to the Big House). Bowling Green plays them this weekend so I’ll be doing a preview of them this week so I’ve started peeking at their situation a little bit.

Compared to Bowling Green the Rockets have a lot more power. The team has hit 38 home runs in 30 games compared to Bowling Green’s 16 in 27 games. Having played at Toledo before though I do know that the stadium is a wind tunnel that begs any and every fly ball to leave the ballpark. The pitching staff has been outstanding as well, having a 4.10 team ERA. Bowling Green only has one pitcher at or below that. The team is error prone though… as that is seemingly the biggest weakness in the Rocket-armor. They pose a much stiffer challenge for Michigan than Bowling Green that’s for sure.

Thanks to BGwolverine13 for taking the time to give us the insight. Check out his site, Roll Along Baseball for more on Bowling Green.

Weather

The weather is looking a bit wet into the morning hours, but it's supposed to clear out by 1pm and leave sunny skies just in time for first pitch against Toledo. I wouldn't be surprised to see plenty of Diamond Dry busted out to get the infield in good shape, but the outfield might be a little slick by the start of the game. Game time temperatures should be in the low 50s. Winds will be out to right field at 10-15 mph.

Wednesday's game against Bowling Green should be perfect baseball weather for the locals. Mostly sunny with game time temps in the low 60s. Winds should be left to right, about 10 mph.

Thoughts and Predictions

I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan loses the Toledo game. Toledo is a solid program and has already shown they can take Big Ten leaders to the brink with their 4-3 loss at Ohio State. With that in mind, I think Michigan can pull this game out. Some of our mid-week guys have had some good appearances of late.

Bowling Green, on the other hand, will probably be a blow out. I have no reason to think Michigan blows this game. We must have revenge.

I'm interested to see how the starts are divvied up. Matt Miller and Matt Gerbe would be my guesses, and that's actually got me pretty excited. Gerbe threw very well last week, and I think Miller is more than capable of taking care of business against both of these teams. Another wild card is Ben Ballantine. He didn't get any work in against Purdue, so he may get the nod as well. I wouldn't mind see him getting the easy start against BGSU. That should help him continue his development nicely. Lots of options are always a positive.

Update: The Daily reports Matt Miller goes Tuesday.

Update II: Tim is reporting Matt Gerbe as the starter Wednesday. MGoBlue verifies.

Last note, Tim may be on air a bit for the Toledo game. So for those of you who can afford the $2.99 to watch the game stream, give him a listen.

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