M Baseball is back! ... But in like Texas and stuff...

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on February 7th, 2014 at 8:17 AM

You are looking live at a post by some guy that used to be here all the time, but since has disappeared into the wilderness and thus returned only to probably disappear again!

Anyway, UM's baseball season is nigh upon us! In just one week, Coach Bakich continues his crusade "to catch that softball program" and return Michigan to the NCAA tournament.  This year's edition of the team is very similar to that of last year's, but now with more experience!

Eric Sorenson, my former idol and still current holder of my most coveted job I will never try to get, has posted his "Top 302 Teams of 2014" post for this year, and yes, he does rank and blurb each of the 302 teams in Division 1, and he has Michigan at #71:

71- MICHIGAN (29-27, 14-10)

2013 ISR: 138

Starters Returning: 7

Weekend Starters: 3

Mid-Week Starters: 1

Key Relievers (15+inns.): 4

Coach Erik Bakich was right, “a bunch of pissed-off Wolverines” turned the program around last year. Could be even more this year as 55 of the 56 starts on the mound come back, as does two-way talent Jacob Cronenworth (.320, 12SBs & 0-3, 1.93, 7svs). Plus, the future is sparkling for the Maize & Blue as the 20th-ranked recruiting class comes to campus.

For those interested, his B1G teams are ranked as such:

4. Indiana
48. Nebraska (*fixed after comment)
51. Illinois
71. Michigan
75. Michigan State
103. Minnesota
105. Ohio State
138. Iowa
191. Purdue
196. Northwestern
226. Penn State

Indiana is the clear favorite after making it all the way to the College World Series Last year. They return plenty and their coach is fantastic.  After that, it gets all B1G Baseball-y with any team from Illinois to probably Ohio State having a decent shot at being pretty good, but no one is really sure because this is 1) college baseball and 2) mid-major college baseball.

As for this year's schedule, it looks to have quite a few solid names on the docket.  The team starts with a Texas tour starting with a tournament in San Marcos with games against 2 of Sorenson's top 100 in Texas State and Washington.  Then it's a 3 game set at my current graduate school, the University of Houston.  Needless to say I will be attending at least one game in my Michigan jersey.  Not that I'll be in UH jerseys for the other three, but my mother and wife have the audacity to both have birthdays that weekend, so I won't have much time to enjoy the old ball field. 

From there is't a tournament hosted by Notre Dame in Cary, N.C.  Which... yeah, sure. But top 5 North Carolina State and top 20 UCLA will both be there, along with a double header with Appalachian State and Notre Dame sandwiched between the big two. After that its a swing through Florida for our nearly annual FGCU match up, a game at UCF, and a 4 game set against a probably hapless Princeton.

We finish the southern tour in Charleston to take on Appalachain State again, followed by two against College of Charleston ad Kent State.

That's a pretty solid opening stanza.  Of those teams, only Air Force and Princeton are terrible.  The rest are at least top 120-ish teams.

As for the B1G season, we start it in the hardest way possible, a 3 game set at Indiana.  Then its home against Iowa and Minnestoa, away to Illinois and Purdue, home against Nebraska, away to Northwestern, and then finish the season home against Ohio State.  Lastly, we have a bye week with a pair of games against Kansas, who projects to be a meh Big12 team.

B1G tournament is in Omaha this year, probably as a favor to Indiana.  Give them an extra couple practice games on their CWS warm up tour. 

I have no particular idea myself on how the season will go down.  I somewhat gave up following the team 3-4 years ago with school and work and wife and globe-trotting recently, so that's probably all I'll have on the team for a while.  I may post a summary of the game from Houston if I do make it out there. Maybe I'll even catch you out there. 

Comments

Wolverine Devotee

February 7th, 2014 at 8:23 AM ^

Yes!

Can't wait for the debut of the NEW Ray Fisher Stadium.

HD video board, field turf with logos and a new and flashy outfield wall.

Definitely going to drive out for a weekend series.

rob f

February 7th, 2014 at 12:02 PM ^

There is one weekend this spring during which both the Baseball and Softball Teams are both at home, it's the first weekend of April (Friday 4/4 thru Sunday 4/6).  The men host Minnesota while the women get to kick the Bucks in the nuts (they can do that, right?) that weekend.

As an added bonus for the Detroit Tiger fans here, the Tigers are also in town vs. the Orioles that very same weekend.  A baseball/softball tripleheader weekend looking likely for me!

LSAClassOf2000

February 7th, 2014 at 8:32 AM ^

I will be taking my kids to one of the Iowa games in late March more than likely because baseball is one of the few varsity sports at Michigan they've not seen live yet.

As for starting out next week in San Marcos, I looked up the forecast on NWS and it is 28 right now down there with temperatures in the mid-60s possibly for the end of next week. I would take the 28 degrees at this point. 

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 9:04 AM ^

Its my understanding that they fly out Thursday night as necessary, then fly back Sunday night, hence most games on Sunday being at 1-ish.  They won't play extra innings most Sundays unless both schools have a short commute, which means Michigan could potentially end games in ties. 

I'm sure they pack school work for plane trips, not that I'd be able to focus on school while on a plane. 

As for the week in March with mid-week games, that's spring break for students anyway. 

Raoul

February 7th, 2014 at 9:00 AM ^

Welcome back, FA!

Not all the Big Ten previews are out yet, but the consensus seems to have Michigan finishing around third or fourth. Indiana is the clear favorite, with most putting Nebraska second. Baseball America's preview includes this blurb for the Wolverines:

Michigan battled its way into the Big Ten tournament with a young team in coach Erik Bakich’s first year, and its strength is its talented sophomore class. The lineup is built around SS Travis Maezes and 1B/RHP Jacob Cronenworth, who both have athleticism, physicality, toughness and savvy. Cronenworth also can run his fastball into the low 90s and anchors the bullpen. Projectable So. LHP Evan Hill continues to get stronger and refine his cutter and curveball, and he has a chance to be an outstanding Friday starter

Darker Blue

February 7th, 2014 at 9:02 AM ^

We missed you. 

FA, you're too good for Europe. I'm pretty sure MGoPoints aren't reedemable for prizes across the ocean. 

EDIT: To stay on topic, what do you think the odds are that MICH makes an incredible run and makes the CWS???

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 9:13 AM ^

Its one of the few Texas metros they havent.  They've played in Huntsville & Lubbock recently.  I'd consider San Marcos to be the Austin/San Antonio loop.  It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to schedule UT-Arlington sometime soon.  They're a solid program over the last 10 years.  

That said, with the number of California players on the roster, I think Texas may be phasing off the schedule soon.  It's been a few seasons since we had multiple Texas players on the roster, and historically, we've scheduled where we have more players so they can play in front of family.

Raoul

February 7th, 2014 at 9:37 AM ^

Bakich is recruiting near the top of the conference. From what I hear the new Maryland coach is doing very well, so you'd have to put them alongside Nebraska and Michigan as the three Big Ten schools recruiting the best right now.

For more details on Michigan's recruits, see the hello thread for Ryan Nutof, which includes a chart of the 2014 class; this thread for the 2015 class; and this thread for 2016.

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 9:37 AM ^

They dropped their team in 1991.  I want to say it was Title IX related, or at least they claim Title IX (along with baseball being one of the most expensive sports per athelete) has kept them from starting the team back up. 

Wisconsin wasn't particularly good historically.  They did well in the 40s-50s and a brief blip in the 70s. Minnesota on the other had has historically been a strong program in the B1G. Wisconsin-Milwaukee does have a team in the Horizon League, although they have been threatened with closing the program as well in the last decade. 

Wolverine Devotee

February 7th, 2014 at 10:32 AM ^

Ah minnesota, one of the more strange home field stories.

Siebert Field (formerly Bierman Field) has been their "home" since 1971. Through hell or high water, they played there until the early 80s. Every single home game.

Then, when the Humpty Dump opened, they played earlier home games there that were in cold weather or projected poor weather.

Siebert flooded twice destroying the surface in the 2000s, thus, moving all of their home games to the essentially empty Metrodome as well as a few here and there at Target Field.

Last year was their last as tennants in the Metrodome. So, it's back to Siebert and apparently they're redoing the stadium.

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 9:43 AM ^

Long story in a nut shell:  

Long ago in a far distant commenting system known as HaloScan, I posted anonymously when there were but just a few dozen of us.  I changed it.  It was formerlyanonymous. 

Also, technically Brian dropped my first name in a post one time. It made my psuedonym even less psuedo. Add that a certain college baseball website I wrote BigTen previews for used my real name instead of pen name, and I'd say I'm more pseudo anonymous than formerly anonymous, but that still makes me formerly anonymous, doesn't it?

Muttley

February 7th, 2014 at 9:56 AM ^

Take them to a baseball game.

 

And since giving them the same gift would likely be frowned upon, make sure that you take each to their own distinct game.

gwkrlghl

February 7th, 2014 at 10:11 AM ^

I know there are a good number of M Softball & Baseball afficionados around here so can someone shed some light on softball vs. baseball? Obvoiusly the ladies are a perennial top 10 team hiding in the cold north. Any reason why baseball couldn't do the same? Is it more common to have better northerly softball teams than baseball teams?

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 10:19 AM ^

Nationally, there area  few big softball programs in the north, notably Michigan and Northwestern.  Baseball is not so much.  No team north of Tennessee and East of the Pacific Northwest tends to stay good long any more.  Occasionally Louisville or Kentucky have a couple good seasons in a row, but in baseball, those are considered northern teams as well.

I can't explain it in great detail, but I would bet it has to do with quality of pitching.  Because the way a baseball is thrown, cold weather is more detrimental.  The same thing applies with softball starting pitchers throwing nearly every game where baseball is once a week. The best pitching stays in the south. You want to play where the best competition is to be drafted, so better hitters stay there. That and it's just warmer during the season down there.  You also don't have to worry about hectic travel schedules during the school year, so academically, it could be beneficial to play at a place like LSU that only leaves the state of Louisiana when the SEC makes them play road games..

This is probably way over simplified though.

Wendyk5

February 7th, 2014 at 10:50 AM ^

My son plays on a travel team in Evanston. A couple of years ago, when he was 12, his team went to play in a tournament in Cooperstown against mostly southern and western teams - Georgia, Florida and California. We were warned that we were going to get our butts kicked, but none of us expected to be down 15 - 0 in the first inning of our first game. It went on from there. We get maybe 7 practices in before the season starts in chilly April, and those are all indoor practices. Those warm weather guys practice and play year 'round. Consequently, baseball is sort of a dying sport in our area, unfortunately. 

rob f

February 7th, 2014 at 10:44 AM ^

It's school schedules vs. Old Man Winter.  If you think the S-E-C has an advantage in recruiting and all that stuff in CFB, well, that's not nearly the advantage they (and schools everywhere from the Deep South all the way to the California Coast) have in baseball and softball.

Michigan's Men plays their first 25 games on the road, 21 of them down there followed by a game @EMU and their B1G opening 3-game series @IU before finally (weather permitting) coming home on March 26th.

The Michigan Softballers face the same scheduling problems; both teams end their respective regular seasons in mid-May, followed by their B1G Tournaments, followed immediately in late May by the NCAA Regionals and World Series.

HUGE built-in advantage to teams in southern climates and not much that can be done to tip the scales, unfortunately.  For Michigan to be as competitive as they currently are (especially the long term great success the women have enjoyed), great big kudos to both Coach Hutchins and Coach Bakich for the amazing things they and their staffs are able to accomplish being located so far north .

Raoul

February 7th, 2014 at 11:22 AM ^

The Big Ten just announced today that the conference tournament will expand from six teams to eight teams starting this season. The format will be double elimination followed by a single championship game. The conference had earlier announced that it would expand the tourney to eight teams next season with the additions of Maryland and Rutgers, but they've now moved the change up a year.

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 12:18 PM ^

I hate this format.  They have two 4 team brackets playing double elimination, EXCEPT, instead of facing the loser from your bracket possibly again, you get the loser from the other bracket, then a one off winner take all.  If you lose in the first round, it's 6 games in 5 days to win it all.  That's ludicrous for a college team.

Alton

February 7th, 2014 at 2:01 PM ^

The problem is not the format--it's hard to come up with a better one if we start with 8 teams and have to declare a champion in a 5-day span.  The one that comes to mind is the modified Page system as is used in (for example) Australian Rules Football, although giving the top 4 seeds such a huge advantage over the next 4 might be objectionable.  The real problem is that the "everybody gets a trophy" mentality has led the conference to expand to 8 teams.

Here are the pertinent facts:  (1) The Big Ten is a mid-major.  (2) As a mid-major, the Big Ten champion will generally have a shot at winning a regional, but will generally not be favored.  (3)  Regionals are 4-team double-elimination tournaments.  (4) The sort of talent distribution to win an 8-team 5-day tournament is very different than the sort of talent distribution needed to win a 4-team 4-day tournament.  Witness the fact that the SEC, ACC and Big XII tournament champions (also 8-team tournaments) almost never win their regionals.

The Big Ten needs to go back to the 4-team double-elimination conference tournament (hosted by the regular season champion).  They need to make the tournament the same format as the NCAA regional the next week (2-2-2-1).  If they do that, they're much more likely to have a conference champion that is prepared to win their NCAA regional than if they have an 8-team conference tournament.
 

OldBlue78and81

February 7th, 2014 at 2:09 PM ^

It's a problem as far as crowning a legit champ. They play a certain rotation with a certain number of starters all year, and then they have to dig much, much deeper for the tourney weekend. I can't think of another instance where it is virtually guaranteed that at least 1 team will have to play a player, at the most important position, who is either out of position (e.g. a reliever having to start) or has played very rarely. There may not be a solution, but it is weird at best.

Alton

February 7th, 2014 at 2:12 PM ^

I am considering that a problem not of "format" but a problem of "too many teams invited".  Once you decide to invite 8 teams, you are forcing important games to be decided by who has the 12th best pitcher...unless you keep it at single-elimination.

It's not the double-elimination format that needs to be changed--that's the best thing for baseball.

It's not the crossover game that needs to be changed.

It's the fact that they are inviting 8 teams to the tournament.  Once they do that, they make it much less likely that the best team wins the conference tournament (thereby making it much less likely that a Big Ten team wins a regional).  We need to go back to 4 teams.

MaizeAndBlueWahoo

February 7th, 2014 at 3:13 PM ^

Yes.  Mid-majors need to do their level best to ensure their best team gets to the tournament.  You see basketball mid-majors set up all kinds of tortured brackets for their conference tourneys to balance the competing interests of giving every team a shot (thereby making as much money as possible) and sending the best team to the Dance (thereby also making as much money as possible.)

An ACC or SEC is motivated the other way.  From the standpoint of getting as many teams in the tourney as possible, you want to give the underdogs the best possible chance to win.

formerlyanonymous

February 7th, 2014 at 2:11 PM ^

Because I agree they should go to the NCAA model as well. If we were a stronger league top to bottom, maybe an 8 team tourney would make sense as a middle table team could conceivable compete in a regional if they were to win (like a 4-6th place SEC team).  A 4-6 seed in the B1G would likely be murdered.  

I agree completely; you shouldn't be in the tournament unless you expect to compete in the NCAA. 

Alton

February 7th, 2014 at 2:19 PM ^

That's a fair point.

And yes, absolutely.  The ACC, SEC and Big 12 can have 8-team tournaments, because all 8 of those teams are going to make the NCAA tournament anyway.

The MAC, Ohio Valley Conference and the Atlantic 10 can have 8-team tournaments, because it doesn't matter who they send to the NCAA tournament, they will be eliminated in 2 or 3 games.

The Big Ten is just good enough that they can't afford the luxury of 8-team tournaments.  They need to reward the type of team that is built to win a 4-team, double-elimination tournament.  Like Michigan the year that they went down and beat #1 Vanderbilt in the regional--2 top-of-the-line starters, 1 good-to-great reliever, and 2-3 other pitchers who can hold their own in a tough situation.  That team may or may not win an 8-team conference tournament, and it would have been a shame if they had been left at home.

WFDEric

February 7th, 2014 at 12:31 PM ^

I'll be heading to the game on February 22nd. 6:30 start time in Houston rush hour traffic will suck but it will be worth it!  Anyone from the Woodlands area going?? I just signed up this week to teach ACLS on the 23rd!! Dammit!