Nationals Arm Race

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Player Killers: what college programs are known for hurting pro prospects?

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Did TCU destroy Purke's arm?  Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Did TCU destroy Purke’s arm? Photo AP/Nati Harnik

Its always dangerous to make a blanket statement in baseball.  If I say that “CollegeX is known for killing pitcher arms” then there’ll immediately be people who cite players who are exceptions to such a rule.

Nonetheless, while reading a ton of prospect-driven content on the web over the years, some common themes pop up.  And the crux of it is this: there are some college baseball programs out there that are accused of hurting their players’ professional prospects and draft statuses by virtue of the misguided or (in some cases) outdated coaching and usage of players.

Grantland’s Michael Baumann wrote an excellent article summarizing some of the “danger programs” in 2013, citing work done by Rany Jazayerli and Baseball Prospectus.  Some of this also comes from Keith Law‘s freely offered opinions on the topic, and he offers up plenty of supporting evidence in his columns and chats.

Here’s some trouble-maker programs (and by “programs” often times by implication you’re blaming the head coach as the decision maker):

  • Stanford: Law calls it the “Stanford Swing.”  Per Law, Stanford coaches emphasize going away, altering hitters’ swings to de-emphasize pull hitting, to the point apparently where players are outright benched for pulling the ball.  Now, there’s quite a few Stanford grads in the Majors right now, and the  hitters listed aren’t exactly an honor roll of top-hitting guys.  Jed Lowrie might be the best active hitter.  The career Stanford grad homer leader is the recently retired Carlos Quentin, out of baseball at 32.  So maybe there’s something to it.
  • TCU: Jim Schlossnagle is not well known for its handling of pitchers.  The Nats are well aware of this, having drafted damaged goods in Matthew Purke, who was 15-0 as a freshman and basically hasn’t been the same since.
  • Rice’s Wayne Graham: Law has provided an exhaustive list of pitchers who he accuses the Rice coaches of blatantly over-working and has flat out suggested that pitchers considering attending Rice should go elsewhere.  In fact, the most blatant example of this was the 2004 draft: Rice had three starters drafted in the first 8 picks (Philip Humber, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Townsend) and ALL three of them suffered shoulder injuries soon there after.
  • UNC‘s Mike Fox so over-used a reliever a few years back that the New York Times of all papers wrote about it.  And he had Matt Harvey, don’t forget, allowing Harvey to throw an astounding 157 pitches in a 2010 outing and 5 other instances of 120+ pitches.  Is it a coincidence that Harvey blew out his UCL just a couple years later?  Or just bad luck?
  • South Carolina‘s Ray Tanner: won back to back CWS’s … on the backs of his pitching staff.
  • Texas‘ legendary coach Augie Garrido already had a reputation for overuse before the infamous Texas-Boston College regional game in June of 2009.   Texas’ Austin Wood, a reliever, came out of the bullpen to throw 13 innings and 169 pitches in the 25-inning game.  Garrido really took a lot of heat for that … but his BC counterpart might have only been slightly less culpable.  BC threw its own guy Mike Belfiore for 129 pitches and 9 2/3 innings.  In Wood’s case, it was made even worse by the fact that he had thrown two innings *the day before.*  It is no surprise to report that Wood had to undergo Shoulder Surgery the next season, nor is it a surprise that the crusty Garrido disclaimed any responsibility for the injury by Wood’s usage in that game.  Belfiore, it should be noted, has never shown any evidence of injury, was a 1st round draft pick just prior to his appearance, and looks like a 4-A pitcher who is now in the Detroit organization but who had a cup of coffee in 2013.  Perhaps its because Belfiore was a starter and basically threw a start instead of Wood, who was clearly a reliever.

Pitch count guidelines: there’s research out there that basically shows that anything above 120 pitches in an outing is an indicator of fatigue-induced regression their next time out, and 130+ pitch outings might as well be prescriptions for injury.

Times have changed: no longer are A-1 pitching prospects left in games to rack up ridiculous pitch counts.  Mark Prior had at least 6 starts the year he was drafted where he threw 120-130+ pitches.  Ben McDonald was famously started in back to back CWS games, getting clobbered in the second game … all while having *already* been drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, who must have been screaming at the television set watching what was  unfolding as legendary LSU coach Skip Bertman set about destroying the best arm in the nation.

But then again, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  NC State, in a mad dash to make the post-season in 2014, let their Ace starter Carlos Rodon throw 120+ pitches seven times.  Rodon’s usage was also discussed in Baseball America.  Did that lead to Rodon’s diminished stuff and subsequent drop in the 2013 draft?  Maybe.  I’m sure the White Sox are ok with it, since he doesn’t seem to have suffered any ill effects and is in their rotation 2 years later.  Trevor Bauer, while at UCLA, *averaged* more than 120 pitches an outing the year he was drafted … but he seems like such an outlier because of his warm-up technique (which involves extreme long toss and clearly has built up his shoulder strength over the years).  Are NC State and UCLA trouble-programs?  I havn’t heard much since so i’m leaving them off for now.

Did I miss anyone?

2015 CWS Finals: Virginia wins!

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WaddellBrandon via 247sports.com

Brandon Waddell pitched the game of his life in the CWS final. Photo via 247sports.com

Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2015:

 


Here’s how the Finals played out.

  • In Game One on 6/22/15, UVA’s Connor Jones matched Vanderbilt’s ace Carson Fulmer zero for zero for the first five innings.  However, Vanderbilt got a well-timed opposite field double down the line to plate two and then scored three more, knocking Jones from the game in the 7th to win game one 5-1.  Fulmer was outstanding, holding UVA to just 2  hits through 7 2/3rds innings, leaving with a large lead in his final collegate appearance (he was drafted 8th overall by the White Sox).  Other players of note: #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson finally had a good game, going 2-4 with a run and an RBI.  Nats 3rd rounder Rhett Wiseman struggled; going 0-4 with the hat-track of three punch-outs.
  • In Game Two on 6/23/15, UVA turned to their regular outfielder Adam Haseley in somewhat of a shock, and he threw 5 shut-out innings before handing the ball to the most dominant pitcher this post-season has seen in Josh Sborz, who threw another 4 shutout innings to shore up the win 3-0 and force a game 3.  UVA’s offense was also unexpected; they were powered by their #8 and #9 hitters, the latter of which was walk-on senior Thomas Woodruff, who had a grand total of 67 ABs in his collegiate career.  It was Woodruff’s 2-run bases loaded single that provided the game winning runs.  Amazing.
  • In Game three on 6/24/15, UVA’s Brandon Waddell threw the game of his life, giving up 2 runs early but then shutting down Vanderbilt’s offense for the next six innings en route to a 4-2 win.  Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler struggled with his control, giving up runs early and getting unceremoniously yanked in his last collegiate appearance.  Nathan Kirby came on to relieve Waddell, who threw 105 pitches on 3 days rest, and blew away Vanderbilt’s hitters in the 8th and 9th for his first (and last) career save.  3B Kenny Towns, a lowly 20th round pick by the Angels, was the game hero, with a very good diving stop to save a run early and a crucial go-ahead RBI late.   But it was freshman 1B Pavin Smith who was the offensive star of the game, clubbing a 2-run homer early to tie the game and deflate Vanderbilt.

UVA wins the first Baseball title for the ACC since 1955, an amazing stat considering the baseball-playing pedigree of the conference.  Super reliever Josh Sborz recieved the MVP award for his CWS work; final tally:  3IP on 6/13, 2IP on 6/15, and 4ip on 6/20, and 4IP on 6/23.  All Scoreless.

UVA completes a pretty amazing season all things considered; they suffered injuries to a number of their key guys, struggled in conference all season and likely only even made the field by virtue of a sweep of UNC in their final ACC season series.  But, for those who thought the final was a fluke based on the seedings of the two teams, consider this: Vanderbilt was the consensus pre-season #1 team by every poll out there, and UVA was either 2nd, 3rd or 4th in those same polls.  So these teams were expected to return to the CWS at the very least … they just to circuitous paths there.

Your 2015 College World Series Champion: The University of Virginia

This concludes the College Baseball season and our coverage of it for 2015.  I have some draft posts about summer leagues and summer travel teams of note for high schoolers that I may dig out again, for those interested.

 


College CWS tournament references:

CWS Group Winners and CWS Final preview

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Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2015:

Lets review the CWS group play.  The CWS plays just one or two games a day; a far cry from the first weekend, where 64 teams played hundreds of games over the course of a long weekend.  So this post has been written in one or two sentence increments for a week and a half…

My pre-CWS predictions were Florida from the top and LSU from the bottom.  Lets see how things turned out.


In the Left Bracket (UVA, Arkansas, #5 Miami and #4 Florida)

  • In the opening games, UVA took out Arkansas 5-3 behind a decent effort from Connor Jones (Great Bridge HS) but an even better effort from 2nd rounder Josh Sborz, who shut down Arkansas for the win.  Both teams’ premier hitters (Andrew Benintendi and Joe McCarthy) hit solo shots during the game.  In the other opener,  Florida destroyed Miami 15-3, knocking out Andrew Suarez after just 3 1/3 innings.
  • In the first elimination game, Miami got two hits in the bottom of the 9th to walk off and eliminate Arkansas 4-3.
  • In the winners bracket game to take control of the group, UVA’s #2 Brandon Waddell pitched perhaps the game of his career, shutting down Florida on just 2 hits for 7 scoreless innings before Sborz got the 2-inning save, giving UVA a 1-0 victory and a surprising (to me) clear path to the CWS finals for the 2nd year in a row.
  • In the play-in game to the group final, Florida jumped all over Miami’s starter, so they brought back Suarez on short rest (which I’m sure his drafting team (San Francisco) was thrilled about), but the game was over early and Florida eliminated Miami 10-2 to setup a rematch with UVA for a berth in the finals.
  • In the group final, UVA’s gambit of throwing ace Nathan Kirby after being side-lined for months backfired; he was hit hard early and UVA’s notional 3rd starters (Alec Bettinger) just couldn’t keep Florida at bay long enough to allow his offense to come back.  Florida wins 10-5 to force a winner-take-all game and wreak havoc on UVA’s pitching matchup strategy.  Luckily for UVA, they have Josh Sborz, who relieved Waddell and threw four shut-out innings, enough to give UVA’s offense time to scrape together the winning run and advance to the CWS final.

Group winner advancing to the CWS finals: UVA


In the Right Bracket (#2 LSU, #7 TCU, #11 Vanderbilt and #14 Cal State-Fullerton)

  • In the opening games, TCU stunned LSU 10-3, with TCU’s ace (and Chicago Cub 8th rounder) Preston Morrison shutting down LSU’s offense.  Nats 2nd rounder Andrew Stevenson was 1-4 with an RBI.   Meanwhile, Cal State – Fullerton got to Vanderbilt ace Carson Fulmer while their own ace (2nd round pick Thomas Eshelman) showed why he’s got 80 command, throwing 5+ scoreless, walk-less innings before weather forced the suspension of the opener.  Luckily for Vanderbilt, the rest of CSF’s staff wasn’t as effective, and Vanderbilt got a 4-3 walk-off win.
  • In the first elimination game, LSU’s Alex Lange pitched a complete game to defeat Cal State-Fullerton and eliminate them from the CWS.
  • In the winners bracket game to take control of the group, Vanderbilt’s clean-up hitter Zander Weil hit a solo homer in the 7th to provide the only offense of the night as Vanderbilt beat TCU 1-0 to take control of the group and make it seem more and more likely of a CWS rematch.
  • In the play-in game to the group final, TCU punished LSU’s bullpen and took an easy 8-4 win to eliminate the highest seed in the CWS and force a rematch with Vanderbilt for a spot in the CWS final. 
  • In the group final, Vanderbilt threw their 1st rounder Walker Buehler for the first time in 3 weeks and he was sparkling; he pitched into the 7th, allowing just 4 hits.  Meanwhile Nats 3rd round pick Rhett Wiseman, after taking a ball to the neck in the 1st, absolutely crushed a homer to put the game out of reach for Vanderbilt, who go on to win 7-1 and advance.

Group winner advancing to the CWS finals: #11 seed Vanderbilt.


CWS finals discussion: Games 1,2,3 set for 6/22-6/24/15.  Vanderbilt’s pitching staff for the CWS final looks like this:

  • Ace Fulmer threw 6 innings and 104pitches on 6/14/15.   He’ll be on 7 days rest for game 1.
  • #3 Philip Pfeifer threw 7 innings and 112 pitches on 6/16/15.  He’ll be on 6 days rest for game 2.
  • #2 Buehler, who threw 6 2/3rds innings on 6/19/15 would be on 4 days rest for a decider on 6/24/15, normal rest for a pro but a little short for a college guy.  Otherwise, some-time starter John Kilichowski, who threw 2+ in both the 2nd and 3rd games of the CWS group play, could be available depending his usage in the first two games.

Meanwhile, UVA’s pitching staff is in trouble.  Here’s where they stand:

Sborz meanwhile threw multiple innings in each group win: 3IP on 6/13, 2IP on 6/15, and 4ip on 6/20.   And all of those were very high leverage innings, with UVA either tied or clinging to a small lead.  UVA almost has to consider throwing one of its mid-week starters in Game 2.  That would give them Kirby on 4 days rest in the final, to be relieved by Waddell on 3 days rest.  You just can’t take a guy who hasn’t thrown in months and then pitch him back to back on the shortest rest of his life.

You have to like the way the CWS lines up for Vanderbilt’s staff.  Jones wasn’t exactly overpowering against Arkansas in his start (3 runs in 6ip) and Vanderbilt’s got a better offense.

I’m note quite sure how Vanderbilt slipped to an #11 seed in this tournament, given the talent and leadership on their squad.   It is worth noting they had no less than nine draftees in the 2015 draft; 3 first rounders (1st, 8th and 24th overall), 2 third rounders and a 6th of note.  That’s a ton of talent.  You have to think they’re the favorites in the final to repeat.

Prediction: Vanderbilt in 2.

 


College CWS tournament references:

2015 CWS Super-Regionals recap and CWS field

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Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2015:

Here’s how the super-regionals went down: we’ll look at these regionals in the original order of the top 8 national seeds.  Red indicates the winner.

  • Maryland at UVA: UVA scored 5 runs in the 8th off Maryland’s closer Kevin Mooney to shock the Terps in Game 1.   Connor Jones gave up 3 in 7 innings and was wild, and Maryland Ace Mike Shawayrn pitched into the 8th before getting lifted.  Game two was even more of a shock, with UVA scoring 3 in the ninth to get a walk-off win 5-4, again with the winning hit coming against Mooney.  UVA’s starter Brandon Waddell gave up 4 in 8 innings and local product Alec Bettinger got the win with a scoreless 9th.  Poor Mooney; just about the two worst outings of the season for him at the worst possible time (he had a 1.89 ERA on the season).  UVA advances to the CWS for the 2nd straight year.
  • #2 LSU vs Louisiana-Lafayette: LSUand ULL had late drama, each team hitting a homer in the 9th, except that LSU’s was a walk-off, giving them game one 4-3.  In the second, LSU controlled the game and won the series 2-0 to advance to Omaha.  Draft prospects of note Alex Bregman and Blake Trahan were both relatively quiet in the first game but Bregman came up big in the 2nd game.
  • #3 Louisville vs #14 Cal State-Fullerton: CSF stole the first game, outlasting Louisville’s Ace Kyle Funkhouser (who gave up 2 in 7) and, after giving up a game-tying solo homer in the bottom of the 9th worked the bases loaded and won on a go-ahead HBP.  Louisville pounded CSF 9-3 in game to to force a Monday decider.  They needed extras, with Cal State-Fullerton scoring 2 late to force it and then taking it 4-3 with a run in the 11th to advance.
  • #4 Florida vs #13 Florida State: Florida scored 4 in the first and never looked back, winning game one 13-5.  They didn’t let up in game two, winning 11-4 and sending Florida to the CWS.
  • #5 Miami vs VCU: Miami took game one 3-2 partly thanks to an egregiously bad runner interference call in the middle of a VCU rally.  And then Miami became the first to punch their ticket to Omaha with an easy game 2 win, barely looking taxed by the over-matched VCU Rams.
  • #6 Illinois vs #11 Vanderbilt: in game 1, Vanderbilt destroyed Illinois 13-0; Carson Fulmer went 6 1/3 scoreless and Vanderbilt pounded Illinois’ ace Kevin Duchene (giving him just his 2nd loss this year).  In game 2, Illinois super-reliever and 1st round pick got the start, and got hit.  In fact, the biggest guy to get to him was #1 overall pick Dansby Swanson, who came up huge in this game and helped Vanderbilt win 4-2 and advance to Omaha as the defending champ.
  • #7 TCU vs #10 Texas A&M: TCU blitzed the offensive-minded TAMU team 13-4 in game one, handing TAMU starter Grayson Long his first loss of the season.  TAMU got to TCU starter Preston Morrison in the 10th and won 2-1 to force the third game.  That 3rd game was an instant classic, with TAMU scoring 2 in the 9th to tie it, and the game going 16 innings.  TCU’s Mitchell Traver pitched 4 hitless innings and got the win with TCU‘s walkoff in the bottom of the 16th.
  • #8 Missouri State at Arkansas: Arkansas got to host this series thanks to Missouri State’s co-tenant (the AA affiliate of St. Louis) having a home series.  This did not bode well for MSU, and neither did their Ace and top-10 draft prospect Jon Harris getting absolutely lit up in game 1; he gave up 9 runs in 5 innings and the bullpen didn’t do much better, with Miami winning 18-3.  Harris may have cost himself some cash with that last look for some scouts.  In game 2, Missouri State forced the sunday decider with a 3-1 victory.  In the decider, Arkansas scored 3 in the first and made it stand up, winning 3-2 and advancing to Omaha.  Other players of note: Arkansas’ presumed first rounder Anthony Benintendi was mostly pitched around in game one (3 walks) and was basically a non-factor the rest of the way.

CWS Field:

  • UVA, Arkansas, Miami and Florida on one side,
  • LSU, TCU, Vanderbilt and Cal State-Fullerton on the other.

2 ACC, 4 SEC teams, one Big-12 and one Big West entry.  Very much an East Coast tournament this year; the two non ACC/SEC teams had to beat (favored) ACC/SEC teams to advance.  Four national seeds remain (#2, #4, #5 and #7), two regional host seeds are in (#11 and #14) and those teams that are not seeded (UVA and Arkansas) have pretty good pedigrees.  A great field.

CWS Field thoughts; I think the “left” side of the draw will come down to Miami and Florida, and I think Florida is too tough.  If UVA gets Nathan Kirby back they could be interesting, but I don’t think they have the offensive firepower to match up.  On the right hand side of the draw, LSU remains the highest seeded team left but has to contend with one other national seed in TCU.  Nonetheless, I think the right side comes down to SEC rivals LSU and Vanderbilt (the two SEC divisional regular season winners) with LSU taking it.

Quick predictions: Florida versus LSU in the final, with LSU winning it.

Player Star power in this CWS: Lots of it; these CWS teams are littered up and down with big time names.  Playing this upcoming weekend are 1st-day draftees Dansby Swanson, Walker Buehler, Carson Fulmer from Vanderbilt, Alex Bregman and Andrew Stevenson from LSU, Nathan Kirby and Josh Sborz from UVA, Andrew Benintendi from Arkansas, Andrew Suarez from Miami, Richie Martin from Florida, Alex Young and Tyler Alexander from TCU, and Thomas Eshelman from Cal State – Fullerton.  All 8 teams have at least one first or second rounder.

 


College CWS tournament references:

2015 CWS Regional Results and Super Regionals pairings

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Here’s a recap of our CWS coverage so far for 2015:

Now we’re through the Regionals and the field has been winnowed from 64 to just 16.

College CWS tournament references:


We’ll review the 16 regionals in order of the national seeds.  Bold is the host city, Blue is the host team and Red is the winner.  We’ll also highlight significant players and/or guys who are big names in the upcoming draft as we get to them (MLBpipeline.com summarizes their top 200 ranked players here: i’ll just talk about the 1st round talents and players w/ local ties).

  1. In the Los Angeles regional (host: #1 seed UCLA), the big story wasn’t the tourney’s #1 overall seed, but lowly #3 seed Maryland, who upset SEC power Ole Miss and then handled the #1 team in the land 4-1 to advance to the regional final.  UCLA made its way through the loser’s bracket and beat Maryland on 5/31/15, setting up a winner-take-all game to advance on 6/1, but Maryland prevailed in a 2-1 nailbiter.  This sets up a most amazing super-regional matchup; read on.
  2. In the Baton Rouge regional (host: #2 seed LSU), #2 overall seed LSU breezed into the region final, where they beat UNC-Wilmington 2-0 to advance.  Players of note: likely upper 1st round pick Alex Bregman had a relatively quiet regional at the plate.
  3. In the Louisville regional (host: #3 seed Louisville), Louisville made quick work of this regional, winning 3 straight games to become one of the first teams to advance.  Ace Kyle Funkhouser was thrown, oddly, in the opener against tiny Morehead State and was good but not great (2ER in 7ip), another sign that his draft stock is falling.  Nonetheless, Louisville did not look stretched in this regional, beating Michigan 13-4 to advance.
  4. In the Gainesville regional (host: #4 seed Florida), Florida (who I thought could have been the #1 overall seed) made quick work of its regional, defeating each of the other 3 participants en route to a 2-1 victory over Florida Atlantic in the final.
  5. In the Coral Gables regional (host: #5 seed Miami), Miami seemed to be in control of the regional, but was stunned by Ivy league champ Columbia, who forced a winner-take-all game on 6/1.  In that final game, Columbia finally ran out of gas and Miami embarrassed the Ivy Leaguers 21-3.  Players of note: Miami’s ace (and Nats 2014 2nd round pick) Andrew Suarez threw 7innings of 2-run ball to get the win in the opener.
  6. In the Champaign regional (host: #6 seed Illinois), the host team cruised to the region final, where they face upstart Wright State on 6/1/15.  In the final, Illinois handled Wright State to advance.  Players of note: Illinois closer Tyler Jay,whose usage this season has been deplored by scouts, did not even appear in his team’s first two wins, each a complete game by the starter.  In the region final, he closed out the game and showed off his arm, giving up 1 hit and a walk in four innings of work.  Jay is projected as an upper 1st round pick and a future starter … why he’s not being used as such in college is beyond me.
  7. In the Fort Worth regional (host: #7 seed TCU), NC State upset the host team to make the region final, but TCU fought their way out of the losers brack and forced a deciding 6/1/15 game.  After forcing the winner-take-all game, TCU rallied from an 8-1 deficit in the 8th inning to force extra innings and win on a walk-off to advance to the super-regional in perhaps the tourney’s best game.
  8. In the Springfield regional (host: #8 seed Missouri State), Missouri State lived up to its national seeding by cruising through the regional without a loss.  Players of note: Missouri State Ace Jon Harris threw 8 innings of 1-run ball to get the win over Canisius in the opener.  Harris has quietly put together a strong year and looks to be a back-of-the first round pick.
  9. In the Stillwater regional, (host: #9 seed Oklahoma State), 2nd seeded Arkansas made quick work of the regional, with host Oklahoma State not even making the regional final.  The 4th seeded St. Johns team pushed Arkansas but ultimately lost 4-3.  Players of note: Arkansas projected 1st rounder Andrew Benintendi went 4-11 for the regional but took an o-fer in the regional final.
  10. In the College Station regional (host: #10 seed Texas A&M), California (whose baseball program was one step from the grave a few years ago) upset the host to make the regional final, but TAMU forced a deciding 6/1 game.  In that game, TAMU won a well played 3-1 game that had both sides wishing these two teams played more often. 
  11. In the Nashville regional (host: #11 seed Vanderbilt), Vanderbilt awaits local team Radford, who lost to Indiana early but got revenge to make the regional final.  In the final though, Radford ran out of gas and Vanderbilt advanced by the amazing score of 21-0.  Players of note: Carson Fulmer pitched 7 innings of 1-run ball in the opener for the victory, potential first overall pick Dansby Swanson connected for his 14th homer in the 2nd game, and Walker Buehler was removed after 5 innings thanks to his team’s 10-run 5th inning.  Note: most of Radford’s squad is VA-based; I’ve never covered players heading there since it isn’t a destination baseball program.  But tourneys like this can lift up a program’s credentials, so we’ll take note of Radford commits more closely going forward.
  12. In the Dallas regional (host: #12 seed Dallas Baptist), local entry VCU made some waves early by reaching the winners bracket final, taking out host Dallas Baptist and Oregon State easily.  The host team made its way back to the regional final and has to sweep a 6/1/15 double-header to advance.  DBU forced the winner-take-all game, but VCU outlasted them in the final to be the only #4 seed to advance t his year, and perhaps one of the most unlikely #4 seeds to win a regional in the tournament’s history.  Note:  VCU’s squad is a lot more national than I would have guessed, but do have some players with local ties.
  13. In the Tallahassee regional (host: #13 seed Florida State), College of Charleston had to sweep a 6/1 DH from the host to advance, but they couldn’t get going an Florida State advanced easily.  Player of note Taylor Clarke (Ashburn native and Broad Run HS grad) got hit hard in the opener against Auburn but did not factor in the decision.
  14. In the Fullerton regional (host: #14 seed Cal State-Fullerton), host Cal State-Fullerton pounded upstart Pepperdine 10-1 to win the regional in three straight games.
  15. In the Houston regional (host: #15 seed Houston), host Houston lost a 20-inning heartbreaker to city rival Rice to be eliminated; this was one of those games you see and cringe, because both teams had guys come out of the bullpen to throw 9 innings (as far as I can tell, both teams used mid-week starters, and did not have middle relievers suddenly throwing 110 of the highest leverage pitches of their lives).  Rice has to sweep Louisiana-Lafayette twice on 6/1 on about 6 hours of sleep in order to advance, but couldn’t even win the first, losing 5-2 to send the Rajun’ Cajuns to the super-regional.
  16. In the Lake Elsinore regional (host: #16 seed UC Santa Barbara), UVA showed how badly it was under-seeded by advancing to the final by taking two close games.   Connor Jones (Great Bridge HS in Chesapeake) gave up just 1 run in nearly 8 innings to win the opener and Brandon Waddell pitched even better to beat San Diego State.  The regional final was wild, with UVA scoring 3 in the 8th to tie it and then 5 in the 11th to win 14-10 over USC to advance.  In the 3rd game, UVA threw out all kinds of names familiar to readers here: Alec Bettinger (Hylton grad from Woodbridge) got the start but failed to record an out.  He was relieved by Tommy Doyle (Vienna VA, Flint Hill) relieved Bettinger and got the game to UVA’s middle relievers.  Josh Sborz finished all three wins off.  Joe McCarthy struggled on the weekend, going just 1-6 in the final.  Nathan Kirby remains sidelined but could return for the Super-Regionals, bad news for whoever they face.  Other players of note in the regional: Upper-1st round draft talent Dillon Tate had 11 strikeouts in 8 innings, but gave up 4 runs and was out-dueled by San Diego State’s Bubba Derby in what was likely his last amateur appearance.  UCSB was badly exposed, getting crushed in its loser’s bracket game and becoming the only seed to go 2-and-out.

Summary of Regionals statistically:

  • 11 of 16 hosts advanced, including 7 of 8 National seeds.  This is a far cry from 2014, which lost most of its national seeds early.  This tournament is setup to be much more “chalk” than in years’ past.
  • 5 = number of regionals forced into the “extra” deciding game.  Most of them were good; a couple were laughers.
  • 10 of the 16 regionals were extended to Monday games, some thanks to weather, some thanks to the regional getting extended to the “extra” deciding game.
  • 11 number one seeds, 1 number two seeds, 3 number three seeds and 1 unlikely number four seed (VCU) advanced to the supers.
  • 6 number of #4 seeds who didn’t finish 4th in their regional: lots of overseeded 2/3 seeds ended up going two-and-out.  In fact, three #4 seeds pushed their way to the regional final: VCU (who won), St. Johns and Pepperdine (clearly under-seeded).
  • 1 host that went 2-and-out: the clearly undeserving host UC Santa Barbara.  Now, they were the 16 seed, but college pundits howled at their selection as host over a team like College of Charleston.
  • 9 = the number of extra inning games, including the epic 20-inning Houston-Rice game and the NC State-TCU winner-take-all extra innings affair.
  • 6 of the regionals went pure chalk, a good indication of the job the seeding committee did this year.
  • Biggest upsets: Maryland over #1 overall seed UCLA is the clear big-time upset.   Arkansas beating #9 Oklahoma State (who some thought should have been a national seed) probably was the 2nd biggest upset.
  • Most surprising regional winner:  VCU, who becomes just the 5th #4 seed to advance out of a regional since the field expanded to 64 in 1999.  But VCU is the most surprising team; the other #4 teams who advanced at least had prospects.
  • My Predictions: I was wrong about Illinois and Missouri State but was right about TCU struggling to get by NC State.  I was right in saying the rest of the national seeds should win but wrong on UCLA; nobody saw that coming.  In the 9-16s, I was right about UC Santa Barbara, wrong on Fullerton and right about Dallas Baptist … just wrong on which team was going to win.

Conference Breakdowns of the teams in the Super Regionals:

  • 4 ACC teams (out of 7 that made full field).
  • 5 SEC teams (out of 7 that made full field).
  • 2 Big-10 teams (out of 6 that made the full field).
  • 0 Pac-12 teams (out of 5 that made full field).  Per the d1baseball post above, this is the first time since the 64-team expansion that a Pac-12 team failed to make the super-regional field.  In fact, there’s just one team west of Texas in the super-regional (Cal State-Fullerton), who will be a big underdog at Louisville.  For me, this confirms what I’ve often thought; Pac12 baseball tends to get overrated.
  • The remaining 5 super-regional teams are from one-bid conferences: TCU, Missouri State, Fullerton, Louisiana-Lafayette and VCU.

Its clearly an ACC/SEC kind of year.

 


Super Regional MatchupsThe super-regional hosts were announced just after the last regional ended.

  • Maryland at UVA (guaranteeing at least one non-top 16 seed makes the CWS this year)
  • #2 LSU vs Louisiana-Lafayette
  • #3 Louisville vs #14 Cal State-Fullerton
  • #4 Florida vs #13 Florida State
  • #5 Miami vs VCU
  • #6 Illinois vs #11 Vanderbilt
  • #7 TCU vs #10 Texas A&M
  • #8 Missouri State at Arkansas

Super Regional Thoughts:

What an amazing set of circumstances: our two local teams (UVA and UMD) both fly 3,000 across the country to … setup a repeat of last year’s UVA-held super regional.  Who would have thought.  I’m not quite sure why Arkansas gets to host over national seed Missouri State; that’s got to be a point of contention for that deserving program.  Three great intra-state matchups featuring great teams from Florida, Louisiana and Texas.   The super-regionals could be pretty fun.

Predictions:

UVA gets Kirby back and holds off Maryland.  LSU and Louisville cruise.  Florida outclasses the over-achieving Florida State rival.  Miami pounds the “just happy to be here” VCU team.  Vanderbilt “upsets” by seed Illinois, who can’t handle the talent level Vandy puts out.  Texas A&M beats TCU and Missouri State blasts Arkansas after being insulted by losing hosting rights as a national seed.

 

2015 CWS Field of 64 announced; teams and analysis

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CWS 2014 logo

Soon after the conference tourneys finished up, the field of 64 was announced.  Earlier this week we reviewed the college season for all DC local teams; now lets talk about the field of 64.

This post at d1baseball.com has a great amount of information.  Here’s your top 16 seeds (each a regional host).

  1. UCLA (42-14); Pac-12 regular season champ (no post-season tourney)
  2. LSU (48-10); SEC Western Division regular season champ
  3. Louisville (43-16): ACC Atlantic Division regular season champ
  4. Florida (44-16): 2nd place, SEC Eastern division, SEC tourney champs
  5. Miami (Florida) (44-14): ACC Coastal Division regular season champ
  6. Illinois (47-8-1); Big10 regular season champ (21-1 in conference record),
  7. TCU (43-11): Big12 regular season champion
  8. Missouri State (45-10): MVC regular season and tourney champs.
  9. Oklahoma State
  10. Texas A&M
  11. Vanderbilt
  12. Dallas Baptist
  13. Florida State
  14. Cal-State Fullerton
  15. Houston
  16. UC Santa Barbara

Top8 thoughts:  in no particular order

  • I don’t think UCLA is better than the handful of teams ranked below it.  They played just 8 games against top 25 teams all year and went 4-4 in them.  Teams from the SEC and the Big12 played twice as many quality games and had far better records.
  • For my money, I would have picked one of the SEC teams, likely LSU, as my #1.  And I would have had the other (Florida) as #2.
  • Louisville seems about where they should be … and were given a very, very easy regional.
  • I don’t know what to think of Miami or Dallas Baptist (the top two teams by RPI most of the year).  Miami’s ACC division was weak but Miami played a very tough schedule.  Are they under seeded or over seeded?  Either way, Miami was given a very easy regional and these two RPI wonders (if seeds hold) are set to meet in the super-regional.
  • Illinois will be quickly exposed despite their lofty record (Strength of schedule: 175!).  They have a sneaky #2 seed in Notre Dame in their regional for an interesting geographical matchup.
  • Missouri State is a good story, but unlike their basketball breatheren I think MVC’s participants will also get exposed.

Seeds 9-16: still regional hosts but will travel if the higher seed wins.

  • TAMU is a heck of a good team; i’d favor them over Missouri State in a super regional.
  • Florida State played the 6th hardest schedule and had a 10-6 record against top 25 teams; and they’re just#13 overall?   And, to add insult to injury they have to travel to arch rival Florida in a super-regional to advance?  Wow.  Someone at Florida State must have pissed off a committee member.  That being said, pundits seem to think Florida State is chronically over-rated (as are teams like Rice and Cal State Fullerton), so perhaps 13 seed is good.
  • Houston’s regional is a fun one: three teams within Houston city limits.
  • Is UC Santa Barbara more than just Dillon Tate?  We’ll find out.
  • Lots of griping about the selection of UC Santa Barbara as a “host.”  Instead of playing on-campus, they’re hosting 3 hours away at the Lake Elsinore stadium (host of the Padres’ high-A affiliate).  Lots of people asking why not name College of Charleston as the host and then have UVA and Maryland be its 2/3 seeds, instead of forcing the two east coast teams to fly across the country?

Local teams and teams of interest in the draw with comments:

  • Maryland, a #3 seed, travels to Los Angeles to be in the #1 seed’s division.  Tough draw for them.  But probably appropriate seeding.  Pundits think Maryland was one of the last teams in.
  • UVA, also gets a #3 seed and has to travel to Santa Barbara.  UVA is not a #3 seed; they had worked their way back to the fringes of the top 25 by season’s end, and in RPI they finished #21.  That’s the upper end of the #2 seeds, not a #3 seed who is forced to travel 3,000 miles.  Now that being said, they get a very winnable regional.  UC Santa Barbara may only have one arm and USC is about even with UVA.
  • College of Charleston (and Ashburn’s Taylor Clarke) get a #2 seed (well deserved; they were almost a  host) but have to go to Florida State (tough).  See commentary above.
  • VCU heads to Dallas for Dallas Baptist’s regional, which also has traditional powerhouse Texas thrown in as a #3 seed.  Ouch.
  • Radford gets a #2 seed (??) but heads to Vanderbilt’s regional, who I have as a dark horse to make the CWS.
  • UNC got screwed; probably the last team out.  Ask yourself; do you think UNC loses to Maryland in a three-game neutral site series?  Yeah, I don’t think so either.  RPI of 28 and left out; that’s apparently the 2nd highest RPI of a team left out in a decade.  7th hardest schedule.  But if you look at the ACC standings … every team that finished with a .500 or better conference record made the field, and every other team did not.  UNC’s conference record?  13-16.  If they don’t get swept in their last two conference seasons, they’re in the field.

Predictions?

  • Of the top 8 hosts, I don’t see many upsets.  I could see Notre Dame taking out #6 Illinois.  I could see NC State giving #7 TCU issues.  I’d also say that Missouri State is in trouble .. but their 2/3 seeds don’t seem to scare anyone (Iowa and Oregon).
  • Of the 9-16 seeds, I can see Cal State Fullerton getting into trouble, and I could see a scenario where practically anyone could come out of the Santa Barbara regional.  I’m not sure I think Dallas Baptist is good enough to beat two power-houses in Oregon State and Texas.

 

Written by Todd Boss

May 27th, 2015 at 9:03 am

Posted in College/CWS

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College Baseball Regular Season wrap-up; local team season summaries

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Our first 2015 College Baseball post.  All the Division 1 conference tournaments wrapped up over the memorial day weekend, so lets wrap up how our local teams did.  We’re writing this post ahead of the regional seedings and the CWS field of 64 announcement.

We depend on d1baseball.com primarily for coverage of Division 1 Baseball.  Other useful sites include Warren Nolan’s college baseball RPIs and BaseballAmerica’s college coverage.


ACC (local interests: UVA, Virginia Tech).

UVA had a tough season; it started the season ranked in the top 3 by most charts after finishing as national runner-up last year.  Then they lost their best hitter (Joe McCarthy) for half the season, and then lost their ace (Nathan Kirby) for the second half.  They swept UVA in their final series of the season to salvage a .500 league record, good enough for 2nd place in their division but not enough to avoid the play-in game.  They won the play-in to make the ACC tournament, but went 0-3 in pool play.  They are on the outskirts of the top 25 and will make the CWS field, but will not host a regional.    Lots of well-known names to this blog and the Virginia area contributed for UVA this season: here’s a link to their season stats.  UVA finishes with a 34-22 (15-15) record.

Virginia Tech finished just a couple of games behind UVA in the standings, but were no where near the quality.  They were eliminated by UNC in the play-in game.  Final record: 27-27 (13-16).

Of note in the ACC this year to local fans: Stone Bridge alum J.B. Bukauskas was 5-3 with a 4.09 ERA for UNC this year.  He was a weekend starter as a freshman, led the team in starts, got their only win in the ACC tournament, and was named to the All-ACC freshman team.  Duke Ace, Georgetown Prep alum and Great Falls resident Mike Matuella went from being talked as a 1-1 pick to undergoing Tommy John surgery.  Draft pundits still give him a shot of going in the back end of the first round in the draft.  Nats 2014 2nd round pick Andrew Suarez went back to Miami and served as Miami’s saturday starter, going 6-1 with a 3.09 ERA for the nation’s top ranked team by RPI.  Suarez likely hasn’t improved his draft stock that much, still projected as a 2nd rounder.


Atlantic-10 (Local interests George Mason, George Washington, Richmond and VCU)

The A-10 tournament, unbeknownst to me until I looked it up for this post, was at Barcroft field in Arlington.  Grr.  GW’s home field.  I certainly would have made an effort to go had I known.  Anyway; GWU hung on as the #6 seed until the semis.   Richmond was the #3 seed and was eliminated early by GW.  VCU as the #5 seed eventually won the A-10, battering their way through conference rivals.  GMU finished just outside the qualification rankings to make the post-season conference tournament.


Big South (Local interests: VA schools Liberty, Radford, and Longwood)

Longwood was the #8 seed, losing early in the post-season tournament.  Liberty was the #4 seed and was eliminated by Longwood.    However Radford entered the tourney as the #1 seed and outlasted several very good baseball programs to win the tournament and clinch their first ever CWS appearance.


Big-10: (Local interest: Maryland)

Does it sound weird to talk about how Maryland makes the Big-10 conference tournament a “local” tournament?   Maryland made the final as the #3 seed before falling to the upset-minded Michigan team.


Big East (local interest: Georgetown)

Georgetown went 2 and out as the #4 seed in the Big East tourney.


Colonial Athletic Association (local interests: JMU, William & Mary and Towson)

Towson and JMU both had down years and didn’t qualify for the post-season tournament.  W&M did, but were 2- and out as the #6 seed.  The CAA came down to 1-2, with 2nd seeded UNC-Wilmington beating #1 seed College of Charleston.

Of note, College of Charleston was ranked most of the year and was led on the hill by friday ace starter Taylor Clarke.  Clarke was 13-1 with a 1.34ERA on the season.  Clarke hails from Ashburn and went to Broad Run and then Towson before transferring to CofC and becoming a star.


Conference USA: Local team Old Dominion

ODU was the #7 seed in the C-USA tourney and went 2-and out.


MEAC:  (Local teams UMES and Norfolk State):

Both teams made the post-season but did not factor in the final.


Patriot: (local interest: Navy)

Navy entered the post-season tourney as the #1 seed but lost in the final to #2 seed Lehigh.

The big news for Navy this year is the matriculation of a Navy grad to the majors for the first time in nearly a century.  RHP Mitch Harris also has some very personal ties: he played for the Fairfax Nationals in the (now defunct) Clark Griffith summer wood-bat league and was housed by none other than my father for the summer.

SoCon (local interest: VMI)

VMI fought hard as the #4 seed, losing in the tourney semis.


Other local players of interest: Madison alum Andy McGuire and his Texas team had to win the Big-12 tournament to get into the CWS, and they did.  McGuire went to Texas as a SS/3B but now is in the bullpen for the Longhorns.


The College World Series field of 64 will be announced just after the Memorial day weekend, upon the completion of all the college tournaments.  We’ll post again with the matchups and some quickie predictions.

 

Written by Todd Boss

May 25th, 2015 at 8:00 pm

Pros and Cons of pushing back the College Baseball Season

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Baseball fields aren't supposed to be covered in snow.  Photo via twitter

Baseball fields aren’t supposed to be covered in snow. Photo via twitter

So far, 2015 has been one massive cold spell for much of the nation.  Boston got 7 feet of snow.  Places deep into the south felt freezing temperatures.  DC just experienced its second coldest February since 1950, with an average temperature for the month below freezing.

And the College Baseball season kicked off in the middle of all this!   Division 1 college baseball programs kicked off the 2/13/15 weekend with many cold-weather teams traveling and many traditionally warmer-weather schools being forced to move home dates to warmer locations.  For example, UVA had to move a bunch of lucrative home dates to South Carolina and played one game on a HS field in Charleston.  The #1 team in the country (Vanderbilt) had to move a home series to Florida.  UNC had to move a marquee early-season match up against fellow top-10 team UCLA all the way to Orlando.

Long time collegiate baseball coach (currently at West Virginia) Randy Mazey has been pushing a recommendation to radically alter the college baseball schedule for years and has latched onto this year’s uncommonly cold winter to spread the word and gain support.  The Washington Post picked up his story in mid-February and he’s made some appearances on baseball-themed broadcasts to spread the word, and details on the email that Mazey has been sending to fellow college coaches is on d1baseball.com’s site.  I listened to a long-form interview with Mazey on d1baseball.com’s podcast (hosted by d1baseball authors Kendall Rodgers and Aaron Fitt) and gleaned the following details:

Mazey’s proposal goes like this:

  • Pitchers & Catchers would not start working out until mid-late February, similarly to the way that MLB spring training works.
  • College Baseball seasons would start April 1 (currently starts mid February, or 2/13/15 this year).  This leads to basically a 6-week cascading slip for all College Baseball events.
  • Continue to play 56-game schedule
  • Finish regular season over July 4th weekend with a “rivalry” week (current schedules end mid-May)
  • Put in a week’s delay before starting conference tournaments, to be scheduled 2nd week of July.  Current conference tourneys generally run through the 3rd week and weekends of May.
  • This puts the Regionals in the 3rd week of July, the super-regionals in the 4th week of July.  Currently Regionals are held the last weekend of May, and the super-regionals are held the first weekend of June.
  • The CWS would start the first week of August and would be coordinated with ESPN so as to fall “after” the Little League World Series.  Currently the CWS runs from mid June through the end of June.

Arguments for this proposal:

  • Levels the playing field between “northern” and “southern” baseball programs.
  • Pushes back the start of the season, avoiding obvious weather issues with more northern schools.
  • Lowers travel burdens for northern programs, who often play the first 15 games of their season on the road thanks to cold temperatures in their home towns.
  • Safer travel for teams that depend on bus travel on icy/snow-covered roads in February.
  • Attempts to increase fan interest in college baseball by avoiding conflicts with basketball season/March Madness.
  • Improves the post-season scheduling to avoid the conference-tournament crunch that occurs on college pitching staffs.
  • Reduces harm to players (pitchers especially) having to compete in very low temperatures (a stance supported by Dr. James Andrews).  More than a few marquee/1st round projected picks  have already been pulled from starts this year due to warming up for games to be played in 30-35 degree temperatures (Mike Matuella and Andrew Suarez both have already missed starts this year).
  • I suppose its a “pro” to force kids to be in school all summer so they can do summer school classes to augment their (presumably) smaller class-loads while playing during the spring session.
  • Pushing schedules into summer lessens the burden on students missing a ton of class during spring semesters (Mazey’s players missed 31 days of class one recent spring semester).  This theoretically will help kids actually graduate college, a rarity among baseball players, who generally leave school after their junior year and rarely return (tangent: Scott Boras did a study a few years back, finding that of the 824 players in the majors that year just *six* (6) had 4-year college degrees; that doesn’t say much about the job that college baseball is doing graduating kids).

Arguments against this proposal:

  • With this proposal, you’d essentially be telling college baseball players that they’re “on the clock” from mid February all the way to Mid-August, an incredibly long season.  They’d lose their entire summer vacation, have limited to no summer league baseball opportunities, no jobs to make money.  They’d essentially have 2 weeks “off” at the end of their baseball seasons (if they made the CWS) before the fall semester picked back up (at best; see further with the LLWS analysis).  This sounds like one heck of a burden for college student-athletes.  Its tough enough with spring semesters generally ending the first week of May and kids are forced to continue playing deep into June.
  • If CWS needs to work around the LLWS … well I’m not sure how you do that.  In 2014, the LLWS schedule in Williamsport, PA ran from August 14th through the championship game on August 24th (a sunday).  If CWS waits to play its final until after the LLWS does … well when exactly does it play its final 3-game set?  You presumably want to play those games on a weekend to get fan interest and attendance, but waiting until the weekend after the LLWS puts you into Labor Day weekend, which is a football kickoff.  Not to mention, the beginning of the fall semester for most students.  So now you’re telling CWS college baseball players that they potentially get NO summer break.  You can’t jam the entire CWS into one week before the LLWS happens.  So I’m not sure how CWS fits in with LLWS with the current broadcast partner ESPN.
  • The current Rule-4/amateur draft is set for early June; when would you draft players if they’re playing deep into August?  MLB is already talking about pushing back the draft slightly to avoid the current draft date-CWS completion conflict … but a couple weeks is different from a couple months.  Mazey doesn’t think the draft would need to change, making the argument that kids playing in the CWS have been drafted and are still playing.  Well, there’s a difference with a limited number of players playing a few playoff games and playing half a season.  If i’m a pro team and I draft a college pitcher in the first round, I don’t want to watch some back-woods college coach abuse my pitcher for weeks and weeks trying to get a slightly higher seed in his conference tournament when I’m committing potentially seven figures to him.  I think what would really happen is this: MLB would draft a kid and basically tell him to quit college right then and there.  Imagine what that would do to the college season if all the drafted kids are suddenly removed from the competition prior to even the conference tournaments?
  • Similarly; the short-season pro leagues are set to start just after the draft in mid June specifically so that newly drafted kids can start playing.  Who would stock these teams if most of the college draftees weren’t going to join up for months?  What would these teams do if their draftees are still competing in college seasons?   Mazey didn’t have an answer other than to say that it would take “creative scheduling.”  There are some places where the short-season team shares the same facility as a college team (Penn State and Oregon being two examples); clearly you couldn’t have both of these teams playing schedules concurrently.
  • This proposal would effectively kill summer leagues as we know them.  And there are a *lot* of summer leagues out there, and they serve a very vital role in the player scouting process for pro teams.  The major leagues out there (Cape Cod, Northwoods, Valley, Coastal Plains) would be put out of business if most Div 1 players couldn’t join them until regionals were ending near the end of July.  Mazey tries to make the argument that summer league teams would rely on JuCo, Div2 and Div3 players not affected by Div-1’s schedule … but if Division 1 is changing its schedule to account for weather, wouldn’t Division 2 and 3 teams be thinking the same?  Mazey also thinks that prep players who have signed with Div-1 programs could be targets for teams in the Cape, thinking that fans just want to root for a player affiliated with a big-name program.  I think he’s incredibly wrong here; the Cape and the Northwoods teams draw because they’re watching the *best* college players in the country, guys who are going to be first round draftees the subsequent year.  And, how many parents are going to finance their 17yr old to go play in the Cape Cod league before he’s even stepped foot in college?
  • Would college baseball game attendance be adversely affected if the crunch-time games played by the schools were held in the dead of summer, when student populations at these schools is at is lowest?  Mazey for some reason thinks this switch will help college teams draw like minor league teams do, but to me his logic doesn’t add up.  To me, the issue of god-awful college baseball attendance is a whole separate issue unrelated to anything mentioned here related to scheduling.
  • Keeping kids on campus extends the scholarship costs to schools; more classes, more room & board and potentially more travel.  Mazey’s argument is that assumed rising attendance figures would somehow finance these additional costs.
  • If its too cold in the north in February … well wouldn’t it be too hot in the south in July/August?  Yes it would.  The average temperature during the day in July in Arizona is between 105-107.   Yes there’s a MLB team in Arizona and guess what; they have a frigging dome for this reason.  Same thing with the Houston team and the Miami team; all three play in domed stadiums because its really, really hot down there in the summer.  Would there be issues with marquee teams in Arizona and Texas (of which there are many) playing home dates in 105 degree temperatures?

What do I think College Baseball should do?

Well, if you couldn’t tell from reading my point-by-point argument against logic, I think this is a dumb proposal that would be done in the best interests of a small population (the coaches and players of northern baseball schools) at the expense of many others (coaches and players from all other schools, pro teams, summer league teams).  I think the baseball coaches behind this need to admit to themselves that baseball is inherently a warm weather sport and thus warm weather schools are going to have advantages.  Prior to Oregon State winning the CWS a few years back, a “cold weather” state hadn’t won the CWS since Ohio State in the mid 60s (and Oregon is “barely” a cold-weather state for this discussion; Corvallis averages just 3.1″ of snow a year .. about as much on average as Atlanta, Georgia). Consider the reverse: are cold-weather sports being forced to change their schedules to accommodate warm-weather schools who want to participate?  I don’t think so; and that is why you don’t have (say) ice hockey programs at schools in Texas and Arizona clamoring for changes to the NCAA hockey tournament.

However, there a couple of things that Mazey is right about.  Why are colleges playing baseball in mid February?  Why do colleges play fifty six (!) games a season?  The logical thing to consider is to force back the start of the season a month, and lower the playing burden.  Or, if you wanted to keep 56-game schedules, then play some mid-week series during spring break and in May once semesters are over.  Or just accept the fact that some colleges can play in February and others cannot; same thing happens with high schools all over the country.

Take a look at UVA’s schedule.  The first 13 games on their schedule are non-conference.  Then, starting on 3/6/15, they play a 3-game weekend series every weekend for 10 straight weekends (save one weekend in early May presumably blocked off for finals).  In between each of those 10 weekends they play at least one mid-week game against an in-state rival for another 13 games.  13+30+13=56.  Ask yourself; do they need the first 13 games at all?   Do they need to play ten in-conference series?  The ACC is split into two 7-team divisions; play all your division rivals and then lower the cross-division games and you can cut weeks out of the schedule.

Anyway; food for thought.  Personally, I don’t think there’s anything “broken” with college baseball as it stands; its CWS event is great, it dovetails nicely into a vast industry of summer leagues and pro short seasons, and it doesn’t drag all summer.

 

Written by Todd Boss

March 4th, 2015 at 1:58 pm

College Baseball 2015 Previews and pre-season Rankings

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Kirby Jones leads the highly  regarded UVA baseball team in 2015.   Photo via unk

Kirby Jones leads the highly regarded UVA baseball team in 2015. Photo via unk

Believe it or not, its time to start thinking about College Baseball again.  Most teams’ schedules start on the 2/13/15 weekend and all the major outlets covering the sport have released pre-season rankings lists.

College pre-season top-25 lists with local interests noted:

This BA link has capsules to all the top 25 teams.  And BA has released their pre-season All-American list, with local players of note Nathan Kirby and Mike Matuella (Duke’s #1 starter hailing from Great Falls) earning first team honors.  This pre-season All-American list comes from the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and is littered with UVA players.

Vanderbilt returns its entire weekend rotation, including two lock 1st round picks in Walker Buehler and Carson Fuller as well as another presumed 1st round pick in shortstop Dansby Swanson and is inarguably the best returning team in the land.  UVA’s Joe McCarthy earned pre-season 2nd team honors but just went down with injury (back injury, out 12 weeks ugh), which seems like its going to really hurt that team.

Interesting development for 2015: d1baseball.com has apparently been acquired, or has undergone a mass change in direction.  Gone is the 1990-esque interface; now they have graphics and professional writers associated with it (namely, Aaron Fitt, formerly of Baseball America, who left BA in Nov 2014 and is now focused entirely on the d1 site.  Most importantly, the site is now a pay-for site.   I visit this site constantly during the college and CWS seasons; we’ll see how much you can see w/o paying for this season.

2/10/15 post publish update: Great preview of College season from Chris Slade at minorleagueball.com

Written by Todd Boss

February 2nd, 2015 at 1:57 pm

UVA’s 2015 baseball recruiting class ranked top-10

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The publication Collegiate Baseball Newspaper recently announced its Top 40 college baseball recruiting classes, and 2014 CWS runner-up UVA was ranked 9th.  LSU, Wichita State, Florida, San Diego and Oklahoma State comprise the surprising top 5, though the rest of the top 10 contains some of the expected collegiate powerhouse programs.  In late October, Baseball America ranked UVA’s class even higher, at #2 in the country behind only LSU.

(Also: UVA announced their 2015 schedule on 9/25/14, schedule here).

UVA published their own press release, which detailed the names in their recruiting class.  A good friend (UVA alumni who has taken a big interest in the squad with their recent success) asked me to react to the class with what I knew.  Here’s what I wrote:

(Here’s what I wrote about UVA-committed players after the 2014 draft, and some of these guys were covered in my “pre-2014 season draft prospects” piece).

Derek Casey: he’s the player I’d be most happy about coming to school, were I a UVA fan.  He was a 3rd round talent, undefeated in his HS pitching career, 93-94 on the gun.  He should go far towards replacing the arms UVA stands to lose after next season to the draft (basically, all three of their projected weekend starters are Juniors in 2015).
Pavin Smith probably replaces Mike Papi like-for-like in the lineup; big lefty 1B/OF type.  Well regarded nationally.
Charlie Cody was more highly ranked on prospect boards before his Senior year; he’s a good bat addition.  At one point early in 2014 he was ranked as high as #34 for all HS prospects nation-wide by one ranking service.
Bennett Sousa is another guy who got a lot of national recognition even if he wasn’t drafted.  93mph from the left hand side, another future starter.
Tommy Doyle: its hard to say just how good he is: yes he got drafted (by the Nats in the 34th round) but his drafting seemed to be one of those “draft a local kid to appease a part-owner’s buddy” kind of things.  He pitched at a small high school (Flint Hill Prep in Oakton) with almost no competition, making it really tough to gauge how good he is.  He also played for a no-name travel team instead of someone like the Evoshield Canes.  What he does have going for him is his size: he’s 6’6″ and hitting 91, which probably comes out of his hand about a foot closer to the plate than a guy who is 6′ even, making it look that much faster.  If he can add a few mph, he’ll be a beast.
Jack Gerstenmaier, like Cody, had his stock drop in 2014 for whatever reason.  He was a 1st team PerfectGame All-American for the region at one point.  But Gerstenmaier-Cody could be UVA’s double play combo for years.

Of the rest of UVA’s announced class, I don’t know anything about them, even the local guys.  I’d guess that a couple of them are good talents … but most of them might be on minimal-to-no scholarship.

UVA lost a big-time recruit last minute in Devon Fisher (no relation to 2014 supp-1st round pick Derek Fisher); he was a catcher from Portsmouth who got drafted and then signed with Boston.  20th rounder so probably not for a lot of cash, which makes it that much more of a surprise.  He would have pushed this class up the rankings for sure.

With the new draft rules in place, its likely that guys like Cody, Casey and Gerstenmaier let it be known they had strong college commitments and thus that hampered their draft status.  Same thing happened to Conner Jones last year.  Good for UVA that they draw so well.

It seems UVA is quite setup for the future in terms of arms:

  • 2015 rotation: Kirby, Waddel, Sborz on weekends, one of the freshman/sophomores (Jones?) mid-week.
  • 2016 rotation: Choosing from Jones, Bettinger, Sousa, Doyle and Casey.  not bad.