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My 2018 End-of-Season Awards Predictions

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Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Another season, another MVP runner-up for Trout at the behest of another player? PHoto via redsox life

Hi there.  Its time to write about the “silly season” of baseball.   Its my annual awards predictor piece.

Here’s my predictions for how the awards will go.  Important note: This is not necessarily how I believe the awards should go, it is how I think the current electorate will vote …  though I do tend to believe that the MVP award in particular is not just about naming the WAR leader in the league.  And I also tend to favor giving a pitcher the Cy Young and a non-pitcher the MVP.  But feel free to discuss in the comments if you think i’m wrong.  I can be argumentative either way :-)

How do I think the voting will go?

  • AL MVP: Betts
  • NL MVP: Yelich
  • AL Cy Young: Snell
  • NL Cy Young: Scherzer
  • AL Rookie: Ohtani
  • NL Rookie: Acuna
  • AL Manager: Melvin (Oakland)
  • NL Manager: Snitker (Atlanta)

Prediction Results?  2 for 2.


 

Discussion/Reasoning

  • AL MVP: Mookie Betts is the best player on the best team, always a good place to start with MVP thoughts.  Yes, once again Mike Trout is having a phenomenal year, and once again he toils on the West Coast and for a team out of the playoff race.  I’m eternally sympathetic to those who think MVP should not include team performance … and i’m perennially finding myself agreeing with “old school” sentiments that ask a simple question; how can you be the most valuable player when your team isn’t a factor for most of the year.   Also in the mix would be Betts’ teammate J.D. Ramirez, the Oakland phenomenon Matt Chapman, Houston WAR leader Alex Bregman, and Cleveland stars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor.  My personal hedge statement here: I’d be rather surprised if Betts did not win.
  • NL MVP: Christian Yelich has really exploded late in the season to put his name into this discussion.  But the question may end up being this: is this one of those weird years where no dominant, obvious position player candidate steps up and thus the award goes to a pitcher?  I’d suggest this might be possible … except that the top 3-4 pitching candidates all play for non-playoff teams.  And that doesn’t match the narrative.  I’m going to go with Yelich, then the top NL pitchers right behind him, with perhaps Javier Baez,  Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman getting some votes as their respective “best player on a playoff team” status.  Coincidentally … did you know that Anthony Rendon is 2nd in the NL in fWAR behind Yelich?  I certainly didn’t.  Personal Hedge statement: I’d still be shocked if a pitcher for a non-playoff team won here, and would find it hard to vote for one of these other position players mentioned.
  • AL Cy Young: Blake Snell.   This might be an interesting case of whether you’re wow’d by conventional stats or not.  Snell has a sub 2.00 ERA, but he’s doing it thanks to a ridiculously low BABIP, which drags down is fWAR and puts him well down the league leader list.  Meanwhile in bWAR … he’s the top AL pitcher, ahead of his competition for this award.  I think the fact that he’s put up the numbers that he has playing in the AL East and having fully 25% of his starts this year come against Boston and the Yankees is pretty amazing.  I’d vote Snell.  Also in the mix here: Verlander, Cole, Sale, Kluber, Bauer.  Personal Hedge: wouldn’t be surprised if this went to Verlander or Sale instead.
  • NL Cy Young.  Max Scherzer  Yes i’m convinced that his broaching the 300k mark put him over the top, despite the unbelievable season that Jacob deGrom had.  I could be wrong; maybe the electorate has now advanced to the point where they recognize that a guy who finished 10-9 was indeed the best pitcher of the year.  We’ll see.  Either way, I sense these guys go 1-2.  After them, look for Aaron Nola Kyle Freeland, and Patrick Corbin.  Personal Hedge: deGrom is getting enough “holy cow look at this season” buzz that it wouldn’t really surprise me if he won.  And he’d be completely deserving.  Btw, as the off-season narratives grew, I became less and less convinced I had this one right.  Writing this ahead of the awards, I think deGrom wins.
  • AL Rookie: Shohei Ohtani: it shouldn’t be close honestly.  He had a 4.0 WAR season, clubbing more than 20 homers and looking pretty darn solid on the mound before the inevitable elbow injury derailed his season and cost him 60 games or so.   Only Gleybar Torres is close; this should be a unanimous vote and I hope Ohtani comes back from injury sooner than later.  Personal Hedge: a vote against Ohtani is really a bad one honestly.
  • NL Rookie: Ronald Acuna; its Acuna or Juan Soto, both of whom had historic seasons at a young age.   Acuna’s monster September pushes him over the top, and his stat line for the season is just slightly better than Soto’s, despite the missed time.  By narrative, Soto would have this hands-down though; he advanced from Low-A to putting up a 4-win season as a 19yr old, has had perhaps the 2nd or 3rd best teen-aged season in the long history of our game, and might have been in the MVP race had the Nats won the division.  Hedge: I begrudgingly have to admit that Acuna is slightly better, and rookie status isn’t given context (ie, its not part of the equation that Soto started the year in Low-A and Acuna was in AAA and a known #1 overall prospect).
  • AL Manager: hard not to say that Bob Melvin‘s performance taking an expected also-ran to nearly 100 wins isn’t the Mgr of the year.  He’s on his like 18th starter of the year, he’s winning with a bunch of non-prospects, he’s turned trash into treasure (Blake Treinen).
  • NL Manager: Brian Snitker, who took the NL east by 8 games in a complete surprise based on nearly every pundit’s pre-season predictions.  No other NL playoff team was really this big of a “surprise” so he gets it.

 


Actual Award Results added as they were awarded (updated post-publishing).  Finalists announced 11/4/18.

My prediction results: tbd

Links to other awards that I didn’t predict this year (again, updated post-publishing as they’re announced)

Other links to awards worth noting


 

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:

Pre-2015 Draft coverage; mocks and local players

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Swanson seems likely to be 1-1 pick. Photo by Joe Howell.

Swanson seems likely to be 1-1 pick. Photo by Joe Howell.

The MLB rule-4 (Amateur) draft starts on Monday 6/8/15 at 7pm.  See MLB Network for the best coverage.  Since we’re also going to be talking about prep regional results and CWS results early next week, I thought i’d get this draft coverage post out there.  This post has good links to use to see draft prospect rankings, then links to help cover the draft starting monday, then some blurbs on local players of interest, and then links to a bunch of mock drafts.

Draft Coverage so far at NAR for 2015:

Here’s a slew of Draft Prospect rankings : these are NOT the same as mock drafts; see further down for those.

Draft Links of importance

  • MLB.com Official 2015 Draft Central home page.
  • MLB’s Awesome Draft Tracker; you can slice and dice the draft 10 different ways, search by schools and home states, etc.
  • Official MLB 2015 Draft Order (Nats first pick is #58 well into the 2nd round, next #69, then #103, then #134 in the 4th round, and then 134+30 picks there-after.
  • Official Draft Bonus Pool totals.  Astros have $17M (most).  Nats have 3rd least at $4.1M.
  • MLB Draft Database
  • Fangraphs Sortable Draft Board; a great new tool Fangraphs has that lets you slice and dice their top draft board.
  • Baseball-Reference Draft Tools: links to their draft database plus some custom reports.

Now, some news about College Players with local ties

  • Nathan Kirby Lat strain Press Release: UVA’s ace Kirby, considered a mid-to-late 1st rounder, missed a huge chunk of the season with a Lat Strain.  If the cards fall right, he may be able to pitch UVA’s 3rd regional game.  MLB has him ranked #26, as does BA.
  • Mike Matuella, of Great Falls (Georgetown Prep) and Duke, remains a back-end of the 1st round draft prospect but is also rehabbing his own TJ surgery.  He has far less of a track record than other college arms, and may be a crap shoot in the draft.  MLB has him ranked #28, BA #23.
  • Taylor Clarke, who hails from Ashburn (Broad Run HS), was named the CAA pitcher of the year while putting up stellar numbers for the College of Charleston, a trendy underdog pick to reach the CWS.  MLB has him ranked #144, so that’s perhaps a 4th-5th rounder, while BA has him higher at #118.  Here’s a draft profile of him from scout.com.
  • Joe McCarthy, OF for UVA, missed most of the season with a back injury and then hit horribly after wards.  His draft stock has dropped from a supp-1st to probably the back end of the 2nd round.  MLB has him ranked #68, BA #46.
  • Josh Sborz got dumped out of UVA’s rotation but still is ranked #115 in MLB’s pre-draft rankings (projecting to a 3rd-4th rounder).
  • Brandon Waddell had a good season as UVA’s #2 starter … and MLB projects him as a 5th rounder at #163.  BA has him at #153.
  • University of Maryland’s two best draft prospects are Alex Robinson (MLB ranked #124) and Brandon Lowe (MLB ranked #148).  Robinson is #74 on BA’s top 500 list and Lowe is #98 on BA’s list.
  • Radford’s Michael Boyle has pushed his draft stock up with his team’s post-season performance; BA has him ranked #132, which puts him in the 4th-5th round.

Local Prep players of note:

  • Cody Morris, probably the best local player matriculating this year, had to undergo TJ surgery and likely scuttling his draft plans.  Luckily he had already taken a scholarship offer to South Carolina, where he will now presumably attend and rehab to get ready for the 2016 season.  BA still has him ranked #265 but the odds of a team taking him in the 8th round seem slim.
  • A.J. Lee of St. Johns earned his 2nd straight Gatorade DC player of the year award and remains committed to Maryland; I do not sense he is a significant draft prospect and will go to College.  He is not in BA’s top 500 prospects.
  • Ljay Newsome of Chopticon (south of Waldorf) made some noise with his stellar 3-A state final game; he has not picked a college and I wonder if he’s headed for the draft.  He is not in BA’s top 500 prospects.
  • Nic Enright of Steward HS in Richmond (2015 Gatorade player of the year) is signed to Va Tech but ranked #132 by MLB.  Will he sign if he gets 3rd round money?  BA’s got him ranked far lower; #230, in the range of draft rankings where it makes more sense for him to go to school.

Other players of interest to Nats fans:

  • Andrew Suarez, the Nats’ 2nd round pick of last year, had a decent if not spectacular senior season at Miami and may end up getting picked right in the same spot.  MLB has him #75, BA #73.
  • Austin Byler, the Nats’ 9th round pick of last year, is ranked #199 by MLB (but much higher at #115 by BA) putting him in the 7th round or so.  Not too much of an improvement over last year; his senior season was more of the same for him; lots of power, perhaps stuck at 1B so will really have to hit his way moving forward.
  • Skye Bolt, the Nats’ 26th round pick in 2012, had a great UNC career and is ranked #67 by MLB ahead of the draft.  BA has him a bit lower at #106.  Maybe the Nats can draft him again since this is right around where their first 2015 draft pick falls.

Mock Draft Guesses

Sometimes you just can’t help yourself.  I like mock drafts from writers I like.  Since the Nats don’t pick until midway through the 2nd round, there’s no point (like in years’ past) in trying to project the Nats pick.  So here’s some popular pundits and their mocks, with their top 5 predictions (Law = Espn, McDaniel = Fangraphs, Callis & Mayo = Mlb.com, Manual = Baseball America and Crawford = Baseball Prospectus)

  • Keith Law Mock #1: Dansby Swanson, Alex Bregman, Dillon Tate, Brendan Rodgers, Kyle Tucker
  • Keith Law Mock #2: Swanson, Rodgers, Tyler Jay, Tate, Tucker
  • Keith Law Mock #3 (on ESPN podcast): Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker
  • Keith Law final Mock: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Trenton Clark, Andrew Benintendi
  • Kiley McDaniel Mock #1: Swanson, Rodgers, Tate, Kyle Funkhouser, Daz Cameron
  • Kiley McDaniel Mock #2: Swanson, Rodgers, Jay, Bregman, Tucker
  • Kiley McDaniel Mock #3: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker
  • Jim Callis Mock #1: Swanson, Rodgers, Jay, Cameron, Carson Fulmer
  • Jim Callis Mock #2: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Cameron, Tucker
  • Jim Callis: Final Mock: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Benintendi
  • Jonathan Mayo Mock #1: Tate, Rodgers, Swanson, Cameron, Fulmer
  • Jonathan Mayo Mock #2: Swanson, Rodgers, Jay, Cameron, Tate
  • Jonathan Mayo Final Mock: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Cameron, Tate
  • John Manual Mock #1: Tate, Swanson, Rodgers, Jon Harris, Tucker
  • John Manual Mock #2: Fulmer, Swanson, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker
  • John Manual Mock #3: Jay, Swanson, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker
  • John Manual Mock #4: Swanson, Bregman, Jay, Rodgers, Cameron
  • Jeff Ellis/Scout.com Final Mock: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker
  • David Rawnsley/si.com final mock: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Cameron
  • Chris Crawford Mock #1: Garrett Whitley, Swanson, Rodgers, … the rest behind a pay-wall.
  • Ryan Sullivan/NatsGM final mock: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker
  • D1baseball.com Mock #1: Swanson … and the rest behind a pay-wall.
  • Jon Sickels/MinorLeagueBall Mock #1: Swanson, Bregman, Jay, Rodgers, Tucker
  • PerfectGame.org’s mock drafts and coverage now behind a pay-wall.

Todd Boss’ Mock draft?  Based on my vast level of expertise (sarcasm) and the thousands of man hours i’ve put in scouting players in person and cultivating industry sources (also sarcasm), I’ll take this as my guess for the top 5:

  1. Swanson: I think Swanson’s post-season hitting combined with his positional flexibility and the decline of all the upper-end college arms that have been mentioned in the conversation for 1-1 (First Aiken & Matuella, then Tate, then Funkhouser and Fulmer) has cemented Swanson’s spot at 1-1.  In other years, he’d be lucky to go in the top 10.  Not this year.  Arizona goes with the least risk; proven college hitter.
  2. Bregman: practically every connected pundit now has Bregman going 2nd.  Houston gets a sure thing and goes prep with #5.
  3. Rodgers: Houston hasn’t backed away from HS players before and get the best one, a SS with power, at #2.
  4. Tate: Tate’s regional performance pushed him back into this lofty level and he’s a better bet than Jay thanks to his reliever status all year.  Colorado likes college arms this high.  He makes the most sense.  If this pick isn’t Tate, its Jay.
  5. Tucker: practically everyone has Houston’s 2nd pick on Tucker, meaning they’re taking two upper-end prep talents.  Plus the Astros know the family; Kyle’s older brother Preston was a 7th round pick by Houston in 2012 and made his debut this year.  Makes too much sense.

So, just so you know, this guess matches the final mocks of Law, McDaniel and Ellis, and is nearly identical to the final mocks of a couple others.

This top 5 means some big time names are available 6-10.  Cameron, Jay, Fulmer, Clark and Harris could very well be in the next 4-5 guys picked.  Funkhouser seems to be slipping.  Also throw the likes of Andrew Benintendi, Tyler Stephenson, and Walker Buehler into the top 10 possible mix.

ACTUAL DRAFT Results added on 6/7/15: Swanson, Bregman, Rodgers, Tate, Tucker.  A number of the experts above had the top 5 pegged.  Yours truly … changed his prediction last minute to match the consensus and “got it right” too :-)

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) 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.