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That Starts with C That Rhymes with T

Publication Date: April 2, 2002

That Could Be a Bad Sign

There are things that are assumed in life, and one of them may not happen this year. It's probably not as significant as, say, an automaker not being at the top of the Fortune 400 this year or anything, but the last time there was an NCAA baseball tournament and the Miami Hurricanes weren't invited, Richard Nixon had not yet won his second term in office, disco was still just a twinkle in Giorgio Moroder's eye, and most of the current crop of assistant coaches, much less the players, hadn't been born yet -- the 'Canes have been in every tournament since 1973. This year, though, they're at the forefront of a surprisingly large number of programs that are struggling to meet their preseason expectations. These things tend to be forgotten later on, so I want to take this week and look at a few unexpectedly down years.

The Hurricanes are sitting this morning at 17-13 and are completely unranked for the first time in memory. They're #59 in this week's ISR's, which is actually a reasonable move up from a couple of weeks ago. If they could hold on to that winning percentage, given the inertia inherent in the selection process, they could probably expect to still be given an undeserved bid, but a look at their schedule tells us that they're going to have trouble doing so unless they improve their play markedly. Their next nine games include six against #21 Florida State (themselves running into surprisingly tough going the last couple of weeks) and three against #10 Long Beach State. They also have unusual road trips left against #30 ACC-leading North Carolina and #12 Georgia Tech. The only sure wins left this year are the closing three against New York Tech. In short, the team they've put on the field so far will not make the NCAA tournament, and the only hope is drastic improvement.

Continuing through last year's CWS field, two other members of that elite group look extremely unlikely to return. Tulane is the more surprising of the two -- the Green Wave returned two legitimate All-Americans but have stumbled to a 16-15 mark and are only 3-6 in an extremely competitive Conference USA this year. Sitting in ninth place in the conference with almost a third of the season gone is not an enviable position, and there are no signs that the Wave will do so. Tennessee is less surprising because of the amount of talent they lost, but for them to be staring up at Vanderbilt in the SEC East standings has to be a bit of a shock -- they're at 14-17 and 2-7, and in the SEC shark tank they don't have much chance of coming back from there.

The Big East is our next stop, where the NCAA is going to have trouble justifying their usual largesse with bids and seeding (it looks like a few Big Ten teams are set to take advantage of that gap). Despite Baseball America's bizarre fascination with Notre Dame leading to their being overrated for the last couple of years, they were a legitimate choice for the bottom of the top 25 in the preseason along with their conference brethren at Rutgers. Both teams, though, have struggled mightily, with the Irish coming in at 13-10 to date and the Knights at 12-11 and only 2-5 in next-to-last place in conference. There's not a real powerhouse above them, so one or both of them could still play their way into contention as they've hit the easy conference portion of their schedule, but they show no signs of doing so to this point.

Finally, we look out west to a team that has not played that badly (they're at #27 in this week's ISR's), but who are setting themselves up for a fall -- the Southern California Trojans. The Trojans have played a killer schedule, the third toughest in the nation to date, and that's left them at only 15-13, only 12-13 outside the conference. West Coast teams who are close to .500 have a disappointing history of being unfairly omitted from the tournament, and they may be setting themselves up to be this year's victim.

More Followup

Last time, I mentioned that charges of plagiarism had been leveled against the College Baseball Insider site. At this time, I'd like to apologize for passing that along; although I had seen some things that skirted the edges, it was certainly the case that it was a matter of degree rather than things being different from most sportswriting, and I should have been more careful with my wording. Please go read their site, now.

Pitch Count Watch

Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye or, on the other hand, starts where pitchers were pulled according to plan early despite pitching extremely well in close games.

Date Team Pitcher Opponent IP H R ER BB SO AB BF Pitches
Mar 16 Texas Justin Simmons Missouri 8.1 10 3 2 3 3 32 37 141
Mar 22 Michigan Bobby Korecky Kansas 8.2 11 9 8 4 3 35 42 152
Mar 22 Houston Brad Sullivan Tulane 9.0 4 0 0 1 15 32 34 137
Mar 29 Arizona State Mike Esposito Washington 9.0 8 3 2 1 17 33 37 141

I do want to follow up on a couple of things this week, though. I listed these two starts:

Date Team Pitcher Opponent IP H R ER BB SO AB BF Pitches
Feb 2 Texas Tech Chris Phillips New Mexico 9.0 10 4 2 2 9 37 40 150 (*)
Feb 7 Texas Tech Chris Phillips Texas Christian 10.0 6 1 0 2 8 35 38 142 (*)

(*) Pitch count is estimated.

It turns out the actual pitch counts were 119 and 120, respectively. While those are still borderline numbers, they're obviously not the allout pillage that the EPC numbers above looked like. It turns out the Phillips is an extremely unusual pitcher for a staff ace, and that's throwing off the formula. He's a little guy with, essentially, no great pitches, but with really good control and movement -- in short the kind of pitcher that I love to watch. He throws up an 84-mph fastball and then fields the returning grounder. He's also managed a quite presentable 4.43 ERA so far against good competition, so he's doing something right out there.

On the other hand, we have these two starts:

Date Team Pitcher Opponent IP H R ER BB SO AB BF Pitches
Mar 5 Winthrop Ben Thurmond Texas 9.1 4 2 1 2 10 31 33 146
Mar 10 Winthrop Ben Thurmond Georgia Tech 7.0 10 8 6 3 5 28 33 120

The reason that these two are worth repeating is that Thurmond, a pre-season All American, hasn't returned to the mound since, and Winthrop is now 13-15.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> That Starts with C That Rhymes with T About the author, Boyd Nation