Q&A with The Buckeye Nine

Continuing the Q&A this week for the Buckeye series.  This time we’ve got Chris from The Buckeye Nine.  Both of us were left scrambling with exams this week, so I don’t have anything on his site, but he was good enough to answer a few of my questions.  He has somewhat of a preview of the series here.   Check out The Buckeye Nine for continuing coverage of Ohio State from the premier team specific BigTen baseball blog.

1)  It’s hard to find the weak link in the Buckeye lineup.  Other than perhaps Engle at short, no one stands out as a weak link.  The only thing that remotely stands out is Stephen’s 7 GDP and 30 Ks in the 3-hole.  Is there something the stats aren’t telling me, or is the Buckeye offense that good?

Two things come to mind immediately when discussing the teams offensive prowess this year. First in 07 and 08 we barely finished in the top 6 of the conference with back-to-back .500 Big Ten seasons. The team in the off season really took it to heart to get Ohio State baseball back to where it should be. Hours in the weight room, in the batting cages, watching film, all were spent to improve they’re playing ability and its showing. Secondly the teams we have had of later have been very young and Coach Todd threw quite a few players into the fire at an early stage. Now you have guys like Kovanda, Dew, Rupert, and  Miller who have 3+ years of experience then Hurley, Arp, and Burkhart are in their second full years and know what is needed to compete in the Big Ten. Just comes down to hard work and experience.

1b) What’s with all the triples?  Twenty-three seems a bit high.  Is this an effect of Bill Davis Stadium, or was this mainly road games?

The triples are a puzzling thing to us as well, we’ve never seen an outburst like this at this stage in the season. The team is only 2 behind the Ohio State record after Miller became the 9th Buckeye with a triple. BDS has had the same dimensions as always and we usually travel to the same Florida destinations year in and year out. The most logical explanation is the team’s collective speed as vastly improved over the previous years. You have Stephens who transferred in with 5, Hurley has 5 as well and those guys have plenty of speed. Down through the line-up the team has solid speed, which glancing at the stats is overlooked with the low number of stolen bases and attempts but 1-9 the team can run. Now how does Burkhart as a catcher have 3 triples? I can’t explain that.

2)  Jake Hale has 27 appearances in 42 games.  Is this because the rest of the bullpen is struggling, are the Buckeyes just in that many close games, or otherwise?  Why is Hale so dominating?  Velocity? Location? Deceptiveness?

The bullpen at times has struggled, Rucinski along with Hale has quite a few appearances, but the number of games Jake has appeared in I believe comes down to his ability to be a starting pitcher if needed. Coach Todd has shuffled Hale between the pen and rotation every year now trying to get the most out of the big righty. Hale is capable of starting a game and throwing upwards to 130 pitches if needed. I think that allows Jake to say “hey I can go out there twice, even three times a weekend if only for a few outs” and he’s done that, most notably 7.1 innings against Purdue and collecting three saves.

Hale’s dominance stems from the fact he has 5 pitches he has plus control on in a 2 and 4 seem fastball, an overhand curve, a change-up, and a slider. Not many closers have 5 pitches they can go to, but with Jake being a converted starter, he has the numerous pitches in his repertoire. You combine the 5 pitches, with being 6’7 and releasing from an arm angle not many batters are familiar with and it puts him on the favorable side of the match up. He can reach 93 on the heater, which can overwhelm the lesser batters, but the pitches and being able to locate them is what makes him dominant so far.

3)  Similarly, what hope does Michigan have against Wimmers?  I mean yes, we do have Chris Fetter going up against him, but does Wimmers have a weakness?

Wimmers has two glaring weaknesses to me. Which speaks volumes that a sophomore could only have two weaknesses and how solid of a pitcher he has been. The first would be Wimmers has a tendency to get caught up in the moment and perhaps over pitch. He’ll be up 0-2, 1-2 on a hitter and if Burkhart calls for a fastball more than a handful of times will Wimmers send a 91 MPH fastball head high and out of the zone. Just a matter of getting too excited and trying to blow by the hitter.

The other weakness I have picked up on is that though he does a great job of mixing his pitches up during at-bats, he has a few tendencies he follows closely when going batter to batter, especially against lefties. If he’s in the zone and having a great game on the mound he gets caught up in repeating pitch sequences some.

For Michigan to be successful just be patient and pay attention. He doesn’t pitch to contact much, preferring to strike a batter out which is great, fewer chances of balls in play, but it does force him to pitch and be on the mound a bit longer.

4)  The Buckeyes don’t appear to attempt too many steals but are very good about it when they do.  Is there a reason they don’t steal too much?  Do you see them testing Berset behind the plate this weekend, and if so, who should we be watching?

Coach Todd is notorious for not being huge on stealing bases. As mentioned before the team has solid speed throughout which is evident by the triples piling up, but for whatever reason Todd rarely gives the green light to his players. More commonly he will elect to hit and run, which he does a lot, but it is puzzling that more players do not run on the bases.

I doubt at this point, being the 1st of May that Todd will change anything up and stick to his guns. So Berset shouldn’t be too concerned with what going on on the base paths. Though if Todd does change it up some, the leading candidates to steal or those who posses the ability to do so successfully would be Stephens, Hurley and Kovanda.

5)  What will the atmosphere be like in Columbus this weekend?  How hostile do you project it?  I’m sure the baseball fans are slightly less hostile than football, but I know blood tends to run hot during any sport between the two teams.

The atmosphere should be pretty intense, but respectful. Our crowds here at Ohio State can get into the 2,500-3, 000 range but for the most part it is fairly quite for a crowd of that size. Now it is Michigan obviously and that brings even the most casual fans out, but in terms of hostility, there will surprisingly not be that much. Now everyone is aware of the importance of the series and how it can help Ohio State get back to the elite status in the Big Ten that Michigan has owned of late, so I suspect the crowd will be very supportive of the Buckeyes, but you won’t get too many catcalls or chants form the Scarlet and Gray directed at Fetter or Maloney.

6) More a commentary, but has underlying effects on the game…. As bad as my day was with tests and finals (2 exams, a presentation, and an English final), how bad does it have to be for the student athletes?  I know Michigan is in the middle of finals right now.  Where is OSU in it’s quarter system?  Is it finals yet or no?

Yes Ohio State is on quarters though that is expected to change in 2012 with a switch to semesters. So no it is not finals, but it is the end of week 5 in a 10 week quarter so just replace finals with midterms and we’re on equal footing.

I personally feel that the quarter system works to our advantage during baseball season. People might think I’m nuts and disagree, but I’ve learned athletes are creatures of habit. Our quarter will not end until the first week in June, and by that time it’s the Super Regionals stage. To me it works favorably that players throughout the entire season can know what to expect week to week and be consistent with their practice, class, homework, and game schedule. I had always believe it is a disadvantage for those on semesters once school is done to have nothing but baseball to focus on. Maybe it allows players to hone their skills or spend extra time in the cages, but it would seem like a lot of idle time, and we all know if a player is ever in a slump more times than not he is his worst enemy with the consistent thinking and focusing on it.

7) I assume you’ll be there this weekend?

Yes I will be down at Bill Davis for the three games. Right now it is Friday afternoon and there are scattered showers popping up, nothing more than a 3 minute rain the sun again. Unfortunately it looks like it will be overcast and those attending this weekend will be dodging raindrops. The temperature is expected to be in the mid to upper 60s so hopefully a few thousand Buckeyes can bare the light rain and come out for a great series. I will take that any day over the 2005 conditions which saw a snowstorm hit Ann Arbor canceling the last three games, or 2007 when it was in the mid 40s and breezy.

Thanks to Chris for his comments.  Go Blue.

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