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MidWeek Closeout: Central Michigan

Now that I’ve let the nerves and stomach settle from the initial reactions to the awful box score, I’ll actually comment on Wednesday night’s game against CMU. For those of you who couldn’t pick up from the first sentence of this paragraph, or even my ambiguous post about softball, the Michigan baseball team lost in embarrassing fashion to Central Michigan on Wednesday – 10-2 the final score.

The game featured 7 Wolverine pitchers making a trip to the mound. Coach Maloney was seeking some sort of spark from the starting rotation and started freshman Kevin Vangheluwe, but, as many other things with Michigan baseball lately, when it rains it pours, completely dousing any chance of a spark to happen. Kevin couldn’t make it out of the second inning, giving up 4 runs while only recording 2 outs.

Things never got much better after that. Wilson gave up a run in 1.1 innings, Matt Miller gave up 2 runs (1 earned), and Brandon Sinnery gave up 3 runs in 0.1 innings. The good news is Travis Smith looked good in the short 1.1 inning appearance, as did Kolby Wood and Alan Oaks throwing a perfect 2.2 innings to finish the game.

Defense wasn’t much prettier. Along with a throwing error on a double play chance by Toth and a throwing error on a bunt single by Lorenz, there were several reported brain lapses on the field. Nick Urban was pulled from third base after failing to cover third base, allowing a pair of runners to advance. Five(!) balls hit to the outfield should have been caught but weren’t. One I give Fellows a break for as he slipped on the turf that was still wet from the snow last weekend, but the other four could – and most probably should – have been caught, including the play in this picture from Liesa Thompson at the Ann Arbor News:

That's a catch that should be made.

We didn’t do well behind the plate either. Kalczynski had his 9th passed ball of the year. He bobbled another transition on a base stealing attempt, dropping the ball. He would eventually be replaced by McLouth during the middle of that same inning during a pitching change. That pitching change? It was on an 0-2 count when Maloney pulled Sinnery. Pulling a pitcher on 0-2? What’s going on?

The offense was anemic this game. Despite Alan Oaks great outing on the mound, his plate appearances were atrocious. He went 0/4 with 2 Ks, a foul out to second base, and a 4-6-3 double play. He stranded 4 runners on base to end innings.

The 6 hits Michigan mustered came from 6 different players. Fellows, Cislo, LaMarre, Dufek, Crank, Kalczynski each had a hit-a-piece, Cislo and LaMarre’s being doubles. The team only managed multiple hits in one inning, the 8th, where they scored just one run. The run in the 9th came by walks and errors on behalf of CMU.

If you want a positive in all this, we only stranded 6 runners (would have been 2 more if not for a pair of grounded into double plays) and we only struck out 7 times… only 7 times….

In defense of some of the hitting, Coach Maloney made an attempt to stir up the lineup in this game. The starting lineup looked like this:

  • Fellows, Kenny lf
  • Toth, Anthony ss
  • Cislo, Kevin 2b
  • LaMarre, Ryan cf
  • Dufek, Mike 1b
  • Urban, Nick 3b
  • Crank, Coley dh
  • Oaks, Alan rf/p
  • Kalczynski, Tim c

Some of this makes some sense. Toth has raised his average to a point where he would look attractive in the 2-hole. Fellows is getting on base enough and has the ability to steal bases; he’s alright for a 1-hole, but not the most attractive choice. Alan Oaks dropping down makes sense with the bottom of this line up, too. Kalczynski makes sense in the 9-hole as well as he has been doing a little bit better about getting on base.

What’s Going On?

Michigan isn’t the same team its been the last few years. We lost the best team we’ve had since the CWS runs in the 80s. We have a group of 5 walk ons that lead the team. Two of them were either cut or virtually told to go elsewhere for playing time:

Coach Rich Maloney cut Kenny Fellows from the University of Michigan baseball team during his freshman-season tryout. Two years later, Maloney told Tim Kalczynski he could transfer if he wanted playing time.

We have several players playing out of their original positions. Urban was a walk-on middle infielder turned outfielder who is occasionally thrown into third base. Kalczynski was once a walk-on outfielder playing catcher and occasionally third base.

Add in our youth and inexperience, and you’ve some problems. Lorenz is a true freshman who didn’t even play his senior year of high school ball. McLouth and Crank are making the best they can of their early playing time, but neither has been that consistent. They’re freshman.

Once you start looking at the scholarship players, many of them are just in their first year of starting as well. Michigan lost Nate Recknagel, Adam Abraham, Jason Christian, Leif Mahler, and Zach Putnam this off season from the offensive starting lineup. Berset, Dufek, and LaMarre contributed a lot, but they weren’t the leaders. They will hopefully be that one day, but right now they are just sophomores and juniors.

Kevin Cislo is the player I’m looking to right now to pick up the team. Maybe this is why Coach Maloney moved him to the three hole. Put him right in the middle of everything and see what happens. Let him try and spark the team. Let him lead. The problem with this is Kevin isn’t a three hole hitter. Unlike Iowa who can throw Toole in the center of the lineup to generate offense, Michigan doesn’t have the same team build. We have power hitters, they need runners on in front of them who can move themselves into scoring position to be hit in.

Pitching isn’t much different than the offense. We don’t have experience. What experience we have in the starting staff is either very good (Fetter) or meh (Wilson). Katzman is in his first season as a starter. Smith hasn’t had a full season of starts yet and he’s just a sophomore. In relief, we don’t have that dominate guy. As much as I hoped Burgoon would be that guy, he’s not.

We’re a young team; we’re an inexperienced team. We’re a not that great team. It is what it is.

How Do We Fix It?

This is the toughest question on Maloney’s mind I’m sure. I think we have two options at this point.

1) We need an upperclassman to step up and really take over this team. He needs to call a players only meeting and say all those right things, but more importantly, he needs to back it up with his play on the field. He needs to be the enforcer, not Coach Maloney. He needs to be the one picking up guys. He needs to be the one getting on a guys case when he’s out of position.

During the preseason, and even into the first few weeks of the season, I thought Chris Berset was going to be the one to do this. I thought this was Chris’s team to take over. Maybe its the catcher in me that makes me feel this, but the catcher that runs much of the show. Sure its probably coincidence that we went from 7-2 with Berset to only 11-9 without him. I think his value to our lineup cannot be matched from Crank and Kalczynski, neither can his leadership. I’m not sure when he’s due back, but its not soon enough.

2) Our hitting coach (whether that be Maloney and Ust) has to step up his game. Something has to be done about our strikeout rate. Something has to be done about moving runners into scoring position and knocking them in.

The worst thing that can happen now is the team starts putting too much unnecessary pressure on themselves. That will just force more bad habits.  As Coach says:

“They may even be trying more than they should be trying. I don’t know. But right now it’s more psychological than it is anything else. It’s not the opponent – we are the opponent. We’re beating ourselves.”

We’ll see how we do against Illinois this weekend.  Wake up boys, its time to produce.

Posted under Baseball

Stat Watch: Week 5

Reminder: EMU game is bumped up to today (Tuesday). Live Stats and Live Audio available through mgoblue.com.  Preview and recap of the last meeting with EMU games are available.

In this edition of stat watch, we’ll catch back up with team hitting, and get caught up on offense. Pitching numbers are still rough, but we’ll at least take a look at the leader boards and look at the potential starting rotation for our upcoming 5-game weeks of the conference season. I’ll have a mix of Excel Graphs and ManyEyes (individual statistics). At this point, I can’t get the ManyEye’s visuals to embed, allowing you to play with the data and charts. So instead, its back to the basic Excel graphs.

Team Hitting

battinggraph5

Above is the game by game batting average (blue), on-base percentage (red), and slugging percentage (yellow) for the team as it has accumulated over the season. As you can see, we appear to be reaching a fairly consistent level of production over the last 7 games or so. Game 12 is the last game of the Siena series, so everything after that would include the Arizona series, @EMU, and the IPFW series.

Our current batting average is .321, on-base percentage .410, and slugging percentage of .495. These are pretty solid numbers. The average batting average for the NCAA (last assembled in April 08) was approximately .292. Over the last few years, the NCAA average has been in the mid .280s.

As far as slugging, I have yet to find an NCAA-wide statistic, so I’ll compare it to the last few years of Michigan. The last five years final numbers are .489, .478, .417, .429, and .413. We’re still early in this year, but we look to be doing rather well for ourselves in the power department, at least compared to previous teams.

When looking at other Big10 teams, we can get a slightly better idea of where we compare this year. Keep in mind that there is a definite difference in competition faced.

Team Record RPI BA OB% SLG%
Minnesota 13-6 20 .309 .432 .526
Ohio State 17-2 22 .350 .405 .550
Illinois 12-4 48 .322 .411 .438
Michigan 14-5 117 .321 .410 .495
Penn State 11-8 143 .308 .396 .401
Purdue 8-9 194 .286 .381 .411
Indiana 7-13 220 .338 .412 .500
Michigan State 6-14 227 .253 .339 .356
Iowa 6-10 228 .289 .382 .451
Northwestern 4-14 238 .252 .323 .344

I have the table sorted by RPI (as of Sunday morning), so theoretically, the teams the have done well against better competition should be at the top. Michigan places 4th in the Big10 in batting average, 4th in on-base percentage, and 4th in slugging percentage. Go figure we’re currently 4th in RPI. It makes sense as Ohio State has been destroying every pitching staff they’ve seen (mostly inferior teams). Indiana is scoring a ton of runs, but they are giving them up at a startling rate (check out this football score of 28-17 in a loss to Northern Iowa). Overall, I’d say we’re doing pretty well.

RBIs vs Left on Base and Pitching after the jump.

Read More…

Posted under Baseball

Preview: Arizona

Times have been adjusted as I thought it was Mountain Time, not Mountain Standard Time, which is currently Pacific Daylight Time. Arizona doesn’t use daylight savings time. Ridiculous.

Arizona

from arizona.edu

10pm Friday, 7pm Saturday, 2pm Saturday (all EDT)
Jerry Kindall Field
Tuscon, AZ

Media Game 1: Live Stats, Audio, and Video ($*)
Probable Starters Game 1: Chris Fetter (2-0)
Media Game 2: Live Stats, Audio, and Video
Probable Starters Game 2: Eric Katzman (2-1)
Media Game 3: Live Stats, Audio, and Video
Probable Starters Game 3: Travis Smith (2-1)
Series:  Arizona leads 42-12
Last Meeting:  Michigan 3, Arizona 4, 2008 Regional in Ann Arbor

*Video requires at least paying a $9.95 monthly subscription for buy it — as it is automatically renewed each month.  It also requires you to download Microsoft Silverlight 2.0.  I really wish Michigan would expand its sports coverage to this level.

Overview

The Arizona Wildcats are a middle of the road Pac10 team, picked to finish 5th by the coaches, with a current record of 8-7 including a three game sweep by #9 Georgia and a 2 game sweep by #11 Oklahoma State.  Those two sweeps are why they still sit so high in RPI (#61) despite the record.  The Wildcats haven’t really played anyone I would say that compares closely to Michigan.  Most teams they have played are either top 15 or bottom 150.

Offense

Unlike many of the teams Michigan has faced so far, Arizona doesn’t have that one guy that makes the offense click.  They, instead, use a combined team effort to produce runs.   They currently have 9 batters of the 13 players seeing regular playing time with batting averages over .300.  Due to the inconsistency in the lineup, I’m not sure what to expect going into the weekend.

I imagine second basemen Rafa Valenzuela will keep his lead off role this weekend.  He is leading the team in hitting at .378, but he’s only started in 10 of the 15 games so far.  He’s not much of a threat on the bases, currently 2/3 on stolen base attempts.

The current RBI leader for the Wildcats is third basemen Jett Bandy with 15.  Bandy has played in 14 of Arizona’s 15 games, batting anywhere from 3rd to 6th.  He’s only batting .296, but he also leads the team in doubles with eight.

At the bottom of the order, Bryce Ortega has provided consistency at shortstop in his 14 starts.  Ortega has hit .327 with a team high 17 runs scored.  He’s second on the team with 13 RBIs.

Bobby Coyle is the only player to start every game this season.  The centerfielder is only batting .284 with 10 RBIs and 12 runs scored.

Pitching

Starting pitching has been a real weakness for the Wildcats this year.  I can’t make heads or tails of their rotation so far, and the Arizona website hasn’t announced probable starters yet either.  Last week saw their coach try two new starters, neither of which did particularly well against #11 Oklahoma State.

Coming into the season, Arizona was looking to set up the rotation around three pitchers, Preston Guilment, Matt Veltmann, and Donn Roach.  So far on the season, they have a combined record of 3-5 and 6.30 ERA.  Guilmet has had the best success of the three, going 16 innings in 3 starts, posting a 1-1 record and 5.76 ERA.  He also sports a 7:15 walk-to-strikeout ratio.  The other two are averaging just over 3 innings per start.

Freshman Kyle Simon also made three starts for the Wildcats.  In his three starts, Simon has gone 10 2/3 innings, allowing 13 runs (9 earned), on 17 hits and 5 strike outs.  He also had a long relief appearance against Georgia, going 4 innings giving up 8 hits and 3 runs.  His ERA currently sits around 6.75.

Relief pitching has been used early and often this season for Arizona.  Cody Burns, a right handed senior, has already made 12 appearances this season.  His numbers haven’t been the best this season, giving up 8 earned runs in 15 1/3 innings pitched with 8 walks and 21 strike outs.  His overall appearances have been hampered by poor fielding to the tune of 6 unearned runs.

Jason Stoffel has been the bright spot in the bullpen.  As their closer, he has seen work in 9 games, striking out 22 in 16 innings.  He has three saves on the season, and has been impressive in each outing.  His 1.60 ERA is by far the best on the team.

Outlook

I think Michigan may be able to win 2 of 3 in this series, which should really help with the RPI.  The game I’m least optimistic about is the Eric Katzman start.  I’m not saying I expect us to lose, but its the game I’m least certain about.  Chris Fetter should be his normal self and I’m really liking what I’m seeing from Travis Smith lately.  The bullpen will be well rested as we didn’t have a midweek game.

It will be interesting to see who catches most of the games in this series.  As it stands, Berset is currently listed as fourth on the depth chart at catcher.  I can’t say I saw that coming, but with the emergence of Coley Crank and Jake McLouth as offensive forces, and Timmy Kalcynzski’s leadership, Berset has seen himself drop from solid starter to 4th string in a matter of weeks. Chris Berset remains out with a broken thumb (as pointed out by JJ in the comments).  Crank hit extremely well last week, McLouth could make an appearance there, or team captain Timmy Kalczynski, who is listed as probable starter in the weekly release may be used.  [updated after comment made by JJ]

Other Note

Saturday is “Club Arizona Kid’s Day” which sounds violent, but is actually a pretty good deal for any person under the age of 18, as tickets are $1 and other activities are held throughout the ball park.

Posted under Baseball

Baseball (Last) Weekend Update

Reminder, Tim’s basketball preview can be found below.

Sorry for the prolonged absence right as things got started, but sometimes real life just jumps in the way. As for the baseball team, they continued without me, to a rather successful weekend.  I’ll get the game recaps out of the way first, then get a couple of the usual mid week updates out of the way as well.

Michigan 11, Siena 3
Box Score
W -Chris Fetter (2-0) L – Chaput (1-1)

The first game didn’t start so well: Chris Fetter’s second pitch of the game went well over Kenny Fellow’s head in left, out of the park, placing Siena up 1-0. He then gave up a walk and a single with no outs, but a strike out and 4-6-3 double play ended the rally. Despite this early scare, Fetter ended the game with 7 innings pitched, 11 strike outs, and one walk. He gave up 6 hits, two of them were solo home runs. Those two home runs would be all the runs Fetter would give up. Brandon Sinnery would close out the last two innings, giving up 1 run on two hits, one walk, and two strike outs. Great day for Michigan pitching.

Offense didn’t disappoint either. Michigan belted three home runs on the day from Nick Urban, Justin Lorenz, and Alan Oaks. The homeruns for Urban and Lorenz were their first career home runs for Michigan. It was good to see Lorenz make some noise; he was only hitting .125 coming into the weekend, with both previous hits coming in one game. Oaks made the most of his first pinch hitting appearance of the season after returning from illness, knocking a 2-run homer.

I won’t go too much into the hitting, as every hitter in this game had at least one hit. Five starters had more than one hit. One defensive note, Nick Urban had one hell of a diving catch in right field to start the second inning. He made a catch at full extension catch on a low fly ball. I love the defense, so props to Urban. It would have made Web Gems.

Notable Stars

  • Chris Fetter – 7 IP, 2 ER, 11K, BB
  • Nick Urban – 2/4 3 RBI, 2 Rs, HR, web gem
  • Tim Kalczynski – 2/4 2 Rs

Notable Goats

  • um…? Ryan LaMarre was the only player without a run or RBI? Yeah, I got nothing.

Michigan 13, Siena 3
Box Score
W – Eric Katzman (2-1) L – Hartman (0-3)

As Other Chris pointed out in her tweet, no radio for this game, just stats. Looking at the play-by-play, Katzman looked pretty shaky in this game, but managed to avoid much more damage. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing at this point. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I didn’t really expect Katzman to repeat his week 1 performance very often. He’s still working on becoming a guy who can go more than 5 innings, it just hasn’t happened yet.

This game was no different as Siena was on base early and often. The Saints left 8 on base during Katzman’s 5 2/3 innings of work. That’s not something we want to see. Neither is a run scoring wild pitch from Katzman. You really have to hope Eric holds up over the season. This is by far the most pitching he’s done in a season since at least high school.

The bullpen did pretty well. Burgoon got Katzman out of the 6th inning, stranding one of Katzman’s baserunners. He worked a pretty quick 7th inning, but did give up a solo home run. Matt Gerbe finished the game with 2 shutout innings.

Offense is what won this game for us. Ryan LaMarre is a beast. Ryan went 3 for 4 in this game with 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, and 3 runs. He even stole a base. By himself, Ryan LaMarre outscored the entire Siena team; that’s a great feeling. Mike Dufek also poured on the offense, going 2 for 4 with a home run, a double, 2 runs, and 2 RBIs.

A big positive from this game was production from the bottom of the order. Coley Crank made the best of his spot start at catcher, going 3 for 3 with 2 RBIs. John Lorenz registered his first single of the year (actually two of them) in a 2 for 4 performance with a run scored. Toth, still in the 9-hole, finished 1 for 4 with a run and an RBI.

Notable Stars

  • Ryan LaMarre – 3/4 4 RBIs, 3 Rs, BB, SB,
  • Mike Dufek – 2/4 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, BB
  • Kevin Cislo – 2/5 RBI, 2 Rs
  • Eric Katzman – 5 2/3 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 7 K, 1 BB

Notable Goats

  • Justin Lorenz – Error leading to a run
  • Eric Katzman – baserunners a plenty and a wild pitch for a run

Michigan 19, Siena 6
Box Score
W – Travis Smith (2-1) L – Sohl (0-2)

The offense that caught fire in the middle innings of the first game of the double header continued on in game 2. Michigan logged 19 runs on 20 hits, including 4 doubles and 3 home runs. Thirteen different Wolverines logged a hit in the game. The only player in the game not to was Tim Kalczynski, who only batted once. He along with Fellows were the only players in the game not to score a run. It was an all around whooping.

Ryan LaMarre lead the team with 4 RBIs coming off of a fielder’s choice and a three run homer. Cislo, Crank, and Oaks each had three runs scored a piece. Crank lead the team with three hits, giving him 6 total in the double header. Along with the previously mentioned LaMarre, home run, both Mike Dufek and Garrett Stephens also collected home runs.

We knocked the Siena bull pen around until it exploded. Eight different pitchers were thrown against us, two of which didn’t even record an out. Only one pitcher managed to not give up a run.

Michigan’s pitching, on the other hand, was quite solid. Travis Smith put in 6 strong innings of work, giving up only 2 earned runs (and 1 unearned). He also struck out 8 while only giving up 4 hits and 2 walks. I’ll take that kind of start every week. It will be interesting to see if he moves up to the game 2 starter or if Coach Maloney will leave the right/left/right handed rotation.

Matt Miller and Jeff DeCarlo threw the last 3 innings. Miller looked good but had an unearned run scored upon him. DeCarlo continued to look shaky, but at least he didn’t hit anybody this time out. He did give up 2 earned runs (one unearned).

Speaking of all of these unearned runs, what was up with the defense? I’m not just talking about this game, but the last few. We’ve given up 10 unearned runs in the last two weekends (7 games). That’s not very good. Our team percentage of .963 isn’t too bad, but our opponents are definitely making us pay for our mistakes. I’ll probably take a look at our opponents’ fielding percentage and earned vs unearned runs scored in my next Stat Watch.

Notable Stars

  • You Pick’em, you’re probably right.

Notable Goats

  • McLouth & Lorenz errors lead to unearned runs

POTW Honors

Ryan LaMarre picked up Big10 Player of the Week (shared with Illinois’s Aaron Johnson) honors for his weekend performance. His weekend totals:

H/AB OB% SLG% RBI R HR BB K
6/12 .571 1.250 8 4 3 2 2

And he had an outfield assist. Ryan LaMarre is a beast.

BigTen Hardball All Weekend Team

Dufek, LaMarre, Crank, Fetter all make the list. The team this week was a bit lengthy. Too many players are playing too well right now. Illinois makes a lot of noise on the list as they took 2 of 3 from #1 LSU in Baton Rouge.

Poll Watching

Poll Current LW
RPI 106 TBA
NCBWA 25 28
Collegiate Baseball 28 28
BaseballAmerica NR NR
Ping!Baseball NR NR
Rivals NR NR
USA Today/ESPN 28* 32*

*in also receiving votes

Illinois also jumped us in the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball polls after taking 2 of 3 from previous #1 LSU. RPI is now available through Boyd’s World. We’re pretty low and for good reason, we haven’t played many good teams yet. Ohio State and Illinois both sit in the top 20, at #15 and #16 respectively. They both have had impressive games against good opponents this season. The best team we’ve played so far is Jacksonville at #64, who we split a double header with. Arizona, this weekend’s opponent is currently #61.

Programming Schedule

Next post will probably be the Arizona preview. I hope to get it out by tomorrow night, but I’ve got 4 games to umpire tomorrow. We’ll see if I can get it in before Friday morning.

Posted under Baseball