Recruiting Philosophy, Pt. 2

A couple weeks ago, I posted about the apparent desire by Michigan’s coaches to offer every prospect under the sun. Of course, like any strategy, there are certain advantages and downsides to this technique. What is most striking, perhaps, is the difference between what Michigan is doing, and the methods employed by arch-rival Ohio State on the recruiting trail. The post (as it was intended to do) drew a ton of responses, and I went even one step further by asking a few questions of Jim Stefani, who was more than happy to answer them.

What is going on

According to Jim Stefani, Michigan has as many as 130 offers to high school prospects outstanding thus far. Many of these, however, might be from kids that they don’t really want to commit. According to Jim Stefani, “In a sense, many Michigan ‘offers’ are not really firm offers but more or less strong indications of interest by Michigan.  Take that for what you will, but it is how many schools are now approaching recruiting.  Look at the DB who wanted to verbal to U-M last week [Travis Williams] but was told to wait.” Florida, a school that uses a similar technique in throwing around a lot of offers, had a similar situation, and they had to tell a defensive back outright that the offer he had been given was not “committable.” It appears as though the main point of contention here, then, is what an offer really means.

Shouldn’t an offer, by definition, be “committable?” Isn’t that, after all, what an offer is? Wolv54 offered a hypothesis in the comments from the previous post:

The only potential problem the shotgun approach creates is that you have a finite number of schollies and you have to slow play some guys waiting for the higher ranked guys make their decisions. I would compare it to trying to get a prom date; whereas you ask the hottest girl you know and hope she says but if not, you can always take that girl that plays in the band, right?

Michigan seems to be offering both the “hottest girl” and the “band girl,” and hoping they can get the less desirable option to wait for the hotter one before making a decision. However, with a Michigan offer now just meaning that the Wolverines have strong interest in a kid, the techniques might have to be adjusted. According to Stefani, “they need to be careful that they get the right kids to commit of those 130. Believe me, even though a kid has been offered does not mean that Michigan wants him to commit right away (or, perhaps, ever).”

So why do they offer guys without actually wanting them to commit? This hasn’t always worked out, as people (like Travis Williams) try to commit, without the staff wanting it. That can lead to one of the problems that Michigan fans fear, according to Michigan4204,

I mean damn dude, were beating out schools like TCU, Tulsa, SMU, and Baylor for some of these recruits. Players used to come to Michigan because they produced pro-level talent. You have to have that talent first of all when you arrive on campus, and half of RR recruits simply don’t have that talent.

There are certainly ways out of this (and schools like florida use them as well), but it’s not always the cleanest break, as Stefani points out, “It backfires when a kid wants to commit and the verbal is not accepted or commits and then a few months later Michigan stops contact.  That is because it will upset the prospect and, more importantly, his high school coach.  If the prospects is from a program loaded with D-I talent every year it could definitely hurt.” Michigan seems to be willing to risk this.

The Contrast with Ohio State

Ohio State, as mentioned above, is using a recruiting method that seems to be diametrically opposed to that of Rich Rodriguez and staff. Jim Tressel has given out very few offers, and has many fewer commits than Michigan, though most of their commits are more highly-rated than some of Michigan’s guys. Like Michigan has its reasons for the current recruiting strategy, Ohio State also has reasons for theirs. They already have a deep talent base, and this year, they have very few scholarships to hand out. Stefani’s take:

The longer a school waits to offer, the more time it has to evaluate prospects and decide who they want to offer.  With schools in the midst of May evaluation, combines going on every weekend and summer camps coming up in June, the Ohio State coaches will have a LOT more info at hand when it comes to making their offer decisions than the school that have offered many prospects early based on sophomore year camp/combine performances and junior film.

The Buckeyes also give themselves another advantage: “many of the elite players like to wait things out, which only helps the schools who have not picked up too many early verbals.” Of course, Michigan will wait on top-top guys who have interest, but does accepting a lot of early verbals limit their ability to do so? Probably.

As shown above, Michigan fans aren’t exactly unanimously enthusiastic about the new approach. Michigan4204 was the most harsh in the comments of the previous post, using the now-old adage “Just because it worked in the Big East doesn’t mean it’ll work in the Big Ten. Trust me I hope it does, but I’m pessimistic.” When it was pointed out that there is no reason to expect any different result simply on a different conference, he was quick to point out the talent difference between the Big Ten and Big East, which, unfortunately for his argument, seems to ring a little hollow.

Players in 2009 NFL Draft
Cincinnati 6 Illinois 3
Connecticut 4 Indiana 0
Louisville 2 Iowa 4
Pitt 4 Michigan 2
Rutgers 5 Michigan State 1
South Florida 1 Minnesota 0
Syracuse 2 Northwestern 0
West Virginia 3 Ohio State 7
Penn State 5
Purdue 2
Wisconsin 4
Total/School 3.38 Total/School 2.55

So, yeah. That argument certainly doesn’t hold water. Complaining about Rodriguez’s tactics on the basis of a talent difference between conferences is bogus. Of course, that doesn’t stop ontblue from agreeing with him:

Tend to agree with Michigan4204. You can take RR’s 3/4 star guys and I’ll take the USC/Florida/Suckeyes 4/5 star guys and we’ll see how things stack up in 5 years. By the way, since when did adding a marginal guy ever add to depth? It just adds another cheerleader.

Obviously, Rich and staff think the commits that they take will be guys who are able to contribute, or they likely wouldn’t waste their time. As bouje noted, “Who are the players that are really lighting it up in spring practices? Vincent Smith 3* out of Florida. He can obviously pick the 3* recruits.”

The reasons for this approach

So why does Michigan have to recruit the way they are? For one thing, they’ll probably have a lot of scholarships to fill, unlike the Buckeyes. “[L]ast year Ohio State signed a full class of 25, so they have limited schollies to hand out this year and are being very selective,” Stefani said. “On the other hand, after expected attrition Michigan is in a position to sign between 22 and 25 kids this coming year, so the Wolverines have a lot more flexibility when it comes to making early offers.” The early offers also help Michigan get their foot in the door with some guys:

Being aggressive with their early offers means that Michigan gets on a prospect’s radar earlier than those schools that have not offered.  the old adage ‘the early bird catches the worm’ applies here.  Moreover, actually picking up early verbals gets the whole process rolling as they can market their “great” (haha, excuse me) class to other prospects, as can the kids who have already committed.  They can now tell a lot of the Ohio kids, we love you but Ohio State doesn’t.  that carries some weight.

The early offers also mean that the class fills up quickly, as pointed out by Derrick, “Wouldn’t this approach force some kids to make a decision before all the offers were gone? If a kid really wants to play for michigan or any school he knows there are only so many offers available and he should be proactive in making a commitment.” Still, fans aren’t necessarily all on board with this approach, as sebaskrator said, “I’m willing to give RR the benefit of the doubt for now. Has has been able to get pretty far finding some gems before. That said, if he is able to juggle commitments around for someone he’d like more later, great.” It’s an endorsement, sure, but I’d say that’s far from ringing.

The Future

So, when Michigan’s talent base is built up to where it used to be, at least with the types of players that Rodriguez wants, will we see this strategy continue? It’s highly likely, though a school like Florida, which has had several top-tier classes in a row now, continues to use it, as AC1997 points out “I find it interesting how Urban Myer is offering everyone and their brother too, being from Utah he had the same problem that Rich Rod did (and probably worse).” The key thing that needs to happen before Michigan can audible the recruiting strategy is to show results on the field, according to Stefani, “First and foremost,once Michigan starts winning again it will become a magnet for national kids and be able to hold off on offering second-tier kids too early.” Ohio State obviously doesn’t have this problem right now, as he points out:

Ohio State is a top-tier national program that has gone to a couple consecutive BCS championship games.  They are an elite school that a LOT of kids want to play for, be they in-state kids or national kids… They can afford to wait on a lot of in-state kids because they know that they can get them later in the recruiting timeline if they finish second on some of their top national targets.  Michigan, on the other hand, is in a rare rebuilding mode and is not longer a “hot” school with national prospects.

In the future, once Michigan (hopefully) starts having on-field success again, this argument will all become moot.

There are still benefits to Michigan’s technique, as Stefani says “The risks [for an approach like OSU] are that by waiting too long to offer a prospects you have ‘bigger fish to fry’ you will lose out on him to another school (e.g. Devin Gardner to Michigan).  Once prospects are offered bythe Buckeyes, they will often have to do a ‘catch-up’ job in showing them the love.” However, It seems that Michigan will likely never go from the extreme that they’re currently occupying all the way to Ohio State’s, wherein they offer very few prospects early. In the end, a happy medium is probably most desired. AC1997 probably sums it up best: “Maybe he feels that 3-9 means he has to do that.” In another year 3-9, hopefully, will no longer be an issue.

Posted under Analysis, Coaching, Football, Recruiting

Michigan Takes One At Ohio State

But it loses 3?

After dropping the first two games of the series on Saturday, Michigan managed to salvage a victory on Sunday. Eric Katzman got the win with 5 innings of sketchy work, and Alan Oaks got the ridiculous 4 inning save. I say ridiculous because save rules allow there to be saves over two innings or more than 3 runs.

Katzman was a bit shaky in this game, throwing a ton of pitches and allowing baserunners in each of his 5 innings of work. He allowed 4 hits, 3 walks, hit a batter (with the bases loaded), but he only allowed one run. He struck out 5 and stranded 8 runners. Three of those runners came in the 5th inning when “Evil Katzman” entered the game. After a quick out, Katzman gave up a double, single, walk, and hit batsman to give up the run. After a quick conference with Coach Maloney, Katzman struck out his final batter of the day.

Alan Oaks entered the game in the 6th and gave up a run on back to back hits. Ohio State managed a run, but OSU left fielder made a base running blunder trying to stretch a double into a triple and making the last out at third base. For those of you less into baseball, that’s a huge huge mistake. Instead of having a runner in scoring position, you lose any shot at adding more runs that inning. Honestly, when I saw that, the first thing I said was, “That’s a Michigan mistake.” It’s the kind of poor base running I’ve grown accustom to lately. That play ended up being the turning point in the game as OSU lost the momentum and would never regain it.

Oaks finished the game with 4 innings pitched with 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks and a strikeout. Very solid game and it may get him another shot at starting in the next two weeks. With the Burgoon start going less than stellar on Saturday, the third slot is still anyone’s to take, even this late in the season.

Offensively, everything was clicking for the Wolverines. All those line drives up the middle fell just outside of the reach of the OSU middle infielders. Soft fly balls to the gaps were just out of range of the outfielders. It was the exact opposite of game 1. You could just tell in the first inning when we collected a pair of infield singles that things were different in this game. Lady luck was on our side.

Mike Dufek and Jake McLouth were the big run producers on the day. Dufek went 3/5 with a double, 3 RBI, and a run. McLouth went 2/3 with 2 RBI. Both came through with the timely hits when we needed them, something we haven’t seen since the first few weeks of the season.

Anthony Toth and Ryan LaMarre were the run scorers. Toth scored three times despite only getting one hit in the game. LaMarre went 2/4 with a pair of singles and 2 runs scored. I really like what I saw of LaMarre’s bat this weekend. He hit a couple of balls hard in the no hitter but was robbed by the middle infielders. In game 3 he was driving liners to the opposite field, a sign of seeing the ball well. LaMarre also stole two bases in the game. You could tell the Buckeyes’ catcher Forsythe was struggling with the pitchers and with base runners in general. He was only in the game because normal starter Burkhart left Saturday’s game 2 with an undisclosed leg injury. While I’m glad Michigan could take advantage of the replacement starter, here’s hoping Burkhart’s alright.

Timmy Kal also had an excellent game, going 2/5 with a pair of doubles getting the spot start at third base. He also made an excellent defensive play at third base.

The loss in the series doesn’t set us back that much.  In the Half Way Home post I did two weeks ago, I thought we’d just win one game as well.  The problem growing there is how good MSU is finishing and how Purdue closes out their schedule.   It could be close on earning a 6 seed in the BTT.  More on that later in the week though.

Cislo Out

Not only did we lose two games, we also lost something a little more important. News came through via The Daily yesterday on the mysterious absence of Kevin Cislo from games 2 and 3 of the OSU series:

“I don’t know if he’ll be able to play at all (this season),” Maloney said. “I don’t know if he’s out for the year, but he’s definitely out.”

Mark it down as a bum shoulder for now. This injury is really bad. We lose our leader on the infield and one of our better hitters. We’ll see if Kevin may make a return by the BigTen tournament, but at this point I would imagine he’s done. Here’s hoping for a good recovery.

Also, I’m not much for fluff articles, but here’s a recent one on Kevin from The Ann Arbor News.

Mid Week Matchup

This week is a home and home series with Western Michigan. Tuesday is at Kalamazoo at 3:05pm, with Wednesday being at the Fish (6:35pm).

Posted under Baseball

Swept in Doubleheader

Michigan was swept in two games of the doubleheader at Ohio State today. Game one was an Alex Wimmers no hitter, the first 9-inning no hitter in the school’s history. Chris Fetter pitched well, but things fell apart late after Chris Berset lost a pop up behind the plate with 2 outs. The ball fell foul, the next pitch was driven into right center and 2 runs scored. OSU would add 3 more in the 7th, again, after an error to extend the inning. I don’t think Toth would have turned the double play even with a good throw, but instead it went into the dugout allowing another run to score.

Despite the no hitter, Michigan still managed a few base runners. Twice they were erased because we tried to hit and run with 2 strikes on a batter. Both times Wimmers threw a pitch way up out of the strike zone leading to a strike’em out-throw’em out double play. Burkhart gunned Fellows again in a later inning and should have had Cislo before the strike’em out-throw’em out but the shortstop dropped the ball. So if you’re keeping track at home, we walked 4 times and reached on an error, we left only one man on base.

Its also worth noting that the middle infielders for Ohio State saved this no-no twice. Kovanda made a full extension diving catch to steal a hit from LaMarre and Engle at shortstop made a diving play to turn a single from Nick Urban into a double play. Both were awesome plays.

The offense tried to make up for it in game two knocking 10 hits, but they were no match for the Buckeye and their 15 hits. Tyler Burgoon got the start, wasn’t helped by his defense, and didn’t help himself after getting into trouble either. Burgoon gave up 6 earned runs in 1.2 innings of work. Nick Urban, playing his originally recruited position of second base, also lead to an unearned run.

Mike Wilson was the first reliever and had a good outing compared to his norm. He only gave up one run in 1.1 innings pitched, but he did walk 2. Chris Berset committed an error to advance a runner, but it didn’t affect the score as the runner would have scored on an ensuing hit anyways.

Kolby Wood was the highlight on the mound for the game. He lasted 4 innings of scoreless baseball giving Michigan a chance to comeback. Comeback they did as they rallied to bring the game back to 6-7.

Matt Miller came in to close out the 7th and pitch in the 8th. In the eighth he started the inning with a walk and a hit by pitch. Two sacrifices and a single later, 2 runs would cross the plate to give OSU the final 9-6 lead. The BigTen’s best closer, Jake Hale came in to shut us down and earn his 11th save of the season.

Kevin Cislo didn’t play in this game and I’m not sure why. If anyone has any ideas, let me know in the comments.

I’ve got a trio of exams on Monday, so this will be my review of those two games for now. I may have a better recap of things later in the week.

Highlights via BTN (ignore “Josh” Lorenz, Jake “McLooth,” and Chris “Burst”):

Don’t be surprised if the embed doesn’t work. I think Paul has the settings to where an admin has to post embeds. If it’s not here now, we’ll get it up soon.

Posted under Baseball

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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Hiatus Ending, Hate Beginning


First off, all apologies to the baseball crowd out there.  It’s the last week of classes and the requisite workload accompanying the end of classes.  Nothing says great week like 2 exams, a final presentation, and a final paper all on a Wednesday.  I wrote 14 pages in 3.5 hours – quitting abruptly during the last final because I couldn’t write without a writhing pain in my fingers.  I tried to go southpaw, but it just wasn’t happening.  And what makes this all the better is I get to virtually repeat that day on Monday, so scant posting again this weekend.


DeLucia Striking Out vs Katzman

And now on to the baseball.  Michigan takes on 1st place Ohio State in Columbus tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday.  Ohio State is far and away the highest ranked team in the BigTen.  They enter today’s game with an 11-4 conference record, 32-10* overall, including a win at then #2 Miami. The Buckeyes currently sit #28 in Boyd’s psuedo-RPI and #30 in NCAA.com’s RPI.  We sit at 180 and 184 respectively in those polls.  While I don’t see us taking the series, Since we’re going to sweep the series, we’re going to drop their RPI plenty this weekend and get ours boosted closer to the 100 mark.  I can sense it.

Friday’s (today @7pm) game looks to be the best pitching match up of the BigTen conference season.  The two top pitchers (not to take anything away from Indiana’s Arnett) in the league square off, Chris Fetter for Michigan and Alex Wimmers for Ohio State. Wimmers currently has a 3.14 ERA, good for 8th in the BigTen, but he does lead the conference in strikeouts with 89.  That doesn’t bode well.

The top reliever will also be seen in former starting ace Jake Hale.  Hale’s move to the closer role this year has seen him 27 appearances and 10 saves.  His ERA is only 1.00 and he’s struck out 48 in 36 innings.  That’s ridiculous.

If this game finishes 1-0, don’t be surprised.

osudoubledSaturday (1pm) should see Dean Wolosiansky start for the Buckeyes.  Wolosiansky is 9-1 with a 5.09 ERA.  If I remember correctly, Dean isn’t an overpowering pitcher, instead living by his location and inducing ground balls.  He only has 37 Ks this season in 53 innings.  He did pitch against Michigan last year, going 6.2 IP and only allowing 2 runs in the Michigan loss.

In that same Michigan loss last year, he was relieved by Eric Best, who is expected to start the Sunday game (1pm).  Best is 6-2 on the season with a 4.93 ERA.  He hasn’t been that dominating this year and has floated in and out of the starter role.  He’s got 14 appearances, only 8 starts.  His last start was last weekend against Northwestern, a loss.

On offense, Ohio State hits and hits well.  They currently have the #31 batting average in D1 at .329.  They lead the BigTen in scoring, runs, hits, batting average, slugging percentage, home runs, and triples.  The only weakness in their lineup appears to be shortstop and third base.  The left side of the infield is held by third baseman Justin Miller (.278 BA) and shortstop Cory Rupert (.272 BA).  Those two are the on regulars batting less than .325 and slugging less than .450.  That’s ridiculous.  I’ll save giving you the stats on the rest of the lineup, just know they hit well.

Ohio State doesn’t run much, but when they try, they are successful (32/41).  Lead off man and left fielder Zach Hurley has the most attempts at 13, 11 times successful.  Three hole hitter Micheal Stephens is second on the team with 9 attempts, 7 successful.


This is a tough series for Michigan given not just how good Ohio State is, but also the atmosphere in Columbus.  That said, I think this series is a good match up for Michigan.  Fetter is always reliable for a great start, and Michigan has done well against the top starters from other teams.  The back half of the OSU starting rotation is a little weak, it just becomes a question of if our pitching can hold up.  We can’t afford to make the small mental errors on defense or fail at the small ball this weekend.

I’m feeling lucky. I say Michigan wins two.

We’re On TV

The entire weekend series is available to all of you with the BTN this weekend. The games are on at 7:05 tonight, and 1 the next two days; make sure you catch all the action.  If anyone wants to record it and send me a torrent link, I’d appreciate it.  Living outside the BTN footprint, all I’ve got is UM’s IPTV which doesn’t record or, for that matter, stream too easily.

*They also lost to Rollins, who isn’t even a D1 school, so technically its 32-9.  Just thought I’d point out they lose to a D2 school.

Posted under Baseball

Gotta offer ’em all

This recruiting cycle, it’s become particularly evident that there are different recruiting methods regarding how many offers to hand out. Jim Stefani has mentioned this several times already this year. Ohio State has given very few offers to 2010 high school prospects, whereas Michigan seems to have offered everyone under the sun:

The Michigan coaching staff had better be on top of their scholarship management when it comes to the Class of 2010. They have about….

….125 offers out there, and with 9 early verbals that leaves room for probably about another 13-17 commitments. They are handing out…

…”offers” like candy this year. It is a fine balancing act between offering kids early to maintain interest and being selective enough..

…..to hold out for the top kids. RichRod nd staff will need to be master jugglers this year. Interesting thing is that Ohio State….

…is taking the completely opposite approach and has been more selective than any other school in the nation in making early offers.

Also: Jim Stefani doesn’t understand the point of Twitter.

I’ll explore this in further depth later, but for now, I’d just like to point out that there is no “right way” to do it. Florida, for example, seems to offer everyone, much like Michigan. Texas, like Ohio State, is very selective with who it offers. Both schools are riotously successful in the recruiting game (as is Ohio State, and Michigan will hopefully get there with a little better product on the field).

So, I ask you, fair readers: What do you think? This discussion may be colored a bit by the semi-controversial commitment of Drew Dileo, but I’m interested to hear what the fans think.

Posted under Coaching, Football, Recruiting

UFR: Ohio State II

Raw data in .xls format here. Apologies for the delay in getting these UFRs published. With the next game not until Thursday, The Purdue edition is coming tomorrow.

Half 1

1st half differential
Lineup Time on Floor Score Differential
Grady, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims 3:29 4-8 -4
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 1:40 0-5 -5
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Gibson, Sims 1:06 0-2 -2
Merritt, Douglass, Harris, Shepherd, Gibson 2:24 0-4 -4
Merritt, Douglass, Lee, Harris, Sims 1:30 5-0 +5
Grady, Lucas-Perry Lee, Harris, Sims :32 0-1 -1
Grady, Lucas-Perry Lee, Wright, Sims 2:46 4-5 -1
Douglass, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Wright, Gibson 2:08 3-3 0
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Gibson 2:43 0-4 -4
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Wright, Gibson 1:42 2-2 0
Total 20:00 18-32 -18

Half 2

2nd Half Differential
Lineup Time on Floor Score Differential
Grady, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims 6:58 18-11 +7
Douglass, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims 2:25 2-4 -2
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 3:03 6-3 +3
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Sims 2:03 2-3 -1
Grady, Lee, Harris, Novak, Sims 3:33 5-8 -3
Grady, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims :17 3-0 +3
Grady, Lee, Harris, Novak, Sims :16 0-3 -3
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Lee, Harris, Sims :40 0-2 -2
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Douglass, Shepherd, Gibson :45 0-0 0
Totals 20:00 36-36 0

Game totals

Lineup Totals
Lineup Time on Floor Score Differential
Grady, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims 10:14 25-19 +6
Grady, Lucas-Perry, Lee, Wright, Sims 2:46 4-5 -1
Merritt, Douglass, Harris, Shepherd, Gibson 2:24 0-4 -4
Merritt, Douglass, Lee, Harris, Sims 1:30 5-0 +5
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Lee, Harris, Sims :40 0-2 -2
Merritt, Lucas-Perry, Douglass, Shepherd, Gibson :45 0-0 0
Douglass, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Wright, Gibson 2:08 3-3 0
Douglass, Lucas-Perry, Harris, Novak, Sims 2:25 2-4 -2
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Sims 4:43 6-8 -2
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Gibson, Sims 1:06 0-2 -2
Grady, Lucas-Perry Lee, Harris, Sims :32 0-1 -1
Grady, Lucas-Perry Lee, Wright, Sims 2:46 4-5 -1
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Novak, Gibson 2:43 0-4 -4
Grady, Douglass, Harris, Wright, Gibson 1:42 2-2 0
Grady, Douglass, Lee, Novak, Sims 2:03 2-3 -1
Grady, Lee, Harris, Novak, Sims 3:49 5-11 -6
Total 40:00 68-59 +9

Individual players:

Manny Harris 34min -16
Location 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 2 1/2 1/3 1/3
Midrange 0/1 1
3-point 0/1 2/3

Manny didn’t shoot particularly poorly, and a few of his misses could have conceivably been called fouls. It was the turnovers that Manny really hurt the team with on this day.

Laval Lucas-Perry 20min 0
Location 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1
Midrange 0/1
3-point 1 2/2 0/1

LLP shot better than I would have guessed from watching the game. It would probably be best for him to not start a few games to get his head right, and hopefully he’d be more effective off the bench.

Zack Novak 27min -8
Location 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1 0/1
3-point 0/1 2/4 0/3

Bad day shooting, though he did his standard job rebounding and making various hustle plays. Also, he got suspended for elbowing a dude in the face.

DeShawn Sims 30min -6
Location 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1 2/3 1/3 1/1 1/2
Midrange 0/3
3-point 0/1

Really tough day for DeShawn. He started off pretty well, then faded down the stretch (as has become a pretty strong trend lately). He has to play the lion’s share of minutes, is often guarding (and being guarded by) bigger guys, and gets worse looks as his teammates decide to start jacking ill-advised threes.

Kelvin Grady 30min -11
Location 0 1 2 3 F
3-point 1/1

Not a whole lot of shooting from Kelvin, which is too bad, because he’s certainly one of the best three-point shooters on the team, if not the best. He set his teammates up with a lot of decent looks still.

Zack Gibson 11min -10
Location 0 1 2 3 F
3-point 0/1

When Sims struggles, the team really neeeds Gibson to step up and prove his worth. Ohio State does have much better big men (and more depth) than Michigan, but Zack’s perfomance was truly bad.

Stu Douglass 21min -15
Location 0 1 2 3 F
Lane 1
Midrange 0/1
3-point 0/2 0/1 0/1

Yikes. Maybe stepping in for LLP in a starting role isn’t what Douglass needs right now. He’s really been struggling lately as well.

CJ Lee 12min -6
Location 0 1 2 3 F
3-point 0/1

Standard CJ Lee.

Anthony Wright 7min -1
Location 0 1 2 3 F
3-point 0/1

When Anthony Wright is playing outside of garbage time (and more than a minute here and there), it’s probably not a good thing for the team’s success.

What This Says…

After the terror that was the opening few minutes of this game, Michigan’s players really settled down and played the Buckeyes evenly for the remainder of the game. Of course, playing even isn’t good enough when you start in an 18-point hole. The shooting was subpar, but Michigan would be able to get through this if it wasn’t for the horrendous turnovers they had. In the .xls sheet, look at all the times Michigan didn’t even have a shot attempt while Ohio State was scoring 6 or 8 points. That’s all due to turnovers. Of course, the Buckeyes helped Michigan a bit by turning it over a bunch themselves. The final score of this game is a little wider than the contest actually was, as Michigan had a technical and a flagrant foul late in the game, and were fouling the Buckeyes at the end to try to extend it.

A couple comments on how unbelievably stupid the BTN analyst was (these are drawn straight from the .xls):

  • Michigan’s first 3-pointer in 10 shot attempts prompts the announcer to say “Michigan has been almost exclusively a perimeter team [this game].” At that point, 14 of Michigan’s 20 shot attempts (70%) had been from inside the arc.
  • After Michigan gets an offensive rebound, “This will give Michigan a rare opportunity for some second-chance points.” At that point in the game, Michigan already had 8 offensive rebounds, and they ended up beating the Buckeyes in offensive rebounding by a wide margin of 13-4.

Of course, color analysts are often stupid, but BTN has some of the worst of the bunch (don’t even get me started on football). It seems that, especially with this Michigan team, they go into the game with the assumption that Michigan will only shoot threes, and won’t get any offensive boards, and they continue to hammer on those points, even as such trivial matters as “facts” go completely against what they’re saying.

Posted under Analysis, Basketball

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OSU Postgame

Each time the Michigan basketball team loses for the remainder of the year, they inch ever closer to completely whiffing on the NCAA tournament and earning a bid to the NIT. Midway through the first half in the Ohio State game, the commentator, referring to Michigan’s dismal shooting to start the game, asked, “Is that Michigan, or is it Ohio State’s defense?” Of course, as always, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of those two answers. However, I think, for the most part, Michigan basketball’s current slide can be accounted for by the offensive performances of Michigan and their foes, moreso than either team’s defense.

It’s gotten frustrating starting games in a big deficit, then clawing back to within striking range at halftime (or shortly after, as was the case in this game), and thinking “well, when the team starts making shots, they should be able to run away with this one.” The team hasn’t started hitting those shots in almost any game. The shooting hasn’t improved too much in the last few weeks, and the games have all too often ended up with the Wolverines on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Later in the same game, the announcer came back with another interesting quite regarding Michigan’s offense: “how easy must it be to play for a coach who’s never going to criticize your shot selection?” This is a ridiculous misrepresentation of the John Beilein philosophy. Running an offense that relies heavily on 3-pointers is in no way the same as having a coach who tells his players to shoot whenever and wherever they want. On the contrary, Beilein can often be seen screaming at a player after he takes a particularly reckless shot, and uses the unceremonious substitution as punishment for the same very often. In this game, Beilein got so angry as to earn a technical foul at one point. This isn’t a guy who’s not getting frustrated with his teeam.

So, again BJ Mullens dominated the offensive boards with putbacks, again Michigan couldn’t hit their shots, open or otherwise, and the Wolverines sulked back to Ann Arbor with their tails between their legs. The tournament is going to be a tough task now, with Michigan all-but-requiring wins against the likes of Purdue and Michigan State to make it in. Are they up to the task?

Posted under Basketball

CoverItLive: Michigan @ Ohio State

Should get started shortly after 6. The game is at 6:30.

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Ohio State Preview: Round 2

Or: Tim’s foray into tempo-free statistics.

The Wolverines have a chance to exact revenge on Ohio State tonight in Columbus. The Wolverines will try to turn the tables on the Buckeyes from the last game, a 7-point loss for the home side just 11 days ago. The game can be seen on Big Ten Network tonight at 6:30.

Tempo-Free and efficiency comparison (if you need an explanation of what any of these things mean, head to KenPom’s website):

Michigan v. Ohio State: National Ranks
Category Michigan Ohio State Advantage
Mich eFG% v. OSU eFG% D 126 79 O
Mich eFG% D v. OSU eFG% 172 50 OO
Mich TO% v. OSU Def TO% 4 130 MM
Mich Def TO% v. OSU TO% 165 118 O
Mich OReb% v. OSU DReb% 238 192 O
Mich DReb% v. OSU OReb% 158 267 MM
Mich FTR v. OSU Opp FTR 321 5 OOOO
Mich Opp FTR v. OSU FTR 7 84 M
Mich AdjO v. OSU AdjD 28 42 M
Mich AdjD v. OSU AdjO 141 79 O

Differences of more than 100 places in the rankings garner two-letter advantages, differences of more than 200 get a third.

When Last We Met…

BJ Mullens had a ridiculous game, going 7-9 from the field, with nearly every one a dunk. Evan Turner got to the line 14 times (albeit many of them at the end of the game, when Michigan was just trying to extend the contest). William Buford had 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Despite all of this, Michigan was in the game until near the very end, and even led for pretty big portions of the second half.

DeShawn Sims struggled (a surefire bad sign for Michigan chances of victory), but Manny Harris was easily Michigan’s player of the game. The only other player to hit more than one 3-ball for Michigan was Stu Douglass, who appears to be getting hot for Michigan at the right time.

Since Last We Met…

The Wolverines split games with Penn State and Northwestern, defeating the latter. Their shooting has continued to decline, mostly on account of a horrid performance against the Nittany Lions (but also a poor effort from 3 against the Wildcats). Opponents’ shooting, meanwhile, has gotten better, as Michigan either has terrible defense or terrible luck (a combination of both, if you ask me, and I’ve discussed it in more depth elsewhere) of late. Michigan’s rebounding has improved (offensive slightly; defensive significantly), but their ability to get to the line has waned, thanks to Manny Harris’s inability to get a foul called on an opponent. Overall, the Wolverines’ offensive and defensive effeciency have both fallen. Sims hit bottom against Penn State, but returned to form against Northwestern.

In big losses to Illinois and Michigan State, the Buckeyes’ shooting has gotten worse, but they have also locked down on opponents’ field goal attempts. They’ve started forcing more turnovers, and have turned the ball over much less themselves. So what explains drops in their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers? The rebounding on both ends of the floor has gotten worse, for one. Other than that, most stats appear to be about the same (or better) for the Buckeyes.

And it Means…

Michigan is coming off their second-consecutive 4-day break, after previously having only 3 days’ rest before their last three games. Michigan is a much better team off long breaks, with wins against UCLA, and every Big Ten victory except that against Indiana off at least four days without a game (this is notable, because the 3-day rest before the Indiana game could be considered a factor in the terrible performance there, if we’re drawing a correlation). With the long break, Michigan’s seeming recovery on offense against Northwestern, and John Beilein’s uncanny ability to make adjustments the second time he faces an opponent that he lost the first game to, Michigan should be a little closer in this game. Jevohn Shepherd has gotten playing time in the past two contests, and he might get some tonight, if for no other reason than to absorb fouls in the post. I think this game should end up closer than the first.

Ken Pomeroy predicts a 67-62 Buckeyes victory in a 62-possession game, and gives Michigan just a 29% chance of winning. If the Wolverines are to harbor any realistic dreams of making the NCAA tournament, stealing one in Columbus tonight would be an important start.

Posted under Basketball