Monday, February 23, 2009

What We Learned, Week 1 (Part 2)

We learned a lot about Auburn's pitching staff this past weekend. However, pitching is just one of the five tools. Now, let's look at the others. Oh, and for a refresher of just what the Five Tools are:

A 5 tool player is one that has great speed, can hit for average, hit for power, a great throwing arm and is excellent defensively. Let's take a look at each of these separately.



Breaking this down and tweaking it a bit blog-wise, Our 5 Tools for Auburn Baseball are Pitching, Hitting, Defense, Base Running, and Coaching. Most of these tools overlap each other. Pitching, being Auburn's biggest weakness, needed it's own entry. Now on to the other tools:

Hitting
Hitting wise, we didn't learn a lot. However, what we did learn was promising.

We knew Auburn had power. I'm still not ready to say we are playing gorilla-ball yet.
6 team home runs (2 more than Elon), and 2 players with a multihomer game (Hunter Morris on Sunday and Trent Mummey on Saturday) is a good start though.

Average-wise, Auburn still has a few gaps. Mainly in the way of consistency, or finding a solid everyday replacement at C, instead of platooning. Auburn had 7 players who started all three games. Of those all but Kevin Patterson (.200) and Justin Hargett (.154) had AVGs above .300. Again, another good start.

Base Running

Not much in the way of stolen bases. Auburn only tried to steal twice; only succeeded once.

Also, no triples, and only 5 doubles, doesn't bode well in the future for the Tigers. I know, this is technically"hitting" but without the speed to stretch those singles into doubles, and doubles into triples, Auburn will have to rely on it's power. Which, as we saw this weekend, can dry up quickly.

Defense

While not as big a weakness as pitching, Defense is still giving Auburn fits. No "costly errors" to report from this past weekend; However, the one aspect that definitely needs work is Joseph Sanders at 3B and his 5-3 throws to 1B Hunter Morris. Sanders currently has the worst (.755) fielding % on the team and leads the team in errors (2).

The bright side is that this is an easily fixable problem. Both Sanders and Morris are everyday players (Sanders currently has the best AVG, .455, on the team) and with more Playing Time, eventually the errors will come down as both players settle in.

Coaching

This, to me, is the biggest difference from last year. Just from three games, I can tell that the difference between Slater and CJB is night and day.

Fundamentally, we are better. We actually had successful bunts and *gasp* pulled off a hit and run.

But there are so many little, unrecognizable things, that are different from last year's staff.

The first is communication. If you have a chance to go to a game, especially late in the game, pay attention to the 1B coach. Late in the game Sunday, Auburn was trying to keep a close eye on the Elon bullpen. Every now and then you would catch the first base coach (I forget his name at the moment) keeping a close eye on the pen and signaling whether there was a RH, LH, or even a seperate signal for a Submarineer.
So even before the pitcher was called in for Elon, Auburn knew what to expect and could adjust accordingly.

The second is attitude. Slater would rarely come out of the dugout to argue a call. CJP was out even during the first inning. Arguing a close play on a steal to second. That attitude trickles down to the players. I don't know how you would measure this, but even on Sunday, the team seemed, I don't know, happier. They were having fun. Better than that they were vocal, loud, and cheering their teammates on late in ninth when Auburn was trying to rally (even putting on rally caps). Something has changed in Auburn. Something has changed for the better.

The third is knowledge. Knowledge of the game, and knowledge of a specific strategy. Knowledge might not be the best word. Maybe, observation. Sunday's game had one of the most bizarre plays I've ever seen at an Auburn game. Here's how AuburnTigers.com described it:

It originally looked like it was going to be a tie game as Elon's Harrilchak hit a two-run homer and then Davis hit a ball over the wall in center with one on, but with Mummey crashing into the wall trying to make a play, Davis passed Pat Irvine rounding the bases, making it a long single that resulted in an RBI and an out instead of a two-run home run.

You can credit CJP for that. As soon as the play developed CJP was in the Ump's ear, explaining his case. I'm not sure of the specific rule but I think that Rule 7.08(h) of the MLB Rulebook could apply here:

Simply put a runner is out if:

(h) He passes a preceding runner before such runner is out;


There's a good article here about a similar situation that occured in an MLB game:

With the score tied 3-3, Joe Randa led off the top of the tenth with a single. An out later, Michael Tucker hit a shot that sailed over the fence in dead center, but he passed pinch-runner Mike Caruso between first and second. Caruso thought the ball had been caught by A's center fielder Terrance Long, who made a leaping stab at the hit, and turned back toward first. Tucker was called out on the way to second as he and Caruso passed each other like two trains in the night going in opposite directions.

Rule 7.08(h) declares a runner (Tucker) out for "passing a preceding runner (Caruso) before such runner is out." In such plays, the back runner is always out. This holds true even when a preceding runner runs by a back runner while retreating for some reason which was the case with Caruso and Tucker.


That's almost deja-vu of what happened Sunday.

To wrap up. We learned alot of about the attitude of this team. Time will tell what else we learn.

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