Friday, March 27, 2009

Preview: Vandy

Auburn heads into it’s third SEC series of the season Tonight against Vandy. A Vandy team, to be fair, has had Auburn’s number recently.

HISTORY

Auburn leads the series 75-34. However, the Commodores have won the last four series. Head coach Tim Corbin has never lost a series (in four chances) against the Tigers. But, AU leads 29-9 in games played in Auburn.

Last year, Vandy took 2 of 3 with Auburn winning Friday (6-3/ April 18th) before dropping the Saturday (8-2) and Sunday games (9-5)

THE TEAM

Vandy comes in limping. Dropping it’s last two SEC series (Kentucky/Ole Miss). Statically both teams are pretty evenly matched in the SEC:

 

STAT VANDY (SEC RANK) AU (SEC RANK)
AVG 6 7
ERA 6 11
Slugging 10 2
On-Base 4 6
Hits 5 3
RBI 6 4
HRs 11 2
StrikeOuts 10 1
Stolen Bases 2 12
SB Attempts 2 12
GDP 1 5
Opponent BA 8 12
Batters K’d 5 5
Hits Allowed 8 12
Walk Allowed 9 10
Doubles Allowed 9 12
Errors 4 2
     

 

THE PLAYERS (HITTING)

Vandy is a speedy team. They don’t have a lot of power, but they are good at creating runs and scoring opportunities. They also steal a ton. Having 4 different players in the SEC Top Ten for Stolen Bases: Esposito is 6th in the SEC with 10 steals; while White, Harris, and Reynolds are all tied for 8th in the league with 7 steals on the season.

They are probably going to try to steal as much as they can this weekend. Hell, every SEC team so far has tested Tony Caldwell. The Auburn catcher leads the SEC in Steal Attempts Against, but good news for Auburn fans he also leads the SEC in Batters Caught Stealing.

Vandy hasn’t used the same Batting Order twice in SEC play. But they have been consistent. Here’s what I figure we’ll see this weekend.

PLAYER Bats POS AVG Hits HRs SOs
Harris L SS .333 27 2 16
Liddle L rf .344 31 2 18
Casali R 1B .341 30 5 9
Westlake L C .391 34 1 15
Reynolds L 2B .338 22 0 10
Esposito R 3B .340 32 2 15
Marquis R LF .080 2 0 8
White L CF .222 12 0 18

Also Fann (.250/3/1/5) at Catcher and Hilliard (.222/12/0/5) at Center Field. have seen significant PT. The Infield is pretty much set with Harris, Esposito, Reynolds, and Casali. Also I didn’t list a DH, but Loftus or Westlake usually fill that role. When it’s Westlake, then Fann will come in to catch.

That’s also a pretty young lineup with Harris, Westlake, Esposito, Loftus, and Reynolds, all being Freshman. Liddle, Casali, Hilliard and White are just Sophmores.

THE PLAYERS (PITCHING)

What Vandy lacks in years in the field it makes up for with it’s pitching staff. The three pitchers Auburn will see this weekend (Cotham, Christiani, Minor) are all solid.

Minor, Fridays starter, is a left hander Junior with a 3.41 ERA and a 1-2 Record. He is 6th in the SEC in innings pitched (31.2) and he’s only giving up 1 Home Run all year.

Sophomore Caleb Cotham will take the hill Saturday. The Right hander is 3-2 with a 3.90 ERA. He’s 9th in the league in innings pitched (30.0), has only given up 20 hits all year and opponents are only hitting .180 against him. That’s best for 3rd in the league.

Sunday it’s Senior RHP Nick Christiani. Christiani is 6th in the SEC with 31 Batters K’d and has only given up 1 HR as well. He’s 3-0 on the year with a 4.78 ERA.

IN CLOSING

As we’ve seen this year, when the bats are cold, the Tigers suffer. Something’s going to have to give when the Hard Slugging Tigers and Hard Throwing Dores meet up.

Once Vandy gets on base, they will be moving, trying to force errors and make Auburn hurt themselves.

Best strategy? AU needs to limit it’s self inflicted damage and hope it can tag the Vandy starters early. The pitching needs to be at least solid, but the defense is what really needs to step up. The two teams are close in ISR (AU is 42; VU is 49) so each of these games can go either way.

Let’s hope the Tigers pull it out.

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