Tuesday, March 31, 2009

For the Love of the Game: Scorecards

 

I love baseball. It’s been berry berry good to me (thanks Chico Escuela/Garrett Morris). One of the best things about baseball is the fact the nuances, the traditions, the quirks, the little things if you will. In order to get a couple more posts (seriously, as much as I’d like to talk about Auburn baseball all the time, I have to find other things to write about) I’ll profile some of those little things here.

First up is my favorite. The scorecard. Most people knock baseball saying it’s “boring”, “slow”, “dull”. But to be truthful, there is ALWAYS something going on during a baseball game, you just have to notice it. One of the best ways to notice it, is to follow along with a scorecard. It’s an enjoyable way to keep up with game, follow along, and mainly just to stay informed.

Now there are official scorekeepers for every game who follow a strict set of rules. These guys are the ones who will actually rule an error, a hit, etc. So normally, during a game, if an error occurs, you’ll see fans keeping score looking up at the board to see what the official ruling is. Other than that, and outside of the basics, keeping a scorecard is something individual. Everybody has different styles, different symbols, and different ways of keeping score. It’s all up to you. This is just how I keep score.

Scorecards come in a variety of styles. Some people use scorebooks (which can be bought at Sporting Goods stores) and keep a book for an entire season, some make their own. Microsoft even has a template here that can be used. Personally, I just use the cheap $1 Scorecards that can be bought at the Auburn games (you’ll usually see Mr. Campbell walking up and down the stands with him). They are simple, clean, nice cardstock, and durable. Yes, it’s an extra dollar at every game, but it’s all for fun and, again, it’s just a buck.

THE BASICS

First thing you need to know is that all the defensive players in baseball are assigned a number 1-9 that corresponds to their position on the diamond.

MY STYLE:

Some scorecards already have the “diamond” on the scorecard. The Auburn Scorecard doesn’t. It just have a little blank square. Since I use the Auburn cards more often than not, my style is reflective of the “blank canvas”. So each square is divided like this :

A SINGLE
B DOUBLE
C TRIPLE
D HOMERUN
E RBIs
F Number of Pitches
G Location of Hit
H Number of Ball
I Number of Strikes
J Foul Tally

 

So, a completed “square” might look like this:

On this play, the batter hit a double, scoring two runs. He connected on a 2-2 count, but the pitcher pitched a total of 8 pitches (2 balls, 2 strikes, 3 fouls, plus the hit itself). The double was hit into left field (the “7” listed in the bottom right corner).

 

 

 

Now this is just a for a hit. There are other ways to reach bases. I usually code them like this:

 

Outs made in the field are listed along with the actions on the play. Popups (infield hits), Flyouts (outfield hits), Line drives, and Unassisted plays. So, for example, A line out to the Shortstop would be listed as L6 in the box; A hit to the First baseman that he takes himself would be 3U; and a hit that is fielded by the Third Baseman who throws over to first would be 5-3 in the box. Double plays are the same way, with just a “DP” notation underneath. Again, for example a double play that is fielded by the Shortstop, who throws to second, who then throws to first would be 6-4-3 with a DP written underneath.

Personally, I also like to note whether the batter is a Lefty or Righty. I just put a little “L” or “R” next to their name on the scorecard.

Put it all together and it looks like this (from Saturday’s game against Vandy):

Also, you might wonder why I keep track of the number of pitches? On the other side of the scorecard there is a little section to track the pitchers progress in the game:

So there you have it. My scorecard style. Broken down. Like I said however, everybody has a different way. They can be as personal and impersonal as this guy’s scorecard from a Cubs/D’backs game:

The main thing is have fun, enjoy the game, and make it your own.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Weekend Recap: Vandy

 

I didn’t go to the game Friday night. I followed it from work using Gametracker (which I both love and hate, but that’s for another day). The more I watched, piece by piece, as the little peg men showed Auburn’s collapse, the less I wanted to go to Saturday’s game. I’m glad my fandom won out because I was treated to one of the better performances by an Auburn team.

Auburn took it’s second SEC series of the year and won their first and second SEC home games of the year this past weekend when they took care of the Commodores. Vandy took game one 12-3, then Auburn bounced back taking Saturday’s game 5-3 and winning the rubber game 11-10.

The less said about Friday the better. It was probably Auburn’s worst performance as a team. An error by Tony Caldwell busted the game open after AU took an early 3-0 lead. Vandy would then run off 12 unanswered runs and 22 hits and completely dismantled Auburn’s bullpen, and held our bats in checks.

Saturday’s game was actually, in my opinion, the most complete game Auburn has played all year. Solid and timely hitting, great defense, and solid pitching. If I could give Jobus for just a single game in this series, this would get a 5 Jobu.

Sunday’s game was weird to say the least. Auburn had a comfortable 11-6 lead going into the 9th inning. Two quick outs and it looked like a done deal. However, Vandy mounted a quick comeback. Double, Double, Single, Homerun. Before you could blink it was 11-10 and every Auburn fan who was originally on their feet clapping for that final out, quickly sat down nervously. Thankfully, after a quick meeting on the mound, Austin Hubbard got the final out and Auburn took the series.

TOP PITCHER:

Jon Luke Jacobs. Jacobs is working on his pitches a little more, he’s got a solid changeup and spends a lot of time fooling guys instead of overpowering them. Whatever he had, it was working. His line: 5.2 IP/8h/3er/6k/2bb/113 Pitches.

Not bad for a Freshman, thrown into a pivotal game in this season.

TOP HITTER:

Hunter Morris. Morris was in rare form Sunday. Hitting his 2nd and 3rd double of the year and his 6th Homerun. He was the early spark the Tigers needed. His line for Sunday: 3-5/2 RBIs.

JOBU SAY?

A solid win, but bookended by sloppy Sunday and a terrible Friday. 3 Jobus:

OTHER NOTES:

-Lost in the Shuffle Sunday was the fact that Auburn tagged Vandy pitcher Nick Christiani for 7 ERs and 3 Homeruns. He had only given up 1 Homerun all year coming into the game.

-Coach John Palowski is a fiery guy. He flirted with getting tossed Saturday before getting the early shower Sunday. Saturday, Casey McElroy was hit by a pitch, as he was heading down to first, the ump called him back, saying he had fouled the pitch (he hadn’t). What had happened (and that “thud” the ump heard) was the catcher’s mitt and/or helmet hitting the ball on the back end. CJP was out quickly. and came on to the field. When he was asked to step off the field (he was on just the other side of the line) he gave a smart-ass half jump backwards to get off the playing field. Raising the ire of the Ump and entertaining the fans.

Sunday, in a bizarre play that I’ll try my best to describe, he finally managed to get tossed. It was the 8th inning , Vandy was clawing back with a man on third and second, one out, and catcher Drew Fann was up to the plate. Vandy tried (in my opinion) a suicide squeeze. However, Fann couldn’t make contact with the ball. Esposito for Vandy (who was at second) was shoulder to shoulder with the guy on third. Auburn catcher Tony Caldwell ran down and tagged both runners. The Umpire pointed at both guys, pumped his fist twice. It should have been both guys out on the play. Inning over. Instead the Ump reversed the call and only Esposito was out.

CJP went irate and was soon tossed. It was a tough call either way. I’m just glad to see a little emotion and welcome a new change for Auburn

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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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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recap: Upset Alert

 

The upset bug was biting around the SEC Tuesday Night. Luckily, the Auburn Tigers managed to avoid it.

On a night that saw 5 SEC upsets and 2 close calls, Auburn bounced back and took care of business in a big way.

Ole Miss lost to Saint Louis (not the Cardinals) 15-11

Georgia was upset by Wright State 8-5

Florida was blanked by North Florida 3-0

Mississippi State was blasted by South Alabama 17-15

and West Virginia topped Kentucky 10-7.

Not a good night for the league. Especially considering that Vanderbilt (10-9 Winners over Austin Peay) and LSU (3-2 over Harvard) needed to eek out wins.

But Auburn used a huge 9 run 6th Inning to send Samford to the showers. Winning 18-7.

CJP puts it in perspective:

"The final score really didn't indicate the type of game it really was," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "We were down 7-4 and we end up scoring nine runs that inning. We put some good swings on it and had some really good at bats, especially with two strikes and two outs and I thought that was the difference."

He’s absolutely right. It won’t look it in the book, but Auburn was struggling early and spinning its wheels a bit and then just exploded. Samford sent 8 pitchers to the rubber and really just looked lost. (Which is a shame because Casey Dunn is their head coach, he’s a good Auburn guy).

TOP HITTER:

Joseph Sanders. Big Joe Sandy finally got back on track after a forgettable weekend against Arkansas. 2 Home Runs. A Grand Slam. 6 RBIs. Ouch.

TOP PITCHER:

Dexter Price didn’t have his best stuff and his pitch count got up a bit. But the man of the night was probably Bradley Hendrix. In an extended bullpen session he went:

4 ip/3h/1er/4k

and picked up the win.

JOBU SAY?

The bats. They awoken again. 4 Jobus.

 

OTHER NOTES:

-Auburn returns to action Friday against Vandy. I’ll have a preview Thursday Morning.

-The game against Troy has been postponed due to weather. The make up will be Wednesday, April 29, at 6 pm, the night after Troy comes to Plainsman Park for a 6 pm contest on the Plains.

-Thanks to the FSU game being snowed out, we picked up Bethune Cookman for a midweek game. We play the Wildcats April 8th (a Wednesday).

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

MidSeason Report

Well the first Third of the season is in the book. It's had it's highs (opening SEC play with a series win) and lows (last weekend's sweep). A fair warning and disclaimer before you read this:

I love Auburn baseball and sometimes it is hard to take off the Orange-and-Blue-tinted glasses. With that being said, sometimes you have to look at the team you love objectively and fairly and give a warts-and-all breakdown. This is what I hope to give here.

THE EXPECTATIONS

Only Auburn fans had high expectations for the upcoming year. We saw the talent (Hunter Morris, etc) and preseason honors. We saw the recruiting class and the renewed optimism that comes with a new coach. We knew about the tradition and the facilities. To casual fans, it was a no brainer. There was no reason Auburn couldn't or shouldn't be successful in baseball. To people who follow the league it would be a struggle and Auburn was predicted to finish 5th in the West. A prediction so far, that is holding true to form.

THE REALITY

The glory years of Baird (and partly Renfroe) are long gone and the league has changed tremendously. Auburn, currently, is treading water, and is doing an admirable job trying to stay afloat in arguably the best conference in America. I won't second guess any Auburn hires, but Tom Slater, in my opinion, didn't leave the program in the best shape. To be successful in college baseball you need senior leadership, consistent play, and one or two dynamic playmakers.

Yes, Auburn has the pieces to be successful. However, it also has some glaring holes.

THE STATS

The numbers don't lie. They also paint a picture about Auburn as a whole. Yes, we can hit the cover off the ball (and SEC leading 48 Home Runs) and is in the top three of many of the SEC batting categories (slugging %, Hits, Doubles, Triples, Total Bases) but it's all power (Auburn also leads the league in Strikeouts and is just middle of the road in Batting Average). There is little speed on the base paths (dead last in steals and steal attempts, towards the bottom in caught steeling).

The most alarming stats are the ones that show just what's really killing the Tigers.

The battery has just been battered (and SEC worst 5.32 ERA) and is the pitching stats are just well, miserable. Auburn ranks hold the dubious distinction of leading the league in Opponent Batting Average, Saves, Hits allowed, Runs allowed, Earned Runs allowed, Walks allowed, Doubles allowed, and Home Runs allowed.

Before you say pitching (which is true). The Main killer, in my opinion, is defense. Auburn trails only Florida in the Errors (32 on the year). They also don't turn double plays (7th) and Opponents have stolen 22 bases against the Tigers.

The most alarming stat is this: Auburn's infield (3B: Sanders SS:McElroy and 2B: Hargett) each have 6 errors on the year. That's a glaring hole in our infield that will be hard to fix.

THE COACHING

Before you blame the bullpen on coaching, let me stop you. It's not the coaches fault. Auburn is just holding true to form from the years under Slater. We had a team ERA of 4.86 last year (5.67 in the SEC) last year and Under Slater the ERA ballooned from 3.89 in his first year to 5.15 in his second. It's a jump Auburn never really recovered from.

The defense was still a problem last year (Hargett and Sanders led the team in Errors with 13 and 14 last year respectively).

Also, and most importantly, this is Coach John Palowski’s first year. Another key to success in the league is stability at the head coaching position. Hard to do when Athletic Departments have quick trigger fingers. Take a look at the current SEC Standings, and the Coaches tenure at the school (Years at School or YaS) and their 08 Finish:

 

TEAM SEC COACH YaS
Arkansas 6-0 Dave Van Horn 6
Ole Miss 4-2 Mike Bianco 8
LSU 4-2 Paul Mainieri 2
Georgia 4-2 David Perno 7
Alabama 3-3 Jim Wells 14
Kentucky 3-3 Gary Henderson 1
Florida 3-3 Kevin O’Sullivan 1
Auburn 2-4 John Palowski 1
Mississippi St 2-4 John Cohen 1
South Carolina 2-4 Ray Tanner 12
Vanderbilt 2-4 Tim Corbin 6
Tennessee 1-5 Todd Raleigh 1

 

Notice a pattern? The teams at the top, early in the year, have Skippers with over 5 years tenure at the school. Of course there are a couple of exceptions (LSU and South Carolina) and scheduling plays a major role but regardless.

You can try to blame the coaching all you want but then you’d be overlooking the results. As much as Auburn has struggled pitching, Scott Foxhall (the pitching coach) has a proven track record and Auburn does actually have some good things going for it. Auburn is in the middle of the SEC for staff strikeouts (192) and last year had 394 as a staff. It took Auburn all of March and February combined to reach 196 last year. It also leads the SEC in Strike Outs looking. Doing all this without a power arm in the rotation either.

Matt Heath’s (the hitting coach) impact is already being felt.

THE PLAYERS

I won’t go into a lot of riggermarolling about our players. It’s not my place to criticize and second guess them. These are amateur athletes and not MLB players. All I can do is just point out a couple of facts. Fact is, we’re young. Almost too young. Look at the SEC standings, and the number of UpperClass Position Starters (UC/PS) for each team. These are the position players (not including the DH) who are Juniors and Seniors. Also, we’ll look at rotations and see the number of Upper Class Starters (UC/S)

TEAM SEC UC/PS UC/S
Arkansas 6-0 4 2
Ole Miss 4-2 6 2
LSU 4-2 4 0
Georgia 4-2 4 0
Alabama 3-3 5 2
Kentucky 3-3 3 2
Florida 3-3 5 0
Auburn 2-4 2 1
Mississippi St 2-4 6 2
South Carolina 2-4 6 1
Vanderbilt 2-4 2 2
Tennessee 1-5 2 2

The only upperclass position players are Ben Jones (SR) and Joe Sanders (JR). No SEC team has fewer and Auburn is tied with Vandy and UT for the fewest.

I know these numbers can be misleading (it doesn’t include/factor player who played last year) but still, it shows just how young Auburn is.

It also doesn’t help that Auburn lost two of its better players before the season even started (Cory Luckie and Catcher Ryan Jenkins). You can play the coulda-woulda-shoulda game all season but having Luckie out for the year, and Jenkins out to-be-determined didn’t bode well for the Tigers to start the season.

Also, you’ll never know just who will be coming back for Auburn next season. Hunter Morris is probably gone, Sanders could also make the jump.

But sometimes the youth can be a good thing, because it gives you hope for next season when things get rough. We’ve got some good young arms (Blatt, Dexter Price, and Jon Luke Jacobs) and still haven’t seen Adam Purdy (who was the highest MLB draft choice of the incoming freshman). So even if Grant Dayton jumps, then we’ll still more than likely have Luckie, Price, and Jacobs. Three guys who could make up our 2010 weekend rotation.

THE FUTURE (IMMEDIATE)

So should we panic? Hardly. The season is still young and it’s not like Arkansas was the worst team in the league. It just means that crunch time is coming a bit earlier than usually for Auburn.

Our next three SEC series (Vandy, Mississippi State, Florida) are all winnable (not sweepable) series. I’d go so far as to say they are each must win series. Also sandwiched in there are mid week games that should be good tune ups.

Currently Auburn has a better ISR (47) than each of these teams (51,61,54) and should be the favorite.

So, best case? We take each series. and go 8-3 for the trip. That moves us to 10-6 in the league. We take care of business midweek wise and we move our record to 26-11 overall.

So Auburn needs to buckle down and take care of business this weekend. 

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Weekend Recap: Hog Tied

 

Honestly it took me a while to write this post. Too long in fact. This weekend against Arkansas; Auburn had probably it's worst outing of the season. Message board geniuses were tossing words like "embarrassing", and "pitiful" and wondering "how a team with so much talent could be so bad" (note: I'm paraphrasing all these quotes). While some of this is a bit of over reaction, some of it is close to being accurate. (on a side note, I do have a rivals account, I just try not to post on the "Bunker" because The Bunker is like 4Chan for Auburn fans: lots of boob pictures, lots of inside jokes, and lots of over reacting).

I went to the games Friday and Saturday (I skipped Sunday, I had a bad feeling about the game and was right). However, just to overview: Auburn was swept by Arkansas 3-2; 10-6; and 12-6. The sweep drops Auburn to 2-4 in the SEC (and puts Auburn in a major hole in the West).

There isn't really much else to say about the weekend. Auburn was just outhit and outplayed. Arkansas took advantage of AU miscues (including costly errors) and some lackluster pitching.

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Recap: "Buc Wild"

 

Ok, so that's more like it. Auburn knocked Charleston Southern out of the park yesterday (in a matinee game thanks to Auburn's NIT Opener), using 6 home runs, including a Grand Slam, to win 18 to 4.

Taylor Thompson got his first win of the year, in his first start of the year. Thompson was pretty solid, going 5 ip/3h/1er/6k/1bb and only throwing 67 pitches. Good move by CJP turning it over to the bullpen early and letting Thompson rest and have him ready for the weekend against Arkansas.

But the real story of the night was hitting, and man was there a lot of it. Trent Mummey hit his 9th and 10th Homeruns of the year, Ben Jones and Hunter Morris hit their fourth, and Wes Gilmer and Dan Gamache hit their first HRs. For Gamache it was extra sweet. His first came run as a Tiger came in just his third career at bat. All total the Tigers had Six HRs, four Tigers had multi-hit games, (Mummey, Gamache, Ben Jones, Tony Caldwell), and almost every Tiger who got an at-bat, scored a run. It was Auburn's best offensive showing this year.

BEST PITCHER:

Taylor Thompson - 5 innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, and 6 Ks. Not bad. Not bad at all.

BEST HITTER:

Trent Mummey - 3-5/2 HRs/6 RBIs and he also scored 4 runs.

but don't forget Dan Gamache. Making his first career start (DHing instead of Kevin Patterson) did all he could.

The freshman from Rhode Island went 3 for 3 with 1 HR, a sac bunt, a double, and 2 RBIs. Nice debut from the little guy.

JOBU say?

 

This make Jobu happy. 4 out of 5 Jobus. The Bats very happy today.

 

OTHER NOTES:

The devil really is in the details for a game like this. Lots of noteworthy announcements/happenings/etc

-The 18 runs was the most Auburn has scored all year. Also, the most runs scored by an Auburn team since May 17, 2007 in an 18-7 win at Kentucky.

-The Six HRs in a game is also pretty special. The Tigers have only done it 5 times in their history with that last time coming in Hal Baird's debut. That team hit six HRs in a 23-11 win at UGA on April 2, 1985

-That much maligned pitching staff (including the bullpen) finished the two-game series with 32 strikeouts while walking just four in 22 innings of work. So, again, it's not completely the bullpen's fault it's the defense. The error filled defense that is allowing innings to extend and extra guys to get on.

-Trent Mummey is a machine. Seriously, he might be part terminator. He's scored a nation leading 37 runs in just 20 games; he's riding a 19 game hitting streak, he's scored in all but 2 games this season, his 10 HRs is second in the nation (trailing Alabama's Ken Matthes, who has 13) and he also has 4 lead off Home Runs. Dang.

-Auburn has 46 HRs on the year. Which is also second nationally (behind New Mexico State's 50). The 46 HRs this year, already ties the total season output for the 2005 team.

-Wes Gilmer and Dan Gamache both hit their first career home runs

-Miles Morton, a Red Shirt Freshman out of Spain Park, made his debut out of the pen (it was a little rough to say the least: 1 IP/3h/3er. However, with his debut that means that only Kris West (LHP/Sr.) and Adam Purdy (RHP/Fr) are the only Tiger pitchers who have yet to toe the rubber this season.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recap 3/17: What the Buc?

 

I’m not sure which Auburn team took the field last night. For starters, it wasn’t an Auburn we’ve seen so far this season and CJP seems to agree:

"We didn't play very good baseball today. We made a lot of mistakes and we did several things that I would consider uncharacteristic of the team so far…”

The bottom line is this. Auburn somehow managed to win an extra-inning game against the Buccaneers from Charleston Southern. “Win” is a stretch. Honestly, the Tigers just did everything they could to lose the game, but apparently CSU had a little bit more last night and said, “to hell with it” and just gave Auburn the win. Auburn didn’t win this game. The Bucs from CSU just lost it.

On paper, this game shouldn’t have even been close. CSU came in 8-8 with the lone bright spot so far this season being not blown out by in-state rival South Carolina (a 4-6 loss). At best they are only the fifth best team from the state of South Carolina (behind USC, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, College of Charleston). They also have an ISR over 200 (Auburn was 35). Yet here they were, going toe to toe and extending Auburn to extra innings.

Dexter Price had an off night (4.1 IP/9h/3r/2er/6k) and the Tiger bats were held in check by CSU. CSU even managed to get two “quality starts” out of it’s staff: Jesse Cedenhead (5ip/6h/3er/7K) and Brandon Roberts (5ip/1h/0er). But for all of the good of CSU’s staff. It was also pitching that did them in.

CSU walked the tying run in during the 12th and Auburn scored the winning run in the 13th on a hit-by-pitch. Read that one more time. In the extra innings, Auburn managed to both extend the game and win the game, not on the strength of it’s hitting, but by the ineffectiveness of the opponent’s pitching.

That’s your ball game folks. 7-6 win in 13 innings.

Offensively, you still have to give the Tigers credit. Only two AU starters were hitless on the night (Joe Sanders and Kevin Patterson); Tony Caldwell and Justin Hargett had great nights; and even showed a little patience at the plate (Ben Jones and Tony Caldwell with 4 and 3 walks respectively).

So what hurt Auburn last night? Mainly defense. Auburn had three big errors on the night (from Sanders, Jones, and Hargett) and gave CSU 2 unearned runs.

Also, the pitching was just, well, decent. It wasn’t a horrible night but Austin Hubbard did have a blown save and Dexter Price probably had his worst start of the year. But on the flip side, Hubbard settled down to go 3 total innings and struck out nine. Auburn as a team struck out 21, just four off the school record (25 against Arkansas in a 7 inning game). I know fans on message boards will say “Oh well the bullpen blew it again” but honestly, outside of the blown save (which admittedly is big). This one lies all in the defense.

But again, CJP is taking this as a learning experience:

“We had to go extra-innings and we had to come back, which is another good sign that this team is capable of winning close ballgames."

But bottom line? It shouldn’t have been this close. Not to this team. Now, I’m not saying it should have been a hurting like Alabama did to Alabama A&M last night (24-0. Ouch) but a decent “Lipscomb-like” night shouldn’t be that unlikely.

TOP HITTER

Tony Caldwell- 2-3/3 Runs/2 RBI/3 BB/1 HR.

TOP PITCHER

It would have gone to Hubbard who struck out the side each inning he worked, but with that blown save, nope, no dice, no prize for you.

By default it goes to Zach Blatt- 3.2 IP/3h/1er/3k.

OTHER NOTES

-Tomorrow’s game against CSU is at 3 CST thanks to the Auburn Men’s NIT game against UT-Martin.

JOBU SAY?

JOBU not happy; but a win is a win. Even if it is a “character building win” against a sub-par opponent. 1 and 1/2 JOBUs.

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekend Recap: Big Orange

 

All in all a good weekend. Auburn did something it hadn’t done in a long time, winning an SEC Opening series on the road, for the first time since 1997 and the first time it won an SEC opening series since 2003. Wow, marks of 9 and 6 years respectively.

Now that we’ve started SEC play, instead of break down each weekend game by game, I’ll give a weekend recap.

It was a rain shortened weekend. After Auburn took game 1 4-2, they managed to seal the series with a 8-5 win in the first game of a double header (two 7 inning games). Unfortunately, the Tigers couldn’t pull off the sweep and rain out of gas, falling 7-1 in the finale.

All in all it was a good weekend for the Tigers. No, they didn’t get the sweep, but honestly, I that was an outside possibility and not a true reality.

FRIDAY

It was the Grant Dayton show. Dayton was just dominant. Sick Nasty. Any other words you want to describe his performance. It was good to see Dayton back to his Freshman form.

Of course, the bullpen had to make it interesting. Austin Hubbard came in didn’t allow any earned runs (according to the box score, I personally disagree). UT tacked on 2 runs, but couldn’t manage any more and Grant Dayton gets his second win of the year.

SUNDAY (GAME ONE)

The Tigers just out-powered the Vols. Belting 4 home runs on the day and climbing out to a 6-0 lead, before UT scrapped a few more runs and made in interesting. The early offense allowed Auburn to overcome a so-so start by Jon Luke Jacobs. Austin Hubbard gets his 3rd save of the year and the Tigers win 8-5.

SUNDAY (GAME TWO)

Paul Burnside, on short rest, was ineffective, getting dinged up for 6 ER in 3.1 innings. Auburn, probably a little tired from playing 11 games in 13 days (including 2 Double Headers and 4 Road games), could only muster 3 hits on the day. Tigers fall 7-1 and snap an 11 game winning streak.

 

TOP PITCHER:

Grant Dayton. Dayton should probably get some SEC Player of Week notices. His line from Friday: 8 IP/3H/8K/0ER

TOP HITTER:

Joseph Sanders. For the weekend he was 5-11 and added his 8th and 9th HRs of the year. He was also the only player to have a decent day in Sunday’s 2nd Game. (2-3).

JOBU SAY?:

OTHER NOTES:

-As noted before, the SEC Opening series win was Auburn’s first on the road since 1997 and the first since 2003

-Yes, Sunday’s loss sucks, but it’s not terrible. It is, however, a good motivator:

"When you look at the grand scheme of things, going on the road to open the SEC season and winning the first two games, I told the kids there are a lot of positive things to take from this weekend," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Winning two out of three gets us off to a good start but the second game (on Sunday) leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

-Auburn has hit 39 HRs already this year. I’ll see how that ranks in the NCAA and SEC later

-With the series win, Auburn starts with a little breathing room in the SEC. The SEC Standing (combined)

 

TEAM SEC RECORD OVER ALL
ARKANSAS 3-0 12-3
LSU 2-1 13-4
Ole Miss 2-1 11-4
Auburn 2-1 12-5
Mississippi St. 2-1 12-5
Alabama 2-1 11-5
Georgia 1-2 15-2
Kentucky 1-2 12-4
South Carolina 1-2 11-4
Vanderbilt 1-2 11-6
Tennessee 1-2 8-7
Florida 0-3 9-7

Overall. Good work Tigers.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Drive for 35

What’s the magic number in baseball? What’s that super number that people will look back and use to determine if a season is a true success or not?

In basketball it’s 20 wins. In College Football? It’s 10 wins. Now these numbers don’t guarantee a NCAA appearance, but they do give a good indication of your team’s worth and inclusion argument come selection time.

For college baseball, I think, that number is 35. 35 wins and you can make a  definite case for an NCAA bid. (40 wins and you have a definite case for hosting a regional). Why 35?

Last year the SEC sent 9 teams to the NCAA Baseball Tournament. South Carolina (38-21); UGA (35-21-1), Ole Miss (37-24), Kentucky (42-17), Arkansas (34-22), Alabama (34-26), Florida (34-22), LSU (43-16-1) and Vanderbilt (40-20). With an average of 37.4 wins. Given Auburn’s RPI and Strength of Schedule this year, I gave us a leeway of 2 game. Plus, Drive for 35 rhymes.

Can Auburn make it to 35? Well, other than just looking at the schedule and going by name alone, it’s hard to tell. Unless you look at the numbers. Especially the ISR.

THE ISR 

Developed by Boyd’s World, the ISR (Iterative Strength Ratings) is a good no-nonsense way to tell if one team is better than the other and who would be favored if the two teams played each other. But just what is it?  I’ll let him explain it a little better:

What are the ISR's?

The ISR's are the results of an algorithm designed to measure the quality of a team's season to date by combining their winning percentage with the difficulty of their schedule. The algorithm computes all teams simultaneously and attempts to take advantage of inter-regional games more accurately than other rating systems.

How are the ISR's computed?

The basic idea is an iterative one. Begin with all teams set to an even rating -- 100 in this case. Then, for each game played, give each team the value of their opponent's rating plus or minus a factor for winning or losing the game -- 25 in this case. Total all of a team's results, divide by the number of games played, and that's the end of a cycle. Then use those numbers as the start of the next cycle until you get the same results for each team for two consecutive cycles.

So how can you use it to calculate a schedule? You can read the Boyd’s World explanation. Basically, the bigger the gap, the bigger the probability of winning.

 



THE SCHEDULE



Auburn’s current ISR is 31. Only 4 opponents on Auburn’s schedule (Arkansas, Elon, Kentucky, Georgia Southern) have higher ISRs. The ISR fluctuates throughout the year, so for now, it’s hard to use the ISR math for games past but we can try to use it to get a good judge of Auburn’s future.



Opponent/ISR/Difference



Tennessee/131/+100



Charleston Southern/195/+164



Arkansas/29/-2



Samford/166/+135



Troy/45/+14



Vanderbilt/51/+20



South Alabama/106/+75



Mississippi State/48/+17



Georgia State/112/+81



Florida/66/+35



South Carolina/57/+26



Ole Miss/52/+21



Kentucky/8/-23



Georgia Southern/30/-1



Alabama/74/+43



THE PROBABLE WINS



Gaps of more than 70 will be counted as probable wins. That gives us series against UT (+3), Charleston Southern (+2), Samford (+2), Georgia State (+1), South Alabama (+2) for a total of 10 more wins, (21 total).



THE PROBABLE LOSSES



Only Kentucky looks like a probable loss, based on the ISR. So that’s now –3 for a record of 21-14.



The only teams left with a Higher ISR are Georgia Southern and Arkansas. But just barely. 4 games total. Let’s say Auburn on wins 1 of these games. Bringing the record to 22-17.



THE TOSS UPS



The rest are essential toss ups. Let’s say, for arguments sake, that gaps between 20-30 points are even pushes, Gaps less than 20 have the opponent favored, and over 30 are Auburn favored.



OVER 30



That would be a six game series with Alabama and Florida. We’ll set Auburn at 4-2 for that set. (26-19)



20-30



Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Ole Miss. 9 games. Again, just to argue, We’ll set these as a straight split, with 1 extra game that could go either way. We’ll say 5-4. (31-23)



LESS THAN 20



That leaves 2 other opponents (Troy, Mississippi State). 5 games. 2-3. (33-26).



WILL THIS WORK?



Possibly. It’s better than just randomly saying one team is better than the other. But using this system as is, puts Auburn at 33 wins. Two short of the goal of 35.



It will be a good measuring stick for the rest of the year. Even if the ISR doesn’t pan out, Auburn still knows it needs to shoot for 35 wins for any chance of a post season.

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Auburn By the Numbers

Baseball, as a sport, is obsessed with numbers. Thanks to fantasy baseball, Moneyball, and other various reasons, baseball has become the one sport that boil down almost every aspect of a player’s on field performance into mathematical minutiae. College baseball is no different and thanks to wonderful sites like Boyd’s World; discovering, analyzing, and breaking down teams is easier than ever.

Rankings

Not to anyone’s surprise, Auburn isn’t ranked by almost any publication that puts out a College Baseball poll (and there are a ton). Not even recieving votes in the polls the NCAA looks at which are: Collegiate Baseball; Rivals; USA Today/ESPN; Baseball America; and the NCBWA Poll.

But that’s not to say Auburn isn’t getting any love from the press. There is another baseball poll, though not officially recognized by the NCAA, that has had Auburn ranked since the pre-season: PING! America. They have Auburn listed as 24th in their Top 30 (which also includes Wednesday’s Opponent, WKU in at 30; Alabama at 27.

But those polls are really just opinion polls and vary wildly from Poll to Poll. Take Georgia and Virginia for example. Both are undefeated on the season (12-0 at press time) and in Power Conferences. UGA got a lot of preseason love, while UVA did not. Going in the poll order from above, here are where the schools rank:

UGA: 1, 2, 2, 8, 1

UVA: 18, 28, 23, UnRanked, 26.

The polls also have 3 different number ones amongst them (UGA, Texas, North Carolina).

So what about rankings based on numbers alone and not writers? That’s where Boyd’s World comes in and where Auburn does actually get some recognition.

Using Boyd’s Pseudo-RPI Auburn is ranked 12th and using the ISR (more on this later) Auburn is 31st. Both respectable numbers.

Stats:

The NCAA hasn’t listed full stats yet so we can only see how Auburn is doing against the other SEC schools (not good). They make it even more evident that we can hit, but we can also GET hit just as well and that hitting is usually just power hitting.

Offensively , Auburn leads the league in HRs (33), and RBI (124), Plate Appearances (630), At Bats (519), and is in the top 3 in Runs (134), Doubles (36), Triples (6), Total Bases (305), and Slugging % (.588).

On the downside, we also lead in Strikeouts (111) and are dead last in Stolen bases (8) and towards the bottom in Team Average and OBS (9th in both categories)

Defensively, the outlook is bleak. Auburn has pitched the most innings (135.1) and has given up the most runs (95), Most Hits (166), Doubles (40), Given up the most Errors (22), have the worst Opponent BA (.306) rank next to last in Walks Allowed (54), and staff ERA (5.45).

Yikes. Hopefully things can turn around soon once we start conference play on Friday.

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Preview: Tennessee

 

Auburn opens up conference play at Tennessee's Lindsey Nelson Stadium (and it's capacity of 7,760). Here's your preview:

 

HISTORY:

Auburn has had decent success against UT over the years. Compiling a head to head record of 74-32 with a 43-18 mark at home and 31-14 on the road. 

Last year the Vols were one of the few SEC teams that Auburn could take a series from (this was pre midseason collapse Auburn) and won 12-6 and 4-3 with a Saturday 4-8 loss (in 11 innings). I'm going to be blunt, as bad as Auburn was last year, UT was worse. Finishing behind Auburn in every statistical category last year and ending the season with a 12-18 SEC mark and 27-29 overall.

THIS YEAR:

The Vols got off to a rough start. Losing 4 out of their last 5 games and dropping head scratchers to teams like USC-Upstate and Austin Peay. After finally bouncing back with a 4 game sweep of Ohio and splitting a pair of midweek games with Louisville and WKU, the Vols come in with a 7-6 record.

Statistically both clubs are similar and very close in most SEC rankings.

Team Batting: UT 7 (.316) AU 9 (.303)

Team Pitching: UT 11 (5.33 ERA) AU 12 (5.45 ERA)

THE PLAYERS:

All this isn't to say that UT isn't without talent. They've got a National Award Winner (1B Cody Hawn), 3 Baseball America Top 100 Prospects (OF Kentrail Davis, and Pitchers Bryan Morgado and Nick Hernandez) and two Preseason All Americans (Morgado and Davis).

Hawn is the team's best power threat, leading the team in doubles (6), RBIs (24), and is 2nd in HRs (7). The hometown sophmore is batting .327

Morgado is a Freshman All-American and held down the role of Saturday starter. Making 13 starts last year (tied for team lead), his record wasn't sparking (5-5) but in his defense UT scored two runs or fewer in four of his starts. He was also one of the nation leaders in Strikeouts with 104 last season.

This year he has a 1-0 record in 2 starts (4 appearances total). He already has 15 KOs in 12.1 Innings. To compare, Auburn has only 3 guys with equal or more KOs (Burnside, Jon Luke Jacobs, Grant Dayton) but each of them have done it in at least 2 more innings of work.

The stud star of the team is Davis. Racking up a lot of preseason attention, Davis was a unanimous choice as Preseason All American from both Baseball America and Rivals (and a rare sophomore on a junior heavy squad). He was also named the Golden Spikes watch list and Wallace watch list. He's currently batting .318 with 3 HR and 17 Runs (team leader).

The Tigers and Vols square off at 6:00pm (CST) Friday, 3 Saturday, and Noon Sunday. 

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Threat Level Week 4

 

We remain stagnant at Threat Level Bo.  Even though the Tigers are riding an impressive winning streak. The only win out of those that we can truly boast about is Tuesday's win against Alabama (which almost didn't go the way of the TIgers).

Very close to being raised to threat level Gabe. So close. Possibly after the UT series.

However, after last night's showing against WKU (and being held hitless for a majority of the innings, and being out hit by the HIlltoppers), our recent fielding work (or lack of), and Pepto Bullpen:

We Remain, for the time, at THREAT LEVEL BO.

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Recap:3/11- Hilltop before Rocky Top

 

So last night, hmmm, well it's hard to explain. It was almost a game of two halves. Bright spots and low spots. WKU isn't exactly a push over either: (Preseason Sun Belt faves, in a surprisingly strong baseball conference that includes UL-Lafayette, Troy, and South Alabama). They came in sporting a 9-3 record, but while Auburn played in a high intensity rivalry game the night before, the Hilltoppers were getting blown out by Tennessee (Auburn's next opponent).

But let's get down to brass tacks. This had all the makings of a typical Auburn game this season: Lot's of offense, Decent/solid starting pitching/Error-Filled Fielding/Bullpen collapses. Those last two you don't need. The bats will cool off and if the bullpen doesn't shore up some loose ends then we could be in trouble come SEC play.

The game last night was pretty much over after the second inning. Auburn built a comfortable 11 run lead (yes you read that right, 11 runs). How was the damage done?

1st Inning: Trent Mummey lead off HR,  Sanders single, Hunter Morris RBI double, Fletcher 2 RBI HR, Kevin Patterson HR, Casey McElroy double, Justin Hargett RBI single. 6 runs, 7 hits, 1 LOB

2nd Inning:  Sanders Double, Ben Jones HBP, Fletcher Walk, KP 2 RBI single, Caldwell HBP, C-Mac SAC fly, Hargy 2 RBI double. 5 runs, 3 hits, 1 LOB

And that was about it from the offense. The Tigers only collected 2 more hits the rest of the game and were held hitless in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th innings. Not good.

Whether it was the hangover from Tuesday or looking forward to UT on Friday, Auburn just cooled off in a big way. WKU did not. The proceeded to at least get some batting practice in and clawed back to make it respectable 11-7 loss.

Dexter Price had his worst outing of the year but was still semi-solid (possibly a plasma {yes that's  a science joke}) going 5.1 ip/7h/4er/4k/1bb. He's now 3-0 on the season.

The bullpen? not so much. Ty Kelley (in relief as opposed to a midweek start) went 2.2/4h/2er/3bb and (Cy)Rus Harper went 1 inning, giving up 2 hits and and ER

Top Hitter:

Kevin Patterson: 2 for 3, 3 RBI, 1 HR. Solid night and he seems to have really found his groove.

Top Pitcher:

Well it's Dexter Price by default. Not a total wash for tonight's game, but at least we know he's human and not some Terminator sent to destroy us. He was missing up for most of the night and fell victim to a couple longballs.

Other Notes:

-Not really much to say. Mums, Fletch, and C-Mac, all continued hitting streaks (14, 9, 8 respectively)

-WKU needs to call the Washington Nationals. They aren't fooling anyone with those hats.

-Auburn opens SEC play Friday against UT. I'll have a full preview coming up.

 

JOBU SAY?

Great offense and decent pitching. But a bullpen collapse, 3 errors, and going cold down the stretch anger Jobu. 2 out of 5 Jobus.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recap: Max Capital City Classic

Wow, well it certainly lived up to its name. Auburn jumped out to an early 4-0 lead thanks to some early wobbles from Alabama pitcher David Head (3ip/3h/5er/3bb) who proceeded to walk the first two guys he faced, give up a single, and an give Auburn and early 3 run lead after Brian Fletchers bases clearing double (which was just inches from being a grand slam).

Auburn would then pad that lead to 4, after a Trent Mummey HR. Then, Alabama finally woke up, and got within one after a Kent Mathes (ye of the national lead in HRs) 3-Run bomb. And lo, the Auburn faithful did start to sweat.

Then, Auburn used a little something we hadn’t seen in a long time from the Tigers: small ball. They actually started to pull away just a little bit more and even used the rare suicide squeeze to do it, when Justin Hargett bunted in Tony Caldwell. All said and done? Auburn now lead 6 to 3 and looked in control for the rest of the night.

Oh, but you knew it was coming didn’t you. You just knew the shades of Tiger’s past would come back and bite us. If you’re like me when you watch a baseball game, you always hold your breath when that call to the bullpen comes out. You want to see just who is going to trot out and be the savior. I’m sure the collective fans in attendance, (especially those who follow regularly), might grimace a little when certain names are called (for me, it’s Scott Shuman, I like the guy, he’s just been struggling). Well, it wouldn’t be Auburn baseball without a bullpen Implosion. And man, did it implode, and at a very inopportune time.

The main problem is that the bullpen was actually looking good. Michael Hurst came in for starter Paul Burnside (4.1ip/4h/3r/0er/85pitches) and got Auburn out of an early bases loaded jam in the bottom of the 5th. Then was pretty solid. Having 3 up 3 down innings in the 6th and 7th. Then, disaster hits.

Enter the bottom of 8th (Auburn was the away team by the way), Auburn holding on to 6-3 lead and Hurst was looking a little gassed. Lead off single by Alabama, then double (RBI) and Alabama is now a little closer at 6-4. So Taylor Thompson comes in and wow, got dinged up: Double, HR (3 RBI), and then a walk. Auburn now trails 7-6 with just 1 inning (the top of the ninth) remaining.

Then, well, magic happened. Zach Blatt came in, and saved the Tiger’s collective tails. Going 2 perfect inning and picking up the win. Let me repeat that. That’s 2 perfect innings against one of the top 25 teams in the country.

But it would have been all for naught, had it not been for some 9th inning heroics. And the process looked grim. Auburn came in, down by a run, running out of outs, and facing a closer for Alabama who hadn’t given up and ER all year. But Auburn did it. Casey McElroy got his first hit of the night, a lead off triple, and was later brought in by a Hargy SAC fly. Mums the doubles, and is Ben Jones gets to play the hero. Hitting an RBI double and giving Auburn an 8-7 lead headed into the bottom of the ninth.

Blatt closed it out perfectly and picked up his first career win.

Overall what a night.

TOP HITTER:

Best of the night was Ben Jones (3-5, 1 RBI, 1r) but Casey McElroy sparking triple in the top of the ninth was clutch and key.

TOP PITCHER:

Zach Blatt. 2 ip/0h/0er/2k. Gets his first Auburn win and makes a nice case for closer.

JOBU SAYS?



It could have been the rare 5 out of 5 Jobus. (Normally only reserved for SEC games). However, the bullpen implosion prevented that.

OTHER NOTES:

-Auburn won it’s first road game of the year last night. We are now 1-3 on the road.

-Zach Blatt has now pitched 4 scoreless, hitless innings, carrying over from the weekend series against Brown.

-Auburn continued some hitting streaks Trent Mummey (13), Brian Fletcher (8), and Casey McElroy (7).

If interested you can watch the game again thanks to an archived webcast from WSFA…you read the Rivals.com, OA news, Montgomery Advertiser and official AU recaps of the games. and the Box Score.

Jay G. Tate also has a nice little blurb about Zach Blatt and his late inning heroics. He also did a liveblog of the game on his “Hottest Auburn Blog on the Net”. Though, I think he needs to follow Auburn baseball a little bit more after reading this:

Casey McElroy leads off with a triple ... and promptly is lifted for a pinch runner. He's the only shortstop on the roster.

The only problem? He’s not. Chezz McCann is his backup. Granted, C-Mac has started every game at SS this year and Chezz has only seen spot work, but Chezz was the SS when Auburn took the field in the bottom of the ninth.

Also lines like:

AUBURN FIFTH: Not much going on.

Are a little unfair. There is ALWAYS something going on in baseball. Although, in his defense, it’s not always noteworthy. Again, I enjoyed the live-blog and the “Hotties” community seemed to enjoy it as well.


NOTES CONTINUED:

Also a lot of Auburn fans were upset over this article about Joseph Sanders where we was “outted” as an Alabama football fan.

My take? Honestly, who cares. It sure hasn’t affected his performance and he has never regretted it:

"I've never regretted for a day in my life coming to Auburn," Sanders said. "I've enjoyed every minute of it."

Two different sports, two different seasons, although it might be hard for some Auburn fans to admit. As long has he bleeds Orange and Blue come baseball season, he’s fine by me.

Finally in other baseball news: Holy Crap. That’s like Alabama A&M beating LSU to advance to a Super Regional.

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Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Max Capital City Classic: or what do with a rivalry

 

Tuesday marks the Inaugural Max Capital City Classic for Auburn and Alabama. It also brings up an interesting predicament about what to do with Baseball, College Sports, and Rivalries.

How do you appease boosters and alumni and fans of both schools? Baseball is different from most college sports. In basketball you play 2 games (easy to do, play one there, one here), Football you play 1 (and rotate it), but in Baseball you play 3 games in a series. So, you can do a couple of things that can appease both fans, boosters, and alumni, while still keeping the rivalry (and in some cases, helping the rivalry). First, Auburn and Alabama are in an interesting situation. They are one of only two sets of school to have an in-state rival built in to the conference (The Mississippi schools are the other). Yes, I know Vandy/UT are both in the same state, but are you really going to include that? Fine. Fine. AU/UA, UM/MSU, and UT/VU are 3 sets of schools that have built in, in-state, Conference Rivals.

So what can you do?

Well you have a couple of options.

Split the Series

If your rival is in-conference you can always play 1 game here and 2 games there and then swap that format the next year. That’s what Texas and Texas A&M do, as do Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan plays a game Friday in East Lansing, travels back to Ann Arbor for Saturday, before finishing Sunday back at the State campus. This year Texas plays one game in College Station (home to the Aggies) and then two games in Austin. They also do this with Baylor (one game in Austin, 2 in Waco). Other schools that do this are Kansas/K-State, and UCLA/Cal-St Fullerton do this even though they aren’t in the same conference.

Also, Clemson and South Carolina do this to an extent. However, they add an extra game so that both teams play 2 games at either teams school.

Ignore it all together.

This is what Auburn and Alabama used to do. Other schools like VaTech/UVA , UT/Vandy, and Miami/FSU still do this.

Play a game a neutral site, and count it.

Florida State/Florida play a game each on campus and then a game in Jacksonville.

UGA/Ga Tech do the same thing, with the third game in  Turner Field.

Play them all somewhere else.

Oklahoma/Ok State play two games in Oklahoma City and one in Tulsa.

Oregon and Oregon State play 1 game in Eugene (home of UO) and two in Portland (home to neither team.)

Or, Keep the series as is, but add a 4th game, and don’t count it.

At least don’t count it in the conference. That’s what Ole Miss and Mississippi State do and what Auburn and Alabama will do with the MAX CCC.

Ole Miss and MSU play in the “Governor’s Cup” formerly  the “Mayor’s Cup”. They keep the three game series at one school and add a fourth game in Jackson (now Pearl) and play it in a Minor league ball park (hey, that sounds familiar). AU/UA are doing pretty much the same thing (even playing in an Minor League Park).

Will it work? I hope so. Tickets have been selling fast and it should be a fun atmosphere. Here’s to Tuesday and a Tiger win.

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What We Learned: Brown Comes to Town

 

Games like these can be trap games. You’re coming off a tiring and depleting series like FSU and start SEC play the next weekend. It could be easy to overlook an IVY league school that’s only played 2 games. Give Auburn credit though, they came through, competed, and even got a an extra inning win out of the deal. So what did we learn?

Auburn can make due without Hunter Morris

He hasn’t started to show his power yet (maybe its the weather) and has been hurt since the FSU series, appeared in the opener with Davidson, but in his absence Auburn managed just fine. In the Brown series alone the DH spot (which was platooned by Brad Ray, KP, and Gilmer) went a combined 4 for 9 (.444 AVG) and had 2 RBIs.

but it’s nice to have him back…

In his return on Sunday. Morris was back to his old self, 2-4 with 2 walks and an RBI. KP seems to be heating up and back on track, so he can move back to the DH spot (where he was awesome in Saturdays 2nd game.

Auburn’s bullpen was a little bumpy

Two guys, Sean Ray, and Scott Shuman, had rough outings. Ray went 2 IP/6h/4er in Saturday’s opener and Shuman was 1 ip/2h/4er in in Sunday’s game.

But overall, surprisingly, they were lights out…

This is a welcome relief and is much needed going into SEC play. Including the 2 Davidson games, and the two speed bumps by Ray and Shuman, Auburn’s bullpen was:

19 ip/10er/12/23h/4bb. That’s a 4.73 ERA. Meh.

If you remove those two implosion days, the ERA lowers to an 1.125 ERA. Wow. (1 ER over 16 innings work)

Some highlites:

Zach Blatt (2ip/0h/3k vs Davidson)

and the fact that most nights we only used 2 total pitchers.

Also, we seem to have a closer…

and that would be Austin Hubbard, who picked up his 2nd save of the year (along with his 2nd win).

and we have an Ace…

Granted it’s 2 games, and not against the strongest competition (Lipscomb and Davidson) but Dexter Price looks pretty solid for a freshman. Against Davidson he went 5.1 ip/6h/1 er/5k. He leads the team in ERA and is tied for wins. He’s also the only starter to be perfect in starts.

I personally hope we see him against Alabama on Tuesday. That would be a extremely good test both on the road and against SEC competition (without rumbling the rotation).

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Weekend Recap

Three more games down and Auburn rides into Tuesday’s contest with Alabama with a 7 game winning streak, a bit of confidence, and are a little bit battle tested…and tired.

Once Wednesday’s home game against Western Kentucky, the Tigers will have played 8 games in 9 days; with only a single day of rest before heading to Knoxville to start SEC play.

We did learn a good bit more about the team (and I’ll go over that later) but for now here’s what you missed while you were following the respective basketball teams (as most people were).

Saturday, Auburn won 9-4 and 6-4, then followed that up with a come from behind extra inning win 10-9 on Sunday.

Saturday (Game One):

Auburn used a big 5th inning to jump out to a comfortable 7-0 lead heading into the sixth and cruised. Tacking on 2 more insurances runs. In that 5th, the Tigers led off with back to back doubles from Mummey and Sanders After a Ben Jones sac-bunt and a Tony Caldwell groundout it looked like Brown would get out of the inning with just a 1 run dent (Mums scored on Sanders double). Then the damage really started. Fletcher is HBP, Wes Gilmer singles (RBI), Casey McElroy singles (RBI), Brad Ray singles (RBI), and C-Mac is cut down at the plate trying to be greedy. Final damage: 4 runs, 3 with 2 outs and Auburn coasts to a win.

Top Pitcher:

Jon Luke Jacobs picking up his 1st win of the year was stellar. 7 ip/5h/0er/4k/1bb and 104 total pitches

Top Hitter:

Joseph Sanders. Continuing his hot start (which cooled Sunday), In Saturday’s first game he went 3-5 with 4 RBIs.

Of Note

Fletcher collected his 4th HR of the year but the real side story of the first day was the absence of Hunter Morris. The stud 1B has been injured (he returned Sunday) and that left a predicament for CJP about what to do with the 1B/DH positions. Normally, CJP has put Kevin Patterson at 1B and picked from a gaggle of guys to DH (Wes Gilmer, Dan Gamache, Brad Ray). This time he tried something different, putting Gilmer at 1B and letting Brad Ray DH. The results paid off. Gilmer was 3-5 with an RBI. Ray was 1 for 2 with an RBI and a walk.

Saturday (Game Two):

This game was a bit closer than hoped. Ty Kelley got off to a rough start (4 ip/8 h/4 er/0k) and Auburn had to relay on it’s bullpen to come through. Luckily, they did (which hasn’t been the case this year). Brad Hendrix was stellar in relief and picked up the win, and Auburn used a solo HR from Kevin Patterson to go up 5-4 and got another save from Austin Hubbard to complete the Double Header sweep.

Top Pitcher:

Bradley Hendrix. Just what we needed from a reliever. He picks up the win (to even his record to 2-2) and goes 4 ip/3h/0er/3k. He was efficient as well. Averaging only 3 pitches per batters faced.

Top Hitter:

Kevin Patterson. KP, back in the DH spot, was the spark Auburn needed and busted out of a big slump. Giving Auburn that go ahead solo shot (just his 2nd of the year). He finished the day 3-3 with 3 RBIs, a walk, and single short of the cycle.

Of Note:

Auburn looked doomed after some errors. C-Mac picks up his 5 E of the year, Donaldson his 3rd, and Caldwell his 1st.

Auburn had 5 doubles in the game (Jones, Fletch, C-Mac, KP, Hargett).

Sunday

Honestly, Auburn could have just packed up, given Brown the win, and focused on Alabama. Credit the Tigers however, they kept battling and battling and eventually broke free to win it in 11 innings on a Casey McElroy walk off single.

Chris O’neal, making a spot start, had a decent day, going 4.2 ip/6h/3er. However, the bullpen let him down, namely Scott Shuman, who had a terrible day (1 ip/4 er), and Auburn had to scrape from a 8-4 hole to force extra innings. They did, and completed the 4 game sweep.

Top Hitter:

Ben Jones ended up with a better line (2-5, 4 rbi, 1bb, HR) but watching the game, you’d agree Justin Hartgett was the best hitter. Batting in the 9 hole, he continually provided a much need spark, giving Auburn it’s first lead (1-0 after 2 innings) and going 2 for 4 with and RBI.

Top Pitcher:

Austin Hubbard. A day after getting his 2nd Save of the season, he picks up his 2nd win. Going 2.1 ip/4h/1er/3k

Of Note:

Joe Sanders 10 game hitting streak comes to an end after an 0 for 5 day; However, Mums extends his to 12.

Hunter Morris was back in the lineup (DH spot) and was solid. 2 for 4, 1 RBI, 2 bb.

Overall, this weekend gets a very high 4 Jobus:




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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Recap 3/6: Bombs Away

 

I was seriously debating whether or not to even do a full preview of Brown. It's hard to preview an Ivy League school, who's only played 2 games (Splitting with Florida International).

Before we get to Friday's game here's all you really need to know about Brown. They're coach by Marek Drabinski, in his 12th season. 2007 was probably his best season, when he went 27-21 (14-6) and were Ivy Champions.

The season they won't return home to Providence, Rhode Island, until April 1st. They also are no stranger to Double Headers, including today's  DH Match Up with the Tigers; the Bears will play 18 Double dips this season including some some weekends when they will play four games in two days (most of their Ivy Schedule).

So, on to last night's game. 6:45pm. Remember that time, because that's when this game was pretty much over.

Auburn jumped out to a 7 nothing lead in after the first inning and never looked back.

In that inning, 4 different Tigers hit HRs: Trent Mummey, Joseph Sanders, Brian Fletcher and Casey McElroy.

Fletcher would belt his second HR of the night a little bit later; giving the Tigers 5 total HRs and brining the season total to 25.

The Good

-The offense. 5 different Tigers had multi-hit games and the power was out in show early.

-Casey McElroy, this has been a great week for him and he seems to have busted out of his slump; hitting his 2nd HR in as many games, and being a much needed spark towards the bottom of the lineup.

-Brian Fletcher- 2 for 4, with 2 Rs and 4 RBIs. Very solid.

-Grant Dayton. Finally, Dayton looked like the pitcher we remembered. Going 7 solid innings, with only 5 hits, 1 ER, and 6 Ks.

-Taylor Thompson. Solid in relief. 2 IP, 0 h, 0 er.

The Bad

-Hunter Morris has missed back to back games with a sore back (apparently he pulled it lifting weights) leaving CJP with a dilemma:

What to do with the 4 hole? Normally, it would just be as simple as plugging Kevin Patterson in (and either moving him to 1B or keeping him as DH). However, KP has been struggling mightily. (going  0-3 last night; .188 avg this season)

Last night, Tony Caldwell took a turn and well, that experiment didn't work out so well (0 for 4 with 2ks).

Brian Fletcher is one option, since he's the only other power threat left (3 HRs). However, Fletch is feast or famine (leading the team in KOs yet batting .303) and moving him up creates a hole deeper in the lineup.

-Also bad, 4 Errors and another reason KP is better suited for a DH slot (he had 2 of the errors).

Overall, the game would have been a 4 Jobu night, however, remembering the 4 errors, and the fact that we are playing a mid-level team from a mid-level league, I give this game, 3 out 5 Jobus:

 

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Threat Level 3/5

 

Threat Level Bo remains. We finally caught some breaks and put together a solid game against FSU last Saturday. Experienced a winter wonderland Sunday. Let Davidson hang in far too long Tuesday (as evidenced by Wednesday's performance) and gear up for a four game set against an IVY league school this weekend. Baseball will be an afterthought for a little bit until Basketball season calms down. It's ok. The real season doesn't begin until March 13th when we open SEC play. 

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Recap 3/4, "Three's Company"

 

Well that's a little bit better. Auburn used three, three run HRs, from 3 different players to send Davidson back to North Carolina a little bit sadder.

Honestly, nothing really wrong with anything the entire night, aside from another error from the SS position (Casey McElroy, who now has 3 E's on the Season).

Another great outing by Freshman Dexter Price. 5.1 IP, 6 hits, 1 ER, and 5 Ks. Not bad. Not bad at all.

and here's something you haven't heard in a while, the Auburn bullpen was actually solid. Using only two guys to close out the night.

Scott Shuman (1.2 ip/1 H/1 R/1K) and Zach Blatt rebounded from a rough debut and was impressive:

Blatt: (2 IP/0 h/0 r/1 bb/3 k) Using only 20 pitches (that's less than 3 pitches per batter faced)

Compare that to Davidson who used a total of 9 different pitchers Wednesday night.

On the offensive side, Casey McElroy's bat finally woke up. After having an average that has hovered around the .150 mark, the Freshman from Orlando went 3 for 4 including a double, his first career HR as a Tiger, and 3 RBIs. Joseph Sanders had 4 RBIs, and also blasted a 3 Run HR, and Trent Mummey hit his 4th HR of the year. Again, another 3 R blast.

 

Quick notes:

-Auburn is above .500 for the first time all season (5-4), are riding a 3 game winning streak, and should be 9-4 heading into Tuesday's matchup with Alabama.

-Hunter Morris was completely absent from tonight's lineup. (Kevin Patterson played 1B with Wes Gilmer DH).

-The only player who had a rough night was Tony Caldwell. He went 0 for 3 with 2 Ks.

Overall, I give Auburn 4 Jobu's for this performance:

 

If you don't know who Jobu, then you are not a real baseball fan. For a quick refresher got to about the 8 minute mark here.

"Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come."-Pedro Cerrano

We must have given Jobu some good stuff after last Friday's performance in Tallahasee.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Recap 3/3

 

While most every other Auburn fan was focused on “The Iron Bowl of Basketball” the Diamond Tigers opened up a two game set against Davidson. Auburn wins 7-2 in a game that was a lot closer than the final score.

Davidson was going toe to toe with Auburn until, well, the wheels just fell off. The main story here is the bottom of the 8th. The Wildcats just imploded.

Tied 2-2 going into the bottom of the 8th; Hunter Morris leads off and breaks his hitless streak with a single. Brad Ray comes in to pinch run, but is caught stealing. Tony Caldwell then doubles, Wes Gilmer is hit by a pit, and then reality set in for Davidson. Or Auburn finally realized they were actually playing tonight and just woke up.

Casey McElroy broke his hitless streak with and RBI double. Then Brian Fletcher was intentionally walked and it started to get a bit wonky for the Wildcats. Justin Hargett reached on an Fielder’s Choice then a throwing error scores both Gilmer and McElroy. Just to be safe, Trent Mummey hits a bases clearing triple. Final damage? 5 runs and an easy victory for Auburn.

Quick Notes

-Morris and McElroy both broke hitless streaks tonight, but just barely.

-Solid go by Paul Burnside (6 IP, 5h, 2er, 6k) in a no-decision.

-Brad Hendrix was solid in relief. Closing the door and going 3 innings, with 4 hits and 3 ks. Picking up the win.

-No sign of Kevin Patterson tonight. Wes Gilmer played first while Hunter Morris DH’d.

-Joe Sanders cooled down a bit, going just 1 for 5 with an RBI

-Every Tiger who came to the plate tonight had a hit, except for RF Ben Jones who went 0 for 5.

Both Teams wrap up their miniseries Wednesday at 6pm.

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Around the Horn 3/3

Taking a look at the other Division 1 CBB teams in the state.

Troy (7-2, 0-0)

Last Night:

The Trojans are one of the hotter teams in the state right now. After dropping their opener against Kentucky, the Trojans rattled off four straight wins before dropping their home opener to Memphis. They also had a bit of history with one player hitting for the cycle, and having Sunday’s game called for Snow. They've now claimed Alabama and Samford as their latest victims.

South Alabama (5-4, 0-0)

The Jags spent have spent most of the season playing in Tournaments. Including their hometown Coca Cola Classic where the beat Ole Miss 3-2 in 10 innings and gave Coach Steve Kitrell his 1,000th win. They had a disastrous stop-over in Mississippi where they dropped back to back games to Miss. State and Southern Miss. They then swept the filed down at Stetson in the Bright House Invitational. They’ll take their Bingo Brown Carnival on the Road to the QTI Baylor Classic in Waco, TX this weekend.

UAB (3-4, 0-0)

Tuesday: UAB 6, Jax State 7

The Blazers have been hot and cold. After staring out 3-1 and taking their opening series from Radford, they’ve since dropped three straight, had one game postponed, and another cancelled due to snow.

Samford (3-5)

The ‘dogs took their opening series from Kennessew State before having a rough go at the FGCU Invitational. Dropping 3 out of 4 games there. They almost pulled the upset against Troy last night but couldn't catch any breaks.


Jacksonville State (2-4)

Led by Rivals Power Pitcher Ben Tootle. The Gamecocks have been having a rough go of things. They got swept by App State in their opening series in Forest City, NC, had two games cancelled due to weather, and bounced back Tuesday night for just their second win of the season.

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