Sunday, May 31, 2009

3 Strikes (The Big Cat Weekend)

Well the Big Cat Weekend has come and gone. While it still was a good (well different, I’m still not sure if “good” is still the right word to describe it) idea. So here are 3 quick questions (or 3 Strikes) to wrap up the Big Cat Weekend (or the BCW)

1. DID IT WORK?

This is going to begin a semantics game between Auburn fans and rival fans from now until signing day. To most Auburn fans? Yes it was a success. But just because it raises Auburn’s profile nationally. At this point for Auburn football. Post Turner Gill, Post Charles Barkley, Post Blow Out, Post Tuberville Debacle, Post Chizik Hiring, etc etc, I still hold this to be the ultimate truth when it comes to Auburn in the offseason:

ANYTHING THAT PUTS AUBURN IN THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT IN A POSITIVE WAY IS A GOOD THING AND SHOULD BE ACCEPTED AS SUCH.

But did it work? Again, debatable. In that way it did; if you use the thinking above. However, until one of these “Big Cats” commits, then it didn’t truly “work”.

2. WAS THE “PARTY AT TOOMER’S” A RECRUITING VIOLATION?

At one point in the weekend, some Auburn fans gathered to Roll Toomer’s Corner. This, at first, began to worry me. Mainly due to the whole “Game Day Situations” NCAA rule. Then, the more I thought about it, the less I worried about it.

Living in Auburn, I’ve seen this for myself, but honestly, we roll those damn trees at the drop of a hat. Just off the top of my head I can think of the following “reasons” that Toomer’s was rolled recently: Auburn High winning a baseball title/The End of Classes/A local wedding/The Baseball team beating Alabama/some drunk kids/ etc. That’s just recently. So no, it’s not a “football only thing” or “gameday thing”

As long as I’ve been at Auburn, I’ve yet to see any current players rolling Toomer’s after a game.

Evan Woodbery posted a link from his blog (previewing his story in Monday's Paper) about the Toomer's Corner Rolling:

Auburn is examining whether any NCAA rules were broken during Saturday's "Big Cat" recruiting weekend.

An Auburn spokesperson told the Press-Register Sunday that the university had not determined if any NCAA secondary violations occurred, but would review the event this week.

E-Wood mentions two other violations:

Although NCAA rules (Bylaw 13.10.6) bar the introduction of visiting student-athletes during any function, videos of the event posted on two Web sites show the crowd cheering as the players are introduced by name, position and hometown. The man yelling the introductions does not appear on the videos, but assistant head coach Trooper Taylor is shown leading the crowd in cheers immediately after the introductions.

From what I've seen from watching these videos (by the way that's 2o minutes of my life wasted), I've yet to see Trooper Taylor announce any names. I'm sure, coaching as long as Taylor has, that he would be aware of the rules and by-laws

E-Wood continues:

NCAA Bylaw 13.10.5 prevents schools from publicizing an athlete's visit or allowing the visitor to "participate in team activities that would make the public or media aware of the prospective student-athlete's visit to the institution (e.g., running out of the tunnel with team, celebratory walks to or around the stadium/arena, on-field pregame celebrations)."

Again, I've yet to see anything that came from the school advertising the event. Also, you can't really punish the school for the actions of websites that cover the school. The only affiliation Auburn has with web sites like Rivals/Scout/etc is issuing press passes to cover events. That's really about it. It doesn't have any control over what is or isn't posted.

Also, folks who follow any of the rival's sites know what recruits are coming when. Nothing ever comes from the school itself.

3. IS THIS AUBURN’S ANSWER TO USC’s RISING STARS WEEKEND?

One of the more pointed criticisms I read on some message boards was saying Auburn was a day late and dollar short on the “Big Cat Weekend” is just a rip off of Southern Cal’s “Rising Stars Weekend”.

No. It’s not. The main difference? Auburn isn’t disguising an official visit/recruiting weekend as a “Camp”.

I’m still unsure how USC can get away with the “Rising Stars” camp. It’s a recruiting weekend, plain and simple. Yes, it’s an evaluation and it’s all down “on-campus” but it’s still that coming-to-close-to-the-edge of recruiting violations. Because this:

Is a no-no (to my understanding).

Read more...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Big Cat Weekend? (3 Up/3 Down)

 

Basic concept in 3 Up/3 Down? 2 sets of items. Each related to the topic at hand, but two different groups of thinking. In this case 3 basic questions that explain the BCW (Big Cat Weekend) and the three questions everyone really wants the answers too:

3 UP (The Basics)

1. What is it?

2. Who's Here?

3. What's the plan?

3 DOWN (THE REAL QUESTIONS)

4. Is it Legal?

5. Will it Work?

6. What's next?

WHAT IS IT?

Like the Tiger Prowl, the BCW seems like the latest tool or trick of the trade the Auburn coaching staff is using in the recruiting battle. Essentially, One Big weekend, Some of the Nations top recruits, all enjoying what Auburn has to offer.

WHO'S HERE?

Jay Tate has a list of partial visitors:

Here is a partial look:
TB Lache Seastrunk, 5-star (Rivals and Scout), ESPN 150 watch list
TB Marcus Lattimore, 5-star (Rivals and Scout), ESPN 150 watch list
WR Trovon Reed, Scout.com 5-star; Rivals.com 4-star, ESPN 150 watch list
WR Jeremy Richardson, Rivals.com 4-star; Scout.com 3-star
WR Antonio Goodwin, Rivals.com 4-star (unclassified by Scout)
WR Demarco Cobbs, ESPN 150 watch list
LB Kahiri Fortt, Rivals.com 4-star (unclassified by Scout)
DE J.C. Copeland, Rivals.com 4-star (unclassified by Scout) **Tenn. commit**
OT James Stone, 4-star (Rivals and Scout), ESPN 150 watch list
OG Eric Mack, 4-star (Rivals and Scout), ESPN 150 watch list

Charles Goldberg adds a couple others to the list:

Receivers
Shaun Kitchens of College Park, Ga., (he's already committed to Auburn)...

Offensive linemen
Shon Coleman of Olive Branch, Miss., (said to be a soft Auburn commit)...

Linebackers
... Jake Holland of Pelham (already committed to Auburn), Jawara White of Troy, Nigel Terrell of Pelham, Victor Beasley of Adairsville, Ga., LaDarius Owens of Bessemer and Jessel Curry of Buford, Ga.

I'm sure there are other guys here, or guys who might have thought to come but never showed up. We won't have anything official (or unofficially) until Monday.

WHAT'S THE PLAN?

Well that's when it gets a bit tricky. Technically this isn't a recruiting weekend. There will be no evaluations/no tests/drills/ etc. It's just a fun weekend for these to come experience Auburn. I've heard activities such as video games/pie eating contests, etc. It's a bit of a break from the normal recruiting schedule. However, everything is unofficial and nothing is being given to these players from the university. That's the most important caveat to this entire weekend:

THESE ARE UNOFFICIAL VISITS.

IS IT LEGAL?

Technically? Yes. However, it's flirting dangerously close to the edge (too dangerous for my tastes, personally). All of this recruiting rules/regulations/by-laws can get pretty complicated, so hang on while I try to wade through it:

First, the calendar. We are currently in what the NCAA calls "The Evaluation Period":


(f) April 15 through May 31, 2009, [except for (g) below]: Evaluation period

Four weeks (excluding Memorial Day and Sundays) selected at the
discretion of the member institution and designated in writing in the
office of the director of athletics [as provided in (1) below]:

(1) An authorized off-campus recruiter may use one evaluation to assess
the prospective student-athlete’s athletics ability and one evaluation to
assess the prospective student-athlete’s academic qualifications during
this evaluation period). If an institution’s coaching staff member
conducts both an athletics and an academic evaluation of the
prospective student-athlete on the same day during this evaluation
period, the institution shall be charged with the use of an academics
evaluation only and shall be permitted to conduct a second athletics
evaluation of the prospective student-athlete on a separate day during
this evaluation period.

(g) Those days in April/May not designated above for evaluation
opportunities:                                                                       Quiet period

More specifically the "Spring Evaluation Period" :

13.1.2.6.2 Spring Evaluation Period. [FBS] In bowl subdivision football, the head coach shall not
engage in off-campus recruiting activities during the April 15 through May 31 evaluation period. (Adopted: 1/14/08)

That's another reason why Gene Chizik wasn't on any of the "Tiger Prowls" throughout the state.

So what can you do during the evaluation period?

An evaluation period is that period of time when it is permissible for authorized athletics department staff members to be involved in off-campus activities designed to assess the academic qualifications and playing ability of prospective student-athletes. No in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts shall be made with the prospective student-athlete during an evaluation period.

So basically, the athlete can come to the school, the school can't come to the athlete. You can use this time to scout the potential player, and that's about it.

With me so far? Good. Here's where it gets a little tricky. In order for everything to be above board, the following things have to occur:

1) The Visit Cannot be an official visit

Why? well here's where Auburn is getting close, but not over the edge. It can't be an official visit because official visits aren't allowed until the player starts their upcoming school years. So it has to be an "un-official visit" for the Prospecive Student Athlete (PSA):

13.02.15.2 Unofficial Visit. An unofficial visit to a member institution by a prospective student-athlete is a visit made at the prospective student-athlete’s own expense. The provision of any expenses or entertainment valued at more than $100 by the institution or representatives of its athletics interests shall require the visit to become an official visit, except as permitted in Bylaws 13.5 and 13.7. (Revised: 2/22/07, 5/9/08)

13.5.3 Transportation on Unofficial Visit. During any unofficial recruiting visit, the institution may provide the prospective student-athlete with transportation to view practice and competition sites in the prospective student-athlete’s sport and other institutional facilities and to attend a home athletics contest at any local facility (see Bylaws 13.02.5.1 and 13.7.3). An institutional staff member must accompany the prospective student-athlete during such a trip. Payment of any other transportation expenses, shall be considered a violation.
For violations in which the value of transportation is $100 or less, the eligibility of the individual (prospective or enrolled student-athlete) shall not be affected conditioned upon the individual repaying the value of the benefit to a charity of his or her choice. The individual, however, shall remain ineligible from the time the institution has knowledge of the receipt of the impermissible benefit until the individual repays the benefit. Violations of this bylaw remain institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1, and documentation of the individual’s repayment shall
be forwarded to the enforcement services staff with the institution’s self-report of the violation. (Revised: 1/11/89, 1/27/00, 3/10/04, 4/28/05, 1/9/06 effective 8/1/06, 4/27/06)

Ok. Now that we've waded through that mess, you still have all the hassles and haggles of an "Un-Official Visit" which has a complete section in the NCAA Handbook (13.7 or page 109-111)

I'll fly through this really quickly and give the quick and dirty basics:

13.7.1 - A PSA can make any number of un-official visits. They can make these before their senior year begins.

13.7.2 - The school can give 3 free passes to sporting events on campus within a 30 mile radius

13.7.2.1.1- The school can't pay for meals

13.7.2.1.1.1 - Except if the put a cap on the number of official visits at 25 can offer a free meal in an on campus dining hall during an unofficial visit (I don't know if this applies to Auburn)

13.7.2.1.2 - The PSA can stay in a dorm, provided he pays for it (this is determined by the cost of housing/divided by the time period)

13.7.2.1.5 - No special parking

13.7.2.1.6 - They CAN meet with an academic advisor

13.7.2.1.7 - They CAN have a student host

13.7.2.5 - Basically, a student can come to campus for a fraternity recruitment/band field trip/etc but it can't have any to do with athletics. If it does it become an official visit

13.7.2.7 - Any type of benefit or payment is considered "illegal" when on an unofficial visit. However, if said benefit was less than $100 then the PSA can reimburse the school and not face any penalties. The PSA becomes ineligible until he pays his restitution.

13.7.3 - Nothing personalized. No personalized recruiting aids. No Game day simulations (No smoke tunnel, like Tennessee)

So that's that. Breaking any of these rules turns this visit into an Official Visit and by turning it into an official visit. Turning it into a recruiting visit (at this point/day at time) turns it into a recruiting violation

2) The Visit has to take place on Campus. Since this isn't a "Contact Period", Having any activity or visit off-campus becomes a violation. That one's a little easier to explain than reason 1.

So again, it's all legal. It's all allowable. As long as everything stays "unofficial". At any rate, I'm sure Auburn's compliance department is working like crazy this weekend to make sure everything is above board.

WILL IT WORK?

Put me in the camp of hopeful but still doubtful. Yes, the "Tiger Prowl" and "Big Cat Weekend" are nice and all, but until these guys start committing and giving firm offers, then it's going to be all for nothing. Also, there are a couple of interesting players absent from the BCW. Including

DeMarcus Milliner (DB/5*/Millbrook)

Jarrick Williams (DB/4*/Blount)

Corey Grant (RB/4*/Opelika)

C.J. Mosley (LB/4*/Theodore)

Solomon Patton (WR/4*/Mobile)

All these are in-state, Rivals 250 guys, with interest in Auburn. Yet, each one is absent this weekend. In fact, the only instate, Rivals 250 guy in attendance? Jeremy Richardson (WR/4*/Springville)

If the "Tiger Prowl" was supposed to jumpstart in-state interest and gain steam on Alabama when it comes to instate guys, why were some of the top players in the state not at the BCW? According to some, it's all stinks of the Red Elephant Club. I personally think that's all Black Helicopters and Big Foot, but who knows.

SO WHAT'S NEXT?

Hard to tell really. Once this weekend is over, we enter into another quiet period in NCAA recruiting. Tiger Prowl? Big Cat weekend? I'm sure there's another animal themed recruiting tool up the coaches sleeves. It just all keeps falling to that "crazy it just might work" type thinking. That "why didn't I think of that" mentality. These things just seem so simple but somewhat brilliant that it just reminds me of an episode of Mad Men with all the Auburn coaches sitting around brainstorming like Don Draper, trying to figure out the latest and most creative way to attract potential clients (i.e. recruits)

 

Oh and while we are on the Mad Men theme:

Damn you Joan Holloway. Why must I have to wait so long for Season 3.

Read more...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tweeting the SEC (Football Style)

Oh Twitter. You're the hot new (not really) social application for tech-savvy at risk youth...and now, you've got your grubby little 140 character claws into the Football Coach fraternity and the only thing we really have to show for it is giving Assistants (not Assistant coaches) something else to do and, oh, getting recruiting violations. Bravo Lane Kiffin, you are now a pioneer in recruiting violations. Maybe you can have a rule named after you too.

THE BASICS:

Here is twitter in 140 characters or less:

Microblog. "Tweet" updates(what you are doing). People can "follow" you. Update on phone/web/etc.140 characters. Quick. Easy. Short. Simple.

That magic information portal, the Wikipedia, has more here.

However, Twitter detractors will say that the posts are annoying, non informational, self-aggrandizing, over indulgent, etc, etc. And that if you actually spoke your "Tweets" out loud, you'd sound like a moron. As evidenced here:

But honestly, it’s fun, it’s harmless, it’s another App for blackberry and iphone and the “whatever-the-kids-are using-these days”. It’s not as daunting or intimidating as others make it sound. It can’t be, especially now that local television stations are getting into the act.

SO WHY SHOULD SEC COACHES CARE?

One word: Recruits. Oh recruiting. What was once a backroom, shadily-dealt, hard fact of college football has exploded into a multi-million dollar web enterprise. Now fans bicker back and forth about players who may never actually set foot on a school’s campus and even create NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS based solely on what players a team signed. It causes grown men to salivate over bench presses, 40 times, ACT scores, and put pictures of half-naked male teens as message board signatures (along with “Want Lists” and “Star Rankings”). Personally, I’ve never been big into recruiting, but hey people love that stuff.

Coaches do to. The know you need the best to beast the best (thanks Ric Flair) and anything you can do to gain an edge is a plus. Just look at last year, when webcams were all the rage (in an effort to skirt “Saban Rule”). Like Twitter, it was a new (not really) tool that could give an edge in recruiting. It can also hurt a coach down the line, showing they aren’t really relating to the future players of today. Don’t believe me? Guess who said this quote:

_____ said he plans to stick to his strategy of assembling the ____ coaching staff at his home on the first day of permitted contact and take turns chatting with each targeted player. Webcams aren't in the game plan.

"I wouldn't be interested in doing it," _____ said. He said personal contact is the method he prefers. "I've talked to them, their parents, they've been on our campus. I think that's what's important."

Besides, he added, "I've been recruiting these kids since the eighth grade. Hopefully, they know what I look like."

That would be former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville. Emphasis on the former. Also, emphasis on one of Tuberville’s louder criticisms. The fact that he was losing some of his edge on the recruiting trail. I’m not saying Tub’s was let go because he wouldn’t use a webcam, but two of the coaches mentioned in the ESPN article (Miles and Saban) have certainly used it to their best advantage.

Les Miles probably sums it up best:

“Absolutely, it's for recruiting purposes," Miles says. "It allows us to communicate, to those people that subscribe, blasts of information. … It's also an opportunity for those prospects that subscribe to communicate to us."

ROLL CALL

Not every SEC Football Coach Tweets. But a good number of them do:

COACH SCHOOL TWITTER REAL?
G. Chizik Auburn @genechizik No
N. Saban Alabama @nicksabanALA Possibly
H. Nutt Ole Miss @HoustonNuttOM Doubtful
D. Mullen Miss. St. @CoachDanMullen Yes
L. Miles LSU @LSUCoachMiles Yes
B. Petrino Arkansas @BobbyPetrino Yes (in a way)
M. Richt Georgia @MarkRicht Yes
L. Kiffin Tennessee @LaneKiffinUT Yes
S. Spurrier South Carolina @coachspurrier Yes (in a way)
R. Brooks Kentucky @UKcoachbrooks Yes
U. Meyer Florida @CoachUrbanMeyer Yes
B. Johnson Vanderbilt @VandyFootball Not really


THE FAKES

One downside of Twitter is the fact that anyone can make a twitter account in your name. So there tend to be a couple of fakes (until twitter takes it back over). So here’s some explanation of the coaches who aren’t listed a “Real”.

@genechizik – Nope. Not real. Funny? yes. But not the real Chiz. As evidenced by tweets like this:

The time for fake Chiz might be coming to an end. Auburn is slowly but surely getting into the twitter scene and there' hasn’t been a “Fake Chiz” since April (and you’re looking at it)

@nicksabanALA – It looks real. However, it’s tweetless. No posts at all. Yet it still has over 1600 followers; expertly demonstrating Alabama fans and their blind devotion to all things Saban. 1600 people waiting for a word from the new football messiah, yet no word from the mountain top just yet. Nick Saban also has his fair share of fake accounts. There is an official Bama Tweet account: @RollWithTheTide. More on that later.

@HoustonNuttOM – I’m just going to call this one fake. Based on who the Coach is following (normally a dead give away) and the content of the tweets, such as this gem:

@BobbyPetrino – Well it’s real. It’s just not Bobby Petrino. Here’s let’s have him explain:

“We got it set up so I can do it — so that you can’t get on there under my name,” Petrino said.

But it still confuses the Hog Head Man:

Petrino was asked during Thursday’s news conference about the social networking Web site Twitter, which sports figures have used to interact with fans. The Arkansas coach seemed amused by the question.

“I don’t even know what it is,” Petrino said. “What is Twittering?”

Although Arkansas fans are clamoring for him to start tweeting. That’s going to be hard. Especially since he doesn’t even know the password to the account.

@VandyFootball – It looks like it is affiliated with Vanderbilt. It’s just not Bobby Johnson doing the tweeting. It seems just to be a mouthpiece for VU athletics and their website.

@coachspurrier – Well it is Steve Spurrier and it’s a Coach at USC doing the tweeting. Sadly, it’s not Darth Visor. It’s his son, Steve Spurrier, Jr.

THE REAL DEALS (AND THE GRADING SCALE)

So now we move on to the real McCoys. They will be graded/ranked between (1 and 7) in 4 different categories:

Presentation – The background image. What a person sees if they visit the web version of the twitter page. Points given for originality and aesthetics

Followers – Basically how popular the Coach/Tweeter is

Updates- What’s the point in having a twitter if you don’t update it. Points given for most recent tweet and total number of tweets.

Content – Is it even worth reading?

Highest score wins. Let’s do this:

PRESENTATION: (5 out 7) Nice Web 2.0 designs. Simply, effective, different from the norm. Points deducted for the NIKE logo creep.

FOLLOWERS: 2657

UPDATES: 186

CONTENT (2/7): Ok, this is where it gets confusing. This isn’t Nick Saban. It is an official Alabama twitter, but it’s just the assistant coaches and it gets confusing. Hellaciously confusing. All that separates the coaches from each other is a quick by line. Also, the content isn’t very exciting. But, if you read between the lines, you can really can learn a bit about the Alabama coach staff:

Kirby Smart is a Robot:

Burton Burns loves Jazz

and Sal Suneri is lost

PRESENTATION 5
FOLLOWERS 2
UPDATES 7
CONTENT 2
TOTAL 16

PRESENTATION: (1/7) Ugh. That puppy is hard to read. Grey text on a white background. MSU Bulldog logo set to repeat and burn into the corneas.

FOLLOWERS: 1093

UPDATES: 24

CONTENT (4/7): Nothing really to see here. Mully is new to the Twitter game. However, it is a nice mix of business and fun. Oh, and I don’t even want to hear any crap from Mississippi State fans about the “Tiger Prowl”:

The Roaddawg Tour? Seriously? Wow.

PRESENTATION 1
FOLLOWERS 2
UPDATES 1
CONTENT 4
TOTAL 8

PRESENTATION: (5/7) Simple. Clean. Effective. Not too subtle with the Crystal ball in the profile pic.

FOLLOWERS: 4,150

UPDATES: 70

CONTENT: (7/7) Yep. This would be the future of Football twittering. A mix of business, work, and yes, recruiting:

So, if said recruit was reading this tweet, it might just push LSU that much more to the front (don’t ask me to explain the thinkings of teenagers). Also, nice to see that Les Miles has a black berry.

PRESENTATION 5
FOLLOWERS 3
UPDATES 5
CONTENT 7
TOTAL 20

PRESENTATION: (5/7) Solid. Subtle. Little busy at times. Still, it’s nice on the eyes. However, he’s trying a bit to hard with the “I’m a Bad Ass” Profile picture.

FOLLOWERS: 5086

UPDATES: 89

CONTENT: (2/7) Boring. It’s mainly just an extension of Richt’s Blog. Nothing exciting or new.

PRESENTATION 5
FOLLOWERS 5
UPDATES 6
CONTENT 2
TOTAL 18

PRESENTATION: (1/7) Yeah, that’s just creepy. That cold, psuedo-badass GQ scowl. Fake “dark alley” backdrop. All of it.

FOLLOWERS: 6483

UPDATES: 26

CONTENT: (4/7) About the same as the Les Miles Twitter. Recruiting, Work, etc. However, not much personal stuff, and there is still the matter of the violation. Oh, and it hasn’t been updated since early May.

PRESENTATION 1
FOLLOWERS 6
UPDATES 2
CONTENT 4
TOTAL 13

PRESENTATION (1/7): There’s simple and then there is this. Blah. Also, even coming from an Auburn fan, that’s too much orange.

FOLLOWERS: 4171

UPDATES: 53

CONTENT: (5/7) It’s ok. Nothing to exciting. Meyer has changed from the original, I’m will tweet everything I’m doing, and has become more of the normal coaching tweet. Not much about Meyer the person really (If he even is human).

PRESENTATION 1
FOLLOWERS 4
UPDATES 4
CONTENT 5
TOTAL 14

PRESENTATION (5/7): Not too bad. Nothing really exciting. However, it is nicely laid out and the picture doesn’t give off a creepy vibe like Kiffy-kins.

FOLLOWERS: 7671

UPDATES: 27

CONTENT: (7/7) This is another way to twitter as a coach. It gives the coach an outlet to talk about currently frustrating situations:

(That Jeremy would be DE Jeremy Jarmon, ruled ineligible by the NCAA for using a controlled substance. That substance? Vitamins from GNC)

That same Jarmon, who Brooks tweeted about earlier, and a little bonding time the two of them had:

But there are also, fan assuring tweets about current players, and their statuses:

Or maybe just a bit of Coach Brooks downtime:

All in all, not a bad Tweeter. I might be inclined to subscribe, even though I’m not even remotely interested in UK football.

PRESENTATION 5
FOLLOWERS 7
UPDATES 3
CONTENT 7
TOTAL 22

THE RESULTS:

TWITTER POINTS
@UKcoachbrooks 22
@LSUCoachMiles 20
@MarkRicht 18
@RollWithTheTide 16
@CoachUrbanMeyer 14
@LaneKiffinUT 13
@CoachDanMullen 8

AND THE LEADER IN THE SEC TWITTER ARMS RACE?

RICH “freaking” BROOKS. The oldest of our contestants. Any reaction coach?

Yep. That about sums it up. Well congrats anyway. Here’s to you:

Read more...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Dust Settles

 

Well, it became official Monday. Auburn didn't get an invite to the NCAA Postseason. Was is Surprising? Not really.

Although the NCAA did make some pretty surprising choices and seedings. In case you were wondering, the Final Bracket looks like this:

The biggest surprise? Probably Baylor and Oklahoma State. That inclusion (and the exclusion of Rhode Island and Dallas Baptist) seems to have most CB Sportswriters up in arms.

That's the only beef I think Auburn fans can have with the Committee. Why were those teams included and Auburn was left out. I'll let ESPN explain it a bit better:

The strangest two inclusions were both from the Big 12 -- Oklahoma State and Baylor. The Cowboys posted a gaudy RPI, but won just two of nine conference series and failed to qualify for the Big 12 tournament. This is the sixth time that a team made the big dance while finishing outside the top eight in its conference; the other instances all involved the SEC, and none of these teams advanced to the super regionals.

Note the bolded Text. It's one thing for an SEC school to be included, and not make the conference tournament. There are 12 Teams in SEC Baseball. So you have 4 teams who don't make it to Hoover. In the Big XII (baseball at least) there are only 10 teams (Iowa St. is a club team/Colorado doesn't play). Meaning if you don't make their Conference tournament, you are one of the bottom 2 teams in the league.

Texas Tech probably has a bigger gripe than Auburn does. At least they made their conference postseason (yet were excluded from the NCAA).

SOME GOODS NEWS, AT LEAST

For those Auburn fans who like to see Alabama suffer, Monday gave a little vindication. Taking 2 of 3 from the Tide cost them a Regional Host slot, and forced them to go to Clemson. So yeah, there's that.

Also, It's not necessarily a bad thing Auburn didn't make the NCAA tournament without going to Hoover. Tom Slater did that same thing in Hoover (and it probably bought him an extra year, and some unneeded apathy).

It sets a precedent. Go to Hoover, then think about the NCAA. Hoover first and foremost. At least the 2010 Tigers can look back and be even hungrier for Hoover. Knowing that without that stop on I-65, the Road to Omaha ends quickly.

DON'T TRY TO UNDERSTAND THE NCAA SELECTION

It's maddening really. For baseball, the NCAA has this weird, "Oh we'll stick 3 or 4 close (geographically, teams together) and then screw out some Northern School". The NCAA, worried about Money/Fans/Travel/etc, did a pretty head scratching job grouping these schools together and finding ones close to each other.

REGIONAL TEAM 2 (Mileage) TEAM 3 (Mileage) TEAM 4 (Mileage) TOTAL AVG AVG  (-Y)
AUSTIN Tex St. (33) BC (1953) Army (1778) 3764 1254 905
Ft Worth TAMU (176) Or. St (2201) WSU (1025) 3402 1134 600
Atlanta Elon (348) USM (381) GSU (2) 559 186 89
Gainesville Miami (344) JU (72) BCC (102) 518 172 87
TEMPE ORU (1121) Cal Poly (582) KSU (2067) 3770 1256 851
CLEMSON Bama (332) OK St (984) TTU (284) 1600 533 380
GREENVILLE USC (275) GMU (277) Bing (581) 1133 377 276
CHAPEL HILL CCU (208) KU (1087) Dartmouth (760) 2055 685 968
FULLERTON GSU (2372) Zaga (1397) Utah (680) 4449 1483 1038
LOUISVILLE MTSU (205) Vandy (175) Indiana (104) 484 161 139
TALLAHASSEE UGA (286) Oh St (838) Marist (1168) 2292 764 562
NORMAN Ark (252) WSU (1840) Wichita (180) 2572 857 366
IRVINE UVA (2549) SDSU (82) Fresno (260) 2891 963 171
OXFORD Mizzou (483) WKU (318) Monmouth (1169) 1970 656 400
HOUSTON KSU (733) XU (1072) SHSU (69) 1874 624 401
BATON ROUGE Minnesota (1210) Baylor (452) Southern (9) 1671 557 230

 

Who did Virginia piss off? The 'Hoos win the ACC Tournament and their reward? Fly across the country to face UC Irvine in the Toughest Regional. You get to travel farther than any other school (Though Georgia Southern has an equal beef, being a #2 Seed but getting shoved to Fullerton, CA).

Oh and Georgia State says "Thank You". Their trip to the Regional? All of 2 miles in Downtown Atlanta.

AND THE AUBURN ANGLE:

Of the 64 Teams in the Dance, Auburn played 13:


Alabama (2-1), Arkansas (0-3), Florida (1-2),  LSU (0-3), Mississippi (0-3), South Carolina (1-2), Vanderbilt (2-1)
Florida St (1-2), Georgia St (1-0), Elon (1-2) Ga. Southern (1-0), Western Ky (1-0), Bethune-Cookman (1-0)

Going a combined 12-16 against the field.

Read more...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

That’ll Do Pig, That’ll Do.

 

It’s pretty much over. The latest NCAA Projections have been released and well, Auburn wasn’t in them.

Not in Rivals.

Not in TheCollegeBaseballBlog

Nowhere.

And with Vandy’s upset win against LSU in the SEC opening round, that’ll probably be the last we hear from the Auburn baseball team for a bit.

But was it a disappointment?

Well, yes. Of course. This is Auburn. We expect to win, even though that hasn’t been the case in the last couple of years. I know it pains Auburn fans (especially ones in the Birmingham area) each continuing year that Auburn misses out on the SEC tournament.

Was it a wasted season?

No. Not in the slightest. 30 wins isn’t anything to sneeze at. Like I’ve said before. It’s akin to a 20 win season in Basketball or a 10 win season in football. This year, however, 30 wins wasn’t enough to slide into the SEC tournament.

Was anything positive?

Well, for me personally, I think we found a set rotation that should last us for a good bit. With Dexter Price, Corey Luckie, and Jon Luke Jacobs, we should have our weekend rotation set, before the 2010 season even begins.

But that’s not to say those positions are set in stone. Give credit to CJP. This incoming recruiting class is loaded with guys who will compete from Day 1. Especially the JUCO guys. (By the Way, we signed another one)

Then there is CJP. I just hope Auburn fans can give him the time he deserves. Just his attitude on and off the field should tell you all you need to know about the future of Auburn baseball. It’s Bright. I’m excited. You should be too.

We should go into 2010 Ranked. More than likely in the Top 20. We lost very little on offense (Joseph Sanders/Ben Jones at that’s it) and the pitching can only go up. We won’t be trotting out Freshman on the hill anymore. They will at least have a year’s worth of experience.

But for now, this will probably close another chapter for AU Baseball. Yes, we could still make the Tournament (but it will be more akin to Arizona making the NCAA Basketball Tournament).

I can put lipstick on this season for months to come, but when it comes down to it, yes, it was a pig of a season. So, that’ll do pig. That’ll do.

Read more...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bits and Pieces

 

NEW ADDITION

Auburn signed another player during the "Late Signing Period". This time P/OF Drew Madrigal who comes from Mt. San Jacinto JUCO. At, MSJ, Madrigal was his conference MVP where he went 9-4, was named Conference MVP, and went over 106 innings with 138 Strikeouts. He also pitched a complete game shutout where he K'd 15. He's also pretty good with the lumber; finishing the regular season hitting .409 with a team high six home runs and 46 RBIs. Madrigal originally signed with Cal-State Northridge before enrolling at MSJ. The Matador's were pretty excited about him coming out of High School:

Drew Madrigal, RHP (Paloma Valley HS/Menifee, Calif.)
Madrigal is a top recruit as a right-handed pitcher, with prototypical arm action and plus movement on all of his pitches. Madrigal possesses tremendous upside, and as a senior has gone 8-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 47.2 innings. He also struck out 48 batters against just 23 walks, and played infield. Madrigal represents one of the best upsides of the incoming class and will push for innings as a freshman. A two-sport athlete in high school, Madrigal also was a standout forward on his high school basketball team.

There is a little debate about whether he could go pro if drafted high enough. So, we'll have to wait and see.

If he comes to Auburn, he will be one of 6 (SIX!) pitchers that Auburn has already signed. Including some other JUCO guys.

AWARDS TIME:

A couple of Tigers picked up some postseason awards.

Joseph Sanders- ALL SEC SECOND TEAM

Ben Jones - SEC SCHOLAR ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Trent Mummey - ALL DEFENSIVE TEAM

Kris West - COMMUNITY SERVICE TEAM

West, one of the few seniors on the team, didn't see the field that much. However, his contributions off the field should be noted:

West, from Huntsville, is a volunteer firefighter/EMT for Monrovia Fire/Rescue and he participated in Fire Prevention Week at several elementary schools in the Huntsville area. A guest speaker at the Cal Ripken, Jr., National Tournament Banquet, he also volunteered for the Dean Road Elementary after-school program and participated in writing letters and delivering them to a second grade class at Moore's Mill Elementary. The baseball team's SAAC representative, he delivered Christmas presents with the coaches and visited the Auburn Little League parks to talk with young players. He also handed out candy to kids visiting Plainsman Park during the week of Halloween and participated in a pair of charity Fun Runs.

Good Job all around guys.

STILL WAITING, STILL WISHING

Conference tournaments will start up soon, Most of the College Baseball Sites don't put up Regional Projections until later in the week, so we'll have to see how that shakes out.

One thing that is beginning to puzzle me is the love for Oklahoma State. The Cowboys and Tigers are pretty much the same team, just in different conferences.

  BOYD RPI OVERALL CONFERNCE RECORD
AUBURN 30 31-22 11-19
OK ST 25 31-25 9-16

Yet, OK State is getting some late season love:

With other bubble teams falling apart the past couple weeks, it wouldn’t surprise me if Oklahoma State ends up in the field of 64. Remember, just because you don’t deserve to be in the field doesn’t mean you can’t be.

The Cowboys ended the regular season with a dismal conference record, but their resume has some pluses. For instance, the Cowboys have an RPI of 25 and a 32-22 record. They also have a 22-19 record against top-100 teams.

Oklahoma State’s resume, as it pertains to the RPI, certainly points to an NCAA regional bid. But will a 9-16 conference record doom OSU?

AND OTHER THINGS:

-The Saga of "The Happy Youngster"

Part 1, Part 2 (possibly broken), Part 3, Part 4...and our latest chapter, Part 5

Basically, Cop (or Rent-A-Cop/ that debate rages), spends his free time going to baseball games and "ballhawking" (i.e. catching, foul/fair/ Home Run/toss up/bullpen/batting practice baseballs). He's ran afoul of some Brewer and Marlins fans because of numerous instances of holding balls "for ransom". Apparently this is nothing new. He catches a ball, team wants said ball back. "Happy Youngster" says possibly, but wants something in return (in the latest case 2 signed bats, one from a player who had nothing to do with the Home Run in question). Still. Fascinating Stuff.

-George Brett is unhappy

-Joe Paterno? Still Wise, Now Feisty

-Keith Olberman. Vin Scully. Head Asplode.

And we leave you with this:

 

 

Read more...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

 

It’s going to be a long week. Auburn will still hold out hope for an NCAA At-Large Bid. Really, though, the team doesn’t know what to think or to expect. Even CJP is torn whether to keep practicing or go ahead and send everyone home:

``There's nothing we can do. You can sit there and watch the scores come in and watch what happens, but we're going to keep moving forward and see what happens,'' he said. ``I'm going to meet with the players and then we'll decide what we're going to do."

So what shot do we have?

It’s still slim and our best hope probably lies in Vanderbilt:

• It’s time to welcome Vanderbilt back to the NCAA bubble. The Commodores, despite a pair of losses to begin the Tennessee series, entered Saturday with an RPI of 38. However, after getting swept by the Vols with a 9-7 setback on Saturday, the ‘Dores have much to prove in the conference tournament. Vandy finished the regular season with a 12-17 record in the SEC. In most seasons, any team that reaches the SEC tournament deserves to be in an NCAA regional. Vandy, though, may be an exception.

Vandy made the SEC tournament. 2 quick losses could eliminate them from the NCAA Regionals as well.

THE RPI’s

In the official NCAA RPI, Auburn has a ranking of 34 (this was before taking the series from Alabama)

One of the best sites for calulating RPIs (boydsworld.com) has Auburn with an RPI of 31 (factoring in the series win against Alabama)

HOW I SEE IT

If Auburn is going to get in. It will be just barely. The Strength of Schedule is there, the RPI needs work. In the latest NCAA Projections from Rivals.  Auburn is still floating around in the “Next 15” category. Meaning Auburn will probably need to be better than the following teams: Baylor, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Troy, Dallas Baptist, College of Charleston, BYU, Oklahoma State, Southeastern Louisiana, San Diego, Western Carolina, Florida International, Tulane, and Kentucky. Yeah. That many teams. However, well look at this:

Team Boyds RPI  NCAA RPI Last 5 Last 10 Record
Auburn 31 34 4-1 4-6 31-25
Baylor 29 21 1-4 2-8 27-22
Hawaii 44 33 3-1* 5-4* 31-23
Rhode Island 59 65 3-2 6-4 35-18
Troy 65 52 3-2 8-2 32-21
Dallas Baptist 36 47 3-2 6-4 38-16
C of C 48 41 1-4 6-4 34-20
BYU 61 63 4-1 4-6 28-22
OK State 27 25 2-2* 3-6* 31-22
SE LA 55 46 3-2 7-3 35-30
San Diego 46 56 2-3 2-8 29-25
WCU 49 50 4-1 7-3 34-20
FIU 67 61 3-2 8-2 32-21
Tulane 68 66 4-1 6-4 32-23
Kentucky 42 48 2-3 6-4 27-26

BOLD text = statistic is better/equal to Auburn’s

*Final Game not finished at time of posting

So, now as it stands, only 2 of the bubble teams have better RPIs (Baylor and OK State) but Baylor has both a worse record in the last 5 and the Last 10. Baylor also has a worse overall record.

WHAT OTHER’S SAY:

The questions was posed to Kendall Rogers (College Baseball Analyst) on the Rivals Message Board: Does Auburn get a Regional Bid?

His answer?

Auburn has no business being in the postseason... so I'll say no.

I’ll disagree. “No Business” is kind of harsh and Auburn has a better RPI than all but 2 of the so-called “bubble teams” listed by Rivals. I’d say Auburn is even better than Vanderbilt (who got into the SEC) and Auburn beat them head to head.

SO NOW WE WAIT:

And let Tom Petty (and Gary Shandling?) Take it from here.

Read more...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What’s Next?

 

AN NCAA BID

No, it’s not out of the question that Auburn could sneak into the NCAA tournament based on RPI alone.

However, that’s unlikely. Yes, the precedent has been set before. Auburn managed to sneak in during Tom Slater’s first year and Arkansas got in last year. In fact, since the NCAA switched to the 64 team format in 1999 an SEC has managed to make the NCAA tournament without making the SEC tourney in 6 of the last 10 years:

1999: Kentucky (SEC 5th Seed/No NCAA), South Carolina (SEC 3rd Seed/No NCAA)

2000: Kentucky (Made SEC/Missed NCAA) UGA (Made SEC/Missed NCAA)

2001: Ole Miss (Missed SEC/Made NCAA)

2002: Ole Miss (Made SEC/Missed NCAA)

2003: Vanderbilt (Made SEC/Missed NCAA)

2004: Mississippi State (Missed SEC/Made NCAA)

2005: Auburn (Missed SEC/Made NCAA)

2006: Mississippi State (Missed SEC/Made NCAA), LSU (Made SEC/Missed NCAA)

2007: Florida (Made SEC/Missed NCAA), Tennessee (Made SEC/Missed NCAA)

2008: Arkansas (Missed SEC/Made NCAA)

But the rest of the NCAA might just be too strong. So if Auburn keeps the season going, we’ll  have to find out on Selection day.

SUMMER BALL

The guys should be busy this summer playing in different collegiate summer leagues. Last year we had a ton of guys who used the offseason to hone their skills.

There are 8 different leagues that make up the NACSB: The Atlantic, Cape Cod, Prospect, Florida, Valley, Southern, New York, and Great Lakes. Probably the biggest and most well know summer league. However, there are a ton of others.

Most of leagues start within a month or so and we’ll see where everyone ends up.

THE MLB DRAFT

A question that gets asked alot by Auburn fans: Is Hunter Morris coming back?

The answer? He doesn’t really have a choice. He’s not eligible for the 2009 draft.

Say What?

Eligibility

In order to be drafted a player must fit the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of the United States, Canada, or a U.S. territory such as Puerto Rico. Players from other countries are not subject to the draft, and can be signed by any team.
  • Have never signed a major or minor league contract.
  • High school players are eligible only after graduation, and if they have not attended college.
  • Players at four-year colleges are eligible after completing their junior years, or after their twenty-first birthdays. The exception to this is Division III schools, where players can be drafted before their junior year.
  • Junior and community college players are eligible to be drafted at any time.

The following players on Auburn’s current roster are eligible for the upcoming MLB Draft:

Paul Burnside (P/SR)

Grant Dayton (P/So) (Grant’s Birthday is 11/25/87,  so he’ll be 21 by draft time)

Austin Hubbard (P/JR)

Mike Hurst (P/Jr)

Ryan Jenkins (C/Sr)

Ben Jones (OF/Sr)

Bradley Ray (OF/Jr)

Joseph Sanders (IF/Jr)

Scott Shuman (Jr/P)*

Taylor Thompson (Jr/P)

Kris West (Sr/P)

That means that guys like Justin Hargett, Brian Fletcher, and Hunter Morris, will all be back.

Scott Shuman was previously drafted out of High School by the Brewers. He joins Hunter Morris (Red Sox), Kevin Patterson (White Sox), and Adam Purdy (Twins) as current Auburn players who were previously drafted.

Of course the MLB Draft could affect Auburn’s incoming draft class:

2009 Auburn Baseball Signees
(Name Ht. Wt. Pos. B/T Previous School Hometown)
Luke Bailey 6-0 195 C R/R Troup County HS LaGrange, GA
Justin Bryant 5-11 175 RHP/IF R/R Itawamba CC Oneonta, AL
Garrett Bush 6-5 190 RHP/C R/R Stanton Prep HS Jacksonville, FL
Nick Franklin 6-1 175 IF S/R Lake Brantley HS Longwood, FL
Cody Martin 6-2 200 IF L/R Stephens County HS Toccoa, GA
Patrick Merkling 6-1 170 LHP L/L Etowah HS Woodstock, GA
Cole Nelson 6-7 230 LHP L/L Des Moines Area CC Edina, MN
Patrick Savage 6-2 210 IF/OF R/R Greater Atlanta Christian Suwanee, GA
Creede Simpson 6-2 180 OF/IF R/R Northwest Florida State College Auburn, AL
Slade Smith 6-2 185 RHP R/R Fort Payne HS Fort Payne, AL
Ryan Welke 6-4 195 C R/R Rickards HS Tallahassee, FL

As all of these guys are eligible for the draft.

Last year Auburn lost Tyler Stovall (Braves) and Ryan Upchurch (White Sox) to the draft.

This year, the hot name is Luke Bailey, a projected 1st Round pick, but seeing as how he is recovering from Tommy John surgery, he might wait out the MLB, sign with Auburn (and possibly redshirt)

Read more...

2 Out of 3 Ain’t Bad

 

The good news? Auburn won the resumed game of Friday night’s game 3-1 to take the season series against Alabama.

The bad news? Auburn’s probably needed a sweep in order to keep whatever slim postseason hopes they had alive. That hope went away following Alabama’s 7 inning 13-3 win in game three.

Game two was all about pitching and was all about Sean Ray. He let Alabama baffled, not allowing a run in 5 and 1/3 innings. He only allowed 2 hits and 2 walks. That’s it.

Game Three. That was all Alabama. After holding the Alabama bats in check for the first two games, Auburn couldn’t keep them asleep any longer. The Tide broke out and rocked Auburn for 13 runs, including 3 home runs.

Sure, it wasn’t how Auburn would have liked to end the series but, well, I’ll let Meat Loaf take it from here:

So that, more than likely, closes the books on another Auburn season. War Eagle Boys. You kept fighting until the end. Hopefully, the RPI will be enough to get a tournament invite.

Read more...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bravo, Boys. Bravo.

 

(Photo from Van Emst, AU)

Well, that was surprising.

Quick Quiz:

1. What has been Auburn’s # 1 Struggle All Year?

2. What has Auburn failed to do most of the Year offensively?

3. What has been Auburn’s biggest offensive weapon this year?

Answers:

1. Pitching

2. Play Small Ball (i.e. move runners over, use timely hits)

3. The Home Run

How Did Auburn beat Alabama last night?

By reversing all those trends. A solid combination of pitching, small ball, and not having to rely on home runs for points.

It was surprising to say the least. Jon Luke Jacobs pitched a gem. Joseph Sanders finally returned. Auburn never quit.

Battling back to score the tieing run in the bottom of the ninth and showing (gasp) patience with the bases loaded to take a walk in the bottom of the 10th and beat Alabama to open the final series of the year.

THE PITCHING

Nothing can be written here that would do these guys justice. Jon Luke Jacobs and Austin Hubbard. Wow.

Jacobs: 7 IP/ 2 er/ 9 K/ 2 BB

Hubbard: 3 IP/ 5 K/ 0 ER

Jacobs kept us in it. Hubbard closed the door. Both were dazzling. Hubbard especially,

THE HITTING

Early on in the game, Auburn struggled with runners in scoring position. Leaving men stranded on Second Base in the 1st and 3rd. But when it mattered most. In the Seventh Inning, Ninth, and Tenth. Auburn capitalized.

All without a HR. All without an extra base hit.

THE INTANGIBLES

The biggest thing? Auburn never quit.

"The kids just kept battling back," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said. "Both pitchers went out there and were dominating. We couldn't get much going, but fortunately for us we battled back."

I wish I could find the picture, but it summed it up perfectly. The change in attitude. In the 9th. Down a run. Down the their final out. Tony Caldwell came up big. Ripping a all through the gap. On TV you could see the shot from the Auburn dugout. All the player with RALLY CAPS on. That’s right. RALLY CAPS. These guys were having fun last night. They were a team and Auburn is a different team under CJP.

It’s evident in the sign all the players touch before entering the field:

EXPECT TO WIN. ETW.

OTHER NOTES:

Four Jobus. Four out of Four. Yes, I know Jobus is normally out of five. However, we have to have new expectations to end the season.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Season in Review: The Intangibles

 

This year, as painful as it is for me to admit, Auburn was a bad luck team this year. There were a few things just out of the Tigers hands/control.

1. Injuries

Going in to the season, Auburn knew it had an uphill climb, just based on injuries alone. Ryan Jenkins and Corey Luckie, just to start the season. Joseph Sanders for a good portion of the final third of the season (and no coincidence that his absence coincided with Auburn's power loss). Not to mention Hunter Morris for a couple of game here and there (and being suspended for another).

Also, I'm still not convinced that Paul Burnside and Taylor Thompson were ever 100% back from their offseason surgeries. That's a big chunk of arms to lose before even playing a game.

2. Youth, Experience

While Juniors and Seniors are rare in College Baseball, Auburn made it a habit of playing Freshmen and Sophomores. Our normal starting lineup?:

C - Tony Caldwell - Soph.

1B - Hunter Morris - Soph.

2B - Justin Hargett - Soph

3B - Joseph Sanders - Junior

SS- Casey McElroy - Freshman

DH- Kevin Patterson - Soph

RF - Ben Jones - Senior 

CF - Trent Mummey - Soph.

LF - Brian Fletcher - Soph.

That's just two true "upperclassman" on the roster.

3. New Coach, New System

We've already sang this song before. No use really going over it again. Still, it's an intangible that goes beyond the normal W-L record.

4. The Late Season Swoon

Think 2009 was the first year Auburn just simply collapsed? Not exactly.

2008: After starting the SEC season winning 3 of the their first 4 SEC series. The Tigers wouldn't win another series until Mississippi State. Losing 5 of its last 6 series.

2007: Auburn, in the thick of the SEC race, would only win 4 of it's final 11 SEC games. Two of those wins coming in the final Series to UK (which the Tigers won) but by that point it was too little too late.

2006: Auburn loses 11 of it's final 12 SEC games. Including a streak of 10 straight games to close the season.

It's a pretty daunting task to stop a trend and habit of losing to end seasons, in just CJP's first year at the helm.

Read more...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Season in Review: The Numbers

 

In my last post I talked about the different philosophies between “Slammin Slater’s” hyper agressive style and CJP’s “blue collar” style. Relying on Home Runs and big innings is dangerous because when they dry up, you’re stuck with no offense and a reliance on a pitching staff to keep games close (which Auburn showed it couldn’t do). Looking back at the season some trends became awfully disturbing:

First a little caveat. I’m a sucker for graphs. This clip from “How I Met Your Mother” Should explain. Me= Marshall.

 

So now on to the Auburn baseball graphs.

1. The Heavy Dependence on Power

The number of HRs per game fluctuated wildly with huge spikes coming in the various non conference snaky cake games. However, it’s no surprise that in Auburn’s two late season slides (beginning at Florida and the final stretch with Ole Miss and Kentucky that ultimately sealed AU’s fate). The Power just dried up.

 

Once the power tried up. So did the Run Production.

Ignoring the abnormality against Troy; the number of runs per game steadily began to decline and never was able to cross into the “safe zone” of 5-10 runs per game.

The lack of power was also evident in the sharp decline in team batting average:

You can see, when Auburn hit it's biggest slide, the team BA started to slope downward.

The loss of power lead to less patience at the plate, which translated to more strikeouts:

It got so bad, that at times, Auburn was Striking Out more times then it got hits:

Those times when the Red bar is higher or equal to the blue? That’s not good. Not good at all.

Finally, just how dependent was Auburn on the HR to spark the offense?

The red is runs created by Homeruns. You can see that earlier in the season there was a good balance; towards the end of the year, as the power left, so did the wins and Auburn became heavily dependent on the HR.

2. The Heavy Dependence on Power (SEC)

During the SEC run, the hits were still coming:

but you can still the Valleys where Auburn Hitters just couldn’t figure out SEC arms.

There was still the lack of patience:

 

That huge spike in KOs and drop in hits? That would be the UK series and the series that ultimately spelled Auburn’s doom.

To put it simply: the series we won? We hit HRs. The series we lost? We went cold.

All that translated to a lack of runs:

3. The Pitching

The problem with the pitching staff was pretty simple. As the season went on, the control went away. More walks, less strikeouts, lead to more runs being scored on the staff:

and Just like Auburn, offensively, felt a steep decline in the number of hits but a rise in the number of KOs; the pitching staff saw an increase in walks and huge drop in Ks:

You can see the blue become significantly evident towards the end of the year. No surprise that that was the same time Auburn began its losing ways.

4. The Biggest Problem

It wasn’t the pitching. It wasn’t the hitting. The real killer for Auburn this year? Fielding. Auburn just gave up too many unearned runs:

Read more...

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