5P Primer: Kentucky
An old coach used to always hammer the 5 "Ps": Prior planning prevents poor performance. Not just a fancy slogan that gets a High School football coach/Driver's Ed instructor through the day; it's also a good way to know what to expect from upcoming Auburn opponents. Here's your 5 "Ps" for Auburn's next opponent: Kentucky
PRESENTING: The Kentucky Wildcats. Honestly, there’s not much to say about UK baseball. Historically, a terrible team that has manage to fluctuate from solid to moderate over the past few years. The Cats posted only 1 winning season from 97-04 but found Cinderella’s slipper in 2007 when they won the SEC title (but imploded in the SEC and NCAA tourneys). 08 and 07 saw UK sprint out to 19-0 records but falter down the stretch. This year’s UK team will probably be known more for what could have been with stud pitcher James Paxton. Paxton came in to the season College Baseball blog’s #7 player and was going to return to the bluegrass even after being selected 37th overall by the Blue Jays. What followed was a bizzare story in which Paxton ended up suing the school he was going to return to:
The University of Kentucky’s ace pitcher sued the university in state court Wednesday, charging that athletic officials threatened to bar him from playing if he did not agree to meet with N.C.A.A. investigators, even though he was not told what rules he was accused of violating.
The left-hander James Paxton returned to Kentucky for his senior year after he decided not to sign with the Toronto Blue Jays, who selected him 37th over all in the 2009 amateur draft. In his lawsuit, Paxton said a university official told him in October to meet with an N.C.A.A. investigator, but instructed him not to tell his parents or his lawyers about the interview. Paxton also said that Kentucky’s athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, told him that he would not be allowed to play on the team until he submitted to the interview. Paxton said he has never been told the nature of the allegations against him.
Needless to say the loss has been huge for UK this year.
PREVIOUSLY: First year coach Gary Henderson’s team is currently sitting at 22-15 but are coming off an absolute demoshiling by Western Kentucky where Big Blue was crushed 24-8 in a game that included a 16 run inning, 21 hits and 5 HRs. UK has only won 4 road games all season (1 against Arkansas, Cincinnati, San Diego and Monmouth). Last year UK took the series winning 6-5, 6-3, before Auburn bounced back to win 7-5 on Sunday. Rotation wise UK is a mess. Paxton (as you read above) is out and so is normal Sunday starter Alex Meyer who is battling mono. What UK does have is JR LHP Taylor Rogers on Saturday and Freshman LHP Logan Darnell on Friday:
Logan Darnell (3-2/4.77/JR/LHP/6’2)
Taylor Rogers (4-4/4.92/FR/LHP/6’3)
PLAYMAKERS: Kentucky is interesting to scout. They have a couple of mashers like Andy Burns (11 HR) and Chad Wright (55 hits). Sprinkled in with a couple of speeders like Neiko Johnson (17 SB) and Chris Bisson (15 SB). Wright has been the normal sparkplug and the Sophomore Left Fielder leads the team in average, while Senior 1B Gunner Glad leads the tam in RBI. Bisson, the everyday second baseman is an All American. That’s really about it. Not to downplay UK but they’ve yet to have a guy completely step up and take charge. The pitching isn’t there and while the team can mash (3rd in the SEC with 53 HR), they just can’t seem to put enough offense together on a consistent basis.
PREVIEW- Quick. Which team has the better pitching staff? If you guessed Kentucky you’d be wrong. I actually had to double check it myself but the UK staff is actually worse (statistically) than Auburn.
In most cases both teams are pretty evenly matched, but that’s a huge gap in ERA. In the field, Auburn’s .957 Fielding % is still worst in the SEC, but UK isn’t far behind at .963. UK has a pretty big liability in the field in Shortstop Taylor Black. His 15 errors are 2nd worst in the SEC and he’s grounded into 5 double plays this season. Also, while Andy Burns might have 11 HR he also sports a cool .276 avg and 30 Ks.
PREDICTION: At the very least Auburn should win the series. UK has shown they are terrible on the road, has huge holes in the pitching staff, and Auburn has been mashing lately. I wouldn’t be surprised with an Auburn sweep and if that happens then that’s one step closer to Hoover and better yet, one step closer to hosting a regional.