Sometimes it’s good to know what’s going on in the minds of the guys across the field. So from time to time, AUPPL will lend the floor to his week’s opponents to get an insider’s look at the next Auburn opponent. Here’s BrianWalker'sElbow from Red Cup Rebellion for our visit this week. You can find my answers to his questions over at RCR:
AUPPL: What's been the hallmark of a Mike Bianco club?
RCR: Bianco's clubs always have these two characteristics: pitching and defense. He does a superb job of recruiting and developing pitchers. If you look at Drew Pomeranz's development from his freshman year until now, it is astonishing, and many now believe he'll be drafted in the top 10. Aaron Barrett came from the JUCO ranks and had a terrible season as a junior last season, and now he has a respectable 3.26 ERA and is second in the SEC behind Pomeranz in strikeouts. As far as defense is concerned, Bianco is much more concerned with the glove than he is the bat. We've consistently played players that could not hit (2009 version of our current shortstop Kevin Mort or 2008 Brett Basham, both of which flirted with the Mendoza line) instead of putting a defensive liability out there. Lastly, he plays small ball. I've seen him bunt in the first inning after a lead-off double. He loves bunting so much the suicide squeeze is almost expected with a runner on third.
AUPP: What's the biggest weakness (besides the bullpen and the collective groan from the fans when Rory McKean takes the mound)?
RCR: At the middle of the season, I would have definitely said the bullpen as your question mentions. I would still say that, but this team has even worse issues. Our offense is atrociously bad. Last weekend against Alabama, we hit .214 as a team and only scored 8 runs on the weekend. Two of their pitchers pitched complete games against us! The weekend before against Arkansas, we only scored 7 runs all weekend. This is partly due to DH Matt Snyder having shoulder problems stemming from an early season dislocation, and partly inexplicable. If Auburn hits like usual, it's going to get embarrassing in Oxford.
AUPPL: Has Ole Miss found any consistency as a 3rd day starter? I know that has been an issue for the Rebels all season.
RCR: Third starter seems like it is an issue every year for Ole Miss. We move guys in and out of the spot, and it never seems to work. We began the season with Trent Rothlin, and that experiment failed. The real issue seemed to be our team's lack of motivation and focus on Sundays. If you don't score any runs, does it matter what the pitching does? Anyway, David Goforth is the answer right now. Bianco has announced TBA for weeks now, but Goforth always pitches. Two weeks ago against Arkansas, Goforth started changing his arm slot. He typically throws heat in the 92-94 range, and he drops to a 3/4 slot with the same array of pitches to try to give batters a different look. He's improved throughout the season, and I think Ole Miss fans are pretty comfortable with the effort he gives on Sundays.
AUPPL: Would this season still be considered a success for Ole Miss, even if they don't host a regional?
RCR:That's a difficult question. For me, every season is a failure if we don't get to Omaha, but I'll get to that question in a bit. Prior to the season, we had way too many question marks for any fan to think we would even be in contention for a regional host. If we had just been terrible, it would not have been that big of a deal. I think that I predicted 16 SEC wins, which is the worst case scenario at this point. Since all we had to do to secure regional host spot was not tank over the last three weeks, I think blowing the SEC West lead and losing a regional host spot is somewhat a disappointment. All things considered, no one can be upset with what Bianco has done with the team this year.
AUPPL: Has the success of the Rebels sparked an "Omaha or bust" attitude?
RCR: For me personally, it has sparked an "Omaha or bust" attitude." Bianco has done wonders for this program, he is a great developer of talent, and his teams are fun to watch. However, losing in the supers in 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009 makes me really impatient. Most of the fans are old enough to remember the pre-Bianco years when Ole Miss Baseball was irrelevant, so they don't want to get mad at the one who brought them to the dance. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next five years because the stadium expansion, Bianco's high pay, and student support are above and beyond what most teams need to get to Omaha.
RCR: The Rebels are in a nasty slump and have not played well for a long time. Auburn is the hot team, and I foresee them winning the West by taking two in Oxford.