Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Other News: Boobs.

I was over at a buddy's house this weekend and he had a copy of The Auburn Plainsman (specifically the March 25th edition). Skimming through I looked down on page B1, lower left corner and saw this (censored for puritan tastes):

I had to do a double take to be sure, but yep. Those are boobs. Granted they are artfully done boobs, but boobs nonetheless. Personally, it doesn't bother me; I find it more comical than anything else and can see how it managed to slip through. The Plainsman doesn't have an advisor anymore and when the journalism school was merged with Communications department, most aspiring journalists have been looking elsewhere for school. Those that do attend Auburn with dreams and aspirations of journalism are probably doing it because of their passion for Auburn first and passion for journalism second. Regardless, I wasn't the only person that noticed because the digital print edition now has an edited versions on the website.

enhanced and zoomed in like so:

Nothing big and not trying to cause a stink, I just thought it was funny (then again, I have a bizarre sense of humor). Anyway, baseball Wednesday, Slade Smith takes the mound as the Tigers travel to Troy and get a midweek tuneup before the Iron Bowl series this Easter Weekend.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Recap: Cold ‘Cocked


I have mixed emotions from this weekend’s series. Auburn played ugly baseball Friday, lost a heartbreaker Saturday, and did enough to win and rebound on Sunday. Yes, losing the series is frustrating, especially after being so close on Saturday,  but on the positive side, 1) it wasn’t a sweep 2) Auburn still remains tied for 2nd in the West (and 4th overall) in the SEC and 3) better to have that one win Sunday and carry the momentum into the next series. I’ve linked the official recaps but here’s my take on the weekend action:

What can be said about Friday? Absolutely nothing. Auburn had the crowd, the momentum, and looked geeked up to finally snap a ridiculously long losing streak to the Gamecocks. However, it just wasn’t Cory Luckie’s night. Nothing was biting, nothing was fooling, and Coach John Pawlowski summed it up best:

"We got behind so early in the ball game. We were down 8-2 before we came to bat in the second inning and that makes it tough against a team like South Carolina. They jumped us early," Auburn Head Coach John Pawlowski said.

Before Auburn could even blink, they were down 6 runs, Luckie had been pulled (after 1 and 2/3rds), and we had to rely on the bullpen to keep the game close. Credit Jon Luke Jacobs for keeping the game close (5.1 ip/5h/3r/1er/3bb/2k) but a 6 run deficit is hard to overcome by any team, much less a team like South Carolina. The rest of the game turned into a nightmare for Auburn, our hitting turned ice cold, the errors started piling up, and the crowd started to thin early. Plain and simple: Auburn just got Cold ‘Cocked on Friday.

That set up a Saturday game at High Noon, on TV, and with Auburn’s best pitcher on the mound. Normally, an outing to the tune of 7.2 ip/4h/1er/0bb by Cole Nelson should be enough to win. However, credit the South Carolina pitching staff. They showed why they are one of the best in the SEC. Sam Dyson (one of the best pitchers in the league) went 7 innings/10h/9k and Carolina really rode him for 116 pitches. He limited the damage and hit his spots all day, and even though Auburn had the bases loaded at least twice, the Tigers failed to plate a run. Those are the breaks sometimes. You could argue about the officiating till you are blue in the face, but the onus lands squarely on Auburn and it was the first time Auburn had been shut out at Plainsman Park since 2005.

That set up a Sunday showdown, or “Championship Sunday” as Coach Palowski has been calling them. Philip Marshall called it the most important game on this young season. Thankfully Auburn responded to salvage a 10-6 Sunday win.

SO WHAT DID WE LEARN?

First I have to disagree with Kendall Rogers over at Rivals, who put Auburn in his “Weekend Losers” category:

Auburn (17-7) – The Tigers had a pair of midweek wins, one a fantastic win over rival Alabama. But with a chance to record a tide-turning SEC series win, the Tigers dropped two of three to South Carolina. Now they hit the road next weekend to face Alabama in a three-game series.

Going in, I thought Auburn’s best hope was just avoiding a sweep. I thought we’d take 1 game, but winning a series against a team that has been a perpetual thorn in Auburn’s side (and a team who Auburn hasn’t won a series against since the late 90s) was a tall order. The only people who seemed to be doubting Carolina were baseball writers. Watching the team, and knowing about Carolina, I’m actually surprised they are ranked so low. Reading between the lines, it seems like Rogers isn’t giving Auburn a chance against Alabama. However, this is a Crimson Tide team that is riding a four game losing streak (after being swept by Arkansas) and it’s a series that Auburn knows will be big in developing separation in the SEC. As it stands now here’s where Auburn is in the standings:

Rank Team Record
1 LSU 5-1
1 USC 5-1
3 Auburn 4-2
3 Arkansas 4-2
3 Ole Miss 4-2
3 Florida 4-2
3 Vandy 4-2
8 Alabama 2-4
8 Mississippi State 2-4
10 Kentucky 1-5
10 Georgia 1-5
12 Tennessee 0-6

Let’s be clear about one thing: Auburn’s goal this season is getting back to Hoover. That simple. A Return to Hoover shows that Auburn is back. Hoover leads to a regional, which leads to a rebirth in the program. All we have to do is be better than 4 teams in the league. Right now I say those 4 are UT, UGA (done), Mississippi State, and Kentucky. To be better than these teams we’ll have to win series against them (and in a perfect world sweep the series) and maybe steal a series from a mid-level team like Alabama, Vanderbilt, or Arkansas. You definitely don’t want to get swept. Looking at the SEC race, this upcoming Alabama series is a game changer. If we can take 2 out of 3 from the Tide then we can put legit distance between us and the bottom of the pack (and for good note, it will send Bama into a tailspin)

I’m not worried about our hitting. Yes, we went into polarbear-toenail mode for a bit, but the display we put on Sunday, reaffirmed my faith in the Tigers. Auburn scored 10 runs and those ten runs were all scored on a majority of singles, bunts, and smart base running. The first extra base hit didn’t come until Tony Caldwell smacked a double late in the game. With the addition of Justin Fradejas, Auburn is slowly coming back to full strength on offense.

The errors I’m also not concerned about, because frankly, they will take care of themselves. The more games Auburn plays, the better we will get in the field. Plus, and this is just me spitballing, but I think the return of Trent Mummey will push Dan Gamache back to the bench. When Mummey returns we will be loaded in the outfield (Fradejas, Mummey, Simpson, Caldwell, Bryant, Fletcher) and someone is going to be the odd way out.

Pitching wise, I’m going to be interested to see how CJP plays Luckie’s Friday performance. If Corey loses his Friday starter status after that performance, then it will show CJP has a short leash and our rotation is in total flux. Big picture this isn’t a bad thing, because as the midweek games dwindle, Auburn will be able to choose the best pitcher for the SEC series.

For now the focus is in-state. Tigers travel to Troy mid-week then to Tuscaloosa for a huge SEC series. A series I’m already going to dub the “Sink or Swim” Series. If Auburn takes 2 of 3 from Bama then we will be looking better and can breath easier on our journey to Hoover. If we lose the series? We will be treading water for a while. All photos used are Todd Van Emst Photos and can be found here.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Late Notes Before First Pitch


You can check out some additional thoughts and ramblings about the game from me at Track 'Em Tigers.

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5P Primer: South Carolina

 

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: South Carolina


PRESENTING- The University of South Carolina Gamecocks, aka the steamroller of the SEC. While Auburn has struggled over the past few years, Carolina has been red hot, putting together impressive runs from 2001 to 2004 (Where they were the winningest program in the NCAA) or their current streak (2000-2009) that they have dubbed “The Decade of Dominance”. Either way, the Aughts have been very good to the Cocks as they’ve been to the NCAA tourney every year since 2000 (Ten Straight), won the title outright in 00 and 02, and the tourney in 04. It’s a team that knows how to play good baseball. It’s also a fan base who knows how to be annoying, I’m talking Arkansas levels of annoying. As a bit if advice to Auburn fans going to the game this weekend. Avoid the first base line. Carolina travels well, their fan base is vocal, and you really don’t want to spend a game sitting by them. Carolina was picked to finish 2nd in the SEC East this year (with 2 Champion votes). They come in ranked 14 (Baseball America), 18 (Collegiate Baseball), 23 (USA Today), 21 (NCBWA) and we’re preseason number 10 going into the year (by Baseball America). A number of Garnet and Black players enter the year with preseason honors: C Kyle Enders was named to the 2010 Johnny Bench watchlist; RHP Sam Dyson (below) is a Golden Spikes candidate, as well as a a preseason all American.

PREVIOUSLY- Historically, this is a team that has had Auburn’s number. Carolina owns a 31-14 edge (14-7 at Plainsman Park) and has won each of the last 10 series. The last time Auburn won a series against USC was 1997 and have only won series against the birds three times (92,96,97). So history is going a bit against the Tigers going into play. This year, the Gamecocks are 17-4 and come in riding an impressive 11 game winning streak. Their only 4 losses have come against ECU and Clemson, two big national names. Last week the dispatched Tennessee easily, sweeping the Vols 4-2, 10-7, and 4-0. Sunday’s game was probably USC best pitching performance to date, as they combined to one hit UT with the lone baserunner coming on a bunt single. The starting rotation is one of the most solid in the league, as evidence by their splits from the last 4 games:

Blake Cooper (SR/RHP) 3-0/2.90 ERA/32k/11bb

OPP
IP
H
R
ER
SO
BB
DEC

ECU
7
4
2
2
4
2
W

Clemson
6.2
7
3
3
7
1
ND

Brown
6
2
2
2
6
4
W

UT
6.1
4
2
1
8
2
ND

Sam Dyson (Jr/RHP) 1-0/5.40 ERA/27k/6bb

OPP
IP
H
R
ER
SO
BB
DEC

ECU
4
2
2
2
5
1
ND

Clemson
5.2
5
4
4
7
2
ND

Brown
4
7
6
6
4
0
ND

UT
6
5
2
2
5
2
ND

Tyler Webb (Fr/LHP) 1-1/2.53 ERA/23k/9bb

OPP
IP
H
R
ER
SO
BB
DEC

ECU*
4.1
2
0
0
3
0
Relief

Clemson
1.1
1
4
4
1
4
L

Brown
5.2
4
2
2
7
1
ND

UT
5.2
1
0
0
6
3
W




PLAYMAKERS- You’ll notice above that the Carolina starters haven’t really gone deep into many games. Honestly the don’t need too. When in doubt, the Gamecocks can turn to their bullpen where they have 4 guys with exceptional stuff. Ethan Carter (7 appearances/1.04 ERA) Parker Bangs (9app/1.74 ERA) Mike Roth (13 app/3.52 ERA) and Matt Price (7 app/2.45 ERA). Price and Carter are just Freshman. On paper, that’s their strongest area. Sam Dyson is their stud pitcher (although the record doesn’t indicate it). He came in at #29 on College Baseball Blogs Top 100:

Dyson sat out the 2007 college season as he received a medical redshirt as he had surgery on his right elbow. He saw his first action during the 2008 season where he went a perfect 8-0 with a 4.09 ERA in 12 appearances including nine starts. He ended up striking out 44 batters in 50.1 innings of work. He was named a Freshman All-American honors from Collegiate Baseball.

Dyson continued with a strong sophomore season in 2009 as he went 9-4 with a 5.21 ERA as he struck out 94 batters in 102 innings of work. He let up 18 homers on the season but opponents only hit .237 off of him. He struggled with his control as he walked 37 batters and hit 10. The Oakland A’s selected him in the tenth round of the 2009 MLB Draft but were not able to come to terms with him.

Two bash brothers to look for are Carolina’s RF Whit Merrifield and 1B Nick Ebert. Ebert (below) is a preseason All American who lead the team with 23 HR and 72 RBIs last year. This year, Merrifield is the biggest power hitter, he’s battering a solid .352 with 5 HR, 28 runs and 21 RBI (all team leads).

Also keep and eye out for C Kyle Enders (.361) a team captain and 2B Scott Wingo, who come on a torrid pace of late (.333).

PREVIEW-

Fans expecting a highs scoring affair like last weekend are going to be mistaken. Against UGA, Auburn was able to eek out a few runs and then explode when it got to the Bulldog bullpen. This weekend, that strategy isn’t going to work. The Carolina bullpen is that good. The starting rotation could be knocked around a bit, but Auburn will have to come out smoking to start the game. Whatever the case, when Auburn gets men on base, they need to get them home. I know that seems like basic baseball, but with a USC team that’s one of the best in the nation defensively, Basically, if a ball is in play, Carolina seems to turn it into an out.

Statistically, there is a huge divide among the teams. Auburn will come into the weekend with leading the SEC in slugging %, HR, Runs, RBI, HR, and Total Bases. While Carolina comes in about the middle of the pack.

Two things to think about it when it comes to Auburn’s offense: First, we aren’t at our peak level yet. With Trent Mummey still out, and Justin Fredajas just returning, I’d say Auburn is running at about 80% of our offensive efficiency right now. In addition, Auburn has left a ton of runners on base. To win this weekend, that has to change. Any base runner Auburn gets on, needs to score. Thankfully, with our new hitting approach Auburn has been able to manufacture runs better.

Carolina won’t overpower anyone, but they will dink and dunk singles all day, so our fielding needs to be spot on. Limit the errors and you limit the free passes. Offensively, Carolina is consistent. Not flashy, not powerful, just get men on and get them home. The do rank around 4-6 in almost every offensively category. However, with Auburn’s rotation and bullpen gaining confidence, I don’t think that matchup will be the difference in the game. Especially since USC is hitting only .290 against LHP (as opposed to .309 vs RHP). Auburn will trot out two (at least) LHP.

Instead, it will be the USC pitching versus the Auburn hitting. Carolina comes in leading the league in Opposing Batting AVG and teams are only hitting a measly .208 against them. They kill rallys with a SEC high 224 Ks (74 of those looking, also an SEC high). They’ve only given up a league low 144 hits and 19 doubles. There only weakness seems to be a pension for giving up the long ball (which would play into Auburn’s favor).

That’s the key to the series, but Auburn fans have known it all along. Score Early, Score Often, and hold on tight.

PREDICTION- The atmosphere should be electric all weekend, especially with Saturday’s game being on TV. I’m torn about my prediction. The Auburn fan in me says AU will take 2 out of 3. The realist in me says Carolina takes 2 out of 3. However, it being at home, and Auburn being on a roll, I’m going to let the Auburn fan speak a little louder. AUBURN WINS TWO OUT OF THREE. On thing is for certain, AU needs to take at least one game. That will be big for the SEC race, we take at least 1 game and we will still be towards the top of the SEC West. We get swept and it almost completely erases all the good done in the UGA series.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Regional Radar (3-25)

With some success, comes some hope: Here's what some college baseball writers think of Auburn's Chances of making it to the NCAA Baseball Tourney:

SITE PREDICTION Previously Change
Rivals (SEBaseball.com) 2 Seed (Tallahassee) 3 Seed (Tallahassee) Improving
College Baseball Blog 2 Seed (Tallahassee) Unranked Seeded

With the sweep of UGA, Auburn finally started to turn some heads. However, please God, don't send us to Tallahassee. A Stacked FSU squad is one I don't want to face in the postseason. I've seen too many Auburn post seasons end in Tally.


TOURNAMENT RESUME
RECORD 16-5
RPI 16
KEY WINS Alabama (3/24), BC (2/26), FAU (2/28)
KEY LOSSES SEMO (2/19), Missouri (2/27)
BOYD'S Strength of Schedule 24
RECORD v RPI 1-25 1-3
RECORD v RPI 26-50 2-0
RECORD v RPI 51-100 3-0
RECORD v RPI 100+ 10-2


FINAL PREDICTION: You can't affect how other teams play, but Auburn really needs for BC and FAU to come on strong towards the end of the season. The better they finish, the more it helps Auburn. So far, FAU (RPI 38) has lived up to their end and, with more Sun Belt wins, should be post season bound. BC (47) has struggled, but there is always a chance to come on strong to surprise the ACC. The early losses to SEMO (168) and Mizzou (157) sting even more. Especially if Missouri continues to slide. The SEC will bring a lot of those numbers up. However, for now. Auburn is looking good.

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Recap: Midweek Rolling

 

You have to credit Coach John Palowski. After the disappointing performance against Arizona State, almost 2 weeks ago, Auburn has rebounded nicely, reeling off 7 straight wins. The Tigers sit alone on top the SEC West and have a huge amount of momentum going into this weekend's SEC Home Opener against Carolina. It's hard to tell right now if these wins are solely from Auburn being improved, or from the competition being sub-par. Still, even if you discount Alabama A&M, Samford, and a very down Georgia team (which lost to Furman last night), Wednesday night's Max Capital City Classic showed, to me at least, that those wins weren't flukes.

Don't get me wrong, Auburn played a far from perfect game Wednesday. A couple of base running mistakes, a shaky start from an Auburn starter, and some fielding errors made the game close. Despite all this, Auburn managed to take down one of the nation's best teams (for a game at least).

I only got to catch the second half of the Capital City Classic in person, and even then I wasn't entirely focused on the game. From what I can tell, and read, Slade Smith's start was an aberration. He wasn't totally effective, but he wasn't a total wash either. It seemed like he just feel victim to an umpire with a tight (and inconsistent) strike zone. That caused his pitch count to soar (to the 70s) and his confidence to be rattled a bit. As a learning experience this has to be tremendous for Slade. Last night was only his second start and just his third appearance on the season. I think at this point it's safe to say he's locked down a permanent midweek role. At least, I'd hope he would. In all honesty, the midweek games are going to be few and far between. Outside of the Georgia State/South Alabama double dip to begin April, Auburn will only have one midweek game each week to test Dexter Price and Slade Smith. Coach John Palowski will have to figure out a way to use them, especially with Cole Nelson and Cory Luckie locking down the Friday and Saturday starters roles. One thing is certain, from what I've seen from Smith, Luckie, Price and others, I'm not worried about our starting pitching in 2011. Even if Cole Nelson is one and done, Auburn will go into next season with a ton of seasoned arms and newcomers to aide in relief. Pitching has transformed from a weakness to a strength in little over a week.

All of this praise is tempered a bit. The real test will be this weekend. If Auburn can get through Carolina and we don't have a bullpen collapse or a rough outing from a starter, then the chances of getting back to Hoover are almost assured.

I've written at length about the pitching, but there's one thing I haven't talked about. As the season goes on, the pitching should improve even more. CJP seems to have a good idea of what he has and how he plans on using them. For example, Austin Hubbard. It seems CJP has complete confidence in him (as you should in your closer). I thought for his last two outings that we might be bringing Austin in a little early (6th inning against UGA/8th against Bama). Yet, Hubs responded in shut down fashion. He's walked a tight rope a couple of times sure, but his confidence is growing and he's getting more and more effective with his slider (his best pitch).

Our bullpen has come onto its own lately. Sean "The Secret Weapon" Ray gets better with every appearance; Brad Hendrix has calmed down tremendously; Mike Hurst (MVP of the Cap City Classic) is finding a nice role; Zach "Bulldog" Blatt seems be in line as a future closer; and more. It seems that little by little each guy has a set role, each guy is buying in to that role, and in the long run, it just makes Auburn better.

5 P Primer is coming up Friday. Regional Radar later today. Official recaps of the Samford and Alabama games are linked here and here. Photo via.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recap: Tigers Bounce Bulldogs

It really started on Friday. Auburn just completely blitz the Bulldogs by a final of 20-3. If you were able to catch the game on CSS, you had to be amazed at the hitting display that the Tigers put on. Hunter Morris put on a show with 2 HR and 6 RBIs. Normally, that’s good enough on its on and would be enough to get player of the weekend honors. However, Morris was actually overshadowed by Justin Bryant who had a career night with 2 HR of his own and 8 RBIs. Such a solid display that the College Baseball Hall of Fame asked for something game used by JB to display in Lubbock. He even got a bit of ribbing (and a powdering) from his teammates during his post game interview on CSS:

We could go on and on about the hitting for AU on Friday, but the real story for the entire weekend was the pitching. Which is a bit surprising. I thought, coming in, that every game would be a shootout, but credit Auburn’s staff they came to play. Every one of Auburn’s starters went at least 5 innings and the biggest surprise was Cory Luckie. On Friday, he had everything working and really turned a bit of heads. Let’s take a closer look at Luckie’s performance and why he was so effective:




Aside from 2 mistake pitches that led to two UGA HRs, Luckie was in control all night. He ran in to a bit of trouble in the 5th but bounced back nicely. For the most part, Luckie threw first pitch strikes and never really extended himself deep into counts. It’s the Cory Luckie Auburn fans were hoping would show up this season and I think with that performance, he’s settled in as a Friday starter. Luckie will never overpower hitters. However, he’s one of the smartest players on the Tiger team and when he can work his spots and velocity (specifically his changeup) he can be near unhittable and one of the best in the SEC.



Saturday, the Tigers were locked in a pitchers duel. Thankfully for us, Cole Nelson was able to outpitch UGA’s Ace Justin Grimm (despite JG Striking Out 9 Auburn hitters). Saturday’s game really showed how Auburn can be effective manufacturing runs. Grimm did a good job holding AU in check but the difference in the game was a Justin Bryant suicide squeeze that was beautifully executed and put Auburn up 4-0 at the time. Then, what was one of Auburn’s weaknesses became a strength. The Auburn bullpen had some scary moments but never gave up the lead. Credit John Palowski. Knowing how important the rubber game was for Auburn and how much they needed to keep the lead, he turned to Austin Hubbard in the 6th.



UGA had knocked around starter Cole Nelson for a walk, single, stolen base, and a ground ball rbi. Zach Blatt came in to try to curb some of the damage. Blatt wasn’t really as effective as ZB has normally been. Blatt for a K but then hit a UGA batter and gave up an RBI single. CJP then called on Austin Hubbard. Hubbard got a K to kill the UGA rally and Auburn leaned on him for the rest of the game. In the end, Austin threw 63 pitches (to compare, Cole Nelson, as the starter pitched 78) pitched 3.1 innings, 6 ks, 2 walks, 3 hits, and only 1 ER. It was really a battle and high pressure situation:



The 7th was the rough one for Austin as he walked in a UGA run to cut the Auburn lead to 4-3. However, the 8th and 9th was where Austin shined. 3 up 3 down in back to back innings and really pitched his heart out.



On Sunday it became the Grant Dayton show and probably bought himself another chance in the weekend rotation. Dayton pitched well in to the 7th. Only giving up 1 ER and keeping UGA from getting into the bullpen. You never would have thought that Cole Nelson could be overshadowed, but in all honesty, Nelson pitched the worst of any Auburn pitcher (and if 5.1 ip/4h/2r/5k/2bb is bad, then you know Auburn pitching was spot on all weekend). The only thing that concerns me about Nelson is his control. He’s been missing his spots more over the past three series and his Wild Pitches have increased. The good news is that it’s really the only way you can criticize his game. Everything else has been completely spot on.



HITTER OF THE SERIES:


Hunter Morris better get SEC Player of Week. I mean the guy only went 10 for 16 with 14 rbis, 4 HRs (including a Grand Slam). Simply incredible.



PITCHER OF THE SERIES:

Cory Luckie. 7 ip/2er/5h/1bb/7k A great performance and gives Auburn a confident Friday starter.



JOBUs



What more could ask for? An SEC Sweep (The first since 2003), a SEC Series Opening Sweep (the first since 1998). The offense clicked, the pitching held, and at the end of the first weekend of SEC play, the Tigers sit in first place in the west. You really couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Final Notes: UGA


  1. No word yet on Justin Hargett (shoulder) and Brian Fletcher's (quad) injuries. CJP still listed them as "day to day" and if they can't go tonight it will be a big blow to a Tiger offense that is leading the SEC in Slugging %, HRs, and total bases.
  2. Hargett leads Auburn with 8 doubles. On the season Auburn has 41 doubles. That's 2nd best in the conference.
  3. Fletcher leads the Tigers with .421 Batting Average
  4. Justin Fredejas should be back to full strength tonight. If he starts (which he's expected to) then it will juggle the lineup a bit. JF is a natural CF (especially with the absence of Trent Mummey) so he will push Creede Simpson to RF, which then pushes Tony Caldwell out of the lineup.
  5. TC can go a couple of places: DH (in place of Patterson), C (in place of Jenkins)
  6. Speaking of Patterson, all the UGA starting Pitchers are RHP which means KP should see a lot of playing time this weekend.
  7. Another outside possibility is moving Creede Simpson to 3B and bumping Justin Bryant out of the lineup completely.
  8. I would expect the scoreboard operator to get a lot of work. AU ranks 11th (out of 12th) in ERA. UGA ranks 12th.
  9. The difference will be keeping UGA's bats quiet and getting quality starts from Cole Nelson and Corey Luckie
  10. If you are comparing the ERA: AU (5.35) and UGA (7.22)
  11. The third (Sunday) starter is yet to be announced. Judging from last week it will probably come down to Grant Dayton and Jon Luke Jacobs. However, CJP mentioned earlier that guys like Sean Ray or Brad Hendrix could also get the nod.
  12. The Friday game will be televised on CSS. First pitch is 6pm CST.
  13. I'm trying to see if I can find a Justin.tv or Channelsurfing.net link to the game so folks can watch it online. If I do I'll post it on twitter (via @auppl)
  14. Speaking of Twitter. As I've done for the past games, I'll tweet live updates during the games. I won't be in attendance (I'll be at work) but I try to stay up to date.
  15. The twitter address: http://twitter.com/AUPPL

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

5P Primer- Georgia

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: Georgia



PRESENTING- The University of Georgia Bulldogs. The Diamond Dogs are enjoying their greatest continued success in the history of their program. Under the direction of Dave Perno, the 2000s have been very very good for UGA. Just this decade they’ve gone to the CWS 4 times (01,04,06,08), Won the SEC 3 times (01,04,08) and after all the success are finally having to rebuild slightly. The Tigers and Dawgs didn’t play each other last year, but UGA swept AU the last time they met in 2007. The Dawgs were picked to finish 3rd in the SEC East this year. They started the year ranked as high as #22 but have since dropped like a rock. For you fantasy baseball players, I’d take a hard look at former Dawg and current White Sox SS Gordon Beckham (pictured below with a WOG)

PREVIOUSLY- That rebuild this season is accounted for some ugly losses to teams that UGA has historically dominated including losses to Duke, Kennesaw State, and last Sunday to Siena. That Siena series was supposed to get the Dawgs back on track but they failed to get the sweep. If you think Auburn is snake bit then you haven’t been around UGA Baseball. They lost their potential 2nd baseman, Chance Veazey, for his entire career after he was paralyzed in a scooter accident. Recently, their starting SS Kyle Farmer was lost for 3-6 weeks with a wrist injury. Since Farmer went out, UGA is 2-6, with those 2 wins coming last weekend against Siena.

PLAYMAKERS- Sophomore C Christian Glisson (above) leads the Dawgs in average at .400 and is UGA’s most patient hitter drawing 8 walks against only 6 ks. The biggest power threat is Sophomore OF Peter Verdin. His 5 HRs lead the team. The Dawgs top returning hitter going into the season was sophomore IF Colby May. He finished the 2009 campaign hitting .339 with 11 HR and 42 RBI. This season he has tapered off hitting only .222 with 2 HR. The Top Player for the Dawgs is RHP Justin Grimm (ranked #49 by College Baseball Blog):

As a freshman in 2008, Grimm saw action in 19 games including seven starts while going 0-1 with a 10.91 ERA in 31.1 innings pitched. He finished the year with 27 strikeouts while walking 24 batters. His breakout season was in 2009 when he made 15 appearances (all starts) as he went 4-4 with a 4.15 ERA in 78 innings of work. He did end up tying for the team lead with 72 strikeouts but struggled a little bit with his control as he walked 26 batters while throwing 13 wild pitches and hitting six batters. He spent the summer of 2009 in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Cotuit Kettleers as he started eight games. He finished the season with a disappointing 1-4 record but a respectable 2.84 ERA in 44.1 innings of work. He was strong with 47 strikeouts while still having a high walk total of 14 while hitting three batters and tossing three wild pitches.

If Grimm can cut down on his high walk totals on the college mound, then he can be one of the top pitchers in the SEC and potentially in the country. It is the only thing holding him back right now from being an elite pitcher.



This season Grimm (below) is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA. He leads the Red and Black in Ks (21) and ERA by a starter.

PREVIEW- Auburn really couldn’t have drawn better a team to open SEC play with. UGA is limping. Hopefully with the midweek stretch against AAMU the Tigers can get refocused after the gut busting losses against ASU and take care of business. Getting a jumpstart in the SEC is huge for Auburn’s hope of returning to Hoover. I’d still say Auburn’s pitching staff is in flux after last weekend and we’ll have to wait and see who Coach John Palowski trots out. Cole Nelson had the worst outing of any Auburn pitcher last weekend and the Tigers will desperately need him to regain his early season form. If you’ve followed Auburn at all this season you know. It all comes down to our pitching.



Georgia’s weekend rotation isn’t in that much flux. They’ve had 4 weekend games and the same 3 players have started:

Justin Grimm (5.40/1-1)

OPP IP H R ER SO BB DEC
Baylor 5 4 2 2 6 2 ND
Stetson 5.2 2 0 0 7 4 W
FSU 4 11 9 7 7 2 L
Siena 2 1 2 1 1 2 ND

Jeff Walters (8.83/0-1)

OPP IP H R ER SO BB DEC
Duke 5.2 6 3 3 7 1 ND
Stetson 5 9 4 4 3 0 ND
FSU 1.2 3 3 3 2 6 L
Siena 5 11 7 7 6 1 ND

Mike Palazzone (7.85/3-1)

OPP IP H R ER SO BB DEC
Duke 6 6 5 5 1 2 W
Stetson 6 8 3 3 4 1 W
FSU 1.1 5 7 6 1 2 L
Siena 5 8 3 2 4 0 W

We will have to see if Grimm has recovered from the illness that caused him to be pulled early in his last start (against Siena).



Georgia is a very hittable club and offensively, I don’t have any doubt about the Tigers ability. Last Sunday’s pitiful showing notwithstanding, Auburn has shown that it can hit just about anybody. Defensively, Auburn is a different story and the lead character is Dan Gamache. I seriously don’t know what CJP will do with him in the lineup. I don’t want to call his glove a liability but he leads Auburn in errors and this past weekend, they were costly ones. In a pinch runner situation, Gamache excels. In a DH role? He’s still fairly solid. However, at 3B I just don’t feel comfortable putting him there. Justin Bryant has showed he is more than capable in the field and at the plate to assume that role. Gamache’s time will come, but for now? It’s just not that time.

PREDICTION- This is not a prediction as much as it is a plea. Auburn has to win this series. A Sweep is crucial. I hate to put so much pressure on Auburn this early in the season, but if Auburn is going to make any ground in the SEC and respond from that abysmal Arizona State series, NOW is the time. If any team is beatable in the SEC right now, it’s UGA. They are without a key player at SS, their pitching has been suspect and they are young, super young in fact. Basically, Auburn’s chances in the SEC race are going to boil down to one thing: Auburn has to be better than 4 teams in the league. Right now 3 of those teams are easy to pick: Mississippi State, Tennessee, and UGA. If there is any hope for Hoover, you have to take series from these clubs. AUBURN MUST SWEEP GEORGIA AND AT THE VERY LEAST WIN THE SERIES.

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Visitor's Dugout: DawgSports

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 Kyle from Dawgsports.com for our visit this week. I'll have your 5P Primer on later and you can see my answers to Kyle's questions here. Without further ado, here's Kyle:



AUPPL: What's the biggest thing you can attribute to UGA's rise in baseball power in the 2000s?

Dawgsports: Georgia has always had a solid tradition in baseball, which is the Red and Black’s oldest varsity sport. The success of Bulldog football is in many ways an outgrowth of the school’s commitment to excellence on the diamond, as Steadman Sanford hired Alex Cunningham away from Gordon because of his skills as a baseball coach. Cunningham, who also coached football in Athens, brought Bob McWhorter with him from Macon, and the rest, as they say, is history.
With the Atlanta Braves playing about an hour away from Foley Field, it is hard to generate current fan interest in the Diamond Dogs, but a small yet loyal contingent of the Georgia faithful shows up to see what most often is a talented team. Every Georgia recruiting class since 1999 has played on at least one College World Series team and the Classic City Canines led the nation with eleven athletes drafted in 2009.
The other secret to the Diamond Dogs’ success is David Perno. During his playing days in Athens, Coach Perno helped make Georgia one of only two SEC schools to win a national championship in baseball. As a player, assistant coach, or head coach, David Perno has been a part of five of Georgia’s six College World Series teams and he has guided his alma mater to three conference crowns this decade, tied for best in the league. In short, a good coach with good players has produced a good program.



AUPPL: How have the losses of Veazey and Farmer impacted the team?

Dawgsports: It’s hard to say with Chance Veazey. His injury was more serious, occurred during the offseason, and reminded us all that baseball is, after all, just a game. The fan base has rallied around Veazey through the “Prayers for Chance” fund, and I suspect he has served as an inspiration to the team, as well.
Kyle Farmer’s loss has been more immediately felt because it occurred after the start of the season. All four members of the Diamond Dogs’ projected infield have yet to start a game together this season, requiring that players be moved around and probably affecting the team’s ability to find a rhythm. That said, Robert Shipman (who broke into the starting lineup following Chase Davidson’s injury) has put up numbers comparable to or better than Farmer’s, so it is open to debate how large an impact the injury has had on the squad.



AUPPL: What were/are the expectations for the Dawgs going into the year?

Dawgsports: In the David Perno era, Georgia baseball seasons have tended to be like “Star Trek” movies starring William Shatner: the odd-numbered ones are bad and the even-numbered ones are good. After a young Red and Black team stumbled down the stretch in 2009, a better year was anticipated in 2010. It was expected that the hitting would take a while to come around, but Bulldog fans figured we could count on our experienced pitching staff to keep scores low and the team in games until the offense came together. Needless to say, it hasn’t worked out that way.



AUPPL: What would you say are the biggest strengths of the team this year?

Dawgsports: Oddly enough, the youth of this club, which has been cited as the source of so many problems, actually may be its greatest asset. Yes, inexperience has caused some miscues, but the Diamond Dogs are 0-4 this season when playing errorless baseball in the field, yet they are 7-1 in 2010 when committing one error. Like penalty flags in football, errors aren’t necessarily as harmful as they appear.
Youth may be wasted on the young, but limitless potential is an important asset. Sophomore Zach Cone, who has started every game, is hitting .382 with 16 RBI and four triples. Sophomore Christian Glisson’s .396 average leads the team among everyday players. Freshman Robert Shipman is batting a torrid .444, boasts an .815 slugging percentage, and has belted three home runs.
5. Biggest weaknesses?
The biggest weakness has been what we all thought would be a strength: starting pitching. Michael Palazzone has the Georgia staff’s best record and most innings to his credit, but even he has a 7.85 ERA and is allowing opposing batters to hit .346 against him. Jeff Walters has yet to card a win, has an 8.83 ERA, and has surrendered a .372 average to the other side. While the bullpen has performed admirably more often than not, the Diamond Dogs are short on quality starts this year.



AUPPL: For any Auburn fans making the trip, what are some things that are must dos around the Ballpark?

Dawgsports: Foley Field is tucked away behind Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall and just down the street from Stegeman Coliseum. Because of the close connection between the two schools, first-time visitors from Auburn will want to check out the athletic complex surrounding the Bulldogs’ baseball stadium, which features a number of buildings built by former athletic directors Joel Eaves and Vince Dooley, both of whom came to Georgia from Auburn.
As for Foley Field itself, be sure to see the statue of Frank Foley at the corner of Pinecrest and Rutherford before entering the stadium and check out Kudzu Hill in the outfield. At least during the postseason, Kudzu Hill is to Foley Field what the railroad tracks were to Sanford Stadium before the east end zone was enclosed in 1981.



AUPPL: Should I draft Gordon Beckham on my fantasy team?

Dawgsports: Absolutely! Gordo is the real deal and one of the proudest products of the Georgia program in recent years. If you can stomach rooting for a former player from a rival team, he’ll give you the numbers you need for your fantasy team.

So there you go. Should be a great series to open SEC play.

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Recap: Aces in the Hole

Going in to the Alabama A&M swing, one would think you wouldn't learn much about the Auburn team. It really shouldn't have posed a challenge (and it didn't) but you still want to learn and get better from every game and I really think Auburn did. How about not allowing an earned run in 2 games? That's pretty good. How about getting two outstanding starts by Auburn pitchers? Even better. Not taxing our bullpen? Fantastic.

Now, some of it could be the competition and maybe the fact that Alabama A&M had their head coach resign on the team bus and were told by the athletic director (and I'm summarizing) "Hey guys, you're head coach is no longer your coach. You still wanna play this game?". Still, the bulldogs still played and then proceeded to get shelled out of the park by scores of 11-1 and 18-0.

We don't really need to delve too deep into the offense. The Tigers were a little sluggish in the early innings, but that's understandable. Spring Break, SWAC opponent, long road trip, yada yada yada.

Instead, let's look at the starts by Dexter Price (7ip/4h/6k/1b/0er) and Slade Smith (6ip/1h/6k/1b/0er). Here's a breakdown of Dexter Price's outing by pitch:

K=Strikeouts, F=Fouls, G=Groundouts, B=Walks, 1=Single, 2=Double, O=flyout, L=Lineout, E=Error






The best thing about Price's outing is how he recovered nicely from his first inning and started really hitting his spots. Also of note, 16 of the 25 Batters that priced face were retired by 4 or fever pitches. Also his control seemed to be spot on; he only got into a full count twice (one time ending in a walk, the other in a strikeout). Still a solid outing from Price and a little nice bailout by Blatt to keep the lead off double from scoring.

Now let's take a look at Slade Smith:




Good lord, look at all that green. Smith was throwing strikes all night (53/78 pitches or close to 70%) and kept AAMU off balance all night. Even when he had to work deep in counts, he still got positive results:

“Slade did a great job today. He only had two balls go to the outfield. I thought he had what he call is turbo sinker. He has the heavy ball and it’s a sinker. It was a great outing for him and will certainly help to build his confidence.” (CJP)

“It was big to finally get the first one out of the way,” Smith said. “I’ve grown up an Auburn fan and always dreamed of starting here. To get the first one is special. I just want to keep going.” (SMITH)

Hopefully, we'll get to see Smith and Price against better competition. AAMU was a little outmatched this week:

Alabama A&M’s control issues on the mound made for some elongated late innings, interesting position switches and unusual stat lines.

In the seventh inning, for instance, Creede Simpson, who went hitless, took a hit-by-pitch and came all the way around to score on multiple wild pitches. The Bulldogs, who dress just 22 players, swapped out their pitcher for a rightfielder in the seventh and had a reliever come out of the dugout in the eighth.

Still, 2 wins are 2 wins and it gets the Tigers prepared for later in the season and gets them ready for UGA on Friday.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Middle Inning Mayhem

It’s not all the time that you can pinpoint exactly where a team gets into trouble. For Auburn? It’s easy. The Middle innings (4,5,6) have absolutely killed the Auburn pitching staff. Here’s a quick breakdown of Auburn’s first 14 games broken down by Inning Runs Allowed (iRA), Pitchers Used (PU) Leads Lost (LL) and Results (R):



 


Represented below graphically. Note the huge spike in the 5th Innings and 6th innings. Especially the 5th, where Auburn starting pitchers have struggled all year:







Compare that to the later innings (7-9). That huge bump up continues in the 7th, but tends to tape off a bit:





 






Again, represented graphically below. Notice the difference between the two graphs. For the most part Auburn is still recovering from inning 5 and 6 and it’s carrying over a bit.





Outside of the opening series against SEMO, Auburn has done a pretty good job of keeping guys off the board. There aren’t a lot of the consistent blips that you had in innings 4-6. A couple of those spurts (such as the 2 9th Inning runs against FAU) are when the game was already in hand (either in Auburn’s favor in the MU series, or in the opponent’s favor like in the ASU series).



Here’s the two sets of data back to back in the same spreadsheet:





 


And for a better look at the complete later innings of work, here’s the data above in graphic form where you can really see that innings 5 and 6 are the crucial innings that seem to kill Auburn. Focus more on the amount of bars, not the length of the bars:





 


It all heads back to the starting pitching and pitching deep into the games. In a perfect world, our starters should be able to go into the Sixth inning without a hiccup. Instead of Auburn heading to the ‘pen before it should have. Honestly, you want a Quality Start from all your starting pitchers (6ip/>3 ER). The more QS we can get the more wins that should favor us.



For closing here’s a culmination of the data above. Such as the total number of runs allowed per inning, Adjusted R/Inning (highest and lowest #s Removed), and Average # of Runs per Inning:























So you can see, up there in all those black and white and colored graphs, what’s really plaguing Auburn. We need our starters to work deeper and relieve some of the burden on our bullpen.



You’ll probably here me say it all week, but the UGA series this weekend is huge for Auburn. We really, really, really, need to capitalize. Going in, Auburn is 2nd in the SEC offensively while UGA is 8th. Hopefully that can translate to a better showing from our pitching staff.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

5P Primer- Alabama A&M

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: Alabama A&M




PRESENTING- The Bulldogs of Alabama A&M. Located in Normal, Alabama (outside Huntsville). The Bulldogs are the first of 6 in-state teams that Auburn will face this season (The only 2 D1 Alabama schools that Auburn will skip are UAB and Alabama State). There really isn’t much to say about AAMU baseball. I mean, not to downplay the league, but SWAC baseball isn’t exactly the most competitive league. For as long as I can remember, the SWAC has been dominated by Southern University. Researching the Bulldogs is difficult as well. SWAC schools are notorious for having some of the worst websites and archive material around. The best I’ve been able to dig up is that the most famous AAMU Baseball Alum is Cleon Jones (below).

PREVIOUSLY- AAMU will come into Tuesday’s game with a 10-3 Record. However, that’s a bit deceiving as the Bulldogs have only played 2 games against (arguably)Top-Level talent and they were absolutely crushed 12-1 by UAB and 15-2 by Mississippi Valley State. The rest of the schedule has been against baseball cupcakes like Selma, Tuskegee, Miles, and Kentucky State. So basically, AAMU has been feasting on Black College Cupcakes and getting a bit of an inflated schedule.

PLAYMAKERS- One guy to look for will be LaDale Hayes (above). The Senior RF picked up up all SWAC honors for his early season performance against KSU and Miles.

Hayes batted .550 and scored 10 runs with 11 RBI as the Bulldogs posted a 5-1 record, including a four-game sweep over Kentucky State and a doubleheader split with Miles. He had three triples and a double in collecting 11 hits in 20 at bats. He hit safely in all six games. Hayes earned second-team all-SWAC preseason honors prior to the beginning of the season.

On the season Hayes is hitting .500 with 5 doubles, 3 rbi, and 1 HR. He’s also a perfect 6 for 6 on Stolen Bases this year.

PREVIEW- There isn’t much to preview here. The Bulldogs and Tigers are on different levels altogether. For Auburn, these two games will serve as a chance to refocus after the ASU series, experiment a little with the pitching staff, and get prepared for SEC play and a trip to Georgia. Games like these are the same as scheduling Furman in football. It’s essentially a controlled scrimmage that will count in the standings.

PREDICTION- Seriously? If Auburn loses any of these games then we need to make other plans for the SEC tournament. AUBURN SWEEPS THE TWO GAME SERIES

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Recap: Forked by Arizona State

You'll have to pardon a break from the norm. Instead of an in-depth breakdown of Auburn's flop against Arizona State this past weekend; I'll just go old-school manifesto style in my recap. Of course you can always check out the official recaps of the games here, here, and here. Also all photos used are janked from AZCentral.com


This series hurts. It really does. Not because of the outcomes, getting swept by a team is never good. No, this series hurts because it really knocked my faith in this year's baseball team down a peg or two. You can make excuses all you want: ASU was the #2 team (now #1), the Tigers were a bit rusty from a full week off, first road game, tough road environment, etc. However, those are just excuses. Auburn had a chance to make a huge statement this weekend and we failed. There's no way to sugar coat it. We simply were outhit, out-pitched, out-hustled, out-whatever.
Going in to the season, we all knew the pitching would be a problem. Great starts by Cole Nelson eased those fears a little bit. The return of Cory Luckie helped a bit as well. However, when you take off the orange and blue colored glasses, the fact remains: Our Pitching flat out stinks. That's the most troubling issue. It's not just our bullpen, but our starting staff as well. I know it has to weigh on Coach John Palowski, too. Pitching is one facet of the game that he has excelled in teaching, but you can teach all you want, at the very end of the day it's up to the players.


You can't blame our bullpen entirely. They haven't come into great situations. Only one Auburn starting pitcher has made it past the sixth inning (Cole Nelson) so we've had to rely on our bullpen early and often. To put it bluntly, our 'pen isn't built to handle roles like that. I honestly think that if we got more quality starts by our starting staff that our bullpen would handle the role just fine. I honestly think they would excel. If we could turn to our 'pen with the lead in the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning or even just being behind 1 run, then I think they could handle that load. We could mix and match better and could manage the game better. Instead, we have starters who can barely make it 5 frames without an implosion. I'm not putting the blame squarely on Jon Luke Jacobs, but it starts with him. He went into the season as the #1 (maybe by default) and hasn't lived up to that billing. He's already lost his weekend spot, so CJP needs to decide whether JLJ goes back to the 'pen full time or if he will just a mid week starter. At the very least, I think its safe to say he's done on the weekends until he can regain his control. I hate it for JLJ and want him to succeed, but I think even he would agree that his role needs to be the role that enables Auburn to win the most games.


We have at least 6 starting pitchers: Cole Nelson, Cory Luckie, Jon Luke Jacobs, Grant Dayton, Dexter Price, and Slade Smith. Only 1 of those guys has proven that they can pitch on the weekends, and that's Nelson. The others still have a ton to prove. Personally, my weekend rotation would look like Luckie, Nelson, and Price. I haven't seen enough of Slade Smith to pencil him there. I can't go by hype alone on the kid. I’ll get to see officially what he has on Wednesday when he makes his first career start against Alabama A&M.


Smith's an issue that CJP will have to figure out soon. He's already burned his redshirt, so there's no use in holding him. Put him in the fire for these midweek series (like he will on Wednesday)and see what the kid has. As for Price, I think he has the stuff to make a weekend guy he just needs to be put in those situations more. Dayton is the same way. He has the stuff and has the most K power of any guy on our staff. He's just missing his marks when he pitches.


So that gets us back (for a bit) to this past weekend. That's where our biggest problem was. Our starting pitching. It just simply imploded. Even Cole Nelson showed he was human having his worst start of his Auburn career and the most inopportune time.


I have a sneaking suspicion (and I really hope I'm wrong) that the pitching has started to affect our hitting. The Friday game in particular. The bats came alive and built a big lead, only to see ASU get it right back. At some point, you wonder if our hitters are thinking "What's the point? No matter what lead we give, I don't have enough faith that our pitching can hold it.". I'm sure that's crazy talk on my part and I'm just spit balling with this mini-rant but those sentiments are exactly what I was thinking as I listened to the games.


One last note on the pitching staff. I think it's time to open our bullpen back up. We've relied on Sean Ray, Austin Hubbard, Bradley Hendrix (who leads the team in appearances), Mike Hurst and Zach Blatt for a majority of our relief appearances. They are a bit overworked. It's time to start sending guys out and giving them a bit of a trail by fire. It actually worked this weekend as Chris O'Neal and Garret Bush both made their debuts for Auburn and both pitched better (for an inning at least) than anyone Auburn had trotted out previously (except for maybe Sean Ray who pitched a hell of an outing on Friday, yet still got saddled with a loss because the only hit he gave up in 2 1/3 innings was an unearned run).


Bush is a true freshman and that (along with the use of Slade Smith) shows me that CJP is not afraid to burn redshirts if it could help the team. We have 5 pitchers who have yet to see action this season: Brian Houghton, Ty Kelley, Matt Lewis, Miles Morton, and Phil Rossi. Going by my gut, I have to discount Lewis and maybe Miles Morton. Ty Kelley is one guy I know I want to see work again. He's shown that he can be effective in relief if given the chance, it's just seems the confidence may be his biggest issue. Still, the fact remains that these guys need to see the field because it's getting dangerously close to a point where we are just going to have to throw something out there and see what doesn't get hit.


Defensively, we still have issues to work out. Namely with Dan Gamache. I'll go into this later, but I think Gamache has completely lost his role at 3B this season. His glove is becoming a bit a liability and I will never say that he's cost us games but those errors have certainly come at some of the worst times. I wonder (and again I'm spit balling) how Trent Mummey's eventual return will impact 3B. When TM returns to CF that will put either Tony Caldwell or Creede Simpson at RF (probably Simpson) and will create an odd man out. Now, Caldwell could stay at RF and Simpson could move to 3B (which he has played before). I just don't know, it's just how I see it playing out. For now, Justin Bryant has shown that he can handle the duties at 3B and at the plate. Gamache does have a role and a key role at that. He's seems perfectly suited as our first pinch hitter off the bench. In fact, he's thrived in these situation. His plate discipline alone makes him invaluable.


Offensively, we are more than fine. Especially from what I saw this weekend. Arizona State had some of the best pitching we will see and Auburn managed to knock them around a bit. Granted out bats turned ice cold as the series drew on, but some players (like Hunter Morris) still had solid weekends. I think our ability to score runs will remain one of the most comfortable facets of Auburn's games.


The main challenge for CJP and crew is readjusting and refocusing for SEC play, which starts this weekend at Georgia. This weekend is key. I can not stress how big this opening series is. Georgia is reeling and if we must win this series. I hate putting such a do or die attitude on our opening SEC weekend, but Georgia is down and if Auburn wants to be up then we have to win this series. A sweep is crucial, but I'm a realist and a series win is just as good.

I still have hope and faith in Auburn this season. I still have hope and faith in Coach John Palowski. It's just a bit down after the egg we laid against Arizona State. Let's see how I feel on March 22nd and the UGA series is in the books.

Final Jobus for the Arizona State series? 1.5 One Solo Jobu performance and a half Jobu bump for effort:

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