Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Need a Response? Here.

For the uninitiated, Clay Travis sent a couple of tweets out late last night:

Auburn "family" = absolutely silent.

No denial yet? Uh oh

Take money and lie = all in. Take money and tell truth = all out. Welcome to Auburn.

Here’s referring to this about the upcoming Real Sports HBO Special.


Clay wanted a response, here’s one from an Auburn fan and grad.


What would you like me to do? Sit here and say I condone cheating? That I have to think that, as an Auburn fan, anything the team does I have to agree with and take as a barometer for how to live my life? Am I also supposed to sit and agree and believe every allegations leveled at the program. Especially when one of the parties involved has been discredited by not only his former High School Coach, but by other Auburn players as well? Or Another Auburn player who’s distaste/distrust of the school is well documented, who is interviewed with another player who had all the talent in the world, but never saw a significant snap. Perhaps a fourth, who I can’t even remember playing for Auburn (but that’s just me in this case).



I can’t. I can’t sit here and do that. Why? Because when it comes to Auburn football and allegations, I honestly take a Serenity Prayer approach to the whole thing:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference


That’s not putting my head in the sand. That’s not arranging deckchairs on the Titanic or whatever other cliché or hyperbole you’d like to throw out. No, it’s just how it is. The last time I checked (and that was this morning) Gene Chizik is the head football coach at Auburn. Was he the head coach of these players? Nope. Their coach is currently in West Texas in some type of football purgatory.



Still, let’s take a realistic and rational approach to this. If there was a systematic cheating system in place that involved sex and money for players, why would it take more than 5 years for it to be uncovered. Better yet, if Auburn WAS paying players, don’t you think we could have done a lot better than this or this as our starting quarterback? Not to knock those guys (they’re still better football players than I could ever hope to be), but if we were actually paying players this systematically and this blatantly over the past few years, we could have done a bit better with our money.



You asked why Auburn fans weren’t responding. You also asked this question at around 11:30 CST. Most Auburn fans I know have actual jobs that require at least some modicum of sleep (present company excluded, I have a job, I just work nights). Asking this question and then getting dumbfounded by the lack of responses is akin to the drunk guy who shows up to your house at 2:00am and wonders why no one wants to party with him. We’ve got lives outside of football. We don’t get paid to fill content between commercials on Nashville Radio.



Are you expecting Auburn fans to riot or something? For us to take pitchforks and arms and burn down Samford Hall? Unlike Tennessee, we don’t have a chunk of rock that we can graffiti when we get pissed off.



Let’s take your worst case scenario and play it out. Let’s hypothetically suppose each of the allegations is true. What then? Are you hoping (like many Alabama fans are) that Auburn will get the Death Penalty and be forced to bump down to Division III, filling our schedule with Miles College, Tuskegee, and Birmingham Southern (Go Panthers)?



You chastise Auburn for taking a “no comment” approach at this point. What were you expecting? The school to have a full press release ready to deploy, issuing denial after denial. In some cases, that doesn’t really work out for the best. A “no comment” most of the time is just that. A lack of comment. It’s not some backhanded way of saying, “oh yeah, you guys totally busted us, but we’re just gonna clam up right now”. No, it’s a simple, “No Comment”.



You can continue to mock and belittle Auburn for saying “The Auburn Family” and “All In”. Bravo, you’re disagreeing with marketing. You might as well start shaking your fist in righteous anger at Alka-Seltzer, because they might say “Plop. Plop. Fizz. Fizz. Oh, what a relief it is” but damnit, you’re a Nexium man and Speedy the Alka-Seltzer imp (or whatever he is) is just wrong.



I won’t even sit here and take exception at the mocking of Auburn family, because trying to explain it to you would be like trying to explain why Democracy really works to a Marxist. At the end of the day, you’re just gonna believe what you’re gonna believe.



Do I think this is some grand Conspiracy Theory by Alabama Boosters to bring Auburn down? No. Not at all. That gives them too much credit. They actually have bigger things to worry about (like keeping Anthony Grant on the Capstone).



You asked for a comment from an Auburn fan. A response. Something besides a request for you to engage in Coprophagia (you can google that if you want but make sure Safe Search is on). Here it is plain and simple:



I, an Auburn fan, just don’t care. It might bother me in the back of my mind. It might gnaw at me slightly, but at the end of the day, I’ll believe Auburn is in trouble when the PLOI is dropped off at the Athletic Complex. Until then, these just become unsubstantiated allegations made by people with bitterness and resentment. If players were getting paid and in such a complex and blatant way, you’d think we’d either A) see the product on the field (I mean at least SMU got Eric Dickerson and Craig James) or B) it would have come out a LONG time ago. At my core, I’m a realist. Occam's Razor still applies here. You can say Auburn is “dirty” and “tarnished” and whatever other adjective you can throw from Roget’s. At the end of the day, I’m still an Auburn fan and I'll remain one. I’ve seen the best of times and the worst of times. My devotion is unwavering. You can call me oblivious, delusional, what have you. What I can do is trust people who have more time and energy invested in to this program. Men who’s cheating would cost them not only their jobs, but their lives.



This is just how I feel. I want to see actual hard evidence. Auburn produces engineers, not criminal masterminds. Even when we foray in to the later, it doesn’t take long until we’re busted.



What will never change is the love I have for my school and my town. A school that gave me the best four years of my life and the school I try to repay a debt to in any way I can.



War Eagle

You want to email? feel free. PlainsmanParkingLot@Gmail.com Have at it.

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What to Watch For: The Uphill Climb

So it begins for Auburn. The toughest stretch so far of the season. A stretch, that by all accounts, Auburn could have dropped a few games in and still be in good shape. However, after the disaster in Starkville this past weekend, Auburn is put in a very tough spot. Just 4 games over .500 and a schedule has the next four games against ranked opponents. Not only are these teams ranked, but Vanderbilt will come in as the Number One team in the country. Yes, technically, the next 5 games are against ranked teams (because we play Troy next Tuesday as well), but we'll worry about that next Monday. At least these next four are at home, a place where Auburn is comfortable. They are vitally important because this weekend and these next four games will either serve as a springboard, or possibly, the fuse that begins a season implosion.



Sorry to make it sound so grim, but that's just how it is. Scuffling isn't the right word for what's happening right now. No, this is an absolute tailspin and how Auburn responds will show a lot about the future of Auburn baseball in 2011.



What Am I Watching For?


RESPONDING WITH TWO OUTS




How Auburn responds with two outs, both offensively, but mainly defensively. Mississippi State absolute killed the Tigers scoring with two outs last weekend. It's basic baseball, you need to shut the door. Two outs (and in most cases two outs and two strikes) start so many chain reactions in baseball. Runners leave early and take risks, guys don't worry about tagging up, defenses shift suddenly, swings become shorter. Two Out at bats are the catalysts for good teams. Singles rack up RBIs, double devastate and offenses can really blow innings open. All it takes is two outs.




It's demoralizing, too. You're this close to ending the frame, limiting the damage, and having a chance to respond. If you don't then you have to start all over again and the snowball just grows larger and larger.




Offensively it's the same thing. You want a team that fights. I hate to use Alabama as an example, but the Crimson Tide softball team has a huge motto, it's plastered on the foul poles and around the dugout. It simply says: Two Away? So What? (or something to that affect). No at-bat should be viewed as a final at-bat, baseball isn't a finite game. It's never over until you say it's over. If there are two outs? So what? Keep fighting and keep playing smart.




Jon Luke Jacobs and the Weekend Impact




JLJ gets the start on the hill tonight. His start is of vital importance, but reading between the lines, it's who doesn't make an appearance tonight that could start a big change for the weekend. I'm looking for Andrew Morris. Morris is next in line for a weekend start. If he doesn't take the mound tonight, then I'd say he has about a 70% chance of starting this weekend.




JLJ needs to go deep into tonight's game. He has to eat up innings and prove just what kind of pitcher he is. This is just check time for him. Once he's done though, whoever comes next will tip the hand for the weekend. If it's Morris, then we can assume the weekend rotation is Luckie, Irvin, Varnadore. If it's Luckie? Then all bets are off.




Personally, I think Irvin should at least throw an inning. Auburn needs to know if last Saturday was an aberration, or the new norm for him. If Irvin can't locate his fastball, then he's lost his spot. It's as simple as that. He couldn't locate it Saturday and State pretty much took BP against him. If he can come in, locate, look good? Then Irvin could maintain that Saturday slot. If not? Well, Morris is nipping at the heels.




If Cory Luckie comes in, then it's going to be a surprise, but it's going to show me that Coach Pawlowski isn't playing favorites. He's here to win. Yes, Luckie is a senior, but if he can't get the job done then he has to move to the bullpen. He did it last year and it actually worked out a little better for him.




Finally, I want to see what Slade Smith does. If he makes an appearance tonight, I hope it's a confidence builder. He's gotten battered a bit and it could be something as simple as a lack of break on his sinker. Possibly pitch placement. Slade has a tendency to leave pitches up and batters will feast.




The Bats to Come Out Hot




This is a minor thing, but something big for Auburn. The pitchers need cushion. They need a little wiggle room. When Auburn wins, they score early. Over the weekend, that response and attitude wasn't there. That early stat of Auburn coming out and outscoring opponents over something like a 3:1 margin the first three innings? I'm sure that's come back down to earth a bit. In order for Auburn to right the ship, that's one of the first things that needs to return.




Assorted Odds and Ends




One player to watch for? Bobby Andrews. I think he might have played himself into some regular PT and tonight would be a good chance for him to bring a little spark.


Hargett has struggled a bit. It looks like CJP isn't going to make him work through it, instead, Zach Alvord is getting another shot in the infield.


Speaking of the infield. Gamache will make his first go at third base (Caldwell will DH). That's a shrewd move. Gamache had some fielding issues and I hope the lay off doesn't affect him.


Lastly, I just want a win. I desperately want a win. I want so bad for Auburn baseball to be good and watching a struggle like this is physically painful.


Why? Because I see the opportunity in the SEC and I see that Auburn isn't taking this Golden Chance.


War Eagle and Let's Get 'Em Tigers.

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Gene Chizik and Vampires: A PSA

 

It all started with an offhand comment; at least I think it was an offhand comment. There’s a distinct possibility that Gene Chizik actually believes in Energy Vampires:

Chizik’s message to all the so-called haters is simple. In short, get a good look at the ring.
“Whatever people want to say or whatever somebody is comfortable talking about in terms of talk radio or other places, we have absolutely no control over that,” Chizik said. “But here’s what we know: We are the national champions, and we were the best football team in the United States last year. There’s nothing I have to do to defend our honor for that.
“They’re going to say what they’re going to say and discuss what they’re going to discuss, and you have absolutely no control over that. I call those energy vampires. They’re not going to suck my energy out worrying about that. That’s how we work.”

Then again, “Energy Vampires”  have an actual Wikipedia page, so that adds some credence to the term. As does an entry from someone claiming to be a “Doctor”. Yes, on that same website there is an extended entry from “Dr.” Goldberg where, when asked if he’s a time traveler responds with this:

If I am a time traveler, I most definitely would be from the 35th century when teleportation is developed as a means of time travel.

The answer to the question am I a time traveler? I can only say that a true chrononaut takes an oath never to reveal that fact, unless it is an emergency to do so. To do so would be a breach of what is known as timeline international security laws that exist in the future. Chrononauts always seek to stimulate the intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth. The answer to the question am I a time traveler can best be determined by you.

But we’re getting off track. Coach Chizik was actually making us aware of a very legitimate issue. Vampires among us. So, let’s heed his warning and know your vampires:

 

For those playing at home, we have Dracula, Blacula, Count Chocula, Count Von Count, Bat-Boy, Edward Cullen, George Hamilton, and playing the role of the Energy Vampire, we have the 10,000 Volt Ghost from Scooby Doo. Sorry, no room for Count Duckula, because he’s a duck and duck vampires don’t exist. Oh, and id you were wondering about George Hamilton, go rent Love at First Bite:

 

I’d ignore Once Bitten, although it does have its moments:

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Sunday, March 27, 2011

Is Disaster the right word?

I’m sitting here and typing this during Auburn’s Sunday game against Mississippi State. Even if Auburn manages a rally with two innings left (It’s 5-0 Maroons Bottom 7) this weekend will not go as planned for Auburn. On paper, Auburn was and probably still is the better team than Mississippi State. On the field? Not so much. It’s hard to pinpoint just what went wrong this weekend. There are some glaring issues and I’ll go into those in a minute. First, though, it’s just hard to fathom just how bad Auburn played this weekend. A team coming off a series win over a solid Arkansas club, playing a team that in all truthfulness is still putting pieces together. In a perfect world, it would have been a sweep, and in the least, Auburn should have taken the series. That didn’t happen. Now, Auburn is facing a huge uphill battle for the next few weeks.



So what happened? The main answer is two out pitching. Auburn could not close the door all weekend. They’d get in great position to limit damage but couldn’t get that right pitch and the floodgates would just stay open. I’ll have to double check the boxscores but I think MSU scored more than 75% of their runs this weekend with 2 outs. That’s been a problem all season and this weekend it just exploded this weekend. What was once just a minor issue has become a major problem. A huge glaring problem. But is that the biggest problem?



For now, yes. Personally I think the issue is starting pitching and inconsistency. Will Irvin absolutely imploded on Saturday. That kind of set the tone for rest of the weekend. By the time Auburn blinked (or rather, headed into the 2nd) they were already down 8-0 with 6 of those runs coming with 2 outs. Corey Luckie had another rough start, but at least gutted it out Friday to get some solid innings.



I can’t fault Varnadore. Yes, he took his first loss of his Auburn career but for his part it was solid but the offense wasn’t there to bail him out. At least he put Auburn in position to win.



And as I finish that paragraph Auburn drops the Sunday final and sits at 14-10 and 2-4 in the league. That’s the number the really needs to focused on. The record. Because Auburn has exactly 1 day to right the ship. The Tigers are mired in this 4 game muck and it are facing a huge uphill battle.



We’ll know Monday morning just how big that hill is, but now, as I see it, Auburn will be facing a Top 25 caliber club in Troy and probably the nation’s #1 team in Vanderbilt. That’s four games against tougher competition that Mississippi State.



The SEC West standings are completely pear-shaped with LSU at the bottom, Arkansas and Auburn next to last, and Alabama and Mississippi State at the top. There’s still movement there, but it’s the overall record and really the mentality that could come with dropping to 14-14 and 2-7 in the SEC if thinks don’t get corrected fast.



So here’s how I look at it. Auburn has Monday to completely wash the bitter taste of this sweep out of their mouths. A win on Tuesday and we can (maybe) consider this a little blip in the road and a building block for a huge weekend series on the Plains. A recoverable misstep. A loss? Then the steam roll can keep going and it might be too much for Auburn to recover from.


The season restarts with Troy on Tuesday.

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Regional Radar (3/25)

 

 

Projections

 

  HOST 1 SEED 2 SEED 3 SEED 4 SEED
CB Daily Clemson Clemson AUBURN Charleston Stony Brook

 

Just one projection this week and it still has Clemson hosting, and I’m still scratching my head. Still, there is a bit of hope for Auburn’s hosting chances and it comes from Kendall Rogers and Perfect Game:

The national seeds: We’re still a couple of weeks away from beginning our official weekly NCAA postseason projections, but that doesn’t keep us away from our own crystal ball. If the season ended today, our national seeds, in order, would be Florida, Virginia, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Fresno State, Georgia Tech, South Carolina and Texas A&M. UF is 10-1 vs. RPI Top 50, Virginia is 10-2 vs. RPI Top 50, Vanderbilt is 4-2 vs. RPI Top 50, Fresno State is 9-0 vs. RPI Top 50, Georgia Tech is 4-0 vs. RPI Top 50, South Carolina is 6-3 vs. RPI Top 50 and Texas A&M is 6-3 vs. RPI Top 50.

How about those hosts?: While we’re talking national seeds, we can’t not talk about regional hosts. If the season ended today, other regional hosts besides the national seeds would include Stanford, North Carolina, Auburn, Texas, Baylor, LSU, Rice and East Carolina. Others to watch include Cal State Fullerton, TCU, Southern Mississippi, Clemson and Oregon State.

For Auburn it’s all going to come down to RPI and right now it’s pretty healthy:

 

Resume:

 

 

Record 14-7
Boyd RPI (change) 8 (+3)
Nolan RPI (change) 8 (+2)
Boyd ISR (change) 29 (-7)
Nolan NPI  (change) 45 (-10)
Key Wins Arizona St (1), Arkansas (2), Alabama (1)
Bad Losses JSU, Radford, Bethune
Nolan SOS 5 (+10)
Boyd SOS 35
vs RPI 1-50 4-4
vs RPI 51-100 3-0
vs RPI 101-200 6-3
vs RPI 200+ 1-0

 

Good News

Thank you Arkansas and Alabama. The Hawgs (44) and Tide (49) jumped a bit in RPI, which helped Auburn add 3 more wins in the RPI 1-50 win category. Auburn is now sitting pretty at a healthy 8 rpi. A sweep against Mississippi State (33) would really help Auburn.

The Bad News

Charleston continues to slide and are down to 64 in the Nolan RPI. The Jacksonville State loss is going to sting a bit (110) but both the Gamecocks and the Radford Highlanders (105) are right on the cusp of boosting their RPI. Which would eliminate all but 1 of those bad losses (the Bethune loss and their 162 RPI still remains).

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Stock Report (3/25)



When Auburn can actually get all of their hitters back on the same page, then we can truly be a force to reckon with. By “on the same page” I mean everybody is hitting a high clip and steadily increasing our averages. Still, this is probably the hottest the team has been offensively with only 1 player in a slump. You want the best explanation for Auburn’s success against Arkansas? It’s Creede Simpson. Sure, Casey McElroy got most of the headlines, but Creede has been steadily increasing his offense and getting back on track. He’s hitting .500 over his past 3 games and is hitting almost double his normal average. Who else is Hot? Who’s Not? Let’s take a look:


Heating Up

BATTER AVG 3 GAME % CHANGE
Fradejas .319 .364 .045
McElroy .404 .500 .096
Simpson .257 .500 .243
Caldwell .246 .333 .087

Gamache didn’t make the cut here. He had a bit of a struggle over the weekend (.200 for the series) but he’s still hitting at a .338 clip and had a nice 2 for 4 night on Tuesday against JSU. Patterson is holding steading and after his monster Arkansas series (.429) his steadied himself at around .250


Cooling Off

BATTER AVG 3 GAME % CHANGE
Gilmer .354 .182 -.172

Wes is in a bit of a funk, but his overall average of .354 and the fact that he’s finishing up a long hitting streak will keep him in the lineup for the time being. Still, he needs a good bounce back this weekend.

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5P Primer: Mississippi State

Welcome to what I like to call “Bear Trap Weekend”. We all know what a “Trap Game” in football is, a game that the better team could easily overlook and then lose because the better team was looking ahead. This weekend is a bit different. It’s not just a trap game, it’s a bear trap. Sure, Auburn might get trapped, but if it does, the affects and damage will be even more damaging and bloody than usual. It’s bigger than a trap, it’s a bear trap. On paper, Auburn is a much better team than Mississippi State. Next weekend, against Vanderbilt probably has some of Auburn’s focus. However, Auburn can’t look ahead. The focus has to be on Mississippi State. If it’s not, then the damage will be very painful.

  • Trap 1: A Road Series
  • Trap 2: An opponent Auburn hasn’t lost a series to in 3 years.
  • Trap 3: A team with obvious flaws, but obviously hungry for an upset.
  • Trap 4: An Auburn team possibly looking ahead to next weekend
  • Trap 5: Hangover from a midweek loss


Why? Well, partly because of next weekend. Auburn needs a good pad before it takes on the team 1b in the Nation (Vanderbilt). Let’s play with the hypotheticals a bit. The very worst case for Auburn is to be swept by MSU. That would put that Tigers not at square one next weekend, but at square negative one. We be going into the VU series with a losing SEC record (2-4) and with absolutely no momentum. Let’s say we drop the series but don’t get swept. Great, now we will go into the Vandy series with a .500 SEC Mark.



No, what makes this game even more important is that MSU is in the SEC West. A win and Auburn has scratched off 2 of it’s 4 SEC West competition. We’ve established a comfortable lead and actually will have some wiggle room going forth in the season.



This series against the Maroons is a big one. Every weekend is really, but this one especially. Auburn is coming off a midweek disappointment and MSU is tough at home, no matter the record. Auburn needs to win. They need to hope for the sweep.



One of the more overlooked things this past weekend was the revamped lineup for Auburn that saw Creede batting in the 9 hole and loaded a bit of Auburn’s power toward the bottom of the order. Hargettt, Fradejas, McElroy, Gamache, GIlmer, Caldwell, Patterson, Beisner/Wacker, Simpson. It’s a solid lineup and it produced in unexpected ways for Auburn. Personally, I love that lineup. It puts out hottest hitters out in front and gives a better chance to produce runs and create big innings. I know that when Creede fully heats back up that he might move up the order (probably flipping with Fradejas) but I’d hope the majority of the order stays intact. It’s not a lineup with big obvious holes. It’s a proactive and offensively minded setup.



Offensively, Auburn is in good shape. They tagged Arkansas DJ Baxendale for his first earned runs of the year (and actually completely knocked him out of Arkansas’s rotation) and it kept producing and putting pressure on the opposition. Auburn has had one of the most surprising starts this year:

Auburn has outscored its opponents 59-14 over the first three innings of games and didn't allow a run in the first three innings of a game until the ninth game of the season (vs. Bethune-Cookman, March 2) ... Of Auburn's 13 home runs, seven of them have come in the first three innings of games ... Auburn is 6-2 when scoring in the first inning and 11-5 when it scores first ... The team is also hitting .343 (93-for-271) over the first three innings of games.

No, the issue now is with the bullpen. If it’s not one thing, it’s another for Auburn. For a bit it was the middle innings (5/6) and how the bullpen would just utterly collapse. Now it’s being pushed back so that inning 7 and 8 (the more critical innings) are the ones giving the Tiger’s trouble. Why? It’s pretty simple. Auburn can’t do a good job of keeping inherited runners from scoring. The Auburn starters will come in and hit the proverbial wall in the 7th inning and leave in some bit of trouble. Then the bullpen gets to work and leads get lost.



I think, and again I’m not the coach, that Auburn isn’t fully utilizing their bullpen. We will tap on the same few guys. Perhaps a change of blood is in order. Instead of the normal look of Hendrix, Ray, and then Wallen; I’d personally like to see a guy like Jon Luke Jacobs see if he can bring a change of pace. Slade Smith is still working out a few bullpen kinks. Zach Blatt can be brilliant (see Alabama/Arkansas) or brilliantly bad. Hendrix is still a mystery. Ortman is a wildcard. I know Auburn doesn’t have a true closer, but if Wallen is becoming that defacto guy, then he needs to be used in that regard. There is always a bit of trepidation when I see him come in during the 7th inning. Wallen will be stellar for two innings but then he will just get gassed a bit. It’s almost too much for him to handle. No, JLJ is the wildcard. Outside of maybe a random midweek start, his role is going to be in the bullpen. So Auburn needs to see him in that role. Just to, in the very least, give the bullpen at least some semblance of depth.



All eyes for the Auburn pitching staff should be on Cory Luckie tonight. Sure it’s a bit early, but realistically, Luckie is pitching for his position. Andrew Morris had a solid outing midweek and he might be taking the Will Irvin path to the weekend rotation. I would say that given on more midweek performance by Morris, and another dud by Luckie and Cory could (unfortunately) be in the bullpen by the Kentucky series. Luckie needs a solid performance tonight. Desperately. That means more than 6 innings. It’s pretty simple. We know Cory has it in him, the pressure is just mounting for him to perform.



So who’s laying the bear trap this weekend? It’s the Mississippi State Bulldogs, a squad Auburn has had a bit of success with recently, but not so much historically:

MSU holds an 89-83-1 all-time series lead against Auburn in a rivalry that dates back to 1907. State's lead in the series has narrowed in recent years, with the Tigers having claimed seven of the last eight meetings and four of the last five series, including last year's sweep (9-6, 16-14, 11-8) at Auburn. The Bulldogs' last series win over the Tigers was a 2007 sweep in Starkville during MSU's run to its eighth College World Series appearance.

Last weekend was not pleasant for the Bulldogs, they didn’t even score a run in the first two games against Vanderbilt, but part of that was to be expected. What wasn’t expected was for the Bulldogs to rebound and salvaged the finale:

In their last outing, the Bulldogs erased a 6-1 Vanderbilt lead and went on to record a 9-8 series-ending win over the Commodores last weekend in Nashville. It was the most runs allowed this season by Vanderbilt, which entered the series first in the NCBWA poll. Senior third baseman Jarrod Parks cracked his second home run and recorded his second three-hit game of the campaign to pace the Diamond Dogs at the plate. Freshman Taylor Stark singled in a run to launch a five-run, eighth-inning rally. He later took the hill to register the last five outs of the game and earn his first career save. The first career hit by freshman infielder Tim Frazier, a two-run pinch hit single, tied the game, while rookie outfielder C.T. Bradford, who made his debut as a starting pitcher in the game, singled in the go-ahead run moments later. The Commodores pitched 10-0 and 4-0 shutouts at the Bulldogs in the first two games of the series.

The Bulldogs are paced offensively by two seniors:

Senior Jarrod Parks (.412) leads the Bulldogs in hits (28), extra-base hits (10) and RBI (20), while senior infielder Nick Vickerson (.267) paces the SEC in both runs scored (29) and stolen bases (17).

PRESENTING:

The Mississippi State Bulldogs, in year 3 of John Cohen’s rebuilding process. They come in showing some flashes of success and sporting a 15-6 record. Their signature wins have come with two victories against Georgia State.

PREVIOUSLY:

Auburn swept the series last year and has won 4 of the last 5 series. Last weekend, the Maroons took three games to score a run against Vanderbilt, but did rebound with a surprising 9-8 win in the final game.

PLAYMAKERS:

Two seniors pace the offense. Jarrod Parks and Nick Vickerson

PREVIEW:

For Auburn, this is a bear trap weekend. It all starts with Cory Luckie tonight. He’s competing for his job at this point and is facing an anemic offense and goes against a pitcher with a less than stellar stat line. Still, Auburn has to overlook that and take care of business on its end.

PREDICITION:

I think the roll continues for Auburn. Tigers take the series and need to try to work for the sweep.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ranking Round-Up (3/22)




With the win over Arkansas this weekend, Auburn cracked each of the Major Polls, and there are a ton of them: The National Collegiate Baseball Writer's Association, Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball, USA Today/ESPN, Perfect Game, etc. It's kind of hard to keep track of them all.



Here's how Auburn will start the week (Number of Ranked Teams in Parenthesis):

  • NCBWA (30): 22
  • Baseball America (25): 22
  • Collegiate Baseball (30): 21
  • USA Today/ESPN Coaches (25): 20
  • Perfect Game (25): 23



Of course, each poll has their strengths and weaknesses. The USA Today poll is used more widely than any poll, but the Baseball America Poll is one of the toughest/more stringent polls. Having 5 Major polls definitely creates a wide range of success for any team. Look at Arkansas for example. The are ranked in the Top 13 (still) in two polls (NCBWA/USA Today), yet are completely unranked in two others (Perfect Game/Baseball America).




Personally, I check out a website called College Baseball 360.com and check out their Composite Rankings (Auburn comes in at 18). It does a pretty good job of sorting through all the polls and factoring in RPI to develop a nice Top 50 list to go by.


So you know how Auburn ranks, what about the opponents on the schedule?:









Auburn really needs Charleston to right the ship. The Cougars had a terrible weekend in another hosted tournament. If they can get back on track and re-enter the polls, then it will help Auburn down the road.

Another team to look out for is Troy. The Trojans are just outside the Baseball America Top 25 and Auburn will play two games against them, meaning a good RPI boost. Especially when one of those games comes on the road.

I know what most of you are looking at. Next weekend and the Number 2 team in America: Vanderbilt. Before Auburn looks ahead to the Commodores, they need to take care of business with a High RPI Road test against Mississippi State.



Read more...

Friday, March 18, 2011

5P Primer: Arkansas


Here it is. SEC play. A huge weekend and hot start that could mean the difference in Auburn playing catchup or forcing other teams to play follow the leader for the opening couple of weeks. The Hogs are such a tough squad to figure out. Yes, there is talent (less so than last year though) and yes, they have a solid 14-2 record. Still, it's come against some mid-level competition. Still, the #9 team in the nation isn't one to take lightly. It's also an odd series, recently. The visiting team has taken the last 4 series and Auburn hasn't beaten Arkansas at Plainsman Park since 2007 (under Tom Slater). The Tigers just barely lead the all time series (35-30) and do have an edge at home (16-11) but the recent history has been different.




The Hogs are a hard team to scout. The lineup/offense is pretty powerful (scoring double digits 6 times) but the burden is mainly on a handful of players. Kyle Robinson is the biggest power and HR threat (22 RBIs), Dominic Ficociello has been a revelation at First Base (.426 average/20 RBI). However, these numbers are coming against Delaware State & UW-Milwaukee. Still, the Hogs will get their hits. The onus will be on Auburn to limit the damage. Especially with hitters like Colin Kuhn and Bo Bigham. Kuhn has been in the same struggle Kevin Patterson has been in, hitting just .190 but having 2 Home Runs and 8 RBI over his last 5 games. Two holes in the lineup could come from CF Jacob Morris (.059 over his last 5) and SS Tim Carver (.196 on the season). One other hitter to watch will be C James McCann who is hitting a scorching .563 over his last five. To put it simply, the bats are potent, but are on the decline. Hopefully Auburn can take advantage of that.




Pitching wise for Arkansas, it's all about DJ Baxendale. The Sophomore RHP is 4-0 with a (wait for it) 0.00 ERA. That's right, he's yet to allow an earned run on the year.




Enough about Arkansas. Let's talk Tigers. This weekend will see the first shakeup to the rotation all season. The Saturday position is listed as TBD. The rumor is that Will Irvin could get the nod, but Andrew Morris could be a dark horse. Maybe the change will be a shot in the arm. Auburn's team era (4.07) is next to last in the league and the Batting Average against is dead last. The 126 strikeouts are also at the bottom.




However, is the issue the starting pitching, or is the bullpen? Yes, the Tigers only have 2 blown saves, but they've allowed around 40% of inherited runners to score. It's shifted the balance of games. Over the first 3 innings, Auburn hurlers have only allowed 9 runs. In the 5th and 6th innings? 32 runs. Most of the time that's where the trouble occurs and Auburn arms have hit a wall.




Offensively it's a similar thing. Auburn can jump out early (55-9 over the first three innings) but the bats go cold. However, the offense is there. The power is just lacking. Auburn leads the SEC in hits, double, but is 6th in runs, and 7th in Home Runs. We can get guys on. We just can't bring them home.




It's really going to come down to 3 players busting out of a slump. Kevin Patterson, Creede Simpson, and Tony Caldwell. Caldwell is still nursing his shoulder (I assume) but to have him back and 100% would be a huge boost. Patterson's strikeouts have increased but his hits have decreased and its been a bad combination. Creede's slump has been the most frustrating. His position in the lineup and his role on the team means Auburn really can't afford to have him go Golden Sombrero much longer.




PRESENTING


The Arkansas Razorbacks. 14-2 on the year, #9 in the country. A surprising mix of veteran talent and a great freshman first baseman, the Hogs have been one of the hottest teams in the SEC to start the year.


PREVIOUSLY


Auburn took last years series 2 games to 1. The Tigers rallied to steal the series over the final two games. However, the visiting team has had the most success over the last 4 meetings.


PLAYMAKERS


For Arkansas, watch out for Friday starter DJ Baxendale who has yet to allow a Home Run. Also, Dominic Ficociello is that hot Freshman First Baseman and has been a great 3rd slot and clean up hitter for the Cardinal and White.


PREVIEW


For Auburn they need to flip the script on the season. Avoid the middle inning meltdown that has plagued both the bullpen and the bats. The Tigers have shown they can come out hot, they just need to keep the momentum going. Hopefully, Creede Simpson and Kevin Patterson can start to heat up.


PREDICTION


If you had asked me after Saturday, I would have predicted an Arkansas win or sweep. However, after the showings on Sunday and Tuesday, I'm hoping Auburn has turned a corner. Auburn wins 2 games to 1.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Real Season Begins

 

 

 

 

 

Great to get a win on Tuesday against Alabama in the Max Capital City Classic. Granted the offense wasn't there and really isn't anywhere close to where it needs to be. Let me rephrase, the offense is there; the situational hitting is not. That's the main drag for Auburn. Sure, we can get guys on base, but then brainfarts abound and big innings are killed before doing any damage. It's quite the frustrating situation to be in. Now that the Classic is out, it's time to focus on the real task at hand: The SEC. This weekend brings another Top 10 opponent in Arkansas. The Hogs are a bit of a mystery. Yes, they are ranked in the Top 10, but who exactly have the played? The 14-2 record is deceiving. I can give them credit for going to West and taking 3 of 4 from San Diego State. Kudos. However, this isn't the same SDSU team from years past. Stephen Strasburg isn't suiting up for the Aztecs again any time soon. No, that's an SDSU team with only 3 wins on the season. Arkansas has played ZERO games against Top 50 RPI (Auburn has played 4) and Their only quality win is a 3 game sweep of Utah (RPI 70). However, before we can talk about the Hogs, we have to look at Auburn. So here's your reset button on Auburn so far this year and heading into SEC Play:

Pitching

Give Auburn credit in this area. The pitching has been a bit of a surprise. Sure, there have been bumps and a few bruises, but over the past two weeks I've seen the arms improve. Zach Blatt is pitching out of his mind right now and looks like he wants that closer title. The 4 or so innings he's thrown against Arizona State and Alabama are the best I've ever seen him. The main issue with Auburn right now is starting pitching and we'll see our first shake up this weekend. In my mind, Auburn has about 6 guys competing for 3 weekend spots :Andrew Morris, Will Irvin, Slade Smith, Cory Luckie, Derek Varnadore, and Jon Luke Jacobs. Slade has struggled a bit in his past two outings and it seems like the decision was made to move him to the bullpen. Saturday is listed as TBD (Luckie Friday, Varnadore Sunday) and the general consensus is that Will Irvin will get a shot. In the even Irvin falters, then the back up would be Andrew Morris. I assume. It's not the end of the world for Auburn and for Slade. In fact, I see it as a bit of a good thing. Think back to last year and Slade's relief work against Ole Miss. It was incredible. Normally when Auburn makes pitching changes, it's with runners on and in desperate need to ground balls. Who's the best arm we have to accomplish that? Slade Smith. Irvin has looked solid in his midweek outings. Starter solid? We'll probably find out this weekend. Now, if Bradley Hendrix can use the Alabama game as a springboard then I'll feel even better about the rotation. We'll have three solid long tossers (Jacobs, Morris, Slade), two guys with a closer mentality (Blatt and Ethan Wallen) and a two nice stop-gap options (Dillon Ortman and Sean Ray). Now, if we can get Will Kendall and Jay Wade to start contributing, I'll be ecstatic.

Hitting

I can't sit here and complain about the hitting. If I do, it's just going to sound like whining. Dan Gamache has been outstanding. Wes Gilmer is keeping himself in the lineup. Hargett has been up and down (but more up than down). McElroy is consistent. Justin Fradejas does his thing (much to the admonishment of some fans when he squares around to bunt with 2 out) and to his credit, it's working. The only issues are with two big slumps from two big players. Kevin Patterson and Creede Simpson. Creede finally laced a single on Tuesday and maybe, just maybe, that's the spark he needs to get rolling again. Patterson is falling into the same trap as last season where he is getting frustrated/impatient and that's leading to more strikeouts. The other thing, and it's not really an issue, just an observation, is the platoon in left field. Brooks Beisner and Cullen Wacker. Brooks is the better power threat and the better hitter, but Wacker is going to get this playing time based on the pitching matchups. I'd love to see Beisner in a full time role, but at this point Wacker is just going to have to hold his own when he gets his chances. Something that hasn't been talked about much is what's going on with Tony Caldwell. His shoulder has been a little tender (according to Pawlowski) and the company line is "he's available to pinch hit". Still, he's yet to PH and has been pretty much out of commission since the Charleston Tournament. That's two weekends ago. Blake Austin is doing yeoman's work and really stepped up on Tuesday. However, he's yet to record a hit at the plate. That's a big hole at the bottom of the lineup. Pawlowski didn't address the Caldwell situation at his press conference Thursday morning, so I don't know if it's an issue or not. Finally, there's the Zach Alvord situation. Personally, I wish he could play. I think with more at-bats he can settle in nicely and probably pick up some slack while Creede is slumping. Realistically, that's not happening. Wes Gilmer's play and his bat have cemented his status at 3rd base. Gamache is perfect in the DH role. McElroy and Hargett aren't leaving any time soon. That leaves Alvord as the odd man out. It's unfortunate, but it's life. You can't expect him to move to the OF. For now, Zach just has to bide his time and wait.

 

Overall

This is going to be a grueling stretch for Auburn and the main thing will be to either tread water or stay on top. Then again, all SEC play is like that. It's going to be a stretch where it's off then on for Auburn. Tough competition, little lighter, tough, light, tough light. Arkansas (tough), Mississippi State (light), Vanderbilt (tough), Kentucky (light), LSU (tough), Ole Miss (light), South Carolina (tough), UGA, Bama, Tennessee (light). It's a very front loaded schedule, but Auburn can't go in to it with the mentality that I have. Instead it's a pretty simple rule for SEC play: Avoid Sweeps against the Top, Try to Sweep against the bottom. That's the best way the Tigers can make up ground. A perfect record or ideal situation would be for Auburn to go into the final 3 series with a conference record of 15-7. That's assuming Auburn can sweep the "light" series, avoid sweeps from the "heavy" series, and steal one of those heavy series along the way. 14-7 with 9 games to play would mean that Auburn would have a legitimate shot of playing it's way into a Regional hosting job (just like that year). Either way, it will all start this weekend against he Hogs. Play Ball.

Read more...

Regional Radar (3/17)

 

Let's start with a huge caveat: It's still early. Way too early. I wouldn't expect updated Regional Projections from the various writers until at earliest two weeks from now. Still, we show what we have so far and at least take a good look at how the Auburn RPI is shaping up:

Projections:

  HOST Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
CB Daily Florida State (5) AUBURN WA State E. Michigan
ESPN Stanford AUBURN UC Irvine Stony Brook

 

Again, don't put much stock in to these. Really, don't. Both CB Daily and ESPN have Clemson hosting. Explain to me how a team that is .500 overall right now, just got swept by UVA, and is playing in a down ACC is hosting? Just by name alone. Until either Clemson improves or actually ends up traveling for a change, I'm going to take all these projections with a grain of salt.

 

Resume

 

Tournament Resume   CHANGE
Record 12-5  
Boyd RPI 11  
Nolan RPI 10  
Boyd ISR (Strength) 22  
Nolan NPI (Power) 35  
Key Wins AZ St (3/13)  
Bad Losses Bethune (3/2), Radford (2/25)  
Nolan SOS 15  
Boyd SOS 47  
vs RPI 1-50 1-3  
vs RPI 51-100 5-0  
vs RPI 101-200 5-2  
vs RPI 200+ 1-0  

 

Bad News

The only bad losses were obvious ones to Radford and Bethune. However, we knew that going in to this week. Had Auburn dropped the Max CCC to Alabama, you could have chalked up another bad loss. The Tide isn't doing in the SEC any favors with their abysmal 130 RPI. Still, it's not the lowest in the league (that would be Kentucky at 203).

The Good News

Auburn should get a boost RPI wise in the coming weeks. College of Charleston (57) and Memphis (52) are right on the cusp and could sneak some Top 50 RPI wins into Auburn's favor. The biggest boost will come from the Tigers themselves. Dates with Troy (8), Mississippi State (47), South Alabama (38) and even Georgia (43) are all upcoming and should all be winnable games for the Tigers. If Auburn wants to return to hosting however, it will need to knock off the biggest of the big boys RPI wise: Vanderbilt (17), LSU (13) and Ole Miss (4). Still, with a healthy RPI of 10 right now, Auburn has a bit of wiggle room.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bring on the Big Boys

Who would you like to see Auburn play non-conference? I asked on Twitter and the responses showed that Auburn fans (especially die hard Auburn baseball fans) are clamoring for big non-conference match-ups. Now, My suggestion/dream would be for Auburn to resume a series with Georgia Tech midweek. Playing in Auburn, in Atlanta (at GT's on campus Russ Chandler), and a final game either in Gwinett or at Turner Field.



@NickyV95 Nick Villanacci agrees:

that would be an amazing series. I'd try to go to all three games.

Other suggestions showed that Auburn fans aren't shying away from big non-conference series:

@jmiddsau Jonathan Middleton wants to go West, young man:

Cal state fullerton. Witchita state. Texas.

@jwm0004 Justin Malone also thinks we need to think Plains States:

TCU, Nebraska, Rice

@ChrisRushingCSM Chris Rushing echoes the Texas sentiment:

I would love a home-and-home with Cal State-Fullerton or Texas. Texas mainly for the opportunity to go to Austin.

@WarBlogle WarBlogle.com wants some Tiger meat every year:

Clemson every year. Fullerton would be cool.

@AUKGB Keith G. Barrow Also wants the Titans:

Cal St Fullerton

@jwm0004 Justin Malone wants to go All-ACC:

ga tech, fsu, Clemson

@Elliott_Cook Elliott Cook has some other ACC Foes he wants to see:

my vote is Rice, UNC, and Miami. Miami series in honor of 90s transfer Derek Reif.

@jmjonesjr James Jones brings up Nebraska and the ACC Heavies:

GA Tech, Clemson, other usual ACC suspects...what about Nebraska?

@jaredm2012 Jared Miller wants the Purple & Orange also:

Clemson for sure, often. Possibly College of Charleston or Texas A&M

@Jkm4au Kris agrees:

Clemson

@PrestonHornsby Preston Hornsby has a unique in-state suggestion:

at Alabama State because new stadium is so close to OLD CLOVERDALE :)

I will admit the thought of baseball followed by Tomatino's or maybe some Sinclair's does sound good.

@dmiller1856 D. Miller agrees about the GT series:

GT... Close enough to travel, could play one at Turner. FSU would be another.

@cfuhrmeister Chris Fuhrmeister is on the same page:

I'd like to see an annual series against Georgia Tech or Florida State.

@murpho5 justin murphy wants Northern foes:

big ten school or a pac 12 school

@JaredSmiths Jared Smith also likes the idea of games in Atlanta:

Love the venues idea! Players & Recruits would be thrilled over games at Turner or Gwinnett. @AUTigerBaseball: let's make it happen

But @JaredSmiths Jared Smith also is thinking about Vacation days:

How about ski weekend series at NorthernColorado in Feb & beach series at Miami in May? Always away series! I'd travel for them.

Back to D. Miller, who wants to see a personal series:

I have to throw my alma mater in the mix... Mercer. Would make a good midweek series.

@GoCrazyCadillac Paul Stewart wants meaningful games:

I would love to see us play someone like Miami or maybe Texas. Big traditional powers to try to raise our profile.

D. Miller also brings up a unique opportunity for Auburn. Playing in MLB Stadiums:

How about Maryland at Camden Yard?....What about Boston College with a Sunday finale at Fenway?

That could happen. For Every MLB club, there is an NCAA Team (and in most cases NCAA power) close by:

MLB Team College Team(s)
Tampa Bay South Florida
NY Yankees St. John's
Boston Boston College, Harvard, Northeastern,
Boston University
Toronto U Buffalo?
Baltimore Maryland, Navy
Minnesota U Minnesota
Chicago White Sox Notre Dame
Detroit Michigan? Michigan State?
Cleveland Ohio State? Akron
Kansas City K-State?, Kansas?
Texas TCU, SMU, Dallas Baptist
Oakland Cal/ Stanford
LA Angels Fullerton
Seattle Washington
Philadelphia Temple, Penn, Villanova, LaSalle, St. Joe's
Atlanta Georgia Tech, Georgia State
Florida Miami, Florida International
New York Mets St. John's, Hofstra
Washington Georgetown, George Washington
Cincinnati Cincinnati Bearcats
St. Louis U St. Louis, Mizzou?
Milwaukee UW-Milwaukee
Houston Rice, Houston
Chicago Cubs Northwestern
Pittsburgh Pitt
San Francisco Cal/Stanford?
San Diego USD, SDSU
Colorado Air Force?
Los Angeles UCLA, USC
Arizona Arizona State

Now some of these aren't exactly feasible. There's no real point RPI or travel-wise to play the likes of UW-Milwaukee in Wisconsin. The best thing would be for Auburn to become a part of the Dodgertown Classic (like UGA did) or the Houston College Classic or even the Cal Baseball Classic in San Francisco. For Auburn, the struggle would be two-fold: you need a strong enough schedule RPI wise and justification for playing a road series. It's not often that Auburn leaves the comfy confines of Plainsman Park (or the state of Alabama) for a non-conference game. In fact since 1991, Auburn has only played a handful of Weekend Road Series outside the state of Alabama. Sometimes, the farthest south that the team will travel is just down to Mobile (and the Coca Cola Classic). See for yourself:

Year Opponents
91 None
92 Coca Cola Classic
93 Georgia Tech, Pepperdine, UCF*
94 New Orleans^, Tulane^
95 Coca Cola Classic
96 Big 10 Classic (Montgomery)
97 Coca Cola Classic
98 USF*, UCF*, Clemson*
99 GT%, UVA%, UMD%, Blue Gray Classic (Montgomery)
00 Tulane^, New Orleans^
01 Coca Cola Classic
02 @ Clemson
03 @ North Carolina
04 @ Clemson
05 @ Florida State
06 @ Arizona State
07 Coca Cola Classic
08 @ Florida State
09 @ Florida State
11 @ Arizona State

*Olive Garden Classic (Orlando, FL), ^Winn Dixie Classic (New Orleans, LA), %Disney ACC Blast (Kissimmee, FL)

Also, over the past 20 years, Auburn hasn't exactly brought a dearth of competition to the ball park. Here are the non-conference games against Major Conference opponents over the past 20 years. Most of these opponents came from Weekend Tournaments:

Year Opponents
91 Clemson, Michigna
92 Clemson, Oklahoma, Tulane
93 GT, Pepperdine, Clemson, Michigan
94 Tulane
95 Louisville, Ohio State, Penn State
96 Missouri, Michigan State, Indiana
97 None
98 USF, Clemson, FAU
99 GT, UVA, UMD, Minnesota, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Northwestern
00 Tulane
01 Minnesota, North Carolina, GT
02 Clemson UNC GT
03 UVA, Clemson, UNC, GT
04 BC, GT, Clemson
05 FSU, Clemson, GT
06 FSU, Arizona State
07 Michigan State, AZ St, Purdue
08 FSU
09 FSU
10 BC, Missouri, FAU, AZ St

I haven't seen the schedule for 2012. However, knowing that Coach Pawlowski likes to keep the Auburn tournament (which would bring in at least 1 big name) and also likes to schedule good RPI competition, I have a nice glimmer of hope that the Big Boys will soon be meeting Auburn once again.

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Stock Report 3/14

War Dan Gamache. Or better yet, according to @KalebLBurks #wardangamache The Auburn DH had a super weekend, batting .500 with 7 hits, 9 rbis, 3 doubles and a triple. Gamache consistently was a catalyst and knocked in the game winner on Sunday. Of all the guys who have struggled, there’s Gamache sitting pretty and holding steady.

Heating Up:

Batter AVG 3 Game % Change
Gamache .339 .500 +.050
Fradejas .365 .444 +.016
Gilmer .400 .417 +.006

Cooling Off:

Batter AVG 3 Game % Change
Simpson .232 .000 -.051
Patterson .255 .125 -.024

Hard to include Patterson on this list because he did have a Home Run. However, his 2 Run shot was his only hit of the weekend and can’t outweigh 7 strikeouts. Simpson’s struggles were documented earlier and without his bat being a catalyst it leaves Auburn in a bit of a bind. Creede is a team leader and hopefully his struggles won’t continue for very long. If Auburn goes into the Arkansas weekend with Caldwell still out (shoulder), Creede struggling, and KP catatonic then it could translate into a long weekend.

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Forked Over, Again


I can’t sit here and sugar coat it. This weekend stung. It really did. Mainly because I saw an Auburn team that didn’t fully progress from weekend to weekend. Instead, Auburn regressed and it cost us. It stung because Auburn really could have won this series against Arizona state. The Friday Night game came down to a fluke call that reopened the door for the Sun Devils. Auburn didn’t respond to the adversity and dropped the series opener 8-7:

Reliever Ethan Wallen walked Austin Barnes to start the ninth. After a bunt moved him to second, Carrillo's RBI single up the middle scored him to tie the game at 7.
Andy Workman batted next and hit a sharp grounder up the middle that got past the pitcher's mound and struck umpire Jay Pierce on the foot. The ball ricocheted to second baseman Justin Hargett, who was ready to fire to first when Pierce ruled the play dead, putting runners and first and second.
Pawlowski argued the call saying the play should have been live, although the umpires were backed up by the rulebook, which says a fair ball that hits an umpire before it passes an infielder other than the pitcher is dead and runners advance one base.
"Sometimes those things happen," Pawlowski said. "It's unfortunate the ball hitting the umpire. That's part of baseball."
After an ASU runner was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a grounder to short, MacPhee hit a grounder into hole between first and second that took a bad hop over Hargett's head and into right field, allowing Workman to score with the winning run.

Wallen was overused a bit this weekend. Becoming the De Facto closer tends to have that affect, but by this point Wallen was in his second full inning of work. Ethan has incredible stuff and was lights out last weekend but against Arizona State he just kept getting dinged. It was a bit tough to watch. However, the problems for Auburn can’t be boiled down to one inning. Instead it was mounting inconsistencies on the base paths and a lack of timely hitting. Numerous times over the weekend, big innings were stopped short because of base running miscues. Zach Alvord ran through a sign, Wes Gilmer was caught in a rundown from 3rd to home, etc. There were tons of little things.



However, the biggest things were rough outings by starters. Luckie went 4.1 innings, Slade went 3.1, Varnadore went 6 full but was tagged more than usual. Still, just by going a full 6 innings, Auburn put itself in position to win, and it did on Sunday. Yet, I can’t sit here and say these guys were ineffective. They were actually surprisingly good at times. Luckie hit 8 ks and Slade had to deal with a mixed up and make shift infield which included a Gilmer at 1B, Alvord at SS, McElroy at 3B, and Caleb Bowen catching. It’s not the strongest lineup Auburn could put out defensively. A quick side note on Alvord. There has to be a role for him somewhere. At first, I could understand it. His bat just wasn’t there. Now however, I think he could add a bit of a spark plug to the offense. His last two starts (Saturday against ASU and last weekend against NYT) Alvord went 4 for 6. Hopefully Zach can get some midweek work and prove himself some more.



When the Auburn starters can’t go over 5 innings, it taxes the bullpen. A bullpen that is still finding itself. Andrew Morris is stuck a bit in relief role. Dillon Ortman actually stepped up and was a bit of a silver lining on Saturday. I don’t think Auburn has found guys it can consistently call on in relief. Wallen is there somewhat, Ray can be dynamite, Blatt turned a bit of a corner on Sunday. The shuffling process is still going on and Auburn is running out of time to find a good working solution. Credit Pawlowski though, he knows the team and can normally get the best out of his guys. Personally, I would have liked to see a couple of new arms like Jon Luke Jacobs or Jay Wade. I don’t have the answer and for Auburn the options are limited. The Tigers have established 4 guys as solid starters (Irvin, Smith, Luckie, Varnadore) and only 9 guys in relief. Technically 9, but Jay Wade and Will Kendall have only made 1 appearance each. In Kendall’s case that was a forgettable outing. Are there any fresh arms left? Not really. The only one yet to make an appearance is Chris O’Neil. Even taking that into account, the options are limited. Only 2 relievers are lefties (Ray and Kendall) and realistically it’s only Ray that takes up the lion’s share of the work. Pawlowski can’t set up lefty/righty match ups easily and has to instead has to use guys based on strengths.



Finally, one of the toughest things to watch was Creede Simpson struggle at the plate. He’s been in a super funk and went hitless over the weekend. His average has dropped from .304 after the Radford series to .232 after this weekend. Outside of positive blips during the Memphis and WKU games, his average has just gone southward. It hit rock bottom on Friday when Creede went 0-5 with 4 Ks. It finally reached a point where Creede had to be pulled after 1 at bat Sunday for Bobby Andrews.



There were positives and you can’t overlook those: Auburn didn’t get swept; Zach Blatt had one of his best outings in relief ( 2 ip/0h/0bb/3 ks and a W) and the Auburn bats battled at the plate and actually had some guys step up. Dan Gamache had an incredible weekend (.500 with 9 rbis) and has settled in nicely as a DH. Wes Gilmer was another bright spot (.417) and is making it hard to move Alvord into the infield (and Gilmer out of the lineup) while he’s hitting at such a hot clip. One of the highest bits of praise came for the newcomers like Jay Gonzalez and Bobby Andrews who helped boost Auburn.



The weekend (which admittedly went as expected but still stings) is over and Auburn has a short turnaround. The “preseason” officially concludes on Tuesday Night when the Max Capital City Classic against Alabama is over. Arkansas comes to town and Auburn will have a few things to work on if they hope to start league play on the right foot.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Play by Play: 140 Characters at a Time


Over the weekend, @TylerHNay brought up a good point :



@ AUPPL Can we get a crash course on scoring notation sometime? some of these are not the 3 that I know...



It was something I completely spaced about. I normally update throughout the game but sometimes my shorthand can be confusing. Even I realize that. I try to follow the same formula each time for each game. So here's a little peek behind the curtain as to how I tweet the play by play. First things first go check out Bethany Heck's Scorekeeping 101 over at the Eephus league . That should give you a bit of an overview of what we're trying to do here. Are you back? Good. Here's a little review:

PositionNUMBER
Pitcher1
Catcher2
1st Base3
2nd Base4
3rd Base5
Shortstop6
Left Field7
Center Field8
Right Field9
As for putouts, I only really use a couple of notations and not the full broad spectrum I'd use if I was keeping score during a game:

FxFoul Out/Fly Out
K

Strike Out



PxPop Out
LxLine Out
xUUnassisted Out
DPDouble Play
CSCaught Stealing
POPick Off
FCFielder's Choice

That's normally it. "X" in these cases stand for the position player who made the out. Ground Outs are done in a standard x-y notation (Assist-Put Out).


I normally try to follow the same formula when I tweet an update:



(Team Abbreviation) (T/B)(Inning) Outs (Score) End of Inning



If there is room then I will give a bit of a headline or scene setter before getting into the details of the outs. For Auburn I'll give the players names. For the opponent, I could care less, so I just give the details.


Let's see it in action:



AU Top4: Creede bb CMac 4-3, Gilmer RBI single, Gamache FC, Gilmer out 1-6, KP rbi double, Wacker bb, Bowen K. 7 3 bot 4



That's from Saturday's nightcap against Western Kentucky. So what happened? Auburn was batting in the Top of the 4th inning. Creede Simpson walked, Casey McElroy was out 2nd Baseman to 1st Baseman, Wes Gilmer hit an RBI single. Dan Gamache hit into a fielder's choice which forced Wes Gilmer out Pitcher to Shortstop. Kevin Patterson hit an rbi double, Cullen Wacker walked. Finally, Caleb Bown struckout to end the inning. Auburn headed into the bottom of the 4th leading 7-4.


For the players I abbreviate names in most cases. KP=Kevin Patterson, TC=Tony Caldwell, CMac=Casey McElroy.


As always, it's a work in progress. If you'd like to follow along, be sure to follow me on twitter (@AUPPL)


Follow along tonight. If you have any questions then just send me a reply and I'll try to answer as best I can/know how.


A bit of a caveat. I work nights, so during games I'm bouncing around multiple things. I try to block out time as best I can. However, it's like I always say: Rock beats Paper and Work beats Twitter.

Read more...

Stock Report (3-7)

 

 

After the solid weekend in Charleston, almost every hitter in the Auburn lineup saw some sort of uptick. So who's the hottest bat in the lineup right now?

Player crnt avg 3 g avg Diff
Hargett 0.346 0.267 0.079
McElroy 0.353 0.500 0.147
Simpson 0.273 0.250 0.023
Gamache 0.295 0.286 0.009
Caldwell* 0.225 0.250 0.025
Patterson* 0.300 0.333 0.033
Fradejas* 0.333 0.500 0.167

 

Caldwell and Patterson are asterisked because their TC only pinch hit in one game over the weekend, and KP sat the College of Charleston game out completely. Still, the two biggest weapons over the weekend were Justin Fradejas and Casey McElroy. Both of whom hit a full tenth above their average. The best news was for Patterson though, who found a bit of a power stroke (his first HR of the year). The only person "cooling off" would be Hargett. However, that's a bit misleading. He started the season so hot that eventually he had to come back down to earth. Slumping? That's Creede Simpson. Creede has been in a bit of a tailspin since the 2nd Radford game when his avg was at .333 (and now is at .273). However, there is light at the end of the tunnel. His performance in the final game included 2 doubles and a SAC hit and 3 RBI and he finally started showing some life.

Wacker vs Biesner

Two position players, both battling to replace Justin Bryant in left field. Biesner has a bit of the edge right now. Wacker did see some extended pt this weekend with 4 official at bats. Beisner only played on Friday against NYIT and made a big impression, going 3-4 with a double and a HR. It ended a pretty vicious slide by Biesner over the past few games. Still, Brooks has made due and kept his average around the .400 mark currently. Hopefully, a few midweek games can keep his confidence rolling.

Alvord vs GIlmer

The other position battle isn't so much offense related. Instead it's situation related. Gilmer had a pretty nice weekend, while Alvord just had a solid Friday. There's one thing you can say about Wes, he's consistent. He'll give you a .333 day but his real strength comes sacrificing. He leads the team with 5 SAC hits, including 2 this past weekend. I really want to see Alvord succeed, especially because I think he has a power stroke just lurking in his swing. However, Wes has shown that he can be more consistent and the fielding for both is a push.

Finally, if you want a link to my stat spreadsheet. Here it is. Enjoy.

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