Tuesday, April 7, 2009

in which life imitates art, if this blog post is art

Our struggles in baseball this year - if you can call them struggles since we're 26-5 - can be chalked up to one word: BULLPEN. This is the bane of every baseball fan: to watch a great game being played with your team up late, and then the lead disappears with virtually no chance of recovery because the guy on the mound can't get three simple outs.

The verdict in the season thus far: not great. We had one player on the whole team that was on any kind of preseason watch list for whatever list of awards are given out at the end of the year, and he's not going to win that award, and yes, that award happened to be Stopper of the Year, and the nominee was Matt Packer. Packer is currently running a 3.38 ERA which is, y'know, solid, but not Stopper of the Year stuff. Packer has also been charged with two of our five losses.

Packer's not the only culprit. Those five losses - none of them have been charged to starting pitchers. Relievers aren't like starters. They can't get charged with losses that aren't their fault. If they get a loss it's not because they didn't get any run support. It's because they do really annoying things like give up eighth-inning grand slams to the worst team in the ACC. Or waste a great seventh-inning rally by giving up an eighth-inning rally. Every one of our losses has come in the eighth or ninth inning, except for one which came in the seventh.

So this team can go as far as the bullpen takes them. That much is clear. The hitting is still fearsome, even if the numbers don't look as gaudy since we started playing actual competition and not just Bucknell. We have two ace-quality starting pitchers. So how far can the bullpen take us? Well, pretty far, actually. Packer's had a rough couple of games, but his batting average-against is almost exactly the same as last year when his ERA was more than two runs smaller. (The caveat, as with all the statistical analysis you'll ever do about college baseball, is that the sample sizes are itty-bitty.) Still, Packer didn't for nothing lead the nation in ERA last year. Whenever we're in a tight spot he's still the Ghostbuster we're gonna call. And y'know, I'm OK with that. Much of the rest of the 'pen is actually improved from last year, and last year was pretty decent if you recall. The one other guy who really isn't, Neal Davis, is holding batters to .218 - again, I can live with this.

And the schedule from here on out is favorable. Outside of Georgia Tech, there's nobody left that we shouldn't expect to take two of three from at a minimum - and it's not like we can't win that series either. Certainly, we'll improve on our sixth seed in last year's ACC tournament, and what about hosting a regional? Yes, I do think we should expect that too.

I do apologize for the lateness of today's post, and yesterday's, and frankly probably the rest of the week. I've been deprived of my Tigers baseball all winter and I've been posting these from my laptop and the comfort of my recliner in front of the TV, watching my beloved old English D do their thing. This would be great fun, except, who do you suppose just gave up a three-run, eighth-inning home run to stake the Jays to a lead they haven't had all game? That's right, THE STINKING BULLPEN. So you see.

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