Friday, April 27, 2012

series preview: Miami

Date/Time: Sat-Mon, April 28-30; 1:00, 7:00, 7:00

TV: First two games on ESPN3 and local networks; Monday on ESPNUVA

Record against the Canes: 14-19

Last matchup: UVA 6, Miami 4; 5/27/11; Durham, NC (ACC tournament)

Last game: UVA 7, VCU 5 (4/25); Miami 3, FAU 1 (4/24)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 over Duke (3-6, 12-3, 10-3); FSU 3-0 over Miami (2-11, 1-6, 7-8)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA unranked; Miami #22
Collegiate Baseball: UVA unranked; Miami #24
NCBWA: UVA #26, Miami #15
Perfect Game: UVA #32, Miami #25
Coaches: UVA #25, Miami #18
Composite: UVA unranked, Miami #20

Miami lineup:

C: Garrett Kennedy (.186-0-3)**
1B: Esteban Tresgallo (.269-3-8)
2B: Michael Broad (.279-3-23)
3B: Brad Fieger (.297-1-20)
SS: Stephen Perez (.264-4-21)
LF: Chantz Mack (.269-0-21)
CF: Dale Carey (.289-1-15)
RF: Tyler Palmer (.252-3-16)
DH: Rony Rodriguez (.266-1-13)

**Kennedy is filling in for Peter O'Brien, out 4-6 weeks with a broken wrist.  O'Brien is easily the Canes' best hitter, with a stat line of .354-10-38 and a .677 slugging average.  So it's a real shame he'll miss this series.  Wait no it's not.

Pitching probables:

Saturday: RHP Branden Kline (5-3, 3.38, 68 Ks) vs. LHP Eric Erickson (6-4, 3.43, 49 Ks)
Sunday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-4, 3.22, 39 Ks) vs. RHP Eric Whaley (3-3, 2.54, 39 Ks)
Monday: RHP Artie Lewicki (2-2, 4.50, 30 Ks) vs. LHP Steven Ewing (4-0, 2.71, 65 Ks)

So I'd say, after not being able to sweep Duke, the idealized goal of an 18-12 ACC season is all but vanished from the realm of possibilities.  That would require three series wins out of three, with one of them a sweep.  Not completely impossible, but an uphill climb.  I'd like to say what the readjusted goal is (16? 17?) but that'd require a solid definition of just how good this Miami team is.

Which is hard to do.  These guys swept UNC, and the Heels swept us.  Bad news.  They lost their series to VT and weren't really even competitive against FSU.  Good news.  The series is in Miami.  Bad news.  Their hitting is Duke-like.  Good news.  Their pitching is UNC-like.  Bad news.  This is a tough series against a very beatable team.  What?  Yes.

-- UVA at the plate

The Hoos are, right now, the only ACC team batting over .300.  A neat little factoid I thought I'd throw in, because we might not be able to say it after this weekend.  For one thing, Miami brings possibly the most left-handed pitching we've seen all year.  They bookend the series with southpaw starters, and one of the top firemen out of the pen - A.J. Salcines - is also a lefty.  Salcines's K/BB ratio of 5.4 and ERA of 1.37 mean he'll be saved for the tightest spot of the series.

Really, it's a tribute to the depth of Miami's pitching staff that they're still this scary.  Of the three guys I figured would be in their rotation at the beginning of the season, only one actually is - righty Eric Whaley.  Bryan Radziewski, last year's staff ace as a freshman, suffered a season-ending shoulder injury halfway through the year, and huge right-hander E.J. Encinosa was moved to closer, where he's limited opposing hitters to a .155 BA.

And they still have three legitimate draft prospects taking the ball - Whaley, big lefty Steven Ewing (what pitching coach doesn't love a left-hander who's 6'2, 220?) and oft-injured Eric Erickson.  Erickson is actually on his fifth year, having undergone two Tommy John surgeries already, but has been healthy and dealing this season, walking just six batters in 63.2 innings.

So this is gonna be tough.  No cakewalks on any of the three days, and when the starters get in trouble, they can call on Salcines or Eric Nedeljkovic**, both very reliable pitchers.  Nobody in that bullpen is a slouch, actually.  Not a one.

One final note, maybe a silver lining of sorts: Miami is the second worst-fielding team in the league.  SS Stephen Perez has 15 errors, 2B Michael Broad sports a .918 FP%, and 1B Esteban Tresgallo has 10 errors of his own.  At some point this weekend, UVA's put-the-ball-in-play ethos should serve our hitters well.

**I bet pitchers' meetings at Miami are interesting.  Damn near half the staff is named "Eric."

-- UVA in the field

Now for the good news.  As mentioned, Miami will probably be without Peter O'Brien, who is by leaps and bounds their best hitter.  (And if he does play, it'll be on a wrist that isn't fully healed.)  As a team, Miami is hitting .274, which isn't great but not so bad that I'd've mentioned it otherwise.  Their non-O'Brien hitters are batting .265, which means that the version of Miami we'll face this weekend is hitting worse than Duke - and has the lowest average in the conference.

In fact, without O'Brien there isn't a .300 hitter on the roster.  The closest is Brad Fieger at .297.  Dale Carey is batting .289, Michael Broad .279 - nobody else tops .270.  By contrast, unless we use Brandon Cogswell, who isn't really in the full-time starting lineup, UVA will send nobody to the plate who bats less than .270.

Losing O'Brien sapped them of most of their power, too.  There'll be four hitters in the middle of the order with the ability to go deep if you make a mistake - these are Broad, Tresgallo, Stephen Perez, and Tyler Palmer, with Perez also having four triples to his credit - but no real masher.

The big thing: avoid freebies.  This is the baseball equivalent of "don't turn the ball over."  But last week against Duke, what happened?  Branden Kline gave up five free passes (four walks and a hit batsman) and lost.  Scott Silverstein gave up three walks in two innings and was yanked.  Shane Halley relieved him, gave up one walk in six innings, and no runs, and got the win.  Artie Lewicki gave up one walk in seven innings and got the win.  Miami will send out a lineup very similar to Duke's, so I don't see why the results should be different.  Don't walk people and they won't score much.

-- Outlook

The problem is, they don't need to score much to win.  Based on that pitching staff I'd be disappointed but not exactly shocked if we got swept.  But it's a winnable series too.  So I'm glad I could clear up all that ambiguity from the first section.  At any rate, it's probably the biggest one left in the regular season.  I'd like things better if it were at home, but it's not, so in the end, I have to predict we drop the series 2-1.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, we got one in the bank. Here's hoping for another win (or two), which would really help better position the Cavs for the postseason.