Thursday, May 17, 2012

series preview: Maryland

Date/Time: Thu-Sat, May 17-19; 6:00, 6:00, 1:00

TV: None

Record against the Terps: 104-73-1

Last matchup: UVA 3-0 over Md. (14-1, 4-2, 4-2); 3/25-3/26/11, Charlottesville

Last game: GT 5, UVA 4 (5/13); Md. 7, PSU 3 (5/9)

Last weekend: UVA 2-1 over GT (6-5, 4-2, 4-5); Md. bye

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #23, Maryland unranked
NCBWA: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Coaches: UVA #19, Maryland unranked
Composite: UVA #18, Maryland unranked

Maryland lineup:

C: Jack Cleary (.292-0-14)
1B: Tim Kiene (.246-6-19)
2B: Kyle Convissar (.281-2-22)
3B: K.J. Hockaday (.297-2-26)
SS: Alfredo Rodriguez (.299-2-33)
LF: Tomo Delp (.258-4-23)
CF: Korey Wacker (.262-0-10)
RF: Jordan Hagel (.311-3-22)
DH: Ryan Holland (.232-1-10)

Lineup notes: Hagel is nominally the right fielder but slides to center when Wacker pitches.  Also used in the outfield are Michael Montville and Matt Bosse, but they're light hitters.  If Montville or Bosse is in left, Delp will play first and Kiene usually DHs.

Pitching probables:

Thursday: RHP Branden Kline (6-3, 3.96, 78 Ks) vs. RHP Brett Harman (6-3, 2.72, 68 Ks)
Friday: LHP Scott Silverstein (2-4, 3.86, 42 Ks) vs. LHP Jimmy Reed (1-3, 2.85, 46 Ks)
Saturday: RHP Artie Lewicki (3-2, 4.10, 37 Ks) vs. RHP David Carroll (4-3, 3.96, 40Ks)

(Maryland listed their Friday and Saturday starters as "TBA" so I'm taking a SWAG here.)

If I would had done been thinking about it, I'd have posted this yesterday, since game 1 of the series is going on right now.  That was dumb.  By the time you read this, it'll almost certainly be over.  Anyway.

I must be one of the more pessimistic people right now.  I'm not yet convinced UVA is a great candidate to host a regional, despite all the bracketologies that say we will.  Maybe I'm jaded by 2009 when the committee cited our "less than stellar" (their words) OOC schedule as their justification for shipping us out to Irvine.  This year we lost, like, way too many games in the OOC schedule.  So I have this semi-rational fear they'll remember that.

A good way to get a step closer to that coveted goal is to sweep a bad but pesky Maryland team.  Maryland started the season hot enough to get ranked, and then fell out with a thud.  But they haven't been the automatic sweep this year that they're supposed to be.  A win over FSU on national TV threw that point into sharp relief.

-- UVA at the plate

And the reason they do that kind of thing is because they have the pitching to make it happen, and the fielding to back it up.  Maryland is actually a pretty solid team with the glove.  Not great, but better than average - none of their players have reached double digits in errors yet, as compared to two on our own team.

The pitching is the same way.  They don't have any one guy that I'd peg as their ace.  Nor that they would peg as their ace, because the rotation has shifted all year, and there's nobody who hasn't made at least a couple relief appearances as well as starts.  But overall, it's pretty good.  Maryland's team ERA is a hair below three at 2.99, good for third in the conference.

Brett Harman started tonight's game, and pitched into the eighth inning.  Telling you he's pretty decent is probably moot therefore, but he's pretty decent.  If I'm right and Maryland starts Jimmy Reed this weekend - as they've done recently - it's an interesting move because he spent most of the year as their closer.  It's probably a way to get a lefty into the rotation, because they don't have a lot of choices in the southpaw department.

David Carroll has an opponent's BA of .275 - and I keep mentioning pitchers' opponents' BA because it seems to be the stat that has the most correlation with our success against them.  Pitchers who are hittable like that, we tend to hit.  Carroll has the most starts of anyone on the Terps' staff, so I expect he'll keep going out there.  Carroll, by the way, is ridiculously huge, standing 6'8", 235.

Out of the bullpen - well, it's hard to know who exactly it'll be if we don't know who's starting.  CF Korey Wacker is also a pitcher and a pretty good one, sporting a 1.88 ERA, although that's going up after tonight because the Hoos are hitting him hard.  (Much like last year, when Wacker pitched in relief and got righteously bombed and took the loss in game 2; righteously, because he had detoured to the mound on the way back to dugout after the previous inning and spiked the ball, a clear violation of baseball etiquette.)  RHP Sander Beck will probably be available, usually a starter (sometimes on weekdays) but the Terps didn't have a weekday game.  Maryland can also bring in righties Michael Boyden or Brady Kirkpatrick, both of whom also have their share of starting experience.

So Maryland rolls pretty deep on the pitching staff.  That said, so did Miami, and the ceiling for the Maryland pitchers is not as high as that of the Canes.  It looks like our traditional 20-run supernova game isn't in the cards this year, as there's little doubt their pitching staff is way, way improved over the past.  But they lack that one real shutdown guy, and if you're hitting that day, you're hitting, and they don't have a fireman to come put it out.

-- UVA in the field

You'll be delighted to know, if you're planning on heading to a game this weekend, that Maryland's still starting Tomo Delp, after it looked like he'd be a bench guy this year.  This is good because Delp has the highly amusing habit of swinging the bat violently over his head like a helicopter between each pitch.  If you don't see this at least once you're missing out.

This is one of the lighter-hitting teams in the league.  With the pitching they have they'd almost definitely be in the ACC tournament if they had even average hitting, but their slugging average of .376 is second-worst in the conference.  The top hitter is outfielder Jordan Hagel, at .311, and a .468 slugging average, both best on the team.

Ultimately the deal is that Maryland has sort of the opposite problem of UVA.  Whereas we tend to have about 11 guys for 9 spots in the lineup, and thus have to juggle, Maryland has like six guys for nine spots in the lineup, and the rest are all equally light-hitting.  So where we often put a guy at DH whose bat is valuable but who doesn't fit anywhere in the field, Maryland DHs a guy because they have to.  While they do have some contact hitters - the infield is solid enough with three respectable hitters, who, unlike the outfield, don't platoon much - there's only one player (senior SS Alfredo Rodriguez) with more than 30 RBIs.  (UVA has five, and three in the 40s.)

So if the Hoo pitchers can avoid issuing free passes - and Maryland's 187 walks are just one more than VT's worst-in-the-league 186 - they should be able to escape most damage.  I emphasize should because at this very moment Justin Thompson is trying to protect a 7-5 lead in the ninth and not having an easy time.  Our pitching staff last year would've mowed this bunch down (and they basically did, allowing five runs all weekend) but if we can put together a full nine innings of good pitching, this year's bunch can do the same.

-- Outlook

If I had written this yesterday I'd have said sweep.  It doesn't look so good from here.  (HA HA screw it never mind some fool just hit into a double play GAME OVER.)  OK, sweep is back on.  Be warned, though, that we wouldn't be the only team to inexplicably lose a game to this team and "only" take a 2-1 series win away from the weekend.  It's not like I'd even be all that disappointed to not get the sweep, because that'd give us the 18 wins I wanted.  However, this is a sweepable team, and now that game 1 is in the books, and I can cheat big-time on the prediction, I think that's what happens.


Billy Bob said...

Hey Brendan,

Did you hear the news about the Big 12/SEC Bowl partnership?

This is only gonna add more feul to the FSU HAS GOT TO GET OFF THIS SINKING BOAT fire.

I never really believed the Big 12 would be interested in FSU, but now FSU is all the more likely to bolt when the chance comes.

I am actually kinda worried on this one.

The ACC has got to be productive and creative to try to up the ante. I know we will never be number one but there is now a gap between the Big Four and the ACC/BE. Despite all the nice ass money we're gonna get.

Brendan said...

I'm not going to post extensively about this until Monday, so truly, the only thing that bothers me about this is that I'll have to sit through a whole weekend of THE ACC IS DEAD yet again before I can vent about it. We will be fine, just like we were all the other times people tried to kill off the ACC.

Anonymous said...

While I think the ACC will be fine, I do think that they need to be pro-active. (as a side note, one reason I think the ACC will be safe is that, unless schools bolt the ACC, I find it hard to believe that any new BCS playoff system TV contract would give up the Eastern Seaboard)

That said, the one thing about the Swofford tenure has been his aggressiveness. It's almost an after-thought now, but the ACC's first round of expansion was really the ... calm before the storm, and then they quietly made the Pitt/Syracuse move last year when all the focus was on the Big 12.

That said, I think they've got to do something. And that something seems to be Notre Dame. It might suck for Swofford and Co. to swallow their pride and give Notre Dame some leeway on their TV contract (wasn't that the big holdup last time), but it might be the best thing for the ACC long run. For Notre Dame, giving a little now and joining a conference may prevent them from having to give a lot later to join another conference.

It seems possible that the Big 4 conferences are trying to set it up so that their bowl games can be utilized as anchors for the playoff system. An ACC-Notre Dame partnership would be enough firepower to hold things at bay for awhile.

I can't think of another move that would really change the equation. A partnership with the Big East ... been there, done that. There isn't really another team that can be plucked that has half as much power.