Friday, June 1, 2012

charlottesville regional preview

It's basically a known and indisputable fact that the best weekend of March Madness is the first.  That's when they're playing the most basketball.  The same principle applies during the baseball tournament, except it's double-elimination so even more baseball is played.  I can't wait til the Ocho becomes a reality so that the whole thing can be broadcast and I can just take it all in by osmosis.

UVA will host Oklahoma (2 seed), Appalachian State (3 seed), and Army (4 seed) at Davenport Field this weekend, with UVA vs. Army getting things started at 11 AM tomorrow.  (The early start time is because it's gon' rain.)  So you know our opponents, but do you really know them?  You will.

Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 38-22 (13-10 Big 12)
RPI: #28


C: Tanner Toal (.219-1-7)
1B: Evan Mistich (.269-3-32)
2B: Jack Mayfield (.286-3-26)
3B: Garrett Carey (.214-1-23)
SS: Caleb Bushyhead (.254-1-15)
LF: Erik Ross (.295-0-18)
CF: Max White (.356-2-54)
RF: Cody Reine (.268-5-27)
DH: Hunter Lockwood (.250-11-39)

Notes: Lockwood is also a catcher and has played quite a few games there, but the Sooners appear to have settled on Toal behind the plate; Toal has the superior arm.  That leaves Lockwood and Matt Oberste (.311-5-16) to platoon at DH, which is not a great situation for Oklahoma because they're two of the better hitters on the team.


LHP Jordan John (8-6, 2.30, 97 Ks)
LHP Dillon Overton (5-3, 3.24, 109 Ks)
RHP Jonathan Gray (8-4, 3.47, 90 Ks)

LHP Steven Okert (8-7, 2.92, 71 Ks, 4 sv.)
RHP Damien Magnifico (3-1, 3.86, 33 Ks)
RHP Kindle Ladd (0-1, 4.56, 20 Ks)

We meet again.  Probably.  Though Oklahoma has several of the same hitters they brought with them two years ago to the Charlottesville super-regional, this lineup actually bears little resemblance to the one that kept us from reaching Omaha in 2010.  Even though that was the final year for the pingbats (thus making comparisons difficult) the truth is that it's still a much weaker lineup.  Oklahoma has gotten through thus far on the strength of their starting rotation.

It's a very good one.  It has to be; the bullpen is wicked thin.  There are only six pitchers who've thrown more than 20 innings all season, and three of them are their innings-eating starters.  Jordan John will get the start for OU against App. State in the first game, which means that UVA, if we face the Sooners in game 2, will almost certainly bat against Dillon Overton.  Overton is one of those guys like GT's Buck Farmer, who on any given day will either send a parade of hitters shuffling back to the dugout or allow a parade of baserunners to merry-go-round their way around the bases.

More on this later, but OU's relatively weak lineup is a possible reason for Brian O'Connor's surprising (to me) decision to burn Branden Kline in the first game.  Max White is a very, very dangerous three-hole hitter, and Hunter Lockwood's 11 home runs playing in the pitchers' park that OU has - that's very impressive.  Outside of that, though, it's a pedestrian lineup, and OU bats a Duke-esque .269 as a team.

Appalachian State Mountaineers

Record: 39-16 (21-9 SoCon)
RPI: #40


C: Jeremy Dowdy (.271-3-37)
1B: Trey Holmes (.249-6-37)
2B: Hector Crespo (.317-3-23)
3B: Noah Holmes (.229-1-18)
SS: Will Callaway (.330-4-52)
LF: Preston Troutman (.280-0-24)
CF: Tyler Zupcic (.338-2-24)
RF: Tyler Tewell (.375-6-43)
DH: Daniel Kassouf (.345-17-60)

Notes: None


RHP Ryan Arrowood (10-0, 4.03, 84 Ks)
RHP Seth Grant (6-3, 3.33, 65 Ks)
LHP Rob Marcello (6-4, 5.19, 45 Ks)

RHP Nathan Hyatt (1-0, 3.46, 28 Ks, 15 sv.)
RHP Jamie Nunn (5-2, 3.88, 45 Ks)
RHP Tyler Moore (3-2, 5.53, 18 Ks)
RHP David Port (2-1, 5.61, 12 Ks)
LHP Jeffrey Springs (2-0, 4.07, 18 Ks)

The top seed in the Southern Conference tournament, Appy State had a poor showing and was invited to the NCAAs as an at-large.  Probably their ticket was punched way back in February, when they went to Baton Rouge and took a three-game series from LSU by holding the Tigers to just one run in the final two games.

That's the kind of thing that forbids you to take the Mountaineers lightly.  Despite the supposedly weaker competition in the SoCon, I'd take their lineup over OU's any day, not least because I'd get the best hitter in the whole regional: DH Daniel Kassouf.  Certainly his 17 home runs are to be taken seriously.  RF Tyler Tewell is also an outstanding hitter, batting .375.  In all, five of App State's starters made 1st or 2nd team all-conference.

App State also has their conference's pitcher of the year: right-hander Ryan Arrowood.  Arrowood will pitch against Oklahoma in game 1, so if UVA draws the Mountaineers in the second game, the likely moundsman is righty Seth Grant.  Grant has solid numbers, though probably isn't quite the pitcher that OU's Overton is; nevertheless, I'm not sure I wouldn't rather face the Sooners.  When teams beat UVA it's usually not because we can't hit, it's because our pitchers get knocked around.  The Mountaineers could be a worse matchup for us.

Army Black Knights

Record: 41-13 (18-2 PL)
RPI: #112


C: J.T. Watkins (.318-5-31)
1B: Kevin McKague (.389-5-44)
2B: Zach Price (.324-0-24)
3B: Harold Earls (.347-0-22)
SS: Alex Jensen (.259-0-23)
LF: Daniel Cortes (.274-0-23)
CF: Matthew Carter (.250-0-5)
RF: Cody Murtle (.251-4-41)
DH: Mark McCants (.241-2-28)

Notes: McKague is also used occasionally out of the bullpen.


RHP Chris Rowley (11-0, 1.97, 76 Ks)
LHP Logan Lee (8-2, 3.28, 60 Ks)
LHP Nick Dignacco (7-2, 3.38, 58 Ks)

RHP Gunnar Carroll (2-0, 2.45, 40 Ks, 8 sv.)
RHP Alex Robinett (3-1, 2.73, 42 Ks)
RHP Manny Fernandez (4-1, 2.22, 16 Ks)
RHP Andrew Flaherty (3-1, 3.04, 10 Ks)

Everything here comes with the caveat that the Patriot League, as a northern low-major conference, inflates statistics.  That said, those are some eye-popping numbers on Army's ace, Chris Rowley, who'll throw against UVA tomorrow.  (Or today, depending on when you read this.)  Rowley is an efficient ground-ball pitcher; he doesn't walk many batters, and when pitching against Bucknell this year, he threw a seven-inning complete game in 78 minutes and needed only 65 pitches.

That said, all those guys hitting .259 or worse, well, they did that against Patriot League pitching, mostly.  Since it's Kline who got the nod against Army, as long as the dominant version of Kline shows up, they probably won't be able to touch him.  They're a light-hitting team: only 16 dingers all season, and all hit by four players.  Only Kevin McKague has reached double-digit doubles (with 16) and Army as a team slugs only .365.  However, they're very slick with the glove, with one exception: shortstop Alex Jensen has 21 errors.

Fun fact: The Hoos haven't played the USMA since 1913, a 9-3 loss.  So it's time to get revenge for a century-old wound.  Best served cold, etc.  Plus we need to give Jim Reid (Mike London's DC, in case you put football out of your mind) braggin' rights: his son Matt is Army's coach.


As mentioned, inclement weather in the forecast has moved the games up in the day, and UVA will play at 11 AM.  As the host, we have the option to go first or second, and this is why we go first.  We're much more likely to get our game in.

Now, as for why we're burning up our ace in the first game, against the four seed and contrary to what I consider conventional wisdom?  Possible reasons:

- The possibility that OU and App State won't get their game in til Saturday; therefore, if Kline can eat up a bunch of innings, we'll have a way fresher bullpen than whoever awaits.
- Respect for Chris Rowley; BOC may feel a need to match Army's ace with our ace.
- If we jump on Army early, Kline can be pulled and then used out of the pen as needed later on. (I don't put any stock in this theory, however; it's not likely we'll "jump on" Rowley, and BOC doesn't tend to think in terms of what will happen if the absolute best-case comes to pass.)
- Anticipation that we'll face Oklahoma in game 2, against whom we may not need our ace.

Also a mystery: who starts the second game?  This probably hinges upon the staff's opinion of Scott Silverstein: is he still dependable, or falling apart?  If the former, then they'll go with him; if the latter, they'll try Lewicki and hope to win, which would put Silverstein in a lower-pressure situation.

Our hopes also may hinge on some injury news.  Reed Gragnani may finally be ready to return, giving us some needed flexibility in the lineup.  And the status of Shane Halley, who's morphed from emergency arm to the most dependable guy in the pen, and then missed several weeks, is up in the air.  A deep bullpen is a must in tournament play, and Halley will be badly missed if he can't go.

Because they don't feel like they earned their money if they pick all #1 seeds, a lot of pundits are picking Oklahoma.  There's some logic in that, given OU's formidable starting rotation.  However, this is a regional of flawed teams, and it's also fair to say UVA is the least flawed of the four.  We have a balanced lineup, and pitchers that can shut down any of these teams - if they pitch up to their potential.  UVA will win this regional if that happens.  If not, then Oklahoma will probably claw their way to the supers, one 3-1 game at a time.

1 comment:

CMUHoo said...

I think there's a more straightforward explanation for why we're throwing Kline against Army: Lewicki is the ace these days. Obviously it's close, but Lewicki hasn't been walking guys the way Kline has and actually has a better ERA. Without a reliable third starter, you throw your best two guys to make the championship and play it by ear from there. Thus, Artie starts tomorrow.