Friday, March 29, 2013

series preview: Miami

Date/Time: Fri.-Sun., March 29-31; 6:00, 1:00, 1:00

TV: Sunday on RSN, ESPN3

Record against the Canes: 18-19

Last meeting: UVA 3-0 series win, 7-3, 7-4, 7-4; 4/28-4/30/12, Coral Gables

Last game: UVA 7, Towson 1 (3/27); FAU 6, Miami 1 (3/27)

Last weekend: UVA 3-0 over NCSt. (8-2, 4-3, 6-3); Miami 2-1 over VT (11-9, 2-0, 5-8)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #9, Miami unranked
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #5, Miami unranked
NCBWA: UVA #9, Miami unranked
Perfect Game: UVA #8, Miami unranked
Coaches: UVA #8, Miami unranked
Consensus: UVA #8, Miami unranked

Miami lineup:

C: Alex San Juan (.314-1-12)
1B: Chris Barr (.289-0-3)
2B: Alex Hernandez (.292-0-14)
SS: Brandon Lopez (.238-0-3)
3B: Brad Fieger (.316-0-19)
LF: Michael Broad (.279-0-10)
CF: Ricky Eusebio (.259-0-6)
RF: Chantz Mack (.284-0-16)
DH: David Thompson (.289-2-21)

Pitching probables:

Friday: LHP Brandon Waddell (2-0, 2.60, 47 K) vs. LHP Chris Diaz (3-1, 1.58, 23 K)
Saturday: LHP Scott Silverstein (4-0, 3.58, 22 K) vs. LHP Bryan Radziewski (3-0, 0.42, 36 K)
Sunday: RHP Nick Howard (3-1, 1.65, 28 K) vs. LHP Andrew Suarez (2-1, 2.73, 23 K)

With the winter season now pretty much officially wrapped up, I guess it's time to pay attention to things like baseball.  We'll put a cap on the basketball season next week, but now it's baseball time.  I haven't been devoting the UVA nine enough attention, and they've been having a very fine season.  Vintage Brian O'Connor: graduate some great players and jump right to the next wave.  UVA is now a consensus top ten team with a starting lineup that has no juniors and two seniors, and a freshman Friday starter.  Both ESPN and Baseball America have sat up and taken note.

In comes Miami this week with an uncustomary 4-5 record.  Dropping a series to UNC is understandable, as the Heels are the near-unanimous #1 team in the country.  That they won a game at all shows us a little something.  Dropping a series to Duke is another thing.  They've tweaked their rotation since, but Miami's arms are well ahead of their bats.

-- UVA at bat

Miami will send three left-handers to the hill this weekend, something of a rarity for college teams.  They've saved the best for Saturday.  Bryan Radziewski had a terrific freshman year in 2011 and then blew out his shoulder midway through last year.  This year his numbers are a little bit better than they should be, mostly from pitching on weekdays.  Mostly.  Last Saturday he tossed a complete-game, two-hit shutout against Virginia Tech, and struck out 16 Hokies.  Radziewski has allowed seven hits all season long.

The most hittable pitcher is probably Friday's, actually.  Chris Diaz allows opponents a .277 batting average, so far.  Radziewski is tougher because he changes speeds better on his fastball; Diaz has a little bit of a look of a guy who may be headed for a move further back in the weekend.  Diaz, however, is the only Miami weekend starter who's not coming off of a 2012 injury; Andrew Suarez didn't pitch hardly at all last year in his freshman season, and will be totally new to UVA.

These are good, quality starters; not overpowering, but solid all weekend.  If UVA can bounce the starters early, though, they'll find a thin Hurrican bullpen to feast on.  Thomas Woodrey - another lefty - has looked good, and can pitch in long relief, but quite a few of his innings have been of the weekday variety.  Miami also has a good, experienced senior closer in righty Eric Nedeljkovic, who hasn't allowed a run this year.  That's about it, though.  The rest of their bullpen - the regulars' section, anyway - has been hovering in the .300 range in opponents' BA, and nobody has an ERA less than 4.80.  Right-handers Eric Whaley and Frank Grandinette and lefty A.J. Salcines have been getting bombarded.  Mystifying in Whaley's case, as he spent all of last season in the weekend rotation and had a 2.68 ERA.  Now he's allowed 25 hits in 14 innings.

So the key will be to prolong innings and at-bats.  UVA has an excellent lineup and can score off of the starters, but these will be the kind of games where as long as you get to the fifth and sixth innings with the game close, you'll have a chance to blow it open late.  This was exactly the way things went against Carlos Rodon of NC State, and the blueprint can be repeated here.

-- Miami at bat

It's not often UVA comes into a series as the team with more power in the lineup.  This year it's something we may have to get used to, but to this degree, it'll be rare.  Only Maryland and Boston College have fewer home runs than Miami's five.

Mostly it's a lineup of right-handed contact hitters, with just a couple lefties sprinkled in.  Only two regulars are hitting below .279, with seven guys in the pretty tight range between .279 and .316.  What power there is, is provided largely by DH David Thompson, who has two of Miami's five homers and leads the team in RBIs.  The best hitter in general is 3B Brad Fieger, the only Miami player to appear in every one of their games last year.

One ongoing battle the Canes have is in center field, where Dale Carey typically holds court.  Carey was a respectable hitter last year but has slumped badly this year, dropping his average to .173.  He was used in the Tech series as a pinch runner, with Ricky Eusebio taking over center field.  Both are speedy base-stealing threats, along with 1B Chris Barr.

Truth is, it's a little strange seeing Miami as a slap-hitting, sac-bunting team that plays much more small-ball than rocket ball, but that's the way it is.  And they strike out a lot for a low-power team: 172 Ks, second-most in the ACC.  The Canes will send a lot of clones up to the plate.  Guys with very similar approaches and very similar statistics to show for it.  UVA's pitching should be able to handle this lineup.

-- Outlook

 This ain't your father's Miami.  This is a team with good enough starting pitching to threaten in more or less any ACC series, and a lousy enough bullpen that they'll often enough end the threat with a whimper.  Essentially they lean very, very hard on that rotation and badly need them to keep them in the game, because they can't win a shootout.  If the Hoos keep up the pace they'll take this series, and a sweep isn't at all out of the question.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, that was a nice start to the weekend. What's been nice to see is that the bullpen is rock solid.

This may be our best bullpen yet, despite the fact that so many young arms are in key spots. There's some legitimate power in the back end of the pen, but there's versatility with groundball guys and a do it all lefty in Crockett.

I am slightly concerned that Waddell has had a couple pedestrian starts, so that may be something to watch.

April's going to be a tough road for us, with Tech/FSU/Hokies in 3 consecutive weekends, with only FSU at home. If we get through that stretch and win 2 out of the 3 series, I would think that we would be in good shape to host a regional again, which would be a pleasant surprise.

This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for men's sports (bball, football, and baseball). Flickers of hope came in basketball of over-achieving. Baseball, though, is ... beyond over-achieving. They are just damn good. This is a dang exciting squad. Downes excites me moreso than Jarrett Parker's top years. If the pitching is there, we can do some damage.