Friday, April 4, 2014

series preview: Pittsburgh

Date/Time: Fri.-Sun., April 4-6; 3:00, 3:00, 1:00

TV: ESPN3 all three days

Record against the Panthers: 5-1

Last meeting: UVA 11, Pitt 4; 3/24/81, Charlottesville

Last game: UVA 10, GWU 0 (4/2); YSU 7, Pitt 6 (4/2)

Last weekend:
UVA 3-0 over VT (2-1, 9-2, 7-4)
Pitt 3-0 over GT (4-3, 5-0, 4-2)

National rankings:

Baseball America: UVA #3; Pitt UR
Collegiate Baseball: UVA #3; Pitt UR
Perfect Game: UVA #2; Pitt UR
Coaches: UVA #1; Pitt UR

Pitching probables:

LHP Nathan Kirby (5-1, 1.24) vs. RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (2-1, 3.79)

RHP Josh Sborz (3-1, 2.78) vs. RHP Joseph Harvey (2-1, 2.79)

LHP Brandon Waddell (3-1, 3.76) vs. RHP Matt Wotherspoon (3-3, 6.81)

You read it right - if you paid attention - UVA and Pitt haven't met on the diamond since 1981.  And previous games between these teams were so long ago that the official site's preview says they don't even know where the games were played.

Pitt has been somewhat of a surprise in a somewhat down and very tightly packed Coastal.  They started their ACC season 1-5 and then in the past two weeks, swept Duke (not a terrific feat, though the Blue Devils are 7-5) and Georgia Tech (quite the surprise.)  That puts them third in the division and tied for 6th in the ACC.  On the other hand, they've suffered more than their share of out-of-conference losses, including a four-game losing streak against Fordham, Ohio State, ECU, and WKU.

Trying a slightly new format for baseball previews this year; here's the Pitt lineup:

-- First base: Eric Hess (.289-1-10).  Bats L.  Usually hits in the 5 or 6 slot.  Mainly a singles hitter.  Solid fielder.

-- Second base: Matt Johnson (.265-0-12).  Bats R.  8th hitter.  Juco transfer.  Moved from shortstop early in the year, but has started all but one game.  Decent basepath speed.

-- Third base: Jordan Frabasilio (.280-2-8).  Bats R.  Another juco.  Typically 7th hitter, moved down from 5th.  One of four to play in every game, starting all but two at third.  Lousy fielder (.877 fielding %.)

-- Shortstop: Dylan Wolsonovich (.310-0-19).  Bats R.  #2 hitter.  Started year at second base.  Good contact hitter, mostly singles.

-- Left field: Boo Vazquez (.274-5-30).  Bats L.  #3 hitter.  Big guy, solid power.  Second-team Big East in 2013.  Batted .337 last year.  Vazquez moved to DH earlier this season in favor of A.J. Lardo (.300-0-3) but reclaimed LF a couple weeks later.

-- Center field: Stephen Vranka (.293-2-17).  Bats R.  Leadoff hitter and only Panther to start every game of the season at the same position.  Team leader in walks with 22, and has 4 triples.

-- Right field: Casey Roche (.292-3-23).  Bats R.  Cleanup hitter.  Has started all 28 games; one at DH, one on the mound, the rest in right field.  He and Vranka are seniors.

-- Catcher: Manny Pazos (.183-0-11).  Bats R.  Ninth hitter when in the lineup.  Pazos shares catching duties with fellow freshman Caleb Parry (.105-0-0.)  Neither can hit much.  Tyler Albert has started three games behind the plate and is 1-for-12 on the season.

-- Designated hitter: Steven Shelinsky (.272-2-15.)  Bats R.  5th or 6th hitter.

-- Bench: Lefty OF Nick Yarnall (.286-0-5) and righty OF A.J. Lardo (.300-0-3) see a pretty fair amount of pinch-hitting duties and the occasional start. 

-- Rotation:

Friday: RHP Rhys Aldenhoven (2-1, 3.79): Doesn't throw hard (86-88) but gets strikeouts with a good breaking ball.

Saturday: RHP Joseph Harvey (2-1, 2.79): Spent last year in the bullpen as the Panther closer.  Very good control, only 9 walks this year.

Sunday: RHP Matt Wotherspoon (3-3, 6.81): Led Pitt in both Ks and walks last year.  Walks are down but opponent BA way up; got shelled by UNC and VT.


RHP Hobie Harris (2-3, 2.10): Lanky, effectively wild with 24 Ks and 19 walks in 30 innings, and opponents' BA of .136.

RHP Jon Danielczyk (3-0, 2.88): Top reliever a year ago with ERA of 1.69.  Has hit more batters than he's walked (6 to 3.)

RHP Luke Curtis (0-1, 2.30): More than a strikeout per inning but opponents' BA is .328.

RHP Adam Dian (1-1, 3.00): Transfer from Temple.

Bottom line: Pitt is a very, very veteran team; the only players mentioned in this whole preview not in their third year (or more) are the freshman catchers Pazos and Parry, as well as Nick Yarnall.  Everyone else is at least a redshirt sophomore, and there are a number of seniors.  The lineup from 1 to 8 is practically indistinguishable from one another; there are no freakishly dangerous hitters and no obvious weak spots until you get to the ninth-hitting catcher, whoever it happens to be.  Leadoff hitter Stephen Vranka is probably the most dangerous, as he owns good speed, a very good eye, and some gap power.  Most of the lineup is right-handers.

Pitt does have some left-handed pitchers stashed away on the bench, but we'll never see 'em.  Might be no surprise, then, if we see a lot of left-handed part-timers John LaPrise and Matt Thaiss, and less of Robbie Coman.  The amount of skew on Pitt's roster toward right-handed players is astounding; only three lefty-hitting position players (one of whom throws righty) and no switch-hitters.

At 10-2, UVA is poised to start running away with the Coastal Division.  Miami is hot behind at 8-4, but UVA has the series win.  The difficulty (but RPI bonus) is that UVA is scheduled to play all the best teams in the Atlantic (FSU, Clemson, Wake(!)) and none of the worst.  So getting a series win on the road here is important, lest Pitt and Miami make the race interesting.

Prediction: 50/50 split in probability between a 2-1 win and a sweep.  Pitt's solid veteran lineup could win a close game if the UVA bats are cold.  They likely don't have the firepower to match up in a shootout, though.


Anonymous said...

very informative preview as always. i like the new format

Erik said...

Nathan Kirby no hitter oh my lord!! School record 18 ks