Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody! Let’s pull up our socks and get after it.
NC_Beaver (Winston-Salem, NC): Why is Ben Wetzler not in the discussion for Pitcher of Year. Statistically, he's off the charts with a sub 1.00 ERA. On top of that, he's faced tremendous adversity at the beginning of the year (being questionably suspended by NCAA) -- and overcome that to be the vocal leader of the Beavers. He may not have the best "stuff" -- but if you consider his stats, leadership and other intangibles, this guy has been one of THE forces in college baseball this year. For example, they haven't lost since he let the team have it after losing to an inferior team, Sacremento State. The team credits him for that added sense of urgency. Why not him for Pitcher of Year? (Of course, his recent arrest brings some of this into question...)
Aaron Fitt: Well, we don’t do a pitcher of the year award, only one Player of the Year award that pitchers or position players can win. But he certainly is in consideration for first-team All-America honors. It will be interesting to see if he winds up getting suspended over this weekend’s arrest, and if that is a distraction at all. I was pretty schocked and disappointed to hear that news, considering how glowingly the OSU coaching staff, players and even the reporters who cover that program every week speak about Wetzler’s character. Without knowing the details from this weekend, I still believe he is an upstanding citizen and teammate, just one who made an ill-timed mistake.
HawkTalk (Nashville): Aaron, What do you make of Carson Fulmer's emergence as a backstop to Beede in VU's rotation? Is he alleviating some of the pressure by providing 28 scoreless innings in his 4 starts so far? Beede's been sharper since the move, and if he snaps back to All-American form, it's a lethal 1-2 punch.
Aaron Fitt: We talked about this in today’s podcast: moving Fulmer into the rotation has changed the entire dynamic for Vandy. He’s obviously a special, special talent, and his swagger is contagious, and he takes pressure off everybody else on the staff. And the bullpen is still so good without him back there, you have to wonder why they didn’t make this move a lot sooner than they did. Beede has been better recently, but he still walked six guys this week, and was very inefficient the previous week. I’d like to see him get back to his first-half form, when it seemed like his command had taken a big step forward and he was able to pitch deeper into games by limiting his pitch counts. Still have not seen that form recently.
Glen (Baton Rouge): LSU has a BoydsWorld RPI of 20. In 2006/07, LSU was left out of the tournament with RPIs of 23 and 28. Should we be nervous?
Aaron Fitt: Absolutely not. LSU also won 13 and 12 SEC games in those two seasons; the Tigers are already sitting on 14 SEC wins this year, with three still to play. Teams that win 14+ SEC games and have good RPIs are just about locks for regionals. But I do think LSU’s soft, home-baked nonconference schedule will hurt its hosting chances, because the committee has made a point of emphasizing nonconference SOS in recent years. LSU knows this, it has been hurt by this before, and it continues to schedule the same way. I know LSU makes money every home weekend, but if it left home for just one nonconference weekend once in a while, I think it would go a long way in the committee’s eyes.
Grant (NYC): When does BA's Draft top 500 with scouting reports go live? Thanks
Aaron Fitt: We’ll roll out the top 100 with scouting reports tomorrow, and then the rest of the 500 over the following couple of weeks.
Frank (Chicago, IL): How far down do you see Fedde falling with the news of his TJ?
Aaron Fitt: Tough to say; he could still go in the top half of the first round at a discount, because enough teams really liked him before he went down. But I feel like late first round or second round might be a safer bet.
Jeff (DC): Is UL-Lafayette the most vulnerable National Seed? They have a nice record, but they haven't exactly dominated games against bad competition. Their pitching seems especially suspect and recently they had a run of 10 games where they outhit their opponent in only 2 of those games.
Aaron Fitt: Haven’t dominated? They lead the nation in scoring margin (+4.2 runs per game) — I’d say that’s pretty dominant. They’ve had a few tighter games lately against Arkansas State and Texas State, but those are decent clubs that are second and third in the Sun Belt, and the Cajuns still won both series. No, I don’t think the Cajuns are vulnerable at all; on the contrary, I think it will be extremely difficult for any team to go into Lafayette and win a regional or super, because they have a great home-field advantage. That team is built for its park, and they will be far more physical than anyone else they play.
TCUDoug (Montgomery, AL): Is it a given that either Rice or TCU gets a national seed, and are they competing with each other for one? If so, how is that race shaping up? Is any other Lone Star program in the national seed conversation?
Aaron Fitt: I’d hesitate to say it’s a “given” that one of them will be a national seed, because there’s still a lot of competition for those eight spots; there are three very strong ACC contenders and there will probably be three strong SEC contenders (Florida, Ole Miss, and the Vandy/South Carolina series winner), plus Oregon State and Louisiana-Lafayette and Indiana. Frogs and Owls must both continue to play at a high level; and I do believe they are probably both competing for one spot. Right now, I lean toward TCU because it plays in a better league and is 14-8 vs. the top 50, vs. Rice’s 8-9. And no, I don’t see another team from the state in the national seed mix. Houston has a great RPI, but being in third place in the AAC (three games back, too) really hurts.
Alex (Fairfax, VA): Thanks for doing these, Aaron. Can we talk UVa bullpen for a sec? All year, you and John have talked about Connor Jones-Nick Howard being lights out. On one hand, should UVa fans be worried about Jones? He's really been piggybacked with Josh Sborz on Saturday all year, but seems to be slowing down. Freshman dead arm? On the other hand, Austin Young (18:2 k:bb in 19.1ip) has been stepping up with Whit Maberry lately to provide more late inning dominance. They...just...keep...coming... out of the brick pen. But what's your read on Jones down the stretch? Thanks, as always.
Aaron Fitt: I haven’t gotten any reports lately on the quality of Jones’ stuff, but I’m hoping I’ll get another look at him this weekend at Wake Forest; for now I’ll withhold judgment on that part of your question, but it does seem like he’s still been effective, and he’s a big, strong dude. Still, freshmen do have a tendency to wear down late, we see it every year. But to your bigger point, I’m not worried about the UVa. bullpen, because as you point out, there is a lot of depth and experience there. And once they get into a postseason setting, you can throw Lewicki in that mix too, if needed.
Randy (Alabama): Does FSU have enough pitching to win a Nat'l title? Assess FSU team strengths and weaknesses.
Aaron Fitt: We had a lengthy FSU discussion on the podcast today, and I think we both concluded that this team might very well have enough to win it all. Getting Leibrandt back to full strength is a big, big consideration, I think. Still really like the lineup, all those on-base machines who just wear down opposing pitchers, a pretty typical Florida State lineup, in that respect. Weaver is one of the best Friday starters they’ve had though, and I think the bullpen is deeper than it usually is too. Maybe Weaver and Winston are the only above-average power arms, but there are a lot of guys that know how to pitch and offer a variety of different looks.
Steve (San Diego): The WCC is an interesting conference going into the final week. If USD doesn't get into the WCC tournament will they still make the tournament? Also, if Pepperdine wins the WCC tournament and Loyola finshes strong and makes it to the Championship Game could they get an at large? Teams like Santa Clara and Pacific have reallybeen playing some good ball the last month of the season. Thanks as always...
Aaron Fitt: So San Diego is done with conference play at 16-11. It’s pretty tightly bunched after Pepperdine, and there is a very realistic possibility that the Toreros could miss out on the conference tournament, in which case their season will be over, because they do not have an at-large RPI right now (No. 65). RPI woes will preclude any other team besides Pepperdine from getting an at-large bid (only USD and Pepperdine are inside the top 100). I do think the Waves will get an at-large spot if they fail to win the conference tournament. Good call on Santa Clara and Pacific playing well down the stretch — both teams are 14-10 and alive in the race for the conference tournament, both teams have won series vs. USD. Big steps forward for both programs.
Dan (Sacramento, California): What do you think about the dirtbags? How many wins do you project Long Beach needs in order to get into a regional? I know I can't be the only one who wants to see Freshman phenom Garrett Hampson in postseason play.
Aaron Fitt: I’ve been saying for a couple weeks that I think Long Beach gets in if it reaches 30 wins—and the Dirtbags have continued to stay on course, winning the Fullerton series and sweeping Hawaii. Feeling good about their chances. And yeah, Hampson is a special talent.
Chris (Rock Hill SC): Gamecocks are out of the top 8 discussion, but are still in the thick of the hosting for top 16 discussion. Which ACC school do you think ends up in Columbia? Clemson or UNC? I'm betting UNC since Clemson has been there the last 2 years. I'm also thinking they put USC across from UVA. That would be fun. Your thoughts?
Aaron Fitt: I wouldn’t completely cross off South Carolina in the national seed discussion yet, either. If the Gamecocks can win this Vanderbilt series to get to 18 SEC wins, they’ll have a shot, especially if they can play well in Hoover. I think hosting as a non-national seed is a more realistic projection, though. And I’m with you, I wouldn’t expect Clemson to wind up there for a third straight year — UNC or Georgia Tech could wind up there.
Jarek (Texas): Could the Jayhawks possibly host if they make a run and win the conference tournament?
Aaron Fitt: I don’t see it — too low in the RPI, and too many other teams with strong hosting resumes. Kansas is starting to look like a No. 2 seed, though.
Justin (Mississippi): Hey Aaron, do you still see Ole Miss being a national seed if they win their series against A&M this week and is Florida still a national seed if they lose this week to Tennessee?
Aaron Fitt: Yes on Ole Miss. Feel like Florida is probably safe even if it loses this weekend — Gators had such a cushion to work with in the standings and in the RPI, and all those top 25 and top 50 wins are loud.
John (New York): I have watched a lot of Viirginia and Oregon State. They are so similar with pitching and hitting. Who do you think has a better defensive team and if they had to play a weekend series this weekend who are you picking and why?
Aaron Fitt: Both have freshmen shortstops, but both are gifted defenders; I might lean toward Pinero there, but it’s a push, really. Both have standouts at second base in Peterson and Cogswell, but again I’d give UVa. a slight edge. Both are strong behind the plate with Logan Ice and Nate Irving — both guys control running games well. Both have athletic center fielders in Hendrix and Downes. It’s close, but overall I’d probably give UVa. the edge on defense. I think those are the two best teams in the country — and I still think I’d take UVa. to win the hypothetical series, because I trust the Virginia bullpen a little more. Love the Virginia bullpen.
Dave (CT): After a tough series against Miami, is there any way Duke can make the NCAA tournament?
Aaron Fitt: If they can win two of three in Tallahassee this weekend, the Devils will get to 17 wins in the ACC, which should give them a shot at an at-large bid even if their RPI is a little lower than normal for an ACC bubble team. Right now the RPI is in the 80s, so it needs to come way up to have any chance. If they get get it into the 50s, they’ll have a shot; but inside 50 would be better. That probably means a couple wins against FSU and a few more in the ACC tournament.
Steve L. (Corvallis): What is your prediction for the Washington vs. Oregon State Series this weekend?
Aaron Fitt: Really like both teams, but not betting against the Beavers, especially at home.
Jon (Maryland): What are marylands chances of making the tournament???
Aaron Fitt: I think they’re just about a lock now. Done with ACC play at 15-14, and No. 31 in the RPI — that’s an at-large resume. Terps took care of business in the last two weeks against the softer part of their schedule, rebounding after getting swept by BC. John Manuel was all over Maryland early — he looked ahead and predicted that they would be in a regional, and he was right.
OSUBaseball (USA): Increased buzz in Oklahoma State circles about a possible national seed. What do you think? Possibility? Pipe dream?
Aaron Fitt: I doubt it with an RPI that is still just No. 24. RPI Needs Report says OSU has no way to even finish in the top 16. Maybe a run to the Big 12 tournament title game, on the heels of a strong Bedlam series and a regular-season title, could put them in the discussion — but I think it’s a long shot.
Dougner (New Mexico): Greetings Aaron! So Hookie gets to return to CSF, I think the problem is far greater than the head coach. They haven't been able to beat anyone and certainly don't deserve an at-large bid. How badly does this years train wreck hurt the program?
Aaron Fitt: It has certainly been a train wreck, but will there be long-term damage? Maybe if some of their key pitchers were to transfer after this year, but otherwise I expect Fullerton to bounce back next year. Should be a strong recruiting class (I think Scott Hurst will get to campus, D.J. Peters might as well, and Tristan Hildebrandt will be a nice player too — three key offensive building blocks). I don’t think the Titans stay down for long. Teams should be allowed to miss regionals once every couple of decades. That said, the way the administration handled the Vanderhook situation was shameful. It is unbelievable and inexcusable that it took so long to resolve; left a cloud hanging over the program during the pivotal stretch run. Brutal leadership by that administration.
Karl (Atlanta): My Mercer Bears picked up a big mid-week win at Florida on Tuesday, but dropped a tough home series to Stetson over the weekend. Two one-run losses. Are they still an at-large lock (looked like a solid 2 seed) or did the weekend place the Bears back on the "bubble?"
Aaron Fitt: They’re still a lock, despite falling out of our Top 25. Robust RPI, good showing in the conference. An A-Sun regular season title would be a nice capper on the resume, though.
Aaron Fitt: OK, that’s all I’ve got time for today, thanks for the great questions. See you next week for the final regular-season chat of the year!