Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week’s college baseball chat. After an exciting weekend around the country, let’s get to your questions.
Tom (Austin, Texas): At this point in the season, how do the conferences stack up to one another? It seems like a down year for the SEC with no dominant teams and a relatively underwhelming non-conference record but they do have several ranked teams. What makes one conference "better" than another, elites at the top or strength throughout?
Teddy Cahill: I tackled this a bit Friday in on On Campus (http://www.baseballamerica.com/college/campus-biggest-questions-second-half/#ujMUcO08o0wPHGWd.97). The short answer is that the Big 12 has been the best conference so far this season. It is No. 1 in conference RPI, has elite teams in TCU and Texas Tech and impressive depth. RPI has the SEC at No. 2 and I would agree. It hasn’t produced a dominant team yet, but the depth is, as always, very impressive. The Pac-12 and ACC both have some elite teams at the top, but the middle is much softer for both those leagues. I tend to evaluate conferences first on their depth and then on the elite teams. The more regional-caliber teams in the conference, the more difficult it is for everyone. That’s what sets the Big 12 and SEC apart for me.
Mike (Oregon): In your opinion, which of the top 5 programs is going to stay there all season ?
Teddy Cahill: All five are in my latest Eight for Omaha (http://www.baseballamerica.com/college/off-bat-lsu-recaptures-momentum/), so I’d say all of them. Really, that top six that has been the same for back-to-back weeks now is pretty solid. Not a lot of flaws in any of those teams.
John (Houston): Please explain the rationale behind ranking UConn ahead of Houston, or even USF.
Teddy Cahill: UConn is 6-0 in the league, played its first 25 games away from home and only has two losing weekends. We like Houston a lot, obviously. It has a couple good weekends in tournaments, but when you look at its three series wins (East Carolina, @ UC Irvine, Alabama State), it’s a little underwhelming. As for USF, this weekend was South Florida’s biggest test of the season. The Bulls handled it very well, sweeping UCF. But I had a difficult time with its schedule before this weekend. USF lost its lone road series and has played 40 percent of its games against teams with 200+ RPIs. There was significant discussion about USF and Houston, however. Both are very much in the mix.
Burke Lyle (Athens Georgia): Is Auburn still a top 10 after a series loss to Texas AnM. What are their odds to have a top 8 national seed.
Teddy Cahill: Auburn remained in the top 10 at No. 10 this week. It’s chances of a national seed are about the same as they were last week – the Tigers still have a lot of work to do. Auburn’s RPI is 31, which isn’t good enough right now to host, let alone get a national seed. But the schedule affords the Tigers with plenty of opportunity to improve that number in the second half. I don’t think they get a national seed, but they’re playing well enough right now to host.
Jeramey (Locust Grove Ga): The state of Georgia usually has a pretty decent showing in baseball, although we are down this year across the board. Which team do you think has the best chance to make the post season tournament? Thanks!
Teddy Cahill: Mercer is currently best positioned, as the Bears are winning the SoCon. They’re also probably the only team in the mix for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Georgia and Georgia Tech are both in last place in their division, and the rest of the state’s schools are lacking the RPI to be in the discussion. It’s possible there won’t be a team from the state in the NCAA Tournament. Mercer’s RPI is 38, and it doesn’t have much margin for error as a SoCon team.
Cody (Missouri): How close is Missouri State to being ranked?
Teddy Cahill: Missouri State was a team in the mix this week. The Bears have a rather peculiar resume, however. Missouri State has a series win at Minnesota and a 5-1 showing in two pretty solid tournaments, to go with a 6-0 start in the MVC. But it also has series losses at Central Michigan and against Memphis. Little hard to figure out. But it’ll have another chance to make a statement this weekend against New Mexico.
Go Ducks (Salem, Oregon): David Peterson has been lights out as Oregon's Friday night starter with 77 strikeouts and just 4 walks. Do you think he's legitimate prospect? Thank you!
Teddy Cahill: Yes, David Peterson is a legit prospect and a potential first rounder. He’s a two-time veteran of USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team and came into the season ranked No. 30 on the Top 100 college prospects list. He’s only helped himself this season.
Chuck (Atlanta): Clemson continues to win & the upcoming games are probably the "gauntlet" of their schedule. Not much coverage across the web about them weekly. Is Clemson respected or is there a bias because Beer isn't crushing it this year like Rooker and they don't have a 2018 Top 10 draft pick on the mound?
Teddy Cahill: Clemson has been a top five team for the last month. I just put them in Eight for Omaha. I don’t know how to show that Clemson is “respected” beyond that. There are 299 teams out there. When Clemson takes care of business the last three weeks against teams that are a combined 11-34 in the ACC, it’s not exactly earth shattering news. The Tigers will be back in the spotlight soon enough.
Earl (new orleans): Lsu even though with a tuff road series win @ Ark this weekend seems to be very inconsistent pitching in hitting. especially with lang and poche. If Lsu has a early exit in the postseason granted if we get there seems to me coaching change looms national championship or bust Thank u guys (baseball America ) for everything !!!!
Teddy Cahill: No. Paul Mainieri is an outstanding coach. He should not be going anywhere.
Jeremy (Oregon): Does the PAC-12 have the best pitching in Baseball? Aside from Oregon State having best E.R.A in country, seems like most teams in PAC-12 have quality starters on roster. Which other conferences at comparable to the PAC-12 in pitching.
Teddy Cahill: I’ll take SEC pitching over any other conference, but this is an interesting question. Jack Kruger, who is the rare player to have experience in both conferences, tackled this question on his blog this offseason. I thought his take was very well thought out and I found the piece very informative: https://jackkrugerblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/sec-vs-pac-12-baseball-which-is-stronger/
Paul (Nebraska): Is Nebraska emerging as a favorite in the Big Ten? If they were to win the Big Ten, could they be a regional host?
Teddy Cahill: I think they’ve been a favorite all along, the Huskers just scuffled a bit out of the gate this season so maybe people forgot that they were expected to contend coming into this season. Getting series wins against Indiana and Maryland the last two weekends was big for Nebraska and puts the Huskers in the thick of the race. As for hosting, probably not. Their RPI is 45 and while there is time to improve it, they don’t really have the big-time opponents to really jack it up. The only top 50 RPI teams left on Nebraska’s schedule are Michigan State and Minnesota, and both are in the 40s. It’s going to be hard to move up the 20 or so spots necessary to get into the hosting discussion.
Zach (Chapel Hill): Out of the 3 ACC powers-Louisville, Clemson, UNC- who do you see as the most likely CWS champion?
Teddy Cahill: I guess I’ll say Louisville. The Cardinals have the best player in Brendan McKay and probably the deepest lineup. All three teams can really pitch and have outstanding coaching staffs. But I think I’d just feel most comfortable knowing McKay is in the lineup and in the rotation.
hal jordan (hawaii): Who do you think will have the better major league pitching career: McKay or Bukauskas or Faedo?
Teddy Cahill: I am very much a believer in Alex Faedo. That answer is not the consensus right now, however. McKay is probably the safest pick, especially because he can fall back on either hitting or pitching if he doesn’t work out at whatever position he is drafted out. But I think Faedo will have a really good pro career.
Shohei (New York): Any teams in the Northeast jump out to you this weekend with any surprises that jump out to you?
Teddy Cahill: I suppose saying UConn is too easy. Villanova’s series win against Xavier definitely jumped out for me. And I think it’s cool to look at the Patriot League standings right now and see Army and Navy tied for first.
Steve (Memphis, TN): Do you think Mississippi State can sustain a run to Omaha while relying on big-hitting Rooker and Co. The pitching is thin and he has to hit a slump sooner or later, right?
Teddy Cahill: It’s going to be really hard for Mississippi State to keep this up, I think. Andy Cannizaro has that team playing with incredible belief and the Bulldogs have plenty of star power in Rooker, Mangum and Pilkington. But they’re playing with 24 guys. At some point, that has to catch up with them, even if it’s not until the postseason. It would seemingly be pretty hard for Mississippi State to fight out of a losers’ bracket if it came to that, for instance. But right now the Bulldogs are playing as well as anyone.
Michael (Charlotte): Conversations about player of the year have been disturbingly brief this season. They go something like this: "Player of the year? McKay. Next question." Why isn't Rooker at least in the conversation? I get that McKay is a great two way player and a fine candidate, but Rooker is putting up numbers that would crush all but one (offensive) Golden Spikes winners' numbers in the past decade. Bryce Harper is the only person to have numbers even close to comparable, and Rooker is doing this in a real conference (sorry Southern Nevada). What else does he need to do to at least get in the conversation for POTY?
Teddy Cahill: Oh, he’s in the conversation. I broke this down in On Campus last Friday. McKay has been the favorite, no doubt, but Rooker is winning the SEC triple crown right now. That’s incredibly loud. So you’ve got those two, and then you also have to look at what Bukauskas and Heimlich are doing on the mound. And Adam Haseley is having an outstanding season of his own as a two-way player. Those are the primary contenders at this point for me. Still plenty of baseball to be played.
Kyle (Portland): With all of the close games that Oregon State has been playing, what is your interpretation of their situation? Is the Pac-12 a stronger conference than originally thought? Are the Beavs not as good as perceived? Or does this team just have enough grit to get the job done day after day, with their strong pitching staff and clutch hitting?
Teddy Cahill: It’s a team built around it’s pitching staff. The offense is good, no doubt, but pitching and defense teams play close games. And Oregon State has been playing good teams the last few weeks. Arizona and Stanford are ranked for a reason. Utah won the Pac-12 last year. These are teams that know how to win and aren’t going to roll over for the Beavers. So I’m not particularly concerned. I’m mostly just impressed at the 23-game streak. A slightly lesser team would have lost one or two of those and we probably wouldn’t even be talking about this because it wouldn’t really be that noticeable.
chris (covington,la): Ted, Tulane seems to be playing a little better baseball winning their first two series in conference. is it still early enough they can make a run at the postseason???
Teddy Cahill: At this point, Tulane probably has to win the AAC Tournament. Even as it starts to turn things around, it’s RPI is still 132. That’s not getting it done and it’s hard to imagine it jumping up 80-90 spots. Still, I think the Green Wave can contend in the conference. They’ve started very nicely and get UConn at home this weekend.
Eric (Cypress ca): Being a long beach state grad since 91 and following the program this is our best team since Danny espinosas team 10 Years ago.do you agree with that assessment and how far can they go?
Teddy Cahill: That’s probably fair. I was in very early on the Dirtbags, putting them in Eight for Omaha last July. I backed off that a bit after Chris Mathewson signed, but I’m starting to think I shouldn’t have. They’ve got that kind of potential and are playing incredibly well right now.
Trent Anderson (College Station): With two straight series wins over highly ranked teams how soon until Texas A&M is back in the rankings?
Teddy Cahill: The Aggies are coming. The last two weeks were big for Texas A&M. We figured the Aggies would get it figured out sooner than later and it sure seems like that’s starting to happen.
Brennan (Portland): As a fan, I find long winning streaks stressful to watch. How much does that stress impact the players and coaching staff of a team on, say, a 23-game winning streak? Where might we look for statistical evidence of such stress?
Teddy Cahill: I have always felt like this is an area that separates normal people from elite athletes. We look at streaks and get overwhelmed, they slough them off. But I don’t really have a good answer to your question. I do love it and there’s a pretty good chance that I explore this more deeply in the next week or two. You’ve got the wheels spinning in my brain right now.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Teddy, thanks for the chat today. Who would you have as, say, your top 3 right now for BA College POY?
Teddy Cahill: I’ll take Haseley, McKay and Rooker. But I have a feeling others in the office would find a way to get Bukauskas in there.
Cooper (Texas): If you had to choose one pitcher that you trust the most to go out and win you one game who are you going with at this point in the season?
Teddy Cahill: I think I’d ride with Brendan McKay. I kind of want to pick Luke Heimlich or Clarke Schmidt or Bukauskas or a whole long list of other guys, but if I pick McKay I get his bat in the lineup too and that’s a pretty good combo in a must-win.
Teddy Cahill: That’ll do it for today. Thanks to everyone for your questions. And, as always, if I didn’t get to yours, leave it in the comments and I’ll answer it there.