College Top 25 Chat: Feb. 27
Hi everybody, will get started in just a moment.
Mike (Arkansas): Aaron, LSU's lack of offense will keep them from competing in the SEC this season. Agree or disagree ?
Disagree. LSU will certainly compete,
because its pitching staff has a chance to be one of the best in the
nation. It's going to be a grind; LSU will have to win games the way
Texas is used to winning games, not the way LSU fans are accustomed to
watching. But I think there are some competent offensive players in that
lineup, and I think this team will hit better than it did this weekend
— there's no question about that.
mac (omaha): being in the big ten now, what
does nebraska have to do to prove it belongs in the top 25? i assume
just the nature of being in the big ten will make that a more difficult
Well, for starters, it helps not to get
swept at home in your first series — that puts Nebraska behind the
8-ball when it comes to rankings. The Big 12 does offer teams more
opportunities to rack up high-profile victories, but we rank Big Ten
teams at some point every season, I feel like. If Nebraska winds up
establishing itself as the best team in the Big Ten, it will probably
find its way into the Top 25. But I don't expect the Huskers to be the
class of the Big Ten in 2012.
John (Austin): You give Oregon a lot of credit
for sweeping Vandy on the road but then discredit Vandy by dropping them
from the rankings. What was your thought in jumping Oregon from NR to
18 in this scenario? wins over Hawaii? Belmont?
Vandy dropping was a product of two
horrific weekends in a row; Oregon getting ranked was a product of two
stellar weekends in a row. The Ducks showed us something by winning five
games this week, starting with Monday at Hawaii, then Thursday at
Belmont, then sweeping a Vandy team that is very talented (even though
it is off to a poor start). Just because Vanderbilt is 1-6 doesn't mean
it stinks; give that team some time, and I promise you, it will make
some noise. That doesn't mean Vandy deserves to be in the Top 25 right
now, but just because we're not ranking the 'Dores right now doesn't
mean we weren't impressed by Oregon doing what it did. Hope that makes
Wes (Louisiana): Who do you think do you prefer out of Mark Appel and Kyle Zimmer?
I haven't made up my mind yet, honestly.
But gun to my head, if I have to pick one today ... I probably go with
Zimmer. They both have huge arms, but I think Zimmer's fastball is more
deceptive, and that matters a lot.
Bob (San Antonio): Texas has 2 wins this season
against DUKE!! Why do they deserve a place in the rankings? Is it just
because of the name on their jerseys?
This seems like a good time to insert my
annual disclaimer about our rankings process. In the preseason, our
rankings are 100 percent projection — we are predicting which teams we
think will be good and ranking them accordingly. In the postseason, the
rankings are 100 percent performance — we have a full body of work to
go by, and we know which teams proved to be the best. In between, it's a
sliding scale: early in the year, our preseason ranking (our projection
of each team based on what we know of its talent and makeup) still
weighs heavily in the process, and the scales gradually tip toward
"performance" as the season goes on and teams prove how good they are or
aren't by the way they perform on the field. If you just want a ranking
based on a team's record, what do you need us for? You can look at the
standings and see Texas is 2-5 and decide for yourself they aren't a Top
25 team. We're telling you we still believe they are a Top 25 team —
not because of the name on the jersey, but because of the personnel and
the style of play and everything else. Texas will play much, much better
than it has the first two weekends — you can take that to the bank. We
dropped the 'Horns nine spots in our rankings because their performance
dictated it, and if they keep losing they will drop out altogether. But
for now, we're trying to avoid being too reactionary. It's still
February, after all, and Stanford is playing out of its mind right now.
Russell (Austin, Texas): Hey Aaron, what do
you think about Texas and the start they have gotten off too? I think
the team is extremely week at hitting. When do you think Augie is
going to realize that his
philosophy of small ball is not working. What does Texas have to do to
be a better hitting team?
Not working!?! Really? You do realize Texas
won 49 games last year and made it to Omaha? You realize Augie Garrido
has more wins than anyone else in history, and five national
championships to boot? I feel like people in Austin mash the panic
button every year about this time because the Longhorns aren't scoring a
ton of runs. Soon enough, all the players will buy into Augie's system
and his mental philosophy 100 percent, and they'll reel off some long
winning streak (scoring 5 runs per game) and we won't have to hear about
this again until next February, when you all panic again.
Mike (New Orleans): Aaron,
What are your thoughts on Tulane's sweep of Indiana this past weekend?
They are swinging the bats well so far this season and the bullpen has
been solid. How do you think they fare this week against SELU and
You're right, Mike, the bullpen has been
key. D.J. Ponder, Alex Facundas and Alex Garner all turned in strong
extended outings in relief this weekend, and that is very encouraging.
So is another strong Randy LeBlanc start on Friday. I think that's a
fairly deep pitching staff, which should mean Tulane can handle itself
well in midweek action this season, but we'll find out. The Lions are
playing great baseball, off to a 7-0 start, so that should be a good
Peter (California): How far off are the Gonzaga
Bulldogs from cracking the top 25? 7-0 so far. Team with a good
pitching staff, a solid lineup, and a great deal of fight. Were they at
least in the talk for the top 25 this week?
I like Gonzaga, and I have definitely taken
note of that 7-0 start. Problem is other teams have started out hot
too, and some of them have even better early resumes (just looking in
the WCC, I'm more impressed by Pepperdine winning series against
Oklahoma and Fresno than by anything Gonzaga has done). Gonzaga is one
of the next 10-15 teams outside the top 25, I'd say. It's so early,
we're still waiting for the really legit team to separate themselves.
Harry (Jackson, MS): How close is John Cohens
and the Bulldawgs from cracking the top 25?? I love me some Dawg
baseball sitting with the Dudes and ringin my cowbell!!
Mississippi State is still team No. 26, as
it has been since the preseason. We all wanted to rank MSU this week —
they're off to a good start, and we really love the depth of the
pitching staff. But Fullerton had to get back in (the Titans have held
their own against a much tougher schedule), and Oregon leapfrogged a
bunch of people by sweeping Vandy, so the Bulldogs will have to wait
another week. We also considered ranking MSU ahead of Baylor, but on the
whole I'm still slightly more impressed with Baylor's start, despite
losing the last two games at UCLA. Baylor has played a stronger schedule
and has been largely very impressive (and we had Baylor right next to
Miss State in our internal preseason rankings).
James (Georgia): Aaron, good afternoon. Wow is
South Carolina's pitching impressive so far, I know that this was going
to be a strong rotation going in to the season, but will the pitching
be able to carry them toa 3 peat? What are your thoughts on this, and
do they have enough pop in there line up to put up enough runs to get
through a tough SEC schedule? Have not been very impressed with the
runs they are putting up against sub par teams, I do think it can be a
pretty potent lineup with speed and power. Your thoughts
Well I think Elon is a quality series win
— the Phoenix is near the top of the SoCon every year, so sweeping
those guys is nothing to scoff at. I'm not at all worried about South
Carolina's offense; on the contrary, I think it has been good to see
some of the new guys settle in nicely (especially the freshmen Grayson
Greiner and Tanner English). South Carolina has won two straight titles
without being an offensive juggernaut, and as good as its pitching is,
the offense should be more than good enough. I love the way South
Carolina has played out of the chute, and I have to like the Gamecocks'
chances in that Clemson series this weekend, because I don't get the
impression Clemson has played nearly as crisply.
Bains (Baton Rouge, LA): Who is your pick to
win the ACC? I know it's early but Virgina doesn't look to be the same
team they are used to being and there are about five teams who have set
themselves apart in the ACC - GT, NC, Miami, FSU, and Clemson. All look
pretty impressive so far, who is your early season prediction to take
the conference? Thanks for all you do.
I think you've got a pretty good handle on
it — those top five teams are pretty close, and I could see any one of
them winning the league. I do think the ACC will be more competitive
than usual from top to bottom, with Maryland and Boston College looking
much improved, and Wake Forest as well. People seem to forget about NC
State too, but those guys can really swing the bats and will be a real
factor in the league too. Should be a very compelling year in the ACC. I
think you'll see a tightly bunched race at the top and another tight
race for the last couple of spots in the ACC tourney.
ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): seems that homeruns are back
up a little. Is this due to bat companies making adjustments or players
getting used to the new sticks?
I haven't seen the early numbers, but I expected home runs to increase a little for just the two reasons you mentioned.
West Coaster (San Francisco): Thanks for the
chat! Who is closest to your Top 25 at this point- San Francisco,
Gonzaga, San Diego, or Pepperdine? What are the chances the WCC gets 3
teams in the post-season this year? Seems like its the best the
conference has ever been.
Right now, I'd have to put Pepperdine at
the top of that group when it comes to being close to the Top 25 —
those two series wins were very impressive. USF and Gonzaga would be
next, followed by USD (which lost its first weekend series at Sam
Houston State). I really like all of those teams, as well as Portland
(which is off to a fine start as well) and St. Mary's (despite losing
its first WCC series to BYU this weekend). I projected the WCC to get
two teams into regionals in the preseason, but I really do think the
league has a chance for three, if it can continue to perform in
nonconference play as it has so far (and given the overall talent level
in the league, I think that is entirely possible). The tricky thing
could be that the WCC is so deep that I could see those teams all
beating up on each other and none of them putting together the kind of
sterling conference records that the selection committee would like to
see. So I'm still more comfortable with the WCC as a two-bid league, but
the point is I think this will be a great season for the conference. I
wouldn't say the best it has ever been, though — remember, it wasn't so
long ago that San Diego was a national seed and Pepperdine was hosting a
regional. I don't think there are any teams in the WCC this year that
are elite like that. Just a bunch of very good teams.
Jackson (Corvallis): What is your take on
Oregon State at the moment? Can Jace Fry and Adam Duke turn this
mediocre weekend rotation around? Bullpen looks fine but we can't seem
to get to them. Very uncharacteristic Beaver team this year. Lacks the
solid starting pitching, defense, speed, and ability to move runners
over and in that we have grown accustomed to in Corvallis. We do seem
to have more power than usual but can we win this way? LOB numbers are
staggering! Confused in Corvallis.
Yes, strange start for the Beavers, isn't
it? I think Pat Casey has always recognized the value of a strong
bullpen, and that's why he decided to build this staff by putting most
of his most reliable arms (especially Matt Boyd) in the bullpen where
they can impact multiple games over the course of the weekend. Getting
Fry and Duke back will make a big difference — those are the two
biggest arms on the staff, and they have the ability to make a serious
impact. I'm not worried about the LOBs or the offensive execution or the
defense — Oregon State always figures that stuff out, and I think the
personnel are good and experienced enough that OSU will figure it out
again this year, too.
Not a Cardinal (East Coast): Florida over
Stanford? Really? Florida was oh so impressive in sweeping who?
W&M? Where are they ranked? Really? Stanford only blew a ranked
team out of the water (and they were suitably demoted for that). There
may be other perfectly valid reasons for keeping with Florida, but doing
so "thanks to a midweek win over #19 and sweep of W&M" as in the
Top 25 story hardly inspires confidence in the poll. Care to amend the
Sorry; Florida remains No. 1 because it was
already No. 1 and it had an undefeated week, and we just don't demote
teams that have undefeated weeks. The reason Florida was ahead of
Stanford was because we believed Florida was better than Stanford, and
we still do. The Gators should have a similarly imposing lineup once it
really gets going, and its pitching staff should be considerably better.
I am incredibly impressed with what Stanford has done — but I am
convinced that Florida is the best team in the nation.
Matt (Houston, TX): I understand Florida,
Stanford, and South Carolina being 1-2-3. However, how does Rice not
jump to #4 after a solid 8-0 start against very solid competition, while
Arkansas won two one run games against NW State and Valparaiso, and
lost the Sunday game to Valparaiso?
We considered making that move just because
we are so very impressed with Rice, but we're very seldom going to move
a team down in the rankings after a 4-1 week. Those five-game weeks are
tough for anyone, and it's not easy to go 4-1. Also, I think Valpo
deserves some credit — sounds like a very resilient team that played
extremely hard this weekend. Arkansas obviously has a ton more talent,
but Valpo isn't a pushover.
Bob (Texas): What are some of your surprise
teams in the North other than Boston College and Maryland and some of
your disappointments so far through this young season?
You hit on the two main surprises, of
course. Here's one more: How about Bucknell, sweeping preseason CAA
favorite James Madison emphatically this weekend? That, certainly,
qualifies as a surprise. I think St. John's, at 2-4, has to be
considered a bit of an early disappointment, but I never write off those
cold-weather teams after a couple of bad weekends — those teams
(especially Ed Blankmeyer's teams) always play much better as the season
wears on. Still, St. John's was a borderline preseason Top 25 team, so
posting two straight losing weekends is a little disappointing.
John (Ashburn, VA): Aaron: Any update on Richie Shaffer's hip flexor? Concerns from Clemson? Thanks.
Sounded like a mild strain — I don't think it's much cause for concern.
Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Aaron, thank you for
the chat, and as always, the outstanding coverage. After a huge weekend
Colin Moran seems to have picked up where he left off last year as BA's
Freshman of the Year. Could you give a quick breakdown on him as a
Yeah, huge weekend for Moran. He's a
hitter, first and foremost — extremely disciplined approach, can use
all fields, and he's strong. Defense at third base is still a work in
progress, but he works hard at it.
Brian (Lacey, WA): Which freshmen have you been most impressed with so far this season?
Out of the guys I've seen, I would have to
say Aaron Brown of Pepperdine has stood out the most — he's going to be
a real two-way star. I was quite impressed with TCU's Derek Odell this
weekend (fantastic athlete, some life in the bat), and I think Kenny
Mathews is going to be very good eventually for Fullerton, though his
command is still developing and his breaking ball has a long way to go.
But he's loose, athletic, lefthanded and has amazing life on the
fastball and nice feel for the changeup. I'm even more excited about
another freshman lefty, Stephen Tarpley at USC — talk about loose and
athletic. He has more present stuff and present command than Mathews.
Gary (Hattiesburg,MS): Who do you think will be
the ace come the end of the season for Southern Miss? and a great
closer like Collin Cargill was last year?
I'm gonna go with the freshman Jake
Drehoff. Really talented guy, lots of upside, and he's pitched very well
two weeks in a row now. And two weeks in a row, James McMahon has
followed with three innings of dynamite relief. Maybe he's the next
great USM bullpen anchor.
Carlos (San Diego, CA): Am I being too much of a
homer or was USD more impressive (especially offensively for once) than
expected? They had two lopsided beatdowns of K-State and Oregon State
and held a good hitting Pacific team to 4 runs in 2 games.
Certainly impressive—it was good to see
the Toreros get back on track after a disappointing first weekend. I
think USD's pitching staff is exciting (and they got strong starts this
weekend from Drummond, Sewald and Covey, plus excellent bullpen work
from Michael Wagner, who has a great arm). Kris Bryant is just an animal
in the middle of the lineup, and the supporting cast started to emerge
this weekend. That team could wind up being pretty darn good.
Reid (Florida): Where is Florida Atlantic? Maybe top 25 with a win against Miami this Wednesday?
Right in a group of teams just outside the
Top 25 — lots of teams off to good starts, not room for all of them in
the Top 25. Everybody wants to be ranked; we could appease them by
ranking more than 25 teams, but we think it should mean something to be
ranked in the Top 25. It's not easy to crack that list — there are a
lot of good teams in college baseball.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Can UCLA hit enough to
survive? I know this weekend was a good sign for the staff, minus Plutko
they looked pretty solid, but the bats seems to be hot/cold
As I wrote in today's Three Strikes, I
continue to believe UCLA will be quite a dangerous offensive team, just
as I think Fullerton will be. I don't think either team is special on
the mound, but UCLA has more experienced arms than the Titans, which is
what separates those two teams, for me.
TJ (New York): What's your scouting report on
Dan Langfield SP from Memphis? He has had an excellent start but I do
not know much about him. Thansk!
He's not real physical but he has a quick
arm — he is capable of running his fastball up to 95 mph and flashes a
quality overhand curveball, as well as a fringy slider and changeup.
Real nice Friday guy and a top-five-rounds prospect.
Clear Head (Uranus): If LSU is the 14th best team in the country, then..... Damn! I cant even finish that sentance. WTF?
It's baseball, folks. Good teams lose
series to teams that aren't as talented. It is a mistake to form
sweeping judgments based on one weekend in February. We knocked LSU down
seven spots in the rankings — a pretty substantial drop — but it's
one bad weekend. Let's not be too reactionary.
You just can't take a football or
basketball mentality to baseball — it's not the same. Nobody goes
undefeated in baseball. It's a long season, people lose games. People go
through slumps and hot streaks. We ranked LSU in the Top 10 in the
preseason because we believe that team will be good, just as we ranked
Texas in the top 15 because we believe that team will be good. We are
not prepared to abandon those opinions yet. Let's see how the season
plays out a little bit. Repeat after me: It's February, it's February,
On that note, let's wrap this thing up. Thanks for stopping by — see you all next week.