College Top 25 Chat: April 9
Sorry for the delay — had to finish Three Strikes, which will be posted very shortly on the college blog. Let's get chatting!
Jason (New Orleans): Hey,
I know Tulane lost 2/3 to Rice this weekend but how do you see them
finishing off the season. Games 1 and 2 were very competitive but game 3
we just couldn't get the bat going...
The reality for Tulane is that it is going
to have to win the C-USA tournament in order to make a regional. Its RPI
is outside the top 100, and this weekend was really critical for the
Green Wave to have a shot at an at-large. I think Tulane is a solid
all-around club, but it just isn't special.
Matt (Texas): Where would Appel, Zimmer, Wacha, and Gausman rank compared to the arms from last years draft?
I think Cole and Appel are pretty
comparable, but I would probably take Cole. I like Bauer and Hultzen
better than any college arms in this class, but I think this group has
solid depth, as the Wacha/Gausman/Stroman types stack up well against
the Jungmann/Bradley/Barnes/Gray group, I think. Last year's class was
much richer in lefthanded pitching, though, with Tyler Anderson and Sean
Gilmartin also going in the first round. There really isn't a college
lefty this year who looks like a lock to be a first-round pick. Brian
Johnson is probably at the top of the heap, and his performance has not
been overhwelming, and neither is his stuff.
LMU Lion (Joplin, MO): What is going on in
Fargo? North Dakota State finally lost yesterday, ending a 16-game
winning streak. Yeah, their opponents have been pretty weak, but they
played Arizona tough early in the year and took two of two at Minnesota.
They're 22-6 despite having played just three games at home so far. Do
they have a chance to challenge Oral Roberts in the Summit?
Certainly they do — it's a club loaded
with upperclassmen, like other upstarts such as New Mexico State. Go
back and read the Under The Radar blog I wrote about North Dakota State
last week — that's an intriguing club. That said, I'll always pick ORU
in the Summit until somebody actually beats those guys. And ORU could be
very dangerous in a regional if its top three pitchers can all get and
stay healthy. But right now, the Golden Eagles look vulnerable.
MJ (NYC): What do you make of Miami at this
point in the season? After the Clemson series it almost seemed like the
wheels were about to come off and then this past week they come back
and sweep #3 UNC with great pitching all the way around and good
hitting. This is the type of Miami team I had thought would materialize
and maybe its finally here. After this weekend, do you see Miami ready
to make a run at a national seed? That FSU series looms large in 2
Yep, that FSU series is monstrous — if
Miami wins that series, it has a very good chance to land a national
seed. The rest of the schedule sets up pretty favorably for the 'Canes.
This is not a juggernaut Miami team—it's not the 2008 team, with all
elite draft picks and future big leaguers. It's not 2012 LSU either—it
doesn't have the shut-down arms in the weekend rotation that the Tigers
have. This team has one scary bat in the middle with Peter O'Brien, and a
bunch of experienced pitchers with quality arms who know how to pitch.
Miami will be in a lot of close games, but it should be good enough to
win a bunch of them. But like with LSU, there's not a real big margin
for error here — if you're playing a bunch of close games, those can go
either way. So right now, I'm still not projecting Miami to be a
national seed, but the opportunity is there.
Will (Alexandria, VA): Aaron, I'm not sure how
to read my Gamecocks. Are all the stranded baserunners indicative of a
team who's about to start scoring runs and reclaim the throne? Do the
lack of runs (and middle relief) and CLOSE finishes vs mediocre teams
suggest the squad is too young and might not even get to host its
regional? I feel like if this squad is going to contend in June, it'll
be with a very different sort of baseball than what we saw the past two
years. What's your take?
It's not an elite offense by any means, but
it wasn't an elite offense in the last two years either, and the
Gamecocks still won titles. The difference might be that the defense WAS
elite the last two years, and this year I think the defense is good but
not elite. I still worry a bit about the two freshmen up the middle,
Greiner and Pankake, although it looks like the defense played well this
weekend, which is encouraging. I think both those guys are going to be
really good players, but I don't think they're there yet. Jordan
Montgomery helped stabilize the rotation this weekend, but here's
something to keep in mind: when you go Roth-Koumas-Holmes, you're giving
hitters a much different look on Saturday with a power righty than you
did on Friday, with a pitchability lefty. Montgomery, though, is in the
same mold as Roth, and I wonder if facing Roth and Montgomery
back-to-back will actually help hitters start to get acclimated by
Saturday. Maybe South Carolina will wind up putting Holmes in between
the two lefties, which I think would make a lot of sense.
Brian (Camden,Ar): What do you think about the
Stanek, Astin, Baxendale rotation for the hogs last weekend im ashamed
at how giddy I am about it but I think its the answer we need. Are we on
to something or was georgia just a weak offensive team
Don't be ashamed, Brian! That is an
exciting possibility for the rotation if Sanburn can hold down the
closer role, which I believe he can — heck, scouting directors voted
the guy onto our preseason All-America team. Astin was good back there,
but Arkansas needed a third starter who can pitch deeper into a
ballgame, because that has been an Achilles' heel for that team. As good
as Astin was in the bullpen, I say give him a few weeks to find out if
he is the answer in the rotation.
A Pirate (Pirate Country): What about these ECU Pirates?? out of the top 25? Don't get any respect
No respect, I tell you! Thank you, Mr.
Dangerfield. The problem with ECU's resume is that it lacks a series win
against an at-large-caliber club. ECU is just 2-5 against the RPI top
50, per WarrenNolan.com. The two teams we brought in this week—Sam
Houston State (7-3 vs. the top 50) and New Mexico State (5-3) just have
more quality wins than the Pirates.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): UCLA loses 2 of 3 and falls wall the way down to 17?! Seems a bit drastic considering their overall body of work. Thoughts?
Oh, it's drastic—you're right. I'm
surprised we haven't had more questions and/or outrage about the
volatility in the rankings this week, but maybe people want their
rankings to be reactionary. Too bad — most of the time, we're going to
keep exercising restraint. This week, however, putting together the Top
25 was very difficult. North Carolina, UCLA and Ole Miss all got hit
harder than we really wanted to hit them, because there were a bunch of
teams in the 8-18 range with similar or better resumes coming off strong
weeks, and they needed to be rewarded. In UCLA's case, I like what the
Bruins have done, but if you stack up their body of work with Oregon's, I
like Oregon's better. UCLA has two series losses at home, while Oregon
has lost just one series (on the road) and has played a stout schedule.
On top of that, of course, the Ducks just won two of three at Jackie
Robinson Stadium. We had several different versions of the rankings this
week, and one of them would have kept UCLA at No. 11 and Oregon at No.
18—but we decided we were more impressed with Fullerton's resume (to
choose a team in a comparable geographic location) and Oregon's resume,
so we did what was necessary to move the Bruins behind those teams. Yes
it is harsh, and yes, I believe UCLA is better than its ranking
suggests. But this time of year, a team's on-field accomplishments have
to start weighing more heavily than my subjective assessment of how good
that team is. That's the same reason we knocked Arkansas down 10 spots
last week, even though I still believe Arkansas will be at top-five team
at the end of the year. In UCLA's case, I don't necessarily see the
Bruins as a top-five team because I'm not in love with their pitching,
but I think they can be a top 10-12 type team ultimately.
Mike (El Paso): As a league, the Big 12 is down
this year. With the way that Texas A&M and Baylor are playing, how
likely is it that both could end up as national seeds?
On the one hand, playing in a bad
conference would seem to hurt their national seed hopes—if that league
gets three bids, will it really get two national seeds? On the other
hand, if those two teams completely dominate that league, maybe that
helps them put together gaudy records and makes it easier to earn
national seeds. I'm curious to see how it will shake out—but right now,
my gut says only one of them gets a national seed.
Bill (Bozeman, MT): Aaron, thanks for the chat,
as always. What, if anything, do the initial entries of Sam Houston
State and New Mexico State into a Top 25 that also includes San Diego,
Purdue and Central Florida say about the current state of college
baseball to you?
Hi, Bill. I think my gut reaction is to say
there is more parity in college baseball than there used to be—and I
feel like over the last two or three years, we've ranked more first-time
teams than I remember in the previous three years, but I'm not certain.
Sounds like a good research project for a BA intern! I did expect the
rules changes several years back—requiring every scholarship player to
get at least 25 percent, and capping the number of scholarship players
at 27 and the number of total players on a roster at 35—to cause more of
the middle-tier players to go to more mid-majors, where they might
develop into impact players. Maybe that is one of the reasons for the
apparent increase in parity. But again, just because it feels like there
is more parity doesn't mean it's necessarily the case — I'd like to
research this more thoroughly to see if the facts back up our
Skrip (Chicago): Aaron, thanks for the chat.
This is the best Boilermaker team we have seen in many years. What do
they have to do the rest of the way to secure a spot in the regional
field? We have seen quality Big Ten teams in the past win the regular
season, lose the tournament, and get left out of an at large bid. Do
you think this is a team that can make some noise in the post season?
BOILER UP! Thanks for taking my question.
Hi, Skip. I love the nonconference schedule
Purdue put together, and I love how well the Boilermakers played
against that tough schedule. Purdue ranks No. 12 in the latest Boyd's
World RPI, which means it will be in great shape for an at-large berth
unless it really struggles down the stretch. Yes, the Big Ten schedule
will drag that RPI down some, but I think it will still be in at-large
range. I do think Purdue can make some noise in the postseason thanks to
that potent offense. Haase and Breedlove make a nice veteran tandem in
the rotation—neither guy is overpowering, but they really compete and
know how to win. Freshman Connor Podkul pitched well in the Sunday spot
this week, and I think he'll be there to stay—he's got more power stuff
than the other two starters and could be a real key for the
Boilermakers going forward. His breaking ball is a very nice weapon — a
power pitch with hard, tight break and depth.
Arkham (Danville, PA): So, Aaron, given what you've seen: UCLA got the goods to host a regional or no? Thanks, as always.
Certainly I think so, yes. But the Bruins
must weather the next four weeks, which look grueling: at Arizona, at
Oregon State, vs. Stanford, vs. Purdue (how about that early-May
nonconference series?). Let's say the Bruins lose the next two series on
the road, all of a sudden they'll have three straight series losses
heading into that Stanford series. Their hosting chances will look a lot
more precarious then. Arizona will be favored at home this weekend, and
if the Wildcats hold serve at home, that series at Oregon State becomes
huge for UCLA.
Dougner (New Mexico): Hey Aaron,
I'm more than a bit frustrated at the lack of respect Cal State
Fullerton gets. They played Florida tough in Gainesville, beat A&M
and TCU, split with ASU in Tempe and just keep winning. They play in
the Big West and while it is not the SEC, they win the games on the
schedule. Every year they end up hosting a regional, playing to go to
Omaha where they have won four championships! They went 4-0 for the
week and they move up one place in the top 25? Help me understand.
Yeah yeah, nobody gets any respect. Got it.
First of all, Fullerton moved up two spots, not one — and this was in a
week when many of the teams right ahead of it also had winning or (or
even undefeated) weeks. We wanted to reward Fullerton a bit for its
strong body of work, and we did so, even though there wasn't a whole lot
of room to move up in the rankings. I really do like Fullerton's body
of work, but there are blemishes: the Titans hadn't done a great job
sweeping inferior opponents until this week, losing single games to Oral
Roberts, Northridge and Long Beach State over the previous three weeks.
They've been just OK in midweek games (going 4-3), and they don't
exactly blow you away with their offense or their pitching. They just
win games—and there's a lot to be said for that, but they're 21-10 and they're ranked 12th. That feels about right to me, especially when you
factor in the talent and experience advantages of some of the other
teams around them in the rankings.
Bill (Bozeman, MT): San Diego is the front-runner in the WCC at this point, but are any of the other league teams in the Top 25 discussion?
Pepperdine and Gonzaga have been in the
discussion at various points this year, and Portland is on the radar,
but none of the three was a major factor in our deliberations this week.
Justin (South Carolina): In SEC play, South Carolina has averaged 4.6 runs/game. Do you seem them raising that number by May?
A bit, sure. But South Carolina only
averaged 6.1 runs per game last year (including nonconference games),
and I don't think they're as good offensively as they were last year.
Maybe it will get up closer to 5.5 per game by season's end. There is
still room for improvement as some of those young hitters continue to
find their bearings.
Michael (Georgia): Aaron, what are your
thoughts on the SOCON half way thru the season? This week App St picked
up big series win vs CofC, Elon lost 2 of 3 at Furman(lost 2 of 3 at
Davidson earlier in year), Samford won 2 of 3 vs Citadel and WCU lost 2
of 3 at Wofford after beating Clemson and sweeping their regular season 2
game series for first time. What order would you put the top 6?
Golly, that conference is tough to figure.
It's going to be one of those years where it goes down to the last day
of the season, I think. Right now, I'll put Appalachian State at the top
of the heap, followed by Elon, CofC, Samford, Georgia Southern (which
seems to have gotten back on track a bit lately) and Western Carolina.
But really, it's a toss-up — nobody is going to run away with that
conference. I like the Mountaineers' quality weekend rotation and
veteran lineup, though. Winning that series against Charleston was huge.
Bill (Atlanta, GA): It's hard to feel positive
after being swept, but FSU seems the real deal right now. GT was
actually one timely hit away from taking Friday in the bottom of the
ninth and who will ever know. The Jackets played much better defense
and I actually think can make a move against WF next weekend. Do you
have any thoughts on the Jackets?
I think your assessment feels right, Bill.
Florida State is a buzz-saw right now, and Georgia Tech is just too
banged up on the mound, but the defense has been better over the last
couple of weeks, which helps the pitching, obviously. That Wake series
is starting to loom large, isn't it? Suddenly Tech is sitting in the
mid-40s in the RPI with a 6-9 conference record — there's not a lot of
room to go deeper into the hole and still emerge for an at-large bid.
Max (Bellevue, WA): Does Washington make a regional for the first time since 2004?
I'm starting to think so, actually. The
weakness of the Big 12 really helps—the Pac will have a chance to get a
bunch of bids. After UC Irvine got swept this weekend, the Big West is
looking like a two-bid league, at best. Washington has held its own
against quality opponents and has won some nice series, and its RPI is
inside the top 30. The schedule doesn't get any easier, but if I re-did
my field of 64 projection today, I think I'd include the Huskies.
Andrew (Houston): Sam Houston State is really playing well. Do they have any draft prospects for this year?
Keep an eye on Justin Jackson, a fifth-year
senior coming off Tommy John surgery who pitched well again this
weekend. At his best, he can be 90-93 with the ability to mix in three
decent offspeed pitches. I plan to check in with David Pierce this week,
in part to see if Jackson has shown that kind of stuff lately.
MIKE (BREA): Aaron, I have been to many CSU
Fullerton games this year and have been surprised by how BA keeps
ranking them so high. I have a son playing in the SEC and many friends
with sons playing in the PAC 12 and have seen many games from both
confrences. Honestly, at this point the Titans just have way to much
work to do to be at #12. Last week I saw they 3 HR's as a team! They
lost last week to Wash St and Long Beach St in the same week and moved
up. This week they had to come back late on Fri and Sat to beat UC
Davis, yet you keep moving them up. What does BA see that the rest of us
Not enough respect, too much respect —
make up your mind, folks! (Just having some fun with you guys...).
Fullerton's body of work is still very impressive — they won two of
three against A&M, now the No. 2 team in the country, and held their
own at Florida, winning one of three. They went to Arizona State
midweek and split a pair. The TCU series win doesn't look as good right
now, but that will wind up looking like a quality series win by season's
end, I'll wager. The Titans haven't lost a series since the first week.
No, they are not dominant, but they're good, and they've played a very
strong schedule. Ultimately, winning matters more than how you win.
Bill (Bozeman, MT): Aaron, your Midseason
Report and the Field of 64 projection is one of my favorite days of the
season so I hope you'll indulge me in a question on that topic: did
anything change drastically over the weekend in your field of 64? You
had Mississippi State as a #2 seed but the Bulldogs are in the 40-50
range in most RPI projections and their most significant weekend series
win was the season opener against Washington State (unless you want to
count Vandy). Won't MSU have to win a series against a good team
eventually to be an NCAA Tourney team?
Certainly, if the season ended today,
Mississippi State would be more of a borderline No. 3 than a No. 2. The
Bulldogs need to win more quality series in the second half, and my
projection was based on an expectation that they will do just that now
that they're finally healthy again. I like the talent on that club. This
weekend was a good start, although it wasn't easy.
KC (Durham): Any take home message from the LSU-Florida series as to the directions the teams are heading, or just an aberration?
I am starting to worry about Florida's
pitching. Obviously, we have not seen the same Hudson Randall and
Karsten Whitson that we saw a year ago, and eight weeks into the season,
that is a real concern. Brian Johnson has been ordinary at best, by and
large. They lean so heavily on Austin Maddox and Steven Rodriguez —
are those guys going to burn out when it matters most? These are
legitimate questions, and until they are answered, I can no longer cling
to my conviction that Florida is the strong national title favorite. If
I had to pick a team to win it all today, I would still go with the
Gators — I believe that coaching staff will get it figured out. But I
make that call with much more trepidation today than I did a couple of
Tyker K (Ft. Myers, Florida): Don't you think
dropping the Gators to No. 7 was a bit harsh? UF has the #1 RPI, #1
Strength of Schedule and the most wins in the country vs. the Top 25
with 12. This is the same team that swept Miami on the road, took 2/3
from SC in Columbia and is 2-0 vs FSU this season. Does a 1-3 week
really justify knocking them down 6 spots?
We gave the Gators a pass after they lost a
series last week, because they still had a better body of work than the
teams behind them. That is no longer the case. They've lost
back-to-back weekend series, and there is reason to wonder if their
pitching is really as good as we thought. No, I don't think a six-spot
fall is too drastic. Of the five teams in front of Florida, only LSU has
lost two weekend series — and of course LSU just won a series in
Gainesville following a sweep of Arkansas, so momentum and head-to-head
factors are clearly in the Tigers' favor.
Eric (St Louis): What is the latest on Pierce Johnson? I'd heard he was injured, but can't find anything specific.
Missouri State pitching coach Paul Evans
told me last week that Johnson was dealing with some forearm soreness,
and he expected Johnson to return this coming weekend.
Alex (fairfax, VA): How close was UVa to being
ranked this week? They're schedule hasn't been tough so I was surprised
they're RPI #19 (even though it's early). Kline seems to be sorting
himself out. Big home series this weekend v. UNC (even without Moran).
The RPI sure loves the ACC—more than we do,
I think. As I've expressed repeatedly over the years, I'm not the
biggest fan of the RPI... Virginia is back in our discussion this week,
and a series win against UNC would likely get the Cavs into our Top 25
for the first time this year.
Taylor (Colorado): Give me your top player of each class thus far.
Senior: James Ramsey. Junior: Mike Zunino. Sophomore: Kris Bryant. Freshman: Carlos Rodon.
OK everybody, that's it for today. Thanks for stopping by!