College Baseball Week 11 Chat With Aaron Fitt

Aaron Fitt: Hello from Seattle, let’s chat before I get on a plane.

Brian (Gainesville): Where does Florida's Logan Shore rank among freshman pitchers in college baseball? He has a 1.76 ERA and tied for the SEC lead with five wins in conference play.
Aaron Fitt: For me, Shore is neck and neck with Auburn’s Keegan Thompson in the race for freshman of the year in the SEC--and in the country. South Carolina’s Wil Crowe is also in that discussion, but he’s behind those other two for me, since both those guys are the best pitcher on their teams, and they have better numbers. Shore has been the only constant in Florida’s rotation this year; he is such a huge part of that team’s success. He might have passed Thompson for the moment, but this race will go down to the wire, I think.

Ben (New Orleans, LA): Ole Miss Rebels are coming off an impressive road series sweep against Kentucky. What are the chances they can host a super regional?
Aaron Fitt: Looking pretty good right now. No. 4 in the RPI, tied for first in the West, and two of their last three series are at home. The meat of the schedule is in the rear-view mirror, and I think Ole Miss is pretty darn good — expect that team to finish strong. SEC starting to look like a three-national seed league, with Florida and South Carolina in very good shape too. And if it sends 10 teams to regionals, why not three national seeds?

joseph henderson (portland, oregon): Does oregon state have the best starting rotation in the country?
Aaron Fitt: Hmm… yes, I think so. None of those guys have huge arms or electric stuff, but all three of them are extremely good — they just compete so hard, they locate, they all have quality secondary stuff and they know how to use it. Liked the looks I got at Wetzler and Moore this weekend, and Fry was even better Sunday. I think Moore is back on track after having some ups and downs this season; he located well Saturday, and his slider was quite good.

Aaron Fitt: I should add that TCU, Texas, Vanderbilt and South Carolina are also right in that discussion for me. You could make a case for any of those rotations, actually.

Courtney (McKinney, TX, United States): Looks like people are finally noticing that my Red Raiders are legit contenders this year. What are your thoughts on hosting a regional? RPI of 12 (before sweeping OU this weekend), 4th most wins nationally, etc--pretty good resume.
Aaron Fitt: Right in the thick of the hosting conversation, no doubt about it. The big question there is geography: How many regionals will the committee really put in the state of Texas? Answer: three or maybe four. Rice is in very good shape, TCU maybe even better shape, Houston and Texas are still right there, and then you’ve got Oklahoma State in the mix in that region as well, and two teams in Louisiana (and yeah, I know that’s a heck of a long way from Lubbock!). The last few weeks will determine how this thing shakes out. Texas having won that series in Lubbock might wind up looming large if it comes down to those two teams for one spot.

Matt (NY): Aaron thanks for all the great coverage you do. Miami is by far the hottest team in the country after winning 19 of their last 20 and 5 straight ACC series. The Canes pitching between Diaz, Suarez and B-Rad have just been lights out. They just held the supposed best offense in the ACC to 2 earned runs and did it on the road at Clemson. I am not sure any team in the country has 3 legitimate top of the rotation starters like Miami has and we all know to make it to Omaha, the pitching is what gets you there and Miami certainly has it. But the early season losses have Miami, it looks like, on the outside for a national seed right now. Miami has 3 very winnable series at home against Alabama St and UNC and at Duke before the ACC Tournament. Assuming series wins in all 3, what does Miami have to do in the ACC Tournament to get a national seed?
Aaron Fitt: Did I neglect to mention Miami in that best rotations discussion? That’s a serious oversight — those three lefties are really good. You’re right, Miami is the hottest team out there, and the Canes have surged right into the thick of the national seed race. They’re in first place right now, and if they can finish up as the ACC regular-season champion, I think they have a pretty darn good shot at a national seed. Then again, they lost the head-to-head series against the other two ACC powers (UVa. and FSU), so those teams might still be ahead in the pecking order. In which case, the ACC tournament could still loom large--although the committee seems to have de-emphasized conference tournaments in recent years.

Marty (Wilmington, DE): Hey Aaron. Duke's RPI has rocketed up to 61 with a manageable schedule remaining. What are the chances for an at-large for the Blue Devils?
Aaron Fitt: That’s a neat story for a team that hasn’t been to a regional in a long, long time. Talked about the Devils on the podcast today — that pitching staff is very legit, and they’re hitting now, and they play defense. With the momentum they have right now, and buoyed by that sweep of UNC earlier this season, I think Duke has a very real shot. The Devils already have 15 conference wins with two series to play, but the RPI needs report says they need to win eight of their last 10 to climb up into the top 45. That’s a tall order, with Florida State and Miami still looming. Let’s say they sweep Longwood and win one of those last two series, I think they’ll have a real shot.

Jay O (Charlottesville): Aaron - There doesn't seem to be much chatter about Virginia closer Nick Howard. He has been dominant - fastball consistently at 97 and it's not his best pitch (slider is filthy and he seems to be able to throw it whenever and wherever he wants). Struck out all 7 Seminoles that he faced this weekend on his way to saving 2 games. If the Hoos go deep this year, he will be a big reason.
Aaron Fitt: John said on today’s podcast that he thinks Howard is the most dominant closer in the country; if he needed somebody to get the last three outs for him, he’d take Howard. I might very well agree with him (although there are plenty of other great ones out there, like Nick Burdi and Riley Ferrell, to name two) — amazing how Howard has taken off in that role. Just a perfect fit for him; his stuff is electrifying. Love the one-two bullpen punch with Howard and Connor Jones — they can really shorten games.

Steve L. (Corvallis): What was your favorite part about visiting Goss Stadium?
Aaron Fitt: It was just an electric atmosphere, even though it rained all night Saturday. That’s a very tough place for opponents to play — the Beavers really do feed off their home crowd, and the fans are loud and right on top of the action. OSU players always talk about Beaver Nation, and I think they really believe it is a big part of their success.

Dougner (Albuquerque): Hi Aaron, It was an interesting weekend in the Big West. As of today, which schools have a realistic shot at getting into the tournament?
Aaron Fitt: It was an interesting weekend. Long Beach State is suddenly surging into the at-large discussion, kinda like Duke on the other coast — the Dirtbags are up into the mid-50s in the RPI, just one game below .500 overall, and they get Fullerton and Irvine at home in the final four weeks. If they finish a few games about .500, they’ve got a shot, I think; the Needs Report says they need to win 11 of their last 15 to get inside the top 45. I think 30 wins does it. Meanwhile, UCSB is finding itself on the bubble from an RPI standpoint, but at least the Gauchos got a much-needed series win vs. Riverside. I’m starting to think the winner of that Irvine-UCSB series this weekend could have the inside track at a bid, while the other could have its work cut out for it. Of course, the Anteaters might well get in as the automatic qualifier, which would take them off the bubble. Fullerton swept Hawaii but fell to 63rd in the RPI. Tough to get a handle on this league; all those teams I mentioned have a realistic shot, at least, at getting in, but ultimately I bet it winds up as a 3-bid league, maybe 4. Dennis Farrell’s committee was kind to the Big West last year, after all; maybe four is the better bet.

Brett (Little Rock): Aaron, if the Hogs don't win every remaining series OR the SEC tourney-they'll miss the regionals.Am I right, or do I need to quit being so negative ?
Aaron Fitt: I think they need to win at least two of their last three series, but not necessarily all three. The Needs Report says they need 7 more wins to finish inside the top 45; so win the one midweek game at Missouri State, sweep either Missouri or A&M, don’t get swept at Ole Miss — that’s 7 more wins, and 16 SEC wins. I think that could get it down, considering Arkansas’ three marquee series wins against South Carolina, Alabama and Vandy.

Jeff (DC): 0-100%: What is the likelihood that LSU's road to the CWS goes through Lafayette, LA?
Aaron Fitt: The way the SEC is shaking out, it’s starting to seem like LSU will wind up outside the top eight national seeds, and I still think the Cajuns get one. And if LSU doesn’t get one, I’d bet pretty heavily on an LSU-ULL super. But I’ll allow for a chance that both teams get national seeds and say 70 percent.

Steven (Montgomery, AL): Auburn continues is up and down season. Our bullpen is shaky at best and hitting poorly with RISP seems to be a staple of Auburn baseball in the past few seasons. Yet once again we find ourselves on the bubble to make the tourney. Is our starting pitching enough to carry us to regionals by winning a couple more series down the stretch or do you think we lack just enough and will miss out again this year?
Aaron Fitt: That bullpen does worry me, and I just think there are too many other teams in the SEC I like better. Credit Sunny Golloway and the Tigers, they aren’t going away. But ultimately I think they’ll fall short.

Dave (Washington St.): Aaron, good to see you back in the Pacific NW. How about those beavers... Great series sweep over Pac-12 rival Oregon. Can you shed some light on Freshman Trever Morrison? He did not make the BROOKS WALLACE AWARD WATCH LIST. Is this mostly due to his batting average of .225?
Aaron Fitt: I don’t know anything about that watch list so I can’t speak to that, but yeah, Morrison has not had a good season with the bat. He can really defend though — smooth actions, sure hands, good range, strong arm. Morrison and Logan Ice give the Beavers two very nice freshmen to build around up the middle. You might remember that Darwin Barney and Mitch Canham showed us how much it matters to have quality pieces at those two spots.

Greg (Fullerton, CA): Does UCLA even stand a good chance of making a regional at this point? This weekend's series sweep by USC has to be a major blow
Aaron Fitt: The Pac-12’s four best RPI teams are still ahead on UCLA’s schedule, so theoretically the Bruins could get hot and play their way from outside the top 100 in the RPI into the top 45 (by winning 11 of their last 15, per the needs report). But that’s not going to happen; the Bruins are too beaten up, and those Northwest teams are too good. This weekend was a death blow for the defending champs, I think.

Matt (GA): Aaron, Georgia Tech has some really good series wins (FSU, Miami, at UNC) but has fallen back to .500 in the ACC and continues to leave tons of guys on base (25 total in the Sat/Sun losses to NCST). Is the fact that they haven't padded their conference record against bottom-dwellers like BC & Notre Dame, along with their safe RPI (#32) and SOS (#7) enough to keep them out of trouble, or is this team back squarely on the bubble?
Aaron Fitt: They’ve just been so up and down, I’d have a hard time regarding them as “safe.” I still like their chances, but I would have liked to have seen them win one of those road series over the last two weeks. Still on the bubble, but certainly on the right side of it, for me.

Steven (Evansville): Do you think the Evansville Aces make the tourney? They are awfully impressive right now.
Aaron Fitt: Aces now atop the MVC at 9-3, up to No. 53 in the RPI — right in the thick of the at-large race right now. I think if they can hang on and win the regular-season title in that league (the No. 5 RPI conference), they’ll get in. The Illinois State series coming up in a couple weeks is big.

Todd (Nashville): So lets say, hypothetically, that the SEC finishes as it stands today. Who is in a regional? Is Tennessee in at 12th place and RPI of 28? Does 9th place TAMU jump in front at 39 RPI? Does Auburn at 11th place and 48 RPI? What's your pecking order at the bottom of the conference?
Aaron Fitt: A worthwhile discussion, especially since I never take an “if the season ended today” approach to Stock Report. The thing that helps Tennessee is the sweep of UNLV and the road series win at Arizona State. Is that enough to offset the fact that the Vols have lost 5 of their 7 conference series? I think the committee will view those series wins against teams from the West very favorably; so yes, I’ll say the Vols get in. Mississippi State and Texas A&M also in if the season ended today; Arkansas out because of the RPI; Auburn just out also. 10 teams in.

Wufpacklefty99 (Greensboro nc): Rodon and the lack of run support!!!! I will let you take it from there.
Aaron Fitt: It is truly unbelievable. Wolfpack has been shut out five times in Rodon’s 7 losses. I believe the team has scored a grand total of three runs in those seven games he has lost.

TITANation (Fullerton, CA): Aaron, have you and the BA Staff considered expanding your Top 25 to a Top 35 or Top 50, for the final 4 or 5 weeks of the regular season? The differences between the teams from 20 to 40 seem pretty slim, each year. As college baseball continues to grow and improve (especially with the smaller signing bonus potential) parity should continue to grow as well. Do you agree with that?
Aaron Fitt: I do agree with your statement about parity, and I think the 35-man roster cap and the limit of 27 players on scholarship also has contributed to the parity. As for expanding our Top 25 — we like the fact that it is hard to break into the Top 25. I think that makes it mean a little more. I think we do enough other stuff breaking down all the races for at-large spots that expanding our rankings is unnecessary.

Aaron Fitt: OK folks, lots of good questions left in the queue, but I’ve got to get going. Thanks for coming by, as always.