Moderator: Aaron Fitt will answer your college baseball questions beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Aaron Fitt: Hi everybody, fun weekend in college baseball, with five series between ranked teams and plenty of good drama. Still bummed that we got cheated out of that Sunday game between UNC and NC State; that series split left us with some tough choices to make in the Top 25, and of course it deprived us of some great Sunday evening viewing. Let’s chat.
Dan (Ithaca): Which hard throwing freshman reliever has been more impressive? Ryan Burr or Carson Fulmer? You see either becoming a starter later on?
Aaron Fitt: I think Burr’s had the little better season so far — better ERA, and he’s the man at the back of that bullpen, with nine saves. Fulmer is electric, but he’s more of a setup guy for Brian Miller — still very valuable, but I don’t know where ASU would be without Burr. Vandy has enough arms that it would still be elite even without Fulmer. But I do prefer Fulmer as a prospect. Both guys have really big arms, but I like Fulmer’s feel for pitching and his secondary stuff a bit more. His arm just works so easily — he looks like a future dominant starter to me.
Eric (La Palma, CA): Looks like Fullerton is cruising toward another Big West title but this weekend could be a test against their rival Long Beach State. Long Beach has been inconsistent but dangerous, they just came off taking two out of three from Cal Poly. How do you see this coming out?
Aaron Fitt: I’m not going to bet against Cal State Fullerton in any Big West series — the Titans are clearly the class of that conference. But you’re right, Long Beach is playing better, and I do like some of the pieces in place there (I thought LBSU was a fringe regionals team heading into the season). I think Jeff McNeil is a pretty dynamic catalyst atop the lineup, and they’re getting some clutch hits behind him, notably Juan Avila’s grand slam this weekend. The Dirtbags are capable of playing with Fullerton, but I just think the Titans are better, and I like their chances this weekend.
GamecockFan (Chicago): I think you can probably guess my question considering my username. What gives? If SC takes the series this weekend, are they back in your top 8?
Aaron Fitt: Yeah, there was just no room to move up the Gamecocks this weekend — only one team in the top 15 had a losing weekend (Virginia). It’s hard to move South Carolina over Arkansas considering the Hogs swept the Gamecocks in Columbia. A great series win at LSU doesn’t erase the fact that South Carolina has been swept twice this year, and most of the teams ahead of the Gamecocks haven’t been swept at all (although Florida State has been swept, but it was just once, and it was on the road against a top-10 team). On top of that, South Carolina had just a 2-2 week (let’s not forget that midweek loss to Gardner-Webb). So while I’m certainly impressed with the series win at LSU, and I like what I saw from the Gamecocks on TV, their body of work still isn’t good enough to warrant them jumping over teams that also won their weekends. And yes, if South Carolina follows up that LSU series with a series win against Vanderbilt, we’ll find a way to vault the Gamecocks up the rankings, and I’ll feel very good about their chances to earn a national seed.
Holden (Tampa): Why isn't South Florida ranked even though they are the leaders in the Big East?
Aaron Fitt: Well, South Florida has been red-hot over the last month, but the first half of the season counts too, and that team started out 14-14. There is really only one series win against a potential regional team on USF’s resume (that nice sweep of Pittsburgh), so we need to see a little more before we buy the Bulls as a Top 25 team. A series win at Notre Dame this weekend could do it. By the way, I wrote about USF in today’s Three Strikes column, which is going up on the web shortly.
Matt (Arizona): who will win pac-12?
Aaron Fitt: I still say the Beavers, but I do like Oregon’s team quite a bit, and the Ducks get the advantage of facing OSU at home in a couple of weeks. That series will probably determine it. I really think it could go either way, but I believe in the Beavers just a bit more.
Steven (San Diego): What is going on with USD? Do you still see them making the post-season field of 64? At this point, it doesn't even look like they will make the 4 team WCC tournament. If they don't make that WCC tourney, is it safe to say they have no shot at an at large, even though they have big series wins out of conference and a pretty good RPI?
Aaron Fitt: The Toreros are in trouble. The biggest problem has been poor starting pitching, but that team also has not played good defense this year, and the offense has been lackluster other than Kris Bryant. They’ve been a disappointment, as a few key players there have significantly underachieved. Getting into the WCC tournament might not be easy now because USD has lost series against all the other contenders (Gonzaga, Pepperdine, USF, LMU), so it won’t have any tie-breakers. The RPI still gives the Toreros an outside shot at an at-large spot even if they don’t make the WCC tourney, because the committee has shown it will take teams with good RPIs even if they don’t finish great in the conference standings (see: Michigan State last year). But I’m not feeling too optimistic about USD right now. That home series against USF this past weekend was critical, and USD lost it.
Jeff (D.C.): UNC and NC State displayed that ACC championship pedigree this weekend by mutually agreeing to avoid a loss in the series finale. These schools are 30 minutes apart. What is really stopping them from playing a 3rd game? It is especially fitting that this happens the week of the annual ACC off week from the rigors of navigating BC, Duke, Wake, etc. They can't play each other during exam week, but they can play Presbyterian and James Madison. How can you reward both teams for not playing on Sunday? Aren't you less confident in UNC's potential to win big games in the postseason when they avoid big games in the regular season?
Aaron Fitt: Folks, ACC rules mandate that a weekend series be completed in three days from when it begins, so they were not allowed to make up that Sunday game later. I assure you, they would have wanted to.
Glenn (Baton Rouge): Aaron- Thanks for the vine. Where does Aaron Nola rank among college pitchers for the 2014 Draft?
Aaron Fitt: I think he’s a monster — I think I’d put him somewhere in the top five with Rodon, Beede, Jeff Hoffman and Michael Cederoth. I love that Nola’s velocity has spiked this year, but he hasn’t lost any of his feel for pitching. The breaking ball is better, the changeup is still very good, he pounds the zone relentlessly and is a fearless competitor. I really like him.
Brad (Chicago): What is the better week: Team A - 2 wins versus RPI 8 & 121 and 2 losses versus RPI 8 & 8. Or Team B – 2 wins versus RPI 9 & 146, 2 losses versus RPI 9 and 25? Does Team B's week look better because they are an ACC school or because they avoided a 3rd loss by raining out their Sunday game?
Aaron Fitt: First of all, weekend series matter more to us than midweek games — we’ve been consistent in that philosophy for three decades. Your best players go up against another team’s best player on the weekends; those are the guys who are going to determine championships in the postseason. LSU lost its weekend series; North Carolina has not lost a series all year. Secondly, that was UNC’s FIRST midweek loss all year. You really have to consider the body of work, not just the last week. North Carolina is 41-4, and look at the way it has dominated — it has outscored its opponents by 6.0 runs per game. The next-best scoring margin is Vandy — at 4.3 runs per game. I mean, that is absurd domination by UNC. I understand that the Tar Heels only have a 2-1 record against our Top 25, but that number is not reflective of the strength of their schedule because they are also 5-1 against Clemson and Virginia Tech (two teams that are currently ranked but were not ranked at the time of the meetings, so UNC’s top 25 record doesn’t get credit for that). The Tar Heels are 17-4 against the top 50 in the RPI, so it’s not like they’re playing patsies. LSU is 13-4 against the top 50, and Vandy is 12-2, for the sake of comparison. So spare me the “ACC bias” nonsense — that is so tired, and not grounded in reality. Believe it or not, good baseball does exist outside the SEC!
Kurt (Little Rock): New Mexico has an RPI of 40 and is 0-4 against the RPI Top 50. South Carolina has an RPI of 8 and is 7-5 against the RPI top 50. You have these teams ranked 15 and 17 respectively. Is South Carolina's ceiling in the BA poll set by Arkansas?
Aaron Fitt: How does New Mexico being ranked behind South Carolina have anything to do with South Carolina’s ranking? Again, just about everybody ahead of South Carolina had winning weekends — and six teams behind South Carolina had losing weekends (or losing weeks). Somebody had to move up into that vacuum, and New Mexico is red-hot, having won 10 straight games and dominating the Mountain West Conference. And guess what? New Mexico is 1-1 against that same Arkansas team that swept South Carolina. Just saying.
Jim (San Jose, CA):strong> Do you think Cal Poly will make a regional this year, I thought they got slided a little last year?
Thanks for taking my question, love your chats...
Aaron Fitt: Losing that series to Long Beach State puts the Mustangs in a little bit of danger — now they’re just 8-7 in the Big West, tied for fifth place. I think the remaining schedule should be manageable, so I expect Poly to finish in the top 3, which should be good enough for an at-large spot combined with their solid RPI (currently No. 36).
Alex Andrews (Kentucky): With Kentucky winning the series at Ole Miss this weekend and taking our SEC record to 9-12 is it finally safe to start planning the trip to hoover? Also, with the Cats hosting Arkansas/Vandy then finishing at Mizzou, how many wins do you think the cats need to clinch a regional spot, does 13-17 in the SEC get the job done?
Aaron Fitt: I mean, everybody and their sister gets to go to Hoover under the new format — I think you’ve got nothing to worry about on that front. And yes, I think 13-17 is probably enough for an at-large spot, though I’d feel more comfortable about 14-16.
Trace (Corvallis): OSU with the #1 rpi and a 4-0 record this week moves up 1, after beating other pac12 powers. LSU loses to a decent South Carolina and they drop 1! OSU moves up 1? Explain this because Oregon State has top caliber pitching! Conforto is back, and jace fry is about to return, so OSU is a championship contender.
Aaron Fitt: Beavers lost a series last weekend to a Washington team that is 14-28 overall — that series tempered our enthusiasm for the Beavs a bit. And that USC team they swept this weekend is not great. But yes, I agree that OSU is a championship contender — we’ve got them ranked No. 6, after all. Not too shabby.
Gray (Rock Hill, SC): Aaron,
Even though the Gamecocks saw no movement in the polls after a big weekend, what else do they need to do to lock in a regional host and/or a national seed?
Aaron Fitt: I think they’re sitting pretty for hosting right now, and a series win against Vandy this weekend will make me feel pretty good about their national seed chances…
Kyle (Nelson): What are your thoughts on Stanford's chances moving forward after a rough weekend in Eugene? Thanks for the chat!
Aaron Fitt: Not too optimistic. We knew Stanford had a lot of work to do in the final weeks, and we assumed the Cardinal would at least avoid a sweep at Oregon. I think Stanford might be falling out of our field of 64 in tomorrow’s Stock Report…
WhenItStrikesMe (NYC): Aaron:
I know you're not the Elias Sports Bureau, but while folks in TN are talking about Vanderbilt's record setting 19-2 start in SEC play, there's another streak that I find more remarkable. North Carolina has not yet lost to a team outside the current RPI Top 25. They are a perfect 32-0 against teams outside the RPI Top 25, with 18 of those 32 wins coming against RPI Top 100 competition. The level of consistency to accomplish that is nothing short of phenomenal, and is why I agree that my Commodores should still be #2 in the nation (notwithstanding a slightly superior "resume wins" column). So my question is whether or not any team has ever topped this stellar run of consistency from UNC.
Aaron Fitt: Great observation there — both of those teams have had amazing seasons so far. I can’t think of any team in my 9-year tenure that has been more consistently dominant this deep into the season than UNC. I think that 2007 Vanderbilt team was probably the best regular-season team of the last decade, and even that team had a couple of hiccups, losing a series at Arkansas and back-to-back midweek games against Lipscomb and Middle Tennessee.
Dave Walker (North Branford, CT): Where spots would you believe that Trea Turner and Alex Bregman be taken, if they were eligible in the 2013 draft? Thanks!
Aaron Fitt: I think both would be top half of the first round, and maybe top 5-10 picks, in this draft. There just aren’t many premium middle-of-the-diamond players out there in this draft, and those guys are.
Jason Rodriguez (Costa Mesa,CA): Do you think the fullerton rotation of Eschelman, Garza, and Weist has been the best in the nation this year? Do you see Carlos Lopez as a decemt draft prospect? Thank you
Aaron Fitt: You can certainly make that argument. Just glancing at the Top 25, there are a number of teams that have gotten great performances from two guys, but not many that have gotten consistent outstanding performance from all three weekend starters (even the top three teams have had issues with Sunday pitching here and there). Yes, I think that Fullerton rotation has been the nation’s best, to this point.
Aaron Fitt: OK folks, that’s all I’ve got time for today — got to finish up Three Strikes. Thanks for coming by. To all you SEC fans — I’m thankful for your passion, it’s great that you care so much about college baseball. Keep coming back.