College Top 25 Chat With Aaron Fitt

    Pete (Downey, CA): Please tell me what you
    think about those Oregon Ducks from Eugene lead by George Horton. This
    team looks like it may be a serious contender for making a regional....
    please indulge us on your opinion on that bold statement I just made

Aaron Fitt: Hello everybody, let’s get right to it.
Oregon was one of the biggest stories of opening weekend — I don’t
think anybody saw that 2-1 weekend coming. You knew Horton would get
that program going sooner rather than later, but that’s pretty
remarkable progress for a team that ranked last in the nation in
scoring a year ago. I still don’t think you’ll see the Ducks in a
regional — I’ve still got plenty of questions about the bats — but
they will be considerably better than they were last year. I could see
a regional run by 2011.

    Mark (San Diego): How do you feel about
    University San Diego making it to a Super Regional? They seem to have
    strong pitching with Blair, Solis, and Griffith and many more arms.
    They also seem to be mature in the field with Meador, Walters, Muno,
    Engel. Is it realistic to think of them as an Omaho contender? Do you
    consider them one of the Top 5 programs in the West.

Aaron Fitt: Those are absolutely reasonable,
attainable goals for San Diego this year. So much depends on the health
of the Toreros’ stars, but we got excellent reports about Sammy Solis
this weekend, and having Victor Sanchez and Kevin Muno back will help a
ton. USD is unquestionably talented enough to make an Omaha run. There
won’t be many rotations better than Griffin-Blair-Solis.

    Jeff (Washington DC): Virginia #1. ACC bias?

Aaron Fitt: Clearly.

    Ron (Winterville): What are your thoughts on
    the Pirates after losing the series this weekend? Showed good character
    in a comeback effort Sunday afternoon. Middle relief seemed to be the
    problem yesterday. Weren't able to stop the bleeding. Over all seems
    like East Carolina just ran into a really good team.

Aaron Fitt: I agree with your bottom line — UVa. was
ranked so high for a reason. I was actually very encouraged by ECU’s
pitching, on the whole. Mike Wright looked great on Saturday — 90-92,
touching 93, from a lower slot with some funk in the delivery. Showed a
good slider and changeup also — he looks like a valuable setup man,
maybe ECU’s Tyler Wilson. Tyler Joyner had an ugly line, but I thought
his stuff looked decent also — he will be much better moving forward.
Overall, you have a lot to be encouraged about as a Pirate fan.

    Mike (Evanston, IL): How can you not have
    Northwestern ranked?? They lost all 4 games last weekend but it was on
    the road and if not for the 58 runs they gave up, NU could have easily
    won all 4!

Aaron Fitt: Thank you very much! Mike will be here all week, folks.

    ScottAZ (Phx, AZ): Why no Josh Spence for ASU this opening weekend? Also, your take on how we looked please

Aaron Fitt: “Arm soreness” is the only explanation
available. We’ll see what that means — Sun Devils have been
surprisingly close-mouthed about this, which makes me think the news
might not be good. But ASU dominated this weekend as expected. Nice to
see strong performances from Seth Blair and Zack MacPhee, who I think
is primed for a big breakout year. He has a chance to be a very
exciting player.

    Taylor (Houston): Aaron, thanks for the chat.
    Can you give me your thoughts on what happened in Austin this past
    weekend? Pitching didnt look too bad, no clutch hitting. I know New
    Mexico is a solid team. The Horns will be just fine...

Aaron Fitt: I agree with you on all counts. We gave
Texas a bit of a mulligan in the rankings this week, dropping it just
two spots, because we obviously still believe in that team. There is
really nothing to worry about in Austin. Remember, Illinois took two
out of three at LSU early last year.

    Brendon (Sunnyvale, CA): Brett Mooneyham...9
    BB in 5+ IP saturday evening. What is the potential for this kid if he
    ever figures out how to consistently find the strikezone?...Also, with
    Stanford's sweep of Rice this weekend, was this just Stanford finding a
    good weekend or is this a sign of things to come that Stanford is back
    on the national scene? Thanks..

Aaron Fitt: Two mitigating factors: Mooneyham was sick
last week and might not have been 100 percent Saturday, and from what I
hear, the strike zone was particularly small in that third game.
Clearly, Mooneyham needs to improve his control, but let’s see what he
does next week. The ceiling with him is huge. As for the Cardinal, I
suspect they’ll have their ups and downs this year, as they are relying
on a lot of young players. Those players are extremely talented
(remember, that recruiting class was ranked No. 2 in the nation last
fall) and they came up big this weekend, but there will be some bumps
along the road. If Stanford makes an Omaha run this year, it will be a
year ahead of schedule — like what Virginia did last year.

    MJ (New York): Rice starts 0-3 and yet they
    are still ranked #9...OH REALLY!?!?! You don't think there are better
    teams (Miami, Clemson, Stanford who swept them!?!?) that could be
    ranked higher than Rice based on what happened this weekend. Rice is
    clearly not that good. There is nothing you can say that justifes this

Aaron Fitt: Is that what you were saying about LSU
after the Tigers lost a series at home to Illinois last year? Should we have
dropped LSU behind Illinois in the rankings that Monday? Believe what
you want, but Rice is going to be very good. A bad weekend in February
is just that: a bad weekend in February.

    Taylor (Houston): How far is Texas A&M
    outside the Top 25? I know there wasn't much movement within the Top
    25, but it looks like they had a couple convincing wins. Thanks.

Aaron Fitt: In that group of teams in the 26-30 range.
Obviously there were no openings in the Top 25 — I didn’t even like
bumping Georgia after a respectable 2-2 week, but we had to get
Stanford in. I’m very high on Brodie Greene, so it was good to see him
get off to an 8-for-11 start. And our reports say John Stilson was
throwing some serious gas in that brilliant relief outing. I could see
him as 2010’s surprise All-American by season’s end, ala Casey Weathers.

    Taylor (Houston): The Wildcats of Kentucky had
    a big weekend, especially with the upset of Coastal. What are your
    thoughts on this team,and what is it going to take to move up into the
    rankings? Thanks!

Aaron Fitt: John and I discussed Kentucky on the
podcast today — we both like their team. Even without James Paxton,
they’ve got some big-time arms on that staff, and I love the
athleticism in the lineup, particularly in the infield. Kentucky moved
up into the 26-30 range this week; with another good week, and assuming
teams in front of them lose to open some spots, Kentucky could be
ranked by this time next week.

    Kevin (New Orleans): You guys at BA have done
    very little talk on pod casts and chats about LSU. How about some
    explanations about why the defending champions aren't #1 right now, and
    their strengths that have them at #2; what could get them back on top
    this year and what could hold them back?

Aaron Fitt: Well, we’ve only had two podcasts this
year, and I thought we talked about the Tigers in the preseason
edition. But we didn’t mention them much today because they did as they
were supposed to do — swept a home series against an inferior (if
plucky) opponent. Biggest development of the weekend for the Tigers:
Joey Bourgeois delivering a stellar debut Sunday. That spot was the
biggest question mark about LSU heading into the year, and it looks
like Paul Mainieri has found his answer. Supposedly his stuff was
outstanding, too.

    Jon K (Tigard ore): I was out in hawaii Friday
    and Saturday to catch the beavers take on the bows and left feeling our
    squad looks much improved from last years regional team! do you think
    we have what it takes to get back to Omaha? Also our highly touted
    pitching staff was pretty dominating at times and the two guys who
    looked the best was Friday starter waldron and closer rhoderick where
    do you see these two being drafted this year?

Aaron Fitt: So much depends on whether Robles and
Peavey can get more out of their considerable talent — both were solid
this weekend, which was a good sign. Waldron and Rhoderick both look
like third- to fourth-round picks, maybe a tick higher for Rhoderick.

    Doug (Fountain Valley, CA): Hi Aaron,
    Long Beach beats Pepperdine, Pepperdine beats Fullerton, Fullerton
    beats Long Beach. At the end of the season, how much weight does the
    tournament selection committee put into the fact that west coast teams
    just beat each other up all season?

Aaron Fitt: That is the perennial problem out West. Of
course, if East Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina had played a
round robin — or Miami and Florida and Florida State, or Rice and
Texas and TCU, or Ohio State and Louisville and Kentucky — the result
might have been the same. It’s true that there are fewer soft opponents
against whom to pad your win totals in the West, but there are a few.
The bottom line is cream rises to the top; the elite West Coast teams
will show their true colors in the end, just like the elite teams
everywhere else. Maybe there will be fewer middling West Coast teams in
regionals than there should be — that’s usually the case, after all —
but the middling teams in other regions are just as good as the
middling teams in the West. There just are more teams to accommodate.
That’s the problem with the “West vs. everybody else” view — it’s more
reasonable to compare California with Texas with the Carolinas with
Florida, for instance.

    CD (Columbus): Where is Ohio St. in the Top 25 rankings?? Wimmers was dominant as usual.

Aaron Fitt: No room for them — nobody at the back
lost. Ohio State remains where it started the season — in the 26-30
group, knocking on the door to the rankings.

    jb (SC): How do you see the South Carolina-East Carolina series this weekend in Greenville falling? Two VERY offensive minded programs!

Aaron Fitt: Could go either way, but with no Ebert and no Bradley, I’ll take the Pirates at home.

    Matt (Florida): Ok, so let me get this
    straight. New Mexico takes 2 of 3 from your preseason #1 team and is
    unranked in this poll. Way to give NM credit for a great series win!
    And Rice gets swept by an unranked Stanford team who never even made a
    regional last year and they only fall 4 spots and are still in the top
    10. Was a 2 year old formulating these rankings b/c these things are a

Aaron Fitt: Leaping to grand conclusions after one
weekend in February is a silly, reactionary move. It’s baseball — it’s
a long season. If the Royals sweep the Yankees in April, does that mean
the Royals are instantly better than the Yankees, and more likely to
win the World Series? Come on. If we had ranked Illinois over LSU when
the Illini took two out of three in Baton Rouge early on last year, we
would have looked ridiculous. That’s just not how the rankings work.

    Steve (Wappingers Falls, NY): A little love
    for Army? Top 35? They pounded a good Dayton team and beat Wake. 6'5"
    Kevin McKague had 3 HRs and picked up a save on the mound. I know they
    play in the extremely week Patriot League but I am going to be
    pestering you all year to consider them a top 30 team.

Aaron Fitt: Yeah, that was a great weekend for Army —
Dayton is the A-10 favorite, and obviously for Army to beat an ACC team
in February is pretty darn impressive. McKague is one of the best
players in the Northeast. I’m still not buying Army as a top 30 team,
but they’re safely inside the top 50, and maybe moving up.

    James Frye (Knoxville): What is your take on
    Tennessee's series sweep of Xavier this weekend? I thought the Vols
    looked pretty good myself. They sure can hit and the bullpen looked
    great. Does Raleigh have this team turned around?

Aaron Fitt: I stand by what I said in the preseason:
Tennessee will make a real run at regionals. It’s hard to move up with
so many good teams in the SEC, but the Vols are good enough to make
some noise, assuming Cody Hawn’s injury is not serious.

    Doug (Oxford,MS): Aaron, if Aaron Barrett and
    Trent Rothlin pitch as well as they did this weekend for the rest of
    the year, how good can the rebels be?

Aaron Fitt: Those were two extremely encouraging
developments. Both those guys have great arms — we ranked each in
summer league top prospects lists over the last two years — but
neither had had much Division I success until this weekend. The Rebels
are really counting on them. If they can replicate this weekend’s
results, Ole Miss will be in business.

    Tyler (SC): What did you think about Christian
    Walker's debut? That kid raked and hit two bombs. Looks like he will
    need to work on his defense more but could be another consistant Tanner

Aaron Fitt: He is a classic South Carolina player, in
that Phil Disher tradition — you hit it on the head. He can really
mash, but defense is a work in progress. Great debut for him — I
wasn’t surprised to see him hitting in the middle of the lineup right
away. He’s gonna be a good one.

    Steve (OWltown): Will Rice have enough pitching?

Aaron Fitt: Yes. It won’t be an overpowering staff
like the Owls have had in the past, but if they can throw strikes, the
defense will make plays behind them, and the bats will take care of the

    Chandler White (Albuquerque, NM): Ray
    Birmingham needs to be considered coach of the year, he has brought UNM
    from non-existent to opening up this year taking two of three at Texas.
    Do you believe UNM has a chance to overtake TCU this year? And do you
    believe they have a shot at Omaha?

Aaron Fitt: Birmingham has done a great job building
that program in a short amount of time. He’s a good recruiter, he
brings a lot of energy, and his teams play very hard. But the Lobos
will not overtake TCU this year, and they will not make an Omaha run. A
regional, though, could be in reach, and that would be a major
development for a program that has only been to one regional ever — 48
years ago.

    Chris (Conway, SC): I was at all 3 Coastal
    games this weekend and it seemed like a rough start to the season.
    Quite a few defensive errors most notably in the 9th against Kentucky
    leading to the loss. How are the they still #12 after what I would
    consider a rather weak showing this weekend. Any concerns about Scott
    Woodward going 1-12, a game changing pick off in the 6th against
    Kentucky, then an error to cost them the game?

Aaron Fitt: Admittedly, I didn’t see it with my own
eyes, but on paper Coastal’s week was OK. Going 2-1 — with a good win
against a talented Virginia Tech team and a close loss to a good
Kentucky team — isn’t bad at all. Give Woodward a mulligan — he’ll
bounce back. He’s a very good player.
OK everybody, that’s it for today. Three Strikes is now posted on the
College Blog — check it out for a piece on UC Irvine lefty Daniel
Bibona. Next weekend I’ll be posting updates on the blog and Twitter
from the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. Enjoy Week Two.