Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mizzou Baseball 2012 A-Z at the Halfway Mark

A week before the 2012 season began, I posted a season preview entitled Mizzou Baseball 2012 A-Z.  Now that the Tigers have played 27 of their 54 scheduled games, it's a good time to see how the season is progressing as compared to the pre-season prognostications.

Eric Anderson was expected to be the Tigers' Friday night ace in 2012, but that plan hit a couple of speed bumps.  In his first three starts he pitched well enough, but not well enough to compensate for the slow start of the offense, and found himself quickly at 0-3.  Then in his 4th start he was removed in the 5th inning with arm troubles.  The MRI came up negative with any actual damage, so the plan is to let him rest.  For 10-14 days.  Or 30 days.  Or whatever it takes.
Big 12
Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma were the only Big 129 teams in any of the pre-season polls.  Everyone expected a down season from the Big129, and that prediction seems to be holding mostly true so far.  Texas started out really slow but is in several of the polls at this point just because they're Texas, I guess.  A&M is in everyone's top 10, and Baylor has come on strong in the past couple of weeks to sneak into the lower end of the polls.  Mizzou managed only 1 win against the Aggies this past weekend, but fought them tooth and nail,s threatening to upset them right down to the final out of each game.  The Tigers play Baylor at Simmons Field this week (Thursday, Friday, Saturday).  If they can play with the same zeal and determination as they did this past weekend, the Bears are beatable.
    Ben Turner
    Missouri Baseball on Facebook
    Senior Ben Turner was expected to be the starting catcher, and that he has been, for most of the games so far in 2012.  Turner has been a tough and gutsy leader on the field, enduring backsinging bats to the helmet, full-on tackles at the plate, and other numerous aches and bruises.  But his leadership on the field continues to inspire the Tigers.   Patrick Quintanilla is the heir apparent, and made good use of his starts, both defensively and offensively.
    In some ways Missouri  has been noticeably improved defensively in 2012.  On the other hand, there have been some notable problems.  Eric Garcia has made some amazing plays while also setting a pace to break the MU single season record for errors (29).  And there was a two-game defensive slump by the team that began with 4 errors in the final High Point game on 3/19 and gained steam in the Indiana State game with 6 errors on 3/21.  Not surprisingly, the Tigers lost those two games by a combined score of 28-8.
    As predicted, the Tigers' EDGE in 2012 has been good pitching.  Even with Eric Anderson's injury, solid performances by starters and relievers have kept MU in the games, even when the offense has struggled to get going.  Take a look at Baseball Performance Through March (  "There's no Scherzer, Gibson, or Crow here, but developing a third option on par with the first two could give them the depth to grind out their share of series wins through the Big 12 season."
    Myles Smith
    Ryan Gebhart is having a great year as the team leader at Florida Gulf Coast U,  Brian Carr  is having a good season both pitching and hitting with William Woods U, Jeff Lusardi and Garrison McLagan are having decent years with San Diego Christian College, Myles Smith is 7-1 with a 1.64 ERA at Miami Dade Community College.  
    Home Stand
    19 games in 27 days produced a 13-5 record, with one game cancelled.  That's an improvement on 2011's March home stand, which resulted in a 10-7 record (and 3 rain-outs).
    Dillon Everett (2B), Eric Garcia (SS) and Conner Mach (3B) have become fixtures at their positions.  First base has been shared by Gavin Stark (15 starts), Andreas Plackis (5) and Landon Lucansky (5). Mike McGraw (1), and Ben Turner (1).  Stark has been struggling at the plate, so it remains to be seen who will be the go-to guy at first.
    JuCo Transfers
    LHP Blake Holovach has established himself as a dominant weekend starter.  His complete game shutout against High Point on St. Patrick's Day brought he Tigers' luck and some hope after the injury to Eric Anderson. His Saturday performance against Oklahoma State earned him the Big 12 Newcomer of the Week award.  And his incredible performance against A&M on Saturday got him a lot of attention.
    Blake Holovach 
    Jeff Cline and Kyle Harbeck have both seen mixed results in their mound appearances.

    Mike McGraw and Gavin Stark have both seen playing time, but have struggled offensively.
    Kauffman Stadium
    The only Tiger at Kauffman Stadium is Aaron Crow, who made the big-league Royals' roster again, but his chances for a spot in the starting rotation were sidelined by an injury to Joakim Soria.
    Blake Brown and Brannon Champagne have switched back and forth between the 1st and 2nd slots in the lineup; Conner Mach has been a fixture at #3; Dane Opel had settled into the cleanup spot until he began to struggle in the past week or so; 5-8 have been a constant re-mix between several different players; and Dillon Everett has nailed down the #9 slot in the batting order.
      Tex Little and Hunter Mense have perfected their Abbott and Costello routine in the broadcast booth, pestering one another with their personal eccentricities and the unique and semi-pertinent points they choose to emphasize (e.g., foul area size matters, statistical W-L performance per uniform style, etc.)
      The new "voice of Taylor Stadium" is drive-time DJ turned PA Announcer James Abey.  Abey (aka Jim Shorts) struggled early on to raise his name-pronunciation batting average, but he has steadily lowered his opposing-batters-name-intro-clarity ERA by mixing in a variety of levels of boredom and apathy about their relative importance to the matter at hand.  All in all an entertaining change-up for the ballgame experience. 
      NCAA Tournament
      The words "NCAA Tournament" still leaves a bad taste for many Mizzou fans following the basketball season, but in regard to baseball, the Tigers had a better March home stand than in the past couple of years, which could help their RPI and record at the end of the season.  It the Tigers play the rest of the season like they did in College Station, that will increase their chances for an NCAA invite.  
      Allow me to quote myself from the pre-season preview:  "Dane Opel is the key. . .
      if Opel can return to the level of offensive and defensive excellence he once showed, he can be the key to giving depth to the Tigers both offensively and defensively. " 
      Mr. Opel has indeed been the key.  When he's productive at the plate, the Tiger offense is productive.  And when he's not, the whole lineup seems to suffer.  
      Pitching Rotation
      The weekend pitching rotation is still in flux, due to the sidelining of RHP Eric Anderson.  If EA makes a successful return to the mound, then the weekend staff will likely settle into some version of Anderson-Zastryzny-Holovach.  Rob Z and Holovach have been impressive and productive. 
      If EA is not able to return to the weekend rotation, then someone is going to have to step up and show some consistency as a Sunday starter, whether that be Emens or Platts or Cline or Graves or someone else.
      • Will the Tigers be able to mount an effective offense with an everyday lineup made up almost entirely of returning players who struggled offensively with the new BBCOR bats in 2011?
        • Early in the season the answer seemed to be a resounding "NO!".  But following the disastrous San Francisco weekend, the bats have picked up.
      • Will the pitching staff live up to the high expectations that are being set for them?
        • Yes and no.  EA's injury has thrown a wrench into the expectations, and freshman starters Platts and Graves have yet to demonstrate consistency.  
      • Will Tim Jamieson and Matt Hobbs be able to rely on their bullpen past the top 3 or 4 workhorses?
        • The bullpen has been impressive.  Jake Walsh has stepped forward as a dominant closer, Jeff Emens is the reliable long relief man, and Dusty Ross, John Miles and Ryan Yuengel have been reliable.
      • Will Dane Opel's junior year be the one where he plays up to the potential everyone has seen since he was in high school?
        • Yes, most definitely.  If he can keep the slumps shortened, he will end up with a very good yar.
      • Will Rob Zastryzny show more consistency and stamina deep into the 2012 season than he did in the 2011 campaign?
        • Robby Z has been mostly steady and effective.  His longevity won't be answered until May is well under way.
      • Will the Big 12-to-SEC transition be a distraction for the team?
        • It doesn't appear to be a factor at all.  The rest of Mizzou seems to have moved on, but sports like Baseball and Softball are facing Big 12 opponents every weekend now, so thoughts of Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, et al, aren't even on the radar.
      • Will MU be able to build a superior record on the road, in order to take advantage of the new weighted RPI formula?
        • MU hasn't been on the road much yet.
      • Will KU continue to suck?  
        • Always.
      Jake Walsh has shown the attitude and effectiveness to be the Tigers' closer.  When he comes out to the mound to the semi-sanitized sounds of Eminem's "Cinderella Man", Tiger fans grin wide with anticipation.  His last 2 or 3 outings have been less than perfect, but I doubt anyone expected perfection from the "Junkyard Dog". 
      Walsh is not alone in the bullpen.  It's pleasant to not feel the need to cringe when the middle relievers (Emens, Ross, Miles, Yuengel) take the mound.
      Senior Conner Mach
      Missouri Baseball on Facebook
      Conner Mach is having a solid year, as is BenTurner.  Both are leaders on the field and off. Jeff Emens and Dusty Ross are steady leaders on the pitching staff.  And without Ryan Clubb, how would we know what to do during a rain delay?
      TV is what you watch when you get home from the ball game.
      The Tigers are still unranked, but that's OK.  The only ranking that matters numbers 1 through 64 at the end of the regular season.  Mizzou broke in to the top 100 in the RPI after their weekend series with Texas A&M.
        • Auburn 2-1
        • San Francisco 0-3
        • Ball State 2-1
        • Nebraska-Omaha 1-0
        • Charlotte 3-0
        • North Dakota 2-0 
        • High Point 2-1 
        • Indiana St 0-1
        • Oklahoma State 2-1
        • Central Arkansas 1-1
        • Texas A&M 1-3

        I have never sat through an entire week of ballgames at Simmons Field in the middle of March wearing no jacket or coat.  Until this year.  The weather has been incredible.  The Ball State series at the beginning of March was typical Taylor Stadium weather:  An average game-time temp of 42.  But for the remaining 13 games of the home stand, the average game-time temperature was 71.  And three games were in the 80s.
        X marks your vote
        Followers of expressed their opinions in the You Make the Call poll.  They think Mizzou can win the Big 12 (or at least be in the top half), and they overwhelmingly expect the Tigers to return to the NCAA tournament in 2012.  Time will tell.
        Year of the Big 12 finale
        Ho hum.   Let's get it over with already. 
        @Robbyball_Z has been thrust into the bright lights of Friday nights while Eric Anderson recovers from his arm problems.  He has been more effective than his Friday night record would indicate, holding his own against other teams' Friday aces.

        No comments:

        Post a Comment