Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Tip of the Cap 2012: The Crystal Baseball

Back on February 11th I posted some bold predictions:
"Gaze deeply with me into the know-it-all crystal ball.  Tell us, great stitched orb, what 2012 holds in store for Mizzou Baseball.  Whither the Tigers?"
So how did I do with my 9 Predictions for 2012?
  1. MU Diamond sports will surge in awareness and popularity among students and fans, as both the Softball and Baseball teams have exciting and successful seasons in their final run through the Big 12.

    Ehren Earleywine's Softball Tigers had a good season, but not as good as the previous season.  They made it all the way to hosting a Super Regional in Columbia, but they struggled against future SEC foes LSU, and lost that series 1-2, ending their season.

    Tim Jamieson's Baseball Tigers had an up-and-down frustrating season, but found their mojo at the right time, surprising nearly everyone with a run through the Big 12 Tournament all the way to winning the championship trophy.  Their season ended in the Tucson Regional, but most people would not have expected the Tigers to even e in the Regional if asked just 2-3 weeks before they arrived in Tucson.

    AS for attention and popularity, both teams saw good attendance.  Taylor Stadium saw a resurgence in attendance, thanks in no small part to a great effort by the new student fan group, Tigers on Deck.

  2. Mizzou's pitching will surprise a lot of people in 2012.  Eric Anderson will be a dominant force in the Big 12 and nationally, and will lead a very good starting rotation.

    The biggest surprise of the 2012 pitching staff was the early loss of Eric Anderson, who was put on the bench to rest for 10 days, 30 days, and finally underwent Tommy John surgery.

    Rob Zastryzny took over as the Friday night ace and had a great season.  Blake Holovach was successful for several weeks as a complement to Rob Z, but struggled to maintain his performance level as the season wore on.

    The biggest success of the pitching success was in the bullpen, where Matt Hobbs and Travis Wendte's relief corp came into their own in April and May.

  3. Newcomers - Freshmen and JuCo transfers - will be a major factor in the success of the pitching staff, providing depth to the weekend and mid-week starting staff, and providing quality innings in the bullpen.

    Blake Holovach, a transfer, and John Miles and Brett Graves, freshmen, did indeed have a huge impact on the pitching staff.  With the loss of Eric Anderson at the top of the depth chart, those three were required to step up and carry the extra load.  While none of the three was as consistent as they would have liked, all of them were key contributors during the long season.

  4. The lineup may change more often than Mitt Romney's opinions (or Newt's wives).  With an embarrassment of riches at nearly every position - both infield and outfield - there will be healthy competition that will drive the Tigers to excel.

    As it turned out, it wasn't so much the surplus of candidates that forced multiple lineup changes, but the nagging problems the entire lineup had with being consistently productive with the bats.
    It was a lineup full of streaky hitters, and whoever hat the hot streak got the starts. 1B saw five different starters and five different players tried on the DH role.  Two players, though, started every game at their position:  Eric Garcia at SS and Conner Mach at 3B.

  5. Depth in both pitching and the daily lineup can give the team staying power in the late season and into the post-season.  Giving playing time to "the bench" provides the luxury of keeping the entire roster rested and fresh.

    As evidenced by the constantly shifting lineup (above), lots of players did get to take breaks on the bench and get opportunities to play.

  6. MU's Final Big 12 Tournament will see the Tigers in the top half of the seedings, but MU won't need to win the championship game in order to get a bid to an NCAA Regional.

    Wrong and wrong.  Mizzou didn't crack the top half of the seedings, coming in at 6th.  And they did need that championship in order to get a bid.  And they got it.

  7. A Super Regional will feature Missouri matched head-to-head with one of their future SEC rivals.  Game Three will be decided with a dramatic finish in the 9th inning.  The crystal baseball is cloudy on the question of whether the Tigers advance to Omaha.

  8.  Tim Jamieson will be named Big 12 Coach of the Year in his final season in the Big 12.

    Not so much.  But he did walk off with a nice piece of hardware and a good cold shower (below) on his way out of the Big 12.

  9. 2012 Draft Day could have a big impact on Mizzou, with as many as 6 to 10 Tiger players picked.  One or two of those may choose to return to the Tigers for 2013.  One of MU's draftees will go in the first or second round.

    Alec Rash, a Mizzou recruit, did get picked in the 2nd round.  Blake Brown was the highest picked current player, in the 5th round.  All in all, 3 recruits and 4 players were named in the Draft.

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