Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Tip of the Cap 2013: Season Interrupted

The theme of 2013 was supposed to be Mizzou Baseball building on that Big 12 Championship and proving to the SEC and that they do belong, that they can compete. The catch phrase before the season began was "Embrace the Underdog".

And then, it seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong.  The team hit at an historic low production level.  The defense struggled to maintain leads.

The two players in that intro video who said, "I won't back down" and "I will make plays", weren't even on the active roster by season's end.

What was the problem?
It was the weather.

Specifically, it was the cancelation of four nonconference weekend home games in March. When SEC play started, the Tigers were a step behind. Not only have they have not been able to catch up, it seems that everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

"I mean, I know this is not a great team, but we've been good enough to be right there," Jamieson said last week, "and you wonder, 'OK, if we'd been able to tweak a few things or get guys more prepared by playing more games, could it have been different?' It's not a great team, but it could have been a .500 club. It could have been a club that at least gives you some positives." (Columbia Tribune, May 16, 2013)
Perhaps we all should have been recognized it as a bad omen when Hattiesburg, MS, the site of the Tigers' season opening series, was hit by a tornado 5 days before Game 1.  The weather man was not kind to Mizzou Baseball in 2013.

The schedule seemed to stumble along in fits and starts all season long.
  1. Entire home opener series vs. Northwestern: cancelled due to huge snow.  Three games lost.
  2. Game 1 at Memphis was pushed to a later start time due to weather.
  3. 2-day series against Eastern Michigan pushed to a double header (7 innings each) on Wednesday, in bitter cold.
  4. Game 3 vs. San Francisco: cancelled
  5. Game vs. D-II Truman State cobbled into the schedule.  One game added, but it doesn't really count in the official RPI.
  6. Game 3 vs. South Carolina moved up to be part of a Saturday double-header ... in bitter cold
  7. Two-game set against Arkansas State was moved forward to a double-header, due to weather.
  8. Game 3 vs. Tennessee moved up to part of a Saturday double-header
  9. Tuesday game against Nebraska-Omaha was pushed back to Wednesday, due to yet another big snow.
  10. Game 2 against LSU was pushed back from 1:00 to 6:00 due to rain, wiping out a scheduled national TV broadcast.
  11. Missouri State at Mizzou was postponed a week due to severe thunderstorms
  12. Murray State game was cancelled outright due to heavy rains in the forecast
  13. Saturday game vs. Auburn postponed to later in the day, then postponed to be part of a 7-innings double header on Sunday.
That's a total of 17 games that were either cancelled, postponed and/or rescheduled.  Five were cancelled altogether.  The Tigers only managed to play 48 Division I games, as opposed to the normal 56 game schedule.  

Tim Jamieson does have a point, that the constant interruptions made it hard for the Tigers to get going..

On the other hand, Mizzou Softball saw 14 games cancelled outright, plus many more postponed and rescheduled, including weather delays in their SEC Tournament.  They finished 35-11, 15-8 in the SEC, won the Regional they hosted in Columbia and at this writing are preparing to host a Super Regional.  And they did that even with their pitching staff in disarray.

So, yes, the weather problems were hard to deal with.  But that doesn't really explain this season.

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

The 2013 Tigers were a bipolar team, proving themselves to be both one of the best and one of the worst Tiger squads in decades.

This season's pitching staff has proved themselves to be one of the best and deepest Mizzou fans have seen in quite a while.  The team ERA of 3.87 is surpassed only by the Max Scherzer teams of 2004-2006 during the Tim Jamieson era of the past two decades, and prior to that you have to go back to 1981 to find a better pitching staff..

The offense, however, stands out historically in a way not as admirable.  The Tigers' team batting average of .245 is the worst team BA since 1969, when the Tigers managed a weak .230 average.

The final game of 2013 summed up the entire season in 17 long innings.  Rob Z pitched a masterful 9 innings, Keaton Steele followed up with 7 more scoreless innings, and it was a run given up by Jake Walsh in the 17th inning that ended the Tigers' season.  That incredible pitching performance just wasn't good enough to make up for the Tiger lineup's .193 batting average for the game, getting their only run on a wild throw.  It was an exhilarating game and a frustrating game.

And it was an exhilarating and frustrating season.

Leaving the Zou

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