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Publication Date: May 3, 2005
It'll Be One of These
I'm switching a couple of columns from my usual end-of-year sequence this year, because I like this way better. This week, you get the All-Star Top 25 Review; we'll do the conference races next week.
This is just a quick intro to the teams around the country that are currently in the ISR top 25. That way, when the field is announced in a few weeks, you can be the top dog around the water cooler by quoting the staff ERA of the #2 seed in your team's regional or whatever. In general, it's just a service to those who only follow the game on a regional basis until the postseason -- in other words, most of you.
#1, Oregon State, 32-8, RPI #12
On the one hand, even I'm not entirely sure I believe in this rating -- there's a pretty good chance that OSU is not the best team in the country. On the other hand, there's also a reasonable chance that they are. Their schedule is something of an oddity -- it's kind of the opposite of the split-personality "old Miami" schedule that gives the ISR's trouble. There are essentially no bad teams on there, but there is a lot of a-little-better-than-average competition like UC Riverside or BYU. They've passed the two real top-flight challenges on the schedule against Stanford and this past weekend, beating Arizona State two of three. The team OBP is .418; the team ERA is 2.90. No real superstars, but they're solid all the way up and down the line.
#2, Texas, 37-9, RPI #1
If you're betting (no, that's not a recommendation), this is where the money goes. On the other hand, it's a little like rooting for IBM in the old days. More preseason (and probably postseason) All-Americans than you could shake a cowbell at. The only real worry is that lost weekend against Baylor. The bitter aftertaste from last year's championship series should be a bit of a motivator.
#3, Cal State Fullerton, 33-11, RPI #17
This team looks eerily similar to last year's title team -- a few cobwebs early and a big rush lately. They're still struggling RPI-wise, but they're probably to the point where they host as a #1, even if they have to go on the road in the supers. I haven't computed RBOA's yet, but there's a reasonable chance that Ricky Romero is the best pitcher in the country.
#4, Tulane, 38-8, RPI #2
Lost two out of three to Fullerton. Played a few too many dogs (I can see a couple against UNO, of course, but why on Earth would you schedule six games against Marist and SEMO?). Conference is a little easier so far than you'd like. Also beat Arizona State, LSU, and Pepperdine handily. Don't overlook them. Bogusevic and Owings have lived up to the hype for the most part.
#5, Long Beach State, 32-14, RPI #18
Well, it took them a few years, and they didn't manage to get a trip to Omaha out of it, but they finally managed to beat Stanford. Once again, the candidates for #2 seed you really don't want to see start here. This year's team is a little less pitching-focused than last year's, but not enough that that's not still where the focus is. The odds are pretty good that this is the end of the serious contenders list for winning the whole enchilada, although odd seeding and placement could conceivably get someone else a long shot.
#6, Southern California, 27-15, RPI #21
With the possibility of only one California regional this year, some of these guys are almost going to have to be shipped out -- don't look forward to having USC West or Stanford show up on your doorstep. Even if they send Beach to Corvallis or Tempe and one of the Pac-10 teams to Fullerton, they still have to do something with the other one. Southern California is back, and in a big way.
#7, Arizona State, 29-17, RPI #13
They struggled mightily early on. There are still some cracks there, as the pitching staff tends to melt down on occasion, but they're a legitimate threat to make it to Omaha.
#8, Stanford, 25-15, RPI #23
This is an off year; there might even be seven teams in the country better than the Cardinal. Obviously time for the Fire Marquess! campaign to start up. It's a Stanford team -- they pitch, they hit, they play smart.
#9, Mississippi, 32-13, RPI #6
This could actually be the best SEC team this year, although there's a huge clump of about a half-dozen teams clustered in line for that position. Being stuck in fourth in the SEC, even after the sweep of Mississippi State, leaves them with seeding problems, so they need to finish strong. The offense is strong; the pitching will need to watch for signs of overwork.
#10, Baylor, 30-17, RPI #4
The RPI overrates them a bit, but that just means they get to host a super instead of being on the road. They've played a little over their heads in conference, and they're probably not a serious contender to take the whole thing, but that leaves room for a nice, long run in the postseason if they can hold it together.
#11, Louisiana State, 31-14, RPI #9
The last time LSU lost to Southern, the team lost a super at Tulane and the head coach changed jobs. I'm just saying. Lots of power, but the pitching staff is definitely showing signs of long-term abuse.
#12, Nebraska, 37-9, RPI #32
This year's winner of the hard-to-interpret-schedule award, with twenty-one games against teams at #150 or lower in the ISR. They've performed credibly in the limited games against real competition, but it's hard to judge where they really are.
#13, Arizona, 29-15, RPI #34
They're not the best team in the Pac 10, or even one of the three best. They are in first place, albeit with a tough schedule remaining. They could make a decent postseason run with the right placement.
#14, Pepperdine, 27-16, RPI #40
This is most likely the #3 seed that you don't want to see coming, although they'll probably get sent to Fullerton and disappear again. Pepperdine may have replaced ASU as the most abused team in the country.
#15, Florida, 31-12, RPI #5
They'll get to host and, with that RPI, they'll get an excellent path to Omaha if they can take advantage of it. That will mask the fact that they are actually pretty good. This is one of the possible long shots if the right opponents lose from their side of the bracket.
#16, Cal Poly, 30-14, RPI #67
It's odd to think about Western teams as unchallenged, but Cal Poly falls into that category this year. They lost series to Pepperdine, beat surprisingly good San Francisco, and lost to Washington; everyone else is not tournament-worthy. I think they'll drop from here (and might even miss the tournament), but the remaining series against Fullerton and Long Beach will be revealing.
#17, Miami, Florida, 33-11, RPI #3
Is this the best ACC team? I dunno. It's hard to make a case for them head-to-head over Georgia Tech, who should learn to stay away from Iona from a rankings point of view, but they're certainly close. It was thought that Miami might save the reputation of ACC baseball in much the same way that Ivan Lendl and Martina Navratilova once saved American tennis; that might have to wait a couple of years. Pitching is usually their strength, as Jim Morris is one of the best in the game at workload management, but they've lost five of their last six Sunday games, and it's hard to survive in the postseason with just two pitchers.
#18, South Carolina, 32-12, RPI #16
They're almost a non-factor this year, which happens to everyone at times; it's just been a while since it happened to them. They could still make a run at Omaha for a quick exit from this point in the list, though.
#19, North Carolina, 36-10, RPI #7
They've rather quietly put up a team ERA of 2.81 this year. There will be an interesting dynamic at work this year in the selection process, as UNC and Georgia Tech have almost identical qualifications and RPI, but Tech has much more publicity and, presumably, a conference title.
#20, Georgia Tech, 32-12, RPI #8
See the Iona comment above. Tech's been a bit volatile at times this year, so you could see them make a deep run in the postseason or go down in flames in the regional again.
#21, Arkansas, 33-13, RPI #24
They're 24-1 in the nonconference schedule; if they can keep from playing SEC teams, they could go all the way. Looking at their nonconference schedule, though, it's probably more accurate to say that they'd have to only play average teams to go very far; their toughest non-conference opponent was Oklahoma State, and they dipped into the deep end of the pool a bunch of times. They might not even make the tournament, depending on how the committee feels about SEC non-qualifiers.
#22, San Francisco, 31-14, RPI #65
You'd have to worry about them if they were going to make the tournament, but there's almost no chance they win the WCC, and there's not much more chance that they get an at large bid.
#23, Rice, 31-15, RPI #36
There's some scariness in the name, but not much else this year.
#24, Washington, 26-17, RPI #58
Another good team that probably won't make the tournament.
#25, College of Charleston, 35-9, RPI #10
OK, the RPI is a bit silly. They are actually pretty darn good for this type of team (mid-major, high winning percentage, you know the type). They're only 2-3 against the ISR top 50, so I'm not too optimistic about their chances for a deep run. They've hit a lot in the context in which they've played.
This means absolutely nothing, ignore it.
This is one generic layman's predictions for who gets in the tournament. I'm not going to bother picking a team from the one-bid conferences, since the conference tournament will just be a crapshoot, but if I only list one team from a conference, they'll get an at large bid if they don't get the automatic bid.
America East Miami, Florida Long Beach State Vanderbilt A10 Florida State Cal State Fullerton Tennessee Big East North Carolina Cal Poly Mississippi State CAA North Carolina State UC Irvine Northwestern State Horizon Georgia Tech Oregon State Wichita State Ivy Clemson Stanford Creighton MAAC Central Florida Arizona State East Carolina MAC Texas Arizona Tulane Mid-Continent Texas A&M Southern California Southern Mississippi NEC Nebraska Louisiana State Texas Christian OVC Texas Tech Mississippi College of Charleston Patriot Baylor South Carolina Georgia Southern SWAC Oklahoma State Florida Pepperdine Rice Missouri Arkansas Louisiana-Lafayette Illinois Winthrop Alabama South Alabama Brigham Young Coastal Carolina Auburn North Carolina A&T
Pitch Count Watch
Rather than keep returning to the subject of pitch counts and pitcher usage in general too often for my main theme, I'm just going to run a standard feature down here where I point out potential problems; feel free to stop reading above this if the subject doesn't interest you. This will just be a quick listing of questionable starts that have caught my eye -- the general threshold for listing is 120 actual pitches or 130 estimated, although short rest will also get a pitcher listed if I catch it. Don't blame me; I'm just the messenger.
|April 24||Georgia||Will Startup||Mississippi||9.0||6||3||3||5||3||29||38||112|
|April 29||Alabama State||Thomas Cox||Alabama A&M||7.0||13||6||6||4||3||34||39||152(*)|
|April 29||Alabama||T. J. Large||Georgia||7.0||7||3||2||5||8||28||34||139|
|April 29||Elon||Lance Cole||Coastal Carolina||5.2||5||3||3||6||5||22||28||123|
|April 29||Florida Atlantic||Mickey Storey||Central Florida||8.0||11||5||4||3||11||33||39||149|
|April 29||James Madison||Ryan Reid||North Carolina-Wilmington||8.1||8||2||2||2||8||30||33||149|
|April 29||Kansas||Kodiak Quick||Kansas State||7.2||11||7||3||2||4||33||37||134|
|April 29||Loyola Marymount||Jeff Stevens||Pepperdine||8.0||11||2||2||1||4||32||34||129|
|April 29||McNeese State||Jacob Marceaux||Louisiana-Monroe||9.0||7||4||3||3||12||32||36||140(*)|
|April 29||New Mexico||Karsten Gaarder||Utah||8.0||12||5||5||3||6||33||39||130|
|April 29||Nicholls State||Mark Fernandez||Texas-Arlington||8.0||9||0||0||4||11||28||34||139|
|April 29||North Carolina-Greensboro||Chris Mason||Western Carolina||9.0||8||3||3||1||7||32||33||131|
|April 29||Northern Illinois||Hal Nick||Akron||8.0||8||6||6||5||2||30||36||131|
|April 29||Penn State||Alan Stidfole||Illinois||6.2||5||2||2||6||6||21||30||121|
|April 29||Southeastern Louisiana||Bernard Robert||Texas State||9.0||7||3||1||4||5||32||37||136(*)|
|April 29||Texas Christian||Lance Broadway||Houston||9.0||7||2||1||3||12||34||39||131|
|April 29||The Citadel||Ryan Owens||Davidson||6.0||10||6||5||2||5||27||31||122|
|April 29||Virginia Tech||Jake Chaney||Duke||7.0||7||6||5||4||8||28||34||141|
|April 29||Yale||Mike Mongiardini||Brown||6.2||9||8||7||7||7||30||39||156(*)|
|April 30||Akron||Tom Farmer||Northern Illinois||7.0||7||3||1||2||11||27||32||125|
|April 30||Alabama State||Stanton William||Alabama A&M||8.0||9||13||10||10||6||32||44||151(*)|
|April 30||Campbell||Jeff Rando||Georgia State||9.0||9||6||5||4||5||34||41||141|
|April 30||Central Florida||Tim Bascom||Florida Atlantic||8.0||8||1||1||2||10||29||32||135|
|April 30||Coastal Carolina||Jake Hurry||Elon||8.0||7||3||3||3||7||29||32||129|
|April 30||Louisiana-Monroe||Kyle Smith||McNeese State||9.0||6||2||1||4||7||30||35||133(*)|
|April 30||Loyola Marymount||Stephen Kahn||Pepperdine||7.0||9||5||5||4||3||29||33||122|
|April 30||Maryland-Baltimore County||Butkiewicz||Northeastern||9.0||12||5||5||2||2||38||40||145(*)|
|April 30||Memphis||Neil Schenk||St. Louis||9.0||9||3||1||4||3||33||39||131|
|April 30||New Mexico State||Jason Conner||New Orleans||7.0||8||3||3||4||3||29||34||134|
|April 30||New Orleans||Bryan Cryer||New Mexico State||8.0||3||3||2||3||7||26||31||127|
|April 30||Northeastern||Adam Ottavino||Maryland-Baltimore County||9.0||5||1||1||3||10||31||35||142(*)|
|April 30||Northwestern State||Kyle Broughton||Texas-San Antonio||7.1||4||2||1||4||2||25||30||123|
|April 30||Northwestern||George Kontos||Iowa||7.0||4||4||4||4||7||25||30||132|
|April 30||Sam Houston State||Jesse Marshall||Lamar||9.0||3||1||1||1||13||29||31||129|
|April 30||Southeast Missouri State||Evans||Eastern Kentucky||8.0||8||2||2||3||5||31||34||145|
|April 30||St. Louis||Ryan Bird||Memphis||8.0||7||3||3||3||8||30||34||126|
|April 30||Tennessee-Martin||Adam Ledlo||Murray State||8.1||7||4||3||3||7||30||37||124|
|April 30||Texas-Arlington||Grant Varnell||Nicholls State||9.0||11||6||6||3||5||37||41||128|
|April 30||The Citadel||Justin Smith||Davidson||7.0||8||3||2||4||9||28||32||126|
|April 30||UCLA||Bryan Beck||California||9.0||8||6||6||3||7||34||39||141|
|April 30||Utah||Matt Crockett||New Mexico||9.0||4||4||2||1||9||32||34||131|
|April 30||Valparaiso||Harvey Yergin||Oral Roberts||8.0||6||7||4||5||5||29||36||135(*)|
|May 01||Alabama||David Robertson||Georgia||7.0||8||5||3||3||9||30||34||130|
|May 01||Bucknell||Ryan Gryskevicz||Holy Cross||9.0||10||3||3||3||4||36||40||148(*)|
|May 01||Kansas||Mike Zagurski||Kansas State||7.2||5||2||2||4||7||26||31||123|
|May 01||Kentucky||Andrew Albers||Arkansas||9.0||7||1||1||2||3||31||34||129|
|May 01||Lamar||Steve MacFarland||Sam Houston State||5.2||2||1||1||7||7||19||28||122|
|May 01||Liberty||C. Zuvich||Virginia Military||7.2||5||1||1||3||6||26||29||141|
|May 01||Long Island||Bunyan||Central Connecticut State||9.0||13||5||5||3||4||38||42||149(*)|
|May 01||Louisiana-Monroe||Danny Borne||McNeese State||7.2||7||2||2||6||9||27||34||139(*)|
|May 01||Oklahoma State||Richmond||Texas A&M||8.0||10||3||3||3||7||35||39||156(*)|
|May 01||Penn State||Sean Stidfole||Illinois||9.0||4||1||0||2||8||31||33||148|
|May 01||Rhode Island||Zack Zuercher||St. Joseph's||9.1||4||0||0||3||11||30||34||138(*)|
|May 01||St. Joseph's||Hoagey||Rhode Island||11.0||9||1||1||4||1||38||44||141(*)|
|May 01||Troy||Brent Adcock||Winthrop||7.2||12||8||5||4||3||33||38||136(*)|
|May 01||Wofford||Austin Redwine||Georgia Southern||7.2||12||7||6||3||6||35||41||154(*)|
|May 02||Wagner||Mike Bujalkowski||Mount St. Mary's||9.0||7||2||2||3||4||34||38||146(*)|
|May 03||Louisiana-Monroe||Matt Lane||Southern Mississippi||9.0||7||2||2||2||8||31||34||129|
|May 03||Massachusetts||Chris Lloyd||Siena||7.2||10||10||10||2||4||33||37||137|
|May 04||Utah Valley State||Jed Jensen||Arizona State||7.0||10||4||4||2||9||29||31||121|
The Startup count correction is based on an actual pitch count.
(*) Pitch count is estimated.
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