Ten Good Things
Publication Date: June 20, 2006
There's no college baseball today. I know there have been other recent
days when there was none (that's one of the reasons I'm not that fond of
the postseason; there was at least one game every day from February 1
through May 28, and then the conference tournaments end and there's
nothing the next day -- it's just not right). Today, though, you can see
the end from here. To help ease that pain, here's my annual list of
things that I really liked about this season:
The ACC has had a great year. The conference finished first in the
conference ISR's for the first time in a few years. Only one team,
Virginia, underperformed in the postseason, and Miami more than made up for
that, becoming one of the four teams from the league to make it to Omaha.
Most significantly, North Carolina still has a reasonable chance to become
the first ACC national champion since 1955, and that makes me happy. As a
general rule, I dislike statistical anomalies, because those who don't
understand the nature of probability tend to use them as bludgeons instead
of recognizing them as, well, anomalies. Getting a title for the ACC would
eliminate one more of those crowing points (anybody now remember when the
Big 12 had never won a game in Omaha?).
Tiny Danny Ray Herrera from tiny New Mexico (OK, I'll quit with the
tiny's now) had the best year of any pitcher in the nation. Herrera's
listed at 5'7" and 145 pounds, and he's on absolutely no one's prospect
radar (he was drafted in the 45th round, the 1345th selection overall), but
he put up a 2.24 ERA in the toughest hitter's park in the nation and led
the nation in RBOA.
We'll have a new champion this year. Although nobody pushed their
way onto the national stage this year the way that Oregon State did last
year, the Beavers stuck around and UNC has gotten here, so someone will get
their first title this year, and on balance that's a good thing.
San Diego and San Francisco were allowed into the tournament.
There's still some work to do on equity between the regions at selection
time, but this was a good move by the committee and should be commended as
an intermediate step.
Tulane and UNO were given temporary homes for the fall semester.
Katrina did not change enough about the nature of American life, and
there's still a lot of work to be done (go do some of it, now), but there
was a large opening of hearts in the months after the storm, and it was
great to see the way that the players from Tulane and UNO were welcomed
by the communities in Lubbock and Las Cruces.
The schedules were better connected this year. We're still not to
the point where it's trivial to make the case for regional equality, but
this was the year with the most interregional play in the game's history.
It's likely that this will take a hit with the advent of the common
starting date because of the fewer available weekends for travel, but we're
doing good things this week.
The best hitter in the country also didn't come from a power
conference. Even adjusting for strength of schedule, Kellen Kulbacki
of James Madison put up some astonishing numbers, leading the nation in
slugging, home runs, and AOPS, among lots of other stuff.
Rather than folding their tents when Rice left, the WAC had a great
season. Hawaii and Fresno State spent a good chunk of the year in the
top 15 in the ISR's, and the conference finished #8 overall in the ISR's.
Neither of the finalists this year are likely to end up on probation any
time soon. I actually used that comment first in a radio interview
going into the 2003 final series, when the last two champions had both
gotten slap-on-the-wrist probations for, in at least one case, fairly
substantial violations of the rules. That's not likely to happen this
year; UNC is one of the nation's leading public academic instituations, and
OSU has shown no history of pushing the edges in their practices.
Kentucky tied for the SEC title. Although they did so in a down
year for the conference, Kentucky came from the struggle that they've been
through for most of my lifetime to tie for the first conference title in
138 years or so and shows every sign of joining the annual discussion the
way that Vanderbilt has. That means that there are now no guaranteed
doormats in the SEC for the foreseeable future.
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.
I didn't repeat it as a good story from last year, but the shortness of
this list is once again a sign that things may be getting better.
(*) Pitch count is estimated. As always, I
welcome actual pitch count corrections.
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