Taking a look at the Big 10

By Eric Sorenson. Posted on February 3rd, 2010 in Big Ten
 

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You know your conference is getting close to its goals when you land three teams in the NCAA tournament, but you’re still left wanting more. Look for the Monsters of the Midwest to start to emerge a little bit more in a scary year on the horizon… at least for the opposition, that is.

2009 in a Paragraph:
What do you think people around the country are going to remember more, the series wins at LSU (Illinois) and TCU (Minnesota), the win over Louisville (Iowa), the elimination of Georgia (Ohio State) and Baylor (Minnesota) and the post-season buzz over Indiana?… Or the horrible 37-6 loss Florida State laid on Ohio State in front of the TV cameras? Sorry guys, that’s life in college baseball. Even though it was a great year by Big 10 standards with some great early non-conference wins, three teams reaching the Big Dance and two of those making the Regional championship round. Still, the perceptions need to be changed much more. After all, be it cruel but fair, the old adage of “What have you done for me lately?” is what you are going to be remembered for.

Conference RPI: 13

2009 Results:
1- Ohio State, 18-6
2- Minnesota, 17-6
3- Indiana, 16-7
4- Illinois, 16-8
5- Michigan State, 13-11
6- Purdue, 11-12
7- Michigan, 9-15
8- Penn State, 8-16
9- Northwestern, 5-17
10- Iowa, 4-19

2010 in a Paragraph:
The Big 10 has gotten its way in the college baseball landscape lately. Like this whole leveling-out-the-field thing that has taken over nationally the last few years and also in getting the facilities and resources they have long wanted conference-wide. So now it’s time to start showing more nuggets of success on the field. More and more improvement is imminent as a good core of stars return to Big 10 diamonds. Indiana lost a lot of pitching studs, but will get an influx of recruits to help the fall not be so precipitous. OSU comes back with all hands on deck and all eyes on their expectations. We’ll see how that translates to the won-loss ledger. Minnesota brings back enough talent to get another 40-win season as well. Michigan should rebound. Michigan State should be vastly improved and, in general, the bottom of the conference should be much better. Let’s see if this improvement is something we can count on.

Favorite: Ohio State

Contenders: Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana

Darkhorse: Michigan State

Can’t-Miss Series of the Year: Minnesota at Ohio State, May 20-22.

Best Non-Conference Series: The Big 10/Big East Challenge, Feb. 26-28.

Hot Coach: Tracy Smith, Indiana

Hot Seat Coach: Jack Dahm, Iowa

The “You Gotta See” Player: C Dan Burkhart, Ohio State

Three Non-Conference Series Big Ten Opponents Better Take Seriously:
1- Minnesota at Alabama, March 16-17
2- Indiana at SDSU Tournament, Feb. 19-21 (vs. San Diego, Oklahoma, SDSU)
3- Michigan at North Carolina, March 5-7

Three Bold Predictions:
1- Coach Bob Todd, who really wasn’t sure his team was all that great last year, will think his team IS that great this year – if you follow me there.
2- Indiana won’t have as talented of a team, but will win more games this season.
3- With the scheduling conflict at Huntington Park, the Big 10 Tournament won’t have quite the buzz nor will it draw close to what it did last year since it’s going to be played at Bill Davis Stadium.

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- ILLINOIS (34-20, 16-8)
2009 RPI: 65
Starters Returning: 5
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 4

All Conference Candidates:
OF Willie Argo (.355-12-47, 10SBs)
2B Pete Cappetta (.384, 0 errors)
SS Josh Parr (.337, 13SBs, .972 fielding)
C Aaron Johnson (.333-10-52, just 4Es)
RHP Will Strack (6-1, 3.84)

The Good News:
The Illini sent small tremors through the college baseball community last March by winning two of three games at Alex Box Stadium over eventual national champion LSU, setting them on a course to a 34-win season, their second straight 30+ win campaign in a row. Johnson is a longtime backstop that also has a power stick at the dish. Argo brings power and speed and leading hitter Cappetta and SS Parr will keep the defense solid, bordering on spectacular. RHP Brian delaTorriente (2-2, 7.79) brings some experience with his transfer from Northern Iowa. Good speed remains as UI stole 79 bases in ’09.

The Bad News:
Apparently, the big bugaboo to the Illini post-season hopes was their going 1-2 in their last three weekends of play (vs. Ohio State, at Purdue and at the Big 10 tourney). Staff ace Phil Haig was expected to lead the mound corps, but was dismissed from the team in the fall. Fellow stud Ben Reeser, who orchestrated one of those wins over LSU, and top reliever Aaron Martin both left campus as well. All that leaves a lot of questions about the starting pitching and who the “go-to” guy will be when a W is needed.

Schedule Note:
Not exactly going to LSU.
… but the Illini will still face plenty of pre-Big 10 challenge, including games with Notre Dame, South Florida, St. John’s, East Carolina, West Virginia, Coastal Carolina and Dartmouth. The opening games will be February 20th and 21st against Bradley, at home. Here’s to hoping for a warm front in central Illinois that weekend.

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- INDIANA (32-27, 16-7)
2009 RPI: 108
Starters Returning: 3
Weekend Starters: 1
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

All Conference Candidates:
OF Alex Dickerson (.370-14-57)
C/DH Josh Lyon (.314)
OF Brian Lambert (.345)
1B Jerrud Sabourin (.343-6-36)
RHP Blake Monar (5-5, 4.64)
RHP Chris Squires (2-2, 3.93, 8svs)

The Good News:
One of the bigger success stories of the 2009 season, I’m not sure any team played a better week of baseball than the Hoosiers did during the Big 10 tournament. This program looks like it’s been given a total makeover by coach Tracy Smith. Though it took a few years, making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994 was a great step up. Dickerson could be a Player of the Year-type if he doesn’t get pitched around too much. Monar, Squires and LHP Matt Igel (2-1, 6.46) all got great momentum as the season went on, and hope there is a carry-over effect. Some pretty good recruits come to campus, but look for RHP Jonny Hoffman to make the biggest splash. Also, SS Ethan Wilson (.292 in ’08) is back after missing all but five games last season.

The Bad News:
Given what I saw at the Big 10 tournament last May, when this team faceplanted in the Regionals, it was a major league bummer. Losing a pair of top two round pitchers in Eric Arnett and Matt Bashore means the near sure-fire weekend Ws are gone. Team leader Josh Phegley and most of the starting lineup will need to be replaced as this year’s squad will be a total upheaval from the one we saw in 2009.

Schedule Note:
By the time they get to Florida, things should be better.
For having a near all-new team, it could be a pretty rough start for the Hoosiers, having to play the likes of San Diego, San Diego State, Vanderbilt and Louisville in their first 12 games. But the Central Florida Invitational they’ll take part in from March 13th to 20th will probably see them start to hit their stride, right before Big 10 play begins. From there?… Can’t wait to find out.

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- IOWA (16-35, 4-19)
2009 RPI: 247
Starters Returning: Hard to determine (considering the injury situation)
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 3
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

All Conference Candidates:
OF Ryan Durant (.370, 1st team All Big 10)
OF Kurtis Muller (.296, 19SBs)
SS Justin Toole (.346, 15SBs)

The Good News:
An incredible amount of experience returns for the Black and Gold, including the studs-to-be in the all-Sophomore rotation of RHP Phil Schreiber (2-2, 4.57), LHP Jarred Hippen (3-4, 4.78) and RHP Nick Brown (2-4, 6.35), who all should improve in year two. This team will have speed to burn as well, as they should approach the school record of 138SBs from 2008. Strength up the middle will lead to a much-improved defense for Iowa. C Tyson Blaser (.323 in ’08) played only 11 games last season, but is back at full strength. Need some new players to watch? Check out 1B Sean Flanagan (.301), who hit six HRs in limited action last season, LHP Matt Dermody, 26th round draftee of Pittsburgh and C Dan Sheppard, a 30th round pick of the Cubs last June.

The Bad News:
Two straight last place finishes have the Hawks program reeling. And God help them if the injury bug bites like it did last season. As an example of how ridiculous the MASH unit was, 13 different players started in left field during the course of ’09. Additionally, 19 of the 23 conference games featured a freshman starter on the mound. The defense, mostly due to the slap-dashed mis-mash of players, had a .951 fielding percentage. A solid closer that can be relied upon must emerge (though Kevin Lee seemed ready to take that role as the season went on). Beyond Flanagan, there is very little power in the lineup.

Schedule Note:
It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
The Hawks have a pretty tough draw in non-conference games. Trips to Big 12 Big Dancers Kansas and Texas won’t be a bed of roses – unless it’s the thorny side up. But after that, the Hawkeyes will have UT-San Antonio, UT Pan American, Western Illinois and South Dakota State before Big 10 play kicks in. And even the Big 10 slate eases them into action with winnable series vs. Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana up first.

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- MICHIGAN (30-25, 9-15)
2009 RPI: 147
Starters Returning: 6
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 2
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 6

All Conference Candidates:
OF Ryan LaMarre (.344-12-62, 13SBs)
2B Anthony Toth (.313)
1B/RHP Mike Dufek (.304-17-59/1-1, 2.70, 3svs)
LHP Eric Katzman (7-4, 3.53, .248OBA)
RHP Tyler Burgoon (2-2, 4.86, 4svs)
RHP Matt Miller (1-2, 3.70, 3svs, .208OBA)

The Good News:
This team has to be one of my national sleepers. Not a lot of ink or bandwidth is being used on these guys, but with a junior-senior heavy lineup I think the Wolverines could be in for a breakout season. Or, maybe a “bounce back” season would be more appropriate. A bevy of pitching comes back to campus, led by Saturday starter Katzman, who looks to inherit the Friday role. Four other pitchers had sub-5.00 ERAs and come back to the team, including the “saves by committee” guys Dufek (3), Burgoon (4) and Miller (3). In the field, LaMarre is a stealthy defender and led the team in hitting as well. Three-fourths of the infield is back and should be much-improved. Coach Maloney has the luxury of a pair of solid two-way guys in Dufek (.242OBA) and the famous Alan Oaks (.228-6-20/1-3, 5.08), who seems like he’s been in uniform since the late 90s. And you KNOW an incoming freshman is legit when you get opposing coaches talking about him before he ever puts on a uniform, and that’s what we’ve got with SS Derek Dennis, who was a 10th round draftee of Tampa Bay. Look for an immediate Player-of-the-Year type of impact from him.

The Bad News:
We’ve come to expect more than mere 30-win seasons from Michigan, but that’s what we got with the youth-filled ’09 unit. Still, not even making the Big 10 tournament was a shock. The offense “only” hit .294 and was notoriously undisciplined, having struck out a Big 10-high 7.5 times per game. Chris Fetter was a tall, lean, intimidating ace and will be missed. The speed and leadership of Kenny Fellows (.340) and longtime-block Kevin Cislo (.295) will need to be replaced as well.

Schedule Note:
The Kings of the neutral site games.
UMich will go to West Texas to take on a team from Alabama (Jacksonville State), to Florida to play teams from Kentucky (Louisville) and New York (St. John’s), to South Carolina to play teams from Indiana (Ball State) and Tennessee (Lipscomb) and finally to Florida again to play a team from New York (Fordham). You get the picture here. But I also really love the series at North Carolina in early March. With all this experience coming back, a win or two there wouldn’t be a total shock.

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- MICHIGAN STATE (23-31, 13-11)
2009 RPI: 191
Starters Returning: 6
Weekend Starters: 2
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 2

All Conference Candidates:
RHP Tony Bucciferro (5-2, 3.55)
RHP A.J. Achter (3-6, 3.76, .250OBA)
OF Eli Boike (.310-8-36, 12SBs)
OF Jeff Holm (.296, 16SBs)

The Good News:
Despite almost zero pitching coming back last season, you have to say that a 13-win season and 5th place finish in Big 10 play was really, really good. Heavy kudos to coach Jake Boss, who had the team in the Big 10 tournament by season’s end. That kind of success is hoping to be carried over this year as some really good pitchers return, including the weekend duo of righties Bucciferro and Achter, who both possess solid ERAs. Relievers Kurtis Frymier (1-3, 5.35) and Kurt Wunderlich (5-5, 6.05) are good innings-eaters to re-supply the bullpen corps. Speed will be a key to the offense, led by the fleet of Boike, Holm and also watch out for OF Brandon Eckerle (.270, 15SBs), who needs to get on base more. Brand-spankin’ new McLane Baseball Stadium is a great facility for the program and will get its first full season of use this year.

The Bad News:
Going 0-2 in the Big 10 tournament was a drag. And how about avoiding another 2-14 start to the season – you’re better than that now Sparty. (But nice rebound after that, might I add). The best hitter (Eric Roof) and best pitcher (Nolan Moody) from last year have taken their sanitary socks elsewhere. Roof’s absence will be profoundly felt as he was Mr. Do-it-all for this team. This was a “missed it by THAT much” team, losing 13 of their games by one-or-two runs. Need to put the clamps on that Big Green. The team batting average of .284 must be addressed.

Schedule Note:
C’mon Big 10 schedule-makers!
In total, the Spartans will play only four home games in the month of May. The people in the Big 10 offices saw fit to have them play three of the last four series on the road at the most critical time of the season. So the Green and White will play at Penn State, at Purdue and at Northwestern in the final month. But look at the bright side, at least it will come against three of the weaker teams in the conference.

A.J. Petterson is a coach on the field for The U.

A.J. Petterson is a coach on the field for The U.

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- MINNESOTA (40-19, 17-6)
2009 RPI: 25
Starters Returning: 6
Weekend Starters: 1
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 8

All Conference Candidates:
RHP Seth Rosin (7-1, 4.21)
SS A.J. Petterson (.353, 10SBs, Freshman All Am.)
OF/C Michael Kvasnicka (.341-10-65)
RHP Scott Matyas (0-1, 2.22, 15svs)
OF Justin Gominsky (.338-4-25, 15SBs, Freshman All Am.)

The Good News:
One year after suffering their first losing season since 1960, coach John Anderson didn’t take long to return the Gophers to prominence. Nice job, Cap’n. And The U doesn’t look like it’ll stray too far from high standards this year either. Now, you probably think it’s a misprint, but look at the number of returning relievers. It’s true, no lie. They have THAT much mound experience coming back. Last year’s Johnny Wholestaff philosophy will pay dividends in the experience department this year. Strapping ace Seth Rosin will be a workhorse, but will also have LHP Luke Rasmussen (4-0, 3.99), RHP Austin Lubinsky (3-1, 4.78) or RHP Cullen Sexton (4-0, 5.16) as possible rotation mates. Sexton (37th round, Milwaukee) and lock-down closer Matyas (29th round, Yankees) were MLB draftees last summer that decided to return. Petterson – who played beyond his years as a frosh – looks like he’ll be the next infield stud and will have some power behind him in the form of Kvasnicka and 1B Nick O’Shea (.287-11-44, Freshman All Am.). SS Kyle Geason (.229) will form a solid double-play duo with Petterson on defense and having a solid senior backstop like Kyle Knudson (.296-5-50) will be a luxury as well. Minnesota will have great ability up the middle defensively. Also watch for incoming frosh Ryan Abrahamson, who was drafted by the Twins last June.

The Bad News:
Despite all the good news, it was a bummer to find out that a football injury would end the wildly talented baseball career of All American Eric Decker. Also, last year’s squad seemed to lean heavily on Derek McCallum (.409), Matt Nohelty (.337) and ace Tom Buske (9-4). As a former 35th round draftee of the Dodgers, the Gophs need INF Sam Ryan (.296 in spot-duty) to reach his potential soon. With the new Twins stadium opening up this year, does that mean the countdown for destruction of the Metrodome is near? Minnesota relies heavily on the indoor venue as witnessed by the 27 home games there this season.

Schedule Note:
Taking the wrapper off Target Field
As stated above, The U will play their home games inside the Baggie Dome while Siebert Field gets its facelift this season. But one game that should get a good draw is their March 27th game vs. Louisiana Tech, which will be the home debut of the Twins new stadium. (Of course, don’t get me started on how stupid it was not to make this one of those retractable roof jobbies.) Minnesota will face a slightly lighter non-conference slate, but will still have games against Louisville, St. John’s, Oklahoma State, Alabama and Kansas State.

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- NORTHWESTERN (14-35, 5-17)
2009 RPI: 215
Starters Returning: 6
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 3
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 4

All Conference Candidates:
OF/DH Kenneth Avila (.298)
C Chad Noble (.297)
LHP Eric Jokisch (4-7, 5.48)
3B Chris Lashmet (.296-5-30)

The Good News:
The one thing the Cats have been missing is some depth in the pitching staff and it looks like they may have that this season. Turns out that 362 of the 421 innings return to the mound. Joe Muraski (3-5, 5.31) and Zach Morton (2-7, 5.65) join Jokisch in the rotation and just about every reliever of note comes back, including RHP Francis Brooke (2-2, 3.68) and RHP Michael Jahns (1-1, 3.56). Incoming frosh OF Arby Fields was a 34th round draftee of Atlanta but decided to be a smart guy and go to Northwestern. With that education pedigree, wouldn’t you?

The Bad News:
Stuck in a rut. Michael Wilbon U. hasn’t had a winning mark since 2000, including last year’s very-experienced team that came up with just 14 wins. Though there is lots of depth on the mound, is it going to be “quality” depth? The offense needs more swings in the cages after hitting just .264, with nobody above .300+ in the order. Crikies!

Schedule Note:
Going great distances to find themselves.
While the Wildcats search for an identity for their 2010 team, they’ll go far and wide while doing so. They’ll play games at Winthrop (in the opening weekend also involving George Mason), Florida (for the Big 10-Big East Challenge), Minnesota (Dairy Queen Classic with LMU and Oklahoma State), UNLV (don’t lose your per diem at the Black Jack tables) and down in Florida again (Winter Haven tournament and at Stetson for three games). And get this, NU will play only 14 home games all year.

Zach Hurley will keep the offense running

Zach Hurley will keep the offense running

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- OHIO STATE (42-19, 18-6)
2009 RPI: 36
Starters Returning: 8
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 3
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 1

All Conference Candidates:
RHP Alex Wimmers (9-2, 3.27, 136Ks, .211OBA)
RHP Drew Rucinski (12-2, 5.54)
RHP Dean Wolosiansky (11-2, 6.04)
C Dan Burkhart (.354-10-62)
1B Ryan Dew (.388-7-42)
2B Cory Kovanda (.341)
LF Zach Hurley (.346-6-53, 14SBs)
CF Michael Stephens (.346-14-63, 10SBs)

The Good News:
Coach Bob Todd sits just four wins shy of 1,000 for his long, storied career. And he also sits with what may be his best team ever. Experience-wise, hitting-wise and top-end pitching-wise, it’s hard to beat the 2010 version of the Bucks. It all starts with Wimmers, simply one of the best in the country. He owned wins over Miami, Minnesota, Indiana and that wicked no-hitter vs. rival Michigan that was on the Big 10 Network (nice timing dude). Rucinski was a solid set-up man last year, but may be asked to take on a bigger role this spring. Offensively, it’s Yikes-and-Away! These guys hit a Big 10-best .328 last year and are never going to be out of any game with the talent they’ll have stepping up to the dish. Six of the seven guys that hit .300 or better are back, led by Dew, Burkhart, Hurley and Stephens. Don’t forget about the versatile Matt Streng (.308-8-38) and the return of Brian DeLucia (.354 in ’08), who missed most of last year with an injury. Keep an eye on SS Tyler Engle (.285) and 2B Kovanda, who form the best double-play combo in the Big 10, in what should be a stellar defensive team.

The Bad News:
Well it pretty much just jumps off the stat sheet and bites you on the face – despite all those good arms coming back, this team had an ERA of 6.39. Yes, worst in the conference. What an anomaly these guys are, with throwing the most strikeouts (462), yet also issuing the most walks (265). This kind of freak show will have to stop if the Bucks plan on getting to a higher level of baseball. After making 40 appearances in 2009, Jake Hale was a familiar face in the bullpen and leaves a huge gash in the arms corps. Because of injuries, bullpen depth was not found in fall practice. Finding a bulldog to replace Hale will be the biggest key to the season.

Schedule Note:
An appropriate wrapper.
The season will wrap-up with a three-game set against Minnesota, in what could be a 1-vs.-2 showdown for Big 10 supremacy – or for a couple of days before the Big 10 tournament starts. Also, it turns out that a scheduling conflict will prevent the Big 10 from holding its tournament at Huntington Park again, so Bill Davis Stadium will be the venue for this year. (Tsk, tsk, pro ballpark people. Don’t you know the Big 10 tournament is more important?). And before we leave the subject, let’s just say that OSU should’ve tried to schedule a few more games against good non-conference opponents. The slate is still way too light and will hurt the RPI come June.

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- PENN STATE (25-26, 8-16)
2009 RPI: 126
Starters Returning: 4
Weekend Starters: 0
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 3

All Conference Candidates:
OF Jordan Steranka (.365-6-42)
OF Blake Lind (.356, 22SBs)
LHP David Lutz (4-2, 3.38, 3svs, .247OBA)
RHP Ryan Ignas (5-1, 5.31, 5svs)

The Good News:
With the amount of injuries and missed games from last year’s squad, the Nittany Lions will come into this season with plenty of game experience, despite the losses. Seven players were starters at some point last season, including part-time catchers Bobby Jacobs (.298) and Ben Heath (.289), who should blossom this season. Louie Picconi (.257) and Michael Glantz (.229) should form a workable middle infield. And how Steranka didn’t get Freshman All American honors, I don’t know. He’ll be the bellcow for what should be an outstanding outfield. Speaking of, wait ’til you see OF Heath Johnson, who was a J.C. All American in 2009.

The Bad News:
Going from 3rd place in 2008 to 8th place last year was a real drag. A 3-10 finish to Big 10 play cost the Lions a spot in the conference tournament. PSU has still had only two seasons in the last 10 where they have had winning records both overall and in Big 10 play. The pitching staff allowed opponents a .300 average and may need to move Lutz, Ignas and Jesse Alfreno (1-0, 4.44, .226OBA) into the starting rotation, leaving big holes in the bullpen.

Schedule Note:
A perfect blend of tough and easy.
Penn State will certainly have its share of rugged road games (at Texas A&M, at Lamar, at Texas State, at Winthrop, at Kent State) but will also face some confidence-builders in games against Coppin State, Longwood, Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Columbia and Hofstra before Big 10 play comes around. Ten of the last 14 games will come at home, including the season finale vs. Michigan, which could be a crucial series to get into the Big 10 tournament.

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- PURDUE (25-26, 11-12)
2009 RPI: 166
Starters Returning: 4
Weekend Starters: 3
Mid-Week Starters: 1
Key Relievers (20+inns.): 6

All Conference Candidates:
2B Eric Charles (.371, Freshman All Am.)
3B Drew Madia (.290-6-32)
RHP Matt Morgan (6-5, 4.75)
RHP Matt Bischoff (4-5, 5.54)
LHP Matt Jansen (4-6, 6.62)

The Good News:
A strong last kick in the final three weekends (series wins over Indiana, MSU and Illinois) projected Purdue into the Big 10 tournament last season. Let’s hope that carries over to 2010. The “Matt Brigade” returns as all three weekend starters with the same first name return to their rotation posts, including Jansen who was drafted in the 43rd round by the Giants in June. Joining them will be mid-week starter Drew Wurdack (4-1, 5.45) and closer Kevin Cahill (3-2, 6svs) plus a slew of relievers. Lots of part-timers come back to the fold in the field as well since injuries took their toll last season. Watch for infielders David Blount (.322) and Nick Overmyer (.313) to excel in more full-time duty. Incoming RHP Brad Schreiber was a 42nd round pick of the Brewers.

The Bad News:
When they lost, the Boilers tended to lose ugly as 14 of their games saw their opponents score double digits. Four of the top five hitters from last year have graduated and strapping Dan Black, the only real power threat on the team (15HRs), is in pro ball now. The defense returns a slew of infield starters but was 2nd-to-last in the Big 10 at .954. If the “Matt” starters on the mound clamp down a tad more, it could be a good season.

Schedule Note:
MUST hope for good weather.
After PU’s first four games down in Clearwater, Florida, the remainder of their pre-Big 10 schedule will be played in potential cold-weather climes, including a series at Southern Illinois in the first weekend in March and at Ohio two weeks later. Brrrrrr. Oh, and like Michigan State above, the Boilers will play only four home games in May and will play three of their last four Big 10 hoe-downs on the road.

 

COMMENTS:

February 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm

[...] Sorenson’s Big Ten Preview [...]


February 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm
fred4945 says:

Eric,

The body of your work is, as usual, thoughtful. I read every pre-season conference evaluation as a great aid to placement of my jr college players.

But, my friend, a stitch comes loose when you evaluate the Big 10 — especially OSU. Look, those people still don’t play anybody worth a darn. Each team in the league MIGHT play 3 legitimate teams a season. As long as they’re intent on traveling 1,000 miles to Florida…in order to play each other and the even weaker Big East instead of the abundant quality teams under their noses in NC, GA, FL, they’ll just never be competitive.

Somehow, the pack journalism phenomenon raises its head with respect to all you guys claiming as FACT your DESIRE for the cold-weather schools to become competitive. It isn’t. Until they’re willing to (1) play top competition, (2) recruit the talent-rich areas of the country, (3) invest in competitive facilities, neither the Big 10 nor the Big East will be anything more than a wish. Try getting to Omaha on a wish.

As these cold-weather teams continue to fail — even after they wrecked the game for the competitive programs by bureaucratic maneuvering in the NCAA — I’m sorry to say it will be our duty to rub you baseball writers’ noses in it. Please begin playing it straight with respect to the Big 10, Big East, etc.

Again, with this glaring exception, I very much enjoy your work.


February 3, 2010 at 10:20 pm
SmarterThanFRED4945 says:

Why is it that northern programs get no respect. If you want them to play better competition, some of your God like southern programs should hop on a plane and travel up north for a few games at the beginning of the season. Maybe they could even help shovel the field before the game. I think warm weather schools have forgotten that planes also travel to that part of the country. It’s too difficult for good northern programs to find solid competition to play throughout the year because no one is willing to come play them. Northern programs already spend too much of their budget at the beginning of the season to travel south to play games. Maybe you and your JC boys could come up for a trip? Your comments sound like a challenge to me.


February 4, 2010 at 1:13 am

I won’t get into this pissing match Fred. It’s the same old song, same boring verse for those warm-weather fans. Again, just ask Georgia or Baylor if they think Big 10 teams are any good. Or how about when in my interview with TCU’s Jim Schlossnagle from December, he said, “Minnesota was as good a team as we played all season.” And keep in mind, TCU beat Ole Miss and Cal State Fullerton and played Texas and Texas A&M in the post-season. Again, no need to get into this pissing match. Teams like Ohio State, Minnesota, Michigan, and last year’s Indiana squad are certainly good. They’re not great. The Big 10 isn’t the SEC, Pac 10, Big West or ACC. But the best teams in the Big 10 have continually shown they can play, and beat, the warm-weather schools. If any of you want more examples cited, let me know.


February 6, 2010 at 12:28 am
BaseballDad32 says:

Sorry guys…i think the big 10 is strong and with any luck I think a team like Ohio State could go to Omaha. You’re forgetting about LSU getting beat in a series against Illinois, or Minnesota taking down TCU? And excuse me but didnt Ohio State take down southern school SEC’s Georgia? Even when they were using illegal bats? Yeah…mark my words at least one big ten team will be in a super-regional this year, and with any luck could sneak on into omaha! Good luck BIG10


February 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm
Gopherguy says:

To Fred4945:

Minnesota’s RPI rank last year was 26, that’s lower than 9 of the other no. 2 seeds in the tourney. The reality of it is that southern schools don’t travel because they don’t have to. They can stay home in the spring and polish their game on the local underlings or inferior teams they get to travel south for the privilege. They have nothing to gain from playing the quality northern schools. If they win, it’s because they’re suppose to. If they lose it’s embarrassing that’s why the top northern schools have a hard time scheduling games against the southern schools. Let’s take a look at the 2010 schedule of the defending national champs LSU Tigers; first 21 games played at home against some of the national powerhouses like Centenary, McNeese St., William & Mary, Brown, UL-Monroe, Nicholls, etc. I rest my case.

It’s always 72 and sunny in the dome. Send your southern boys on up here to the tundra, we’ll provide a little northern competition.