May 30, 2014

Say Hello to the Charlottesville Regional!

I should have put this out on Monday afternoon, but here it is on Friday morning!

Hoofans are hoping to see a similar dogpile this weekend.

No rhyme or reason to this, just spewing it out in a stream of consciousness style.  Written vomit.

Okay, everyone needs a printable bracket!

Or if you're a super nerd (like me), a 16-page printable Regional schedule for this weekend!

Virginia got a national seed, #3.  That means, in basketball parlance (for those of you new to this whole college baseball thing), we got a 1-seed.  It also means we're hosting this weekend's Regional, and if we win it, we're guaranteed to host next weekend's Super Regional.

If we advance to next weekend, we'll play the winner of the Columbia (SC) Regional, one of South Carolina, Maryland, Old Dominion, or Campbell.  South Carolina, I think, is the obvious and overwhelming favorite to advance from that Regional.

Anyway, back to Charlottesville.  We're hosting 2-seed Arkansas, 3-seed Liberty, and 4-seed Bucknell.  Below are some good-to-great quick overviews of each of those teams, courtesy of Streaking the Lawn.

Those are short and awesome, so if you don't read them, you're just being lazy.  HOWEVER, I can understand lazy, so hre are some Cliff's Notes...

Bucknell -- A pitching-reliant team whose best offensive threat is now out for the season with an injury.  The Bison pitchers are very solid in terms of ERA and WHIP, and they don't walk batters.  However, they also don't strike batters out.  The offense isn't good, and the pitching - while quite competent - shouldn't scare Virginia fans.

Liberty -- We crushed this team 8-2 on May 7th.  They are another pitching-reliant team, with a staff ERA of 2.62, which ranks them 14th among the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament.  They average 5.6 runs scored, best in the CVille Regional.  Their RPI is #30, which is really high for a 3-seed. The Flames are led by Big South Player of the Year Ryan Seiz. The senior (and Louisville transfer) hit .362 this season, while blasting 12 home runs.  Liberty is a dangerous team, and a potentially scary draw for the Hoos later in the weekend.  We don't want to lose this Regional on our home field to the Liberty Freaking Flames.

Arkansas -- The Razorbacks knocked us out of the College World Series in 2009, so we have some history with this program.  Arkansas is yet another pitching-reliant team in the CVille Regional; they rank 4th nationally with a .216 batting average against and are allowing only 6.9 hits per game with a team ERA of 2.63 (15th best in the country) and 1.12 WHIP (8th best in the country).  The Hogs are SEC-tough, but they hit about like Virginia has this season... which is to say, plenty of hits, but a low batting average and slugging percentage (and bad cluster luck*) leading to mediocre runs-scored numbers.  Junior infielder Brian Anderson is probably the most dangerous hitter in the Regional who won't have the word "Virginia" stitched across the front of his jersey.

*"Cluster luck, what the fuck is that?"

Glad you asked.  HERE's the concept.  But if you're too lazy to click (again, I get it), here's a synopsis ripped directly from the article:
Joe Peta, a former Wall Street trader, presented cluster luck in his book, Trading Bases. Essentially, the concept boils down to this: When a team’s batters cluster hits together to score more runs and a team’s pitchers spread hits apart to allow fewer runs, that’s cluster luck. Say a team tallies nine singles in one game. If all of those singles occur in the same inning, the team would likely score seven runs; if each single occurs in a different inning, however, it’d likely mean a shutout.... ....The Power Rank calculates cluster luck by using the Base Runs formula

Apply this to 2014 Virginia baseball, and we find that that the Hoos have created what should be 417 runs, and given up what should be 143 runs.  The actual numbers?  We've only scored 308, and given up 155. This means we've been incredibly unlucky, and should have scored 109 more runs, while giving up 12 fewer.  (Big-time propers to Wahoos247 poster 'justmisseduva' for running the numbers.)

I extrapolate from all of this that we've had really bad cluster luck this season, which helps account for the spotty offense generated by what should have been Virginia's best-ever lineup.  Can we expect an offensive explosion this weekend?  A simple return to mean by the cluster luck would suggest YES!

The bad news is that Arkansas is in exactly the same boat.

C'mon Fish, we need you to knock our cluster luck straight this weekend.

Anyway, here's the full and complete schedule for this weekend...


Game 1 -- 2:00 PM, Virginia vs. Bucknell (ESPN3)

Game 2 -- 7:00 PM, Arkansas vs. Liberty (ESPNU)


Game 3 -- 2:00 PM, Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, LOSER ELIMINATED

Game 4 -- 8:00 PM, Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2


Game 5 -- 2:00 PM, Winner Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, LOSER ELIMINATED

Game 6 -- 8:00 PM, Winner Game 4 vs. Winner Game 5, if Winner Game 4 wins then they win the Regional and Winner Game 5 is ELIMINATED


Game 7 (if necessary) -- 7:00 PM, Winner Game 6 vs. Loser Game 6, LOSER ELIMINATED

Obviously, we want to win today and make it to the so-called "winner's bracket."  Then tomorrow (Saturday), we want/need to beat the Arkansas/Liberty winner in order to coast to Sunday with most of our bullpen arms still available.

Our rotation for this weekend figures to be.....

Today vs. Bucknell -- Artie Lewicki takes the mound. I like this move, but I don't love it.  I like it, because Artie is a senior battler with more than enough skill and chutzpah to face Bucknell and shut them the fuck down.  I don't love it, because the last time we saw Artie, he was getting shelled by Maryland in Greensboro.  A strong 7+-inning start from Artie today keeps our bullpen fresh and sets us up for success all weekend.

Virginia's Second Game -- Regardless of whether it's the elimination game at 2:00 or the "winner's bracket" game at 8:00, I assume we'll be pitching our ace, Nathan Kirby.  Kirbs has had a GREAT season, despite a few rough patches (including the first couple of innings against FSU in Greensboro).  He wasn't ACC Pitcher of the Year for no reason, and you have to have major, major, major confidence in Kirbs this weekend.

Ace in your face.

Virginia's Third Game -- It's Bulldog Brandon Waddell.  2013's Friday starter turned into 2014's stalwart Sunday starter, and another guy deserving of quite a bit of faith and confidence from Hoofans.

Virginia's Fourth Game (if necessary) -- Here's where it gets a little bit dicey.  Josh Sborz started 12 games this season, so I assume he'll be near the front of the list... but he'll also likely be seen out of the bullpen prior to our fourth game.  Alec Bettinger has seen six starts and boasts a zesty 1.26 ERA, so he might be the best bet for the weekend's 4th start.

Monday -- if we take the long road to try to win this Regional, prepare to see Johnny Wholestaff take the mound on Monday night, God forbid.

I'd talk about the batting, but it's all cluster luck from here.  We've got guys who can hit, up and down our lineup.  They just have to step up there and make it happen.  Let's just hope our cluster luck doesn't stay a giant clusterfuck.

My predictions for the weekend:
-- Virginia crushes Bucknell, 9-3
-- Arkansas over Liberty, 5-3
-- Liberty over Bucknell, 6-2
-- Virginia squeaks past Arkansas, 3-2
-- Arkansas over Liberty, 7-4
-- Virginia squeaks past Arkansas again on Sunday, 5-2, to win the Regional
-- Charlottesville Regional MVP: Nick Howard, 2 saves, 0.00 ERA, 5 Ks

And here's the abrupt ending to the post.


May 23, 2014

UVA Baseball: Shit or Get Off the Pot

You might think this post is harsh.  I think it's harsh, too!  But it's honest.  And honestly, I'm not used to feeling this way about Virginia Baseball.

Brandon Downes' sad .215 average in 51 starts is a problem.

When Brian O'Connor took the helm in 2004, we were a floundering program that had barely survived being cut by the athletic department.  In the ten seasons since, we have not failed to advance to an NCAA Tournament, and we've twice seen the Hoos in Omaha for the College World Series.  Everything was awesome.

Take a look:
  • 2004: 44-15, Regional loss to Vanderbilt
  • 2005: 41-20, Regional loss to Ohio State
  • 2006: 47-15, Regional loss to Evansville
  • 2007: 45-16, Regional loss to Oregon State
  • 2008: 39-23, Regional loss to Fullerton
  • 2009: 49-15-1, CWS loss to Arkansas
  • 2010: 51-14, Super Regional loss to Oklahoma
  • 2011: 56-12, CWS loss to South Carolina
  • 2012: 39-19-1, Regional loss to Oklahoma
  • 2013: 50-12, Super Regional loss to Mississippi State

But then, as always happens with good teams, the weight of expectations began to build.  Heading into the 2014 season, we had - on paper - the most loaded roster in the history of Virginia Baseball.  The lineup was arguably the best in the country, and the pitching was sick-nasty.  Expectations were astronomical --- and rightfully so.

The regular season went well, despite some head-scratching losses (VMI, Pitt, ODU, series loss to Wake) and some scary close shaves against clearly inferior teams.  With that grit and close-game confidence, we had the #1 ranking on lockdown from wire to wire.

Yet here we are.  No ACC regular season crown, and after yesterday's 7-6 loss to Maryland (and Maryland's subsequent 5-3 win over Florida State today), we have been officially eliminated from ACC Championship contention.  We've had a good season, but we haven't won jack shit.  We'll play our last two games exhibitions in Greensboro - tonight vs. UNC (7:00 PM) and tomorrow night vs. FSU (also 7:00 PM) - for pride, and to stay in the hunt for the national #1 seed in the NCAAs.

Starting Artie Lewicki against Maryland was a mistake.

I don't want to beat around the bush.  We're 43-12 (.782) on the season, which is awesome.  But no hardware coming out of ACC play is a major disappointment, especially considering how watered-down the conference is and how loaded our roster is this season.  In order to avoid seeing this season swirl the toilet and end in horrific unmet expectations, we need to get our shit together and take care of business over the course of the next two weekends.  We need a good national seed, a favorable draw, and we need to win our Regional (May 29 thru June 2) and our Super Regional (June 5-8) to advance to the CWS.  Anything less is going to be a colossal failure.

Sorry, but that's how expectations work.

It's time for the 2014 Virginia Baseball team to shit or get off the pot.  Pull it together, and start winning games that matter.  Is this season going to be like any other in O'Connor's tenure at UVA, or is it going to be special?  Can the team live up to its potential?  Can we get to 50+ wins and advance to the College World Series?

Omaha or bust.


May 22, 2014

Now Tweeting!

May 1, 2014

Baseball Bracketology

Hosting 2) Liberty, 3) Bryant, and 4) Delaware State. I like that draw. A lot.

I wish they had gone ahead and organized this into a proper bracket, but we can wean that we'd be advancing to a Super Regional in which we'd host one of the Regional winners from the Houston, Cal Poly, TCU, LSU, Washington, Alabama, or Rice Regionals.

ACC Teams in the field:
-- Virginia (1-seed, national #1)
-- Florida State (1-seed, national #7)
-- Miami (1-seed)
-- Georgia Tech (2-seed)
-- North Carolina (3-seed)
-- Clemson (3-seed)
-- Duke (3-seed)

I imagine a Regional host would be pretty sad to see a team like GT, UNC, or Clemson appear on their docket. I think our conference will prove itself to be fairly underrated this season, with at least one of these lower-seeded teams taking a Regional.

Also of note:
-- Louisville (2-seed)

I love that we're replacing Maryland's garbage program with Louisville's rock-solid program.

I don't really see another ACC team that might make it in off the bubble, as Wake is too far off the pace, NC State shot itself in the foot so severely that they blew their whole fucking leg off, and none of the other conference teams are north of .500 right now (other than the aforementioned garbage Maryland team). So I guess we just need to hope that the seven teams Perfect Game already included stay solid and don't collapse down the stretch.

I wouldn't be shocked to see three ACC teams - UVA, FSU, Miami - in Omaha. For the Hoos, I think anything less than a trip to the CWS would have to be considered a disappointment. Such is life under the burden of expectations.

Omaha or bust.