Brian Walker's Elbow and I are back together again for a mid-season chit-chat about what the Rebel baseball team has accomplished so far and where they are likely headed with less than 20 games left in the season.
I don't think there's many fans in the seamhead Rebel nation that can be excited about where this team is right now. Yes, we're first in the SEC Western Division, but we're tied with two other teams.
Yes, we have a top 40 RPI, but we haven't had a breakthrough SEC series yet where we take two of three from a top program.
Let's just get to our discussion analyzing the 2011 season so far.
: Matt Crouse has been the most dependable starting pitching option for the Rebels so far this year. His 6-2 record coupled with a sub-3 ERA has been a solid backbone for the weekend. David Goforth and Austin Wright
have shown flashes of above average pitching, but there's no consistency there lending to the idea that a three game series would mean trouble for the Rebels in the postseason.
Mid-week starter Matt Tracy has done what he could to shore up our mid-week rotation as Bobby Wahl and RJ Hively have been in and out of the infirmary and bullpen on the weekends. Luckily, only a couple mid-week games are left leaving Tracy with the possibility to be a long-relief option and starter for the postseason, which will be a decent addition.
BWE: Matt Crouse is still a mystery to me. He was decent last year, and I hoped he would be lights out this season. He really has been in many ways, but he had those two awful starts against LSU and Georgia. Will the real Matt Crouse please stand up? He is good when he is on. Let's just hope that he is "on" for the rest of the year. Goforth and Wright have done their jobs, but it hasn't been easy to watch.
Our bullpen is atrocious. We lose Jake Morgan. We don't really have anyone else that have a lot of confidence in. Wahl is ok at times, and Huber has the potential to be amazing (key word: potential). Obviously, we do not have the bullpen we need to go the distance.
OMTB: I'm convinced that Matt Smith is pretty much no longer the somewhat legitimate power threat he was during his freshman year. He's regressed or the bats are made of marshmellows or whatever explanation you want to give. The Rebel line-up is devoid of real power and slugging. Alex Yarbrough has really impressed me again this year progressing into one of the best if not the best hitter on our team.
has been absolutely a bust this year after a promising year in 2010. He's hitting only .205 in SEC play and should be one of the leading hitters on this team. Blake Newalu has been a nice surprise but a recent back injury could limit him from the line-up.
BWE: I like Matt Smith as a hitter overall, but he still is not the complete package he was in 2010. Last season, he would hit doubles and the ever-so-often homerun. I think the Alex Yarbrough is a better power hitter than him this year, and he is a switch hitter! After a little homework, I'm sure he is. Alex has a .545 slugging % to Matt's .500. You are right, Matt Snyder has been a bust. Is there fixing it at this point?
Another strange thing about this team is the better average in SEC play than in non-conference. I have no idea what that even means.
BWE: What the heck? Aren't Bianco teams supposed to be good at playing defense? Our team has a knack for making terrible mental errors at the worst possible times. Newalu is good in midweek games as he only has one error, but for some reason, he has 7 in SEC play. Overbey and Yarbrough have been okay in SEC play with 3 errors. Overall, I'm unimpressed by our defense and it's .957 fielding % in SEC play.
OMTB: To err is human, to forgive divine. While true, I'm far from divine. Errors in the most recent game against Mississippi State made it easily one of the most embarrassing games of the season. Please, bring in a psychologist/shaman/lobotomist to fix this ASAP. I will say, however, that when Ole Miss is ahead, these mental mistakes are fewer and more far between.
Predictions vs Actual
OMTB: I had our Rebels going 17-10 in non-conference play, and with only a few non-conference games remaining, we're 15-8. We should actually be able to beat my projection here with the remaining games.
My SEC prediction tabbed the Rebels at a very mediocre 15-15. Currently, we're 8-7 with series remaining against two of the best teams in the country, Florida and S. Carolina, along with three SEC West foes, including two road trips. Honestly, I'd be shocked if we won more than 7 SEC games over the final 5 series, so I may be right on the money here.
BWE: In non-conference action, we are 15-8. I said we would end up 19-7. Obviously, that it out of reach as we have lost too many and had one game rained out. Our remaining two are winnable. This is a bit disappointing as we were swept by our in-state rivals during midweek action.
Sadly, I predicted a 16-14 record in conference. Part of that was my effort to stop disliking Bianco. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. We will not get to 16 conference wins. If we do, it will be a miracle.
The Rebels RPI is bound to move up just by the nature of who we'll face over the next five weeks. Two top 5 RPI teams for weekend series, and the three other series are RPI top 30 teams. Even if the Rebels can only win 14 or 15 games, they'll be considered a two seed at a regional. I think anything over that, and we start to get into the hosting discussion. It will most likely be whoever can win the Western division. What that will take is series wins against Auburn, Arkansas and Mississippi State. The odds are very long for this happening, so I say Rebel fans need to prepare for a 2-seed at a national seed regional.