The greatest conference in all of college baseball begins its intra-conference play tonight, and it looks as though this season could shape up to be a particularly competitive one for the SEC programs. As of this week, seven SEC schools are represented in Baseball America's top 25, with three SEC programs in the top five and Florida maintaining the #1 ranking they've had since the preseason. There is talent at every position in this league, on nearly every team in some form or another.
To prepare you all for this week's conference opener against Auburn, we'd like to give you a look at who in the SEC is winning, who is losing, and how exactly they're doing that. To do that, we'll take a look at the statistics compiled thus far by the SEC member programs in their nonconference play.
- Kentucky ... 18-0
- Florida ... 16-1
- South Carolina ... 15 - 1
- Georgia ... 13-5
- Tennessee ... 10-6
- Vanderbilt ... 7-10
The general consensus amongst baseball pundits and fans alike is that Kentucky isn't nearly as good as their 18-0 record suggests. They're undefeated, yet unranked in any major baseball poll. That's likely because they haven't played anyone noteworthy or of any major conference. Series against Buffalo, Illinois-Chicago, and Canisius - which is either some obscure Roman senator or a university I've literally never heard of - "highlight" their schedule thus far. They open the season against South Carolina this weekend, so if they're able to take a game from the 'Cocks, then maybe I'll believe that they're as talented as their record suggests.
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, isn't nearly as strong as initially expected. Vanderbilt was, during the preseason, considered alongside Florida, South Carolina, and Arkansas as a likely suitor for the SEC championship. Being swept by Pac 12 favorites Oregon and Stanford early wasn't too alarming for the 'Dores, but subsequent losses to LA Tech, Belmont, and a series loss to San Diego were. They open the season against Florida at Florida, such is a tough early test for a team which has greatly underwhelmed.
- Arkansas ... 16-2
- LSU ... 14-3
- Ole Miss ... 14-3
- Mississippi State ... 14-5
- Auburn ... 10-7
- Alabama ... 8-9
Arkansas is a legitimate contendor for the National Championship and not just the SEC championship, with easily the most complete pitching staff in the SEC West. LSU, Ole Miss, and State, though, should make the West a very competitive division. Auburn wasn't expected to contend this season, but Alabama certainly has underperformed thus far, being swept early by Florida Atlantic at home. They have a split against Southern Miss, a series loss to Tulane, a victory over Louisville, and a non-conference loss to Auburn, so perhaps it's harder to say what they're capable of this early in the season.
Offensively, Kentucky has put together the most solid numbers thus far, with a .343 team batting average. Ole Miss, Auburn, LSU, and Florida round out, in that order, the teams in the conference with a .300+ batting average (our Ole Miss' is .334). Alabama is last in the conference with a .250 team batting average.
Individually, the starters with the best batting averages are Ole Miss' Alex Yarbrough (.471), LSU's Raph Rhymes (.463), Auburn's Creede Simpson (.439), Florida's Mike Zunino (.419), and Ole Miss' Matt Snyder and Auburn's Ryan Tella (both with .410). Zunio leads the conference in slugging percentage (.867), and Tella leads in on base percentage (.554). Yarbrough and Kentucky's Luke Maile lead in runs scored with 21 apiece. Ole Miss' Zach Kirksey and his penchant for multiple RBI home runs have the conference lead in RBI with 30 and home runs with 8.
Auburn has been adept at small ball so far, with Dan Glevenyak leading the SEC with 6 sac buts and the duo of Jay Gonzalez and Creede Simpson leading with 14 stolen bases apiece.
South Carolina has thus far proven to have the most talented and deep pitching staff in perhaps all of college baseball. They lead the conference in team ERA (1.73), opposing batting average (.163), saves (10), and hits allowed (84). They're third in the conference in strikeouts with 162. Colby Holmes and Michael Roth for the Gamecocks both boast a 0.93 ERA, the best amongst starting pitchers in the league, while Matt Price leads in opposing batting average with an impressive .139 mark.
Arkansas is right behind the Gamecocks in most categories, led by Ryne Stanek with a 1.12 ERA.
The Rebs are 5th in the conference in team ERA (2.74), third in opposing batting average (.221), sixth in strikeouts (143), and fourth in walks allowed (36). Bobby Wahl is a top ten performer in most individual categories with a 1.96 ERA (10th), .183 opposing batting average (7th), and 28 strikeouts (6th).
Defensively, Florida is the best in the league in fielding percentage (.983) and errors (11), while Vanderbilt is the worst in both categories (.953 and 30, respectively).
Okay, so thats a lot of numbers, I know. The idea was for us to hopefully give you an idea of what our future opponents are capable of, and I think we've accomplished that. I also hope that you're as excited as we at the Cup are to begin Southeastern Conference baseball play.