Another day, another 40 degree first pitch at Swayze. It’s been the mildest winter of all time but just before Doug Nikhazy toes the rubber it decides to go full on Minnesota out there. Xavier doesn’t play a home game until March 17—however I am not sure this is what they had in mind. Oh well, baseball waits for no man.
The Musketeers took two of three last weekend from Memphis. The Tigers are projected to be at the bottom of the American this year, so taking two of three is more “bare minimum” than it is good. But, this is baseball. Good teams lose to lesser teams every day, and with what we’ve seen so far out of the bullpen, there’s a little drama to be had in every game.
We don’t have much of a sample size—just three for Xavier and four for Ole Miss—but we can still take a few things away from the numbers.
The strength is in the rotation for Ole Miss.
I don’t think I am really saying anything revelatory here. Doug Nikhazy, Gunnar Hoglund, and Derek Diamond combine to be the much stronger have of the Rebel pitching staff. None of their earned run averages are particularly good after last weekend, but their small sample size each consists of a start against Louisville. What we saw out of Diamond in his first collegiate start was more than you can ask for from a Sunday guy, and Hoglund struck out seven and walked just one on Saturday.
Considerably warmer here in Oxford today, and we've got a great Feb. 15 crowd here at @OleMissBSB. Gunnar Hoglund rebounded after allowing back to back doubles, fanning the next 3 hitters in order, all on well-located 90-91 fastballs. Also mixing in a short slider at 81-83. pic.twitter.com/TIsHi8plWG— Aaron Fitt (@aaronfitt) February 15, 2020
There is a path to a quality bullpen.
Losing Tyler Myers is going to hurt all season long, but we liked what we saw out of Wes Burton. He gave up a run and a walk last weekend, but he faced eight batters and none of em got a hit. Analytics tells you opponents are hitting .000 against him. That’s not bad.
I think we all expected Austin Miller to pick up where he left off from last season. Through two appearances, I’m sure most are disappointed. But, if you’ll look a little deeper you will see opposing offenses are hitting just .214 against the senior. Yes, we know all three hits have been for extra bases, and acknowledge he has walked three of the 15 batters he has faced. This is a control issue. It’s been no more than 51 degrees in any game Miller has pitched, and when he locates the ball where he wants it, he is still hard to hit. Let’s trust the nearly 70 game sample size from last season over the four game sample so far this season.
Finally, Taylor Broadway has struck out eight over 6.1 innings. He’s given up 10 hits but walked none. That most of those hits came in his third inning of work should ease the mind. Some guys aren’t meant to be stretched across more than 30 pitches or so. If Broadway can come in and throw two scoreless but nothing else—you take that every single time.
We need more from the rest of the lineup.
Servideo isn’t going to hit .533 all season long (he could hit .400 though, I really believe this), and past two junior college guys Ben Van Cleve and Cael Baker, no Rebel is hitting above .290. It’s early, sure, but guys like Justin Bench and Kevin Graham need to hit like most expect for this team to reach its potential. Cade Sammons was the leading hitter for much of the fall and he’s started 0-for-5 so far this season. Small sample size, again, but the best teams have no holes in their lineups.
What we’ve seen out of the junior college guys is nothing short of a miracle. Hayden Leatherwood only has three at bats, so he doesn’t technically qualify, but Baker (1.389), Van Cleve (1.404), and Leatherwood (1.334) trail only Anthony Servideo in OPS through four early games.
His name is Cael Baker and he hits dingers pic.twitter.com/2JhS4Pncmn— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) February 15, 2020
I expect Bianco will keep working through some things with the lineup this weekend. Jerrion Ealy should get at least a few at-bats out in center, and don’t be surprised if Knox Loposer draws a start at DH. Ole Miss has given 13 guys six or more plate appearances so far, with two others drawing a start. The lineup may be in flux until SEC play, if we had to guess