Since Bob Todd became head baseball coach at
It is with that pedigree that the success of Buckeye baseball is judged. The 2004 team narrowly lost both the regular season and tournament titles to
There were losses of course, to graduation and the draft. Catcher Derek Kinnear graduated, but was a fairly poor hitter and did not seem to be too big of a loss. The solid double play combination of Drew Anderson and Brett Garrard was lost to the draft and graduation respectively, but incumbent third baseman Jeddidiah Stephen figured to handle short and well-regarded sophomore Jason Zoeller would fill in at second. Ronnie Bourquin, the primary DH on the ’04 team, would be Stephen’s successor at third baseman. And the Buckeyes holy trinity of outfielders returned intact. Centerfielder Mike Rabin was perhaps the weakest hitter on the squad, but he was bookended by Big Ten Player of the Year Steve Caravati and Big Ten Freshman of the Year Jacob Howell.
On the mound, ace Scott Lewis had been plucked away in the draft by the Indians, but he spent 2004 recovering from Tommy John surgery and was not a major factor on the field. Josh Newman, the solid #2, was out of eligibility and drafted by the
And for a while, that’s exactly how it played out. As all northern teams must, the Buckeyes opened with games in warm locations like
Maybe we should have seen the warning sign from the weather on that Opening Day—it was too good to be true. And so the Buckeyes opened the Big Ten schedule at
It was then time to open the Big Ten home schedule against Purdue. And on opening night, Purdue scored four in the ninth to win an easy 7-1 win. Since the twelve run performance against
And so now despair set in on Buckeye rooters far and wide(or at least the author). An offense that seemed completely impotent. A pitching staff that while not as bad as the offense, was not making anyone forget Steve Arlin either. An 0-5 Big Ten record. And so it went in the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, with Purdue up of the seven innings and the last six Buckeyes retired in order.
So what happened of course is that the Buckeyes followed the Big Bang theory of baseball and put up a crooked number. Single, single(pickoff!), sac fly, single, single, RBI single, and a two out three run homer by Zoeller later, and the Buckeyes went on for a 6-4 victory.
And the world returned to its usual state of the Buckeyes winning baseball games. 5-1 in the nightcap, 4-2 on Sunday, and 15-4 on Wednesday against a
Now any sensible analyst, seeing those numbers(with sample size caveats of course) should say to himself, “That’s not very good”. But there are things stronger then sabermetric thinking, and loyalty to the scarlet and gray is one of them. So in comes
But today things got really bad, as despondency set over the crowd and desperation over the players. Now all of the little traditionalist clichés about “making things happen” and “manufacturing runs” become paramount. “Hustle makes it happen”, tee shirts for Malone baseball tell us, as the team is blown out because their pitchers can’t throw strikes. But the little things win ballgames, of course, so when you are losing, you resort to them.
And resort to them our heroes did. In Game One, already down 3-0 in the bottom of the first, Mike Rabin on first with one out, caught stealing. Down 6-1 with one out and nobody on in the top of the third, Rabin dove at a sinking liner in center field, turning a sure single into an easy triple. And down 9-1 with nobody out in the fifth, Chris Macke was thrown out darting for second on a would-be wild pitch that was easily within the catcher’s reach. Then, with two outs in the first and a runner already home on the play to give
After today’s massacre, the picture is bleak. The Buckeyes are now 3-8 in the Big Ten. The worst a Todd team has ever done is 15-13. The season is now 32 games long rather then 28, but to reach just 15-17 on the season would require a 12-9 finish. Being outscored 58-30 results in an EW% of .235, uglier then the actual .272. So what is wrong with this team? In the Big Ten, the Bucks have so far compiled a .258/.304/.343 line. The walk ratio of .06 per at bat is bad, but the real culprit is the putrid .085 isolated power. With so little power, it’s no wonder many runners get stranded. For instance, in the game yesterday, eight runners were left on base, but only nine reached to begin with, all on singles and walks. Still unlucky, but less so then usual. Even last year, power was not the Buckeyes’ strong suit, with an ISO of .131 versus a B10 average of .126. But this year, it has completely fallen off the table.
It is difficult for me to point out the weaknesses of specific players since they are just college athletes and not professionals, but when you have a first baseman who is hitting .263/.288/.404, that is not a good thing. Paul Farinacci is a senior, from
But of course I will be there at Bill Davis Stadium tomorrow, waiting for the turnaround. Even cynical sabermetricians can hope.