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Starkville Regional Preview

Starkville Regional Preview

Lance Roffers
Regional season is upon us. The time when teams begin to separate themselves from happy to be here to happy to win. The time that players start to etch their names in the lore of their programs history and lead their teams to Omaha. Miami has been absent from this weekend for two years straight. The team that Ron Fraser built into a powerhouse and Jim Morris made a regular in Omaha had missed the tournament for an unprecedented two straight seasons. A new ringleader is at the helm in Coach Gino DiMare and he will be looking to start a new streak for the Hurricanes’ program and take this proud franchise back to where the fan base is accustomed; back to Omaha.

Standing in their way is a formidable trio in the form of national no. 6 seed Mississippi State, a 46-win three-seed in Central Michigan, and a solid program in fourth-seeded Southern.

Taking a closer look at each of the programs will give us a better idea what Miami is up against in this Regional. I’ll start with Friday’s opponent, Central Michigan.

Central Michigan
The Chippewa’s have a clear style of play: they are looking to walk, steal bases, and put pressure on the defense. They led the nation in walks with 376, were third in the nation in hit-by-pitch with 89, and were 39th in the nation with 88 stolen bases. As a team overall they were third in the nation with an obscene .425 OBP. CMU has three hitters with an OPS (On-Base + Slugging) over 1.000 and they have four players with at least 12 stolen bases on the season.

This isn’t a team built on power as they only had 29 HR’s on the season (they nearly had as many triples- 23- as HR’s), but they do have three hitters slugging more than .560 on the season.

On the mound they look to throw strikes and have some solid, consistent arms. They will throw Pat Leatherman in game one. He’s a 6-4 right-handed redshirt senior who has talent. He sits 87-90 and will touch 91 with his fastball, throws a decent changeup, and a good curveball (77-80 mph). He varies his arm motion and adds deception to his delivery and makes it difficult to time him. He works at the top of the zone with his fastball and because of the arm slot, the curveball looks the same coming out of his hand as the fastball, creating some swings-and-misses when hitters guess wrong. His season numbers reflect a record of 10-1, 2.56 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 84 1/3 IP, and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 3.53. A K% of 25.5 and a BB rate of 7.7%.

Cameron Brown is their number two starter and he has a nice 10-0 record on the season. A 6-2 right-handed pitcher, he is a strike thrower who likes to mix his pitches as he will throw a 2 and 4-seam fastball, a change-up, curve, and splitter. Struck out 78 in 96 IP, an ERA of 2.72 and a FIP of 3.80. He has a K% of 20.5 and a BB rate of 7.9%.

Solid bullpen features no one closer, but saves leader Cameron Miller has zero walks on the season in 25 1/3 IP. This has resulted in a 1.42 ERA and a 2.87 FIP. K% of 23.7% and BB rate of 0%. Jordan Patty is a starter/reliever hybrid who fills whatever role they need. He normally goes more than one inning and has a 2.53 ERA and 3.21 FIP in 46 1/3 IP. Ryan Palmblad might have the best stuff out of the bullpen and his 31.3% K rate and only 18 hits allows reflects that stuff. He has a 2.56 ERA and 2.34 FIP in 31 2/3 IP this season.

They’re strong defensively, with 57 errors on the season and their catcher has zero errors on the season and has thrown out 8 of 14 base stealers.

Schedule
Central Michigan is 46-12 on the season and that is something you cannot take away from them. What you also cannot take away is the fact that most of those games were not against high-quality competition. They played one series against an NCAA tournament team this year (Illinois State is an at-large team) and they lost two-of-three in this series on the road. Overall, they had a strength of schedule of 275 and a non-conference strength of schedule of 294. Additionally, they had four games against Division II competition (and lost one of those games 26-19).

In series against teams with a winning record on the season they went 2-2-1.

Central Michigan is not a pushover, and they did have an ELO Chess rating of 31 on the season, but a team with the talent of Miami has to win this game.

Mississippi State
If Miami gets past CMU, things will get much tougher in game two as they will face an outstanding Mississippi State Bulldogs team at a stadium that is one of the best in all of college baseball.

Offensively, MSU isn’t elite, but what they are is deep. 1-9 this lineup has hitters capable of hurting you. Most games the Bulldogs will put a lineup on the field that doesn’t have a hitter with an OBP under .364 and more than half will have an OBP over .400.

They are an offense that absolutely feasts on hitting doubles with 147 on the season (Miami has 86 on the season). An aggressive team, they feed off the crowd when things start going their way.

On the mound is where this team separates themselves from almost anyone else. Ace starter, Ethan Small is a 6-3 left-hander who has elite numbers. In 90 IP, he has 150 K’s for an astronomical 45% K rate. He is 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA and a fantastic 1.57 FIP. For a pitcher as dominant as Small has been, if you can make contact against him you can hit the ball hard as he has given up 20 extra-base hits on the season. Beating him in a Regional at that stadium will be difficult but he has been prone to shorter outings this season. Battling early, fouling off tough pitches and getting his pitch count up may be the strategy for the Canes.

As good as Small is, freshman right-hander JT Ginn surpasses him in stuff. A rare first-round pick to get to college, Ginn was dominant this year with a heavy fastball that has allowed only one HR all season and a wipeout slider which allowed him to have a 3.49 ERA (1.44 FIP) and a 31.6% K rate in 77 1/3 IP. His control is equally as impressive as he has walked only 5.7% of hitters this year. One area the Canes might be able to exploit is that Ginn has 13 wild pitches on the season, so getting runners on-base and putting pressure on Ginn will be important if the Canes see Ginn.

The Bulldogs rely on a couple of standout relievers in Jared Liebelt and Cole Gordon. Liebelt was 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 45 IP this year. He had five saves and only walked seven batters on the season, contributing to a 4% walk rate. Gordon is the stuff guy out of their bullpen as he struck out 53 hitters in 34 2/3 IP. His 35.8% K rate in the SEC shows his dominance this season but he can get wild as his 14.2% BB rate and 4.41 ERA shows.

Base Runs
BaseRuns is a metric that attempts to remove sequencing from the evaluation and assigns a value to each specific baseball event and sum the events into one total metric. You can then plug the BaseRun totals for hitting and pitching into a Pythagorean equation and get an expected winning percentage for each team. Year-over-Year this metric has proven to be far more predictive than simply Win-Loss or other metrics.

Miami finished with a .689 winning percentage on the year and their BaseRuns totals show them as a .698 “True Talent” team. Facing the 26th rated schedule on the season, you can see that Miami was not a fortunate team this year and had just about the record they should have based on the way they played.

CMU finished with a .793 winning percentage and their BaseRuns totals show them as a .765 winning percentage team. Facing the 275th rated schedule on the season, you see that CMU was quite fortunate to have the record that they do, and their metrics are somewhat propped up by playing non-Division I teams as well.

Mississippi State finished with a .780 winning percentage and their BaseRuns totals show them as a .754 winning percentage team. Facing the 18th rated schedule on the season, they truly are an elite team and have earned the record that they have.

Bottom Line
Miami has two advantages going for them over the other teams in this Regional: 1. They have a powerful lineup with hitters who can hurt you in every spot in the lineup. 2. They have four starting pitchers who are truly interchangeable and they are setup to handle a loss early in the Regional more than any other club in this Regional. The number three starter for MSU has performed like the number five starter for Miami this year.

I do not see any way a team other than MSU or Miami emerges from this Regional and the key for Miami winning this Regional will be to find a way to survive long enough to get past Small and Ginn for MSU and then outlast their pitching and weather the home crowd. The numbers do not favor the Canes overall, but the depth of the lineup and the depth of starting pitching gives them a better than average chance of escaping this Regional and moving on to the Supers.
 

Comments (23)

Excellent write up. I don't know if it's the amount of down time between the ACCT and the Regional or if it's fear of the unknown, but I think some folks on this board have hyped MSU up to mythical proportions. They're a very good team with a great pitching staff and a tough home field advantage. Certainly won't be easy but with a good approach at the plate, timely hits, and avoiding giving MSU extra outs by kicking the ball around and letting the home crowd get fired up, no reason Miami can't advance from this region. Of course, this all assuming we can get by CMU on Friday. Which is certainly no guarantee.
 
Regional season is upon us. The time when teams begin to separate themselves from happy to be here to happy to win. The time that players start to etch their names in the lore of their programs history and lead their teams to Omaha. Miami has been absent from this weekend for two years straight. The team that Ron Fraser built into a powerhouse and Jim Morris made a regular in Omaha had missed the tournament for an unprecedented two straight seasons. A new ringleader is at the helm in Coach Gino DiMare and he will be looking to start a new streak for the Hurricanes’ program and take this proud franchise back to where the fan base is accustomed; back to Omaha.

Standing in their way is a formidable trio in the form of national no. 6 seed Mississippi State, a 46-win three-seed in Central Michigan, and a solid program in fourth-seeded Southern.

Taking a closer look at each of the programs will give us a better idea what Miami is up against in this Regional. I’ll start with Friday’s opponent, Central Michigan.

Central Michigan
The Chippewa’s have a clear style of play: they are looking to walk, steal bases, and put pressure on the defense. They led the nation in walks with 376, were third in the nation in hit-by-pitch with 89, and were 39th in the nation with 88 stolen bases. As a team overall they were third in the nation with an obscene .425 OBP. CMU has three hitters with an OPS (On-Base + Slugging) over 1.000 and they have four players with at least 12 stolen bases on the season.

This isn’t a team built on power as they only had 29 HR’s on the season (they nearly had as many triples- 23- as HR’s), but they do have three hitters slugging more than .560 on the season.

On the mound they look to throw strikes and have some solid, consistent arms. They will throw Pat Leatherman in game one. He’s a 6-4 right-handed redshirt senior who has talent. He sits 87-90 and will touch 91 with his fastball, throws a decent changeup, and a good curveball (77-80 mph). He varies his arm motion and adds deception to his delivery and makes it difficult to time him. He works at the top of the zone with his fastball and because of the arm slot, the curveball looks the same coming out of his hand as the fastball, creating some swings-and-misses when hitters guess wrong. His season numbers reflect a record of 10-1, 2.56 ERA, 83 strikeouts in 84 1/3 IP, and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 3.53. A K% of 25.5 and a BB rate of 7.7%.

Cameron Brown is their number two starter and he has a nice 10-0 record on the season. A 6-2 right-handed pitcher, he is a strike thrower who likes to mix his pitches as he will throw a 2 and 4-seam fastball, a change-up, curve, and splitter. Struck out 78 in 96 IP, an ERA of 2.72 and a FIP of 3.80. He has a K% of 20.5 and a BB rate of 7.9%.

Solid bullpen features no one closer, but saves leader Cameron Miller has zero walks on the season in 25 1/3 IP. This has resulted in a 1.42 ERA and a 2.87 FIP. K% of 23.7% and BB rate of 0%. Jordan Patty is a starter/reliever hybrid who fills whatever role they need. He normally goes more than one inning and has a 2.53 ERA and 3.21 FIP in 46 1/3 IP. Ryan Palmblad might have the best stuff out of the bullpen and his 31.3% K rate and only 18 hits allows reflects that stuff. He has a 2.56 ERA and 2.34 FIP in 31 2/3 IP this season.

They’re strong defensively, with 57 errors on the season and their catcher has zero errors on the season and has thrown out 8 of 14 base stealers.

Schedule
Central Michigan is 46-12 on the season and that is something you cannot take away from them. What you also cannot take away is the fact that most of those games were not against high-quality competition. They played one series against an NCAA tournament team this year (Illinois State is an at-large team) and they lost two-of-three in this series on the road. Overall, they had a strength of schedule of 275 and a non-conference strength of schedule of 294. Additionally, they had four games against Division II competition (and lost one of those games 26-19).

In series against teams with a winning record on the season they went 2-2-1.

Central Michigan is not a pushover, and they did have an ELO Chess rating of 31 on the season, but a team with the talent of Miami has to win this game.

Mississippi State
If Miami gets past CMU, things will get much tougher in game two as they will face an outstanding Mississippi State Bulldogs team at a stadium that is one of the best in all of college baseball.

Offensively, MSU isn’t elite, but what they are is deep. 1-9 this lineup has hitters capable of hurting you. Most games the Bulldogs will put a lineup on the field that doesn’t have a hitter with an OBP under .364 and more than half will have an OBP over .400.

They are an offense that absolutely feasts on hitting doubles with 147 on the season (Miami has 86 on the season). An aggressive team, they feed off the crowd when things start going their way.

On the mound is where this team separates themselves from almost anyone else. Ace starter, Ethan Small is a 6-3 left-hander who has elite numbers. In 90 IP, he has 150 K’s for an astronomical 45% K rate. He is 8-2 with a 1.80 ERA and a fantastic 1.57 FIP. For a pitcher as dominant as Small has been, if you can make contact against him you can hit the ball hard as he has given up 20 extra-base hits on the season. Beating him in a Regional at that stadium will be difficult but he has been prone to shorter outings this season. Battling early, fouling off tough pitches and getting his pitch count up may be the strategy for the Canes.

As good as Small is, freshman right-hander JT Ginn surpasses him in stuff. A rare first-round pick to get to college, Ginn was dominant this year with a heavy fastball that has allowed only one HR all season and a wipeout slider which allowed him to have a 3.49 ERA (1.44 FIP) and a 31.6% K rate in 77 1/3 IP. His control is equally as impressive as he has walked only 5.7% of hitters this year. One area the Canes might be able to exploit is that Ginn has 13 wild pitches on the season, so getting runners on-base and putting pressure on Ginn will be important if the Canes see Ginn.

The Bulldogs rely on a couple of standout relievers in Jared Liebelt and Cole Gordon. Liebelt was 1-0 with a 2.60 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 45 IP this year. He had five saves and only walked seven batters on the season, contributing to a 4% walk rate. Gordon is the stuff guy out of their bullpen as he struck out 53 hitters in 34 2/3 IP. His 35.8% K rate in the SEC shows his dominance this season but he can get wild as his 14.2% BB rate and 4.41 ERA shows.

Base Runs
BaseRuns is a metric that attempts to remove sequencing from the evaluation and assigns a value to each specific baseball event and sum the events into one total metric. You can then plug the BaseRun totals for hitting and pitching into a Pythagorean equation and get an expected winning percentage for each team. Year-over-Year this metric has proven to be far more predictive than simply Win-Loss or other metrics.

Miami finished with a .689 winning percentage on the year and their BaseRuns totals show them as a .698 “True Talent” team. Facing the 26th rated schedule on the season, you can see that Miami was not a fortunate team this year and had just about the record they should have based on the way they played.

CMU finished with a .793 winning percentage and their BaseRuns totals show them as a .765 winning percentage team. Facing the 275th rated schedule on the season, you see that CMU was quite fortunate to have the record that they do, and their metrics are somewhat propped up by playing non-Division I teams as well.

Mississippi State finished with a .780 winning percentage and their BaseRuns totals show them as a .754 winning percentage team. Facing the 18th rated schedule on the season, they truly are an elite team and have earned the record that they have.

Bottom Line
Miami has two advantages going for them over the other teams in this Regional: 1. They have a powerful lineup with hitters who can hurt you in every spot in the lineup. 2. They have four starting pitchers who are truly interchangeable and they are setup to handle a loss early in the Regional more than any other club in this Regional. The number three starter for MSU has performed like the number five starter for Miami this year.

I do not see any way a team other than MSU or Miami emerges from this Regional and the key for Miami winning this Regional will be to find a way to survive long enough to get past Small and Ginn for MSU and then outlast their pitching and weather the home crowd. The numbers do not favor the Canes overall, but the depth of the lineup and the depth of starting pitching gives them a better than average chance of escaping this Regional and moving on to the Supers.

Very positive outlook at the end after breaking everything down beautifully. We will need to bring some laser focus this weekend I haven't seen much of this year.

Thanks, I sure wish I had as much of that optimism, though I will be going nuts like usual.

UM
 
1st Game, Central Michigan - Van Belle

2nd Game, - McMahon against MSU

3rd Game, - Keysor if CMU or McKendry if MSU

If we lose the second game to MSU, we need to roll the dice and start Keysor in the next game.

If we lose the first game, however, we will not advance. Despite that, I start Van Belle in the first game and utilize McMahon in the second game. If we somehow manage to beat MSU the first time around, then use McKendry against MSU the second time around, leaving Cecconi for the final game, which should be enough.

Brutal regional...................
 
Gino still hasn’t set the pitching rotation (or at least isn’t saying)

Mississippi State will start Ginn against Southern
 
MSU must be feeling quite confident. I would never pitch Ginn this early.

If UM loses against Small, and rolls a "winning" dice with Keysor against CMU, they are looking at McKendry versus MSU's #3 pitcher, which is a sizable advantage for UM. Cecconi against MSU's 4th pitcher also benefits UM.
 
Gino not taking Lance and Javi's advice and starting Van Belle vs CMU. It is going to be McMahon
 
I think he's going with McMahon because he's planning on saving our ace Van Belle for Mississippi State
 
MSU must be feeling quite confident. I would never pitch Ginn this early.

If UM loses against Small, and rolls a "winning" dice with Keysor against CMU, they are looking at McKendry versus MSU's #3 pitcher, which is a sizable advantage for UM. Cecconi against MSU's 4th pitcher also benefits UM.

There is no circumstance in which we are in better shape than Mississippi State if we start 1-1 and they go 2-0.
 
How do regionals work? Two losses and you’re out?
 
I would have started Van Belle too, however, I agree with what Lance said that our starters, at least our top 3, are interchangeable, so I'm not sure there's an order we have to throw our starters
 
I would have started Van Belle too, however, I agree with what Lance said that our starters, at least our top 3, are interchangeable, so I'm not sure there's an order we have to throw our starters

Matchups based on CMU and MSU scouting reports. Period.
 

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