Recapping the 2018 Baseball Season

Lance Roffers

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With an overall record of 28-26 and an RPI of 64, the team did not receive a bid to the tournament for the second consecutive season. The lack of inclusion to the tournament will mark the second consecutive year the Hurricanes will be left out of the tournament and also mark the end of the line for HC Jim Morris.

Miami will be turning the page to new leadership and a new direction under coach-in-waiting Gino DiMare. The current recruiting coordinator and hitting coach will take over the reins of one of the most successful programs in college baseball starting in 2019. Over the coming weeks we will take a look at how that team projects and what they can do to return to the NCAA tournament next year, as well as break down the team from a position-by-position standpoint, but today we will look back at the season that was for 2018.

Season Overview:
Miami started the year with one of the youngest teams in the entire country as they started five true freshmen in game one and would go on to have 11 different true freshmen start games for them (two pitchers) and a total of 12 true freshmen total make appearances for the Canes. Miami salvaged the Sunday game against Florida and lost a close game to FAU to end February with a record of 3-5.

Things did not get better in March. Miami got their first sweep of the season when they swept Virginia at home but lost three in-a-row to end the month with a record of 9-9 and an overall season record of 12-14.

April brought the biggest series win of the season when the Canes took two-of-three at Clemson, but the momentum was short lived when Miami lost the first two games to archrival Florida State, before salvaging the Sunday game. Miami finished April with a record of 6-11 and dropped their season record to an overall low point of 18-25.

Things started to click as the season turned to May, and while the ultimate goals of making it to Omaha and winning the ACC were far from achieved, there were positive signs with this young club. The team closed with an 11-game winning streak before dropping their last game in the ACC tournament. The team went 10-1 in May and brought their season record up to a high-water mark of 28-26.

What Went Wrong in 2018?
Miami went out and recruited an entirely new infield to start the year with the hopes of adding power and athleticism to the group. The results were quite mixed.

Scoring: What jumps to the forefront immediately was a complete inability to score runs. 15 times during the season they were held to two runs or less. That was just behind Boston College (16) for the most in the ACC. Miami finished 2-13 in those games. Overall, Miami scored a miniscule 4.8 runs per game on the season, which was just ahead of Boston College’s 4.7 run per game.

Strikeouts: Miami finished dead-last in the ACC for K percentage at 24.6% and overall strikeouts with 525. The league average was 19.6%. What’s even more alarming is that there were only two players on the entire roster that finished with a K percentage below the league average (Zamora and Burns). For Miami to take a step forward offensively, the K percentage needs to improve dramatically.

Power: Often times, teams that K at a high clip offset that issue by supplying power when they do hit the baseball. For Miami, power was another issue. Their 23 HR’s were next-to-last in the ACC, ahead of only Boston College’s 19. They were next to last in slugging at .358 (Boston College- .316). The biggest indicator of the power you are supplying is in a statistic called Isolated Slugging power. It is a measure of the difference of your batting average and your slugging percentage. Predictably, Miami struggled here as well, coming in at .101, which was far below the average of .138, and was only ahead of Boston College. In their lineup, only three players finished above the average Iso for ACC teams (Reyes- .235, Rivera- .172, Perez- .145). Miami had 10 players with an Iso under .100 and only Boston College had more (11). As a point of context, FSU and UNC each had four players with an Iso under .100 and Clemson had three. Along with reducing the K percentage, Miami is going to need to supply more power when they do make contact.

Baserunning: Miami led the ACC in caught stealing with 32. There is a metric that measures the number of runs a team costs themselves by caught stealing occasions and Miami was second worst in the ACC at -2.39 runs (Virginia Tech at -3.49). Miami was picked off on nine occasions, making a total of 41 outs on the bases without the batter being involved (Most in the ACC).

Fielding: Miami really struggled with consistency defensively. Their 78 errors led the ACC, along with their fielding percentage of only .963. The league average fielding percentage was .971. The .008 difference in fielding percentage is a large difference at 1.6 standard deviations above the mean. Miami had 15 passed balls from their catchers, which was second-worst in the ACC behind Boston College & NC State (16). Amditis had the second-worst passed ball percentage in the ACC (Brad Debo) with eight passed balls in only 21 games played (.381 per game) which was one and a half times the rate for Quinones. For reference, Quinones had seven in 28 games played at catcher (.250 per game).

What Went Right in 2018?
If a lot went wrong, then that means not much went right for Miami in 2018, but there was one big bright spot.

Starting Pitching: The trio of Evan McKendry, Andrew Cabezas, Jeb Bargfeldt combined to form one of the better weekend rotations in the ACC this year. True freshmen Daniel Federman and Chris McMahon provided much hope for the future in their mid-week roles. Greg Veliz was effective before injury forced him to miss most of the season. In 361 and a third innings pitched, these pitchers combined for a 3.36 ERA, 3.39 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), with a 24.5% K rate. That combination places Miami second in the ACC, behind only Louisville’s starting staff (2.62 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 26.4% K rate) and slightly ahead of Florida State’s excellent starting rotation (3.61 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 27.5% K rate).

Was the Team Unlucky?
There are several metrics that try to strip away “sequencing” when evaluating a team’s strength and determine how their overall talent played without considering variances of when the events occurred. Sequencing is basically when the event happened can have a large determinant of whether a team wins or loses the game. A quick example, if Team A has six singles and no walks in a game, they would be expected to lose a game in which Team B had nine doubles and five walks in a game. Sequencing can change this if, for example, all six singles came consecutively in an inning, while Team B had one double per inning that came with no one on base and the walks followed the doubles. I’ll look at some variables to try and assess the actual strength of the team this season.

BaseRuns: This metric is the best at stripping away sequencing of events and applying weights to each event of a baseball game to determine overall team strength. Looking at the overall hitting/pitching for the 2018 Miami team, they finished with an expected runs total of 252 runs on offense. They finished with 259 runs, so well within an expected outcome there. On the pitching side, their expected runs given up came in at 208 runs. They gave up 259 runs total, so they were quite unlucky with sequencing (along with poor defense) on the pitching side. They gave up 203 earned runs, so you can see how the equation gets you much closer to what the pitchers actually “deserved” to give up this season. The offense/pitching sum up to an expected winning percentage of .587 overall. That would leave Miami with an overall record of 32-22. Their actual record for the year ended at 28-26, so they were quite unlucky on the season and finished with four fewer wins than would be reasonably “expected” based on their on-field performance without factoring sequencing.

That difference of winning percentage and “expected winning percentage” (EWP) of .068 was second worst in the ACC behind Wake Forest, which finished with a .439 WP, but an EWP of .525, a .086 difference. Boston College also had a large variance in their EWP and actual results, but the formula tends to move teams that are at the bottom up a bit through sheer regression. Clemson was the most fortunate team in the ACC with -.070 EWP from their actual results (.693 EWP and .763 WP) followed by Florida State (.673 EWP and .717 WP).

Batting Average of Balls in Play (BABIP): Miami was fortunate when they put the ball in play this year, finishing with a .355 BABIP, which was second highest in the ACC behind only Georgia Tech (.359). The league average was .334, so they were 1.22 standard deviations above the mean in this area. Miami is destined to fall back in this metric next year, meaning we should expect a lower percentage of balls put into play will find their way for hits next year.

We should expect Miami to put the ball in play more as their freshmen hitters become sophomores. Miami could still take a big step forward offensively by simply making more contact. They could improve the offense even with regression on balls put into play finding holes is the simple fact Miami should be expected to hit more home runs next year. By nature, home runs are not a ball in play, so hitting more home runs is another way to create more runs without having as high a percentage of balls in play finding holes. Miami could create more offense even with regression in this area by running into fewer outs on the base paths. If more runners are on base, more runs will score, even if a lower percentage of balls in play go for hits.
 

Lance Roffers

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10,000 characters is nothing, so I had to cut out a lot of stuff that would make it flow a little better, and the final section. Hopefully it puts the season in proper perspective.

Putting a Bow on Things:
The 2018 baseball season for Miami was not a good season. There is no objective way that I can argue that it was. It was a transition year in the sense that Coach Morris is transitioning out of the head coach role, and it was a transition year in the sense that so many true freshmen were gaining experience at the DI level. There were some encouraging signs, including the fact it appears Miami has found an answer at several spots on the field going into next year and will not need to rely on nearly as many freshmen to succeed.

A lot will depend on who returns after the MLB draft next week, as well as which recruits make it to campus rather than signing pro deals. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for articles examining the MLB draft prospects of current Miami players eligible for the draft, as well as recruits signed to play for Miami. There will also be articles going in-depth at each position group and showing where Miami compares to their conference peers at each position.
 

Jaromir Jagr

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They gave up 259 runs total, so they were quite unlucky with sequencing (along with poor defense) on the pitching side. They gave up 203 earned runs, so you can see how the equation gets you much closer to what the pitchers actually “deserved” to give up this season. The offense/pitching sum up to an expected winning percentage of .587 overall. That would leave Miami with an overall record of 32-22. Their actual record for the year ended at 28-26, so they were quite unlucky on the season and finished with four fewer wins than would be reasonably “expected” based on their on-field performance without factoring sequencing.
If you give up 56 unearned runs, you're not "unlucky", your defense sucks.
 

Jaromir Jagr

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Also, the Clemson momentum was short lived when we played Pitt and FIU, not when we played FSU.
 

MedleyCane

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Recap in a few words: a crappy team that couldn't even win enough games in a mediocre Conference to make it to the postseason.
 

holycane

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It sucked and I don't see any light at the end of this tunnel. This program is in horrible shape and Tomato King will make it worse.
 
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Recap in a few words: a crappy team that couldn't even win enough games in a mediocre Conference to make it to the postseason.
They won more than enough games in the conference to make the postseason.

But you don't follow the team.
 

Jaromir Jagr

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Yeah, being owned by the #3 and #6 teams in Conference USA was probably a bigger indictment of the staff. But if you’re going to lose to them while also dropping games to CWS regulars Maine and Rutgers, then 16 ACC wins is in fact not enough.
 

RedSquare

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anybody who thinks this is a good program, is walking blind without a cane .... no pun intended
 
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anybody who thinks this is a good program, is walking blind without a cane .... no pun intended
If it's not a good program then why are the expectations so sky high?

Because it is a good program.

What a silly thing you just said.

Amazing.
 

Jaromir Jagr

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If it's not a good program then why are the expectations so sky high?

Because it is a good program.

What a silly thing you just said.

Amazing.
That's easy. It was once a great program. People had high expectations for Al Golden's football team, but it wasn't a good program. The two ideas aren't mutually exclusive.

Now we have people defending the staff after missing the entire tournament two years in a row.
 
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That's easy. It was once a great program. People had high expectations for Al Golden's football team, but it wasn't a good program. The two ideas aren't mutually exclusive.
People had high expectations for Al Golden's program because they're delusional.

Saying that the baseball program isn't good but then also saying that we should never lose is, actually, mutually exclusive.
 

Jaromir Jagr

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People had high expectations for Al Golden's program because they're delusional.
People had high expectations because Miami once had a great football program. Same with baseball. People who had high expectations for Jim Morris in 2017 were also delusional, but it doesn't mean they didn't have high expectations.

Saying that the baseball program isn't good but then also saying that we should never lose is, actually, mutually exclusive.
Ease up on the logical fallacies. It shows your desperation when your characterization of my position is that "we should never lose". That's a rookie mistake.
 
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