"That man, especially when he slept, when his features were motionless, showed me my own face, my mask, the flawlessly pure image of my corpse [...] in a state of perfect repose, this resemblance was strikingly evident, and what is death, if not a face at peace - its artistic perfection? Life only marred my double; thus a breeze dims the bliss of Narcissus; thus, in the painter's absence, there comes his pupil and by the superfluous flush of unbidden tints disfigures the portrait painted by the master."
-Vladimir Nabokov, Despair
"Look, I've got more personalities than I can use already. All you are is one too many."
-Philip Roth, Operation Shylock
Column IV, Week V: "Doppelgangers"
Let's start the column with a bunch of numbers:
Team A Pitching Totals: 16-2, 1.33 ERA, 4 SHO, 7 SV, 95 H, 29 R, 24 ER, 50 BB, 178 K, 10 2B, 5 3B, 4 HR, .169 B/AVG
Team B Pitching Totals: 16-2, 1.53 ERA, 7 SHO, 6 SV, 114 H, 31 R, 27 ER, 25 BB, 132 K, 10 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, .206 B/AVG
Team A Batting Totals: .289 BA, 105 R, 164 H, 43 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, .400 SLG%, 73 BB, 24 HBP, 90 K, .384 0B%, 25-40 SB-ATT, 11 E
Team B Batting Totals: .312 BA, 130 R, 178 H, 36 2B, 7 3B, 8 HR, .441 SLG%, 77 BB, 27 HBP, 60 K, .410 OB%, 18-27 SB-AT, 13 E
Nothing better than a good ol' fashioned "compare and contrast" column where you don't tell the audience which team's which, right? Based on the numbers, Team A and Team B are... umm... there's a small ERA advantage for one and a small BA advantage for the other... umm... one hits a few more doubles... the other a few more HRs...
Fuck it, they're the same team. In one sense, this makes this series impossible to predict. In another, much truer sense, it makes this first weekend of SEC play a de-facto "Feats of Strength," serving as the first, and perhaps the biggest (at least until they play South Carolina, who is shutting out all comers) test for both top 10 teams, and it's not over until one of us is pinned. *The "Airing of Grievances" will take place in the comments section. Side note: for those driven to the brink of insanity wondering which team is which, Vandy's Team A, LSU's Team B.
They've got Nola, we've got Beede. They've got Bregman, we've got Dansby "The Mansby" Swanson. Something has to give (*or not, see my predictions below*).
Nola's shut out all comers in his 27 IP this year, and for a pitcher more known for his pin-point control and movement than raw arm power, he's got a 12 K/9 rate so far this season. Woah. No one can touch the kid, right? (Puts on Commodore mascot head) Not so fast, my friend. Tyler Beede will be on the hill against him, he of the 97MPH heater, 1.08 ERA, knee-buckling curve, and 11.88 K/9 rate (why are these teams so damned alike?!?!). Beede, not known for his control in the past, has made a vast ("huge tracts of land" vast) improvement in this area. Again, more numbers...
Last year: 5.6 BB/9, 1.25 WP/9
This year: 1.8 BB/9, 0.36 WP/9
Check back Sunday night for my full scouting report on Beede, but for a quick teaser, let's just say the numbers are being backed up by the eye test thus far, and I don't know Young Beedah's major, but it would appear he's taking upper level classes in mechanical engineering, focusing his research exclusively on the right arm.
So, in short, it appears the one achilles heel in Beede's all-world arsenal has apparently been dipped into the river Styx this fall. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto (or pitching coach Scott Brown).
If you're not hyped up about Friday's duel between the two best pitchers in all of college baseball (Carlos Rodon supporters, I invite you to take a gander at the stats... and to suck it) and stone-cold top 10 locks in this year's MLB draft, I don't want to know you. The last time college ball saw a matchup like this, Nola outlasted Oklahoma's Jonathan Gray (last year's 100MPH fireballer and #3 overall pick in the draft), but that had more to do with Oklahoma's offense having been diagnosed with lupus the day before. You're going to see as many scouts in the stands Friday as you will at the SEC tourney in Birmingham. Look for the guys with radar guns and clipboards sitting behind the catcher. Look for only about five of them to be smiling, as the rest know they've got a UNC football player's chance of being able to read this column at seeing either pitcher still available for them when they pick in June.
Those of you who know me already know, much like VandyTigerPhD, I went to Vanderbilt for undergrad and LSU for grad school. I've had a good number of LSU baseball players as students. They wave when I pass them on campus. Heck, I've talked to a few of them just this week, and one of their freshmen outfielders just graduated from my high school this June. It is without reservation that I say, as a whole, they're a genuinely good group of guys and I openly root for my former students when they're playing anyone but the Dores.
This weekend they're dead to me.
Friday: Tyler Beede (4-0, 1.08 ERA) v. Aaron Nola (4-0, 0.00 ERA) *6:30pm CT
Prediction: Vandy 1- LSU 0
Beede and Nola lock into a staring contest and none blink through 9 innings. It goes to the bullpen, and in the bottom of the 13th, a Kyle Smith sac fly plates Dansby "The Mansby."
Saturday: Jared Miller (4-0, 0.36 ERA) v. Kyle Bouman (3-0, 1.46 ERA) *2:15pm CT
Prediction: Vandy 3- LSU 2
Sunday: Tyler Ferguson (3-0, 1.50 ERA) v. Jared Poche' (3-0, 1.00 ERA) *1pm CT
Prediction: Vandy 5- LSU 7
We weren't going to take all of them.
Whisky to pair with watching us stare into the abyss (LSU) and see the abyss stare back into us: Wild Turkey's "Forgiven." It's a blend of rye and bourbon taken from the best of both barrels. METAPHOR!!!
*Author's note: "Baseball, Bourbon, and Bad Decisions" will be a weekly column throughout the 2014 baseball season. Andrew VU '04 is a writer, educator, and ne-er-do-well living in the whirlpool of despair (Baton Rouge, LA) and is writing this column based largely on the fact that VandyTigerPhD is a large Italian man threatening his life if he doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. Throughout the season, the writer will use no advanced statistics, whatsoever, and will go purely on what he sees, instinct, and bourbon-fueled bluster. Check in Sunday nights (or whenever I damn well feel like writing it) for "Scouting Report: Something Something, Burt Ward" in which the writer will provide a recap, 2nd guess at least one key decision made by Coach Corbin, and provide a full scouting report on one pitcher and one position player.