"Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others."
-Robert F. Kennedy
"Well, I'm going to read my speech. I worked hard on it. In the words of Grandmaster Flash: ‘You going high on that cocaine. You going crazy like a cocaine train.'"
Scouting Report III: Humility
Entirely too quick recap:
Tuesday: VU 4- Tennessee Tech 0 (Win. Predicted a 7-4 win. Only off by 1 in run differential.)
Wednesday: VU 4- MTSU 3 (Win. Predicted a 6-5 win. I should take my talents to Vegas.)
Friday: VU 9- Winthrop 1 (Win. Predicted a 6-0 win. Close enough.)
Saturday: VU 5- Winthrop 0 (Win. Predicted a 8-2 win. Nice.)
Sunday: VU 4- Winthrop 1 (Win. Predicted a 5-3 win. Again, off by just one run.)
Overall Record: 15-2
You may wonder why I, a man who promised no less than "bourbon-fueled bluster" in these columns' nascent state, a man who has predicted a win (and often a blow-out) in every game we've played thus far, a man whose spirit guide is Cassius "It ain't bragging if it's true" Clay, would choose to pick a week where we went 5-0 to focus on humility. First, shut up. It's my column. Second, we've actually won 8 in a row if you go back to the Stansbury series. Third, and most importantly, it's become sound-bite commonplace for athletes to issue the, "I'm humbled by [insert high achievement here]" platitude when winning their various Supered Bowls or entering any number of Fame-based Halls.
As a man who values the meaning of words, I won't stand for it. As a man who has now accidentally washed his ear buds in his gym clothes three times in the past month, I know all too well the siren song of humility. As such, I figured I'd show these malaprop-laden athletes how humility is expressed properly. Sure, we're 15-2 with only a mid-week game against Directional Illinois U. before conference play begins. Sure, our weekend starters are not only undefeated, but are dominating. Sure, we have Carson "Rick Vaughn" Fulmer and Hayden "Cold" Stone "K-Reamery" (*check the scouting report below*) leading a bullpen that's given up but 2 runs all season. Sure, we're good. But we don't want to be good. We want greatness. We want to host a Super Regional. We want Omaha. We. Want. It. All.
And we're just not there yet. We're currently playing like a team that can out-duel you on the mound, but can't capitalize when big inning opportunities present themselves. That's not going to get it done against LSU. That's not going to get it done in the tourney. The potential exists, but just scraping by a (pretty damn good, and should win the Sun Belt) MTSU team 4-3 is not going to cut it. Routinely leaving men on third with less than two outs is not going to cut it. Bringing in Ro Coleman as your bench power bat sure as hell isn't going to cut it. With that...
Second Guesses No One Asked For:
#1: Tuesday March 4th v. Tennessee Tech- Bottom of the 6th:
The inning started off with Conde and Rogers reaching on a HBP and BB respectively. Corbs had Chris Harvey, who had knocked in a run earlier, sac bunt. Harvey had been swinging a pretty good bat of late, so I would have let him swing away, or at least see some pitches to see if the wildness continues, and see if he couldn't turn it into the big inning we've been lacking thus far this season. Regardless, Harvey laid down a pretty good bunt, so that's good to know he's got that in his arsenal. Then, with one out, men on 2nd and 3rd, and mashers Kyle Smith and John Norwood on the bench, Corbs chose to stick with Ro "The Human Squeeze Bunt" Coleman. At the time, we were up 3-0, and though Buehler was dealing, there was no reason to leave ducks on the pond with more than adequate bench pop at his disposal. With Ro at the plate, everyone on both teams knew a squeeze bunt was coming. The Tennessee Tech infield defense was so far in, nothing short of a slap bunt over their heads was going to work. As such, Corbs had Ro swing away... resulting in the weakest of infield flies imaginable. Swanson promptly followed with a check swing grounder to the first baseman, but the momentum killer had already happened. I know it's early in the season, and Corbs may value learning what young guys can do in different situations over playing situational baseball... but COME ON, CORBS! YOU'VE GOT TWO OUTFIELDERS ROTTING ON THE BENCH WHO WOULD LOVE TO PUT A CHARGE INTO ONE AND PUT THIS GAME OUT OF REACH!!! BAH!
(Exhales. Goes to my happy place...)
Of course, when Kyle Smith is put in for Coleman in the bottom of the 8th, he hits a sac fly depth drive to right field. Just saying.
Use your bench properly. Please. Manage every game like it counts. It's not that hard.
#2 Wednesday March 5th v. MTSU- Top of the 8th, one out, runners on 2nd and 3rd:
Christ, Corbs did it again. In a 4-3 game, Corbs brings Ro Coleman in off the bench to bat for Kyle Smith (who should at least be able to sac fly one run in with ease). Early in the count, Ro pulls back a bunt attempt late, Xavier Turner flinches, and then awkwardly runs himself out of scoring position. Sure, the mistake was more on Turner's head, but I just don't get the strategy. Or, more accurately, I do get the strategy, and am in complete opposition to it. It's just not a winning play, and every time I see it, I'm going to point it out, until word gets to Corbs that EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT HE'S TRYING TO DO WHEN HE BRINGS RO COLEMAN TO THE PLATE WITH LESS THAN 2 OUTS AND A MAN ON 3RD!!!
Side note: Vince Conde was up before Coleman. If Corbs truly wanted to squeeze in a run, he should have had Conde drop the bunt down, as it would have been somewhat unexpected. 100% of future opponents, in these situations, will expect Ro Coleman to be trying a squeeze bunt. Further, every manager worth his salt will know this without even a cursory glance at game tape. It's that obvious.
#3 Wednesday March 5th v. MTSU- Starting Pecoraro after last week's fiasco:
This is a minor second guess, as I would love for Pec to regain his '12 form and turn into the ideal swingman come tourney time, but he should only be getting mop-up duty until his performance proves otherwise. Even after last week's brutal outing, I would have still given him innings on Wednesday... just not the start. Pec was hitting his spots better, but was still quite hittable. It was better, certainly, as pretty much anything he did would have improved upon his 23+ ERA. Still, his line was a relatively ineffective 3 IP, 3R (2 ER), 4 H, 2 BB, and 2 K. If not for Kilichowski and Fulmer throwing 6 innings of shutout ball, this would have been mid-week loss #3.
Regardless... onto the scouting reports.
Scouting Report: #32 RHP Hayden "Cold" Stone "K-Reamery" (it's a reach, I know)
Game scouted: Tuesday's 4-0 win vs. Tennessee Tech
Game line: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 HBP, 1 SV (first career save)
Season line: (6 GP, all in relief) 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 SV, 11 and 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 19 K, 2 HBP
The Good: In the few appearances I've seen thus far, I have to say I like what I see out of the freshman. I like it a lot. The K-Reamer is a bulldog on the mound, and though he's not a flamethrower (his fastball sits in the 89-91 range), his pitches seem to sneak up on hitters. This is mostly attributed to his somewhat funky delivery, in which he's quick-twitch bouncy, and manages to hide the ball behind his leg kick. He has a sweeping ¾ delivery, causing his fastball to tail right to left (moving away from right-handed hitters). That same delivery produces a hard-diving slider and a sweeping curve, all of which start in the strike zone and dive out of it before the batter can check his swing. The slider, in particular, is a plus pitch. All of this-fearlessness, killer instinct, deception, and hard-boring stuff-add up to a kid who's thrown 11 and 1/3 scoreless innings with a 15.1 K/9 rate. Whoa. The depth of our bullpen is the only thing keeping Stone from being the set-up man at the moment, but if he keeps pitching like this, expect him to serve as the bridge to the Ravenelle/Miller/Fulmer late inning three-headed monster. Simply put, he's been unhittable early in the season. Pretty much every hitter he's faced has toiled part-time at the Cold Stone K-Reamery (**this reference is enough to warrant the nickname**).
The Bad: I'm reaching, but what his delivery aids in achieving deception, it could hinder w/r/t pin-point control. Again, this is picking nits, but this is why I see his ceiling as a late inning reliever (set-up man or future closer) rather than a potential starter next year. If he gets in a long-toss program and hits the weight room this off-season, he might be able to add a few ticks to his fastball, which would make him all the more dangerous. Again... nit-picking.
The Ugly: Though he almost struck out the side in three consecutive innings, he hit a batter and had Chris Harvey jumping all over the place to block his sweeping breaking pitches. At the moment, I wouldn't bring him in to get the key out with a man on third.
Scouting Report: #20 CF/OF Brian "The Aluminum Foil" Reynolds
*A brief note regarding the nickname. Last year, I dubbed Rhett Wiseman "The Natural," due mostly to his seemingly effortless arete in all aspects of the game. Just watch his swing. Chase Utley-esque. Well, in the early part of the season, Brian Reynolds has exhibited a lot of the same qualities, and though his swing is a bit less compact than Rhett's, it's that natural left-handed swing scouts drool over-think the love child of Ken Griffey and Shawn Green. I originally referred to Reynolds as "Also The Natural," for reasons that should have been made obvious in the previous few sentences. However, his play's been so impressive, he deserves a nickname he can call his own. I've done a lot of name puns, so I considered, "The Wrap," but it felt clunky and had no alternate meaning. Hence "The Aluminum Foil." His bat's made of aluminum... he's apt to "foil" any pitcher's plans (see what I did there?)... "foil" is also a fencing term... I have no idea where I'm going with this.
Game scouted: Saturday's 5-0 win over Winthrop.
Game line: 4-5, 3 R, 1 RBI, 1 3B, 1 2B, 1 insane diving catch
Season line: .349 BA, 12 R, 14 RBI, 9 2B, 1 3B, 3 BB, 2 SB
Quite frankly, The Aluminum Foil-yeah, I'm really liking this name-has overshot even the most Liebnizian of optimistic projections for his freshman season. During his first week of college ball, the Brentwood kid (should his nickname be "The Brentwood Kid"??? Debate in the comments section) went 6 for 10 against some Dirtbags from The City We Call Long Beach, often batting third (which is where you put the best pure hitter, for those who don't know even the basics of the sport), and racking up SEC Freshman of the Week honors in the process. He's managed to stay in the 2-5 spots in Corbin's continually fluxtuating early season line-up, and he's proven he deserves one of those prime spots. Personally, in an ideal lineup, I'd hit him 2nd or 5th, allowing him to be a high OBP guy to either get on base before or provide protection for Zander Wiel. I'd have no problem with him hitting third, either, though I suspect once Wiseman heats up, The Natural will claim that spot.
Offense: The Aluminum Foil is a switch-hitter, though he has a much more natural swing (and much more power) from the left side. He's got a clean, line-drive stroke that should produce effortless gap power, and his natural slight lefty uppercut will drive quite a few of those line-drives out of the park. That he's currently leading the SEC in doubles should tell you all you need to know about that. He's also a good contact hitter, and his bat stays in the zone longer than most. He shouldn't strike out a lot, either. As he's been swinging a hot bat, it's tough to judge his plate discipline or "eye," but he hasn't walked much (just three BBs entering this weekend's games). With more plate appearances, this should improve, as well.
Defense: He's played every outfield position this year, and plays them all well. He's got range, a right fielder's arm, and takes good routes to the ball. He's more likely to make the routine plays than the spectacular (though Saturday's diving catch was amazing), but most players with a loping stride have this "effortless" appearance. I wouldn't put too much stock in it. At the moment, he's a plus RF (due to the arm) and a league average CF.
Baserunning: He's 2 for 3 stealing bases going into this weekend's games, so yeah... he can do that. He doesn't have the kind of speed that turns heads, but he's easily got enough to pick his spots and steal at will. He'll have a green light all season. He's a ballplayer, and he hasn't given me a reason to doubt his base-running instincts one bit.
Like Wiseman, he doesn't have one tool that wows you, but he excels in every facet of the game. You're going to like having him around for the next three years. There were some who thought the loss of Yaz would be quite apparent on this year's team. Reynolds has put that under wraps (again with the puns?).
*Author's Note: Andrew VU '04 is a writer, educator, and ne-er-do-well living in the whirlpool of despair (Baton Rouge, LA). "Scouting Report: Something Something Burt Ward" will be a weekly column written and posted every Sunday evening throughout the 2014 baseball season. In it, the writer will second guess at least one key decision made by Coach Tim Corbin, provide a frighteningly quick recap of the week's games (I'm just giving scores, you crum bums, so if you want more, read the damn box scores your damn selves), and write up a full scouting report on one pitcher and one position player. He might think up some other features; he might not. Or you could post something instead of complaining all the time. Ever think of that?