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Column XI, Week XII: “I’ll be Deep in the Cold, Cold Ground Before I Recognize Missourah”

In which a writer examines "prosopagnosia," or "face blindness" while previewing Vanderbilt v. A Completely Unrecognizable Missourah baseball team. There's also some talk of Tyler Beede on ESPN radio, so that is addressed and analyzed, too.

Abe Simpson, Saying what needs to be said.
Abe Simpson, Saying what needs to be said.

"This study showed that the monkey brain has some regions that are almost entirely dedicated to processing faces.  The existence of such face-selective regions provides an explanation for cases of prosopagnosia in which face processing is impaired while other types of visual recognition [...] are normal."

-Tsao, Freiwald, Tootell, & Livingstone,

"A Cortical Region Consisting Entirely

Of Face-Selective Cells." Science (2006)

"There are only forty-nine stars on that flag..."

-Marge Simpson

Column XI, Week XII: "I'll be Deep in the Cold, Cold Ground Before I Recognize Missourah" or "College Sports-Based Prosopagnosia."

Vanderbilt: 33-12 (11-10 SEC) #9 USA Today, #20 Baseball America

v. Missourah 20-24 (6-15 SEC) Unranked

I'd like to start by noting I've been promoted from "Author" to "Trusted Author."  Sure, it's largely superficial and had to do with technical aspects related to fixing a glitch in my ability to publish articles as soon as they're finished without having to annoy Christian with late-night emails, but I want to assure my readers that I fully intend to abuse that trust for the purposes of comedy.

Now that that's over...

According to Professor Ken Nakayama of the Harvard University Department of Psychology and Dr. Brad Duchaine of the University College London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, "Prosopagnosia, also called face blindness, is an impairment in the recognition of faces [...] Most of the cases of prospagnosia that have been documented have been due to brain damage suffered after maturity from head trauma, stroke, and degenerative disease."  Though the research has not progressed to the point where they'd be able to say whether or not this could extend to areas such as the inability to recognize Missourah as an SEC team, it is one possible explanation.

When they were in the Big XII, I remember Missourah as an occasionally dangerous team often possessing hulking RHP power arms like Kyle Gibson (now of the Minnesota "...and Twins!!!"), Aaron Crow (Royals), and, most notably the current holder of the AL Cy Young crown, Max Scherzer (Tigers).  For a while there, they were producing first round arms with the frequency of a Tim Corbin coached squad.  Now, I couldn't name a player on their last placed team if you held a gun to my head.  Or if you didn't, I suppose.  The gun really only plays an idiomatic role here, I'm saying.

Simply put, they don't have anyone on their current roster who's anything more than a late-round draftable talent.  Brett Graves, their Friday Ace, has a nice ERA this year, but he doesn't have the kind of stuff that strikes fear into any hitter.  He's more of a pitch-to-contact pitcher who's worked hard and turned himself into a capable pitcher, but had a 6.32 ERA as a Freshman and went 2-5 last year when they finally moved him into the weekend rotation.  Their Saturday starter, John Miles, has a 5+ ERA, and they don't even have a Sunday starter.  In short, you're not seeing Scherzer, Gibson, or Crow out there this weekend.  You're certainly not seeing any Ian Kinslers in the batters box, as they only have two starters hitting over .300 (Catcher Dylan Kelly and RHP/DH Eric Anderson).  Heck, you're not seeing the "Poor Man's Version" of any of them, either.  It's Tim Jamieson's 20th year as head coach, and while he was largely successful in the Big XII, his teams have the look of perennial bottom feeders in the SEC.  Is there any question why my flag only has 49 stars and I refuse to recognize their existence?

Pitching Match-Ups:

Friday : RHP Tyler Beede (6-5, 3.46 ERA) v. RHP Brett Graves (3-3, 2.89 ERA) 6pm CT

Prediction: Vandy 4 - Missourah 2

Saturday: RHP Carson Fulmer (2-1, 1.35 ERA) v. RHP John Miles (2-5, 5.22 ERA) 2pm CT

Prediction: Vandy 11 - Missourah 0

Sunday: RHP Tyler Ferguson (6-3, 2.90 ERA) v. TBA (How is this guy pitching for every team of late?  Are the cloning him?) 1pm CT

Prediction: Vandy 7 - Missourah 4

That's right, it's a sweep.  A much needed sweep if we want to lock down a #1 seed in the tourney, to be honest.  We've already had our mulligans (losing 2 out of three to Arky, aTm, and Those Who Shall Not Be Named, respectively) and our confidence building sweep of UGA.  Beede faced Graves last year and pitched us to a 12-1 laugher which propelled us to a pretty easy sweep of the Tigahs.  I can't predict the same this year, as the series is in Columbia, MO, and Beede, though dominant in 5 innings before the lights went out, has been... let's call it erratic... in starts this year.  While driving to work yesterday, the local ESPN radio affiliate was talking about college baseball.  Specifically, they were doing the, "If I told you at the beginning of the season you could have a rotation of..." cliché to talk about three top pitchers who haven't performed to their projected draft status.  They referenced pre-season projected #1 overall pick Carlos Rodon (3-7, 2.03 ERA), Beede, and aTm's Daniel Mengden (3-6, 4.00 ERA) who probably shouldn't be mentioned in the same sentence as the other two, as I don't remember hearing even a whiff of him being mentioned as a first round pick.  *A quick perusal of BA's college prospect rankings confirms this, as he was the #45 ranked college player, meaning he should expect to go somewhere in the round 3-5 region.

I mention this because while they went on to forgive Rodon's record as he's had no run support whatsoever, and generally ignore Mengden, the analyst had the following to say about Beede (almost definitely misquoted, as I was driving and couldn't write it down): "You can tell what he's going to give you by the end of the first inning.  When he's on, he's on, but when he's not, he doesn't recover."  This is, unfortunately, entirely correct.  He's not a pitcher who can work through a day when he doesn't have his best stuff, as opposed to an Aaron Nola type who can struggle a bit early, figure it out, and then find a way to win with what he's got that day.  I'm not sure why this is (though the consensus is that it's primarily mental), but it certainly seems to be an apt observation, and one I've shared his entire career.

This may seem like a knock, and in certain ways, it is, but this is something that needs to be on Corbin's mind when the tourney starts.  We've got more pitching depth than anyone, and he should start Beede either game 1 or 2 with confidence, but not be afraid to pull him after the first inning and insert Walker Buehler if Beede lacks his A game.

That same analyst, when asked which team has the most talent in the country, chose Vanderbilt.  Let's not forget this.  We may have spun our wheels a few times this season, but absolutely no one's going to want to see us in June.  Let's sweep this unrecognizable group of Midwesterners and carry that momentum into a run at the SEC East crown.  We still play UF and USC.  It's within reach and we've got the talent to do it.  Bring your A games, boys.

Whisky to Drink Whilst Trying to Find an Illegal Video Stream of These Games: Whistle Pig Straight Rye Whisky.  Like Vanderbilt, it's relatively young, but gets high praise for its talent.  Hell, pick up some Herbsaint, Peychaud's Bitters, and a lemon, and have yourself the best damned Sazerac you've ever made.

*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.  On occasion, he will develop Missourah-based face blindness and will be completely unable to accept that they are now an SEC team.