"Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them."
-Joseph Heller, Catch-22
"War [Eagle] - huh, good God, y'all - what is it good for? Absolutely nothing."
SEC Week Two
#4 Vanderbilt Commodores (17-4, 3-0 SEC) v. Auburn Tigers/War Eagles/Wildcats/Bulldogs /Hilltoppers/Fightin' Irish/Jackwagons (14-7 ,0-3 SEC)
Fellow Commodore Baseball scribe Jenn Greening went to Auburn, and it holds some sort of sentimental value for her, so I'll not be brutal here. I'll just be honest. Brutally honest.
I'll never begrudge someone her college experience. For Jenn, Auburn was likely where she was challenged by brilliant professors, experienced true freedom (from her parents and intellectually), found herself, tailgated (like a boss), partied (like a boss), and made life-long friendships with genuinely great people. It's a gorgeous campus, architecturally, and a few of the more capable of my former grad school colleagues hold their BA or MA from this institution.
My undergraduate experience with Auburn was... different. In my sophomore year at Vandy, I lived across the hall from a guy named Bama Joe. Bama Joe grew up near Auburn and all of his high school friends went there. When Auburn came to Nashville, Bama Joe's friends came up for the weekend. They were three truckloads of camo hats, dip cans, and hunting vests, but at first, I had a blast with them. Their flatbeds must have been filled with a pallet of beer - some piss-water Lite like Natty, Keystone, or the Beast, if I recall correctly - and they started drinking immediately. They invited me over, and we drank. My recollection of that night ends there, but there are pictures of me wearing a giant foam hat, so that ought to give you the idea of the type of night we had.
At 8am the next morning, there was a knock on my door. With a lower lip full of dip, one of Bama Joe's friends asked if I had any beer, as the stores weren't open yet. Being too hung over to stomach the thought of another beer, I gave him the half-case we had in the beer pong fridge, and went back to sleep.
15 minutes later, another hunting vest came over to ask, "Any emtpies we can use as spitters?" I told him I had none, but there must be a gross of them at Bama Joe's place. "Oh they used up," he said. "I'll just swallow till this can's empty."
Come Sunday, my place was filled with the acrid smell of tobacco spit and stale beer. You couldn't turn around without knocking over one of their "spitters." They had started a fire on the lawn for some reason. A few floor tiles were cracked and I don't want to tell you what the bathroom looked like. AND I WAS JUST THE PLACE NEXT DOOR.
So, with all due respect to Jenn and Bo Jackson... I like driving in my truck...
Auburn: .288/.380/.407 with 39 2B, 8 3B, 9 HR, 11-26 SB-ATT
Vanderbilt: .314/.410/.444 with 42 2B,12 3B, 10 HR, 43-57 SB-ATT
We're winning every statistical category here, but the ones that stand out are batting average and stolen bases. Auburn runs less than half as often as Vandy does, and by the numbers, they should probably cut that number in half, as well. They're only successful on 42% of their attempts, and seeing as catchers who throw out around 40% of base-runners are considered pretty good at holding runners on, you shouldn't expect Auburn to run us to death. Other than Jr. LF Jordan Ebert, who's 3/4, and So. CF Anfernee "Penny" Grier who's 4/8, you shouldn't expect any Auburn runners to, well, run (save for a wild pitch or passed ball). Add to this that Karl Ellison is gunning down 71% of would be base stealers, and Auburn should not even think of taking an extra bag.
Auburn: 3.57 ERA, 9.00 K/9, 4.01 BB/9, .245 b/avg, 6 HR allowed, 17 WP, 15 HPB
Vanderbilt: 2.71 ERA, 9.78 K/9, 5.29 BB/9, .191 b/avg, 7 HR allowed, 20 WP, 14 HPB
Vanderbilt has the distinct advantage on opponent's batting average, ERA, and strikes out a few more batters. Auburn appears to have better control (though our numbers are inflated due to Turd Ferguson's Rick Ankiel Disease). We will have the advantage in each day's pitching match-up - and with our starters, this will likely be the case against pretty much everyone - and, unfortunately for Auburn, save for their closer, Justin Camp (more on him below), their bullpen is a mess right now.
Most Dangerous Bat
Auburn's got two guys hitting north of .350, but their best bat is at the top of their order. Sophomore Center Fielder and lead-off man Anfernee "Penny" Grier is tearing it up early in the season. He's posted a slash of .415/.520/.549 with 9 2B and 1 3B. The lead-off hitter can work a walk, and has 14 of them thus far. However, he strikes out just as often - 15 on the year - which is not ideal for a lead-off man. Still, Vanderbilt should have the advantage, here, as Grier is a righty, and we will counter with three power RHPs who all have miss-the-bat stuff.
Most Dangerous Arm
This is an easy pick, as well. Their weekend starters have been all right, but nothing to write home about. Their Closer, however, is nasty. RHP Justin Camp, the RS Junior horticulturalist (it's fun to look up their majors), has 4 saves thus far and has posted a 1.46 ERA. His strike-out numbers, however, tell the story. The stocky RHP has K'd 20 through 12 and 1/3 IP for a nasty 14.59 K/9 rate. Let's not try to score 4 in the 9th against him this weekend, okay? Maybe we could, I don't know, hold a lead all weekend and not have to see him, please and thank you?
Auburn actually has two quality wins, so we shouldn't take them lightly. In the end of February weekend tourney they hosted, they beat both #23 Georgia Tech (7-2) and Oklahoma State (9-2), who was ranked earlier in the year.
This is a toss-up between getting housed 11-5 to Binghamton on the 2nd day of their season, or getting blanked 7-0 to Samford (and Son) on March 10th. They've lost 4 of their last five, though three of them were to #5 aTm (21-0). Facing aTm and Vanderbilt in the first two weeks of conference play? You big dummies...
Friday at 6pm (SECN+): Jr. RHP Carson Fulmer (3-0, 1.91) vs. So. RHP Keegan Thompson (3-2, 4.11)
Saturday at 7pm (ESPNU): Jr. RHP Walker Buehler (1-0, 1.50) vs. Jr. RHP Trey Wingenter (1-1, 3.24)
Sunday at 1pm (SECN+): RS Fr. RHP Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 1.75) vs. Sr. RHP Rocky McCord (1-1, 2.67)
In the last 4 years, we've taken 10 of 12 from Auburn and are 6-0 against them at Plainsman Park. This year should feature more of the same.
*Nickname Update: Ryan Johnson
As promised, I have finally come up with the perfect nickname for crafty lefty freshman Ryan Johnson. Though I originally called him RyJo (a convoluted "We can call him HoJu" Simpsons reference), we all knew that was nothing but a mere placeholder.
The Nickname: Vermeer
The reason: Because he's doesn't just paint corners - he's a master of pin-pointillism.