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The Cocktail Series: Vanderbilt v. Ole Miss

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Save the date.

What I assume the stands will look like this week.
What I assume the stands will look like this week.
Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Vanderbilt cordially invites the fine ladies and gentlemen from Oxford, Mississippi to Hawkins Field for three sporting matches of baseball Thursday April 9th-Saturday April 11th.  Cocktails will be served before, during, and after each match.  Dress: Summer Formal.  Brunch will be served on Sunday in lieu of a game.  With cocktails.

SEC Week Five

#1 Vanderbilt (27-7, 10-2 SEC) v. Ole Miss (16-17, 5-7 SEC)

Vanderbilt has won every SEC series this year, is currently ranked #1 in the nation, and lost to the Lipscomb Bisons for some reason this week DID NOT HAVE A MID-WEEK GAME THIS WEEK.  Ole Miss fans like to get dressed up and drink cordials outside.  Let's make this happen.

Aside from being the classiest series this side of an Oxford v. Cambridge cricket match, this is an odd series.  Ole Miss was good last year.  Real good.  CWS good.  Damn near beat Virginia to face us in the CWS Finals good.

What happened?

I... don't know.  In fact, let's stack a few key stats up next to each other and see how this year's Ole Miss team fares against their '14 version.

Batting

'14: .297/.367/.411 121 2B, 15 3B, 42 HR (*in 69 games)
'15: .251/.354/.343 53 2B, 2 3B, 17 HR (*in 33 games)

They're down across the board, but stranger than that, where they're most different from last year's team is in slugging percentage.  With the new ball (tighter seams, travels a bit further), slugging percentages are almost universally up a tick, but not with Ole Miss.  They're projected to finish with about 7 home runs fewer than last year (not to mention the 11 fewer triples).  For comparison's sake, Vandy has already hit 3 more jacks this year than all of last year, and is on pace to hit 53 HR (31 more than '14, when they hit 22 long balls in 72 games).  Unless Ole Miss's hitting coach says, "Hit the seams, not the ball," this doesn't cotton.

He has some interesting theories about ice, heat.

In short, they are sorely missing Will Allen, Auston Bousfield, and Austin Anderson, last year's top three hitters.  Last year's team had 4 guys batting north of .300; this year's team has 1.  Worse yet, many of the returning starters are underperforming, like Sikes "Baseball Name" Orvis, who hit .294/.397/.540 last year, but is barely hanging on to his spot in the line-up with a .232/.356/.491 line this year.  His power numbers are still there, but he's just not making enough contact to matter.

Pitching

'14: 2.72 ERA, .245 b/avg, 7.17 K/9, 2.71 BB/9, 41 Unearned Runs, 30 WP (*in 69 games)
'15: 4.14 ERA, .260 b/avg, 7.44 K/9, 3.05 BB/9, 37 Unearned Runs, 26 WP (*in 33 games)

While the ERA jump and extra 0.15 b/avg is not great, it's the unearned runs and wild pitches that stand out.  They're walking a few more than they did last year, but striking out a few more, too.  However, they've nearly matched last year's totals in unearned runs and wild pitches in slightly under half the games.  In short, they're on pace to double their totals in these ignominious categories, and that's not great.

Though they only lost Chris Ellis (10-3, 2.55 ERA) from their three-headed monster of Trent, Ellis, and Smith, the returning starters, just as the hitters, are not performing to their '14 levels.

Let's start with their de facto Ace:

'14 Christian Trent: (9-0, 2.05 ERA)

'15 Christian Trent: (5-2, 3.83 ERA)

While the '15 version of Christian Trent is less Reznor and more "Terence D'Arby," he's still pitching well enough to warrant attention from scouts.  Their presumptive Saturday starter coming into the year, Sam Smith, is pitching like he just found out he's an untalented hack and all he's done is rip off Tom Petty and turn it into a crappy slow jam.

'14 Sam Smith: (5-4, 3.61 ERA)

'15 Sam Smith: (1-4, 7.24 ERA)

You can suck it, Sam Smith.  What you do is not music, and making 13 year old girls cry is not a talent, you pompadoured professional whiner pitching.

Fielding

'14: .973 FLD %, .778 SBA (stolen bases allowed) %
'15: .967 FLD %, .765 SBA %

No real change here.

In short, they're not hitting for near the average or power as their '14 CWS team, their pitchers are erratic and more hittable, but at least their defense is about what they would expect.  The talent's there, at least on the pitching mound, but let's drink to them not figuring it out for at least 3 more days.

Or any other reason to drink.

I like to drink.

Probable Starters

Thursday at 6:30pm (ESPNU): Jr. RHP Carson Fulmer (5-1, 2.25 ERA) vs. Jr. LHP Christian "Terence D'Arby" Trent (5-2, 3.83 ERA)

Friday at 6:30pm (SECN+): Jr. RHP Walker Buehler (3-0, 2.76 ERA) vs. So. RHP Brady "BB" Bramlett (4-2, 2.17 ERA)

Saturday at 2:00pm (SECN): RS Fr. RHP Jordan Sheffield (3-0, 2.66 ERA) vs. Fr. RHP Will "I'm Only Pitching Because Sam Smith Sucks" Stokes (0-3, 5.40 ERA)