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Baseball Mail Bag #8: Answers To Questions from our Readers

Letters... we get letters... we get stacks and stacks of letters...

US Postal Service Employees Protest Possible Privatization On Tax Day Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

I put out a call for mailbag questions this morning... and the bag filled up within minutes. Seeing as I have an off period now, why not open the bag?

Question from Anonymous:

What will it take for Mason Hickman to be promoted to Sunday starter? He’s had far fewer duds than Mad Dog Raby.

First of all, I thought you Guy Fawkes mask donning hacktivists had more pressing concerns, what with bringing down the oligarchy, evading Johnny Law, and sending your digital carrier pigeons through a system of tubes and/or Lawnmower Men (I have no idea how the internets work)... but who am I to judge?

As for your question, it’s a sad, but much needed one. In his first few starts, Raby was the senior leader, pin-point accurate, thinking man’s pitcher we had all hoped would re-emerge after a sub-par 2018. His last two starts? Yikes.

This Sunday vs. Arkansas, in a game in which we should have had the clear pitching advantage (I mean, 4 year starter vs. “TBA”), this was Raby’s line:

3 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 WP

Last Saturday vs. Georgia—the start which prompted Corbs to move Rocker up a day in the rotation—was even worse:

3 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 HBP

That’s a 16.50 ERA in his last two starts, folks.

Of course, he went 5 scoreless against the Aggies and 6 scoreless against The Jorts to open the season, so we know two things: 1) He is eminently capable of making SEC offenses look silly, and 2) His recent woes were not brought on by a pre-season injury and/or a tired arm (as we had to assume last year).

So what’s wrong with Raby? To be honest, I don’t know. He has been consistently in the low 90s the past two starts, so there’s no drop in velo so as to indicate arm tiredness, or worse, a dead arm. Could it be mental? I also can’t say. I don’t see anything wrong mechanically, but he has not been getting as much movement, and his pitches, especially his fastballs, have been finding too much of the plate of late.

Meanwhile, as you also correctly point out, last year’s Sunday starter, So. RHP Mason Hickman, has been doing his best Walker Buehler in ‘14 impression, as he’s 4-0 with a 1.93 ERA in 42 IP through 10 appearances (4 starts).

To be honest, we’ll know our answer tonight. If Hickman is on the mound, Corbs will give Raby another shot to get right vs. Ramajama this Sunday. If any of the other young guns—like Chance “The Pitcher” Huff, who has 4 starts on the year—are on the mound, expect Hickman in this weekend’s rotation. It’s a tough call, as Raby has been a warrior for us for four years, but he might need to be the midweek guy for the rest of the year (until he figures it all out). I just hope Raby doesn’t suffer the same fate as T.J. Pecoraro, another former Commodore Freshman All-American.

Question(s) from Parlagi:

Is 40 regular season wins enough for a national seed? That would mean going 10-5 in the SEC, and a midweek loss to either Louisville or Indiana State.

Is a decent showing in the SEC Tournament enough at that point, or would they need to win out in Hoover?

With the caveat that I am no oracle, no Cassandra, nor even a Jackie Stallone (though, like Sir Mix-a-Lot before me, I do have an advanced proficiency in Rumpology)... I am pretty confident a 40 win season, with a 19-11 SEC record (we’re currently 9-6 in conference) would make us a National Seed. Depending on where you look, we’re either #5 or #6 in the polls, and #3 in the RPI. In other words, if the season were to end today, we’re a National Seed barring some form of tomfoolery. Closing out 10-5 in conference, and 3-1 out of conference (as you propose) would likely keep us exactly where we’re currently at. It’s an appropriate goal, however, let’s not look too far in the distance. Let’s beat The Larry Birds tonight, and take care of business in Gumpland this weekend.

Oh why not... I am a lunatic... bonus question:

Next week, Vanderbilt has no midweek game, and had a game rained out against Pepperdine earlier this year.

Tennessee Wesleyan is #3 and Freed-Hardeman is #6 in the latest NAIA rankings.

How do we make a random Tuesday afternoon exhibition game against one of them happen? You know it would be awesome.

I suspect the reason we have no midweek game next week is our series with the War Tigers starts on Thursday. Of course, I am always in favor of more baseball. I’d be more up for a Tuesday scrimmage versus The Sounds, though. Make it a Thirsty Tuesday.

Question from Athanatos504:

Where is Becker?

The curmudgeonly NY medical doctor, Becker, played by Ted Danson, was a fictional television character, though he presumably lives on in syndication. If you’re asking what happened to Ted Danson since Becker, he has had a bit of a career renaissance of late—starring in NBC’s The Good Place as Michael, a demon who turns good whilst learning to love the very humans he was charged with tormenting, as well as a recurring role as himself in HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, which will be returning to the air soon. He’s also doing a bunch of commercials for vodka for some reason.

If you’re referring to the whereabouts of freshman righty Austin “Big Walnut” Becker, that is much more of a mystery. He has only been given the ball twice this year, for a total of 4 IP. In one appearance, he dominated. In another, he got rocked. He hasn’t been seen since SEC play started.

Answer: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Question from VandyImport:

Plainly the whole gray-green Prussian thing is not working for us. Is there one good reason why we shouldn’t ditch those new uniforms and bring back the Captain America suits with the quickness? It’s not superstition if it works, people.

You’ll get no argument from me. Captain America taught our nation’s youth to punch Nazis. Our current nation is all, “But should we?” Yes. Punch Nazis. Every time.

Back to the uniforms... Corbs has made it worse by wearing a muted moss green batting helmet as third base coach, as well.

No. Just... no.

Question from HometownHero:

This has nothing to do with baseball, but I’ve noticed that Vandy has been in a lot more “Top 6 Schools” lists for highly ranked (4 star) football recruits lately. What tomfoolery is this? Has Mason finally found the magic? Will he be able to close?

Re-read the directions. 2 minutes in the penalty box.