Last night’s win over the Western Kentucky Fightin’ Sentient Red Blobs was a sight to behold. Or at least most of it was. Down 4-2 in the 9th, Austin “Bond Car” Martin and JJ “Ble-dinger” Bleday went yard to tie it. In the bottom of the 10th, with the bases loaded and 2 outs, JJ Bleday stepped up to the plate once again. In the most critical moment of the game, as those of you who were commenting on the game thread know, my ESPN app failed me, and literally did the “your event has ended” screen before pitch one to Bleday.
As such, though the stat tracker claims simply that Bleday had a single to center, giving us the win, AoG reader/commenter Parlagi filled in the gaps for me: “And then JJ Bleday kicked THREE Hilltoppers in the penis, and Vanderbilt was awarded six bonus runs. The end.”
You hate to miss a dramatic ending like that.
Question from RancorIsGold:
This weekend promises to be decided by whether Georgia’s pitching can stand up to our offense. While both teams sport strong bullpens and high fielding %, the Bulldogs’ pitching looks comparable to aTm’s and statistically better than ours, at least at this point, yet our offensive stats are pretty much superior across the board. What adjustments would you make for our second away SEC series?
Small sample size aside, to edit out the noise of the non-conference schedule, it may be more enlightening to compare the two teams based on SEC play only. At the moment, we’ve played three more than cromulent teams (aTm, Jorts, and Chuggers), while they have played one good team (LSU) and two likely bottom dwellers (Kentucky and the South Cackalacky Game Penises). Still, it’s much more easy to compare our conference stats than stats including a bunch of non-conference games against the Kennessaw Mountain Landis Agricultural and Technical Institute and whatnot.
Let’s go to the stats: <—Seriously... click that link if you want to do the deep dive.
Three weeks into SEC play, Georgia ranks 10th in batting average (.238), but 3rd in team ERA (3.22)—whereas we are 2nd (.313) and 5th (3.39), respectively.
In direct comparison, the ERAs are basically a wash, but we have a substantially better offense. Seriously. Our conference play team OPS (.882) dwarfs theirs (.681). In 9 SEC games, we have 11 more extra base hits and have knocked in 22 more runs than they have. That’s a lot.
All of this is to say I would not make a whole heck of a lot of lineup changes. In fact, the one change I would make would be to try to take advantage of the platoon advantage (specifically right handed batters against left handed pitchers) more than we have thus far. More specifically, I would use Jayson Gonzalez at DH against LHPs. I’m not entirely sure why Corbs has not been doing that.
On the mound, I would go to the pen sooner when it seems like the starter doesn’t have it that day. I know this has been a decades-long gripe, but what’s the use of building an arsenal of arms this deep if you’re going to pitch like all you have available in the pen is a freshman walk-on long reliever who has the yips?
Question from CommodoreVU:
Why is Gonzo not an everyday player? How do you keep a .500 OBP player out of the lineup? I understand that our lineup is loaded and it would be hard to remove one of our everyday players since almost everyone is hitting lights out, but Corbin has to find a way to play Gonzo more. Can’t we play Scott at 1B and DH Gonzalez? Is Infante really that valuable in the field and does Corbin really still think 2017 Chinfante will eventually re-emerge? There’s no way you can keep Gonzalez out of the lineup with the way he has been hitting this year. Corbin has to find a way to play him every day.
You’re not going to like the answer, but here it is: defense, depth, and sample size. While I absolutely think Gonzo should be our platoon advantage DH (RH bat facing LHPs), and our first RH power bat off the bench—and am so pleased with his development and approach at the plate this year—we have to be able to make it work defensively. This depth problem is a great one to have, of course, but it’s going to make it tough for Gonzo to get as many plate appearances as his bat has warranted this season.
Gonzo’s natural defensive position is 3B. At the moment, All-World hitter Austin “Bond Car” Martin is occupying the hot corner, and though he has had his share of ups and downs defensively, he and Gonzo are a wash in terms of defensive runs saved. You’re not replacing Martin with... well... anyone, honestly. He is seriously the best hitter in college baseball right now. Full Stop. Further, though Corbs tried Martin out at 2nd earlier this year, that experiment was a clear failure, and Harry Ray has been a godsend defensively.
Further still, Martin can certainly play any OF position (and would be better suited there at the moment than at 3B, honestly), but who are we going to move to the bench to accommodate this shift? There is no universe in which removing Cooper Davis from the leadoff spot in the lineup would not be pure baseball malpractice. JJ Bleday is JJ Freaking Bleday. Could you move Scott to DH and Martin to LF (so as to get Gonzo in at 3B)? Of course you could... but not for much longer. In other words, the defense/depth issue is just going to get worse when DMC returns from his hammy injury, thus moving Davis to LF and Scott to damn near full time DH.
Gonzo can, in theory, play 3B, 1B, or DH. While we have not seen him play 1B, and thus cannot guarantee he cannot do it, it is at least telling that Corbs went with Scott over Gonzo at 1B during Chinfante’s early season concussion.
As for playing Scott at 1B, I addressed that in last week’s mailbag. As my opinion has not changed, I’ll paste it below:
Here’s the thing: I almost never go back on what I write in these columns, but I no longer think Stephen Scott can play a cromulent enough first base defense to keep Chinfante out of the lineup. I know, I know... anyone should be able to play first base, but at the moment, only Chinfante has proven capable of stretching to get the close out, being able to catch the tough short hop throw, and hence, providing stability at the position. I will grant you that it is extraordinarily odd that our weakest hitter mans the cold corner, but unless Corbs wants to give Clarke a shot there, or freshman man-mountain John Malcom comes out of obscurity to wrest the position away, Chinfante it is. Scott can play a passable left field, and should be the every day DH once DMC returns to CF, but that aTm series was enough to convince me Scott should only be an emergency option at 1B. He just doesn’t have the height/arm length for the job. I am becoming more and more okay with this. Beyond that, if Chinfante can ever get back to the power-hitting form he displayed as a sophomore, our dominant lineup will achieve Death Star status.
Still, you are certainly correct. Gonzo needs more ABs. Feel free to figure out how without turning our defense into a liability. Pretty sure this is what they do in Multivariable Calculus.
Question from VandyImport:
Never mind the bullpen, with our starters doing a good impersonation of mid-90s Tom Glavine, is it time to consider throwing an “opener” out there to close out the first inning so our starters don’t put us behind the eight ball??
(Yes this is largely facetious, but I’m bitter I didn’t get to post the picture of me in my class A seersucker in a field of California poppies talking about walking through the orange blood of the conquered foe. Also I’m punchy. Never drive on I-5, it smells.)
To be honest, with the sheer volume of talented arms we have at our disposal, I don’t hate the idea of a Tampa Bay Devil Rays style opener. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it.
More than that, though, I just think Corbs needs to be a little less “starters must try to go 7 IP to save the bullpen” as we just have so many talented arms at our disposal. If the starter is rolling, ride him as far as he’ll take you. However, if he just doesn’t have it, there’s no real reason not to get someone up right away.
I know, I know... he kept Rocker out there on Sunday so he can learn how to battle back when he doesn’t have his top stuff, so he will be able to do that in the future... but here’s the thing: it’s conference play now. It is the future. You owe it to the rest of the team to do what you can to win that game. Yes, you will need Rocker down the line, but you will also need Hickman, Eder, Gillis, Brown, and on and on. If Rocker needs that level of hands-off management, swap him out with Hickman and let him work through things during the mid-week games.
Worked pretty damned well for Buehler.
Question from Athanatos504:
What’s the plural of RBI? RBI or RBIs?