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2021 Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #5: Answers to Your Questions

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

USPS Tote Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

Question from Athanatos504:

The separation on the staff between Rocker/Leiter and everyone else is pretty striking. I think Little needs more time in the mid-week, but should we try out Reilly in the Sunday spot or give Schultz more time?

Christian Little is the future. Full stop. He looked phenomenal against Belmont on Tuesday: 4IP 1H 0R 2BB 7K in 55 pitches. Beyond that, you could see his confidence in full bloom, and how devastating his arm-run fadeaway changeup can be on lefties. After his final inning, I tweeted:

Unfortunately, the telling stat there is not the 7K in 4 IP, nor the 3 up, 3 down final frame, nor being able to do all this an economical 55 pitches. The telling stat is that despite his dominance and low pitch count, Corbs and Brownie didn’t let him go out for the 5th. As such, they’re handling the 17 year old early enrollee with appropriate kid gloves. He’s on the Walker Buehler plan: mid-week starter all year, but hopefully tournament hero later. I just hope they start letting him throw 80-100 pitches soon.

In other words, you and I are on the same wavelength here. The only pitching problem we currently have is to figure out our Sunday starter.

Thomas “The Mayor” Schultz has, of course, allowed for this debate with his recent less than stellar outing in Stillwater.

On Sunday against the Pokes (his, and the team’s, 2nd loss of the season), The Mayor went only 1 & 23 IP 6H 6R 0BB 2K on 61 pitches. It’s a strange line, to be sure, as normally when a starter doesn’t make it out of the 2nd frame, and gives up 6 runs, they have walked more than their fair share. This is disconcerting, as it implies opposing hitters are seeing the ball out of his hand easily. Now I’m not seeing anything to indicate he’s tipping his pitches, nor that he’s had a precipitous drop in velo, but he certainly has some work to do with Brownie in the pitching lab.

I do think it’s more likely a blip than a trend, as The Mayor was lights out in his previous start against UIC: 5IP 1H 0R 0BB 8K in 88 pitches.

On the other hand, he was average at best in his first outing (his and the team’s first loss this season) against Georgia State: 4 & 13 IP 2H 2R 4BB 75 pitches.

I tend to think they will roll with Schultz for at least two more starts to let him work himself out of his funk. If he has a game like he did against the Pokes against the Penises this weekend, they might need to make a move. Even then, I don’t think that move will be to Little. At that point, they would likely try out Sam Hliboki or Ethan Smith in the Sunday spot (more likely Hliboki than Smith until Murphy returns from Covid). Had Doolin not shaken hands with Tommy John earlier, he would have been the guy.

Question from lidore16:

I was pretty impressed by what I saw from the middle infield this weekend, both defensively and at the plate. Currently, Carter Young has 4 HRs (tied for team lead) and is fielding at .951% while Kolwyk has hit 3 HRs and and has yet to make an error at 2nd base. By season’s end, which of the two do you think has more HRs and which has a better fielding percentage?

The good news is that Kolwyck has seemingly replaced Harry Ray’s offensive and defensive production.

Here’s Harry Ray’s stat line from last season (18 games): .242/.347/.355 with 4 2B, 1 HR, and 13 RBI. He had a .979 fielding percent, as well.

Here’s the Tater this year (14 games): .240/.350/.540 with 4 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, and 13 RBI (1.000 fielding percent).

The even better news is that Mighty Carter Young’s bat has proved to be even better than advertised: .382/.448/.764 with 5 2B, 2 3B, 4 HR, and 13 RBI (.951 fielding percent).

I’m just glad that our biggest defensive concern (replacing Harry Ray at 2nd) is no longer a concern, and that Tate’s fall ball power bat has shown up against in season competition.

Still, I’ll answer your question. As a former 2nd baseman, I will grant that the SS faces many more balls per game, and that Young’s impressive range will lead to more errors that a lesser defender wouldn’t even get to. As such, I’ll take Tate on fielding percentage (though Young is the far superior defender). I’ll also take Tate on dingers, as his launch angle is more intentional, whereas Carter’s much more of a gap power guy who occasionally drives it over the fence.

Young is the better player, but give me the Tater on both of the stats in question.

Question from captainwjm:

It seems we’re getting picked off base quite a lot; alarmingly a lot. Is that because we’re being too aggressive on base, or is there some issue with coaching at first? And, what’s the record for a team being picked off the most?

Of course I agree with you that our #1 issue is being picked off. It needs to stop. Corbs, Baxter, and Macias need to fix it. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for you. It appears to me that most of them are brain farts, so we just need to get the guys more mentally focused on the base paths.

As for your final question, I went looking, and couldn’t even find the team stat anywhere. Seriously, check the NCAA’s team stats page. It’s not even an option on individual or team stats. I will say, unofficially, of course, that this team has gotten picked off at a higher rate than I have ever seen. It’s a problem. It can be fixed, and needs to be a priority amongst the coaching staff. I trust that it is.

Question from shoogymgshoogs:

What record is it going to take to win the SEC this year? Do we have an advantage in the east?

I would love to be able to answer this question definitively, but that’s pretty impossible right now. Quite clearly, the SEC is the strongest conference in baseball. This has been true most every year I’ve been alive, though, and has been increasingly true since in the Tim Corbin era. Nearly every ranking has Vandy, Arky, the Jorts, and both Mississippi teams in their top 5 in some order (with Arky mostly being #1). It will be a meat grinder and though one will emerge at the top, all five have a legitimate change to take home the trophy in Omaha.

I’d say 24-6, maybe 23-7 gets the job done, as no series, save for the SEC-Big XII matchup against Missourh (spits), will sweeps be expected.

Question from VandyBucco:

Huge Pittsburgh Pirates fan and 2017 Vandy undergrad alum…I’m sure this will be discussed ad nauseam as the draft approaches, but as far as I’m concerned the Pirates are already on the clock TODAY regarding their #1 overall pick. In short, if you’re their GM and were forced to make the decision between Rocker and Leiter right now who are you going with?

Lots of discussion already over at the Pirates site Bucs Dugout on this topic and more folks are inclined to go with Leiter than you may expect, largely due to his pedigree and the fact that due to the Pirates limited financial means and proclivity to dump stars for prospects as they near free agency, fans are expecting the Bucs will only enjoy the first 4-5 years of either pitcher’s professional career missing out on further potential development down the line (see: Gerrit Cole). The consensus seems to be Leiter is more polished and big league-ready, while Rocker may be more durable and enjoy a longer career due to his frame, hence the somewhat surprising relative leaning towards Leiter.

I know it may not be fun to think about these guys as anything other than Dores but we can’t ignore the inevitable and to me, it’s just as fun watching our many pro alumni succeed in the Bigs as it is to watch them on campus.

Side note – I’m new to the site and having just recently graduated I want to share the fun fact that at Vandy I was fortunate enough to be semi-close with/in classes with some of our biggest name athletes of the recent past: Damien Jones, Dansby, Carson Fulmer, just to name a few. Also had the pleasure of writing a group essay with Zander Wiel and Walker Buehler in a course titled “Sociology through Baseball” (class was 30 students, half of them on the baseball team. Oh and also, I got us an “A” on it lol).

Those memories will stay, by the way (says the man who has repeatedly brought up the time he took a Poli Sci class with Jovan Haye in print for some reason).

As for your question, I will not pretend to know what the Pirates’ GM and Scouts are thinking. However, if it’s me, I’ve got Rocker #1 and Leiter #1a. I really don’t think you can go wrong with either, of course, but the big fella has the longer track record of dominance. His heater-slider combination can play in an MLB rotation right now. So can Leiter’s deeper arsenal of pitches. Flip a coin, right?