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2021 Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #7: Answers to Your Questions

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


Question from HMS’Dore:

1. How much longer does “the mayor” have remaining in his term as the sunday starter?

2. From what we have seen so far, is there someone else who is ready to step into that role? or will sundays remain “pitching by committee” for the rest of the season?

Well, we know now that Patrick Reilly got the ball this Sunday (though he only went 3 IP, surrendered 3 R, and took the L). My answer (if I had time to answer this before the series started) would have been Sam Hliboki. He piggybacked Reilly, but only lasted 23 of an inning before grabbing his arm (the dreaded forearm ligament grab that can only mean one thing, but I will hold off on naming it until actual news breaks that the worst did, in fact, happen).

I thought Reilly looked about as good as Schultz did, but Schultz’s arm is more stretched out. If I were making the decisions, I’d tell Ethan Smith to expect to start this Sunday. He started last year, and looked more than capable. With the mounting injuries to our pitchers, we need a guy who can go deep into a game. That’s Smith at this point.

Question from Athanatos 504:

1. Does Mainieri coach for LSU next year?

2. In your honest assessment, is Vandy really the best team in the country right now?

I’ll answer #2 first. Prior to the Georgia series (when this question was asked), the answer would have been HELL YES. Now? With the mounting injuries (Tate Kolwyck—broken hamate bone, out at least 3-4 more weeks, I would think; I.T.—unknown leg injury, out TBD; Coop—same as I.T.; Sam Hliboki—grabbed his forearm, which is a harbinger of doom; Michael Doolin—out all year with Tommy John surgery), we’ve been humbled a bit. The good news is we should get Coop and I.T. back relatively soon (I think), and Tate will be back before the SEC Tourney (I hope, though those hamate bone injuries have been known to sap a hitter of his power when they return). We’ve still got the most dangerous 1-2 punch in the game in Rocker and Leiter.

In short, we’ve still got the potential to win it all. I would no longer say to write our names in Sharpie on that trophy (which I would have said last week). Now, well, we’re in the mix with the best teams at the top, and the rankings are immaterial. In other words, I no longer see a no doubt #1 team in the land. I see a tier of top teams with us, Arky, Clanga, and Ole Piss. Maybe Texas, too, but I haven’t had any time to watch Big XII baseball this year (outside of our series with Okie State and Missourah).

As for Mainieri, you have to believe that seat is now as hot as summers in Louisiana. I think he gets to conveniently blame Jaden Hill’s arm injury and buys himself another year. If the Gumbo Bengals are even middle of the pack in 2022, though? He gone.

Question from RocketCityVandy:

Opinions on Arkansas? With them losing to Auburn on Thursday, and barely squeaking out the last two to win that series, looks like they may be entering a slump to my untrained eye.

Escaping Auburn with a 2-1 series victory, with both of those wins coming by one run, would certainly be something to keep my eye on. Beating Ole Piss 2 games to 1 this past weekend erases those doubts. They’re for real, but so is Ole Piss and Clanga. No one’s getting out of SEC conference play this year without taking on some real damage.

Question from VUSpaceMan:

In past years it’s felt like our success in the post season has been more attributable to having 4 or even 5 starter caliber pitchers than to the dominance of our best 1 or 2. In the regionals and first week of Omaha, you really need an advantage every night. Obviously 2 dominant guys can win you a super or a final series without help.

All that to ask, are we in trouble in the post season if we don’t find 1 or 2 more reliable starters? Am I underestimating the guys we have in those roles? Are our bats too good to worry?

True, we’ve never had dominance at the top of the rotation like we have in Rocker and Leiter right now. Of course, no team save for when UCLA had Gerritt Cole and Trevor Bauer has ever had top of the rotation dominance like we do.

As mentioned above, coming into this year, we had both top of the rotation dominance, and unbelievable depth. After Michael Doolin shook hands with Tommy John, I still thought we were in great shape. Now with Hliboki going down, either Ethan Smith will have to be as good in the starting rotation as he was in 2020, Schultz will have to get out of his own head and rediscover what allowed him to hold off everyone else really soon, Christian Little will have to mature a few years in a few weeks, or Patrick Reilly will have to develop a third pitch so as to be able to make it through the lineup more than once. Is this doable? Yes. Also, if any tournament caliber team in America only had Rocker, Leiter, and then Johnny Wholestaff bullpen style games every other day, you’d still handicap them as the odds on favorites to win it all in Omaha. That’s how good Rocker and Leiter are.

What we need is 1) Our injured hitters to get healthy and return to what they were doing before they got injured, and 2) At least one, if not two, of the names listed above to prove competent as a starter (say, averaging 5 IP and a sub 4.00 ERA when starting).

I think we can manage that.

Question from Parlagi:

Fairfield is now 8-0 and ranked #3 in RPI. Which regional should they take, Miami’s or UCLA’s?

Dear readers, you will be pleased to know that my lateness in answering these questions just made Parlagi’s question even stronger. According to the newly released Warren Nolan RPI, Fairfield is now 14-0 and #2 in the RPI. They are currently taking Ole Miss’s regional.

*Go to hell, Ole Piss.

Question from Force10JC:

Is Gumbeaux really better with Tiger? How well do the leftovers freeze?

1) No. It is best with chicken and sausage.

2) Not well. You can certainly freeze leftover gumbo, and it will taste good when you reheat it, but make sure not to look at the defrosted gumbo as it gloops down into the pot. Seeing as you must first make a roux with flour and oil (pro tip—brown your sliced andouille sausage in the dutch oven or pot you plan to cook the gumbo in first; that way you can use the sausage drippings to make your roux, use less oil, and the whole thing tastes infinitely better), freezing gumbo is a little like freezing gravy. It crystallizes oddly, and defrosts into a, well, a gloop. My other pro tip for reheating defrosted gumbo is to add a little more chicken stock to it to thin it out a bit. Helps it cook evenly, too.