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Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #8: Answers to Your Questions

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

Flash fire in Nuremberg bank branch
Me, opening up the mail bag this week.
Photo by Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images

Question(s) from Vandyfan1 & KnockinOnHeavensDore:

Are we going to win a series for the rest of the year?


Are there any reasons to have hope anymore? Or should we just be done with hope?

Yes. Though it may seem like we are in the whirlpool of despair, that’s actually Baton Rouge, LA (according to Ignatius J. Reilly). In fact, we welcome the Jorts (5-7 SEC) this weekend and head to the Kentucky Blue Balls (5-8 SEC) next weekend. If we don’t win one, or maybe even both, of those series, we’re not making the tournament. This team has way more talent than necessary to get in the postseason. Just sack up and play well for three games in a row, you Vondrukes!

In short, there are reasons to hope. In two weeks, if things go horrible wrong, abandon all hope, ye who enter this mail bag (you know, just like feetball season).

Question from BarnDore1950:

Its been noticeable to me that Bradfield Jr. doesn’t seem to have quite the impact he had last year. (He’s not alone in that regard). So I looked up his stats. Last year he hit .370, so far this year, he is hitting .320, still not bad. Last year his OBP was 486. This year it’s dropped to .420. Given he is normally such a disruptive force on the base paths, how much has this drop off impacted our lack of run production? Or is it just lack of timely hitting in general? (Bradfield’s numbers came from so they are not official and I have half blind in any case).

Oh he’s been pissing me off all year. One of the worst things to happen to an OBP and speed type player is to try to be a power hitter instead. It’s like when Woody Allen stopped writing silly stories and movies in which he was chased by a massive, sentient monstrous breast and tried to be a “serious filmmaker of dramas” (and also married his adopted daughter, but that doesn’t fit this analogy as well). Puke.

If you’ve been in our game threads, you know I’m a proponent of former Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown-style tactics in which OBP and speed players have to do pushups every time they hit the ball in the air. Let’s just say I’ve shouted “pushups!” more times than I can count this year when Shockwave’s been at the plate.

His numbers are actually worse than you state. He’s currently slashing .303/.397/.404. Last year, it was .336/.451/.414. His lack of bunt base hits, grounders up the middle, and 3 hop grounders to deep short account for the over 30 point drop in batting average (in its place are fly outs on the first or second pitch, which what the fuck?). The lack of forcing deep counts and fouling off waste pitches until you get something you can handle (plus what’s mentioned in the previous sentence) accounts for the over 50 point drop in on base percentage. Oh, and if reading that isn’t enough of a punch to the grundle, his attempt to turn himself from a Wesley Snipes Willie Mays Hayes perfect leadoff hitter and tormenter of pitchers on the base paths to a bullshit trying to be a power hitter Omar Epps Willie Mays Hayes has resulted in a 10 point drop in power production. All this to allow for a pace of 6 home runs as opposed to 1. (Screams into a pillow.)

Beyond that, though we’re 32 games in, Bradfield has only 18 stolen bags. Last year, in 67 games, he had 47 steals. He’s on pace for about 23 of his freshman year production on the basepaths. Again, puke.

Let’s just say Corbs needs to take a page from the Kevin Stallings playbook and threaten to kill at least one person named Wade Baldwin here. Figuratively.

Question from Mark Simpson:

It is really nice to see Parker heating up. The 2018 VandyBoys dropped their first three SEC series. Things worked out, got to the [Super] Regionals. What needs to happen for the 2022 VandyBoys, to make a similar run. Do you see similarities, with the two teams?

I wouldn’t say losing to Clanga is my definition of things working out, so let’s just say, “things turned around somewhat.” I have mentioned the similarities to the 2016-2018 teams in the past. Of course, the 2018 team had both JJ Bleday and Austin Martin. This team does not. I’d say we’re a better pitching team than was 2018, in terms of pure talent, but Mason Hickman, Drake Fellows, and Patrick Raby were producing somewhat better than our current starters.

Now, I’m not sure what to make of this team. Some combination of McBain, Holton, Futrell, Reilly, and Little should make for a very good to excellent pitching rotation, but other than Futrell in the Walker Buehler midweek role, not a one of them has performed consistently. Well, I guess Little hasn’t been given the chance to do so as a starter. He’s been pretty good in relief (2.70 ERA in 13 & 1/3 IP), and his stuff is tantalizingly good. Of course, the same applied to Reilly until he grabbed the Sunday starter role.

In short, this team doesn’t have the top end talent of the 2018 team at the plate (see Austin Martin and JJ Bleday), but they do have top end talent on the mound. Unfortunately, those top arms are both inconsistent and young (again, Futrell excepted from the former).

Oh, and as for Noland, though he is up to .254/.383/.373, I’d still much rather have the power bat of Gavin “The House” Casas at 1st or DH. He’s been getting no playing time of late, and has a .294/.381/.412 slash line.

Question from VandyOptimist:

Given the talent on this team, it seems (to a very uneducated baseball fan, mind you) like a lot of our issues seem to be mental... Is this the case? What can Corbs and Co. do to get these boys’ minds right?

If I had the answer, I’d tell you. If the coaching staff had the answer, we’d be over .500 in conference play.

Question from Dinard’oh:

Who is “the man” on this team? In years past, I could point to the player (or players) who we all knew was the guy you wanted on the mound or at the plate when the stakes were high. This year, not so much.

This is an excellent question, and the answer is no one. There are so many players who have the talent, ability, and potential to be the man (we all thought it would be Dom Keegan and Carter Young this year, or maybe even Enrique Bradfield), but not a one has grabbed the brass ring. Gun to my head, I’ll say it’s Spencer Jones now, but again, Spencer Jones is basically the sophomore year version of JJ Bleday, as he has only recently committed to hitting full time. Of course, we will not get his Bledinger final form, as some MLB team is going to pick him in the first 2 rounds of the coming draft. I’m going to go cry now.

Question from Vandy04:

If this was radio I would say “long time listener, first time caller”. But that would of course date me. I appreciate the time you put in to answer these questions, it makes following the team more enjoyable. So my question - for this week or next: Any update on Kumar and is he just patiently waiting around until this year’s draft?

He’s on the 2006 Scott Boras agency Luke Hochevar plan, i.e. resting up and getting healthy, and then likely throwing a few starts in an Independent League or a simulated game in front of scouts closer to this year’s draft. Not much else to report.

Question from Chasrad:

Any further thoughts on what ails Carter Young at the plate? There are some times when he seems totally out of it.

We have many carryovers from last year’s team. Are we finally grasping how far Rocker and Leiter (and closers) carried this team?

As I said in the position previews before the season started, losing Rocker, Leiter, Chi Chi the Frame God, and to a slightly lesser extent I.T. and Luke “The Law” Murphy was always going to hurt. The first three were not just excellent college players, but great leaders. Chi Chi was perhaps the best defensive catcher I’ve ever seen on the college level. Jack was the best pitcher I’ve seen in college since Mark Prior. Kumar was Kumar his entire career (until arm tiredness got him late last year). You don’t lose that type of talent and not take a hit. You just don’t. Yes, we re-load, we don’t rebuild, but it almost never happens that first round locks out of high school come to college. Lightning struck twice when both Kumar and Jack decided not only to flip off the MLB, but pitch in gangster pajamas on Fridays and Saturdays.

As for Mighty Carter Young, early in the season, I gave him the “getting healthy and learning how to play with the new shoulder” benefit of the doubt. That’s still there, but I think the expectation that he would be a first round prospect in this year’s draft has messed with his mind. Baseball’s a tough enough game when you don’t have external pressure. Corbs and Astronaut Mike Baxter need to hypnotize him into forgetting the draft and MLB even exists, so he can just have fun playing baseball.

He did look damned good both at the plate and in the field on Tuesday, though. Play that way this weekend, MCY, please and thank you.

Question from Dinard’oh:

Should the last question in the mailbag be about Christian Little, just to preserve the streak?

Not the last question. Maybe that will break our SEC series losing streak.

Question from Philip VU94:

Winning an SEC game by 15 runs has given me a tiny glimmer of hope. When I’m not working I’ll do the Bill James Pythagorean theorem thing and see what our SEC record “should” be. My impression right now is that we’re both playing bad and “running bad,” or at least playing quite a bit worse than expected relative to the league.

I have my thoughts about applicability to college ball and how much this should encourage me, but first I want to hear your thoughts.

Am I crazy for finding a little bit of hope there?

Does the Pythagorean idea apply to college baseball, and if so, with what adjustments?

WTF is men’s basketball (perennial sub-300th in statical “luck”) doing that’s rubbing off on baseball?

...and later...

So I have us with 72 runs scored and 55 runs allowed over 12 games in SEC play, for a traditional Pythagorean expectation of about an 8-4 record. Modern sabermetricians have tweaked James’ original formula a bit, and that makes the projection round to 7-5 but they’re really both something like 7.5 wins 4.5 losses.

I was told there would be no math.

Still, that math seems about right. We’re currently a “runs in bunches or not at all” type team, and that’s just strange. The pitching and hitting should be performing better, and more consistently, than they have been. The defense has been largely okay (with the caveat that it was always going to be a massive drop-off from the best defensive catcher I’ve ever seen play at the college level to literally anyone else).

Unfortunately, those two dropped balls in the lights have been the apt metaphor for our season. We can, and should, turn it around. We’re certainly talented enough to be an 8-4 team in the SEC right now. We just need to put everything together.

Question from Jessecuster44:

What’s wrong with these darn kids? Is is the curse of the new V or something else? Should we sacrifice a chicken from Hattie-B’s?

It’s those hip musicians and their complicated shoes.

...and the logo. It’s the curse of the logo.