clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #11: Answers to Your Questions

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

Syndication: The Tennessean Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Question from Dinard’oh:

I sense we have a lot of angst here for a team that nearly won it all last year and still has a pretty good shot of at least making the tournament.

Are we being unreasonable and acting a bit entitled, meaning we have finally achieved full SEC fanbase status? Or is there real concern to be had given that last year’s offense seemed similarly dysfunctional?

Making me stare into the abyss which stares back at me, eh?

I’ll break this down to its component parts:

Unreasonable and entitled? I’d say no to the former, but possibly to the latter. It’s no shock, or should be no shock, that when coming off three years of absolute dominance—and yes, we would have won the title in 2020 and you cannot convince me otherwise—a team will have a rebuilding year and/or down year. Yes, even when they continue to recruit at an elite level. In terms of the pitching staff—and, to a lesser extent, at catcher—yes, this was certainly expected to be a rebuilding year, and has been. McBain has performed like a pretty good #2, and while Holton has been hot and cold (he is a freshman going against 25 year old beer leaguers due to the Covid year and transfer-palooza, after all), he would have easily been a strong #3 starter on most Vanderbilt teams. Futrell has lived up to the Walker Buehler archetype in the Walker Buehler mid-week until postseason role. He could also have been a strong #3 starter on most Vanderbilt teams. No complaints there, whatsoever. The bullpen has also been more than respectable. What this team has been lacking is a true SEC Friday night Ace. The kind of Ace we’ve had on our ‘07 team, ‘11 team, multiple on the ‘13-15 teams, and Jack and Kumar on the ‘19-21 teams. In terms of ‘crootin, Jack Leiter would have been that guy on the ‘22 team had he not been sophomore draft eligible. We may have been unreasonable in hoping Christian Little would be that guy for us this year, but his arm talent is redolent of a Friday night Ace. No one expected Pat Reilly to be a Friday night Ace this year, though he also has the stuff, just not the control, to reach that level. In short, expecting us to have a “Championship Vanderbilt Rotation” that has become so commonplace here following the loss of Kumar and Jack was always an unreasonable position. Check back to our Anchor of Gold position previews (starting pitching) before the season began to hear my stance on that (and note that it hasn’t changed). You have to factor in the Michael Doolin and Sam Hliboki injuries here, as well (even though they’ve been out so long, I can forgive you for not doing so automatically).

I also don’t think it would have been unreasonable to think the offense should be performing better than they have. Their collective RISP woes—save for Dom and Dr. Jones—and the season-long slump of Mighty Carter Young are much worse than a reasonable person could have expected coming into the year. On the other hand, Silent Cal Hewett has turned himself into a deadly mainstay, which all but mitigates the loss of Isaiah Thomas (who could possibly return next year ala Jayson Gonzalez and Phil Pfeiffer) in the lineup.

It is also unreasonable to have expected Davis Diaz to continue at his Diaz de los Muertos offensive pace once SEC play started (as doing so would make him the reincarnation of Austin Martin). That’s probably the only place I can see us as being entitled, as we almost always seem to have a freshman stud at the plate (ala Pedro Alvarez, Bryan Reynolds, Austin Martin, and Enrique Bradfield) who is immediately All-SEC and possibly All-America caliber. If anyone was to be that guy this year, it would have been Diaz.

Coming into this year, I saw us as a middle of the pack to top third SEC team, and I think that is a reasonable opinion. Expecting us to be the 2019-2021 teams would be unreasonable and entitled. The non-die hards might have that expectation. I didn’t, and most of the AoG baseball commentariat was in agreement there. Note that I’m referring to those who ask questions in the mail bag and comment on regular season game threads, not those who just join us in the postseason.

I think a reasonable optimistic expectation from this team would be to be a #1 Regional seed, a realistic one was to be on the cusp of #1 and #2 Regional seed, and a pessimistic one would be to be a #2/3 seed in the tourney. As it is, there is a chance we will miss the tourney altogether. It’s not unreasonable nor entitled to be pissed off if that happens, nor is it particularly unreasonable/entitled to be miffed if we end up as the #3 seed in the Louisville Region (as has recently been projected). Does it make it worse that the Chuggers are putting our 26-3 SEC Conference Record from 2013 in jeopardy? Well... salt, meet wound.

*Note: In the time between this being written and scheduled, Kentucky did this to the Chuggers:

As for the last part, I think you’re asking if we should be concerned about Corbs or hitting coach Astronaut Mike Baxter. That’s a resounding hell no for the former, and a maybe for the latter. It certainly wouldn’t piss me off if we went looking for a better hitting coach, as there are many out there who would love to wear the gangster pajamas. I’ve long loved what Oregon State does at the plate from a hitting philosophy perspective, for one.

Oh, and finally, we will never achieve “official SEC fanbase status,” as we will never poison trees, shoot a cousin who roots for a rival, drink with our butts, chug from a mullet, throw golf balls and French’s Yellow Mustard, call PAWWWWWWWWWWWLLLLLL, or resonate with that damn “Bougie Like Applebees” song.

Never.

NEVER.


Question from Mauberly:

Is there a point in time when the team’s inability to produce consistently at the plate falls back on Baxter? Last year’s team seemed to struggle in that regard, too

See above paragraph. Yeah, I’d say it’s fair for Astronaut Mike Baxter’s seat to be a little warm right now.


Question from Vandyfan1:

Why do we have a great hitting day, then a horrible hitting day?

Besides not sacrificing a chicken to Jobu before every game? Consistency has been a bugaboo for this year’s offense. Part of that is we haven’t had a consistent starting 9, and part of that is our 8 and 9 hole hitters have been lost since conference play started. I do wonder how much of it is approach/hitting philosophy—see my nod to Astronaut Mike Baxter’s seat being at least slightly warm—as though the small ball teams of Diamond Dore past were less likely to run-rule an opponent, their get on base and run you ragged philosophy kept the floor much more stable.


Question from Dore31:

Diaz and Young both look lost so what (if any) are our other options in the infield?

While we do have options, you may not like them.

The following players could play SS at an SEC level right now: Young, Diaz, and Vastine.

The following players could play 3B at an SEC level right now: Diaz, Noland, Young, Vastine, and Gordon.

You see the dilemma. While I could support playing Noland at 3rd when Dom is at 1B, it does mean our defense will take a bit of a hit. I could also support putting Vastine in at SS and Gordon at 3rd in the “well, it can’t get worse offensively” vein for a game or even a series, but again, you see the dilemma. The shitty truth is the likely best path is to keep playing them both and hope they snap out of it. We have seen what their ceilings can be.

In other words, both Diaz and Young should sacrifice chickens to Jobu.


Question from BarnDore1950:

What are the odds this team makes it to a Super Regional? I am not even thinking Omaha at this point.

About the same odds the ‘18 team had. In other words, it’s possible. I’m not sure I’d bet it, and I damn sure woudn’t be thinking about it right now. We need to win SEC games right now. One at a time. I know that’s normally boring coach speak, but we’re teetering into the NCAA bubble. Win today. That’s the only thing that can be on your mind (and yes, I mean regarding pitching decisions, early hooks, etc.).


Question from KnockingOnHeavensDore:

1) Do you see this season effecting our reputation as a baseball program? Or do you just think it’s more like Kentucky basketball’s 2020-2021 season, where they sucked for a year and then just got right back to being elite?

And because this question needs to be asked:

2) Thoughts on a potential removal of Carter Young from the lineup?

...and then later...

*affecting (for all the grammar sticklers out there).

As commenter HeavyDore said:

“No issue with effect.’ Its your lack of use of ‘wreckx-n’ that I have issue with...“

All I want to do is zoom-a-zoom-zoom-zoom in a boom-boom.

That said, the answer to your first question is not just no, it’s hell no. Following being the best ever SEC conference team in ‘13, we won it all in ‘14, and came thiiiiiiis close to repeating in ‘15. We then were just okay from ‘16-’18. Then we won it all in ‘19, would have repeated in ‘20, and lost in the CWS Finals in ‘21. Seeing a pattern here? Stay the course. It’s okay to have a relative down year following an era of dominance.

For #2, see above. I can see the argument, but can’t really see who will be better.


Question from 92Drummer:

According to the AOG glossary…

Anchor Drop: The daily link dump/rant about something completely random/open comment thread that Tom posts on (most) mornings, except when he’s lazy and/or otherwise occupied and doesn’t feel like it. By tradition, the absence of the Anchor Drop on a given day is to be duly noted in the comments to the next day’s Anchor Drop.

Questions - We haven’t had an anchor drop in a week because…

A) laziness

B) otherwise occupied

C) doesn’t feel like it

D) A&B

C) B&C

D) A&B&C

F) the new logo

E) None of the above

Also…should despair about the new logo be added as a reason not to do an Anchor Drop?

I originally replied with “I shall not ask Tom, but instead speculate wildly.” This, in turn, encouraged the commentariat to do the same, and here is what resulted, followed by my probability rating of 1-5 hets:

Tinioril: Tom was busy arguing with me on Twitter about French politics.

Probability: 4.5/5 hets.

Parlagi: As was pointed out earlier, the Anchor Drops went missing after Tom wrote an article bashing the new logo.

He’s been replaced by “Tom,” the marketing-approved bot who doesn’t have anything marketing-approved to say right now.

Probability: 3/5 hets.

Dinard’oh:

Probability: 1/5 hets.


Question from Shoogymgshoogs:

Who should play first when Keegan goes behind the plate in game 3? (We’re assuming Casas is injured at this point)

I’m not assuming Casas is injured, but even so, it’s Parker Noland—unless Diaz is just so bad at the plate, we want Noland at 3rd. So... I don’t know. We don’t exactly have a lot of 1st base options. How about Tater at 1st with Flash Gordon or Javy Vaz at 2nd? Could Bulger do it, allowing Polk to then DH? I mean... anything’s worth a try at this point.


Question from Parlagi:

—Play meh against a 2/3 seed but win

—Bats make their weekly appearance and destroy some 1 seed

—Bats do their weekly herpa-derp and get destroyed

—Ride Futrell to a win in an elimination game

Is there any other practical way to win a regional?

If you don’t feel like answer that: are there any other college teams you routinely enjoy watching?

There are infinite ways to win a regional. I mean, the top team could bring back their Friday Ace for a 10th inning relief appearance in the Regional Finals and give up a HR to some scrub (screams into pillow purchased in 2007).

The most optimistic answer for this year’s team would seem to involve Futrell in the elimination game. I just don’t think we’ll be the #1 seed, so we will have to beat whichever #2/3 seed we’re matched up against in game 1, as you have to assume the Regional Host will do the strategy we never employ and save their Ace for Game 2 against us (or the #2/3 seed who beats us and sends us all spiraling into our old friend, darkness). I don’t see us destroying Ugga, Arky, and Yellow Shoe to sneak back into being a Regional host at this point, do you? Regardless, I have a tough time imaging this team sweeping through said regional, regardless of seed, given our hot and cold offense. I mean, this is all pure speculation, and we probably shouldn’t be doing it right now, as we need to focus on winning games to get into the tournament.


Question from Thebullypuli:

This sucks. There is one thing that makes being a Vandy fan worth the rest of the year. It’s baseball. And well… why do we do this to ourselves?