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Vanderbilt Baseball Mail Bag #1: Answers to Your Questions

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

Palace Museum Post Office Opens In Beijing
Photo by Song Yu/VCG via Getty Images

*Note: I know these questions were from two weeks ago, but seeing as I could not fully get a handle on this team besides Pitchers Good, Bats ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, I put it off. As penance, I will open up the mail bag for new questions as soon as I publish this one.

Question from RocketCityVandy:

So I’m very pleased with 2 out of 3 at this tournament against good competition. However, I’m worried about the runs allowed, as it seems like we allowed a lot of production from the enemy. It’s still early days in the season, but should I be worried?

See my pre-season dictum: “Pitchers Good, Bats ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.” No, you should not be worried about this pitching staff. Though Holton was less than ideal, both Hliboki and The Ginth were left in too long and got lit up, and Patrick Reilly should never be allowed to start again for Vanderbilt (though he could be useful in the pen), I’m not worried at all.

That would have been my answer two weeks ago. Since then, it’s still my answer, as Holton returned to dominance in week two in a 6-0 win over Uckla (and was perfectly cromulent in the loss to the Nebraska Cornshuckers this weekend, going 5 IP and surrendering 2 R), Hliboki and The Ginth straightened things out, and Reilly has an 11.57 ERA through 2 midweek starts.

Question from Force10JC:

So, can we say (for now at least) that the concerns over run production for this season are laid to rest after plating 23 in 2 games against ranked (depending on the publication) opponents?

This is what I love about this fanbase. After viewing the same exact three games, one wants to wallow in misery over allowing too many runs in two out of three games (ala Martin from Voltaire’s Candide), while the other wants a Panglossian declaration that we live in the best of all possible worlds because we plated a good deal of runs in two out of three games.

Me? I just tend to my garden, as it’s the only way to make life bearable.

Question from SuicideDores:

I figured Holton and Futrell would be weekend starters, but Owen was a bit of a surprise. He definitely pitched well enough to keep that slot (clean up the free passes), but that means we’d be trotting out three lefties on the weekend. Do you foresee having nothing but southpaws being problematic? Wasn’t impressed with Dutch in limited action and Cunningham seems more like a mid-week dude to me. Who would be the favorite to break up the lefty monopoly?

Owen has looked pretty good through 3 starts now, despite being 0-0 with a 4.71 ERA. Holton and Futrell have been solid, with Futrell perhaps the best of them. Of course, Futrell was a “healthy scratch” from this Sunday’s start, which has been spinning my head in all sorts of directions. Hopefully, that gets figured out, and it’s nothing serious, as he’s the most solid, dependable starter we’ve got.

Cunningham definitely deserves to start, but I can’t complain with the 5 IP Holton, 4 IP Cunningham piggyback we’ve got set up thus far. I’d like to see The Duke in at least one of our two midweek games this week, though, with Grayson “Gitmo” Moore as my other choice. I’m less than enthused with the prospect of going through the Patrick “Wild Thing” Reilly show against the Central Arkansas Purple Cocaine Bears of the world. Give me someone like Cunningham who I can set my watch to, or at least someone with the possibility of greatness, like The Duke, though who is likely not ready for SEC competition right now.

Question from ellism:

1. TJ McKenzie is making it very hard to keep his bat out of the lineup. What’s the clearest path for him to get consistent playing time?

2. What do you think is the ideal MIF setup? Did you like Diaz at SS and Vastine at second or are you curious to see Matthew Polk get some time at second/Vastine some time at short?

I’d put Vastine at SS, RJ Austin at 3rd, and make Diaz earn his PT at 2B. Polk and many others could step in at 2B right away if Diaz keeps Knoblauch-ing it up in the field. That’s my preference. Corbs seems to agree mostly, though has Austin at 2B and Diaz at 3rd right now.

I’m still rooting for McKenzie (.133/.188/.267), but right now, no one has taken the LF jerb, nor the DH jerb and run away with it. Frankly, our offense has kind of sucked at those positions. Hopefully Hewett (.200/.333/.286) can regain his form from last year, and at least someone can stake their claim at DH. Frankly, it’s getting a little ridiculous how many midweek arms can carve these guys up.

Question from shoogymgshoogs:

Ramble about the catchers. Bulger’s bat has been disappointing for a while going back to last season. Do we see Espinal as the primary catcher? Is it too early to tell?

Alan Espinal is the better defensive catcher, and unless Bulger’s bat explodes, that’s likely to be enough to give Espy the slight nod. Espy has caught 7 games to Bulger’s 5 through 12 games, and has pretty much been the starter in the last two weeks. It is as it should be, but will be an open competition all year, I would assume. Have to assume we’re on a 3 starts to 1 path from here on out with Espy in the lead.

Question from WestEndMayhem:

I’m a passive baseball fan. I know that Vandy’s coach is the best in the biz, and I am under the impression that our season ended early last year because of poor batting. It seems that our loss this past weekend invoked memories of those broken bats.

Is the offensive output on offense due to position coaching, the difficulties of the sport, player development, or some other variable?

Asking an impossible to answer question like that might get you bumped right up to passive-aggressive fan. I will say that our recruiting strategy of prioritizing athletes over thumpers might be why we currently lack thumpers. You can get both, Corbs!

Oh, and Astronaut Mike Baxter’s seat is warming up. It is currently not hot, but it’s getting there.

Question from jessecuster44:

Can you compare and contrast thoughts about the Vandy Boys Friday Night and then Sunday night, with thoughts about Stack’s boys Pre-Alabama and then Post Alabama?

I can. I can also use all sorts of other literary devices and rhetorical strategies.

Statement from parlagi:

Requesting a Het-o-Meter check in.

Question from ask_thedoctor:

1. Do you have predictions for how the East is going to shake out?

2. Why should I buy tickets to the Vandy @ UF game?

I mean, it looks like The Gainsville Jorts are likely the frontrunners for the top spot, followed by the Chuggers and our boys (in no particular order). These three teams are the class of the East. Two of the three have been so for a long time. One just learned of this sport called “Based Ball.”

Buy those tickets, as you’re going to see two good teams who despise one another.

Question from doubledore9603:

Is Grand Canyon a contender?

Well, they’re deep. National Park Online University jokes aside, they actually may well be a contender. They might have the best pure hit tool hitter in the game in Jr. SS Jacob Wilson, son of former pro Jack Wilson, who is also the assistant coach on the team. They will be in the NCAA Tourney, and few teams will want to face them. Think of Campbell last year with Zach Neto, but better.