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Home > Baseball, Sport, Vanderbilt > Thoughts from Beyond the Bleachers – 4/2/13

Thoughts from Beyond the Bleachers – 4/2/13

April 2nd, 2013
Connor Harrell, Jared Miller and Mike Yastrzemski all played a big role in Vandy's Sunday win over Tennessee. Photo: Joe Howell, VUCommodores.com

Connor Harrell, Jared Miller and Mike Yastrzemski all played a big role in Vandy’s Sunday win over Tennessee. Photo: Joe Howell, VUCommodores.com

Another week in the books and the Dores are streaking, having won six straight. As has been the case of late, the team has not exactly played to its highest level, but has managed to take some punches (or in Xavier Turner’s case, fastballs to the chin) and recover for wins. With the Commodores preparing for what may be their toughest test of the season (a trip to Ole Miss in Oxford), a slightly higher caliber of play may be needed to stay on top.

As is the case with the new blog format, I plan to simply spew out my thoughts without any real care for form or formality. While it may not read quite as cleanly, it makes for much more form friendly writing. This post will discuss the sweep of Tennessee and the domination of Dramamine Miller and start with some basic national standings rundown.  There’s also a little anecdote about the left-handed righty pitcher on the staff. Click through for more.

Metrics, We’ve Got Metrics, We’ve Got Lots and Lots of Metrics

With the Dores standing at 25-4, we officially entered the second half of the regular season. That marks as good a spot as any to see how the numbers line up, as factors such as the RPI become more reliable indicators of performance (and future NCAA S-Curve rankings). Let’s look at the standing first:

STANDINGS

SEC Win

SEC Loss

SEC %

Gms Back

Ovrll Win

Ovrll Loss

Ovrll %

Last 10

WN RPI

Boyds RPI

Eastern Division

Vanderbilt

8

1

0.889

25

4

0.862

8-2

 2

 2

Kentucky

6

3

0.667

2

21

6

0.778

7-3

 44

 44

South Carolina

5

4

0.556

3

22

6

0.786

6-4

 13

 14

Florida

4

5

0.444

4

13

16

0.448

4-6

 23

 22

Tennessee

3

6

0.333

5

13

13

0.500

4-6

 82

 81

Missouri

2

7

0.222

6

9

15

0.375

4-6

 173

 173

Georgia

1

8

0.111

7

10

19

0.345

2-8

 104

 104

Western Division

LSU

8

1

0.889

26

2

0.929

9-1

 3

 3

Alabama

7

2

0.778

1

18

11

0.621

8-2

 34

 34

Arkansas

6

3

0.667

2

21

8

0.724

8-2

 58

 55

Texas A&M

5

4

0.556

3

18

11

0.621

6-4

 22

 23

Mississippi

4

5

0.444

4

23

6

0.793

5-5

 17

 17

Mississippi State

3

6

0.333

5

23

8

0.742

5-5

 15

 16

Auburn

1

8

0.111

7

16

12

0.571

3-7

 81

 83

Digging a bit further into Vanderbilt’s stat line, and that of its opponents this week (MTSU and Ole Miss), you see the following:

TEAM

Last Week W-L

WN Top50 W-L

WN 51-100 W-L

WN RPI

WN NPI

WN SOS

Boyds RPI

Boyds ISR

Boyds SOS

Vanderbilt

 4-0

5-2

10-1

2

6

25

 2

 5

51

MTSU, Wed

 1-4

6-3

2-6

57

97

22

 58

 74

43

@Ole Miss, Fri-Sun

 2-2

4-4

6-1

17

13

62

 17

 12

78

MTSU is 16-14 on the year, and just 3-6 in the Sun Belt. Notwithstanding that fact, they have a marquee win against the Dores on March 20. In that midweek match up, they pushed a pair of early runs in against Walker Buehler and relied on a pitching staff that stymied the Vanderbilt bats. Notable in his relief was Joey McClung, who made his 23rd appearance against Vanderbilt (or so it seems) and continued his success against the good guys.  In reality, I believe McClung has five or six games pitched against Vanderbilt in his four-year career, but, much like Bryce Brentz before him, it seems like he’s been hurting us for ages – even when we win.

Doing a quick stat comparison, you see the following for the three teams:

TEAM

R/Gm

RA/Gm

BA

OPS

ERA

BB-A/9

OppBA

SB

SBA

Vanderbilt 7.00 3.07 .293 .829 2.42 4.22  .212 65-89 20-34
MTSU 5.13 4.23 .274 .748 3.84 4.87  .240 25-30 23-32
Ole Miss 5.97 3.41 .286 .742 2.77 3.28  .238 30-47 13-29

While the Commodores numbers clearly dominate most statistical categories, and do so against the best competition among the three teams, the one statistic that gives greatest pause is the Ole Miss’ defensive strengths play well against our offensive strengths. Notably, their pitching staff does not allow walks (just 3.28/game), while the Dores are accustomed to the free pass (5.07/game). Meanwhile, standout catcher Stuart Turner (.418, 34 RBI, 1.099 OPS) has led a battery that has afforded opponents just 13 stolen bases at a 44.8% success rate on the year. While Vanderbilt’s arms will have trouble silencing the JuCo transfer, Tony Kemp et al may have even more trouble facing him on the bases.

Perhaps more so than any other series on the year, Vanderbilt will be tested to win perhaps against the odds and in a hostile environment. But first, vengeance is owed to MTSU tonight at the Hawk.

Philip Pfeifer gave a thumbs up after being struck in the leg by a ground ball in the first inning on Sunday. Fortunately, he fared better than Corey #OuchMyLeg Williams in 2010. Photo: Joe Howell, VUCommodores.com

Philip Pfeifer gave a thumbs up after being struck in the leg by a ground ball in the first inning on Sunday. Fortunately, he fared better than Corey #OuchMyLeg Williams in 2010. Photo: Joe Howell, VUCommodores.com

Sweeping Away the East

Over the weekend, one can’t say any sweep is ugly, but Vanderbilt merely beat, rather than dominated, the Volunteers. Yes, Kevin Ziomek, Tyler Beede, Brian Miller and Carson Fulmer offered up dominating performances on the mound, but in sloppy conditions (it rained for all but two innings on the weekend), the Dores defense was merely OK and the bats failed to really batter the Vols pitching staff. If anything, the 24-14 cumulative score on the weekend was a bit misleading as each game was down to the wire, particularly on Friday and Sunday. As VandySports.com’s Chris Lee notes, however, the difference in pitching depth between Vanderbilt and Tennessee was even more evidenced by the late inning scoring disparity.

The positive is that several Vandy players really stepped it up when needed. Nowhere was this more true than with Fulmer, who fired heat at the Vols while picking up saves on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, after replacing a tiring Beede, Fulmer shut down a 2 on, 1 out jam by fanning back-to-back Tennessee hitters with an array of fastballs between 94 and 96 MPH, with a few wipe out sliders thrown in.

Also stepping up was Dramamine Miller (discussed below) and freshman Kyle Smith, who rewarded Coach Corbin for a Sunday start in left field by walking thrice and launching a gargantuan grand slam to send the Volunteers packing. Joe Fisher’s call of the play is featured below.

Also deserving notation was Jared Miller, who threw very well on Sunday and located his fastball and slider for, really, the first time this year. The big lefty is a key cog in the bullpen and his return to 2012 form would be a huge boost toward Vanderbilt’s Omaha hopes. Joining Jared Miller in having a bounce-back weekend was Connor Harrell. Although his stat line wasn’t terribly gaudy, Harrell stung the ball on Saturday and Sunday (nearly driving balls to the wall twice) after getting hung with an 0-6 on Friday. Any worries that Harrell had fallen into a slump (particularly after going seven games without an RBI after leading the nation in the category to that point) were allayed.

The Vols' twitter account tried to bemoan the Hawk as a no fun zone thanks to the sunflower seed policy necessitated by the new turf. I'd saying getting swept in your last two visits probably has a greater impact on your fun level. Photo: @Vol_Baseball

The Vols’ twitter account tried to bemoan the Hawk as a no fun zone thanks to a sunflower seed policy necessitated by the new turf. I’d saying Vanderbilt sweeping UT in their last two visits probably has a greater impact on the level of enjoyment. Photo: @Vol_Baseball

Other weekend notes included a potential battle for the Sunday starter role. For the third straight weekend, Philip Pfeifer struggled to locate his off-speed pitches, which allowed opponents to key in on his fastball. This meant the third straight sub-par start for the lefty. It should be noted that each of those starts were in poor weather conditions, so I’m not yet primed to call for a change in the weekend rotation, but Walker Buehler and TJ Pecoraro could look to slide in to the Sunday starter role if Pfeifer were to falter again this weekend.

Finally, Vanderbilt suffered another injury to catcher Spencer Navin. Diving headfirst into home play on a play in which he was controversially called out, Navin bruised his nose on his counterparts leg guards. He was removed from the Saturday game, but did make a late defensive replacement appearance on Sunday after Chris Harvey (who had an excellent day on Saturday) struggled throwing the ball on steal attempts. I would expect Harvey to get the start today against MTSU, but for Navin to be back behind the plate for two or all three games in Oxford.

The Ballad of Dramamine Miller

Despite getting shellacked by Fullerton during the fall series in 2011, Vanderbilt showed one thing above all else that got me excited about the 2012 season.  As I chronicled here, that was Brian Miller. Nicknamed “Dramamine” because his pitches can cause motion sickness, Miller was great as a Freshman, but has emerged as one of the nations top closers as a sophomore. As discussed by Baseball America’s Aaron Fitt and John Manuel in their weekly chat with fans and their weekly podcast, a strong case can be made that Miller (4-0, 8 saves, 0.33 ERA, 27.2 IP, 2 BB, 25 K, .196 BAA) is having the finest season of any end-of-pen man in the nation. While he may not have quite the same gaudy numbers as Louisville’s Nick Burdi (1-0, 5 saves, 0.00 ERA, 13.2 IP, 4 BB, 32 K, .106 BAA), he’s done so at a higher volume and with great consistency. And yes, you read those numbers on Burdi right; he’s averaging 2.34 strikeouts *per inning*.

Miller gets it done with his famed Frisbee slider and a fastball that can touch 91 or 92 MPH when delivered from a slightly higher 3/4 slot, but sits in the mid to high 80s as a 2 seam fastball from the side. The last week or so, Miller has utilized the fastball more, particularly on the inside corner to right handed batters. While he can use a straight four-seamer, the two seam variety moves and provides a great complement to his wild slider that can break a couple of feet away from right handed batters. It is said that, while in high school, Miller’s backup catcher at Independence high simply could not catch Miller’s slider or two-seamer, resulting in Dramamine only throwing over the top fastballs to the young man who felt only slightly less helpless than the batters in the box.

Perhaps the biggest element in Miller’s advancement this year is his control. Both with his lack of walks and his ability to spot the fastball and slider where he wants them in the zone have prevented him from tossing too many fat pitches and have ensured that he can come in in any situation and get the strikes or ground balls that he need to escape damage.

Brian Miller (left) has been the anchor in Vanderbilt's Anchor Down this season. Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics Facebook Page.

Brian Miller (left) has been the anchor in Vanderbilt’s Anchor Down this season. Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics Facebook Page.

Poll of the Week

I’ve obviously become somewhat fascinated with the poll feature on WordPress. This post’s poll will be on who proved themselves the toughest.  Our three candidates from the weekend are Xavier Turner, Spencer Navin and Philip Pfeifer.  Fortunately, there’s no video on any of these that I’m aware of, but the following occurred on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Friday – Xavier Turner.  In his first at bat, Turner took a 90 MPH two-seam fastball up and in. Although the pitch first appeared to have gotten him squarely in the face, replays show the blow was more of a glancing shot to his chin. After being on the ground for several minutes and being tended to by trainers, Turner gingerly hopped up and made his way to first. He stayed in the game and scored on a passed ball later in the inning. Turner suffered a small laceration inside his mouth, but as Jesse Johnson of VandySports.com tweeted, “[Turner is] from Ohio, they don’t bleed if you hit them in the mouth.”

Saturday – Spencer Navin. Sliding into home on a double, Navin appeared to sneak his hand between the catcher’s knees and onto home plate before being tagged in a close play. Unfortunately, i) the umpire did not see the hand sneak in and ii) Navin was unable to sneak his head as he did his hands. The umpire called Navin out on the play and the All-American catcher was forced out of the game with a possible broken nose. Ending up just with facial contusions and an uncomfortable night sleeping, Navin did not start Sunday but was a 9th inning defensive replacement.

Sunday – Philip Pfeifer. Vanderbilt has had issues with SEC line drives and a pitcher’s leg in the past. Austin Maddox famously cracked Corey Williams’ kneecap in 2010 with a line drive in Gainesville. That was on the mind of many when Pfeifer was pegged with a hard ground ball to the leg in the first inning Sunday. As shown in the photo earlier in the post, though, Pfeifer managed to give the thumbs up and stayed in the game.

[poll id=”5″]

Did You Know

There’s a story I’ve been meaning to tell now for a while and just am getting around to. A few weeks back, when the Dores were signing autographs at a February basketball game, it was reported that Ty Beede signed with his left hand. This struck everyone as a bit odd, as Beede was never reported to be ambidextrous, nor was this some parlor trick. A little digging revealed the story from his family.

The youngest Beede was born with the sinister trait of being left-handed, a fate shared by 11 percent of the US population. For most dads wanting to raise a high level pitcher, having a 6’4″ lefty in the family is a blessing. But before Tyler could develop, his father Walt ran into a hitch in the process. Tyler’s older brother Kyle was a catcher from birth and, like any good younger brother, Tyler wanted to emulate him. Looking around as a youth, Tyler noticed that there were few left-handed catchers and none at all in the majors.

That moment lit a switch under Tyler and he worked hard to develop his right throwing arm. After what I’m sure must have been a few awkward early years, the Tyler Beede we now know emerged. He was touching mid-90s as a senior in high school and was clocked by Eric Cressey in Boston this past winter as the first person to crack triple digits on a Stalker gun at the Cressey Sports training facility. While the pen might be mightier than the sword, the pen swinging left arm of Tyler Beede might fall just a bit short of the flame-throwing right one. This year, Tyler has been among the most dominant pitchers in the nation, with a perfect 7-0 record, 0.99 ERA and .151 BAA with 44 strikeouts in 45.2 innings pitched.

Ty continues to be left-handed in everything other than on the mound and, in a bit of irony, neither Beede brother currently catches. While Kyle served as Ty’s catcher growing up, both Beede brothers now pitch. Kyle is red-shirting at LSU-Eunice and has switched this year from behind the plate to the mound where he twirls a two-seam fastball, curve and change up (and is promising to work on a screw-ball). While the younger Beede brother once sought to emulate his elder as a catcher, it is now Kyle calling Ty and seeking pitching tips from time to time.

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