What A Difference A Year Makes: Pre-Postseason Trends

September 29, 2009

We’re on the eve of the college baseball post-season, with most conference tournaments set to start next week. Five teams (Fresno State, Wichita State, Stanford, Arizona, and North Carolina State) that advanced at least to a Super Regional last year find themselves in distinctively different situations as this year’s post-season approaches.

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Drops in power and pitching is a recurring theme for all of these teams that face at best cameo post-season appearances, or be out of the party altogether. Here’s a look at each:

FRESNO STATE 2009: (24-27, 8-12 WAC) 2008: (47-31, 21-11 WAC)

Just like last year, Fresno State is battling just to make the WAC Tournament heading into the regular season’s final weekend. The defending national champs need to win 3 of 4 games at Sacramento State (27-23, 8-10 WAC) to qualify for the WAC Tourney in Hawaii. (There are seven WAC baseball teams, and six make the conference tournament.)

The Bulldogs shocked Arizona State when they won the 2008 Tempe Super Regional.

Compared to last year, pitching is the biggest difference for FSU. The Bulldog’s ERA has gone from 4.68 in 2008 to 5.95 this year, while the staff’s opponent’s batting average is up from .272 to .315.

Fresno State is actually scoring more runs a game this year (7.4 compared to 7.0), and the power numbers are similar (86 HR in 78 games last year – 70 HR in 51 games this year), but the team’s batting average has plummeted from .301 in 2008 to just .269 this season.

Tommy Mendonca (19 HR) led four Bulldogs with double-digit home runs last year, and he’s pacing the team and third in the nation with 22 this year. Freshman Dusty Robinson (10) is the only other Bulldog with at least 10 HR this season.

College World Series hero Steve Detwiler hit .269 with 12 HR and 59 RBIs last year, including 2 home runs and all 6 RBIs in the CWS title game. However, the senior is batting just .224 with 5 HR and 21 RBIs this season.

WICHITA STATE 2009: (24-24, 8-7 MVC) 2008: (48-17, 19-5 MVC)

The Shockers lost to Florida State in last year’s Tallahassee Super Regional. They are in fourth-place in the Missouri Valley Conference heading into this weekend’s regular season finale vs. third-place Creighton in Wichita. WSU is guaranteed a spot in the 6-team Missouri Valley Conference Tournament field in Springfield, MO, but, with an RPI of 115, they likely need to win the tournament to advance to an NCAA regional.

The numbers are down across the board for Gene Stephenson’s Shockers:

2008: .314 BA, 8.0 runs/gm, 53 HR, 3.88 ERA
2009: .271 BA, 5.3 runs/gm, 26 HR, 3.88 ERA

STANFORD 2009: (26-21, 10-11 Pac 10) 2008: (41-24-2, 14-10 Pac 10)

After beating Cal State Fullerton at the Fullerton Super Regional last year, Stanford is smack on the bubble entering the final two weeks of its regular season. The Cardinal is in sixth place in the Pac 10 with an RPI of 68. With no conference tournament to fall back on, they have to make their statement in their last seven games vs. USC (in LA), UC Davis (home) and Oregon State (home).

A look at the numbers:

2008: .299 BA, 7.5 runs/gm, 81 HR, 4.45 ERA
2009: .282 BA, 6.4 runs/gm, 47 HR, 5.13 ERA

Stanford could be getting hot at just the right time with wins in seven of its last nine games.

ARIZONA 2009: (25-23, 8-13 Pac 10) 2008: (42-19, 12-12 Pac 10)

The Wildcats lost to Miami in the Coral Gables Super Regional in 2008. Now they’re in eighth place in the Pac 10, and fighting just to find themselves in a regional this season. Andy Lopez had a ton of talent from last year’s team drafted, and so it’s no surprise that this year’s team has lacked power arms on the mound and power at the plate by comparison.

2008: .301 BA, 7.0 runs/gm, 77 HR, 4.04 ERA, 572 K, 211 BB, .253 opp. BA
2009: .322 BA, 7.7 runs/gm, 36 HR, 5.53 ERA, 336 K, 199 BB, .297 opp. BA

Arizona’s RPI stands at 64 heading into this weekend’s home series vs. Washington. After a mid-week game next week vs. Arizona State in Tucson, the Wildcats close the regular season with three games at Oregon.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE 2009: (25-28, 10-17 ACC) 2008: (42-22, 18-11)

The Wolfpack lost to eventual national runner-up Georgia in last year’s Athens Super Regional, but they need a series of near miracles just to make it to this year’s ACC Tournament. (Maybe they should watch “Lost” to build their psyche.)

North Carolina State showed signs of life by taking two of three games from then number one North Carolina last week, but it could be too little too late. Here’s what NC State needs to happen in order to play past this weekend:

1. Sweep Clemson AND
2. Have North Carolina sweep at Boston College AND
3. Have Virginia win at least one game at Virginia Tech

Here’s NC State’s statistical comparison from this year to last:

2008: .299 BA, 6.8 runs/gm, 66 HR, 3.72 ERA, 518 K, 225 BB, .242 opp. BA
2009: .265 BA, 6.6 runs/gm, 45 HR, 4.90 ERA, 455 K, 215 BB, .268 opp. BA

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