So how's this baseball season going so far?

Aaron Senne Image via The Missourian

Two weekends into Big 12 play, Tim Jamieson's Mizzou baseball team stands at 15-11 overall, 2-4 in conference.  Unless they get really hot soon, their streak of consecutive NCAA Regional appearances will probably come to an end ... and that's okay.  This is a super-young team, with five freshman regulars in the field and one big-time freshman in the rotation, and there have been some pretty strong moments so far, even if they have been rather inconsistent overall.

Here's a quick recap on how Mizzou's season has played out so far.

Series W-L Runs
Collegiate Cactus Classic
(vs Gonzaga, Washington, NMSU)
2-1 25-17
Auburn Invitational
(vs Florida Atlantic, Auburn, BC)
2-1 21-23
Houston College Classic
(vs Houston, TCU, Texas)
0-3 8-15
MId-Week Cupcakes
(Western Illinois, UAPB x2)
3-0 47-5
Xavier (x3) 2-1 12-13
North Dakota (x3) 3-0 30-8
at Texas A&M (x3) 1-2 18-12
Purdue (x2) 1-1 25-20
Baylor (x3) 1-2 22-36


Highlights: Beating Auburn 11-7 in Auburn (Aaron Senne goes 3-for-5 with 4 RBI, Brett Nicholas 3-for-6 with 2 RBI), beating Purdue 22-14 (five homeruns, including two from freshman Eric Garcia, who goes 2-for-5 with 6 RBIs in all), outscoring ATM in College Station over three games, thanks to a 13-4 Sunday win (Senne goes 4-for-6 with two doubles, Brett Nicholas goes 2-for-5 with 3 RBI, and Tyler Clark and Ryan Clubb combine to give miniature Johnny Wholestaff a nice win).

Lowlights: Getting swept at the Houston Classic (three tight losses -- 3-0 to Houston, 4-3 to TCU, 8-5 to Texas after building an early lead), getting outscored 27-9 in a Saturday doubleheader against Baylor this past weekend (20-6, 7-3).

Offense

Since MUtigers.com's stats page doesn't give you too many averages, here is a breakout of Mizzou's 2010 offensive stats.  Players who have started double-digit games are in bold.

Player (Year, Pos.) G AB R H HR RBI K AVG OBP SLG OPS
Aaron Senne (Senior, 1B) 26 101 31 43 8 31 14 .426 .504 .782 1.286
Brett Nicholas (Junior, C/3B) 26 93 24 33 5 32 16 .355 .450 .591 1.041
Eric Garcia (Freshman, 2B) 19 60 13 20 3 14 11 .333 .403 .567 .970
Michael Liberto (Senior, SS) 26 92 20 36 0 16 14 .391 .462 .478 .940
Dane Opel (Freshman, OF) 21 63 14 20 2 13 15 .317 .403 .508 .911
Jonah Schmidt (Junior, OF) 23 76 15 20 4 22 20 .263 .364 .461 .824
Blake Brown (Freshman, OF) 25 88 19 26 1 11 25 .295 .398 .420 .819
Russell LaFleur (Sophomore, OF) 18 49 12 13 1 7 12 .265 .419 .388 .807
Andreas Plackis (RSFr., C) 16 31 5 9 0 4 6 .290 .436 .290 .726
Andrew Thigpen (Junior, IF) 18 37 10 10 0 9 9 .270 .372 .351 .723
Jesse Santo (Junior, IF) 18 54 14 13 0 10 15 .241 .328 .370 .698
Kale Gaden (Freshman, C/OF) 19 46 10 10 1 7 13 .217 .321 .348 .669
Brannon Champagne (Freshman, OF) 15 39 10 10 0 6 8 .256 .408 .256 .665
Conner Mach (Sophomore, IF) 11 26 4 3 1 3 7 .115 .233 .269 .503
Ryan Ampelman (Junior, C) 18 49 4 6 0 3 21 .122 .306 .163 .470
Andre Rodriguez (RSFr., OF) 2 2 1 2 0 1 0 1.000 1.000 1.000 2.000
Ben Turner (Freshman, C) 4 5 0 3 0 2 2 .600 .600 .800 1.400
Garrison McLagan (Sophomore, 1B) 4 4 1 2 0 1 0 .500 .500 .500 1.000
Scott Sommerfeld (Freshman, C/1B) 4 9 1 1 0 0 1 .111 .111 .222 .333


Quick thoughts:

  • To say the least, Aaron Senne made a nice decision to come back for his senior year.  He has been just ridiculously good so far.  He's getting on base over 50% of the time, he's on pace for some pretty gaudy HR numbers, he's set the school record for career doubles ... the move to 1B has treated him very well.  I'm curious to see what he does in some organization's A-ball team next year.  To some extent, playing 1B has helped his production ... but his production levels would probably be more well-suited for the outfield at the pro level.
  • Brett Nicholas has been a nice addition to the lineup (via Scottsdale CC), batting .350, walking 10% of the time, and delivering some pop.  Assuming he sticks around for his senior season, he could be a nice anchor around which to build with sophomores.
  • Michael Liberto clearly isn't a big-time power hitter, but he's shown nice improvement from junior to senior year.  Meanwhile, another middle infielder, Andrew Thigpen, hasn't gotten a ton of ABs so far, but he's been alright.
  • Another JUCO transfer -- Jesse Santo -- has begun to pick things up in conference play, going 6-for-17 with 4 RBIs the first two weekends.
  • And then then there are the freshmen.  Eric Garcia (1-for-13) has struggled so far in conference play, but he's shown some nice pop, especially for a middle infielder.  Dane Opel just murdered Baylor on Sunday and is batting .529 with 6 RBIs in conference.  Blake Brown has shown some pop (6 doubles, 1 triple, 1 HR) and is holding his own after two conference weekends.  Plus, though they've been dominated in conference play (a combined 1-for-19), Kale Gaden and Brannon Champagne have gotten quite a bit of playing time for rookies.
  • When you're in what is pretty clearly a rebuilding season, you want to be able to keep an eye on the future and know things are on the right track.  Knowing that Mizzou could field a 2011 lineup of Nicholas, Garcia, Opel, Schmidt, Brown, LaFleur, Santo, and Gaden/Ampleman without any further recruiting is pretty nice.  The future is bright, even if the present is massively inconsistent.

So what about the pitching?

Pitching

Nick Tepesch image via The Missourian

Here are the pitching stats. Players with more than one start in bold.  WHIP = Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched (i.e. baserunners allowed per inning).

Pitcher (Year, RHP/LHP) W-L Sv G GS IP H BB SO ERA WHIP
Kelly Fick (Junior, LHP) 1-0 0 11 0 15.1 14 2 11 2.38 1.06
Jeff Emens (Sophomore, RHP) 1-2 2 12 0 17.1 16 6 15 2.63 1.29
Phil McCormick (Junior, LHP) 3-0 0 17 0 10.0 10 1 3 2.70 1.10
Eric Anderson (Freshman, RHP) 1-1 0 7 6 32.0 31 11 24 3.94 1.31
Jeff Scardino (Junior, LHP) 1-3 0 9 4 24.1 29 3 10 4.11 1.33
Tyler Clark (Junior, RHP) 0-0 1 14 0 15.2 17 4 18 4.14 1.38
Nick Tepesch (Junior, RHP) 2-2 0 7 7 39.1 38 12 28 4.83 1.28
Aaron Blunt (Junior, LHP) 2-1 0 7 6 24.1 34 11 19 4.85 1.87
Ryan Clubb (Sophomore, RHP) 3-0 0 13 1 16.1 16 4 4 5.59 1.24
Zack Hardoin (Junior, LHP) 1-2 0 14 1 12.1 15 5 10 6.69 1.65
Brad Buehler (Junior, RHP) 0-0 0 10 1 16.2 24 4 12 7.78 1.73
Kevin Mahler (Junior, RHP) 0-0 0 2 0 2.0 3 0 1 9.00 1.50
Neil Nugenberg (Freshman, RHP) 0-0 0 3 0 2.0 5 1 2 13.50 3.00
Kenny Burton (Freshman LHP) 0-0 0 3 0 2.2 4 3 1 16.36 3.18
  • One thing catches your eye immediately: this staff has pitched NINE juniors so far ... and no seniors (even though it feels like Kelly Fick has been on the team since about 2003).  Assuming nobody goes pro early -- I'm a little concerned about Nick Tepesch, simply because talk of his "upside" has been around for a while, even if the production hasn't -- that's a pretty ridiculous amount of experience.  And before we wring our hands over what might be in store after they all leave between 2011 and 2012, realize that the best overall pitcher on the staff might still be just a freshman.
  • In two conference starts, Eric Anderson has managed a 3.97 ERA and two no-decisions, and even though he's managed just a 6-5 K-BB ratio in those two starts, his overall peripherals really aren't too bad for a freshman.  He's not a strikeout ace, but he's still managing almost 7 K's per nine innings, he's only allowing 1.31 base-runners per inning, and he's got over a 2-1 K-BB ratio.  I like.  As with Opel and Brown on the offensive side, big things were expected of Anderson pretty much immediately, and he's kept his head afloat so far.
  • By a nose, Tepesch has been the more impressive starter in conference play, with a 3.94 ERA and just 1.00 WHIP.  He's gone 0-2 in those starts thanks to shoddy offense, but he's been decent.
  • Two other JUCO transfers -- Jeff Scardino and Aaron Blunt -- have also done reasonably well in the main rotation.  Scardino is a pitch-to-contact sort, which is sometimes a frightening thought with a college defense backing him up, while Blunt appears to have some better stuff.  Both were rather unimpressive in their lone conference starts, but we're not dealing with a large sample size here.
  • The bullpen has been an area of concern in previous years, and to be sure, it's had its moments this year too, but moving forward, it's pretty calming to see three main relievers -- Kelly Fick, Jeff Emens, and Phil McCormick combining for an ERA well under 3.00 in over an inning of work per game.  They've been a bit shaky in conference play -- 6.1 IP, 4 ER (5.90 ERA), 2.13 WHIP -- but I'll wait for a larger sample size before worrying.
  • Again, when you think about building for 2011, you're looking at a sophomore ace, three potential workhorse seniors, and at least three strong relievers.  I'll take that.  Obviously Brad Buehler has struggled, as have Ryan Clubb and Zack Hardoin (plus, as mentioned above, McCormick and Fick have been iffy in minimal conference appearances), but you could do a lot worse than this next year.

In all, I had zero expectations heading into this season -- I just wanted to see signs of growth from the young guys, and I wanted to see Senne going out with something better than his disappointing junior season.  We've seen both so far.  Obviously when you're relying on this many underclassmen, they're going to be maddeningly inconsistent -- just ask Gary Pinkel and Mike Anderson -- and this team's ceiling in 2010 certainly isn't very high, but catching glimpses of all the pieces that will be in place not only for 2011, but also 2012, is very encouraging.  Good programs are allowed steps backwards sometimes, and this one looks like it will be a temporary thing.

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