Each February, we celebrate the beginning of a new year of Mizzou Baseball with a Q&A with trripleplay, the purveyor of the great SimmonsField.com. Mizzou's season starts today, so ... Q&A time!
Consider this your live thread for a busy Friday of Mizzou sports.
Who: No. 5 Missouri at Troy
When: 7:00 PM CT
Live Stats: Here (Probably)
1. What single pitcher is Mizzou counting on the most this season?
The pitcher counted on to lead the pitching staff would be Eric Anderson. He is slated to be the Friday night ace, and they're counting on him being a dominant pitcher.
The pitcher they're counting on to develop into an impact pitcher for the staff is Brandon Platts, a freshman from Mason City, IA. He's being groomed for the role of the closer. JuCo transfer Blake Holovach will begin the season as the closer, to give Platts time to the pressure of Division 1 baseball, but they're counting on Platts to become a dominant closer by the time the conference season starts. If he does, then Holovach will be available to solidify the starting rotation for the long haul.
2. What single hitter is Mizzou counting on the most this season?
Blake Brown is expected to be the most productive hitter in the lineup. He's showing a renewed intensity and aggressiveness at the plate and on the base paths that should be the engine that drives the offense.
The hitter they're counting on to emerge as a key part of the offense is Dane Opel, who has under-performed in his first two years and whose development was delayed by injury. If Opel can finally show he's the player everyone has expected him to be, his bat will provide a depth to the lineup that is sorely needed.
3. Last year, four of the nine players to log at least 100 at bats were sophomores -- Brannon Champagne, Eric Garcia, Blake Brown and Dane Opel. They will make up a solid portion of this year's lineup, and in theory, they will lead NEXT year's lineup, too. Of this group, who has the highest ceiling overall?
Blake Brown probably has the highest ceiling of those four. He's the most well-rounded, with defense, speed, power, production and leadership.
4. Who will Mizzou probably miss the most of last year's departed players?
Phil McCormick will be missed in the bullpen. He had that unique approach that through opposing batters off. Jonah Schmidt will be missed in the lineup. He led the team in offense last year, as well as in comic relief and great hair.
5. Head coach Tim Jamieson is very well thought of on the national scene, but after back-to-back mediocre seasons, do you feel the leash is getting shorter? Should it?
Getting to the NCAA Regionals is a minimum requirement to keep your job, whether you're in the Big 12 or SEC. Missing two years straight is concerning, but not panic button worthy. Missing three years in a row would definitely put him on notice, especially heading into the SEC. But that won't happen.
6. The non-conference schedule features a couple of early road trips (at Auburn this weekend, at San Francisco next weekend), followed by over a month in Columbia, with series against Ball State, Charlotte, North Dakota, High Point and Central Arkansas. It seems conducive to a nice start, even if the resulting RPI is iffy. Is this a good thing for a team looking to build some confidence?
Considering this is a "rebuilding" team, starting the season slow is a good thing. But there are some really good challenges in February and March. Auburn will be tougher than their bottom of the SEC preseason predictions would indicate. San Francisco has been picked to finish 3rd int he WCC. Charlotte, picked to win the Atlantic 10, comes to Taylor Stadium in March for four games. So mixed in with the North Dakotas and High Points are some good teams to sharpen their skills against.
7. You unleashed a lovely "SEC Dixie-nary" series over the offseason, talking about the move to the SEC and what it might mean for Mizzou Baseball. At this stage, give me a 1-10 rating: how excited are you for the move?
If 10 is most excited, count me a 10. I did the whole SEC Dixie-nary series because I had a moment of decision last September, as the SEC bandwagon began careening down the tracks: Do I care enough to continue doing SimmonsField.com if it means I have to put in the hours of work and research necessary to completely re-learn everything I know about MU's opponents? I'm sure every Mizzou blogger knows what I'm talking about. The average fan can learn as he goes, but if you're going to write about MU in the SEC, you've got a lot of homework to do ahead of time. So all I did was dump my personal homework into the blog (which is pretty much what the whole blog is every day).
Starting that process, I was about a 6. But by the time I got to Z is for Zero, I had reached 10. Like I said in my final Dixie-nary post, MU going to the SEC will definitely be a challenge. The only question is whether the SEC will be up to it.
By the way, the Dixie-nary got me is such an alphabetic mood, my 2012 season preview is titled MU Baseball 2012 A-Z (Self-Share)
8. What will you miss the most about Big 12 Baseball?
I won't miss anything about Big 12 Baseball. What I'll miss is Big 8 Baseball. I already miss not seeing Nebraska on the schedule. I'll miss the long-standing baseball rivalry against OU and OSU, the two teams that dominated Big 8 baseball for years. And I will most definitely miss the best rivalry in all college sports, the team we all love to hate, the Dodo-like Bird Who Shall Not Be Named.
9. Any early sense for recruiting changes with the SEC move pending?
Tim Jamieson hired two new assistant coaches prior to last season, and they're the ones who spearhead the recruiting. And they began to refocus the recruiting of MU Baseball immediately, and those changes are what will continue to be their focus even as we move into the SEC. The #1 priority now appears to be locking down the state of Missouri and surrounding areas. Recruiting Coordinator Kerrick Jackson has fantastic connections in the St. Louis area, great connections in Kansas City, and has been signing top players from all over Missouri since he got here. There are 13 players from the past two recruiting classes from MO or not much past the border. MU is still pulling good players from Chicago, as they have for years (now helped by Luke Cassis being in Chicago, I'm sure), and continue to pull JuCo players from Louisiana because of a connection there. Time will tell whether the past Oklahoma and Texas pipelines will dry up.
I don't think there's going to be a big push to pull from SEC states more than they have. If you lock down MO, you'll have a great team. MU will also be able to pull in some players who are attracted to playing in the SEC but don't want to spend 3-4 years in the deep south. Max Scherzer was that kind of recruit, choosing MU over Arkansas in part because he didn't want to spend 3 years in Arkansas.