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Simmons Field: A Tip of the Cap to the 2014 Tigers

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It's time for the annual Tip of the Cap awards

John Hi Simmons
John Hi Simmons

Here's a tip of my cap to to 2014 Tigers, who struggled all year long, but never gave up trying. There were some great moments this season, but 2014 didn't go the way anyone wanted.

"You lose one, you have that sick feeling in your stomach, and you want to go out and get it away," he said. "And that’s what I’m going to take with me over the summer, and I hope other guys take it too, that I want to get this terrible taste out of my mouth and come back next year and do something."

Was there anything else to take away from this season, other than motivation?

"Nope." Columbia Missourian, May 17, 2014

Tipping Points

Where did it all go wrong? What happened to turn this season into a long struggle to rise above mediocrity?

  • Mizzou's pitching started off looking to be as good as 2013's excellent adventure. But then pitchers started dropping like flies.  Griff Goodrich made four early appearances before injury ended his season. Jace James was expected to be part of the rotation, but injury limited him to 7-2/3 innings. Matt Hobbs settled into an effective weekend rotation of Brett Graves, John Miles, and Eric Anderson.  Then Graves got hit in the head by an errant baseball and was never quite the same pitcher from that point on.  Anderson developed an ulnar nerve problem in late April and was removed from the pitching staff and relegated to hitting (which went downhill from that point).  On the same weekend that Anderson was removed from the rotation, John Miles developed a bicep problem during a game and was taken out, not to return to the mound for the remainder of the season.

  • Even on the many occasions when the pitching staff was doing well, they were under pressure to do it all, due to lack of support from the offense.  The lineup's 3.7 runs per game doesn't look too bad, but that's a deceptive number. In only 17 games did MU score 5 or more runs, most of those in non-conference games.  In 22 games they managed 2 runs or less.

  • Alec Rash remained a shadow in his second year as a Tiger.  After spurning a low 2nd row offer from the Phillies, Rash came to Mizzou.  After posting a 4.55 ERA in 27.2 innings in 2013, Rash actually led the staff in 2014 with an ERA of 3.04 in just 17.2 innings pitched.  A late March article in the Columbia Tribune talked about how the coaches didn't want to destroy his confidence, but that doesn't really account for how little he was used this season.  Rash is slated to pitch in the elite Cape Cod League this summer.  Here's hoping that experience gives him the confidence he needs to return to MU next season and be the pitcher everyone - except perhaps for himself - knows he can be.

  • The SEC schedule was back-loaded, setting up Missouri to win a few games from teams that ended up finishing toward the lower half of SEC standings.  They even won their series against Auburn (the eventual 13th ranked team) and Kentucky (4th in the SEC East). But then, in the last half of the conference season, they faced the eventual top 3 in the SEC East, plus the returning CWS runners-up and finally Arkansas, who hog-tied the Tiers as part of a 6-1 final SEC run to 4th in the West.  This scheduling set the team and the fans up with false hope, only to suffer a free-fall reminiscent of the Mad Men opening title sequence.  The end of the year slide left a bad taste in the mouths of the team and the fans.

Tip of the Cap to Departing Tigers

And a couple of non-seniors who will likely be drafted and gone:

Ian Kinsler Base Cadet Award

Every year we honor the ballplayer who lives up to the standard of creative base running set by former Missouri Tiger and current Detroit Tiger Ian Kinsler, who has proven already this season that he is still living up to the honorific of "Base Cadet".   It seemed in 2014 that the entire Mizzou lineup was working hard to earn this coveted award, since there were pick-offs, failed steals, and runners being thrown out at home on jut about a daily basis. SS Josh Lester, though, stood head and shoulders above the rest of his fellow cadets, racking up an impressive 7 failed steals out of 11 attempted for the year.  So here's a tip of the cap and a #smh to Josh and his entire Base Cadet crew.

John McKee HBP Award

Padding that OBP with an aggressive approach to getting plunked by the pitcher has always been a badge of honor for all baseball and for MU.  The team racked up 43 for the season, led by 2B Shane Segovia, who crowded his way to 8 free passes to first.  A special hat tip has to go to 3B Ryan Howard, though, who tallied 6 HBP, but seemed to specialize in the ones that sent him scrambling - or, in the case of a Tyler Beede beanball, sent him a step toward the pitcher's mound, with a murderous look in his eye.

Jake Walsh Phoenix Award

Rarely does a player deserve to receive the Phoenix Award more than once, but DH/RHP Eric Anderson has made a career out of coming back for more when others would have given up. Big E, in his 5th year as a Tiger, came back from multiple injuries with a vengeance.  He spent large portions of the season carrying the struggling Tigers on his shoulders, both as lead-off hitter, weekend starter, and all-around bundle of enthusiasm and grit.  I have no doubt he'll bounce back from the ulnar nerve problem that took him off the mound for the final weeks of the season.  Hopefully there is a major league organization that will give him on a chance on Draft Day to prove he can.

Nattering Nabob Award

By far the best coverage of Tiger Baseball in 2014 came from the Columbia Missourian beat writer, Ian Frazer.  Not only were his game day reports and features in the newspaper the best read in town, his prolific and creative tweeting was the best source of information and entertainment a Mizzou Baseball fan could want.  And a special tip of the cap to the Columbia Missourian and the J School, for producing a steady stream of excellent MU Baseball beat writers of the past several years.

By the Numbers

139th (.505)  Mizzou's 2014 NCAA RPI ranking at season's end, out of 302 D-1 teams ( RPI)

75th (.537)  Mizzou's final RPI ranking in 2013

24th MU's Strength of Schedule ranking among D-1 teams (, 5/19)

20-33 Final W-: record, 2014

18-32 Final W-L record, 2013

6-23 Final SEC record, 2014

10-20 Final SEC record, 2013

3 Games  Longest Winning Streak, 4/6 to 4/11, vs. Georgia, Missouri State, Kentucky

9 Games  Longest Losing streak, the 3 final weekends of the season vs. Vanderbilt, South Carolina, and Arkansas

6 Number of games MU lost by just 1 run

10 Home runs for the team, 5 fewer than 2013; fewest since 1953

196 Runs, 9 fewer than 2013, fewest since 1973

170 RBI, 15 fewer than 2013, fewest since 1973

.242 Team Batting Average, .003 lower than 2013, lowest since 1969

2.04 Best ERA on the team, by Alec Rash, who only made 10 appearances

127 Walks Allowed by the pitching staff, fewest since 1973

642-504-2 Career W-L record by Tim Jamieson

Conference ISR rankings
, as of 5/19/2014 (BoydsWorld.,com)

#1 (112.6) SEC

#2 (112.5) Big 12

#3 (111.3) PAC 12

#4 (109.4) Big West

Biggest Crowd at Taylor Stadium in 2014 (vs. Georgia)

237 Smallest Crowd at Taylor Stadium in 2014, vs. SEMO

26 Smallest Crowd of the season, vs. Campbell on 2/26, at a neutral site.

18,536 2014 Total Attendance

350 2014 Average Attendance

Past Years Regular Season Home Attendance

2013: Total: 19,561; Average: 752

2012: Total: 26,357; Average: 824

2011: Total: 13,334; Average: 476

2010: Total: 19,310; Average: 715

2009: Total: 23,848; Average: 852

2008: Total: 30,687; Average: 1,136

2007: Total: 14,190; Average: 645

2006:Total: 23,906; Average: 885

2005:Total: 16,965; Average: 707

2013 Home Attendance Detail

Top 10 All-Time Home Attendance

6/2/07 Louisville (Regional) 3,630

6/1/07 Kent St (Regional) 3,481

6/3/07 Louisville (Regional) 3,457

3/15/13 South Carolina 3,145

5/17/08 Nebraska 3,126

5/18/08 Nebraska 2,418

4/25/98 Texas 2,347

4/24/98 Texas 2,372

4/5/2014 Georgia 2,328

5/5/12 Texas 2,210

People ask me what I do in summer when there's no college baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for winter.  Quote adapted from Rogers Hornsby