It’s summer time, folks, and baseball is — for many of us — in full swing. Sadly, this also means another year of college baseball has come and gone. Mizzou baseball’s season came to an end Monday when the team learned it had not been chosen for this year’s NCAA Tournament.
As baseball nuts prepare for the MLB All Star Game, the draft and more, Rock M Nation is looking back at Steve Bieser’s first year as Mizzou’s head coach. It was an exciting year that saw a return to prominence for the Tigers, spotlighted by a 20-game win streak, the emergences of TJ Sikkema and Trey Harris and a controversy over the
Left Field BreakTime Lounge. And as any good bloggers will do, trripleplay and Josh Matejka are handing out their end of the year awards to mark a memorable campaign.
Position player of the year
Trripleplay: Robbie Glendinning. You could go with the sluggers, like Bond or Harris. But I'm going to go with the Aussie, who was the most consistently productive offensive player throughout the season. Other players have had higher peaks, but they've also suffered through lower slumps. Glendinning was a prime contributor to the 20-1 start the Tigers had. His batting average through that streak, was an impressive .389 (best on the team), with 12 RBI, 2 HR, and an OB% of .489 (also best on the team). His SEC-only BA (before the tournament) was .248 (2nd on the team to Kirby McQuire), with 14 RBI, 4 HR, and an OB% of .347. Then, of course, he had a fantastic SEC tournament, including that grand slam in Game 1. Like I said, he was outshone by a variety of other hitters from time to time, but Robbie has been the most consistent, and thus most valuable, player.
Josh Matejka: Trey Harris. Glendinning is a fine choice, to be sure. The man from down under played a massive role in that 20-1 start, as trripleplay stated. But I also think it’s impossible to ignore how key Trey Harris was to this team all year. One of the most important things for a first-year coach is to have productive veteran leadership. Tiger fans already had that in Brett Bond, Tanner Houck and others. But after an inconsistent first two years, Harris proved to be the hitter that brought the most to the Mizzou lineup. Out of the 8 players who played 50 more games, Harris led the team in OB%, SLG% and HR. Also of that group, he finished 2nd in BBs with 32... while finishing dead last in strikeouts with 27 (!!!). Harris took a little bit to get going, but by year’s end, he proved to be the most fearsome bat in the lineup.
Pitcher of the year
Trripleplay: TJ Sikkema. Like Glendinning, Sikkema has been the most consistently productive all year, both during that 20-1 start (an amazing 0.33 ERA, 4-0, .658 WHIP), and against the SEC in the regular season (2.70 ERA, 4-1, .789 WHIP). Other pitchers had some great streaks and great games, but none were as consistent as TJ.
Tanner Houck was supposed to be the pitcher of the year, but he has disappointed. He's still a great pitcher. He'll go in the first round, but probably more like 27th rather than the top 4 he was predicted for prior to the season. I have to say he's not looking like the guy who will become the best major league Mizzou pitcher ever, as someone once said on RMN.
Josh Matejka: TJ Sikkema. If my Rock M Nation legacy thus far is the Tanner Houck super fan, I’m willing to take it. Houck may have struggled more this year than his first two, but I still feel really good about his major league chances given he’s a more complete pitcher now than those of the past. But like trripleplay, I have to give this to Sikkema.
It was actually pretty close. Houck still averaged 6.2 innings per start and had good K numbers and a good 1.07 WHIP. But his 18 HBP didn’t look good, and hitters seemed to figure him out a little this year. I think we can chalk that up to his notoriety and coaches wanting to scout him more. But I can’t take anything away from Sikkema, who had an ungodly 0.88 WHIP on the season, posted better BB and K numbers and managed to pitch 79.1 innings out of mostly a bullpen role. The future is bright with Sikkema on the hill. I’m just bummed we never got to see him and Houck hit peak dominance together.
Black & Gold Glove
Trripleplay: Trey Harris. In past years Trey was quite inconsistent in his fielding. His enthusiasm often got the better of him. This season he has been impressive, racking up zero errors while producing several replay-worthy catches and put-outs.
Josh Matejka: Trey Harris. No arguing here. In fact, this is part of why I chose Harris as PPOTY. He’s a valuable outfielder not just with the lumber, but the leather as well.
Freshman of the year:
Trripleplay: Kameron Misner and TJ Sikkema.
Josh Matejka: Kameron Misner. Is it cheating if I say Sikkema didn’t perform quite like a freshman this year, and that’s why I’m not choosing him? If it is, I don’t care. Misner was just about as valuable, leading the team in games started and played. He posted a solid OB%, was a threat on the bases with his 17 SB and displayed a little bit of pop with his .445 SLG%, good for a .806 OPS. That’s a bat I’m excited to see in the future.
Comeback of the year
Trripleplay: Bryce Montes de Oca. MDO is still not as consistent as anyone would like to see him, but there's been a remarkable difference between 2017 and his completely wild (and dangerous) first two seasons. He earned himself a lot of money with his performance this season. He'll no doubt be a top 3 rounds pick in June.
Josh Matejka: Trey Harris. MDO isn’t a bad choice, but his K/BB and WHIP still scare me, and - I imagine - MLB teams. Someone will take a chance on him to be sure, but he’s still far from a sure thing. I don’t know how the word ‘comeback’ can be separated from Harris this year after the turnaround he made from his sophomore slump.
Trripleplay: Left Field Lounge. I don't know whose idea it was to steal the name of Mississippi State's famous Left Field Lounge, but it was a stupid one. It's astounding it got so far as to mailing out, "Left Field Lounge," promotional materials to season ticket holders, without someone saying, “Is this trademarked?” And even if not, is this a good idea?
Josh Matejka: Stealing an already popular trademarked name. SEC fans don’t like us already. Let’s stop giving them reasons to dislike us more.
Trripleplay: Breaktime Lounge. The actual idea for a beer-allowed lounge was an excellent idea, though. I'm not a beer drinker myself, but for years people have told me they don't go to Mizzou Baseball games because, "there's no beer." The crowds inside the BreakTime Lounge area - and area that kept growing as the season progressed - is testament to its success.
Josh Matejka: Breaktime Lounge. No, I’m not plagiarizing trripeplay. Beer and baseball is the best, and he’s right on the money with this one.
The most “Mizzou curse” thing
Trey hits 4 straight HRs against Kentucky, then injures his oblique in the next game
Tim Jamieson, who showed up for home games, went out of his way to be cheerful and talkative and supportive, and even did some decent color commentary for the SEC Network.
Favorite 2017 Memory
Trripleplay: The night I, a 60-year-old man with a cane, won the Dance for your Dinner contest.
Josh Matejka: It’s not specific, but watching the emergence of TJ Sikkema was pretty special. I shan’t soon forget it.
Trripleplay: I'd like to give this to Mack Rhoades, for having the good sense to hire Steve Bieser. But I don't really want to give him any kudos. Instead I'll go with Bieser himself. This team has already won more games than any Tiger team since 2009. He’s taken them the deepest MU has ever gone in the SEC Tournament (Jamieson’s best was 1-and-done). And that 20-game winning streak is nothing to sniff at. If anyone had predicted any of those three things at the beginning of the season, it would have been called a pipe dream. So a tip of my cap to Coach Bieser.
Josh Matejka: There’s absolutely no way Rhoades relied on skill to hire Bieser. I’m 100% he fell into this hire by accident. And yes, Bieser is a great choice. He not only course-corrected a team known for disappointing, but he brought them back into national relevance. I’m super excited to have him on the bench for the foreseeable future.
That being said, I’m going with the freshman phenom TJ Sikkema. Yes, I picked Trey Harris for a few awards, but this team doesn’t get where they are without Sikkema. He stabilized a shallow pitching staff through his bullpen and rotation work, especially in a time when Tanner Houck wasn’t his most dominant. Sikkema was lights out all year, and brought this team to another level. Maybe I’ll write a major league outlook for him in the coming years...