Preview: Cincinnati

Image from
GoBearCats.com

Cincinnati
February 21, 2009
4pm
Brighthouse Field
Clearwater, Fla.
Home Team: Cincinnati
Probable Pitchers: Travis Smith (0-0) vs Tyler Smith (0-0)
Michigan Record vs Opponent: 4-6
Last Series/Game: Michigan 5 – Cincinnati 2, May 1930

Overview
In the second game for Michigan in the Big10/BigEast Challenge is with the University of Cincinnati BearCats. Despite ending the season one win away from winning the BigEast tournament (39-20 overall record, 19-8 BigEast record), Cincinnati will be the weakest team Michigan will face in the challenge; the BearCats are a team picked by the BigEast coaches to finish in 5th place. As you see above, we haven’t played Cincinnati in recent history. All 10 games were played while Ray Fisher (whom the stadium is named after) was coach, between 1922 and 1930. Records don’t even indicate where the games were played, just the score.

Stars

Mike Spina
Mike Spina,
Image from GoBearCats.com

Cincinnati returns two key players on offense, both preseason BigEast team members, in senior third basemen Mike Spina and senior right fielder Cameron Satterwhite. Spina is the team’s top returning hitter from a year ago with an average of .377, team leading 79 RBIs, BigEast leading homerun total of 21, and BigEast leading .731 SLUG%. This 45th round draft pick of the Minnesota Twins was a monster. He holds the Cincinnati school record for those home run and RBI totals. A key will be to keep him in the ballpark. Last year, more than half of Spina’s homeruns came in multi-homerun games (he had six games with two home runs). He will most likely batting third in the lineup for the BearCats this season.

Following behind him in the cleanup spot will be Cameron Satterwhite, a name that may ring a bell for some Big10 baseball fans. Satterwhite was originally a commit to Indiana, where he played 21 games in 2006. Michigan didn’t face Indiana that year, but he did bat .371 in 26 games for the Hoosiers. Satterwhite batted .364 last season with 61 RBIs, 14 homeruns, and 21 doubles. Satterwhite may be the most valuable player for the BearCats because he forces teams to pitch to Spina. Hopefully being the second game of the season, we may catch both of these players before they really get their bats going.

Other Starters

Outside of these two, the BearCats also return junior left fielder Jamel Scott. Scott batted .311 last season in the two hole. Most impressively, he was able to swipe 35 stolen bases. He will be a threat every time he reaches base.

There is a chance that Scott may start at second base, he played a few games there last year, and last year’s team leader Josh Harrison graduated, leaving a vacancy. That being said, it does sound like true freshman T.J. Jones will be the starting second basemen. Jones is a small (5’8″) local product, so there is no telling how good he may be.

Also returning is sophomore shortstop Chris Peters. Peters was good enough to start at shortstop from day one on campus, but he did play like a freshman. Peters only bat .241 on the season and committed 12 errors. The final returning starter is the lone left handed bat returning, first baseman Kevin Johnson. Johnson and Peters were consistently the 8 and 9 hole hitters on the team and appear to offer little threat at the plate. Johnson has good power, knocking 7 homeruns last year, but his average is a measly .250. He is much better as a fielder though, owning a .991 fielding percentage. Don’t expect too many balls to get past him.

As of this point, we don’t really know what to expect behind the plate with first year starter and JUCO transfer Jim Jacquot trying to earn and keep his spot. He is described as big enough to handle the job, but he has yet to compete at the D-1 level.

The final outfield slot will be filled by JUCO transfer Lance Durham. Little is know about him other than hitting .338 last year for Kaskaskia College. Junior college numbers tend to be a poor way to judge a players ability. Pitchers in JUCO are either immensely awesome (but they can’t qualify for college or have behavior problems to keep them out of the pros) or immensely awful. Kaskaskiais a fairly successful program and Durham appears to be one of their top products of late as most others players have just advanced to the D2 level. Durham was a 6th round draft pick of the Tigers, but forewent signing to finish his degree.

Sophomore Justin Riddell will start the year at designated hitter. He made 23 starts at DH last year with meh results. His batting average was only .272 over the 40 games he made appearances in. Riddell was very streaky last year, recording 10 multi-hit games in 35 starts. Those games accounted for well over half his hits.

Pitchers

Michael Hill
Michael Hill, Image from
GoBearCats.com

The BearCats also return three of their top four starters on the mound in senior RHP Michael Hill, junior LHP Brian Garman, and junior RHP Tyler Smith. Michael Hill is the team’s definite ace. Hill went 6-4 last year with a team best 3.46 ERA in 15 appearances (12 starts). He posted 7.25 K/9-innings while maintaining a 16:65 walks to strikeout ratio which is pretty good for a college pitcher. Hill’s average start last season was about 6 1/3 innings, which meant the bullpen can be brought out early. If Hill gets used in their opener against Purdue, they may be breaking out the bullpen early in the classic. This generally leads to great results for opposing offenses.

If Hill is used agaisnt Purdue, my bet is we see Brian Garman. Garman has made some large strides this offseason after having a fairly rough ending to last year. Garman ended the year with a respectable 5-3 record spanning 15 appearances (9 starts). Garman’s problem was his 6.24 ERA and .301 opponent batting average. Garman may be a solid choice to start against the Wolverines due to the high number of left handers in the Michigan lineup (for you non-baseball people out there, statistics suggest that it is harder to hit a person who is the same dominate hand as the batter, such as left handed pitcher to left handed batter).

If it is not Garman, it may be right hander Tyler Smith. Smith was 3-3 in 13 appearances (12 starts) with a 4.27 ERA. Smith is more of a strikeout pitcher with 8.55 K/9-inning, but he also tends to issue more walks (23:50 walk to strikeout ratio).

Update: Although this was posted today, I received word about an hour ago that Tyler Smith is indeed the starter for our game. I wish I had more information on him, but alas, I work the hand I’m dealt.

Relief

In relief, Cincinnati returns its top closer and setup man. Senior RHP Jake Geglein, the 2009 team captain, returns with his 3-0 record and 9 saves. His 2.30 ERA, .267 opponent batting average, and 36 Ks in 43 innings are impressive. Geglein is currently 4th all-time at Cincinnati with 11 saves (they aren’t as common in the college game). Setting up Geglein will be Senior RHP Billy Welsh. Welsh only made it into 17 innings in 13 appearances last season, but posted a 1-0 record with 3 saves. His 2.08 ERA and .190 opponent batting averages were a team best.

Links of Various Relevancy

UC Preview Part 1: Overview and Catchers (GoBearCats.com)
UC Preview Part 2: Middle Infielders (GoBearCats.com)
UC Preview Part 3: Corner Infielders (GoBearCats.com)
UC Preview Part 4: Outfielders (GoBearCats.com)
UC Preview Part 5: Pitchers (GoBearcats.com, to be released Friday)
Weekend Preview (GoBearCats.com)

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