I’m doing a little bit of Q&A with the IllinoisBaseballReport, so I thought I’d post questions here, and if any of you who keep up with this thing had anything else to add, feel free to leave it in the comments.
I see last year’s closer Ben Reeser has made the jump to starter most impressively this season, but despite his shiny 2.01 ERA and 12:37 walk-to-strikeout ration, he’s only accumulated 3 wins in 6 starts. Is it the bullpen or the lack of offense that is keeping his win total down?
Speaking of pitching, I can’t help but notice these ERA and opponent batting average numbers for Illinois starters. I’ve heard all sorts of positives from the LSU series, but just how good is this starting pitching staff?
More specifically, which three starters do we see and who is the weakest link, if one exists?
Looking over the offense, the Illini have some impressive batting averages (team: .313, starters: .327) and some decent but not great extra base hit totals – 7th in slugging percentage in the Big10. It appears Brandon Wickoff is still an absolute monster (.402 BA, 25 R, .529 slugging, only 4 K in 102 ABs). Is he still batting third and is there a way to pitch around him? Are the batters behind him that much of a threat?
On defense, third basemen Altobelli’s fielding percentage at third base. Is he having trouble with run of the mill ground balls, throwing the ball across the diamond, slow rolling bunts, or a little bit of everything? Or, is he just the recipient of some bad luck? I can’t see his bat leaving the lineup, so do you think Michigan will test him at the hot corner?
Speaking of defense, Illinois appears to be collecting quite a few double plays this season. They rank 9th in the nation in double plays per game by the last NCAA statistics release (3/29/09). Michigan has been all about crippling double plays at times this season (see: Arizona currently leading the nation in double plays per game). Are we going to see a lot of sinking fastballs and splitters this weekend? If so, who from?
Speaking of Michigan crippling itself, Illinois doesn’t appear to be dominating in the strikeout column. I don’t even have a question for you. I just wanted to point out that I think the Illini Ks-per-9-innings is going up this weekend. Call it a hunch.
How is starting second baseman Josh Parr doing? I noticed he left a game this last weekend against Indiana. Nothing serious I hope? Would Bonadonna take over second base if he is out? And speaking of Bonadonna, what happened with him? I see he’s still stealing bases like a mad man, but the average has plummeted from last year.