Big Ten Thoughts

March 8, 2010

While I cover Michigan over at mgoblog, I’m going to try and move some of my Big Ten thoughts over to here for the time being. They don’t quite fit the mgoblog scene, but with BigTenHardball gone and BigTenBaseball virtually gone, I think I’ll at least throw some conference wide thoughts out somewhere.

So for now, this will be a place to occasionally – we’ll see if this lasts – discuss some Big Ten baseball for me.

Power Poll

With three weeks of the season in the books, I thought I’d take a look at the Big Ten baseball conference and give my thoughts on where every one stands. I’m breaking this down into two different sub-polls, one on one game only and the other on series. This is who I think would win either of those scenarios, not how well of a season they’re having. This is to be thought of as "if they played today."

Big Ten Power Poll

# One Game   Series
1 Ohio State   Ohio State
2 Michigan   Michigan
3 Minnesota   Michigan State
4 Michigan State   Indiana
5 Indiana   Minnesota
6 Iowa   Iowa
7 Penn State   Penn State
8 Illinois   Illinois
9 Northwestern   Northwestern
10 Purdue   Purdue

Ohio State gets anointed to the front of both lines reluctantly. They’re offense is so strong that they’d be hard for any Big Ten team to beat consistently. Unfortunately, they are the flag bearers for the Big Ten nationally this year. They play no one of import until they have a pair with Louisville late in the season. But that has the pollsters apparently not paying attention to their loss against Saint Louis, allowing OSU to hold on to a #23 rank by the writers.

I had to go with Michigan’s pitching staff second in both sub-polls. They’re the class of the conference, but I don’t think the Wolverines have quite the offense capable of holding off the Buckeyes, especially in a one game series.

From here the sub-polls diverge. Minnesota is the strongest overall team, but their pitching hasn’t held up. If they can focus everything on one game, I take them over any one else. If they have to play a couple games, the Gophers just find new ways to struggle.

Michigan State has the second best pair of starters in the league, and in a one game series, you better believe it will be a low scoring pitchers’ duel. The bull pen isn’t great though, and it’s already caused Coach Boss to over extend Bucciferro for a supposed 150+ pitch start.

Indiana is either pretty good or really lucky this season. And while I say really lucky, you could say that their late inning losses may actually be a bit unlucky. Coach Smith is making something out of nearly nothing this season. This weekend, he threw a couple of guys against Vanderbilt that hadn’t pitched since high school. They managed to take Vandy to 11 innings, while still collecting 2 quality wins on the weekend.

Iowa has the best win in the conference with a win over then ranked #25 Kansas. Between Jared Hippen and Phil Schreiber, Iowa has to decent options at starter, one lefty and one righty respectively.

The Nittany Lions of Penn State are leading the conference in RPI after their second week of games. They went 2-1 in the Challenge, and they split again this weekend in Lamar, where they beat McNeese State and Dallas Baptist, both pretty good baseball schools. The Lions did lose two to Lamar, but Lamar isn’t some slouch team either, as they beat Rice earlier in the week.

Illinois has just one win on the season, coming over Notre Dame in their opener of the Challenge. They’ve had their chances, leading in several different ball games, but they can’t close out their opponents. They still have the talent that they should be able to beat out NU or Purdue.

Northwestern fell a bit this weekend after their good showing in the Challenge. This week featured a loss to Oklahoma State and Minnesota. The Wildcats don’t have much on offense, and their pitching is experienced but not very talented.

Purdue is a black hole. The Boilermakers were swept in the Challenge and just lost two of three at Southern Illinois. As T-Mill at Hammer and Rails told me, their 285 RPI might be rather generous, despite the ranking only being out of 295. This could be a long season in West Lafayette.

I’ll probably do another one of these in two weeks or so, just so we can check in before conference season starts.

Bid Hunting

I think it’s pretty safe to assume that the Big Ten is shaping up to be a one bid league. No team is tearing it up and dominating like Big Ten leaders have in years past. Minnesota is one hell of a funk. Michigan lost it’s star and their offense has been sulking over it since. Ohio State has a good offense, but their pitching is thin. Their offense has off days as well, complicating issues. I can’t see any way that multiple teams will make the tournament at this rate.

The only hope is that one of the teams that can keep raising it’s RPI can take a big win or two over the next two weeks. That team, and one of the other high RPI teams need to run away with the conference, and the team that didn’t get that big win before the conference season starts must win the tournament.

The best opportunity for that will be Michigan beating Coastal Carolina and Ohio State to take a mid-week game from Louisville in May. If those two can get those signature wins and run away with the conference, and that is quite possible, I think both can get in.


Rice’s Glaring Problem

March 4, 2010

Over the last few weeks, Rice University’s baseball team has faced a fairly serious safety risk in the middle of their evening games – the blinding glare from the sun’s reflection off the Hilton Houston Plaza/Medical Center hotel.

During this transition from winter to spring, the sun has aligned itself to reflect perfectly from the building, to the batter’s eye during a pitch. This not only can blind the batter, but also the catcher and the umpire. As you can see in the picture I took below in August 2008, the building is dead center facing the setting sun (the stadium faces southwest).

8.29.08 Michigan vs UL Lafayette 001

Over the course of this season specifically, a "glare delay" has been used at least twice, both for about 30 minutes. Umpires, looking out for the safety of the batter, catcher, and himself, as well as trying not to allow one team an advantage over another, has had to call time and wait it out. My question becomes is there something that Rice can do about this?

Part of the problem is that this issue is only temporary and restricted to a portion of early March, so it would be overkill for Rice to ask for any major costs to avoid about 3 hours of delays over a two or three week period. It would be ridiculous to build a batter’s eye tall enough to block out the building. It would have to be a well over one hundred feet tall and capable of withstanding hurricane force winds. That’s not feasible without building an actual building to block it out, but there’s no space for that either.

Moving mid-week games to the day isn’t a really great idea at an academic institution like Rice who’s players aren’t going to be missing class when they don’t have to. It’s an option, but not a particularly promising one when trying to get other academic institutions to travel to your park in the mid-week. So what we’re looking for is something moderately cheap, perhaps only temporary.

My solution is commercial advertising. By dropping a windscreen-style billboard down the side of the Hilton, the advertisement will diffuse sun rays, greatly reducing the glare. This can also be a profitable enterprise for the Hilton, selling the advertising space to either Rice or another advertiser only during the three week period that sun is a problem at Reckling.

The screen style billboards are not that unattractive, and they do allow those hotel guest staying in the Hilton to have a fairly clear view out of their windows, just slightly tinted. And while air conditioning costs aren’t a huge issue this March, the tinting may also help the Hilton in the warmer March months by blocking out some of the sun’s heat, therefore lowering operating expenses.

It would be interesting to see what Hilton’s view of the advertising may be. They might consider themselves above advertising on the side of the building, but at the same time, there are some potential benefits to them monetarily. Plus , if Rice manages to secure the 3-week advertising spot, it’s publicity to the university not only at their baseball games, but to the area west of the Medical Center.


Meltdown Happening

January 10, 2010

So the last week and a half have been one whirlwind after another for me. With classes soon approaching, I have no idea what classes I’m taking, much less at what school, much less in what state. In the last 72 hours, I’ve gone from everything being taken care of to go to McNeese State in Lake Charles to now taking an impromptu trip to Tyler, Texas tomorrow morning.

So things are a bit hectic.

The last month has been busy enough as it is. I researched apartments, visited with advisors, arranged my financial aid, scouted various local sporting teams. Things were going well.

I spent all day Wednesday driving around Lake Charles and learning the different areas. You couldn’t get me to rent on the 5th avenue area for my life. Cars were on blocks. A hooker was outside one of the complexes with a cardboard sign. I ran a stop sign to get out of the area.

Closer to campus was a bit more friendly. I found a complex that I fell in love with, even if their idea of flooring is sealed concrete. It actually made it that much more interesting. As I continued past campus, I visited the high end apartments. Faking interest in them just to look around was a great waste of my time.

In the end, I sent in my application for housing to the one right across the street from campus. The building hadn’t even opened yet, but the community seemed close, and the buildings were all brand new. By Friday at 2pm, I had my application in and the deposit ready to go in the mail.

But then fun started. I’m not sure if the University of Texas at Tyler intentionally mailed their acceptance letter to me in an attempt for me to get it on my birthday, but if they did, I want to beat that person over the head with a baseball bat. While I’m sure that wasn’t their intention, I received the acceptance letter in the mail Friday at 4:30pm.

At first hearing this, you may say, well, you’re probably past the point of no return right? McNeese move in is a week from this and classes at UT-Tyler start this upcoming Monday. There’s no way you’ll be ready to go to Tyler in just 3 days.

Yeah, no. I spent the next 30 minutes of my Friday afternoon calling every office that was still open in Tyler. Admissions tells me I can’t register online and that I’ll have to late register on Monday at my advisor’s office. Great.

So I call my advisor’s office at the civil engineering department. The lady’s response to my telling her my story, "Oh, well, dear."

I told her, "I know," and she went to get the advisor’s office hours for Monday. Apparently he doesn’t have normal office hours on Monday so she had to set up a tentative appointment at the end of the day Monday.

So I’m driving up to Tyler, about a 5 hour drive, on Monday without any idea what’s going to happen.

Friday night was all about calming my nerves. Being my birthday, my two best friends took me out to Sherlock’s in Clear Lake and totally "alleviated" any concerns I had. After 8-9 drinks, I was just where I needed to be to forget all about Monday’s impending last-minute life decision.

Yesterday’s hangover didn’t help the situation, but it at least distracted me from thinking about things too much. Today, though, I’m hitting the googles hard trying to sort out a life in Tyler. I’ve gone through every academic information I can muster.

The good news is most of the classes I need and can get into still have a few openings, so I should be able to get into them – I’ll be attempting to at least sit through some of them tomorrow. The bad news is my transfer credit leaves me with a few oddly placed classes. I took a senior level course as a sophomore at Michigan (just differences in different schools’ teaching order) and I’m missing one course, Statics, that I really need to move on. Statics is basically a prerequisite for everything and I haven’t been able to take it since leaving Michigan.

More good news is that the couple of other courses I REALLY need to get out of the way are offered in the summer. There’s at least 2 classes I’ll be taking this summer, and that should get me caught up to graduate AT LEAST one year quicker at UT-Tyler over McNeese State.

The one year difference between out of state tuition fees and a year of tuition could save me over $20,000 dollars in debt. This is why I feel like the point of no return on going to McNeese hasn’t passed. So while things like having a University of Texas degree might be more valuable than a University of Louisiana (McNeese State is part of the UL system), just the overall cost saving and time saving measures make this headache well worth the initial mental suffering.

The rest of the day is going to be spent researching housing options around campus and even the greater Tyler area. My head is going 1000 directions and close to exploding. I’m just glad I’ve stopped yelling F@#$ every time I think about Monday.

More on this soon.


DR9 First Taste

December 3, 2009

Alright, after two days, I’ve finally found time to taste Saint Arnold’s Divine Reserve #9 – Imperial Pumpkin Stout. So time to walk through my thoughts as I enjoy it for the first time.

Upon opening the bottle, I take a good waft from the bottle neck to get a strong scent of gingerbread and a slight hint of pumpkin. There is also a hint of alcohol, but it’s not prevalent. I used a standard pint glass, my Shiner Commemorator glass, for my tasting. There’s no way I’d waste a solid beer like this straight out of the bottle, eliminating the smells.

DSCN0082 The pour is as dark as the bottle.

The pour comes out black with a slight caramel tint. The beer appears very lightly carbonated as there isn’t much of a head on it. What head there is comes as a dark tan. The smell here is definitely of alcohol, but there is a background of pumpkin spice. That 11% is definitely noticeable.

At initial contact, I can definite taste a bitter dark chocolate from the malt. Most of that flavor is nearer the front of the tongue. The middle taste moves to the side and back of the tongue, definitely bitter. My first few tastes, the bitter was overwhelming. I think this is due to drinking it before it either reached the right temperature or not letting it mellow enough.

The bitter taste finishes with a sweeter, yet still bitter, pumpkin pie taste in the finish. The aftertaste is more of a pumpkin spice than pumpkin pie. The finish is also very dry.

As I’ve worked through the 12 oz. bottle, it’s definitely improved in taste, so on my second tasting I think I’ll let it mellow out a bit more and warm up a little bit before enjoying it.

The end product has been delicious. I’m not a huge stout fan, but it’s been pretty good. It’s a shame I haven’t been able to get any of the previous DR beers. Several have claimed this to be the best yet from Saint A’s, so hopefully they continue the streak of ever improving but still great beers.


DR9: I got me some

December 1, 2009

saint arnold divine reserve no 9

That, my friends, is Saint Arnold’s Divine Reserve No. 9, an Imperial Pumpkin Stout. What is an Imperial Pumpkin Stout, you might ask? I’ll let Saint A’s explain the beer for you:

Important: let this beer warm to at least 50° before enjoying.  This beer is black with some ruby highlights.  The nose is full of pumpkin pie spices and some alcohol.  There are notes of nutmeg, caraway and vanilla.  The taste starts with chocolate malt with a hint of spice and rolls into a warm spicy alcohol taste which has the effect of creating the balance that usually comes from the hop bitter.  There is some hop bitter on the finish, but not much.  Overall, this beer finishes relatively dry for such a big beer.  As it warms, the spices move forward in the taste and the chocolate moves to the finish.  The pumpkin provides a pleasant undertone and a nice mouthfeel.  The spices will probably fade some over time; they mellowed considerably while still in the fermenter.

There are only 1,500 6-packs, 23 half-barrels, and 20 1/6 barrels of this brew, and it’s a hot commodity in the Houston area right now. Several stores have already sold out, and others will be inundated with Saint Arnold fans in the next few days as the last couple of stores receive their shipment. This has to be the fastest a $15 6-pack of beer has ever sold.

Saint A’s has the hashtag of #DR9 already set up on twitter for those trying to find locations that still have it, and the tag has been surprisingly busy today. I’ll be doing my initial tasting a bit later tonight. I’ve got a differential equations exam tomorrow, and the 11% alcohol by volume may not be the best study catalyst.


Buckeye State Baseball Links

November 30, 2009

Helping out with Buckeye State Baseball’s link page. Not much to see here other than a long list of links.

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Bayou Bucket Trip

November 29, 2009

DSCN0015

It’s been a while since I’ve had enough time to enjoy something enough to write about it, but this weekend I happened to make it out to the University of Houston to catch the Bayou Bucket rivalry game between the Cougars and cross-town rivals Rice Owls. The game was in Robertson Stadium on UH’s University Campus, which is also home to the Houston Dynamo of the MLS.

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