Big Ten Baseball: A Scheduling Conundrum

August 1, 2010

While this isn’t a pressing issue at all, there is an upcoming problem facing the Big Ten’s baseball scheduler. Unlike most other sports teams in the Big Ten over the last few years, baseball has been blessed with an even 10 teams. With Wisconsin not fielding a team since the early 90s, and the addition of Penn State shortly thereafter, the conference has been able to avoid bye weeks.

Starting next year with Nebraska’s move to the conference, the baseball standings will stretch to an 11th team, complicating scheduling that’s already hampered by weather. A bye week is now mandatory as only 10 teams can play each other while the 11th sits dormant.

That bye situation is tougher to deal with than it might seem. This means that you must have an odd number of byes every week if you have more than one team with a bye (11 teams with 2 byes means 9 teams for 5 games, someone still not playing someone). This necessity for at least one bye per week makes the 8 week schedule impossible. At least one week will require an even number of byes.

Adding a Week to the Conference Season

With that, the primary option would be to change the length of the conference regular season*. There’s two ways to do that, adding the week to the front of the regular season or dropping the conference tournament. Both of those have their pros and cons.

In moving the start to the conference season up a week, the conference tournament and it’s RPI boost/potential extra bid to the NCAA tournament is preserved. That’s arguably a good thing. The downside to starting the conference season a week earlier is the plight that is northern baseball. That weekend is usually teams’ first attempts at baseball outside, and the weather that weekend has a history of snow and rain outs. This past year, teams were lucky. Hedging that bet might not be best for teams.

The second option is to drop the conference tournament and add a ninth week of games where the conference tournament once stood. This idea seems reasonable as the conference tournament hasn’t really been a force in getting extra teams into the NCAA that win. Indiana is the only recent team to get a huge RPI boost in winning the auto-bid, but they were two-and-out of the NCAAs. The tournament also isn’t a money-maker for the conference, especially when you put the predetermined spot on a campus that’s not participating.

But despite some of those slight positives, would-be tournament teams do lose the opportunity to boost their RPI, and teams lose that chance to play their way into the NCAAs. Both of those are tough losses for some programs.

I think the option of changing the season length like this would be the most logical option, but let’s look at other ideas.

*I’ll point out that if the expansion of the season (post Uniform Start Date) added a week to the beginning of the season instead of the end of the season, as argued by many of the northern baseball schools. Had the rules committee, the city of Omaha/CWS, and ESPN been able to broker the deal to have it added to the end of the season, all this would be moot

Six Conference Series

A second option that would be viable is to drop the conference regular season to just 7 weeks, and have teams play only 6 conference series before the tournament. This gives teams the opportunity to try and schedule another pair of non-conference series, one during what used to be the first weekend of conference play and another during their bye.

This gets a bit tricky as many of the northern teams have enough trouble trying to schedule opponents for home series (see the tomato cans like IPFW and Oakland that Michigan has scheduled recently). Finding a quality opponent willing to travel north that late in the season is going to be near impossible. That leaves RPI vacuums from the Horizon League, Missouri Valley, Summit League, or Ohio Valley Conferences as likely culprits to drain teams’ RPIs.

To alleviate this problem, the conference could go back to 4-game weekends and just leave the bye as an actual bye week. This would put the conference season back to 24 games, where it was before expansion. This seems like a capable scenario, but it’ll be interesting to see how coaches view this. The reason 4-game series were dropped was to reduce RPI loss against the lower teams in the Big Ten and to save their pitching depth, as 4 games tended to drain everything they had.

Divisions Fail

As far as divisional structure, things get no better here. With 11 teams, one division is going to have an odd number of teams. This just complicates all of the previous scheduling to the point of not working at all.

For example, if the 6-team division plays each of it’s five division rivals, it has played 5 series. The 5-team division will have played 4 series. How do they make up that lost series? Do they get a bye weekend and the 6-team division not? Is that fair? I would say definitely not. And it’s not like they could play an extra week of divisional games (like playing a divisional opponent a second time). One team would have a bye and still not play an extra series.

This just can’t work.

Conclusions

The only way I see the conference schedule working out is by adjusting the season length. I don’t think coaches would really go for the 4 game weekends, and I’m not sure I see the coaches wanting to drop the conference tournament. This means that adding a week to the beginning of the conference season is the only logical approach.

It sounds like baseball fans need to invest in a better set of blankets. That weekend in early March isn’t the home opener against a tomato can that you can just skip guilt free.


Early Look at All Big Ten Teams

May 20, 2010

There’s no doubting that I’m excited for this weekend’s series to get underway so the most exciting pennant race in college baseball, for those who notice it at least, can hit high gear. As we enter the last week of regular season play, I’ve started to form a rough draft on All-Big Ten teams.

Creating the teams was pretty tough. I focused more on a balance of offense and defense, with a slight emphasis on the former. Some emphasis was also added for ending the season well, so players like Purdue’s Wurdack receive recognition even if their season numbers aren’t the greatest. Certain positions, like second base and the outfield (surprisingly) weren’t so tough. Others, like catcher and first are pretty stacked with talent. Then you have the left side of the infield, which is WAY weaker than anywhere else on the field by miles.

First team:

  • SP – Alex Wimmers (OSU)
  • SP – Matt Bischoff (Purdue)
  • SP – Phil Isaksson (Minnesota)
  • RP – David Lutz (Penn State)
  • C – Chris Berset (Michigan)
  • 1B – Jeff Sabourin (Indiana)
  • 2B – Ryan Jones (Michigan State)
  • 3B – Cory Rupert (Ohio State)
  • SS – Nick Overmyer (Purdue)
  • LF – Ryan LaMarre (Michigan)
  • CF – Zach Hurley (Ohio State)
  • RF – Alex Dickerson (Indiana)
  • DH – Josh Lyon (Indiana)

Second Team:

  • SP – TJ Oakes (Minnesota)
  • SP – Jarred Hippen (Iowa)
  • SP – AJ Achter (Michigan State)
  • RP – Tyler Burgoon (Michigan)
  • C – Ben Heath (Penn State)
  • 1B – Paul Snieder (Northwestern)*
  • 2B – Zach Morton (Northwestern)
  • 3B – Zach McCool (Iowa)
  • SS – Jonathon Roof (Michigan State)
  • OF– Brandon Eckerle (Michigan State)
  • OF – Kurtis Muller (Iowa)
  • OF – Eli Boike (Michigan State)
  • DH – Michael Stephens (Ohio State)

*Also 3rd team RP

Third Team:

  • SP – Drew Leininger (Indiana)
  • SP – Francis Brooke (Northwestern)
  • SP – Drew Wurdack (Purdue)
  • C – Chad Noble (Northwestern)
  • 1B – Jeff Holm (Michigan State)
  • 2B – Cory Kovanda (Ohio State)
  • 3B – Torsten Boss (Michigan State)
  • SS – Ethan Wilson (Indiana)
  • OF– Michael Kvasnicka (Minnesota)
  • OF – Steve Snyder (Penn State)
  • OF – Michael Earley (Indiana)
  • DH – Coley Crank (Michigan)

Freshman

  • SP – Brett McKinney (Ohio State)
  • SP – TJ  Oakes (Minnesota)
  • SP – Kevin Johnson (Illinois)
  • RP – Steven Hill (Penn State)
  • C – Kevin Plawecki (Purdue)
  • 1B – ????
  • 2B – Ryan Jones (Michigan State)
  • 3B – Cameron Perkins (Purdue)
  • SS – Derek Dennis (Michigan)
  • OF– Patrick Biondi (Michigan)
  • OF – Arby Fields (Northwestern)
  • OF – Steve Snyder (Penn State)
  • DH – Torsten Boss (Michigan State)

The All-Big Ten overall teams seem to be pretty fair. Picking a third string shortstop was horrible. Pick anyone not listed already, and you can probably make a case for them. Well, maybe not Tyler Engle at Ohio State, but the other 7 shortstops are all about the same.

The other position that I’m having trouble filling is freshman first baseman. Is there a freshman that’s played enough first base to remotely qualify? If so, they get in by default of no one else even registering on the radar.

One weekend to go, time for the players to make their final pushes.


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.


Questions for BigTenNetwork President

September 17, 2009

I’m supposed to be talking with a representative from the BTN tomorrow via telephone to discuss the new streaming venture available at video.bigtennetwork.com. I’ve got a list of questions going here right now. If you’ve got any other ideas, let me know in the comments. I’m not sure how much he’ll be able to answer, but I want to try as much as I can.

1) We’ve got a start. What sports can we expect this fall? I’ve seen volleyball and basketball on the schedule page already.

In 2009-10, the Big Ten Network is streaming a number of games in volleyball, exhibition and selected non-conference men’s basketball, selected non-conference and conference women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, wrestling, baseball and softball.

Are you going to get to any of the bigger field sports this fall semester? (soccer, field hockey, etc)

2) On that same note, will televised basketball and football games be archived for the same price, or will people have to go to the BigTenTicket?

3) Judging by the initial sports chosen (except maybe baseball/softball), are these going to be stationary single-camera views only?

4)What is the limiting factor on number of games streamed? Money? People? Gauging Interest?

5) Looking at the sports listed in the schedule page, there are a couple non-BigTen sports listed such as lacrosse and ice hockey. Does the BTN have a policy on those broadcasts? Does it have to be an official NCAA sports to be streamed, specifically, would the BTN show Michigan lacrosse (or Penn State ice hockey) as only a club sport? Also, I assume ice hockey will be only selected, BigTen-member home games.

6) Are these broadcasts going to include full announcing crews? If so, are they furnished by the BigTen or by the individual schools through either students or SIDs?

7) Obviously I haven’t seen a game on it yet, how are the commercials embedded into the broadcast? Are there commercials embedded into the broadcast, as we’re paying for the viewing experience already?

8) With the issues brought up about streaming in the US vs internationally, will the streams be equally available to US and international viewers (live or not)?

9) How long does a game stay in “my games”? I saw something that said “the end of the season.” Can I get some clarification on what that means? Does that mean 4-6 weeks after the NCAA championship?

10) If I purchase a game that doesn’t end up being played/broadcast, whether for weather or technical issues, does the BTN have a refund policy?

11) Are you allowed to disclose why the BTN isn’t offering a team/season package?

12) ESPN360 is what most of my readers can compare your service to, which has raised the question, are their plans after the next negotiation with service providers to make streaming live televised games in the US?

13) Our readship obviously has plenty of other comments and suggestions, some streaming, some non-streaming related, rather than burdening you with some of these technical or philosophical questions, where can I direct their concerns and questions? Just as an example, I get plenty of comments about the BigTen’s greatest games’ commercial break teasers being spoilers.

14)


Complexity of What to Write

September 1, 2009

I’ve come to the point in my writing at mgoblog that I’m really not sure where I should go next. Now that the season are starting for most of the teams, my google-stalking abilities only do so much. Most of what I’m capable of doing from a distance is just read the box scores and press releases. I don’t want to just rehash those, so I’ve got to find some other way of relaying what the teams are doing. Finding that way is hard.

Since I’ve started, baseball has always been my out, but I’ve hit the end of the rope on most of that posting. I’ve done some solid season previews (or at least I think so). The post on the volleyball team’s win was one of my better game recaps, baseball included, but that was because I was able to watch the game and get into it.

Now, going into the school year, I don’t have access to hardly any video of games. I’ve got very little radio through mgoblue. Even the few games I will be able to watch, they’ll be through streaming IPTV that I’m not even sure will hold up. What does make it through, I have no way of recording it. My life is too busy to watch all these games live for free.

So while the jihad bought me some time to think without people wondering where my writing is, I’m finding that I’m the odd man out and it sucks. I’m the writer disconnected from my topic. I’m the one that can’t be there to get the interesting input on the other side of Michigan sports – a place I really like being. So where do I go next?

My first thought is coach and player interviews, but how do I go about them? The ideal time would be right after games, but I can’t be there. So I go with midweek interviews, what do those really accomplish from a journalistic stand point? I’m not sure it’s much. Asking them about games they played a few days ago seems like dated information. Asking them personal information doesn’t seem like it would remain interesting as interviews would start to become stale for mgoblog’s readership. That kind of stuff is great on mgoblue, but mgoblog is an entirely different animal.

After that, I wonder what good I really can do with mgoblog as a full Olympic/non-revenue sports contributor. Do I just post a notes piece that bullet points how each team did? Do I try to preview weekends more in depth? I don’t know.

None of these ideas scream out to me the writer as something appealing, which makes it infinitely harder to write. If I’m not passionate about the information I’m spreading, I think it’s a waste for me to do it. I don’t want to waste my own effort.

What I am certain about though, is I want to continue to write, and that is what will have to drive me onward.


Catching Up

August 23, 2009

So, slow posting in these parts of late. Such is life, I guess. The last few weeks have been pretty busy with life, while at the same time, lacked the busy. We’ll make this a recap post of the last 3 weeks.

I Need a Job

I’m still unemployed, but much to my own credit than the market. I’ve not made a super push to get a job, instead looking here and there. I’ve made a few trips out to search for job openings, mainly to the hardware and retail stores close to home. None of the ones I visited were hiring. The lack of income is starting to be felt as school payments are being made currently.

School Days School Days Rotten Golden Rule Days

Speaking of school, it starts tomorrow. The last week has gained me ample experience in EBay, half.com, and amazon both as a buyer and a seller. While I haven’t come close to my record of buying a book for $0.07 (plus shipping), I’ve gotten some pretty good deals so far this term. I’ve also made a profit selling some of my books from last year. So far I’ve sold three books for just over a combined $200 when I paid no more than $120.

So while that’s gone well, my one complaint is the shipping costs. These selling sites do a horrible job estimating shipping. I’ve had to pay out of pocket up to an 200% of their estimated shipping cost. As I’ve played with it, the prices have dropped, but I’m still surprised how badly it can turn out.

I Have Many Leather Bound Books

One of the highlights of the last three weeks was revisiting the Barnes & Noble that was going out of business.  For those of you who don’t remember:

I guess it’s also worth noting that before dinner, we stopped at a Barnes & Noble across the street from our restaurant.  We found out the store is closing and about 85% of the merchandise was 40% off.  THIS WAS AWESOME.  I picked up 4 classic literature books for $20.  I could have bought the whole store if I had the money.

Well I went back and got a few more books. I’ve made it through Dante’s The Inferno and most of Aesop’s Fables. The more I read from Aesop, the funnier I find posting on mgoblog’s mgoboard to be. Many of the same logical fallacies of it’s characters show up in every day posting. Perhaps one day I’ll just start posting the parables after dumb comments. Perhaps not.

I’m also looking forward to the collected writings of Thomas Paine and the complete Sherlock Holmes collection. I find it a shame I can’t relate to those who discuss either collection as they are each so important to American politics and literature respectively.

All Your MGoBlogs Are Belong To Us

I’ve made a couple posts at mgoblog over the last few weeks. I’ve got a Women’s Soccer Season Preview, some informative posts, a few baseball updates, and a Field Hockey Season Preview (due out today I think). The transition is going as smoothly as one would expect during football season. I’ve gotten one true hate comment so far. That’s pretty solid, all things considered.

Hopefully posting here should even out over the next week or so. I’m not expecting school to over take too much of my current pattern of writing more on the weekends, but if I do find a job, that could slip as well.


Meta Somewhat Completed

August 8, 2009

With the recent MGoMerger completed, I’ve made a couple changes to the sidebar.  I’ve decided to get rid of the text at the top and place an updated version on the “About” page.  Along with that, I’ve edited my blog roll to reflect past and present works better.

Formerly on mgoblog will link to all posts I make on mgoblog (so long as I remember to tag them correctly) (updated: link corrected without using tags).  This should help me track all of my posts in an easier manner than what is available through the basic mgoblog functions.  I think it’s valuable for a writer to be able to link out their specific work, especially on a site where my work will be the minority.  This should help with in the future if I want to use mgoblog as a reference.

Formerly Tweets is a link to my twitter page.  Fomerly’s Fanposts links to my few posts on Maize ‘N Brew (among other places), for much the same reason as keeping my mgoblog author feed.

The MGoBlog Baseball and VarsityBlue Baseball posts link to just baseball specific posts.  Occasionally Tim, Paul, or even Brian may mention baseball, so I want to make sure I can still link out the entire baseball section of the respective sites to college baseball fans looking for information on Michigan.

I’m still not sure if I want to move former.ly.cious up on the side bar to the top or keep my search and archive functions closer to the top. I had contemplated adding a list of tags, but wordpress.com doesn’t offer enough choices on how to present it.  The only option I have is tag cloud, which draws all the attention away from the blog to the tag cloud with is counter productive.  We’ll see if this changes in the future.

If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know in the comments/email.