NCAA Baseball Top 25 Rankings Chat (4/12/21)
Teddy Cahill: Welcome to this week's college baseball chat. It was a loaded weekend from coast to coast with some really great series, so there's plenty to talk about. Let's get to it.
- Thoughts on the Dawgs series win against Vandy? Could be a huge boon to a young team's confidence down the stretch.
Teddy Cahill: That was...not what I expected. I figured Vanderbilt would lose a series at some point this season - nearly every team does - but I didn't think it was going to be because it gave up 25 runs at home. Georgia had previously stood out more on the mound for me - I think the duo of Ryan Webb and Jonathan Cannon in its rotation can be really good. And they pitched well all weekend. But the 25 runs, especially all the home runs Thursday against Rocker was very impressive. UGA was better than its record coming in (I know that's easy to say today, but we did have them as a 2 seed in our last Field of 64 projection) but still, to think this was the weekend it would all come together for the Dawgs, that was a surprise. Now, of course, the challenge is to build on it.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Now that Virginia has won their last five of six games might they still be in contention for a playoff spot on the road to Omaha, or was their ship already sunk by their fair early season record?
Teddy Cahill: In last week's Field of 64 projection, we had Virginia among the first eight teams out of the field. So, UVA had already played its way back into the tournament picture before the Clemson series. I'm not sure that this puts them over the top and back into the field, but I definitely see a path for the Hoos. With a good ODU team and Louisville coming to Charlottesville this week, UVA has a big opportunity. But even if it only goes 1-3 this week, I don't think UVA would be out of it, but it would have to make sure that skid didn't turn into another prolonged downturn.
- Has Jace Jung already wrapped up Big 12 player of the year? I just don't see any one touching him right now.
Teddy Cahill: If they gave that award out today then 1) it would be weird and 2) Jung would win it. But there are five Big 12 weekends left for the Red Raiders. If Jung went into a slump, he'd get caught and passed for the award. So, it's not a lock yet, but Jung - hitting .405/.504/.865 with 15 home runs, tied for the most in the nation - sure looks like a deserving favorite.
- It seems like a rather harsh penalty to both Vanderbilt and Ole Miss for one bad weekends. You've also been a tad lower on Vanderbilt all season than others. What is it about Vandy that gives you some hesitation?
Teddy Cahill: Let's separate the two because they are different. Ole Miss has three losing weekends. At some point, that's too many, no matter what the competition. Every team ranked above the Rebs has one or zero losing weekends. So, while their 8-4 record vs. Top 25 teams is still gaudy, it doesn't offset the fact it is now 5-3 on weekends. As for Vanderbilt, could you argue it a little higher? Maybe. But it has the worst series loss of any of the top six teams. It has those two big series wins (at Oklahoma State and South Carolina), but the rest of the resume is weak for me. And I think that's been the rub on Vanderbilt in our Top 25 vs. others. You'd have to ask them, but my guess is that we've been more focused on what is actually on their resume and less on projection and eye test. We're past the halfway point of the season. I think it's well past the point where projection should be weighing heavily on a Top 25, but the good thing about having half a dozen major rankings is that there's room for a few different approaches.
dopt (N Texas):
- What does Baylor need to do to get in the Field of 64?
Teddy Cahill: The Big 12 right now has a pretty clear-cut top-four teams: Oklahoma State, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech. There's probably room for the conference to support one more team in the Field of 64 (maybe two if someone really got hot). So, the key for Baylor, for West Virginia, for whoever, is to finish fifth in the standings with a Big 12 record of about .500 or better. That should at least get you to the bubble. For the Bears, unless they're going to upset Ok State in Stillwater or Texas Tech in Lubbock, they need to win their series against Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma. That should have the Bears at least on the bubble going into the Big 12 Tournament.
Tim Corbin (Dugout):
- I have to win one game tomorrow. My entire rotation is rested. Should I start Kumar Rocker or Jack Leiter?
Teddy Cahill: If the whole rotation is rested and you're playing just a must-win game, you're pitching them both. I'd probably start Leiter and then bring in Rocker and let his slider eat. But if one takes longer than the other to warm up or whatever, I'm open to reversing the order.
- Big matchup in the Big East this weekend with UCONN vs Creighton. I like the Jays based on last weekend. You?
Teddy Cahill: It was a great weekend for Creighton, outscoring Villanova 27-2. But is that enough to change my mind about which team is better? Probably not. Consider that UConn beat Georgetown 16-0 over two games. Villanova is better than a Georgetown team that only this week started playing games. But how good is Nova? I have no clue. It went 12-2 in non-conference but the best team it played was Stony Brook (no disrespect to the Seawolves, who are flying in the America East). UConn only went 3-9 at Virginia, Southern Miss, Coastal Carolina and Texas Tech, but it acquitted itself well, is plenty battled tested and should be the most talented team in the conference. We'll find out for sure this weekend, but we're still just learning about most of these Big East teams because of the way the schedules were constructed. I'm very glad Big East play has started so we can get some answers.
A big ol' tree (Palo Alto):
- In your view, does Stanford get a hosting spot? Also, is Brock Jones shaping up as a Golden Spikes candidate / 1st round pick for 2022?
Teddy Cahill: Let's set aside any speculation about whether Stanford will bid this year due to local regulations and just evaluate this based on what it is doing on the field. Right now, it's tied for first place in the Pac-12. It hasn't played a tough conference slate yet though, so will that hold once it gets to Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State, etc.? Right now, I'll say no, but with the caveat that I really don't know what to make of Stanford. It's schedule has been solid, but I don't think it's really been pushed yet. As for Brock Jones, I'm a big fan. Seeing what he's been able to do now that he's focused full-time on baseball has been very impressive. Have to love his tools and athleticism.
- How surprised are you with what Arkansas has been able to do so far this year?
Teddy Cahill: I wrote about this at some length after Arkansas swept Mississippi State (https://www.baseballamerica.com/stories/arkansas-wins-showdown-start-of-cusa-play-highlight-college-baseball-weekend-off-the-bat/). The short answer is that I was wrong to worry about the starting pitching and how the Hogs would replace Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin. While I was focused on Arkansas' lack of an ace, I missed just how deep the staff ran. And while Kjerstad particularly was a phenomenal player, Arkansas again makes up for that loss with depth. Obviously, I didn't see this juggernaut coming before the season, but maybe I should have.
- How has this year gone re: covid cancellations/postponements compared to what teams were predicting or fearing prior to the season starting?
Teddy Cahill: As with so many things related to the pandemic, there was no one prediction/fear. Different people, schools, conferences and regions had different concerns. And the ever-increasing availability of the vaccine has been a big boost that was unpredictable in January. Baseball is generally doing a good job of playing through the pandemic. Cancellations have not been widespread since the first few weeks, but every weekend there are still teams that are forced to cancel games. On the whole, I'd probably say it's been a bit better than anticipated, but not without challenges.
- What team has most impressed you and who has most disappointed you so far this season?
Teddy Cahill: On the most impressed list, I'd definitely include Arkansas, ECU, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Oregon and Virginia Tech contending for conference titles is not something I saw coming at all. I thought Arkansas, ECU and Tennessee would all be good but they've all been a lot better than that. Most disappointing? Well, I was all the way bought in on Virginia and that hasn't really panned out. UCLA hasn't been what was expected either.
Teddy Cahill: That'll do it for today. Thanks to everyone for the questions. We've got another great week of college baseball ahead as the season turns the corner to the second half. I'll be back here next week to talk about some big rivalries and more.