The Wolfpack open the 2010 season today with the first of three games against LaSalle. Many were disappointed with last season, but this year should prove to be better with a more seasoned offense. There are a few bullpen questions, the most intriguing being what role Russell Wilson ultimately plays. It has been suggested the Wilson will close, which I think while not a horrible idea, is not a particularly good one for someone 3+ years removed from competitive pitching. The closer role is the least predictable in terms of innings pitched and I think a more defined role, at least early on, would better suit him (not to mention provide more well-defined roles for the bullpen). The world would be a generally better place if Wilson would just win the starting SS job, rake and the freshmen would emerge to anchor the bullpen. I don’t ask for much.
Anyway, I have mentioned before I expect this season to be better and it is not simply due to what the Pack returns to the field. Of significant importance is what was LOST by other teams in the conference. One of last years surprise teams was Boston College (a surprise based on casual fan expectation anyway). The Eagles lost 4 players including the 4th overall pick in the draft, catcher Tony Sanchez. I mentioned earlier that perhaps catching was a contributing to our poorer pitching last season as the Wolfpack returned 39 total catching starts from the previous season. Well, this year BC goes from having a stud senior catcher to ZERO game experience behind the plate (per the listed roster/profiles). That will certainly take the offense down a notch, and I would expect the pitching to suffer as well.
UNC lost a pair of first rounders in pitcher Alex White and a semi-decent first baseman in Dustin Ackley. By “semi-decent” I mean the 2nd overall pick in the draft who was considered the best college bat available. So, you can expect a little drop in production there I would imagine. GT saw Luke Murton leave (finally) as one of the better all-time hitters in school history, so he will certainly be missed (not by us). Heck, Duke even had a pair of hitters taken in the draft including….. a FOUR year starter at catcher (Matt Williams) and a slugging first baseman (Nate Freiman). There’s that pesky catching position coming up again.
Don’t get me wrong- there is a lot of talent in the ACC but while most teams have major holes to fill, the Wolfpack basically need only to find a starting pitcher to take over Gillheeney’s “ace” role (Jake Buchanan, come on down!). THIS is the the reason I expect the Pack to bounce back this season. We’ll see how it all plays out. Some of the first answers come this afternoon at 3. Feel free to use this thread for any game comments should you have the free time.
A nice statistical recap of the ACC last year can be found here. Note the complete lack of NC State players on the offensive leaderboard. (Apologies to Kyle Wilson, who was second in stolen bases). Also note, which has been mentioned before, the atrocious defense (see… I don’t just pull this stuff out of my backside).
Anyway, the season commences at 3:00 today. GO WOLFPACK!