The Late Baseball “Preview” Or, “I’m Slow”

Note: This is about, oh, 3 weeks late- but it is still relevant I suppose as a “getting to know you” for those not as attached to baseball as I.

In an effort to expand coverage a bit here at Statefansnation I have volunteered to try my hand at providing some baseball commentary (as has vtpackfan, I shall try not to step on your toes!), as this is my favorite sport and my sporting area of purported expertise. In the interests of full disclosure, I never played baseball past the age of 11 (disability, and we shall leave it at that), however instead of moping about it I switched my focus to coaching. I’ve coached all levels of Babe Ruth league baseball, and even a couple of years of high school ball (while attending that high school, interestingly enough). I’ve probably watched 20,000 baseball games (perhaps an underestimate) and read virtually everything ever written on the subject. Every once in a while I still hit the batting cages and, despite limited physical ability, can still catch up to a 90 mph pitch from both sides of the plate. So, I humbly think I have a bit to offer on the subject of hardball. This is ample background and now it is time to foray into what you probably clicked on this article for… some NC State baseball!

Opening day comes around February 22 this year against Appalachian State in Raleigh as part of a three game series (took 2 of 3! That’s what you do in baseball, win the series). Baseball is a nice sport as far as scheduling goes; one doesn’t have to look to hard to find quality opponents to play as there are a plethora of smaller, unheard of schools (to some) with outstanding baseball programs. East Carolina is usually a very good team, for example (not surprising given the talent in the eastern part of the state, from Greenville to Wilmington) so we as State fans, at least in this particular sport, can’t piss and moan too much about playing them annually. I’ll provide a brief outline now of the season to come as well as some roster notes, with more specific notes hopefully to follow.

The Pack has a chance to start out strong this year, with 14 of the first 17 slated games scheduled to take place in Raleigh, including the first 6 conference games (Virginia and Miami). Conference play features 3-game series against 10 opponents, and we catch a break this year as Georgia Tech—a perennial power—is the team left off of the docket. Out of conference, in addition to East Carolina, we have games against UNC Wilmington, a matchup with Louisville and sets with Towson, Elon and Marshall amongst others. Historically, UNC-W and ECU are pretty darn good and depending on the pitcher taking the mound, any other team on a given day can be quite the worthy adversary.

Speaking of pitching, as has been the case the past several seasons, State’s strength once again should reside on the mound. The ninth inning of the ballgame used to belong to Eryk McConnell, a tenth round selection by the Baltimore Orioles who eschewed the majors (well, minors) to come back for his last season at state. McConnell, a preseason All-American selection, was 3-2 last season with 11 saves and sported a spiffy 1.72 ERA. Control is a plus for McConnell, who only walked 11 batters last year in 52 1/3 innings pitched. McConnell is now slotted as a weekend starter, hopefully the transition will go smoothly- there is a HUGE difference in bullpen vs. starting work). Walks will absolutely kill a pitcher and this is especially true in levels where the aluminum bat is in play (that’s for you vtpackfan). Pitchers have to be a bit more careful on the inside part of the plate and even the best pitches (jamming the hitter for example) can often be handled as there is more “active” area of the bat. You can’t really saw off a hitter who is wielding an adamantium club, unlike the wooden bat which will typically shatter on those jam shots.

The rotation this year is to be anchored by Eric Surkamp, a lefthanded pitcher who went 4-5 last season with a 3.72 ERA in 16 starts. Jeff Stallings, Jimmy Gillheeney and Clayton Shunick should also see plenty of time on the hill this year; we mentioned McConnell before. Additionally, there are some talented freshmen in the mix, several of whom were selections in the latter rounds of the MLB draft (of course, as long as this draft is, I’m surprised I didn’t get selected at some point). Missed from last year’s rotation will be Andrew Brackman, a first round selection by the New York Yankees (preemptive strike: let’s leave the baseball/basketball debate for another thread). Brackman had what could be considered a disappointing season, but was still 6-4 with an ERA under 4. A year earlier, Andrew was a top pitching prospect in the Cape Cod (wooden bat) league and was touching the upper 90s with his fastball.

At the plate, Dallas Poulk, Marcus Jones, Ryan Pond, Jeremy Synan, Tommy Foschi and Ryan Ferguson should be major contributors. Poulk is coming off of a freshman campaign that saw him hit a team leading .394 (second highest ever for a State freshman) and earn several Freshman All-American honors along the way. The other returning players were solid last season and should provide a decent hitting attack, although one that will lag behind some of the powerhouse teams in the conference. Freshman Russell Wilson (yes, THAT Russell Wilson who some wanted to see at QB) may find himself an immediate contributor at shortstop this year. It seems this kid has leader written all over him, as he plays the “leader position” in both of his sports. Missing from last years offense will be Mike Roskopf, Caleb Mangum and Ramon Corona, the latter two of which were taken in last year’s MLB draft. Roskopf provided a lot of pop last season with a team high 13 home runs and the power production will be missed. The leading returning bopper is Ryan Pond, who finished the year with 7 home runs although he flashed potential for better power with 13 doubles and 3 triples. Pond also had an outstanding eye at the plate, drawing a team leading 46 walks and also pacing the nine with a .464 on base percentage (for those who enjoy the OPS metric—on base + slugging percentage—Pond was an even 1.000 in that department, which is pretty dang good). Expect Poulk to slot in one of the upper two spots in the batting order in a table setter role, with Pond and Jones expected to fill the role of run-producer in the middle of the lineup when the season gets started.

So, that’s the brief outline of what to expect when the season kicks off. I’d guess Surkamp takes the mound in the opener, but you never know with matchups or whether the rotation needs to be tweaked to allow him to start a game down the road. Based on the reception that baseball coverage receives here, I’ll go more in depth as the season approaches. For now, we shall leave it at this. Feel free to chime in with suggestions, commentary, criticisms and any topics you might want addressed or explained—I’ll try my best to do so. Thanks for taking the time to read this (if you made it this far) and GO PACK!

About Dr. BadgerPack

NCSU Class of 99 and PhD University of Wisconsin, 2006... Which should adequately explain the screen name I chose at 2am one Saturday...

Baseball General Non-Revenue

27 Responses to The Late Baseball “Preview” Or, “I’m Slow”

  1. WolftownVA81 03/11/2008 at 11:44 AM #

    Thanks for the article. I’d like to start watching some Pack baseball and am hoping to catch a game when the Pack comes to play at VT or MD. Go Pack.

  2. vtpackfan 03/11/2008 at 11:47 AM #

    This is Docs thread so I thought it allright to toss this out for play:
    It seems a very low maintenance fantasy baseball game, almost a draft them and let them simulate games by proxy. You can probably get very involved a faintly involved and it would make little difference.

    This was included on the previous thread pertaining to Pack baseball, and it definitely illustrates some of the points raised above.

  3. Trout 03/11/2008 at 11:49 AM #

    Nice job! I appreciate SFN taking a proactive stance toward more NC State baseball coverage by “hiring” you. I think college baseball is poised to take off as a major media sport. It will never be college football or basketball, but it offers a great family atmosphere.

    You didnt mention anything about coaching. I think this is a pivotal year for Avent. The team this year is deep at every position, and has a great rotation. This is “Regional hosting” capable team, IMO. Avent has done a good job at NC State, but many wonder if we will take that proverbial “next step.”

    The ACC season started great. Taking 2 of 3 from a very powerful UVa squad was a nice start.

  4. Dr. BadgerPack 03/11/2008 at 12:00 PM #

    vtpackfan- did you ever make any progress towards an SFN private league?

  5. StateFans 03/11/2008 at 12:08 PM #

    ^ That would be nice.

  6. RickJ 03/11/2008 at 2:22 PM #

    Baseball coverage is a great addition to the site.

    There is one aspect of college baseball that I have never understood. The NCAA scholarship limit for each team is 11.78. This is the number that is 85 in football and 13 in men’s basketball. All football & basketball grants at the Division 1 level have to be full grants. In baseball, it is my understanding that there are almost no full grants although a coach could choose to give a full grant if they wanted. This adds a whole other layer to the recruiting process – how much aid to offer a particular player. There was some new NCAA rule passed last year that said every grant had to be at something like 30%. Many coaches complained about this rule as they thought it would limit the number of players they could take.

    Given this type of system, I don’t see how private schools like Vanderbilt, Stanford and Rice could possibly be the national powers that they are year in and out. Do their players on half rides shell out the $15,000 plus to make up the difference of the cost of the school? Clearly, I am missing something in this process.

  7. Dr. BadgerPack 03/11/2008 at 2:49 PM #

    Rick, a lot of it has to do with the fact these are established programs– that place players in MLB. It has a lot to do with coaching tenure as well.

  8. LRM 03/11/2008 at 2:58 PM #

    Hopefully Gavin Grant didn’t predict only four losses for this team.

    DocBP: If this were a weekend, my beer would be on my monitor

  9. vtpackfan 03/11/2008 at 3:40 PM #

    ^This is the private league I have set up. I have it set up for 8 teams, 2 managers are already in. I would like to know if there is more interest than that so I can start over and make a 12 team league.

    It really is one of the better set ups I have run across. Like I said above, whether you’re really into checking on it alot, or if you just rather drop in on it once in a blue moon, it’s very flexible.

    I would rather go to a game, listen to it on a radio, and cough up some bull$h^t here with you folks than spend too much time watching a waiver wire or calculating a salary cap.

  10. branjawn 03/11/2008 at 3:52 PM #

    RickJ, generally the private schools are attracting the true student-ATHLETE. Thus they can legitimately receive academic scholarships to help make up the difference. Along the same lines, need-based scholarships are given as well. FYI: The average NCAA baseball scholarship is a little over $7k.

    I took an NCAA Compliance course at NCSU, I’ll go look back over my notes (I remember talking about this, just don’t remember the answer you’re looking for)

  11. branjawn 03/11/2008 at 5:29 PM #

    vtpack, i’d be interested

  12. cowdog 03/11/2008 at 6:10 PM #

    Nice, Doc…

    Branjawn, think I’m gonna piss ya off with no intention. “Student athlete baseball players” is an oximoron. Well, not a complete one ,’cause while being at once the wildest jock as a whole on campus also the smartest in staying out of trouble.

    All in all it’s a hellaova lot tougher to come up with ways to field a collegiate team with real potential then it was in my day.

    Those of us that chose school over signing had a full ride for baseball or a full schol in another sport, but given cart blanche rights to play in the yard. In fact, over a 3 year run of ACC championships we had 7 guys (5) starters that were on either football or basketball rides.

    Further, 3 of us gave up our original ride due to injury in one sport ei. football, that threatened our baseball careers.

    All three went immediately on full rides in baseball.
    Don’t think it could be possible this day and age.
    Will fill any moms and dads in soon ’cause I’m about to face some choices with my daughter. Softball/Volleyball.

    At any rate…might see a few of you out at Doak this weekend.

  13. Dr. BadgerPack 03/11/2008 at 6:33 PM #

    VT- I’m unclear on how to sign up for that league; I created an account, but am clueless after that.

  14. john of sparta 03/11/2008 at 7:26 PM #

    college baseball could beat NHL in TV ratings this year.

    that’s low hanging fruit: the National Spelling Bee beats the NHL.
    “and now…a Home Schooler from Enid, Oklahoma……give it up for
    Your 7th Grade State Champ: Jason Patel!!!”

    anyway, college baseball has the same participants and demographics
    as the Old TV Show, Friends. essentially: no brothers.
    bottom line, there’s a HDTV place for everyone.
    can “steal” signs be “gang” signs?
    just sayin’.

    John, I’m not sure what flies on most threads, but let’s keep mine PC OK? Still funny though.

  15. cowdog 03/11/2008 at 7:49 PM #

    Mr. Sparta,

    Not sure you have really checked out the landscape if I read your semi? sarcastic post correctly. Baseball has become a money maker for quite a number of NCAA programs ( witness stadium rebuilds.) and in fact has always been the third major. Spend a bit more time around the yard and you might be amazed with the actual numbers of Bros playin’ and if that doesn’t shake your tree a bit…ask yourself why?

    Last I knew, personal choice of what one wants to do is just that. Football, Basketball, Baseball…violin…if you have it they will find you and will be given the chance to expand.

  16. Lunatic Fringe 03/11/2008 at 8:13 PM #

    I thank you guys sooooo much for giving me a place to talk intelligently about NCSU baseball.

    I think I miss NCSU baseball more than any other from my college days for two reasons:

    1 It was one of the most enjoyable atmospheres with the following combo: on campus, spring afternoon, & baseball.

    2 It is near impossible to “see” the games when you live a 4-hour drive away. ACC Select has helped me see the games.

    Baseball was great when I was in school. I still remember J.D. Drew bouncing a homer off my dorm (Lee hall) Best way to spend an afternoon after class.

  17. Primewolf 03/11/2008 at 8:41 PM #

    I pledge to drive from N Raleigh to more than one game this season. The games are great, but there is also golf to play, guys.

  18. ruffles31 03/11/2008 at 10:26 PM #

    Thanks for the information. I always enjoy going to the Doak. Baseball games are always fun to go to. I am glad that the best website on the internet is now talking State baseball.

    I hope this year is good. I am concerned that our team does not have a ton of batting prowess and that may come back to haunt us. I was very happy to see us take 2 of 3 from UVA.

    When I was in school, my suitemates and I would go to games all the time. Back in the mid 90s, there weren’t any lights (ergo we lost Tanner, but that is for another day) and every game started at 3. There was nothing better than to stop off at the C-store in Bragaw, get a drink and a snack, walk over to Doak, get in for free, and watch some good baseball being played (and seeing the women’s soccer team or a sorority sun bathe wasn’t a bad thing either). I remember watching State beat Georgia Tech when Tech had Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, and Jay Payton all on the same team. We were pretty good that year.

    My only fear is that Avent can’t take us farther than he has. I hope that Coach Holliday can help him take us further, as Coach Hunter did with another previous coach in another sport.

  19. Pack92 03/12/2008 at 7:21 AM #

    Ahh, baseball. Thanks for getting this going Dr. BadgerPack.

    Is it just me or do baseball players exhibit a, say, slightly higher mental aptitude OVERALL than other male scholarship sports? Maybe it’s the speed of the game lending itself to a more thought-out style of play.

  20. RickJ 03/12/2008 at 7:36 AM #

    Branjawn – thanks for the info, that makes a lot of sense. I just didn’t see how the privates could compete without some other source of aid.

    Cowdog – thank you for the interesting perspective. You must have played pre Title 9.

  21. vtpackfan 03/12/2008 at 11:32 AM #

    ^ Dr B.P. Branjawn and for any others interested.

    1)Get there, hit HOME at top and register
    2)Click on top bubble, register team to a league
    3)Name your team, abbreviation, and home field
    there will be two seperate leagues (i.e. AL/NL) that compete in within each other as well as inter-league. Play-offs at the end.
    The two leagues are defunct franchises (I went with MTL Expos) and Negro League (friend took Atlanta Black Crackers).

    4)Final and most important step is the private league code:

  22. Mike 03/12/2008 at 2:19 PM #

    I signed up, big tima baseball fan. Not sure that I understand the rules but it will be fun to learn.

  23. Mike 03/12/2008 at 2:28 PM #

    Looks like only 2 of us in the league. Hopefully more will sign up, but considering how far down this is in the thread it is not likely.

  24. vtpackfan 03/12/2008 at 3:06 PM #

    ^ It is only 2 so far, but 2 more here on this site and one friend has interest. We need 3 more, and we have till 4/4 I think.

    “Each participating team has a roster of 25 players: two for each infield position (10), five outfielders, two designated hitters, five starting pitchers and three relievers.”

    “Each manager designates a starter and bench player for each position on his roster. The outfield has 3 starters and 2 bench players, so those five players are ranked from 1-5, the first three starting, the next two on the bench — #4 the first to go in if needed. The manager also ranks his starting pitchers 1-5, and his relievers 1-3.”

    To simplify it, the computer archives your players stats and applies them on “gamedays” against the other teams in our league. There are a total of 120 games in a season.

    You can make changes with roster (i.e. substitution, trade, free agent), but it won’t be finalized until after Mon. @ mid-nite for the whole week.

    DocBP: I’m in… Thanks for setting this up. Should be fun, as this is the first time I’ve been in a league with this type of format.

  25. Mike 03/12/2008 at 3:24 PM #

    I sent the info to a couple friends in other fantasy leagues that may choose to participate. Hopefully we can get enough.

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