Archive for March 20th, 2009

Series Preview: Minnesota St. vs. Northern St.

Minnesota State  northern state

A 2nd Northern Sun series has been moved up to Friday/Saturday as Northern State travels to Mankato to take on Minnesota State.  Northern State Moves Games

On paper these games should be a mismatch as Minnesota State was projected as the Conference’s #2 team in the preseason coaches poll while Northern State was picked to finish next to last in 12th place.  That said, the Mavericks have been a little disappointing early this season which might give the Wolves a bit of optimism.  One does need to remember that Northern State did lose all 4 games they’ve played during non-Conference against other quality Northern Sun teams.  They lost doubleheaders to both Concordia and St. Cloud State by lopsided scores.

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On paper it’s easy to see that Minnesota State is the superior team.  They are better across the board with hitting, pitching and fielding stats. 

In looking a little deeper at each team the following sticks out –

Northern State Approach

  • Keep the ball down – Northern State pitchers this season sport a fly ball/ground ball ratio of 1.7 (114 fly outs to 68 ground outs).  That’s not good.  They should be shooting for a 1-1 relationship or better.
  • Hit the ball toward the left side of the infield – shortstop Kosuke Hattori (.884 fielding %) and 3B Geno Glynn (.833 fielding %) have been the only weak links in the Mavericks defense but their fielding averages aren’t very good.

Minnesota State Approach

  • Pound the Pitchers – The Northern State pitchers have been okay at not walking too many but they don’t strike anyone out either so keep being aggressive late in the count.  On the other hand, if Wolves closer Nick Wallentiny comes in be patient.  He’s walked 13 in 9+ innings.
  • Leave Ben Kincaid in as the permanent DH from now on- since starting him about half way through the year he’s hitting .517 hitting in the 3rd spot of the lineup
  • Clone Jay Bresnahan – not really practical but I wanted to call out Bresnahan and his season to date.  He’s hitting .510 but more impressive is his .918 slugging percentage which leads all regular starters in the Northern Sun Conference

Prediction – While a tougher opponent than Crookston I’ll go with a Minnesota State sweep.  The Wolves best shot at a win will come in their game with starter Michael Gardner going.

Series Preview: St. Cloud State vs. MN Crookston

stcloudstate_logo    Crookston Golden Eagles

The Northern Sun’s baseball teams begin Conference play today.  Two of the weekend’s series have been moved from Saturday/Sunday doubleheaders to Friday/Saturday contests in order to try and avoid poor weather forecast for Sunday.  This series was moved from its scheduled location in St. Cloud to Freeman, SD to find a dry field.  Changes For Weekend Series

We’ll see if I can keep up with each series but for each weekend set of games I’ll begin with a common “tale of the tape” comparison to give some feel for the teams’ overall success in 2009:

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As is painfully obvious in this view, the Huskies are the vastly superior team in almost every category. 

I also plan to look a little deeper at the stats to talk about how each team might approach the series –

Minnesota Crookston Approach

  • Run early and often – About the only area I found that is a little chink in the armor for St. Cloud is that their catcher, Nate Hammes, has been below average to date on throwing out base stealers.  So far he’s thrown out 3 in 18 attempts for an .833 clip.  Crookston doesn’t look like they’ve run much but I’d try to exploit this a little
  • Also, in the game Pat DeLaHunt is pitching for St. Cloud – throw in as many right handed hitters as possible.  Right handers are hitting .361 against him while lefites are hitting only .100.  The other St. Cloud starting pitchers don’t have any obvious right/left bias.

St. Cloud State Approach

  • Stay with your starters – This one is totally obvious too but St. Cloud’s starters have been dominating this season.  Logan Birr (4-0, 2.45 ERA), Pat DeLaHunt (4-0, 3.51), Tim Scott (5-0, 3.91) and David Deminsky (3-0, 4.13) have a combined 16 wins while 4 of the 5 losses have been pinned on relievers.  That said, this is the type of series that you might be able to spread the innings around a little bit.
  • Have fun but stay focused – the Huskies really can’t afford to drop one of these games

Prediction – St. Cloud State Sweep

Northern Sun – Strength of Schedule Analysis

NSIC Gif

Today marks the beginning of Conference games for the 13 Division 2 college baseball teams of the Northern Sun Conference.  One of the comments on this blog (thanks Wow) brought up the topic of Southwest Minnesota State’s easy schedule so I thought I’d look into it.

For the most part, the 13 teams in the Northern Sun have a Conference schedule made up of 4 games against 8 different teams for a total of 32 games (there are 2 exceptions as Upper Iowa and Northern State have an extra pair against each other for some reason).  This means that most teams “don’t” play 4 other teams each year which can lead to significant differences in your schedule difficulty depending on who you do and don’t play.

The key to analyzing the difficulty is to accurately gauge how tough of an opponent each team is.  In the NFL you see this done a lot during the off-season by using the previous year’s results as a gauge for future year performance.  That would be impractical as the Northern Sun didn’t exist in its present form last year plus the changeover on a college team provides significant differences in team quality from year to year.  Therefore, I relied mostly on things like the preseason coaches poll and non-Conference results to give each team a quality factor.

How I did this was pick a team I thought represented a middle of the pack team to compare off of.  The team I chose was Winona State.  I then thought about how Winona would do over the long haul against each other team and came up with the following table –

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How you read this is that if Winona played Augustana, Bemidji or Duluth (all teams factored at .65) that my guess is that Winona would win about 2 of 3 games against them.  Winona would win 4 of 5 against Mary & Northern and every game against Crookston.  They would win 1 of 3 against Minnesota State, SMSU and SCSU.

Now the key to the exactness of this exercise is whether you believe in the weighting I give each team.  That said, everyone knows that if your schedule has Mary, Northern and Crookston on it as opposed to Wayne & Concordia that you probably should win more games.

Using the factors above I then measured every teams schedule against their Conference opponents for the season to get the following strength of schedule (this does factor out Upper Iowa and Northern’s extra games) –

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What this shows is the relative strength of schedule for each team based on my factors.  It is not designed to predict wins & losses.

Using this we can say that indeed Southwest Minnesota State followed by Upper Iowa have the easiest schedules.  When looking at the detail of SMSU’s schedule you’ll see that they play all 3 of the weakest teams and don’t play Concordia or Wayne State.

Of the top 3 teams predicted in the preseason coaches poll, Minnesota State looks like they have the toughest route.  Their schedule is 5 games harder than SMSU and 3+ games harder than Wayne State.

If people have strong opinions about the factors to use it would be easy for me to rerun the results now that the spreadsheet is built.


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