Birdball Preview/Prediction: UConn

BCeagles.com

The only thing that's not an April Fool's joke is the one thing we wish actually was.

As the resident baseball geek, stat nerd, and SABRmetric guru, I've been asked more than once over the past few days how I felt about the Boston College baseball weekend against Florida State. I received more than a few text messages from a couple of friends down south, and I talked it over with a friend who is a former Division II pitcher and outfielder now working in college athletics.

All you needed to know about how I felt was the one tweet I posted as I watched the drama and mystery unfold on the magical mystery box of Twitter:

That's how I felt.

I don't care that the games weren't at BC, and I don't care that BC lost, 10-1, in the third game. They held a 7-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning and couldn't even get two outs before they blew the lead. John Nogowski hit his salami the opposite freaking way. So when you ask me how I felt last weekend, the answer is that I felt just fine, thank you.

Anyways, the book turns to another page. With that turn, the Eagles might actually get the chance to play at home, even though there's enough rain in the forecast to drench Shea Field and turn it into a mud-packed creek. And while I'm repeatedly stating I don't care where they play anymore (I'll get to that at another time), I'm at the point where I just want to see them win a game.

Enter UConn. The Huskies enter Tuesdays game at 12-12 (2-3 in the AAC). They hold wins over George Mason, Sacred Heart, Harvard, and Villanova. They split a series in league with Rutgers (they played the first two but had the third game postponed), and they lost two of three from a South Florida team that beat them back in 2009 in a monster rain delay dance-off. I mean, come on dude, you can't even do the actual chicken dance to the song?

Side note - the dude who did the Michael Jackson dance, legitimately, and I mean LEGITIMATELY, killed it.

Similar to the Northeastern game, there's nobody on the schedule that jumps out as a good, solid team under the Huskies victory total. For that reason, at first glance, this is a game that BC should win. If we've learned anything about these Eagles, though, it's to take absolutely nothing for granted.

BC Defense vs. UConn Offense

I'll start this out with a disclaimer - I've been involved with the Y-D Red Sox of the Cape Cod Baseball League since I was 16 years old. My brother was an intern there at the time; he's now the president of the club. The assistant coach is a man named Chris Podezswa. Dez serves as the volunteer assistant for the UConn Huskies, primarily coaching hitting and infielders. He's also one of the most knowledgeable baseball minds I've ever had the privilege of picking.

Under his tutelage last year, UConn averaged just over five runs per game. This year, the team is averaging just under that number through the first 24 games, but they're hitting .267 as a club. Half their lineup is proving itself dangerous, and they don't come more dangerous than Bobby Melley. Melley's hitting .337 with three homers and 20 RBI. He also has an on-base percentage just under .500 with a slugging percentage at .500.

Besides Melley, Blake Davey is hitting .321 with three long balls and 11 RBI; Eric Yavarone is .301 with 13 RBI, and Vinny Siena is just under the .300 mark.

The UConn lineup can be easily divided up between five guys who can really hit the ball and four guys fighting it at the plate. Luckily for BC, the pitching hasn't been a huge issue. They've had a couple of bad outings, but the starting pitching has been, for the most part, improved. I won't say good because three of the last four outings stunk out the runs totals, but at least we see the potential for a good outing. We're also unlikely to see some kind of every day starter with a weekend set at home against Carolina and a game tomorrow against Massachusetts.

Don't expect much off the bench for UConn. Only four non-every day players have hits, and they haven't appeared in every game.

BC Offense vs. UConn Defense

UConn's pitching is one of those staffs with the ability to pitch very well in non-conference games. Last year, they held Virginia Tech to just two runs in the NCAA Tournament in advancing past the first round. Even though they lost their next two games, they hung with both Oklahoma and the Hokies in a return match, which makes them a team to fear.

In a midweek game, with a game against Yale looming on Wednesday back in the Nutmeg State, we're unlikely to see any of the Husky weekend starters. That does mean we're likely to see guys like Anthony Marzi. That's a good thing for BC since I'm not quite sure the Eagles remember how to hit.

BC's batting average as a team, which was sterling in the first month or so of the season, is down to .227. Nobody is hitting .300, and Logan Hoggarth is closest - over 20 points under the coveted mark. We've well-documented the BC struggles with men on base, and we're unlikely to change that tune until they actually start consistently scoring runs.

The Huskies do give up an average of about three runs per game. Since it's a midweek game against non-every day pitchers, BC should be able to put up four or five runs. Remember that UConn hasn't really played anyone, and BC's schedule is substantially tougher with games against Miami, Virginia, FAU, and FSU.

This is probably the X factor matchup since I think BC can get to UConn's pitchers. It might provide a chance for some of these guys to bust out of their slumps; Chris Shaw is now hitting .234 after starting the year with an over-10 game hitting streak. Tom Bourdon has 12 RBIs, but he's barely hitting over .200. Nobody who is a regular starter has an on-base percentage over .400.

Prediction Time

This is a historic rivalry - as historic as it comes in the northeast. Tuesday's meeting is the 116th time BC and UConn will play each other, dating back to their days together in the old Big East. Last year, BC went down to Storrs and won, 7-4. I think we're likely to see another outing like that game. I don't think UConn can jeopardize sending regular pitchers out against BC, which means BC bats might be able to right whatever hasn't blown apart by the derailed train. That's also an advantage for the Eagles, who have a deeper staff than the Huskies IMHO.

After a brutal stretch to start the year, things are starting to turn up Eagles with games against local teams. They'll take on UMass tomorrow before hosting North Carolina. I'm calling for them to win at least one of these games; it'd be nice if they could do it sooner rather than later.

It would also be nice if they took a 7-2 lead or something into the ninth. I mean, there's no way they could blow that right?

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