At the start of last week, BC baseball fans and supporters flew sky high. The team was 6-3 and showing signs of life many of us hadn't seen over the past few years. They were mashing the ball, shutting down opponents, and with the exception of leaving too many men on base, had few discernible flaws.
This week, though, reality hit. The fact remains that the 6-3 start came against lower level opponents, and when BC had to elevate their game in order to beat better teams, they simply fell a little bit too short. Does that mean the season is over and the Eagles are done like dinner? Not in the least. But it should temper expectations if anyone got too excited over the last couple of weeks.
I readily admit I got very excited from the start of the season. But I also need to go back and revisit some of the things I said about BC to several people in the baseball circles when the season began.
It's not "if" you lose. It's "how" you lose.
Miami and FAU opened up this year as very good baseball teams. The Hurricanes are nationally ranked, and the Owls probably should be. BC might've lost every game they should've, but if we go back to the FAU series, I said the following:
I would anticipate BC getting swept and being brought back to earth.
That's exactly what happened. Realistically, BC held their own against the Owls, but they just missed out on wins. They won respect, but they didn't win games. Coming off a bad season last year, the effort we saw against FAU is something BC should be able to translate into wins later in the year. This is a very raw, young BC team. They hung with FAU, but they weren't good enough to beat them.
I'm convinced there are several layers of bad teams and good teams. Great teams are never really challenged by anybody. Good teams find ways to win, even if they're not playing well. Average teams win some games they're not supposed to, but they're susceptible to losing games they're supposed to win. Bad teams pick off individual games here and there, but they can't seem to break through and get over the hump. And terrible teams just plain lose.
Last year, BC was a terrible baseball team. In a league like the ACC (and even in "baseball leagues" like the Atlantic Sun or Conference USA), BC would've lost to anybody. Heck, they lost to teams from the Ivy League and the CAA.
This year, BC is improved. But they're still a team that's raw and will face their struggles. The key takeaway is that they were never really blown out of any of the games last week. They always managed to respond after giving up runs. They just never quite got through to win games, and they often responded too little, too late.
Let's face it - BC is going to lose, and they're going to lose a lot. This week just reaffirmed that. The key is how they're losing and if we can look beyond those numbers given where this team was a year ago.
Second Time Through The Order
As a former pitcher, I know the toughest innings to get through were the ones in the middle of the game. It never mattered how much film study or scouting reports a batter read in the first three innings; it was early enough in the game and the players hadn't seen many of the pitches so they couldn't get a read on what was being thrown. It was so key for early hitters to get a nine or ten pitch at-bat and work the count so the rest of the lineup could get a read on what was coming.
But those middle innings were killers. Pitchers typically run out of tricks by the fifth inning, and that's where teams do their damage. The batters know what's coming, aren't shocked, and can start to time pitches. BC gave up 14 runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings against Miami and FAU, an indicator that starters started giving up more as they went deeper into games.
That's an indicator of the work left to do. The pitching staff is deeper, but now it just needs to get better. Whether it's based on defense, timely hitting, a walk here or there - they just need to get out of the inning. That will come with development and more repetition.
Check Back on Stats.
I'm still sticking to my guns on those numbers I've been using over the first month of the season. I know Mike Gambino told me before the season that he couldn't measure the season's successes in wins and losses; I'm starting to see what he means since the team played well and lost four-run ballgames. But by the same token, wins and losses are sometimes the best indicator of where a team is.
I'm going to roll out the same numbers each week and measure the team's performance. In case you've missed it, I predicted the team would need 477 hits and 634 total bases in order to have 20 wins. It's an indication of how the team is hitting and, more importantly, hitting with men on base. This year, BC has 135 hits and 170 total bases. That averages to nine hits per game and 11.3 bases per game. Over the 56 game season, this projects to 504 hits and 632 bases.
The number I'm giving you is so we can project if BC is hitting appropriately and playing up to the standard we're (okay...just me) holding them to. If BC has 504 hits and only 632 bases, that means they're not hitting well enough with men on base. We're not breaking new ground, and I know I've mentioned that before. But they're on pace for 20 wins and honestly could probably still be better. And that's facing some stiff competition this week and leveling off in terms of performance.
I expect the stats to continue to level off against some of the better competition. BC has a tall order against Virginia next weekend. The Wahoos are 11-3, having taken care of business against East Carolina and last weekend against Duke. They won 52 games last year and came within the Super Regionals of advancing to Omaha. So that means BC has to learn from the uphill battle they'll have, try to take some positives (I'l cover this later in the week), and prepare for some of the other games out there in order to make the ACC Tournament.
One last point - Pythagorean Win-Loss. According to mathematics and SABRmetrics, BC should have 47.4% of their games in the win column. They've played well enough to be a seven-win team. Looking back over last week, we can see one or two games they should've won instead of lost. Start hitting with men on base, and everything else will fall into place.