Whenever the baseball team gets mentioned around these parts, it always pops up with intense feelings of debate. There's the continual argument about the facilities, the constant debate that this team can't consistently succeed on the field without the investment from the athletic department. Then there's the argument about the coach.
When it comes to Boston College baseball, Mike Gambino is often compared to and lined up against his predecessor, Mik Aoki. Coach Aoki took the Eagles to the 2009 NCAA Tournament, where they won a game before running into some bad luck (including the 25-inning game against Texas that they lost). In 2010, the Eagles came within a game of winning the ACC but failed, missing out as a bubble team to field of 64.
By the 2011 season, Aoki was in South Bend, Indiana, coaching Notre Dame. In his place stood Gambino. Since that 2011 season, the Eagles haven't been back to the ACC Tournament, let alone the championship game. A bubble team for the NCAA Tournament for much of this year, the late-season swoon cost them both a trip to the field of 64 and a trip to Durham. As the regionals played out this week, the Eagles sat home...again.
That stat in and of itself is enough for people to say, "Fire the coach." That Gambino finished .500 only once (this past season) is enough to make fans of the program, no matter how small they may number in comparison to some of the other teams wearing maroon and gold, call for his job.
I set out to analyze and crunch the numbers to see what exactly the Gambino era brought us. Over the past five seasons, I wanted to see the cupboard he had (strictly by the numbers) and trend the team. I scrapped looking at win totals because, honestly, I just said the wins totals was an argument people wanted to point to, and I'm looking for something more. I'm looking within the numbers to see what kind of team BC had and try to back up my point that the team is trending up with next year being the crucible year of development along the trail.
Offensive Statistics (Five Year Trend)
|On Base Percentage||.331||.358||.301||.328||.355|
|Strikeouts-to-Walk Ratio||353/161 (2.19)||413/204 (2.02)||365/198 (1.84)||351/203 (1.72)||376/231 (1.62)|
|Extra Base Hits (% of total hits)||129 (30%)||163 (31%)||90 (25%)||107 (24%)||133 (27)|
Right off the bat, the first thing jumping off the page is how bad the team was in 2013. After a slight decline from '11 to '12, the team sagged and fell apart in '13. The only thing that got better was their strikeouts-to-walk ratio, but it wasn't like they were getting on base to begin with. That 2013 season was, for lack of a better term, a disaster offensively.
Looking within the numbers again, the people producing the numbers changed. Of the five players who led the Eagles in hitting in 2012, only Tom Bourdon returned. Anthony Melchionda, Rob Moir, Andrew Lawrence, and Marc Perdios were all gone, and after Bourdon struggled in '13 before being injured, his average tanked, going from a team-leading .324 to .223 (-.101 points for those of you keeping score at home). The only other time BC lost four of their top five hitters was between 2010 and 2011 - when the team average dropped nearly 40 points. That also, by chance, happened to be the changeover from Aoki to Gambino.
That was also the beginning point zero of the rebuilding project. Until 2014, the team offensively was built on Mik Aoki recruits. Gambino was ultimately left lacking both a senior class with experience and a junior class he recruited until 2015. Perhaps not so coincidentally, prior to last season, he talked about the youth movement when I met with him and specifically pointed out that there would be issues along the way. The only thing I guess we can ask is if we are now seeing the results of that growth. Judging by what we've seen, the answer would be yes. That said, it also can't go back to where it was.
As an aside, there's also the interesting sidebar of where Chris Shaw goes in the MLB Draft in a couple of weeks. Shaw is rumored pretty much anywhere from first round through the 10th from the different pieces I've been reading because teams are either drooling over getting raw power or not. The fact remains that he's going to be picked, most likely in an early round, which may seal him leaving after just his junior year.
He's arguably the best hitting prospect to come out of Chestnut Hill since Mickey Wiswall, surpassing even Anthony Melchionda at this point. He's really the only guy we're talking about because he's the highest profile candidate, but come closer to the draft, if BC can put more names on Major League radars, that's something worth keeping an eye on. In 2010 and 2011, the Eagles saw four or five names go fairly consistently. Anyways, that's a sidebar.
Once the new coach was able to start bringing in his guys, the offensive numbers drastically improved. BC has actually exceeded the numbers from where Gambino first took over, indicating there are some areas of development where he's made the team substantially better. They're not quite at the level of the last year under Aoki, but at the same time, the team is now his with his players. If the team can improve one more season and continue this upward swing, consider what the numbers might look like. If it drops off, however, then that's a disaster. 2016 is the key, and we should all be very excited and intrigued to see what it holds.