Weekend Series #1 @ SDSU Grades & Review

Many thanks for all the positive comments! I promise to continue giving an effort worthy of the W. - SOS

Every early weekday off, whichever it may be according to the baseball/work schedule, I will break down the past weekend; how we fared after letting it all digest and sink in. With 3 games of data and notes in the books, deciding how to recombine and present is the only issue to work out now. Good problem to have, IMO. Baseball gives you so much to write about if you just take notes and watch...

The Dawgs went down to Mexico, demographically, to open 2012 against San Diego State in the first weekend series of the season. They ended up throwing one bad pitch too many, spoiling the sweep Berry and the Bats had loudly earned, with only 3 Aztecs batters left to retire. That's a great start to the season all things considered, and the coaching staff has to be pleased with the effort off the starting the line.

Being the first collegiate start and/or Div-1 start for many on the team, they need a fair shot to show us a bigger sample size of who they truly are, not just one up / down weekend. I need time to focus and really dissect the game film as well, so the team scouting report will start next week.

Grades

Series Grade: B+

Mental Toughness / Heart: A+

When you have the broom out and ready to toss the dirt, you did well. I can't give an "A" if all facets of the game don't perform above average at least, and so the Dawgs miss the "A" on account of the 'pen, but by this much. Yes, I will have a tough grading scale, but it is because I only grade championship caliber ball as an A+, like it should be. Not some invisible ceiling that we are told is supposed to make us feel better with pseudo wins.

Do not let anyone kid you. Winning is important; it's important to learn how to win, how to win in life. Winning is always important."
-Bob Knight

Bless you Knight, bless you for always speaking the truth like a leader should. He said that to his hometown HS basketball squad in a little four letter network bit. Someone needs to sit Knight in front of the Puget Sound populace and have him explain to them how sports education wins wars, keeps kids out of trouble, helps mold a respectful adult and teaches life lessons to those that may not have the IQ score and/or advantages some of us do. That little bit from the four letter network would work, also.

Series MVP: 1B/DH Branden Berry .615 AVG / 8 H / 3 RBI / 1 HR / 1 3B / 1.000 SLG %

  • I think his numbers say enough. Berry had 13 TB (total bases) in 13 AB (at-bats) to lead the team, and it wasn't even close. Number two was lead-off man CF Jayce Ray with 7 TB - 14 AB. If you had to pick 2 spots in your lineup to lead those categories, it would be your lead-off and cleanup hitters. These are two very, very good signs for our offense this year.

  • Gwynn wasn't in the dugout for the Aztecs, instead watching from a hospital bed. Get well Tony, your team needs you. The Aztecs have a few studs in the field and a couple pitchers that should be drafted, but the rest of the roster is thin. If their bullpen and defense as a whole perform that way all year, its going to be a long season for Coach Gwynn. He could really use some more talent, and I'm sure over time he will build them into a contender, but this is not the year for the Aztecs.

  • Even with Gwynn absent, his team fought for him admirably. Both teams came out fired up to start the season, and it just kept building all the way to the final hit. I'm telling you, there had to be some trash talk between Berry, our California kids and the SDSU players between games. It was audible; this was not 2 teams that hadn't played each other since 2003. No, this was 2 teams trying to do everything in their power to win. The Gwynn health factor pushed SDSU to play far beyond their collective talent level at times, giving them an extra incentive to win. I'm REALLY proud of our boys for never, not once, throwing in the towel and giving up. We fought hard, and I'm impressed with the job the coaching staff did to get this group to respond so many times. Now do it all year. WOOF.

  • Weather played a silent, but deadly factor. This is one advantage to being a northern team, you know how to play in the cold. I saw coats and shivering SoCal residents both nights in the Tony Gwynn Stadium stands, and still some long sleeves and pants for Sunday. Aztecs pitchers and batters had an obvious night and day difference, finally warming up and out-dueling the Dawgs for 14 hits to 8 on Sunday when they looked fluid and not stiff.

Starting Pitching: B+

MVP: RHP George Asmus 1.80 ERA / 5 IP / 4 H / 1 ER / 2 BB / 5 K's

  • With only 3 starting pitchers, and myself having been one, grading this category will be easy, yet highly critical. I hope they can take it.

  • Both Asmus on Sat. and West on Fri. posted 1.80 ERA's, but Asmus gave up fewer hits (4-7), struck out one more (5-4) and only allowed the Aztecs to hit .211, compared to .333 for West.

  • Asmus was on cruise control Saturday, and left the game with the Dawgs in a perfect position to finish the second half for a win. He deserved a win, but Palewicz let him down.

  • Aaron West surprised with the Friday start, according to what Meggs told everyone, and he didn't disappoint. He was a top-ten round draft pick before Tommy John Surgery, and now he may be a top-5 round pick. Tommy John has made more than one pitcher stronger in the end, and West might join that list. I'm excited to see West in the Friday Ace role to be honest, he might just be our best pitcher after watching the tape regarding stuff and makeup. He just didn't have the stats to overcome Asmus this time around.

  • Voth needs to work on the release point for each different pitch. It's obvious he has either tried to tweak or learn new pitches over the off-season, because he was nowhere near consistent with any pitch on Sunday. Nerves can also do what he showed, so his first mulligan has been burned. I would not be surprised to see Swift get the next Sunday start, as mentioned in the pitcher previews.

Bullpen: C-

MVP: Freshman RHP Tyler Davis 4.15 ERA / 4.1 IP / 2 H / 3 R / 2 ER / 2 BB / 1 K / .133 opponent AVG

  • Don't let that ERA fool you, it should be a lot lower. Davis had only given up one run in the 5th and shut the Aztecs down in order in the 4th & 6th, but froze up while watching the Dawgs bat around and score 6 runs in the 7th. When he came out he was not the same pitcher that thoroughly dominated SDSU for 4 innings. Davis was in the unfortunate position of being the first reliever called to stem the bleeding, in the second inning no less. This pitcher is going to stay in the game until he gives up a couple hits, which Meggs did with Davis. Those couple hits turned into 2 more runs to give him 3. Of all the relief appearances his was the most crucial, giving a hero's effort to save Sunday, for we would not have even been in position to win if his curve ball didn't make mince meat of the Aztecs hitters.

  • Closer Joshua Fredendall had a great weekend too, earning 2 saves in 2 opportunities and really impressing with his demeanor on the mound, so give him pitching MVP 1b. The kid is big and has an intimidating glare to go with good power and command. He did only give up 1 run as well, and I really had to fight to pick between him and Davis. The deciding factor was the .133 opponent batting AVG for Davis over 4 innings of work with filthy command. I'm sure Fredendall will have many more opportunities than Davis over the course of the season for this accolade as well.

  • LHP Mac Acker pitched well also, appearing in all 3 games going 1-0, and has a 0.00 ERA despite giving up 2 hits that scored runs charged to other pitchers. His stat line leads the team, but his opponents AVG is .286, showing the 2 hits in 7 at-bats. If you only looked at the stat line he is the MVP, but if you watched the games it was Davis who had the biggest impact. I want to see a better fastball and more consistent command from our only LHP who will see significant innings.

  • Palewicz. I think I went over his performance enough in the game recaps. He will be the setup man Meggs wants him to be, he just wasn't on this trip.

  • One thing kept going through my mind all weekend: With all due respect to Tony Gwynn, a class act, and SDSU, a program with history, this series should not have been close. Our starting pitching will be fine, but if we want to win in the top half of the PAC-12 standings we better shore up our leaky spots in the bullpen. SDSU is a team picked to finish 4th in the Mountain West, and to get where we want to be we need to convincingly win against less talented rosters and pad our standings with the non-conference schedule. This can help you absorb the inevitable losses to conference teams, like #3 Stanford who comes to visit April 5-7 for a weekend series that I hope will be competitive. They also happen to have a potential #1 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, in starting RHP Mark Appel and 3 Golden Spikes watch list members. Someone better put purple drank in the coolers for that one...

Offense: A

Team stats: .343 AVG / 28 R / 37 H / 4 2B / 2 3B / 1 HR / 20 RBI / 48 TB / .444 SLG% / 14 BB / 7 HBP (hit by pitch) / 10 K's / 1 GDP (grounded into double play)

MVP: 1B/DH Branden Berry

  • How 'bout those bats? We went into the bottom of the 9th in all 3 games in position to win. Regardless of the minor mistakes, we outscored SDSU 28-23, even though we hit .343 and the Aztecs matched us at .340.

  • We have 5 really good weapons to use on the base paths. I would like to include Joe Meggs, but he was caught too much, too easily to be considered on that list at this time. Forlione, Ely, Jackson and Ray, the only starter. Giving Coach Meggs speed is like, well, giving an addict his fix, and he is a heavy user. I like this, and it really does put a lot of pressure on the opposing team to not make any throwing errors, pitchers included.

  • There is some series competition for the DH slot right now. If Pehl and Berry keep hitting the way they are, its going to be real sparse for Mitsui, Anselment and Wiggins.

  • Anselment proved himself a savvy hitter with a 2B, single, walk and hit by pitch showing some great patience. Appears stuck at #2 at catcher, OF and DH. Right now is a great bat off the bench until something is shown with the glove, with RF Camporeale hitting and fielding well enough to hold down right and Meggs in left.

  • 1B has become a contest between Pehl and Mitsui. I honestly believe Berry has locked up the cleanup slot, and deservedly so. With Ely flashing 3-4 tool ability as an above-average Jack and Pehl showing a bad glove, Ely has a good shot to earn some starts. The Skipper loves speed, and Ely has enough with a glove and good eye at the plate. Watch out for this. Only thing is that coach has to balance when and where Ely and Forlione are used. Does he like Ely so much he keeps him as an ace bench base runner? Time will tell.

  • Forlione is the other young middle IF making a strong push for time, and Coach Meggs rewarded him for his effort the 2 games before on Sunday with a start. I'm not one to say I told you so, but Forlione just perfectly fits that small ball SS lead-off hitter mold. Give him some time to adjust, and we have a new lead-off hitter.

  • Problem with that is, what about Afenir? We need that lead-off switch hitter with wheels, but we also need SS, along with CF and C, to be a defensively focused position first... Someone needs to step up and improve the part of their game is lacking so this gets put to rest.

  • Mitsui needs work on off speed pitches. He was struck out his first AB on 4 curve balls, bounced back with a good hit later, but the tape is out. He is also very tall, and I'm almost wondering if he is stuck behind Berry and Pehl now. Mitsui is a 1B/3B build; I can't see him anywhere else. If he wants to play, he needs to make a buddy or 5 on the pitching staff and start seeing 200+ off-speed pitches every day. Not everyone pitches fastballs all the time anymore, and the difference between Berry and Mitsui is a perfect example of what California and a much longer playing window each year can do for a hitter. I love WA, but our HS system is nowhere near CA's for baseball. Just look at the HS stats for Berry and Mitsui then watch this series, and its obvious Berry has seen a different breed of pitcher growing up.

Defense: B

MVP: C B.K. Santy

  • UW Fielding % .982

  • SDSU Fielding % .938

  • I think that about says it all in a nutshell; we only committed 2 errors, but both on Sunday in the loss (though home scoring ruled a few should-be errors we committed as Aztecs hits, but that will always happen).

  • We get a B for some mental mistakes in high pressure, quick response moments and not being in better position, in the OF and IF, at crucial times. Lamb and Pehl with mental gaffs on a bunt and weak dribbler past the pitcher, respectively for 2 examples. Forlione for hesitating and missing a RBI single under his glove sticks out as well.

  • Santy was superb moving laterally as a backstop all weekend, and he saved quite a few runs.

  • Santy also had 2 laser throws that should have picked off their targets, if not for a bad call on a steal attempt at second and an unlucky tag at first. Santy had been watching Aztecs base runners creep farther towards second, and he let them get just far enough, then rifled a shot at Berry and had the guy beat by a mile. Thing is, the base runner fell about 4 feet to the left of the bag, towards right field, just outside the arc of the tag. He then quickly darted his hand in before Berry could land another tag attempt. Either way, SDSU showed A LOT more respect on the base paths after that.

  • Anselment started game 2 behind the plate, but had multiple conferences with Asmus to start the game. He appeared to have a harder time with communication with every pitcher until Santy replaced him in the 7th. He doesn't have the grasp Santy does yet for playing catcher.

  • Afenir was stellar as usual, and though he could use a little more arm strength on some throws, he has enough to make all the throws when he wants to. I love his glove and awareness, bat be damned. You need you center column to be very strong defensively, at least to start the game. With...

  • Andrew Ely, who really made some good impressions at times along with some young mistakes, at second base with his quickness, Santy behind the plate and Ray in CF, the Dawgs have a very good center column, "up the middle" defense. This is a huge component of the small ball game, and it was employed in the 7th by Meggs twice, trying to do everything he could to help the bullpen finish.

  • Joe Meggs is a solid defensive option in LF, and even if he doesn't take perfect lines every time, he can adjust well, keeping his eye on the ball and maintaining his balance while he redirects his hips. Meggs had a few good catches on the track and one up on the wall that would have gone out in the daytime for a HR.

  • Lamb needs some work on fielding bunts. Other than that, he made a brilliant diving stop to his left Sunday that brought up a few eyebrows in the game thread, myself included. It was one of those "that's why they call it the hot-corner, boy!" one-bouncer line drive hits. Great clutch glove work that saved a run(s), but eventually turned moot by Smith's walk-off.

  • Pehl is a slug. Pehl, I REALLY love your bat, its great. But he leaves something to be desired when it comes to footwork and balance while moving for a 2B. IMO he is not a 2B. Too big, too clunky for the small ball philosophy. He is a 1B masquerading as a 2B. If we have to trade a glove/speed up the middle for a huge bat than so be it, you have to do it somewhere, but it's a death sentence when we go up against lefty filled lineups. He was serviceable at 1B where quickness wasn't required when Coach Meggs moved him there, and subbed in Ely to 2B while Berry was the DH. We might see more of that if Mitsui takes longer than expected to work the jitters out and adjust to the Div-1 game.

  • I have a suspicion that Coach Meggs is trying to bend the rules a little bit to squeeze more offense into the starting lineup. Problem to me is, he is doing at the cost of a "column" position. You do this on the lines, 3B/LF and 1B/RF... not 2B. You can get away with it if they are at least a decent option with a glove; Pehl just isn't built to play 2B defense.

  • SDSU committed 4 errors Sunday, less than the previous two, yet managed to win with better pitching, and finally better bats.

Song listened to / Pandora played the most during this session: Mord Fustang - Lick the Rainbow. Love the saxophone hints.

Go Dawgs!

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