CBB Column: 2010 CWS Predictions

11-10-03 Road to Omaha The College Baseball Blog staff recently got together to start discussing the 2010 season. We have each put out our 2010 picks for the College World Series. The most popular selection is Texas showing up on all six ballots with LSU, Cal-State Fullerton, and Virginia showing up on five of them. There are seven different conferences represented and 17 different schools listed. You can check out each writer’s prediction below.

Brian Foley Bryan Young Colin Weber Donald Boyles Sam Wasson Aman Reaka
1 Arizona State Arizona State LSU Rice LSU CS Fullerton
2 Arkansas UC-Irvine Rice LSU Rice LSU
3 CS Fullerton LSU Texas Florida Virginia Rice
4 Florida State Arkansas CS Fullerton Virginia Texas Texas
5 Ole Miss CS Fullerton Virginia UC-Irvine UC-Irvine Virginia
6 Texas N. Carolina Clemson Texas Arizona State Arkansas
7 UC-Irvine Texas Florida Georgia Florida State UCLA
8 Virginia Minnesota Florida State Georgia Tech CS Fullerton Kansas
  • Scott

    What about Alabama as a dark horse? They return a lot of offense, and if their pitching can be average, they might be able to make a run of it against LSU in the SEC.

  • http://CBB Ringo

    Most of the writers predictions are predictable and valid, but I have to chuckle about a couple: Minnesota and UCLA. Gophers do have talent but a BIG 10 team hasn’t made Omaha in > 25 years. UCLA, while they appear to have an outstanding staff, has made it twice overall and once in the last 40 years, also a questionable offense on paper going into 2010. Neither would likely host a Super so they’d have to do it on the road, not impossible granted. I understand picking dark horses but……

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    There has been a darkhorse in the CWS nearly every season so I understand why they picked one.

  • Scott

    Brian’s point is right, darkhorses are a constant in Omaha. I think Minnesota has as a god a chance as Michigan had a couple of years ago, but they would definitely be there in an unexpected role. With all due respect, UCLA has passed as a program to even label a darkhorse. They just haven’t lived up to any expectations, no matter what talent has been there. Not to dog a program, but talent has been greater than results the last several years.

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    Agreed Scott about UCLA. They are far from being a darkhorse. They made a Super Regional appearance two years ago.

  • waltgreenberg

    Making such predictions even before the start/completion of Fall Practice is a total crapshoot. Having said that, I’d be very interested in hearing Brian’s and Bryan’s rationale for picking teams such as North Carolina (in total rebuild/reload mode), Minnesota, Arkansas and Clemson over Rice. You do realize the Owls return 12 of the 13 players who compiled 75+ ABs last season (all but 2B Brock Holt) and return arguably the most proven, experienced and deepest offense and defense in the country? Hague, Rendon, Seastrunk, Sultzbaugh, Mozingo, Fuda, Comerota, Rathjen, Lewis, Gonzales-Luna, Manuel…and in all likelihood, Michael Ratterree (the 2009 state of Texas and Greater Houston POY), will take over at 2B and look to follow in the footsteps of fellow high school SS Anthony Rendon.

    Yes, you could argue that the Rice pitching staff is a question mark until proven otherwise, but…they do return everybody from last year’s squad save for Ryan Berry and Jordan Rogers. Guys such as Taylor Wall, Jared Rogers, Mark Haynes, Matthew Reckling, Matt Evers, Andrew Benak, Abe Gonzales and Travis Wright all saw considerable action in 2009 (and for all but Evers, it was their first taste of D-I action) due largely to the injuries to Berry and Ojala. Ojala’s rehab from TJS is ahead of schedule and he hopes to return to competitive action by the April/early May stretch run. What’s more, last year’s projected #4 starter, RS Frosh Anthony Fazio, who missed the entire season with TJS one week before the 2009 opener, is already throwing on the mound, and should be fully healthy come February. Add to that an incoming recruiting class stock full of talented arms (including 3 southpaws and two JR JUCO transfers), couple the historically proven coaching of the pitching staff, and one has to think that Rice will have more than enough quality arms once again.

  • waltgreenberg

    BTW, my sleeper pick for 2010 is San Diego. The were snake bit with the injury bug last year, but if Solis, Blair, Thomson and Griffin all return healthy, along with Sanchez and a couple of their other injured position players, they could compete with CSF, UC-Irvine and ASU as the best team in the West. IMO, the Torreros have far more offense than UCLA, and just as dominant and deep pitching.

  • Scott

    Brian, what would blogs e without crapshoots (or just crap) being given? I agree that San Diego is ahead in my mind for Omaha. BUT, can they make it without Matusz when they couldn’t make it with him? Rice is intriguing, but that is a lot of pitching that has little experience, so the offense will have to carry them for a while to let the arms come around, I think. Though that is a good scenario.

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    My biggest question with San Diego is the loss of Eric Valenzuela who served as the pitching coach/recruiting coordinator over the recent run.

    I agree they got the talent on the mound to compete but at the plate is the question.

    As I posted on Rice’s message board, I can make similar arguments for UNC that I can make with Rice.

    BTW, Bryan Young is a west coast guy….

  • waltgreenberg

    Brian, you are either ACC biased or dreaming if you honestly think Rice has the same number of question marks as UNC. Again, Rice is returning 12 of 13 position players who contributed in 2009, and arguably the best and most proven returning offense and defense in the country. UNC lost it’s three best hitters (and two of the best in the country) in Auckly, Segers and Foley, as well as two other position players. On the mound, the Tarheels lost their Friday and Saturday starters (White, Warren) and two of their top 3 relievers. Rice returns everyone except Ryan Berry (who missed half the season) and Jordan Rogers, with Mike Ojala expected back for the stretch run.

    Again, I agree that Wall and Evers are the only truly proven pitchers on the Owls staff, but they do have 6 – 7 other guys who gained invaluable experience in their first taste of D-I action last year…along with a stellar incoming crop of pitchers and the return of last year’s prize recruit, Anthony Fazio.

    To compare the situations at Rice and UNC going into the 2009 season is preposterous. I have great admiration and respect for Coach Fox. He no doubt has brought in another great incoming class, and I have no doubt they will end the season in the Top 25…but they have many, many more question marks heading into the season than the Owls. Also, while Harvey has elite caliber stuff and is viewed as a first-round draft pick, he has been hugely inconsistent to date over his first two years of college ball. Until he proves it on the field, with in-game performances, I refuse to crown him an elite college pitcher.

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    Warren for UNC is very replaceable. He was nothing special. The kid threw 88-90 and really had nothing outstanding. Harvey could be the best pitcher in College Baseball this season.

    I have seen Harvey throw a 2 hitter sitting at 94-95. Yes, He is up and down. I think he will be up with a MLB contract coming in his future.

    I also think Nate Striz is going to be an integral part of the UNC staff this season. He was a fifth round pick out of high school and should be able to step into the rotation.

    Brian Goodwin will step right into the UNC lineup and is a highly touted recruit from what I have heard.

    BTW…I never included North Carolina in my projections…

  • Scott

    I don’t think Brian is off the mark at all comparing the Rice and UNC situations, because they both hinge on how pitching goes largely. I think UNC probably has more baseline talent than Rice, while Rice has more experience across the board. UNC also will have the benefit/downfall of playing in a conference with more contending teams (Va., Ga. Tech, Fl State, Clem). They will either gain confidence or go through growing pains. I think this year could be key towards San Diego breaking through to be an Omaha regular a la CS Fullerton or UC Irvine or plateauing out to an almost there team all the time.

  • Johnny

    I’m not sure Rice is the best team Conference USA ECU and Houston will give them a run to win the conference. I don’t see how you could pick anyone other than Texas or LSU to win the CWS.

  • waltgreenberg

    It would be legitimate to compare the Rice and UNC pitching staffs, but not the offense and defense. Rice blows UNC and just about every other team in the country away in those two areas. Texas no doubt has the dominant pitching, but they are offensive-challenged, have to replace 3 of four infielders, and have absolutely no infield depth.

  • waltgreenberg

    Johnny, I agree both ECU and UH could be Top 25 caliber teams next year…however, in 2009 Rice has the advantage of playing ECU, USM and UH all at home at Reckling Park.

    As for UT and LSU, no question both have to be Top 5 – 10 preseason, but…as I mentioned above, despite their great pitching, Texas was offensive-challenged last year and lost three of their four best offensive players (Belt, Torres, Tucker), and could be extremely vulnerable defensively in the infield this year. As for LSU, while they no doubt bring back a solid nucleus, let’s not forget that they lost the SEC Pitcher of the Year (Coleman) and four of their top five hitters (LaMeau, Schempf, Mitchell, Ochenko). Those are some pretty big holes to fill even with Dean, Gibbs, Landry and co. returning. The Tigers also lost three of their top four recruits to the draft.

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    They still have Anthony Ranaudo and Matty Ott who will still be the top two guys in the rotation. There number 3 guy in Austin Ross started Game 1 of the CWS for the Tigers. Mikie Mahtook started coming on at the end of the year and had a better season then Seastrunk. Micah Gibbs is also very underrated with the Tigers.

    Texas losing those three guys is a blessing in disguise as they will replace them with some better hitters or at least give them the same numbers.

  • waltgreenberg

    Brian, do you have a clue what you’re talking about? You do realize Texas has but 6 infielders (including 1B) on their entire Fall roster, and only Loy and Sheperd (3B in ’08– good hitter but awful defensively) with any real experience. Yes, I hear Keyes may be moving to 1B, but that’s not helping their offense and is certainly a downgrade defensively from Belt. I believe Belt, Torres and Tucker were the only Longhorns hitting above .300 during the regular season, and they’re all gone now. The pitching will carry them a long way, but they are one infield injury away from potential disaster, and they are still going to be offensive-challenged.

    As for LSU, I acknowledged that those guys are returning, but you cannot ignore the very significant losses of Coleman, Schempf, Mitchell, LeMaheu, Helinski and Ochenko from last year’s squad…and you cannot presume that Ott will replicate his Freshman season, as many, many stud Freshmen pitchers have struggled a bit their sophomore seasons (including the likes of Minor, Berry, Evers, Ross and many others). BTW, IMO, Ross is nothing special; simply a solid Sunday college starter pitcher. Nothing more. I like Mahtook a lot, but as far as his outhitting Seastrunk last year, you might recall that Diego was converted to catcher and focusing on calling pitches for the Owls. It’s not surprising that his offensive production dropped precipitously the second half of the season as the wear and tear of catching caught up with him. With a year under his belt, and a very capable and experienced backup at catcher (Manuel), I expect Seastrunk to have a monster offensive and defensive season in 2010; certainly back to the numbers he put up his first two seasons while playing 3B for the Owls.

    • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

      Doesn’t matter if they have 6 infielders on the roster right now. What matters is they will find a way to get it done when it matters in May and June.

      If your holding opponents to a .227 batting average, the defense doesn’t have to be outstanding behind them. Say they make 15 more errors next year, that is only 15 extra base runners and I think they can handle it.

      We know that Texas played in the CWS Championship Series with a very young pitching staff. In Augie we trust!

      We will see what happens with Seastrunk as we can agree to disagree about your Owls right now.

  • waltgreenberg

    Brian, where is Augie going to find the infielders now that the incoming class is on campus? As for infield defense not being a factor, I’d argue (as would many Longhorn fans) that that was their downfall in 2008, and they had pretty top-notch pitching then, as well. Also, let’s not overemphasize the youth of the UT staff last year. They relied heavily a Senior and 4-year contributor, Austin Wood out of the bullpen…and he’s now gone. Ruffin, Green and Workman were all Sophomores, but each had pitched 50+ innings as true Freshmen, with both Ruffin and Workman as weekend starters in ’08 (and Green as mid-week starter). Yes, they had two Freshmen last year in Jungmann and Dicharry, but both were very highly touted coming out of high school, and Jungmann in particvular was a suprise not turning pro. Texas’ offense came alive in Omaha, but I think that was more of an anamoly than a pattern, as it struggled mightily during the regular season and during the first two rounds of the post-season. Let’s not forget that UT barely escaped their own regional against a very weak field (due largely to their woeful lack of offense), and should have lost the Super-regionals at home vs. USM (if not for USM’s post-season inexperience and the bullpen suddenly unable to throw strikes).

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    Texas could do what UNC has done in the past…Bring in a recruit EARLY!

    Lets not give Army, Boston College, and Texas State credit in the Austin Regional. So your trying to tell me that an ACC team that goes 25 innings is weak? Also, BC had a number 1 pick at catcher, a second round pick on the mound in Belfiore. The Patriot League rep in Army was very solid. Have you seen that Army team at all? Ben Koenigsfeld is a pretty solid player. Do I even have to break down how Texas State’s bullpen blew up in both of their games.

    Texas beat TCU in the super regional as USM made Omaha by winning against Georgia Tech twice in the Regional Championship and then beating Florida twice in the Super Regional.

  • Scott

    I think any time you have the strong pitching that Texas is bringing back, you have to consider them a contender. Jungmann, Dicharry, and Workman will be strong for them this year. Yes, the infield situation is going to have to work its way out, but the talent is there. Rupp is huge at catcher. If he can raise his average and maintain his power, he gives that offense a big tool. I am not sure what the fault is with the defense. Having seem them play a couple of times, they made their plays, and their numbers are not out of line with other contenders, in fact, last year’s stats were almost identical with LSU. The timeliness of their errors was sometimes not good, but that is a bug that could effect a lot of teams. With the pitching they return, I think UT is able to start the year a little ahead of LSU, but I concur with Walt that LSU’s incoming crop has the chance to help them catch up by the end of the year. No need to question anyone’s sanity or knowledge, just different feelings on different players and teams.

  • waltgreenberg

    Scott, I ever contended that Texas should not be considered a contender. In fact, I’d agree that they’re likely (and deservedly so) to be consensus preseason Top 3. And with regards to pitchers, you left out Ruffin, who has been their most consistent performer the past two seasons. However, I do think many are grossly understating their potential infield and offensive problems. I agree Rupp could be on the verge of a truly breakout season, but am far less convinced that either Keyes or Rowe will ever become elite college hitters (e.g., hitting .325+). We’re talking about a team that was, until the LSU championship series, considerably offensive-challenged– hitting well below .300 as a team during the regular season, with nominal power production and no more than average speed…and they’ve now lost their threee best AVG hitters in Belt, Torres and Tucker. Now, Brian and others can try to make a claim that that’s addition by subtraction, but I’m at a loss what the logic behind such reasoning is. Sheperd is a quality hitter, but is a liability in the infield. As for their infield defense, last year it was quite good…but 3B Torres, 2B Tucker and 1B Belt are all now gone, as is their backup catcher/3B/DH and senior leader in Preston Clark (though his offensive numbers fell dramatically since his 2008 injury). To think that their infield defense will not drop off in 2010 is wishfull thinking, and it could drop off precipitously, which would have an impact on their pitching.

    As for LSU, Top 10 preseason for sure, and they do bring back a very solid nucleus with Ranauldo, Ott, Ross, Gibbs, Dean, Landry, Mahtook and Hanover….but to think that you’re going to fill the losses of Schempf, LeMeheau, Mitchell, Ochenko, Helinski and Coleman without missing a beat is a bit proposterous. Those departing guys represented over 75% of the Tigers’ stolen bases in 2009, well over 50% over their HRs, four of their Top 5 AVG/OBP hitters, and a good part of their “plus” infield and outfield defense….not to mention the SEC Pitcher of the Year.

  • Wahoo301

    You mention that LSU and CS-Fullerton are on 4 out of 6 ballots (really you meant 5), but did not mention that Virginia is also on all but 1 ballot.

    Virginia returns all offensive starters from last year, 2 of 3 weekend starters, plus the core of its relief pitching. Add to that a top recruiting class highlighted by phenom right-hander Brandon Kline, and the Wahoos have to be considered a favorite for 2010.

  • Scott

    Walt, I think we are both in agreement that Texas and LSU will be contending teams. LSU might just have to work their way into it, and Texas will have to refine what they have. Wahoo brings up a good point, which is that UVA might step on the big stage even more this year. They have so much returning, and have great pieces coming in. I think people leave them out of title series consideration because they don’t have the history, but they seem to have the ability to be there. I know people said that there wasn’t as much college talent in the draft last year, but we seem to be dealing with a lot of teams who have holes to fill. Might be a year when some new or not usual faces sneak in to and go far in Omaha.

  • waltgreenberg

    Actually, both Rice and UVA were on four of the six ballots. If I had to make a CWS prediction at this point, my Omaha 8 would be (in no particular order):

    Texas
    CSF
    UC-Irvine
    Rice
    LSU
    Florida
    Virginia
    and either ASU or San Diego

    I think the ACC is so strong this coming year with 6 legitimate Top 25 caliber teams (UVA, GT, Miami, FSU, Clemson, UNC) that they are actually going to hurt themselves by eating their own. Conversely, Texas (save for it’s early home series against Stanford and 3 games vs. Rice) will go largely untested during the regular season, as almost every other Big 12 team will be going through a rebuilding year.

  • Scott

    I got:
    Texas
    LSU
    Virginia
    Alabama (my darkhorse)
    San Diego
    Rice
    Cal State Fullerton
    UC Irvine

    I think Florida, Florida State, and Georgia Tech get close. I do agree with Walt that the ACC will be tough this year, so it is hard to only put one team in, but I just don’t think any of them will be able to make it through Super Regionals. For some reason, Alabama this year looks to me to be a lot like Georgia of a few years ago. Experienced bats up and down the lineup who have had success and intriguing possibilities on the mound.

  • Wahoo301

    waltgreenberg–

    Just to clarify, UVA is on 5 ballots (like LSU and CS-Fullerton). Rice is on 4.

    I don’t think I understand your point on the ACC teams “eating their own.” Doesn’t really matter in the post-season, unless the selection committee decides to match up ACC teams in regionals and super-regionals. Don’t see that happening.

  • waltgreenberg

    Wahoo, the ACC teams have to play each other in-conference, and that’s going to impact their overall record, even if their RPI stays high. As good as those 6 ACC teams are likely to be, I’d be very surprised if more than one earns a national seed…and at least 2 – 3 of them will not be hosting. While not impossible, it’s very difficult to get to Omaha when the first two rounds are on the road. What UVA did last season is very, very rare, indeed.

  • Aman Reaka (bkmhoxx)

    Haha.
    I think its funny that people had a problem with UCLA being in my 8 but not Kansas.
    I wanted to make a couple sleeper picks just to be different. Thats the point of doing this before fall ball has even finished. Its just an exercise. Its just for fun and to create discussion.
    I would be shocked if UCLA and Kansas both made it, but my point is that both teams have some talent and i think have the capablity to surprise some people this year (along with many other teams). Florida St. i think has a good chance to get there, Arizona St, and Rice as well. But what would be fun about just listing the top 8 teams?

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    Exactly Aman….It is to get some discussion going!

  • Wahoo301

    waltgreenberg–

    I think it is a stretch to say “at least 2-3″ of those top ACC teams will not be hosting. The ACC had 4 regional hosts last year (with UNC also being a national seed), and I would say almost everyone agreed UVA should’ve been hosting as well. Last year was no doubt just as competitive in conference as this year will be.

    I’m not saying I think there will be 4 ACC teams at the CWS, but I don’t think the reason for that will have anything to do with ACC teams eating each other…

  • Mike

    Key to getting a passionate college baseball discussion going in preseason? Put a burr under Walt’s saddle. :-)

    Mission accomplished, Brian.

    • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

      Southern Miss, Virginia, and Arkansas didn’t host even the Regional rounds and made it all the way to Omaha.

      It is always good to have an off-season discussion!

  • Scott

    I agree that the ACC will be strong. My lack of confidence in any of the teams gettng to Omaha is more about their pitching than anything else. FSU has experienced pitching, but I don’t think any of those guys can dominate. Same with Clemson and GT. UNC will have Harvey, who can dominate, but has also shown that he can just as quickly get lit up. I just don’t see a lot any of the ACC teams going into the tournament with the same confidence in their arms as a Texas, Rice, CSF, or LSU would have.

  • http://CBB Ringo

    According to the NCAA website for last year through 6/24/09 Rice was in the top 20 in 5 categories total offensively and defensively out of 25 scored. Those were: #18 in W-L, #16 in ERA, #10 in hits allowed, #3 and #9 in double plays and double plays per game (basically a duplicate category), they were #39 in fielding % . They were not in in the top 20 in any of the 17 offensive categories.

    “Returning….arguably the best and most proven offense and defense in the country.”

    WOW! Kool-Aid anyone?

  • waltgreenberg

    Ringo, you do realize we are talking about RETURNING offense and defense? Last year’s Rice team had 8 newcomers to D-I action (Holt, Rendon, Manuel, Rathjen, Sultzbaugh, Fuda, Lewis and Gonzales-Luna) who contributed defensively and in the everyday lineup, and you can add Seastrunk who was converted to catcher (a position he had not played since he was 12 years old). Also, Rendon played the entire season at 3B with a shoulder injury, which resulted in a number of throwing errors (whereas he was an absolute vaccuum in fielding anything hit within his range). Name a team with four outfielders with the offensive and defensive skills (not to mention speed and range) of Fuda, Sultzbaugh, Mozingo and Rathjen (not to mention Gonzales-Luna and Lewis)? Who’s got a better infield than Rendon-Hague-Comerota-Ratterree/Lewis? Who has a two-headed catcher with more proven experience and talent than Seastrunk and Manuel?

    Last year’s Rice team put up comparable offensive numbers as the 2003 national championship team, despite being a very young squad and inexperienced squad. Fuda and Sultzbaugh, in particular, struggled the first half of the season, then both hit of .400 during the Second Half. The 2010 Owls have 6 guys fully capable of hitting 10+ HRs (Rendon, Hague, Mozingo, Sultzbaugh, Seastrunk, Rathjen) and another 7 guys capable of stealing 15+ bases (Comerota, Hague, Mozingo, Rendon, Fuda, Sultzbaugh, Rathjen).

    Again, I challenge you to name another team with the proven offensive, defensive and baserunning talent and experience that Rice brings to the table in 2010. Name just one, and back it up with evidence. Rice brings back 12 of 13 players who compiled 75+ ABs in 2009, and that one hole at 2B will be filled by either the 2009 state of Texas POY (Michael Ratterree), Michael Fuda (who was an all-state 2B before moving to the OF last year for the Owls) or Jimmy Comerota (who could return to 2B where he started in 2008, should Ratterree or Ryan Lewis take over at 1B).

  • maverickcav

    Walter,

    Virginia returns the entire starting lineup from 2008. In 17 NCAA offensive categories the Hoos were ranked higher than Rice in 14. We also bring in the 10th best recruiting class in the nation. Plus our defensive fielding % was higher and I can assure you the only pitching question is which of the five potential weekend starters we have not to use.

  • maverickcav

    Oops, I meant 2009.

  • woodrow

    Texas, UVA, ASU and LSU i think are the 4 best teams, now UVA is in the ACC and may lose some games but talent wise i like one of those 4 to take it home. LSU is just LSU, ASU and Texas are legit and the UVA program may be on the rise like no other team in the NCAA. Rice will stack up a unreal record but they will bow out once they play more tested teams i think, those 4 i lised above are my last 4 standing.

  • frozen tundra guy

    I love all the banter – especially in September ! Picking Minnesota makes my heart warm….. Us Northerners do know baseball too and the last time I checked there was a “road to Omaha” that actually starts in Minnesota so maybe the Gophers can make it to the CWS. Seriously- they have a very good returning line-up and have Rosin to anchor their pitching staff. Yes, they’re in the Big Ten but should be able to play with anyone this next season. Here’s to a Northern Dark Horse ! Giddy-up !!!

  • waltgreenberg

    Woodrow, do you have a clue what Rice’s schedule looks like? Unlike most ACC, SEC and Big 12 teams that pad their OOC schedule with almost exclusively home games against largely powderpuff teams ranked well below the Top 100 in RPI or ISR, Rice plays amongst the toughest OOC schedules in the country, with 31 OOC games vs. 24 in-conference. This coming year Rice opens the season with 3 games at Stanford, then go back to the West Coast mid-March for four games at San Diego. In addition, the Owls play 3 games vs. California, 3 games against Texas…single games against A&M, TCU, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State…home and home mid-weekers against Dallas Baptist, Sam Houston State and Texas State, amongst others…5 games vs. a Houston team who could very well be top 25 – 35 caliber (2 OOC, 3 in-conference)…and the rest of the C-USA slate (which includes a likely Top 25 ECU team, and likely Top 50 – 75 ranked teams in USM, Tulane and CF (who should be vastly improved this season).

    Do you really think we’re not going to be tested until the post-season with that schedule, which includes 24 road games, 3 nuetral site games and only 28 home games? Try again.

    • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

      Boyd’s World ranked Rice last season with the 35th toughest schedule in the country in the strength of schedule argument.

      Rice has always scheduled tough which I give them credit for…We will see what happens during the season. The biggest question is whether I will eat my words or Walt?

      http://www.boydsworld.com/baseball/sos/sos2009.html

  • waltgreenberg

    Nice try, Brian. That link you posted was for Boyd’s preseason 2009 “intended” SOS. Rice finished 2009 ranked #19 in SoS according to Boyds; whereas UVA finished way down at #55, UNC at #42, FSU at #56, etc. And last year’s Rice schedule was considerably softer and more home-baked than the one for 2010. Folks love to focus on conference affiliation, but the reality is that every team in the country plays over half their games out-of-conference, including at least four weekend series. And while no one is attempting to argue the overall strength of C-USA vs. the ACC, SEC, Pac-10 or Big 12, the reality is that C-USA proved in the post-season last year it was a lot stronger than most others gave them credit for…and it was a down year for the conference, with both Tulane and Houston falling off a bit from their usual Top 50 form. This year the conference is going to be considerably tougher, with potentially three Top 25 – 30 caliber teams (Rice, ECU, Houston) and with Tulane, USM and UCF all capable of making the post-season. Yes, don’t be shocked if UCF is one of the surprise “up and coming” teams in 2010, with Rooney pulling in his second consecutive strong recruiting class.

    If you want to talk about a team that will have a very soft, home-baked schedule and might not be truly tested until the post-season, it might be Texas. Aside from the Longhorns, almost every other Big 12 team will be in serious rebuilding mode, with only A&M and Kansas having the potential to offer some resistence, and crack the Top 35. And, aside from an early home series against Stanford and singleton games against Rice x 3 and TCU, the Longhorns don’t play anyone OOC, and all but 3 – 4 OOC games are outside the friendly confines of Austin.

  • waltgreenberg

    MaverickCav– UVA is definately in my Top 5 heading into the season, and probably my Top 3. However, when comparing offensive stats from last year vis-a-vis Rice, let’s not forget that there is a very significant gap in Strength of Schedule ranking, with Rice ending the season ranked at #19 and UVA at #55 (and I can assure you that that disparity was considerably wider before UVA entered the post-season). UVA’s OOC scheduling is nothing short of embarrassing, and the result is an early padding of stats. Again, that takes nothing away from the quality of the Cavalier program. Just saying.

  • Aman Reaka (bkmhoxx)

    I really do think Rice will be one of the strongest teams this year and i would pick them to be in Omaha come seasons end. That being said, i dont think they can beat many of the other teams that will be there with them. BUt its just all banter at this point because the season has to play out, confidence levels will go up or down, team injuries, newcomers will be better or worse than people expected, and players dont ALWAYS progress (some actually take a step back). So this is fun to do, but noone knows. And if you do know, tell me so i can lay some bets down in Vegas. I need to remodel the kitchen soon.

  • Wahoo301

    waltgreenberg–

    You are certainly a stubborn one. I’m sure you’d agree that Virginia’s in-conference statistics would compare favorably to Rice’s statistics from their entire schedule. In conference, Virginia hit .330 to Rice’s .320. (By the way, Virginia hit .327 for the season, so they actually fared better against the tougher competition.) Fielding percentage is independent of strength of schedule.

    On a less detailed view though, are you seriously arguing that a team that made the CWS last year returns less offensive and defensive talent than a team that did not make the CWS? I understand that Rice lost to LSU in their super regional, but you can’t argue that UVA didn’t have by far the toughest road to Omaha.

    UVA returns more offensively and defensively than Rice. There is no argument here.

  • http://CBB Ringo

    Amen Aman. All good points.

    No pun intended, but I feel like we’re being preached to, this isn’t church..is it? If you are not a “beleiver,” might you be cast out of the flock or tried as a heretic?

    IMO I like Woodrow’s take and I’d throw in UCI as well. I’d also not be surprised to see another “western” team or 2 make it like: OSU, Stanford, CSF, or maybe a “darkhorse” like TCU who seems to have a good thing going lately. I’m going to stick to the “under” on UCLA though, they can’t seem to put it together in spite of the talent they amass. IMO 1 super appearance recently is not that impressive. Maybe this is finally their year, we’ll see.

    And as talented as the ACC would seem to be top to bottom it will be intriguing to see if they can break their 50 year + hex on winning in Omaha. UVA appears loaded as mentioned, FSU and NC shouldn’t be too bad and Miami always competes. But the ACC and the SEC (IMO, at least initially on paper is down from last year as a whole,) and to a lesser extent the Big 12, will get more favorable seedings and more host sites compared to other conferences and teams, as usual, thanks to the obsolete RPI.

  • maverickcav

    Good point about conference play 301. When comparing the two teams in conference play Virginia still takes 9 of 14 offensive categories. Considering that the average ISR for Rice’s 8 Conf USA opponents was 106.25 and the ISR for Virginia’s 11 ACC opponents was 62.34, I’d say that’s a fair comparison to judge performance.

  • waltgreenberg

    Wahoo,
    Fair enough with the inconference comparison. However, you last point simply does not hold any water. Making it to Omaha certainly takes talent, but it also takes getting hot at the right time. The fact that UVA managed to win a couple more post-season games than the Owls has no bearing on whether they have a stronger returning offense and defense. Take USM for example. Are you going to argue they were a superior team than Rice last year, even though Rice beat them 3 of 4 games last year– all played in Hattiesburg, and lost the other one, blowing a 2-run lead in the 9th?

    Based on what I now know (and learned from some of your comments), UVA certainly has an argument for the strongest returning offense and defense. Given Rice put up those numbers last year despite regularly playing eight guys who were getting their first taste of D-I action (some of whom struggled mightily at the plate the first half to two-thirds of the season before “the light switch went on”), I think Rice is very much in that argument, as well. In addition to Fuda and Sultzbaugh, both of whom hit better than .500 the final 6 weeks of the season to boost their AVGs into the .320+ range, Jeremy Rathjen is another guy to really watch breakout this year. A great defensive OFer, he started in LF as a true Freshman and struggled mightily, especially against right-handed pitching and the off-speed pitch. He improved the latter part of the season as the right-handed DH, but bulked up over the Summer, while being rated the #6 best prospect out of the California Summer League…and has wowed the coaches so far in individual workouts this Fall. And this is our 4th or 5th outfielder on the Owls depth charts.

  • Wahoo301

    waltgreenberg–

    UVA’s regular lineup included 4 freshmen, 3 sophomores, and 2 juniors (one of whom was a JUCO transfer). Weekend pitchers included a freshman and a sophomore, along with the program’s lone regularly starting senior. Danny Hultzen pitched on Fridays, played first base and was named the ACC Rookie of the Year.

    No doubt Rice has some good depth and talent. To start the season, however, I’d say it’s pretty clear Virginia has the edge.

  • waltgreenberg

    Wahoo, the edge in pitching? For sure. However, I don’t think it’s “pretty clear” that UVA has the edge over Rice in returning lineup and defense. Both return virtually the entire team and both bring in a Top 20 recruiting class. I would argue that Rice has more proven positional depth than UVA, as our #4, 5 and 6 OFers (Rathjen, Lewis, Gonzales-Luna)– all true Freshmen last year who each compiled 75+ ABs– could start on 95+% of the teams in the country…plus we have four former all-state SSs manning the infield positions (Rendon, Hague, Comerota, Ratterree).

    Again, I said from the outset either here or on Rivals that I would pick Texas preseason #1 (based soley on their dominant and incredibly deep pitching staff), but would have UVA, UC-I, LSU ad Rice very close behind based on returning proven talent.

  • Wahoo301

    I apologize. Clear to everyone but you, perhaps?

  • http://thecollegebaseballblog.com Brian Foley

    Wahoo…I have just given up trying to convince Walt that there are other teams that play College Baseball especially teams that might be better then Rice. (GASP)