BASEBALL: Looking back on 2008

Some thoughts and observations following the Coral Gables Regional. Later on I’ll post some thoughts on 2009.

ABOUT THE OFFENSE: Offense was a real problem for Ole Miss over the second half of the SEC season. That coincided with Michael Guerrero’s injury, but that wasn’t the only thing.

Jordan Henry and Zach Miller produced at a lesser rate than they did last year. Henry recovered and finished strong. Miller never really did.

There were other things that contributed to the offensive inconsistency. Matt Smith struggled to make contact enough, and the need for Brett Basham to catch every game gave him tired legs at the end. He was hitting .300 near the end of the regular season but finished far below that.

The return of Guerrero, however, did help the Rebels show some fight in several games at the end that they had not shown previously. They took a punch in the final regular season game at Kentucky and finally earned a spot in the SEC tournament, a game that made postseason possible.

They showed some fight in Hoover in rallying to beat Kentucky and Vanderbilt, but in other games they were fairly average on offense.

In Miami, Missouri’s Aaron Crow is a stud, and that result was disappointing yet predictable. The credit for the Bethune-Cookman game goes to the fact that they scored three runs somewhat early and got starter Joseph Gautier out of the game. After that, it was an SEC lineup against a MEAC bullpen, and what should have happened did happen.

I thought Ole Miss’ best offensive game in Miami was not Bethune but was the Missouri Sunday game where they rallied from 4-0 back to tie the game, took the lead and lost it but regained it against a pretty good pitcher in Missouri’s Kyle Gibson. He has been the Tigers’ No. 2 starter and closer this year.

Through all of the offensive problems this year, Cody Overbeck and Logan Power were the team’s most consistent players, and it’s fitting that they would be the two that were named to the all-regional team.

ABOUT THE PITCHING: In January I thought pitching would be the trademark of this team and that pitching would take it as far as it would go.

I reevaluated that theory after the Rebels were so good on offense through the first nine games, but ultimately it was the correct theory but with different players.

The guy who made the season possible was Scott Bittle.

Lance Lynn was OK, and Lynn is a fierce competitor. He was a preseason All-American but did not have anything near an All-American season.

Because of his competitive nature, he did occasionally harness his ability and have some big games – LSU in Oxford, Georgia in Athens and Georgia in Hoover among them.

Cody Satterwhite was a preseason All-American, but his production was far less than Lynn’s.

Satterwhite gave Ole Miss a chance to win most Sunday SEC games, usually leaving with four earned runs allowed. Run support was awful. Four runs allowed gives you a chance, but just “a chance” is what you ask of a freshman. Satterwhite never had the game where he put the Rebels on his back and carried them. That’s what All-Americans do. The same can be said of Lynn.

Bittle was without a doubt the team’s MVP. Ole Miss was 21-6 in games in which Bittle pitched. That means the Rebels were 18-20 in games he did not pitch.

There was constant chatter about starting Bittle, and I’m not sure that would have been a bad thing, but there’s no guarantee he would have been as effective.

After a time or two through the order, teams adjust to a pitcher. Also, if teams lay off that sinker and make him throw it in the zone, it becomes much more difficult. Lots of times he’s low.

My thought was starting Bittle on a Sunday could have been good, because the team has so much confidence when he pitches that it generally played at a different level.

If he was going to stay in the pen, as he did, Bianco managed him about as well as he could have.

It’s a tricky deal when your best player is your closer.

— PA

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5 Responses to “BASEBALL: Looking back on 2008”

  1. VA Reb Says:

    Thanks, PA, for the indepth season review. Sounds right on the money to me. I would just like to add that I think if we hadn’t been so eager to hit and jump on first pitches, we would have scored more and ultimately won more games. The most successful teams aren’t necessarily the ones with the big hitters; more often it’s smart hitters who work the opposing pitcher harder and good, consistent pitching that win championships. Anyway, any early observations for next year (probably too soon to predict until we see who leaves early). Larry

  2. Mooch Says:

    JMO, but our defense with the possible exception of Bash was at best inconsistent. At times it appeared we were playing in mud.

  3. john Says:

    Parrish… you got to go to NYCity for the NIT and Miami for the Regional. Not bad.

    Two questions:

    1. which city did you prefer?
    2. what bowl game/city would you like to visit for the football team after this Fall? (of course, assuming we will be in a bowl and assuming it wont’ be BCS!)

  4. cr Says:

    For someone that recently moved to this area I really enjoyed your coverage. Great work!

  5. djrebel Says:

    Larry, you’re right on target. This team acted as though it was embarrassed to take a walk. Only Auburn with 228 had fewer walks than Ole Miss (229) in the SEC, and Ole Miss played nine more games. Walks often equate to runs. No way around that.

    Mooch, I agree on the defense. I think the right side bunt defense will improve, because I think Matt Smith will become a really good player. Ferguson is such an offensive asset that he has to play somewhere, maybe not short, perhaps second. I’m guessing Logan Williams plays third, assuming Overbeck leaves in the draft, and I’m interested to see what kind of defensive player he is. He’ll be a good hitter, I think.

    John, I prefer New York. Beyond the beach, Miami seemed mostly about nightclubs to me, and that’s not my speed. I know there’s a lot more to it than that, but not much that was as readily available as the clubs or that I could visit during a short time on a work trip. I don’t cheer for the Rebels to lose, but when it was 3-1 and Bethune was threatening, I was warming up to the idea of our group going to Key West on Sunday.

    New York offers so much more in the way of baseball, Broadway, Times Square, etc, etc. Whatever my work schedule was in New York, there was something I could go see during the down time. I think there was a nightclub or two as well.

    The SEC tie-ins limit what non-BCS bowls Ole Miss can be a part of. I’ve always thought it would be nice to cover the Cap One or Outback Bowls, for obvious reasons, but those guys would rather play an intra-squad game than take Ole Miss or State. I’ve seen really good Ole Miss and State teams not even get a sniff from the lower tier Florida games. In 1999, State was 9-2, had the best defense in the country, and the Outback took 7-4 Georgia. In 2003 Ole Miss went Cotton, so I wasn’t worried about that, but had they not gone Cotton, I believe they’d have gone Peach before Outback or Cap One.

    CR, thanks for checking in. I appreciate your contributions to the blog. Keep posting.

    — PA

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