With a week (still) left until first pitch, I’m going to start doing a little bit of a build up for the baseball team this week. Today I’m going to run through the main starters who return on offense from last year, with a few tid-bits about the replacement players who may have a shot at starting this season. With the 4 position players (and one DH) gone from last year, there are going to be many a new face at the Fish to start the season.
|Chris Berset, Image from
Blue Cats and Red Sox's flickr
Behind the plate, Michigan will be returning 3rd year starter Chris Berset. Berset is a switch hitting (throws right, obviously, I mean he's a catcher) junior who is becoming known more for his reliability behind the plate rather than at it. As a freshman, Berset played in 37 games, 24 starts, recording a nice .300 batting average. Not too shabby. Last year, Berset earned the starting catching duties outright with 42 games, 37 starts. Chris's bat never really got going last year. He peaked in mid April with a .273 batting average, but ended the year at .244. Part of this may be due to the large workload behind the plate. This was a career high for innings caught this season, so it will be interesting to see how he has progressed this year. Expect Berset in the bottom half of the order, perhaps as high as 6th if can get his swing back. More realistically, I'm guessing 7 or 8 hole.
|Kevin Cislo, Image from
Blue Cats and Red Sox's flickr
Returning at center field is one of the teams captains, Kevin Cislo. Kevin will be the one of three outfielder returning for the Wolverines. Cislo is the two time First Team All-Big Ten, 2nd base in 2007, OF in 2008. Don't expect to see him at second base any time soon. Michigan appears to be grooming Nick Urban to replace Leif Mahler (who I am ashamed to admit I left out of my last post). Kevin also had ample playing time as a freshman; for his career, he has 157 games played, 120 of which were starts.
Cislo currently has a career batting average of .330, highest of any of the returning starters. My guess has him batting in the 2 spot to start the season. He is a predominately singles hitter who won't collect a large number of RBIs, but can score runs and create things on the base paths. Look for him to improve his walk numbers a bit more this year. One thing else to keep in mind is Cislo's stellar play on defense. Cislo hasn't had an error since June 3rd, 2007 (at Vandy in game 1 of the regional championship). That is a span of 124 attempts without an error. All of them came while playing second base. In his career, Kevin only has 7 errors overall, look for him to stay the course and end the year with less than 5. Also, I'll keep propping the Captain's Corner Blog that Cislo writes with Fetter and Kalczynski. Kevin has a pretty good sense of humor and apparently his tacos get a bit messy? He's also giving shout outs to the people behind the scenes that make the baseball team click. Day 9's update gave thanks to Jason Cole, the strength and conditioning coach not named Barwis. It's a good read.
|Mike Dufek, Aptly named "waiting his turn"
Image from Blue Cats and Red Sox's flickr
Mike Dufek, a left handed hitting but right handed thrower, is the starter on the infield who returns for the Wolverines. Mike started the season as a primary pinch hitter and part time relief pitcher. While his pitching prospects fell, Mike's batting prospects earned him a consistent spot starting at first base to end the season. Dufek comes from a logn line of Michigan Men<sup>TM</sup>; His grandfather was the MVP of the 1949 Rose Bowl and his uncle was a All American defensive back, and another uncle was an offensive tackle who eventually played for the Jets. It appears Mike also has taken a keen liking to Rick Leach from his Michigan roots. Dufek changed his number from #24 to #7 in honor of the baseball great. Yes, I said baseball. Leach lettered all four years in baseball as well. What this has to do with this year's baseball team, absolutely nothing, but I figured it would be an interesting fact for some of you.
Back to the player... Mike didn't get much time playing as a freshman. He received a few mop up innings here and there, ending with a - cough- paltry .095 batting average. Year two provided much better results as he batted .321 over 109 at-bats. Dufek also provided a better defensive presense at first place over Nate Recknagel. Dufek hasn't shown himself to be a big star yet, but entering his junior year, he has the opportunity to take the reigns and prove himself. I expect him to bat in the heart of the order, probably the 4 or 5 hole if he builds off last year. He offers a bit of pop but doesn't work the count enough to be in the top of the order. I'm not going to include him in the returning pitchers as he had so little work, and what there was - well, it wasn't good (17 runs, in 23 innings).
|Ryan Lamarre, Image from
Lon Horwedel, The Ann Arbor News
Ryan Lamarre finished as the everyday right fielder for Coach Maloney last year. As a freshman, he started 40 games in the outfield in a rather successful season. He ended up batting .305 for the season and made a run at Big Ten Freshman of the year. He ultimately fell short, but appears to have great potential. The one shortfall Lamarre had last season was his patience at the plate. His 11:25 walk-to-strikeout ratio puts it in perspective. He can be cut slack for being a freshman, and Coach Maloney has had a year to work with him which should help. There really isn't much else to say about Lamarre. His game is normally pretty quite, but he produces good results. Look for him to hit in the middle of the order, especially if he can develop power. Any of the 4/5/6 spots are likely.
|Adam Oaks, Image from
his MGoBlue Profile
Alan Oaks is likely to regain his starting role at either left field or at designated hitter. Oaks struggled as a sophomore in his 48 games (39 starts) and lead the team with 42 strike outs. Oaks is more you're stereotypical power hitter, he can get many extra base hits, but his average will be low and he will strike out quite a bit. His defense has been somewhat meh for an outfielder. He had 5 errors last year in 49 chances. Not the best performance ever, but not that poor. I really see him taking the DH role over and batting around the 6-spot. Everything will be a question mark until he starts producing.
|Kenny Fellows, Image from
Blue Cats and Red Sox's flickr
The reason I think he becomes the DH is the option of putting Kenny Fellows in the outfield for defensive purposes. Fellows has been a great role player for the team, and now in his 5th year senior season, he has a chance to make it to the field more often. Fellows has always come off as a center fielder to me, but with Cislo entrenched there, he will probably start in left field. Fellows has good speed and is a good contact hitter. He was our primary pinch hitter/runner almost all last season. His .333 batting average ranked him fourth on the team, second behind only Cislo on the returners. Fellows may be a solid lead off man for the team to set up Cislo and the heart of the order. Fellows has the ability to be a base stealing threat. He attempted a steal about once in every three times he reached base (for those tempo-free statistic fans), and was successful 7 of 9 times. I also wouldn't be suprised to see Kenny batting anywhere else in the lineup. I would imagine it would be any of the 1, 2, 6, 7, or 8 spots. He doesn't appear to have the power of the 3, 4, 5 hitters.
In my next post I will try to get to either the pitchers returning (of which there are many to go over) or who I expect to start at the remaining infield spots. A special shout to Blue Cats and Red Sox for her amazing phots. Hopefully she makes it back out to Ann Arbor again soon.