The farther into the season we get, the more important each series feels. Realistically, the first game is as important as the last, but that can be hard to see at this point of the season on the line with so much left to decide.
The past weekend matched the top with the bottom and the teams in the middle against each other. It certainly looks like the teams that are rebuilding are going to have every opportunity to play spoiler this season.
Central Michigan at the top, and a crowded cut line
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||Conf W%||GB|
Baseball is a funny sport. Weird things can happen in any game and the outcome is extremely luck dependent. Players and teams can be better on average for pitching and hitting, but in any one at-bat, anything can happen.
Central Michigan holds onto the top spot after sweeping Bowling Green and Ball State slipped a game back after slipping in the series finale in their series with Akron.
The game that Ball Stat lost to Akron happens in baseball. There is no doubt that Ball State is the better team right now, but to beat a team every time is next to impossible. The talent differential to do that in baseball needs to be huge.
That being said, the loss hurts. Ball State needs to keep pace with CMU if they want to host the MAC Tournament. They will play each other soon and potentially settle the issue, but the rest of the MAC can play spoiler for these two.
Teams are still jumping all around the cutline, as Eastern Michigan dropped from third into a perilous tie with Ohio for the last playoff spot, with Ohio taking three out of four games from the Eagles this past weekend. Toledo pushed from fifth to third with three wins against Kent State. The Flashes dropped out of the tournament for now, and have work to do the rest of the way, especially with so many teams in the mix.
Miami and WMU sit a game and a game and a half below fourth place, spinning their tires, and trying to build traction up the standings.
First-team All-MAC hitters of the first half
With about 60 percent of the regular season in the books, and half of the MAC slate in the rear view, there have been a number of standout performers. This is a pseudo-All-MAC Team selected by wOBA. The entire season of stats are included, and not just the conference play.
Weighted on base percentage is used because it appropriately weights each outcome from the hitter. A double is not twice as valuable as a single like it would be in slugging percentage. On-base plus slugging rewards power hitting very heavily and devalues an on-base machine.
Below is a table of the positional leader in wOBA for the league. Baseball reference provides tracking of starts at each position, so the outfield positions may not be the current rotation, but it will be the most common position for each player.
The exception is the designated hitter. The player with the most at bats that wasn’t a leader at any one position was put in the DH spot for their team.
|1B||Trenton Quartermaine||Ball St||0.315||1.029||0.441||8||30||0|
|SS||Michael McNamara||Kent St||0.307||0.994||0.429||5||14||5|
Halfway into the MAC schedule, Daniel Warkentin from Eastern Michigan has been an absolute monster. He came into the weekend leading the league with ten home runs, and has a wOBA that is 83 points clear of anyone else. He is joined on the First Team by two other Eagles, left fielder Matt Kirk and DH Gabe Denton. Between the three there are 26 home runs. EMU has a dangerous lineup, and these three generate the power.
It’s plain unlucky that Mario Camilletti shares a position with Warkentin. Camilletti is CMU’s second baseman and is the proud owner of the third best wOBA in the MAC at .460. He is very deserving of this list, and needed to be mentioned.
Western Michigan’s third baseman tops all third basemen and is the only player in the table without a home run. He also has 23 walks and an on base percentage of .533. Gavin Doyle is impossible to keep off the bases.
The strongest position on average is right field. Six right fielders have wOBAs over .400 and OPSs over .900. The average starter in the MAC hits .281 and slugs .441. The average right fielder has a batting average 19 points higher at .300 and a slugging percentage 39 points higher at .480. It’s clearly a stacked position.
The positions through the middle of the field, catcher, second base, short stop and center field, are generally defensive positions and whatever offense a team can get from them is a bonus.
Surprisingly, catcher in 2022 is an offensive position. The slugging percentage for the catcher position is tied for first with right field. Their average on base percentage is the worst of all positions, but it’s clear that having a purely defensive catcher is not keeping pace with the rest of the MAC.
“Of The Weeks”
Hitter of the Week: Matt Kirk, EMU, Left Field
Matt Kirk did everything he could to keep Eastern Michigan in their series against Ohio. He got at least two hits in every game and drove in runs in the first three. Kirk didn’t score or drive a runner home in the only game they won.
Seven of Kirk’s ten hits were for extra bases. His stat line for the weekend was 10-15, five doubles, two home runs, a walk, a hit-by-pitch, two stolen bases, six runs and six runs batted in.
It was overall a solid weekend from a solid left fielder.
Best Start of the Week: Tyler Schweitzer, Ball State
Tyler Schweitzer took the ball for Ball State in game two and didn’t give it up. He pitched seven innings giving up one run, allowing four hits, one walk and striking out twelve. The Akron hitters never stood a chance.
Akron hit a single and a double in the third to score their only run. Schweitzer struck out the side twice, once in the second and again in the seventh to close out the game.
After this performance, his season ERA drops below three to 2.90, and his conference ERA is 1.69. With 42 conference strikeouts, he comes in second place, but his K/9 is certainly better. He’s only seven strikeouts behind and is twelve innings behind the leader.
He has been dominant this season on the mound.
Reliever of the Week: Brett Dietrich, Akron
Brett Dietrich has been the first pitcher into the game when Akron starters get into trouble. He is routinely brought into tough situations, and Sunday was no different.
Ball State had an early 3-1 lead after four and a half innings. Dietrich was called in to take over. He kept the Cardinals at three runs for four innings, while the Zips bats got going and evened the game.
His strikeout numbers were only two, but he only allowed two hits and both were singles. His clean innings allowed Akron to get a win in a tough series and avoid the sweep.
Conference series review
Akron (11-24, 9-15) at Ball State (21-13, 15-3)
|Starter ERA||7.13||Starter ERA||1.50|
Ball State dominated this series and still came up short in game four. The Cardinals jumped to a 3-0 lead after three innings and by the end of the sixth, it was a tie game.
The Zips bullpen, especially Brett Dietrich, carried the weight and kept Ball State off the board for the last five innings. They got their winning run off a wild pitch from the usually reliable Sam Klein.
Klein took over a runner on third and two outs ball game in the top of the ninth and uncorked a wild pitch during his walk to his first batter. He got out of the inning without further damage, but giving up the lead in the ninth was not the plan.
The other three games were solid wins for the Cardinals: 8-3, 5-1, and 16-0. Unfortunately, they lost a game in the standings to CMU, and now have work to do in their series in two weeks.
Akron gets the opportunity to steal a game from CMU next week and Ball State plays Northern Illinois.
Central Michigan (23-10, 17-1) at Bowling Green (9-24, 6-16)
|Starter ERA||5.16||Starter ERA||12.60|
Central Michigan lost their first MAC game to Kent State 1-0 and has not lost since. There was a tough series against Iowa in the middle of MAC play, but CMU has won 17 consecutive MAC games.
Bowling Green scored 11 runs in game one, enough to win most games, but CMU answered with 18. Bowling Green just couldn’t throw enough strikes and walked 13 batters. Going directly after the CMU batters can definitely backfire, but walking them 13 times ensures that.
After a wild game one, CMU cruised to 9-1, 9-4 and 9-0 wins.
The conference is officially theirs to lose. They have a two-game lead over second-place Ball State. Even if they drop three games in their series, it’s a tie at the top. After that, it’s an eight-game advantage on the cut line. Anything can happen, but it seems inconceivable that they could drop that far.
Central, now nationally ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Top 25, hosts Akron in a week, and Bowling Green plays at home against WMU.
Ohio (16-16, 10-10) at Eastern Michigan (14-19, 10-10)
|Starter ERA||4.43||Starter ERA||6.86|
Ohio and Eastern Michigan are mirror images of each other. Eastern Michigan entered at 9-7 and a game up on Kent State, sitting in third. Ohio was 7-9 and a game behind Kent State, tied for sixth.
After Ohio won three of four, they are tied with the Eagles at 10-10 for the final spot in the conference tournament.
Thomas House got the game to the eighth inning with the Eagles leading 6-4 in game one, then the Bobcats jumped all over the bullpen for eight runs. Cael Baker hit a three-run shot, and Nick Dolan went back-to-back a batter later.
Games two and three were close at times but Ohio controlled both games from start to finish. Mason Minzey had ten hits over the first three games, including three doubles and a triple.
Eastern avoided the sweep with great pitching from right-handers Luke Russo and Nick Chittum. Gabe Denton hit a two-run homer in the sixth to make the final score 3-1.
Ohio takes their non-con weekend against Canisius, and EMU is on the road with third-place Toledo.
Kent State (13-18, 8-10) at Toledo (18-17, 12-11)
|Starter ERA||5.40||Starter ERA||6.95|
Kent State dropped three one-run games to Toledo to finish the series at 8-10 in MAC play. The Flashes moved from fourth into a tie for sixth place, while the Rockets moved up to third place.
Toledo finally got Kent State’s starter Ben Cruikshank off the mound in the sixth inning after hitting a two-run home run to make it a 4-2 game. The Rockets would take the lead 5-4 while scoring three runs with two outs. Kent State would answer with three of their own in the seventh, and Toledo walked it off with a two-run single by Kade Wroot.
Kent State had a 4-3 lead and a 4-2 lead in the ninth and seventh innings, respectively, in the final two games, but could not close out the wins. Toledo had some clutch hitting down the stretch to pull out two wins.
Kent State had a lead in each game, but Toledo hitters were just too much.
The Golden Flashes play Miami next weekend and Toledo stays home to play Eastern Michigan.
Miami (14-21, 10-13) at Western Michigan (11-21, 8-10)
|Starter ERA||3.20||Starter ERA||7.36|
Western Michigan is perfecting the art of the split. They have split every series that they have completed in 2022, and this week would once again go towards proving the pattern.
The RedHawks scored 12 runs in the first game of the series before the Broncos were able to put one across and cruised to a 14-4 win.
Western Michigan star reliever Hayden Berg gave up a hit to the first batter he faced and allowed the inherited runner to score in the top of the sixth inning. That was all she wrote for game two and Miami wins a close one, 4-3.
The Broncos were able to convert a great start from Nick Crandell into the win column with the bare minimum run support. Crandell pitched eight innings on 107 pitches and only allowed one run. The offense gave him two runs, late, to work with.
The Bronco bats woke up and scored 11 runs to earn the split. Both teams are hovering in the mix for the conference tournament, but a bad weekend for either could spell doom for the dream.
WMU goes to Bowling Green for the next series and Miami is going to Kent State for a rivalry weekend.
NIU (7-27, 6-12) at Oakland (17-17)
|Starter ERA||12.27||Starter ERA||12.08|
The Huskies played a game and a half on Friday and Saturday. Friday was intended to be a doubleheader, but game two was suspended. It’s not clear whether it was weather or darkness-related.
Oakland won game one with a football score of 16-14. NIU scored 14 runs and still left 11 runners on base. Tommy Meyer used 11 pitches to get through a perfect seventh inning and allowed four runs to score in the bottom of the eighth. The offense couldn’t close the late gap, but 13 runs to that point should be plenty to get the win.
NIU continued to struggle to record outs and gave up six runs in the first inning of game two. Once the Oakland pitcher got settled in, the game was effectively over. The Huskies were able to make it 6-4 in the second and recorded one more hit the rest of the game.
Designated hitter Carlos Aranda hit three doubles in the finale to help Northern Illinois avoid the sweep. Michael Lasiewicz got the start and didn’t disappoint. He held Oakland to one unearned run in five innings.
Northern Illinois will head home to play a tough series against Ball State. Hopefully, the extra rest pays off.