Pitching remains the dominant factor this season when deciding games and series in the MAC diamond scene this season, and once again, it came to define the majority of this week’s actions.
The best team slugging percentage in the MAC is .532, held by Ball State. The worst belongs to Akron at .366. The average at bats per game is 32, and a .366 slugging percentage generates 11.7 total bases and .532 will get 17.0 total bases. Looking at it that way, six bases is significant in terms of differentiating good teams from bad ones, but it simply does not come close to difference seen in team ERA so far in 2022.
Earned run average is a team stat, not just a pitcher stat. The best in the MAC is Central Michigan at 2.24. Bowling Green, despite a much better week, has an ERA of 12.40. Pitching adjustments, in pitching approach or who is used in certain situations, will play a major role the rest of the season.
|Team||Conf W||Conf L||Conf W%||GB|
Ball State and Central Michigan have established their seats atop the MAC standings, with a five-game gap head of the third-place side. Ball State beat Toledo in three of four games and CMU swept Ohio to create the gap.
The rest of the standings and games behind are calculated relative to qualifying for the conference tournament. The format for the conference tournament is a four team, double-elimination tournament where the top seed hosts. There’s a weird quirk with games behind calculation relative to win percentage. Central Michigan has the best winning percentage, but they are also a game behind Ball State, because Ball Sate has four games in hand. It will work itself out.
More than half of the conference season remains unplayed, so anything happen, but the start for Ball State and Central Michigan gives them some room breathe.
Potentially more interesting than who has the one seed, is how many teams are in play for the fourth spot, which is to say, every non-CMU/BSU team is in contention. The reality of the standings for the nine teams in the second tier right now is that this portion of the schedule will be vital to building gaps and ensuring their spots in the conference tourney. Having games in hand now will go a long way towards putting pressure on currently underperforming teams later.
Series of interest for the upcoming week incluce Eastern Michigan vs. Miami and Toledo vs. Ohio, as both tilts will offer some clarity for where the cut line for the conference tourney ends up.
Stolen Base Efficiency
The famous statistician Bill James established the value of stolen bases and the minimum success rate required for them to be beneficial to the offense. That rate is 74 percent.
The MAC as a whole during conference play sits at 76.7 percent successful stolen base attempts.
Toledo, Miami and Bowling Green are super aggressive— and successful base stealing teams. BGSU has stolen 23 bases and have only been caught three times, the best rate in the MAC. These teams definitely apply pressure to opposing pitchers and catchers.
Central Michigan either should go more often, or they have the perfect read on their team with nine stolen bases in ten attempts.
On the flip side, Eastern Michigan has no doubt cost themselves runs with their stolen bases. They have had eight runners caught stealing and have a successful rate of 69.2%. The Eagles need to drop the stolen base attempts and let their lineup drive in the runners they get on base. They’re lineup is strong enough as it is.
It might be the only flaw to Ball State this season, but they have only attempted 10 stolen bases this season and bagged six successful attempts.
Bowling Green pitchers break out in a big week
Two weeks ago, Bowling Green was showing signs of their pitching staff needing constant pitching changes to get through their games. If they held their opponents to less than six runs, it would be considered a successful afternoon.
The script flipped in a major way for the Falcons over the week, holding Michigan State to three runs and Akron to six, four, three and nine in their series. The only game they lost was game one against Akron, 6-4.
They struggled with walks, but limited their opponents to the weekly average slugging percentage and batting average. That was good enough, as their offense lead the MAC this week in most major categories.
A solid week for the BGSU pitchers that will hopefully springboard them into the rest of their season.
“Of The Weeks”
Hitter of the Week: Kyle Gurney, BGSU, Catcher/Designated Hitter
Kyle Gurney demolished Akron pitching all weekend. His total stat line for the five-game week was nine hits in 21 at bats, scored eight runs, drove in 11, and hit four home runs.
It was apparently critical for Gurney to hit home runs for the Falcons squad, as Bowling Green won each game in the series against Akron which Gurney went in.
His four dingers this weekend brings his conference season total to five, which is tied for second place.
His second home run in game three put the game out of reach for good. Akron had just scored a run in the top of the eighth to draw within three runs, not at all a safe lead in the MAC. In the bottom of the inning, Gurney delivered a three-run home run to left field to reach the final score of 9-3.
Best Start of the Week: Jordan Patty, Central Michigan
Jordan Patty had the best start of the week for the second time in three weeks. He started game one of an important series for Central Michigan against Ohio. Central Michigan was 5-1 coming into the series and the Bobcats were 5-3.
Patty pitched eight innings, only allowing the Bobcats one, unearned run. He walked two batters and gave up two doubles. He struck out nine on his way to the win.
That game was finished off with a clean inning by Ryan Insco and set the tone for a series sweep by the Chippewas.
Reliever of the Week: Jake Jones, Central Michigan
Twice in the same series, Jake Jones stepped in to relieve a struggling starter and gave the offense enough time to build a lead.
In game two, Garrett Navarra was in trouble. He had allowed eight hits and three runs in three and a third innings. After a ground out to the third baseman, Cael Baker hit a one-out double with the game already 3-0 Bobcats. Jake Jones came in and struck out the next two hitters to keep the game within reach. He would pitch one more clean inning before CMU scored five in the bottom of the fifth for the win.
Game four had another early high leverage opportunity for Jones. One run was already in during the top of the third in a 5-3 game, CMU leading. Jones gave up a sacrifice fly to allow the inherited runner to score. That would be the only offense the Bobcats would get off of Jones. He pitched three complete innings and struck out five while allowing two base runners.
His final line for the weekend was 4.2 innings pitched, one hit, no runs, two walks, eight strikeouts and two wins.
Conference series review
Akron (8-18, 6-10) at Bowling Green (7-17, 4-10)
|Starter ERA||13.17||Starter ERA||7.00|
The Falcons had the kind of week every MAC team wants to have. They beat Michigan State on the road in a weekday game and won three of four during the weekend.
The Bowling Green offense was the story of this series. As a unit, they hit eight home runs, had 55 total hits, stole 13 bases and drew 14 walks. They lead the MAC this week in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and wOBA.
Kyle Gurney and Jack Krause led the way as they crushed the Akron pitching. Gurney drove in nine with four home runs and Krause drove in six while going 7 for 15. Krause also stole five bases.
Taed Heydinger pitched around two errors and ten hits to keep Akron in game one. A three-run, ninth-inning rally gave the Zips the lead and the win.
Akron plays Division II Malone University in a non-conference series before hosting Western Michigan. Bowling Green has a week on the road. They play at Oakland on Tuesday at Kent State over the weekend.
Ball State (17-9, 9-2) at Toledo (13-14, 7-8)
|Starter ERA||3.18||Starter ERA||4.29|
Ball State hitters were all over the bases the whole weekend against the Toledo Rockets. The Cardinals scored 25 runs over the three games, but they left 34 runners on base.
The continuous pressure paid off.
In the three games they won, they scored half of their runs in the seventh inning or later.
Sophomore relief pitcher Sam Klein has been lights out during the conference season. That was maintained in game two. Two runs had already been scored by Toledo to make it a 4-3 game with two outs and a runner on first. He struck out the last batter of the inning to maintain the lead and cruised the rest of the game and got the win.
In total, he has appeared in six games and has yet to give up a run. In eight and two-thirds innings, hitters have only gotten three hits off of him and he has struck out 10 and walked a single batter. Klein is a shut-down reliever for the Ball State Cardinals.
The Cardinals travel to Oregon looking to boost their resume and Toledo heads to Ohio to play the Bobcats.
Ohio (11-12, 6-7) at Central Michigan (14-10, 9-1)
|Starter ERA||9.95||Starter ERA||3.72|
Central Michigan swept their weekend series with the Ohio Bobcats. The CMU pitchers kept the Ohio hitters off-balance in all three games, racking up 32 strikeouts in 34 innings.
Jordan Patty threw a gem in game one. Only four batters reached base and the only run he gave up was unearned.
The bullpen stepped up in games two and four and shut out the Bobcats in nine and two-thirds innings pitched. Jake Jones walked two batters and allowed one hit in 4.2 innings pitched while striking out eight.
Chippewa's second basemen Mario Camilletti had 10 hits and scored seven times over the weekend. He leads off the CMU lineup and was perpetually on base and setting the table for the heart of the order.
Isaiah Peterson and Colin Kasperbauer each had an OPS over 1.000 for the Bobcats but it wasn’t enough.
Ohio plays Toledo this coming weekend and Central Michigan hosts Northern Illinois.
Western Michigan (6-17, 4-6) at Eastern Michigan (10-15, 6-6)
|W. Michigan||E. Michigan|
|Starter ERA||6.13||Starter ERA||3.98|
Eastern Michigan pitchers Zach Fruit and Adam Falinski were the difference makers in the first two games of the series, both of which were wins for EMU. Fruit pitched around six hits and three walks while he held the Broncos to one run in the first six innings.
The Bronco starter, Jack Huisman, did not have a great start and lasted less than one inning. Five runs came across for the Eagles. Despite that, the Broncos probably win the game nine times out of ten with the offensive numbers they produced.
The problem they had was actually driving runners home. With eleven hits and seven walks, they left twelve runners on base. Way too many and they paid the price in a 7-4 loss.
Falinski went the distance in a true pitcher's duel. Eastern won 3-2. Matt Kirk and Daniel Warkentin hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning to take a lead they would not surrender.
WMU survived four errors in game three to win 10-5 and hung on to win game three 6-4 to earn the series split.
Eastern Michigan takes to the road to play Miami next weekend and WMU heads to Akron.
Miami (11-15, 7-8) at Northern Illinois (6-20, 6-8)
|Starter ERA||2.18||Starter ERA||5.00|
Miami and Northern Illinois played a clean, low-scoring series with no defensive issues at all when they met up over the week.
(There were actually several defensive issues— 15 errors between both teams, to be exact.)
Despite the errors, they only resulted in a total of five unearned runs. Overall, the Huskies' pitching staff allowed an OPS of .612, which was third-best in the MAC this week.
Small things decided each game in this series, as there wasn’t much daylight between these two. The Huskies stranded 16 base runners in game one, and while Miami nearly matched them with 13, they pushed two more across.
Aaron Harper hit a walk-off home run in game two for NIU.
Miami had four base runners score that reached base via an error, hit-by-pitch or walks. They won 7-5.
The Huskies manufactured three runs in a 6-2 win to cap off rubber match.
Miami hosts Xavier in the Nuxhall Classic final on Tuesday and plays at home against EMU during the weekend. Northern Illinois plays Purdue on Tuesday before going to Central Michigan on Friday.
#25 UConn (19-7) at Kent State (10-12, 5-5)
|#25 UConn||Kent St|
|Starter ERA||6.27||Starter ERA||6.46|
Kent State has scheduled an extremely tough non-conference schedule, and they have been so close to reaping the rewards. Early in the season, they had tests in Coastal Carolina and Texas Tech. They lead two of the games against Texas Tech early before ultimately losing.
This weekend they played a series with #25 UConn and won game three 5-4 to finally breakthrough. The Flashes played tough in the first two games of the series, losing by a single run in game one, and two runs in extra innings in game two.
Colin Mathews dropped down a bunt on a safety squeeze play to score the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth to secure the win.
The UConn pitchers struck out a total of 31 Kent State hitters and walked only five. The Flashes had to earn every base runner, and it clearly depressed the Kent State offense.
The Golden Flashes get back to their MAC schedule with a series at home against Bowling Green.