Head Coach: Rich Maloney
2006 Record: 43-21 (23-9 in Big Ten)
2006 RPI: 50
Projected 2007 Big Ten Finish:
Baseball America: 1st
Collegiate Baseball: 1st
Baseball America 40th
Collegiate Baseball 38th
PG Cross Checker 43rd
At The Plate: Potentially, Michigan has the most dynamic offense in the Big Ten. 1B Nate Recknagel hit .372/8/41 while garnering second team All-Big Ten honors a year ago. First team All-Big Ten CF Eric Rose hit .329 while driving in 44 runs and stealing 32 bases. C Doug Pickens hit at a .302 mark, went yard seven times and drove in 47. Freshman All-America Adam Abraham moves to 3B, a year after hitting .304/6/31.
The X factor in Michigan’s lineup could be another 2006 Freshman All-America, Zach Putnam. Putnam was a second team All-Big Ten pitcher last year, but will now get regular at bats as both a DH and OF.
On The Mound: In Putnam and Chris Fetter, a first team All-Big Ten choice in ‘06, Michigan has as good a 1-2 combination as anyone in the conference. In Big Ten action, Putnam went 4-1 with a dazzling 1.88 ERA. All Fetter did in his first year was go 5-2 with a conference leading 2.22 ERA.
The questions for the Wolverines begin with their number three starter. Andrew Hess, Michael Powers, Abraham (?) or a freshman, quite possibly New Jersey prep star Eric Katzman, will battle for the remaining spots in the rotation. Ben Jenzen, Michigan’s closer, is on the the pre-season list for Stopper of the Year.
The Schedule: Michigan has a very RPI-friendly schedule this season. The non-conference opposition comes in the form of Troy (two games), Mississippi State, San Diego, San Diego State, Oklahoma and East Carolina (three games). There are also annual contests with Notre Dame and Central Michigan, who is one of the favorites in the MAC this year.
Their conference slate is favorable with the notable exception of their weekend series in Columbus versus the OSU side considered to be the next best team in the Big Ten. I’ve also heard there is something of a rivalry between these two programs. Who knew?
Bottom Line: Michigan should be the pre-season favorites in the conference. The Wolverines, who captured the regular season and conference tournament championships last year, have the most impressive lineup in the Big Ten, a solid front end of the rotation and a very good closer. Of course, they have questions, but Michigan has more than enough talent to win the conference and make some noise in the NCAA Tournament.