Thursday, May 17, 2007

Midweek Scores And Ramblings

Western Illinois 9 Iowa 2 (box)

Minnesota 11 North Dakota State 10 (box)

Ohio State 8 North Florida 7 (Tuesday box)
Ohio State 9 North Florida 3 (Wednesday box)

Purdue 7 Valparaisio 2 (box)

Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State and Northwestern all had midweekers washed out. At least it didn't snow, right? (Although, it darn near could have today. Stinkin' weather.) I'm going to let you check the box scores on these.

Perhaps nothing more accurately displays the Big Ten's weakness as a baseball conference as these midweek games do. The lack of pitching depth allows nearly every program in the Big Ten, regardless of school or year, to consistently lose (or look very poor) in these midweek games.

What makes matters worse is that the competition is usually inferior which means these losses pose a triple threat. 1) They are losses. Last I checked, losses were bad. 2) By losing to a program much further down the RPI food chain, the losing Big Ten side watches its RPI and national perception go in the toilet as well. 3) The rest of the Big Ten programs get hurt because of the trickle down effect.

Not to hammer Iowa, as every school in the conference has these kinds of losses each year, but look at the Hawkeyes loss to WIU. Western Illinios has an RPI of 244. For reference, there are only 293 programs. When Iowa, who is having a fine season, falls to a program with an RPI closer to the bottom than the middle, the Hawkeyes' RPI goes south. It also makes the folks around the land pause and go "Hmmmm. Is Iowa good or is it just another bad year for baseball in the Big Ten?"

Now, if the Hawkeyes turn around and thump Michigan this weekend, what do you think is going to happen? People, like the NCAA Tournament Committee, are going to think of this equation: WIU > Iowa + Iowa > Michigan = WIU > Michigan. That's overly simplistic, but we are talking about the selection committee here. They are looking for a reason to include every program south of the Mason-Dixon line in The Dance. This provides them with an excuse to do just that.

If the Hawkeyes were battling for a potential at-large berth, the WIU loss would probably all but eliminate them from that opportunity. Midweek losses to those in the RPI basement are suicide to at-large berths and poisonous to the rest of the Big Ten.

I do wonder with the advent of the universal start date, if the power conferences will have to schedule more of these oh-so-dangerous midweek games? If so, will these schools find their pitching staffs as taxed as those in the Big Ten? I guess we'll have a better idea in about 365 days.

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