Saturday, February 23, 2008

2008 BTH Preview: Purdue

Head Coach: Doug Schreiber
2007 record: 22-32 overall; 11-20 in Big Ten
2007 RPI: 187
2008 Projected Big Ten Finish:
Collegiate Baseball - 8th
Rivals - 6th

At The Plate: Ryne White is The Man in West Lafayette. White finished first in the Big Ten in batting average (.452), slugging percentage (.663) and on base percentage (.521) last year. The first team All-Big Ten first baseman also tied for the conference lead in hits (90) and was third in total bases (132). White begins 2008 as an All-America candidate and on nearly every national player of the year watch list.

White is surrounded by a veteran lineup. Returnees include red shirt junior catcher Eric Nielsen (.397 in 58 at bats), red shirt junior second baseman Kyle Reesing (.262/3/13/10 steals), junior shortstop John Cummings (.285/1/24) and sophomore third baseman Dan Black (.306/3/25). Black may be the wildcard here. Most of his freshman production came in conference play. If he can continue that pace, Purdue will have another quality bat in the lineup.

Jordan Comadena (.340/5/20/.620 slugging percentage), junior Alex Jaffee (.308) and junior Jon Moore (.275/1/24) return to form the Boilermakers’ outfield. Comadena, a senior, got shut down with an injury after just 100 at bats last year, but should be one of the better offensive players in the conference this season.

The designated hitter spot may belong to red shirt junior Brandon Haveman. Haveman is a JUCO transfer who sat out last season after making the move to Purdue.

On The Mound: Matt Bischoff and Tony Sedlmeyer had tremendous freshman seasons for Purdue in 2007. Both were named to the Freshman All-America Team. Bischoff earned a second team All-Big Ten selection going 3-2 with a team leading 2.85 ERA. The lefty was named as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Sedlmeyer went 6-4 with a 4.34 ERA and started more games than any freshman in Purdue history (12). Sedlmeyer claimed a third team All-Big Ten nomination.

Joining the sophomore duo in the Boilers’ rotation are Matt Jansen (0-4, 3.31) and Allan Donato (1-3, 5.83). Jansen is another sophomore, Donato is a senior.

Josh Lindblom (3-4, 4.13, 1 save) was moved from the rotation to the closer spot late in 2007 and opens the new year in that capacity. Lindblom has terrific stuff and continues to be considered one of the better pitching prospects in the Big Ten. If Lindblom can put everything together in the bullpen, the Boilers will be hard to beat in the late innings.

The Schedule: The Boilermakers have another challenging schedule in 2008. Three games at Baylor and three more at Kentucky are the highlights before conference action opens. There’s also a midweek game versus Louisville, a CWS team in 2007. In Big Ten play, Northwestern visits West Lafayette to open the season. Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan State will also come to Purdue. On the road, the Boilers visit Iowa, Ohio State, Indiana and Illinois.

Bottom Line: On paper, the Boilermakers would seem almost like a lock for a conference tournament spot. They have two strong starting pitchers (Bischoff and Sedlmeyer), a better than average lineup featuring arguably the best hitter in the conference (White) and a closer (Lindblom) with pro potential. However, Purdue is probably the most enigmatic team in the Big Ten.

In spite of making my predictions look ridiculous in the past, their questions on-the-field this year (like a few of their bats and the pitchers after the big two) and their historic inconsistencies, I can’t help but believe that between White, Comadena, Bischoff, Sedlmeyer and Lindblom, Purdue has enough balance and talent to play in the Big Ten tournament in 2008.