2012 Michigan State Preview
February 12, 2012 Leave a comment
Head coach: Jake Boss Jr., fourth year at Michigan State
2011 Record: 36-21, 15-9 Big Ten, co-champions
Returning All-Big Ten Players: First team: Jr. Torsten Boss (3B), Jr. Ryan Jones (2B), Sr. Tony Bucciferro (SP). Third team: Jr. Jared Hook (DH), Jr. Tony Wieber (RP). Freshman: Joel Fisher (C)
2012 Prediction: Big Ten champions, NCAA Regional
AVG- Boss (.370)
HR- Boss (7)
R- Jones (62)
RBI- Boss (59)
SB- Jones (12)
IP- Bucciferro (101.1)
W- Bucciferro (8)
S0- Bucciferro (66)
SV- Tony Wieber (8)
ERA- Bucciferro (.338)
Projected lineup (2011 stats)
C- So. Joel Fisher (.245 AVG, .326 OBP, .323 SLG)
1B- Fr. Ryan Krill (N/A)
2B- Jr. Ryan Jones (.344/.442/.450)
SS- Sr. Justin Scanlon (.302/.344/.347)
3B- Jr. Andrew Carpenter (.224/.268/.442)
OF- Fr. Jimmy Pickens (N/A)
OF- Jr. Torsten Boss (.370/.436/.589)
OF- Jr. Jordan Kuer (.260/.313/.316)
DH- Jr. Jared Hook (.341/.399/.393)
Projected rotation (2011 stats)
Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (8-3, 3.38, 101.1, .258 BAA)
Jr. Andrew Waszak (4.3, 4.79, 62.0, .313)
So. David Garner (5-4, 4.62, 60.1, .276)
Closer Jr. Tony Wieber (5-0, 3.64, 8 SV, 42.0, .256)
RHP Kurt Wunderlich; 2011 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year
1B Jeff Holm; 2011 Big Ten Player of the Year
OF Brandon Eckerle; First-team All-Big Ten
Injuries of note
Top 2012 draft prospects
Boss, Bucciferro, Jones
3 Keys to Michigan State 2012 Success
1. Junior right-handed pitcher Andrew Waszak takes next step.
2. Boss and Jones match 2011 production of Eckerle and Holm.
3. Production at corner infield.
5 notes from Head Coach Jake Boss
1. Feels pitching staff is deepest he has ever had.
2. Transfer Mike Theodore is a “wild-card”, will start season in bullpen.
3. Expects catcher Joel Fisher to come on strong at the plate.
4. Feels the freshman class, with four draft picks, is one the best in school-history.
5. Has learned from men’s basketball Coach Tom Izzo, football’s Mark Dantonio on importance of in-state recruiting, collecting best Michigan talent.
Congratulations are in order for Michigan State. In 2011 the Spartans captured their first conference championship in 32 years. After a spiraling finish to the 2010 season, 2011 would be the year State cracked through and arrived as a program to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.
Now to prove they’re not only one of the best in the Big Ten, but also regionally, and with a desire to make national noise, the Spartans are preparing to defend their conference championship. But they will be doing so be without the 2011 Big Ten Pitcher and Player of the Year, and a third player who graduated as the school’s all-time leader in hits.
A team does not simply replace a Brandon Eckerle, Jeff Holm or Kurt Wunderlich from season-to-season, never mind having to fill the void of all three. But as Michigan State seeks to win back-to-back Big Ten championships for the first time in program history, they have a team full of talent and experience. The Spartans may not be able to replace what the aforementioned trio provided the program with but there is another trio set to shine.
On the mound, senior Tony Bucciferro will lead the way for Michigan State. While Wunderlich would receive top praise as the Big Ten’s best pitcher a year ago, Bucciferro was right there. Wunderlich went 10-2 with a 3.19 ERA over 101.2 innings, carrying a .271 batting average against with 65 strikeouts to 29 walks. As Bucciferro pitched on Saturday, providing Michigan State with the top 1-2 punch, the senior right-handed pitcher with 8-3 with a 3.38 ERA, pitching a near-identical 101.1 innings, besting Wunderlich with a .258 BAA and 66-18 SO-BB ratio.
Michigan State may not have the potent 1-2 punch, but on Friday nights the Big Ten can expect the same dose of medicine from a Spartan pitcher that won the conference’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Year a season ago.
Offensively, Jeff Holm, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, did everything for Michigan State. The first baseman batted .376 collecting 15 doubles, three triples and nine home runs while successfully swiping 20 bases in 26 attempts. Outfielder Brandon Eckerle left Michigan State as the Spartan’s career-leader in hits as his 96 in 253 at-bats a year ago paced the conference as the Big Ten’s top hitter (.379).
Right behind the conference’s top two hitters, would be a third Spartan, junior center fielder Torsten Boss. As Michigan State’s third baseman, the first-team All-Big Ten selection would bat .370 with 17 doubles, five triples and seven home runs. Boss would out slug his corner infielder counterpart .589 to .588, while carrying a .436 on-base percentage. Like Wunderlich and Bucciferro, Michigan State won’t have a dynamic tandem, but they have a player ready to step in line for a departed player who was tabbed as the conference’s best.
Where Eckerle set the table for the Big Ten’s top hitting team, that chore will now fall in the hands of junior Ryan Jones. The second baseman batted .340 a year ago, and while he did not match the number of hits that Eckerle tallied, he reached base a better rate, .442 to .427, in part because of an amazing 34-12 walk-to-strikeout ratio. Jones provides a bit more pop than the slap-hitting and speedy Eckerle, .450 to .419 in slugging.
The area where it will yet to be seen if Boss and Jones can replace the production of Eckerle and Holm is on the bases. The latter duo stole 42 bases in 61 attempts, the former 19 in 29.
The success of Michigan State will not hinge solely on Boss, Bucciferro and Jones. What makes Michigan State a favorite to win another championship is the depth on the team. Boss and Jones may receive the bulk of the attention, but they are just two of four returning players who batted better than .300.
Jones’ double player partner, Justin Scanlon, is back to build off a strong debut season for the Green and White. A transfer from Madison Tech Community College, Scanlon batted .302 as he started every game at short for the Spartans. Heading into his senior season, a poll conducted by College Baseball Insider saw him named the Big Ten’s top defensive shortstop in a survey of conference coaches.
Michigan State’s primary designated hitter a year ago, junior Jared Hook, is back to batter Big Ten pitching. Hook had a breakout season as a sophomore, finishing the year with a .341 average over 48 games played. The success came after finishing the 2010 season with all of one at-bat.
Filling out the infield, one may see junior Andrew Carpenter at third. When he made contact Carpenter did damage. He finished 2011 with just 17 hits in 76 at-bats, but four were doubles and another four home runs. Across the diamond, freshman Ryan Krill has the Spartan staff excited of his future. One of the nation’s top 500 players, according to Perfect Game USA, and the number three 2011 senior in Michigan, the product from Kalamazoo, Mich., stepped foot in East Lansing after being a 40th-round draft pick of the Tigers.
The 41st-round pick by the Tigers, Jimmy Pickens, too happens to be a freshman at Michigan State, Pickens is a player Michigan State is expected to be the Spartan’s right fielder. Though Pickens is labeled as having the ability to catch, that chore will fall on sophomore Joel Fisher a 2011 All-Fresham Big Ten pick. A .245-hitter a year ago, head coach Jake Boss Jr., feels he, along with Boss, Jones and Scanlon form one of the top up-the-middle collections. Fisher threw out 20 of an attempted 53 stolen base threats in 2011. Junior Jordan Keur will man the other corner outfield spot after batting .288 a year ago.
Two-way player Tony Wieber is at the back-end of a pitching staff Boss feels is his deepest. A perfect 5-0 record and eight saves was collected by Wieber who is joined in relief by junior left-handed pitcher Trey Popp (0-0, 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, .217 BAA), classmate right-handed pitcher Joe Zwierzynski (1-0, 2.12 ERA, 17.0, .254), sophomore righty Zak Wilkerson (1-0, 2.38, 11.1, .268) and senior s Bryce Jenney (0-1, .458, 19.2, .306) and Tim Simpson (1-2, 6.23, 30.1, .300). Also coming from the bullpen will be right-handed pitcher Mike Theodore. Theodore is an eligible red-shirt sophomore after transferring in from Tennessee. Sophomores Jeff Kinley and Chase Ritharchik provide more depth.
Before the ball is placed into the hand of the relievers, expect Michigan State starters to show well. Behind Bucciferro will be junior right-handed pitcher Andew Waszak. MSU’s primary Sunday-starter in 2011, Waszak made great strides appeared in 14 games, making 12 starts, bringing his career totals to 29 and 21 The ERA for the third-year vet went from 7.43 to 4.79. Sophomore David Garner, the Spartan’s top pro pitching prospect, but not eligible until the 2013 draft, will have every opportunity to solidify the Spartan rotation. A part-time starter in 2011, eight of Garner’s 20 appearances were as a starter. Garner, who possesses the most velocity on the Michigan State staff as he is able to reach the mid-90s, had the best K:9 ratio among MSU pitchers with at least 50 innings at 7.01.
Gone are the days where Michigan State is an afterthought in the Big Ten. Instead of being the hunter, Michigan State is the hunted.
A deep, experienced and talented team, the 2012 outfit is built to be a team ready to tackle the last hurdle before the Spartans can be declared one of the conference’s best; a trip to a regional. Yes Boss has to replace three of the Big Ten’s top players, but no team in the conference has as solid of a core, as good of fielding, and deep pitching staff as State. There are few questions with the Spartans, mainly how Boss fares in center and what production comes from the corner outfielders, but they possess fewer unknowns than any other in the conference.
What is also in the favor of Michigan State is their non-conference slate. A tough Big East/Big Ten Challenge waits as they will take on St. John’s, South Florida and Louisville. Two weeks later the best in the Big Ten will take on the Big XII favorites and reigning College World Series participant Texas A&M. In year’s past Michigan State has scuttled in conference play after starting out strong against sub-par non-conference competition. The trip to College Station will provide the Spartans will a regional-like atmosphere as they square off against one of the nation’s best. That experience will show fruitful as they become back-to-back champions and head to a Regional.