February 1st marked the official first day of practice for college baseball. It is the first year that there has been a mandatory starting date for practice, just as now there is a standard starting date of February 22nd for the season. With a simple rule change, college baseball suddenly seems much more legitimate, doesn't it?
We're starting with a 2008 college baseball Big 12 pre-season rankings review. Unfortunately for Husker fans there isn't a lot when it comes to rankings. This season as Nebraska isn't ranked on any pre-season lists with the exception of the Collegiate Baseball Top 40, where we are ranked at #38.
Here are the rankings with regards to the rest of the Big 12:
Baseball America's Top 25 includes:
- 6. Mizzou
- 15. Baylor
- 16. Texas
- 21. Texas A&M
- 8. Texas
- 15. Missouri
- 22. Texas A&M
- 28. Baylor
- 31. Oklahoma State
- 38. Nebraska
- 7. Texas
- 13. Missouri
- 21. Texas A&M
- 24. Baylor
- (35) - Nebraska - in "Others receiving votes" category.
The NCBWA ranks the top 35 teams for it's initial poll, 30 teams for each thereafter.
- 6. Texas
- 17. Missouri
- 20. Texas A&M
- 26. Baylor
- 27. Oklahoma State
- (48) - Nebraska, in the "Others receiving votes" category.
College baseball pre-season polls are just like football polls - absolutely meaningless, but they give us something to talk about.
It's not that difficult to realize why Nebraska isn't ranked highly in any polls. It has little to do with last year's 32-27 record which came playing the toughest schedule in the nation. It has to do with the fact that we lost nearly our entire pitching staff to the MLB draft.
This season isn't going to be about rankings. It may not even be much about the win-loss record. It's highly doubtful we'll finish in the top four in the Big 12. What this season is about is coach Mike Anderson's ability to put together a pitching rotation that will compete around or above .500 in the Big 12 and get into the NCAA tourney.
We will have plenty more coming up about Nebraska's 2008 team in the near future.
Texas - One obvious reason for Texas' high ranking is the "Augie Factor". Augie Garrido, the coach Nebraskans most love to hate, is one of the best coaches in the nation. Texas has had excellent success under him, so picking them to finish in the top ten isn't that difficult. You might compare it to ranking power football schools in a given season - it's hard to go wrong.
Enough about politics, let's get to facts.
Slugger Kyle Russel returns. In 2007, Kyle Russel hit 28 homers, setting a Texas single season record, and batted in 71 RBI's while batting .336, with a slugging average of .807 and .456 on-base average. Jordan Banks returns at .332 and 38 RBI's.
Texas returns LHP Austin Wood, who was 8-1 in 2007 with a 3.15 ERA. Kenn Kasparek missed 2007 due to injury but had a 3.80 ERA and a 5-2 record before his injury. Casey Whitmer is a Florida State transfer with little starting experience. Add up the returning pitchers and you find that Texas is roughly in the same position as Nebraska with regards to pitching - lots of new guys, little experience.
Mizzou - The #6 ranking by Baseball America is Missouri's highest pre-season ranking in their history, topping 2005 when they were ranked 10th.
Two names to know - RHP Aaron Crow and LHP Rick Zagone. Crow was 9-4 last year with a 3.59 ERA. Zagone was 7-2 with a 5.03 ERA. Follow them up with relief pitcher Scooter Hicks, who had six saves, 4-0, and a 2.73 ERA, then the fact that they return eight pitchers and six of their position starters.
On offense, Missouri returns Jacob Priday at .297, with 13 homers and 59 RBI's. Aaron Senne adds with .289, seven homers and 43 RBI's.
When you look at the two teams projected to be at the top of the Big 12 - it isn't a question of why Missouri is ranked sixth, it's why all the other polls besides Baseball America ranked them behind Texas. The Big 12 season will most likely come down to whether Texas' offense beats Mizzou pitching or the other way around.
The 2008 season has begun!