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2011 Clemson Baseball Season Review

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Final Record: 43-20, 17-13 ACC, 2nd in ACC Atlantic Division and 6th overall.

Final Rankings: Clemson finished as high as #16 in the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches poll. We were ranked #21 by Baseball America and #21 by Collegiate Baseball.

Preseason rankings had Clemson around 4-5th in most polls and as low as 10th, as noted in our Season Preview. Clemson had been picked to win the ACC Atlantic and then the ACC Championship outright.

My Expectations from the Preseason:

Another 45 wins is my current expectation. This team should be Super Regional caliber and CWS caliber if some guys step up on the infield and open outfield spots, and the pitching continues to improve. But until Jack wins a CWS and proves me wrong, I won't call for them to be capable of winning it.

Season in Review:

Clemson usually tries to play tough non-conf. opponents to start out the season, but the advent of the condensed season scrunches it all up so that we basically only get a month before launching into the ACC season.

We started out pretty well at 6-1 before starting the SC series, which we lost 2-1. Clemson was in all of the games but our pitching, that we felt was a little better than SC's this year, couldn't hold the juiced bats down. Spencer Kieboom had picked up a SC bat that felt warm to the touch, and Leggett accused Tanner of not playing fair by putting the bats in an oven during pregame. Warming bats is something that happens up north far more than here, and in college baseball there are no explicit rules against it. In softball I believe there are rules on this. Warming up a bat can alter its coefficient of restitution, because depending on its thickness the elasticity could be changed, but I don’t see how it could be anything more than a negligible change, i.e., not enough to make a fly ball into a home run. In their first game, all 6 SC runs were via HRs and the bullpen cost us dearly in the 2nd loss.

We went right from SC to later #1 UVA, who completely dominated us in a series we botched up from the get-go. Clemson could've, and probably should've, won 2 of the 3, but various muffed balls on defense and overall bad play doomed the Tigers against their dominant pitching and skilled lineup.

At this point Clemson should've started rolling, and we did handle our midweeks and lowly Puke, but lost 2 to an NC State team we dismantled last year. This was probably the first opponent to beat us where we had a decided talent advantage, and we didn't come apart against any other less-talented squads until UCONN.

At the time, even with the tough schedule, we looked pretty bad. There were numerous injuries, with the toughest being Brad Miller's broken finger, and the pitching/defense hadn't put it together yet at all. This showed in the worst series of the season against UNC.

With Coastal Carolina upcoming, Leggett called a team meeting to challenge them to play better for the 2nd half of the season, and they did. While the schedule looked good to put things together quickly, few would've expected us to play the tougher opponents like we did. The Tigers beat Maryland, BC and Wake Forest before facing a GT team that destroyed them in Atlanta last year. Historically the home team does well between GT and Clemson, and the Tigers beat a 1st round Pitcher while crushing their lineup.

At this time, Clemson had relatively little success with power measurables due to the Easton bats, but for the G-W series the manufacturer sent out several emails (one to me) advertising the new bats the team would get to try. From that point on, our power numbers exploded.Clemson crushed G-W and took 2 of 3 against VT before doing the same in Tallahassee. Unfortunately the loss of game 1 gave FSU the Atlantic crown.

In the ACCT we got 2 good wins and played alright in our loss to FSU. The Tigers outscored their opposition 18-9 and had a .298 batting average along with 10 doubles, four homers, three steals, and 11 walks against only nine strikeouts. The Tiger pitching staff had a 3.00 ERA and .284 opponents' batting average. Clemson's defense committed just one error and turned six double plays as well. Epps made the All-Tournament Team.

Prior to the Home Regional, Clemson's team ERA had dropped from 3.87 after the UNC series to 3.17. Scott Weismann moved from the Friday starter to Closer, with Leone, Meyer and Sarratt on the weekends. Scott Firth made the occasional spot start as did David Haselden, and everyone out there improved his game.

Clemson had 26 homers and a 306 average before the shipment of bats came in for the Gardner Webb series. In 17 games since we'd hit 20 homers and hit .346. The team average was .319 before the ACCT. Would've been nice to have them for the SC and UVA series.

Clemson got a reasonable draw in the Regional round, facing some of the top pitching staffs (statistically) over the season, but after winning the first 2 games we choked. We were ahead of UCONN on Sunday late in the game, and then crumbled. While we made an effort to come back, we had nothing for them the next day and got destroyed to end the season. It was the first time since 1998 we'd lost a home regional.

Clemson's Final Season Statistics and final notes from Tim Bourret.

  • 28 of Clemson’s 63 games were against teams that played in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, which equates to over 44 percent. Clemson had a 13-15 record against the teams in the field. The Tigers played 10 different teams that were in the NCAA Tournament.
  • Clemson stole an ACC-high 106 bases in 140 attempts in 2011, a year after the Tigers also swiped 106 bases in 2010.
  • Clemson held its opponents to a .239 batting average on the season. But with two outs, Tiger pitchers were even better, as they held the opposition to a .189 batting average with two outs.
  • Five Tigers were named First or Second-Team All-ACC in 2011. Junior shortstop Brad Miller and sophomore first-baseman Richie Shaffer were both named First-Team All-ACC, while junior outfielder Will Lamb, junior DH/UT Phil Pohl, and senior outfielder Jeff Schaus were named Second-Team All-ACC. Miller was ACC PoY and 1st team AA with a .395 BA and a .498 OBP.

From the season preview:

The bullpen brings back everyone who has potential. Everyone who made a start, other than Casey Harman, is back too. If we had brought Casey back, I'd project us as a CWS team, but Saturday and Sunday starting really worries me. Leone has a good slider but its a very unforgiving pitch if not thrown perfectly. I'm hoping Kevin Brady gets a chance and has the stamina to go 6 innings or so. I've been high on Kevin Brady's potential since the first time I saw him. He has the best combo of stuff on the staff - mid 90s fastball with a good change and a biting curve - when he can command them. Firth will probably start on Sunday or Tuesday and he has above-average stuff but I don't know if its ready for weekend starting. Wednesday's starter could be Justin Sarratt, Mike Kent, or a freshman.

The biggest problem is the lack of lefty pitching. Lamb played OF and worked on his bat all summer instead of pitching. I'd figure him as a weekend starter if not for that, so he will likely be the top lefty out of the pen, perhaps the closer. Joseph Moorefield is the only other lefty in the pen. LHP Kevin Kyle transferred. Moorefield can be very good or very bad. This is going to bite us, particularly against Lefty-laden lineups like Georgia Tech.

Freshman to look out for is Kevin Pohle, tall with a live arm.

Turns out that the lack of LHP didn't bite us quite as bad as I had feared, and we manhandled Danny Hall's Yellerjackets pretty well without them. Still, it did do some damage as JoMo was basically the only guy out of the pen, and situational at that.

Pohle ended up a 2nd team Freshman All-American with his 5-2 record and 1.93 ERA. I had wanted Pohle to get a chance to start in the Regionals, and unfortunately for us he faced UConn and got throttled in the deciding final game. I still think he's going to be a future Friday/Saturday starter.

Brady would've surpassed expectations by far if not for the arm strain. If he comes back then he's a Friday starter. He's off to the Cape for the summer to work.

David Haselden will come back along with Dominic Leone, Jon Meyer, Scott Firth and Matt Campbell. Clemson pitching should once again be a strength of the team in 2011. Most of these guys had their moments but got stronger as the season progressed, so theyre no reason to be pessimistic about them putting in good performances next season.

MLB Draft Results/Losses:

2nd Rd - SS Brad Miller - Seattle Mariners - will sign

2nd Rd - LHP Will Lamb - Texas Rangers (he was drafted on his pitching and has signed)

13th Rd - 3B John Hinson - Houston Astros (signed)

16th Rd - LF Jeff Schaus - LA Dodgers - signed and retired from MLB already.

17th Rd - RHP Kevin Brady - Cleveland Indians

26th Rd - LHP Joseph Moorefield - KC Royals (is leaving we hear)

45th Rd - RF Chris Epps - Houston Astros - will sign

46th Rd - RHP Scott Weismann - Chicago Cubs (signed)

The real decision would've been for Hinson but he signed, Brady is next and plans to play Cape Cod league, and 2nd round money is too much for Miller/Lamb to turn down in my mind. Schaus and Epps are gone.

What about next year?

Its going to be a very different team. We're going to end up with a few newcomers playing as regular positions. This year we brought enough guys back so that it wasn't very different from 2010, but next season will not be that way.

Spencer Kieboom will return as the Catcher and it will likely be his last year as a Tiger. He's good on defense, calls a good game, and swings the bat well. We'll take on his brother as a signee and they'll get a shot to play at least one year together, perhaps with Trevor Kieboom on the mound. Pohl will be the 2nd catcher in a pinch, until Garrett Boulware is ready.

Phil Pohl will be an everyday player, but to be drafted he needs to find a field position. He won't start at Catcher with Kieboom healthy more than once a weekend. He'll start as the DH, but really must move. Seems to me that it'll have to be 1B/LF for Pohl.

Richie Shaffer has been a 1B for us the last two years but was a 3B in HS, and will be again. Watch for him to move to 3rd base and Jon McGibbon to take his spot at 1st. McGibbon showed this year that he has the talent to play here, with enough stroke to equal Shaffer's power numbers. Jackson Whitley may have contended for a spot here, but has signed his MLB contract.

Jason Stolz and Steve Wilkerson will be the main contenders for 2B/SS next season. Stolz is not exceptional with the glove and WIlkerson just didn't seem ready at the plate this year, but these two will get the first crack at the INF spots. If one can't hack it, we could see Mike Dunster at 2nd and the other at Short.

In the OF, we lose everyone. Dominic Attanasio is ready to take one spot and I'd have started him over Epps this season. Phil Costigan may take another, and one of Pohl/McGibbon playing in the outfield regularly. We had other new freshmen this year who got little PT and it could be one of those, or an incoming player.

2011 Clemson Signing Class

RHP Patrick Andrews (6'4 200) - Hilton Head SC

LHP Kyle Bailey (6'6 210) - Southlake Carroll TX

SS Jay Baum (6'1 190) - Centennial HS, Alpharetta GA

C Garrett Boulware (6'2 220) - TL Hanna, SC - 42nd round pick, refused to sign and will enroll.

RHP Brock Goodling (6'1 200) - Mt Union PA

RHP Daniel Gossett (6'1 155) - Byrnes HS, SC - 17th round pick

2B/P Trevor Kieboom (6'2 185) - Marietta GA

LHP Daniel Norris (6'2 180) - Johnson City TN - 2nd round pick of Toronto Blue Jays

Via Perfect Game: But the one area that is a bit thin (in MLB Draft) is high school lefthanders, where Tennessee’s Norris clearly stands out among the nation’s prospects. In fact, only California southpaw Henry Owens is a sure thing to join Norris as a high school lefty in the first two rounds. Norris has been well known to scouts since the summer following his freshman year when he began pitching for the East Cobb Yankees, a predominantly 17-18 year old team in the East Cobb (GA) program, a 5 hour drive from Norris’ home in northeast Tennessee. Norris was touching 87 mph just after his 15th birthday but jumped up to 94 mph after his sophomore season, solidifying his status as a top prospect. Although one of Norris' trademarks as a pitcher is the wide variance in his fastball velocities during a start, one thing that hasn’t varied at all is his prospect status over the past two years, as he’s held down the number one spot in the Perfect Game Rankings for almost two years. Norris’ fastball will move anywhere from 88 to 96 mph during a typical outing, something he attributes to focusing on location and movement at times over velocity and power. The run/tail on his fastball can be plus at times. His best secondary pitch is a 74 mph curveball that has very sharp biting action and big depth to it, although it lacks ideal velocity. Norris has been throwing what he calls a slider in the upper 70’s over the last year, although it is more like a sweeping slurve, that, like his curveball, will need some refining before it reaches its potential. His low 80’s change flashes plus quality now, with outstanding late movement at the plate, and should continue to develop for him as he uses it more at the next level. Norris is an above average athlete for a top prospect pitcher and is very quick and sure handed off the mound. If drafted by a National League team, Norris could also prove to be an above average contributor with the bat. In addition to his complete package of fastball, breaking balls, change up, sound mechanics and overall athleticism, Norris has consistently impressed scouts over the years with his make up and enthusiasm for the game.

LHP Jeremy Scheck (6'0 180) - Vernon Hills IL

OF Tyler Slaton (5'9 190) - Cumming GA

1B Jackson Whitley (6'3 215) - N. Augusta SC - 13th Rd pick (signed)

Clemson addressed the need of LHPs, but if Norris and Gossett sign MLB deals then the class drops in value significantly. We've already lost Whitley and Norris will be offered a good sum. Expect Norris to go right until the signing deadline August 15th.

So now what?

My opinion of Jack is no secret. I was a supporter of his for a long time but not any more. He's a good coach but he just doesn't get it done. I think if he had support from certain folks the Administration then we could do better with him, but as long as Katie Hill is handcuffing his pocketbook there is not much he can do. Still, I'd nudge him out if I were the AD, instead of giving him an extension through 2016 as we just did.

We are working on the facilities but you see what the addition of a great assistant has done for Ray Tanner. Could Clemson go out and hire someone of Holbrook's status? No, we rarely have. I believe our program has become stale and I think its time for new faces. Some of our players might agree, but some players dislike Jack for reasons unknown to most.

I'm hopeful that we will again make a NCAA run next year, but as college baseball fans saw this season, a team's defense can be a deciding factor with the offensive numbers plummeting due to BBCOR. Clemson's defense has never been what I call "stellar". We've had stellar defensive players (like Freeman), but the extra attention to detail just isn't there to get us to the top on defense. Next season, we'll need the D to get much better and help our talented pitching staff carry us through.

I think 40 wins is again within reach, but I don't know we're Super Regional caliber with everything we're losing.