Despite top tier hitting talent, the Michigan baseball team has not had the success they’ve hoped for.
Through the first 15 games, the Wolverines are top 30 in the country in scoring and second in the Big Ten. However, they sit just one win above .500.
That means one thing — they can’t pitch.
Michigan can’t hold down a team for a full nine innings. The only game where the Wolverines kept their opponent under four runs was an 8-2 victory against a sluggish 1-12 Seton Hall.
“We just haven’t played a complete game yet,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “You know, we’ve had some games where we scored a lot of runs, but we’ve also given up a lot of runs.”
It gets worse when you dive deeper into the pitching numbers. Among the seven arms who’ve seen the most innings, the average ERA is a woeful 5.35. Michigan is third to last in the Big Ten in walk frequency and fifth to last in hit frequency.
Letting that many men on base is not sustainable. It sets the team up for failure and late game collapses regularly, like those against No. 17 Texas Tech and Florida Atlantic. Both games ended in multiple-run bottom-of-the-ninth comebacks.
All of the mistakes came to a head in the Wolverines’ latest game — their 13-1 loss against Louisville. The Cardinals’ bats punished Michigan’s pitchers all game, and they were only held scoreless for one inning.
The Wolverines’ pitchers cost them more than just at the plate. Michigan has an average fielding unit that sits sixth in the conference in fielding percentage, but many of the mistakes they make are connected to the pitching.
“If you’re walking a lot of people, the defense is going to be on their heels because they’re not as actively engaged,” Bakich said. “… So I think that the trust and the reliability of both sides there just needs to sync up and have a great synergy.”
The main fielding woes came in Greenville against East Carolina. The defense held up for most of the game, but the two-run loss was caused by two big rallies, both of which had their momentum heavily aided by errors.
This defensive start is not optimal, but it’s far too early to discount the Wolverines from a deep postseason run. The Wolverines have the fourth hardest strength of schedule in the Big Ten. Bakich wants the team to face adversity early so they can be prepared for tougher battles.
“We’ve been here before. Every year when we schedule really tough competition it seems to be a little bit of a back and forth and up and down,” Bakich said. “We’re scheduling teams that are all going to be in the postseason.”
It’s still a very young season. Once the home games and Big Ten series finally start, it’s very possible that the team starts to roll if they fix their mistakes.
That’s a very big if.
If the season ended today, Michigan’s pitching staff would have its worst combined ERA in over 10 years.
“It’s one thing to talk about achieving your goals week to week, it’s another thing to do it,” said Bakich. “The bottom line is we just need to play better.”
Just like the teams they’ve scheduled to start the year, the Wolverines have postseason dreams of their own. If they want to compete, the pitching staff needs to figure it out.
If not, they’re in for a harsh wake-up call.