As we wrap up this week-long preview of Tech baseball, it’s time to look at what this team really is. We’ve seen the different pieces, but what does the puzzle look like when we’ve put them all together?
Most people and computers expect Tech to have a fairly successful season. RPI ranks the Bulldogs 62nd and Massey has Tech at 57th in the nation. Even Conference USA’s own media poll is fairly high on Tech, expecting the Dogs to finish third after USM and FAU.
Those expectations are in a large part based on how Tech has done in the recent past. The Bulldogs have finished every season with at least 30 wins since the storied 2016 NCAA Regional run. While they struggled in the C-USA tournament (doesn’t that sound familiar), they’ve proven themselves as legitimate contenders year in and year out.
But this year is different, for obvious reasons. Tech is without a true home stadium. Who knows how much the extra travel will wear down on this team?
Especially when one of those “home” ballparks is two hours and twenty minutes down I-20 in Jackson, Mississippi. Smith-Wills stadium will host three of Tech’s five home conference series.
But at least it looks like there’s a highly rated crawfish restaurant next door?
You know it’s probably good when they use picnic tables inside.
Fortunately, all of Tech’s home weekday games will be played at Ruston High, so that will cut down on travel during the school week. But it’s still travel. Players won’t be able to walk over to the stadium from their apartments.
And as we talked about yesterday, Tech’s schedule isn’t exactly a cake walk. Tech only plays four teams (12 games) all year that are predicted to be below the Division 1 average in Massey Ratings.
And Tech enters the season with a few question marks on the team itself, especially the pitching. Jonathan Fincher and Tyler Follis are being moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation, primarily out of desperation. Each were great relievers a year ago, but how will they adapt to a different workload?
Follis and Fincher aren’t the only pitchers that will need to step up. Hitting and fielding shouldn’t be an issue for the Bulldogs in 2020, but Tech will need 3-4 solid starters and at least a couple reliable bullpen pieces to make a run in the conference tourney.
If that happens, there’s no reason Tech couldn’t open the Love Shack 2.0 as reigning conference champs.
But that’s a big “if”, and truth be told, nobody can be sure how this team will shape up.
Most of the games on the schedule feel like a flip of the coin. And according to Massey Ratings, they are. Tech plays 15 games that Massey has predicted between a 49% and 51% of winning.
So maybe it’s just best to just sit back and enjoy the ride.