Teddy’s Catch: Glimmer of hope for UF baseball

By Adam Silverstein
April 5, 2013

A five-year member of the Florida Gators baseball team playing under head coaches Pat McMahon and Kevin O’Sullivan, former catcher Teddy Foster is now attending law school after serving as an associate scout for the New York Mets last season. He joined OGGOA in 2012 as a baseball columnist who will continue to provide his unique perspective on the team throughout the 2013 season.

Just a few weeks into the 2013 college baseball season, most fans probably decided to stop following Florida because, let’s face it, the team was playing poorly. While the Gators are still under .500, Florida captured their its SEC series of the year last weekend against a very talented Ole Miss club that was ranked No. 11 going into the series. These past few games have shown signs of improvement from a young and inexperienced team. Though those improvements may not foreshadow a deep postseason run, they do at least shows signs of a bright future.

The Gators have improved in almost every area of the game, but this team is still making too many mental errors, even for a young squad. Against Florida State, the Seminoles loaded the bases with nobody out and Florida was able to respond with two quick outs while keeping the FSU off the scoreboard. Before they could get the third out though, UF walked a run in. While the result is acceptable (one run scored after having the bases loaded with no outs), coaches and scouts notice things like this. Mental toughness is a huge aspect of what they look at when evaluating pitchers for the draft. The good news is that many of these pitchers are young and have another year or two to mature and grow both physically and mentally.

Read the rest of this edition of Teddy’s Catch…after the break!

While the Gators will continue to make mistakes due to inexperience, the ever-changing lineup card is certainly not helping a young team settle into a season. I have seen Cody Dent at third base and shortstop, Casey Turgeon at second and shortstop and Josh Tobias at third at second base. It’s not just their position on the field; their spots in the batting order seem to be in constant flux as well. I realize most of this is due to Richie Martin’s injury but most SEC coaches like to settle on an “everyday” lineup by the second weekend of league play. One of the things that really made me feel comfortable during my playing days was that I usually knew what days I was going to play and where I would hit in the order. It gives players a sense of comfort and security. It’s been a tumultuous season so far but look for head coach Kevin O’Sullivan to settle into an everyday lineup that won’t change much the remainder of the season except for the designated hitter (he will always play the hot bat).

One thing that’s not changing is Florida’s offensive style. Gone are the days of Matt LaPorta, Preston Tucker and Mike Zunino. While Taylor Gushue does have the chance to develop into a good power hitter, until that happens there is not a consistent home run threat on the roster. As a result, the Gators are bunting more often, attempting double steals and doing their best to move runners around in creative ways. This does not mean that Florida has bad hitters, rather it is a reflection of the team’s lack of power.

Most years I played, we circled a guy in the opponent’s lineup that we decided we would not let beat us. Some examples are Vanderbilt’s Pedro Alvarez or Aaron Westlake, Georgia’s Gordon Beckham, South Carolina’s Justin Smoke, Miami’s Yonder Alonzo and Florida State’s Buster Posey. UF simply does not have a guy right now that other teams circle as a huge threat, though Gushue may eventually develop into that guy. Until then, the Gators will be using bunts, steals and hit-and-runs to create their offensive scoring opportunities.

When you look at what has gone on recently, it is quite apparent that Florida’s pitching staff is the main reason for the team’s recent turnaround. While Jay Carmichael continues to amaze me as a freshman pitching on Friday nights, Jonathon Crawford is finally pitching like scouts have been expecting. Additionally, Danny Young has emerged as a viable Sunday option while Johnny Magliozzi continues to be a save machine. Crawford is on every scout’s radar and every team’s radar, but he had been pitching poorly until this past weekend when he threw a complete game shutout. He looked like a different pitcher from his previous outings.

What’s curious is that Crawford is not even having a problem throwing strikes; he tossed 75 in 105 pitches against Vanderbilt two weekends ago but was hit hard by the Commodores. Crawford kept throwing strikes against the Rebels – 64 strikes out of 104 pitches – but he was able to finally accomplish two other things consistently. First, he worked his fastball to both sides of the plate. Until this point in the season, he had problems repeating his delivery and was unable to consistently spot his fastball to the locations he wanted. Against Ole Miss, his delivery looked much more under control and this enabled him to not only locate his fastball much better but also work down in the strike zone. When you combine location in-and-out with location down in the zone, a pitcher is going to be tough to hit, especially when a guy like Crawford has low 90s velocity and a hard slider. Crawford still has work to do on his slider though. It’s not very tight and gets very loopy at times. When it gets loopy, it tends to stay up higher in the zone and have less break, which leads to a much easier pitch to hit. Having seen him improve the last few weeks though, I have a lot of confidence he will make this last adjustment and take a huge leap forward in his development.

As I alluded, Magliozzi has been a gem as the Gators’ closer. “Maggs” is a strike machine whose deceptive delivery helps him hide the ball from hitters, making it harder for them to pick up a pitch until it is already on its way to the plate. Add in the fact that his ball has a lot of sink and can run down and in on right handed hitters, and you can see why scouts like his future as a closer (more likely a setup or long relief guy though). Maggs threw 28 of his 41 pitches against the Rebels for strikes. Combine his delivery and movement with his ability to throw strikes and it is no wonder why Maggs has put together a great season and caught scouts’ eyes as a potential mid-round pick.

Florida is still making plenty of other mistakes due to its youth – balks, walks, poor at-bats – but there are a lot of good things going on and improvements are certainly being made. In the brutal SEC (which just happens to be the best conference in the country this season), every weekend is going to be a huge challenge for the Gators. However, if this team can figure out how to learn on the fly, there may just be a glimmer of hope.

4 Comments

  1. Joe says:

    Great analysis again, Teddy. I agree, this team makes too many mental errors especially on the base paths. Hopefully as the youngsters gain experience, these will diminish. While we don’t have the home run threats as in the past, I think our reliance on the long ball hurt us post season. Home runs at the Mac suddenly turned into long fly outs in Hoover and Omaha because of the deeper fences. Manufacturing runs and timely hitting will help this team go farther that developing power hitters.

    • gatorboi352 says:

      Are you the Joe that calls into 105 the Game? The baseball analysis seems to be spot on.

  2. Ken (CA) says:

    shame, just after all that analysis and how they are improving mentally, they turned around and pissed away a game tonight that they should have won, simply due to errors and mental mistakes.

  3. joe says:

    Yup. 2 Steps Forward, 1Step Back

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