Baseball Regional Preview: #3 New Mexico

New Mexico had a very similar season in 2009 to the one that they have had this season, going 37-20 overall and 15-8 in conf games to finish in 2nd place.

#3 Seed – New Mexico Lobos

 

Overall Record – 37-20

Conference Record – 14-8 (2nd place)

How they qualified for a regional – At large

Last Regional Appearance – 1962

RPI/ISR – 46/43

SOS – 102 (RPI)/88 (ISR)

Record vs. tournament field – 3-8

Record vs. top 50/top 100 RPI – 3-8/6-9

 

Season Summary

 

New Mexico had a very similar season in 2009 to the one that they have had this season, going 37-20 overall and 15-8 in conf games to finish in 2nd place. But, the Lobos only had an 88 RPI on selection day due to a poor non-conference schedule and as a result they were left at home while three other Mountain West Conference teams were playing in regionals. New Mexico improved their non-conference schedule with series at national seed Texas and USC (both of which the Lobos won 2-1) and two game midweek series at Arkansas and Arizona (which the Lobos went 0-4 in) which helped boost the strength of New Mexico’s non-conference schedule and RPI enough to get into a regional. Besides those ten games and going 1-3 against TCU, the rest of the Lobos schedule wasn’t much to write home about with only one other game against a team in the top 100 in the RPI (a midweek win vs. Texas Tech). New Mexico once again has one of the best offenses in the country playing in one of the best hitters ballparks as well as playing several conference series in hitters parks that also help offenses put big numbers up on the board. The Lobos have gotten effective front end pitching that has helped them win every three game weekend series they played except for two.

 

Offense

 

Park Factor according to Boyd’s World – 118 (increases offense by 18%).

Batting Average – .350 (NCAA ranking – 4, Conf ranking 1)

Runs Per Game – 8.4 (30, 2)

Home Runs – 38 (212, 7)

Stolen Bases – 48 (214, 6)

Slugging Percentage – .502 (47, 3)

On Base Percentage – .420 (DNR, 1)

Walks – 233 (87, 2)

Strikeouts – 292 (DNR, 7)

HBP’s – 36 (269, 7)

Sac Bunts – 53 (25, 1)

 

The approach that the New Mexico hitters take to the plate is that they are a line drive hitting machine. Their ballpark has a huge right-center gap where it is 404’ to the wall and that is where many of the 2B’s and 3B’s end up landing (the Lobos had 181 2B’s and 3B’s). New Mexico is patient at the plate and have a very good BB/K ratio because they focus on taking pitches and putting the ball in play on a line when they get the pitch they want. The Lobos do not run much with one player accounting for nearly 1/3 of their SB’s but they will put runners in motion on hit and run plays and bunt runners over with three hitters having at least nine SAC’s. One thing to note is New Mexico has been held to four runs or less in 10 of 17 games that they didn’t play at elevation either at home or in one of the other MWC launching pads.

 

Batting Order

 

2B #1 SR Adam Courcha (RH – .313/.418/.447, 1-27-4) was a starter in the OF in 2009 (.313-2-22-5) but moved to 2B when last year’s starter MWC MVP Mike Brownstein moved on. Courcha does a good job of setting the table for the heart of the lineup.

 

1B #11 SR Justin Howard (LH – .455/.505/.712, 10-72-5) isn’t built like and definitely doesn’t hit like the prototypical top of the lineup hitter. Howard is 2nd in the country in AVG, H (117) and 2B (32), 10th in TB and is in the top 50 in OBP, SLG and RBI. What might be one of the most impressive numbers for Howard is his 29/18 BB/K ratio.

 

C #12 JR Rafael Neda (RH – .369/.438/.604, 10-63-1) provides the power to the New Mexico offense along with Howard. Neda has been 1st or 2nd team all MWC each of the last two seasons (’09 – .415-7-49-0). He is in the top ten in the conf in AVG, OBP, SLG, H, 2B, HR and RBI.

 

DH #33 JR Ryan Honeycutt (LH – .358/.418/.509, 6-53-2) has had a similar season to last year except with a lower average (’09 – .406-6-53-0) as a solid run producer in the middle of the lineup.

 

RF #19 SR Chris Juarez (RH – .406/.449/.490, 2-30-9) doesn’t hit like the usual middle of the order hitter because he only has 12 extra base hits but he has a very good 18/21 BB/K ratio as a line drive hitter. He is 3rd in the MWC with 12 SAC’s and 2nd on the team with 9 SB’s.

 

CF #18 SR Max Willett (RH – .324/.414/.445, 3-35-15) has skills that look more like a leadoff hitter because he has 15 extra base hits, he is 3rd in the MWC with 15 SB’s, he has 9 SAC’s and he has an outstanding 27/20 BB/K ratio.

 

LF #13 SR Cameron Smith (LH –.323/.413/.470, 3-33-1) gives the Lobos another LH bat in the lineup to take advantage of the RF gap at home and he has 15 doubles in only 164 AB’s and a solid 22/28 BB/K ratio.

 

3B #4 FR Alex Albritton (RH – .308/.384/.413, 0-30-3) stepped right into the lineup and has been solid both offensively and defensively. Very good 20/26 BB/K ratio for a FR. 7 SAC bunts.

 

SS #10 SR Daniel Gonzalez (RH – .337/.402/.431, 0-40-3) is the glue of the infield defense and has been a very good run producer for a 9 hitter. 2nd in the MWC with 13 SAC bunts.

 

Defense

 

Fielding .972 (40, 2) – 62 errors. Good fielding team at all four infield positions. Good speed in the outfield to get to the gaps in their home ballpark.

Double Plays – 50 (101, 3)

Stolen Base Attempts – Baserunners are 23-32 against Neda.

WP’s/PB’s Allowed – 45. Neda does a solid job of blocking pitches.

 

Pitching

 

ERA – 5.36 (94, 2)

BA – .306 (DNR, 3)

HR – 56 (DNR, 4)

BB’s/9 IP – 3.51 (86, 2)

K’s/9 IP – 7.0 (125, 3)

 

New Mexico had the second best pitching staff in the MWC behind TCU, who had the advantage of not playing in a hitters paradise. They have gotten solid work out of their weekend starters and have used quite a few arms out of the bullpen although they don’t have a shut down closer.

 

Starting Pitchers

 

#14 SR Willy Kesler (RHP – 6-3, 3.78 ERA, 15 starts, 3 CG, 95 IP, 87 H, 24 BB, 92 K, .242 BA, 8 HR, 5 HBP, 5 WP) was the only pitcher not from TCU to be voted first team all MWC. Kesler isn’t a big guy but he has a solid fastball that sits around 90 and has late movement on his pitches. He got off to a slow start and didn’t throw well against either Texas or USC (6 1/3 IP, 10 R) but he threw well for the rest of the season, going 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA in MWC games including a 3-2 CG win vs. TCU, before losing his last two starts. Kesler does not do a good job of holding runners (8-8 SB’s) and he has also committed 8 balks.

 

#17 JR Kenny Toves (LHP – 5-2, 4.55 ERA, 20 apps, 11 starts, 65 IP, 80 H, 31 BB, 43 K, .307 BA, 8 HR, 6 HBP, 5 WP) is a crafty lefty who tries to minimize damage and keep his team in the game by keeping hitters off balance. He started out the season in the bullpen and threw the ball very well in relief outings against Texas and USC (8 2/3 IP, 1 R) before being moved into the rotation. He threw the ball well at Arizona (6 IP, 2 R) but struggled at Arkansas and was decent in conf starts before allowing 5 R in 1/3 IP to TCU and ending up with a 5.16 ERA in conf games. Baserunners are 5-7 on SB attempts against Toves and he has two pickoffs.

 

#27 Soph Rudy Jaramillo (LHP – 4-2, 5.92 ERA, 15 apps, 10 starts, 59 IP, 74 H, 14 BB, 27 K, .306 BA, 8 HR, 6 HBP, 4 WP) has been in and out of the rotation during the conference season, starting only twice in MWC games although one of them was a good outing against TCU when he allowed 3 R (2 ER) in 8 IP. He also had a good start against UNLV in the conf tournament (7 1/3 IP, 3 R, 7 H). Jaramillo is a finesse pitcher who has to keep the ball down to have any success. He does a very good of holding baserunners (1-3 SB’s).

 

The most likely other option if New Mexico has to come out of the losers bracket would be #16 JC transfer Richard Olson (RHP – 4-3, 4.19 ERA, 1 save, 18 apps, 7 starts, 54 IP, 68 H, 29 BB, 48 K, .316 BA, 3 HR, 5 HBP, 8 WP), who traded off with Jaramillo in the weekend rotation during conf games when he was 2-0 with a 4.81 ERA in 7 apps (3 starts).

 

Relief Pitchers

 

Closer – #24 JC transfer Gera Sanchez (RHP – 2-2, 5.32 ERA, 20 apps, 5 saves, 22 IP, 31 H, 9 BB, 16 K, .341 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP).

 

#21 JC transfer Mike LaChapelle (LHP – 5-2, 6.41 ERA, 16 apps, 6 starts, 53 IP, 72 H, 16 BB, 31 K, .317 BA, 10 HR, 2 HBP, 1 WP). Has alternated between very good (6 IP, 1 R at Texas) and very bad (2 IP, 8 R vs. TCU).

 

#23 SR Edwin Carl (RHP – 5-2, 5.57 ERA, 1 save, 25 apps, 42 IP, 59 H, 23 BB, 46 K, .353 BA, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 8 WP).

 

#20 FR Bobby Mares (RHP – 3-1, 4.46 ERA, 12 apps, 5 starts, 34 IP, 36 H, 17 BB, 24 K, .275 BA, 3 HR, 4 HBP, 0 WP).

 

#26 SR Jason Oatman (LHP – 0-2, 5.19 ERA, 1 save, 17 apps, 1 start, 35 IP, 39 H, 1 BB, 26 K, .281 BA, 3 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP). Outstanding BB/K ratio.

 

#15 FR Austin House (RHP – 1-1, 8.71 ERA, 17 apps, 1 start, 21 IP, 38 H, 12 BB, 16 K, .400 BA, 6 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP).