With that in mind, teams really have to play with a football mentality. Every game is another chance to improve your postseason stock and any potential loss is a black eye on your resume. I'm not saying that teams should empty their bullpens each time out to better their chances to win, but I also don't think teams should be okay with dropping the occasional midweek game to inferior competition.
The Miami Hurricanes seem to agree, as they have done a good job of taking care of business early on.
They are winning each and every game that they should win. Excluding the exhibition loss to the Miami Marlins, the Hurricanes have lost three games. They were all against the top-ranked Florida Gators, a better team. At some point, Miami will have to overcome the Gators to get where they want to go, but that's a column for another day.
Compare that to last season at this exact time. After 17 games in 2011, the Hurricanes had already lost eight games, five of them to the likes of Rutgers, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, South Florida and Illinois State. Those were games the Hurricanes should have won. Five games seems pretty trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it can make a huge difference by the time the postseason rolls around. Let's dive in and see just how big those games can be.
Last season, the Hurricanes went 36-21. That wasn't good enough to host their own regional. Instead, they had to travel north to Gainesville to take on the aforementioned Gators, which might have been the worst case scenario for the Canes. If they had simply taken care of those five games early in the season, things might have turned out differently.
Their overall record would have been 41-16, right in the cutoff area to host a regional. Georgia Tech hosted with a 40-19 record. Arizona State hosted at 39-16. Oregon State was 38-17. Cal State Fullerton was 40-15, Rice was 41-19 and UCLA was 33-22. Now, I know that more than record goes into hosting a regional, but I'd like to think that Miami would have been right in the thick of the discussion.
For me, there are two things that have allowed the Hurricanes to get off to such a hot start. One has been Steven Ewing picking up where he left off last season. Having someone that you can throw every Tuesday (or Wednesday) and know that he is going to compete and give you a good start is a huge asset for a team. He has already turned in good outings in wins against Florida Gulf Coast, Florida Atlantic, Miami of Ohio and UCF. Having Ewing for those games rather than Jimmy Freshman or Johnny Wholestaff has been huge. You also have to like that there has been minimal lineup tinkering. Granted, some of this is because Jim Morris has limited options at some positions, but whatever the cause, it helps the regulars. They are able to get into a rhythm because they are getting consistent at-bats and it's got to be good for their confidence that they know that their next 0-for-4 night isn't going to mean they are riding pine tomorrow. Maybe the best news of all is that this team hasn't played their best baseball quite yet. The defense, namely Stephen Perez and Esteban Tresgallo, has been shaky to say the least and I'm not convinced that the bullpen roles have really been decided.
And yet, this team has done nothing but win so far. That bodes well for the rest of the season.