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Dispatch College World Series Friday Notebook: Indiana preview - The Hoosiers aversion to sabermetrics

 

 

 

Matt Stevens

 

OMAHA, Neb. - Indiana University coach Tracy Smith says he is a simple man isn't shy to admit he just has no time for numbers and statistical data commonly referred to as sabermetrics.  

 

After 48 wins and a 5-0 postseason record including a dominating sweep of Florida State University in the Tallahassee Regional, it's hard to argue with the Hoosiers simple ways.  

 

"How much do we use it, zero," Smith said. "How do I manage? I manage with my gut. I'm a simple human being that has been blasted on Twitter on bunting with first and second and nobody out."  

 

Asked if he knew the highest on-base percentage of any of his Hoosier players, Smith answered sincerely with a question of his own.  

 

"What is OBP again?," Smith said with a laugh. "We're not big on scouting." 

 

Smith, who is in his eighth season with the Hoosiers, has overseen drastic changes to the baseball program in Bloomington, Ind., In 2009, he led the Hoosiers to their first Big Ten Tournament title since 1996 and the second NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. 'Skip' and his Hoosiers returned to the Big Ten Tournament finals again in 2012. In 2013, they took it one step further with the first NCAA Regional host assignment and first trip to the College World Series in Omaha. 

 

Indiana (48-18) will be playing the University of Louisville (51-12) for the fourth time this season in the second opening round game of the 2013 CWS Saturday night (7 p.m., ESPN).  

 

"It's been a unbelievable experience for my team and this program," Smith said. "Clearly this is unprecedented territory for the Indiana Hoosiers. It's been a while since a team from the Big Ten Conference has been represented in the College World Series." 

 

In fact, Indiana will be the first team since the University of Michigan (led by MLB Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin and pitcher Jim Abbott) made it to Omaha, Neb. 

 

"We're not just thrilled to be here, we're here to compete for ourselves and the Big Ten," Smith said. "What you're going to see from Indiana University, we've made a name for ourselves offensively with some great hitters." 

 

Just like sabermetrics, Smith, the Big Ten Conference coach of the year, doesn't care how TD Ameritrade Park plays in terms of depth and how the large ballpark nearly eliminates the home run from an anticipated form of offense. The Hoosiers banged out 21 runs on Florida State University in Dick Howser Stadium during the Tallahassee Super Regional. During the 2013 season, Indiana is in the Top 25 nationally in home runs (14th with 53), batting average (20th with .306) and runs scored per game (6.9 runs per game, 21st).  

 

"Look, we've read how this ballpark plays and we don't care because our game isn't centered around the home run," Smith said. "It's not that big a deal. We're going to put our best foot forward and I think people are going to like how this team plays the game." 

 

Indiana will be led by their trio of draftees by the Minnesota Twins organization (third year sophomore pitcher Aaron Siegers, junior infielder Dustin DeMuth and junior right handed pitcher Ryan Halstead). Siegers (9-1, 2.13), the 2013 Big Ten Conference pitcher of the year, is likely the Hoosiers starting pitcher Monday in either an elimination game or a contest that could put them 2-0 in the winners bracket.  

 

DeMuth leads the Hoosiers with a .389 average and 29 multi-hit games this season. DeMuth was selected eighth round. Halstead, who set the school's single-season saves record with 11, have held opponents to a .176 batting average.  

 

Indiana will start junior left Joey DeNato (9-2, 2.76) as the 5-foot-10 prospect will try to fill up the strike zone and is 2-0 in the postseason with 16 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched.  

 

"Hopefully you think he'll fill up the strike zone and not try to do too much tomorrow," Smith said. "No secret he struggled last weekend but I'd like to think he'll let his defense play behind him." 

 

The most refreshing part of the media conference Friday was Smith's answer to the joke question if his program has surpassed the Indiana men's basketball program. As a native of Kentland, Ind., Smith is well aware of where his program sits in the realm of IU's athletic philosophy but he's fine with trying to win a national championship over the next two weeks in relative obscurity.  

 

"This is a true story and this puts into perspective basketball at Indiana, our recruiting coordinator Ty Neal, who is moving on to be the next head coach at Cincinnati, one of his ideas at our new stadium was with a big rectangler, asphalt surface that was in his mind, perfect for a basketball hoop for recruiting," Smith said. "We are not even close to overcoming basketball at Indiana. Coach Crean has some nice comments that Indiana is a baseball school now. Being born and raised there, it's a basketball state now, was then and always will be. " 

 

 

 

All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.

 

 

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