We’re halfway through the conference schedule and Mississippi State is tied for first. That means this team has something going for it, and we’ll discuss those pieces both here and on Dogpile, your favorite baseball podcast.
3 Players Worth Highlighting
His last four games, all of them starts: 4-for-10, 3 RBI, 2 homers, 4 walks. This production at the plate comes after only starting five times in the first seven weeks of the season — and still hitting .300 in inconsistent playing time.
Furthermore, Gilbert is looking mighty comfortable at third base for a guy who has spent his MSU career as a catcher, simply keeping loose in the infield on batting practice ground balls.
I did ask Chris Lemonis about Gilbert after the Sunday game and he said Gilbert has what it takes to be an everyday third baseman, yet he still expects some rotation there (Gunner Halter being the other guy) for matchup purposes. But later on, when I asked him about designated hitter and his personnel decisions there, he said he will roll with a hot hand when one presents itself. Gilbert could grow into that at third base given a couple more games.
Let’s run through what MacNamee has done since March 1, shall we?
- Rolled up a 12-game hit streak, multiple hits in seven of those games and six of the 20 hits in that streak going for extra bases. He drove in 13 runs in those 12 games.
- The game in which that hit streak broke? He walked three times. He kept walking (currently leads the team 28 of them in 37 games) and put together another 10-game hitting streak, amassing a 28-game reached base streak.
- More recently, he had at least one hit and at least RBI in all three games of the Alabama series.
That’s all, just constantly reaching base, constantly hitting and doing so for six weeks. Casual.
My hope is Plumlee’s days of being the forgotten man are over. His combined line in his last two SEC starts: 10.1 innings, 6 hits and 5 walks allowed, 1 earned run allowed (0.87 ERA), 5 strikeouts. He even covered those 10.1 innings in 142 pitches, so it’s not out of the question that his current effectiveness could go out to 7 innings if his pitch count is allowed to get up to the 90s.
Ethan Small is undeniably awesome (a lot of talk about him on Dogpile, our baseball podcast, be on the lookout for that Monday afternoon) and JT Ginn sliding right back into the fold with ease gives this rotation the same 1-2 from before. But Plumlee being this rock solid as the current third option gives the Bulldogs a luxury that is beyond rare in college baseball.
2 Things to Watch in SEC Chase
(A quick note: these are the series that don’t involve MSU. The Bulldogs clearly have their chance to heavily influence the SEC chase with their next four series: at Arkansas April 18-20, Georgia April 26-28, at Texas A&M May 2-4 and Ole Miss May 10-12. But I figure you’ll be watching those anyway, so here are a couple of things outside of that to be tracking.)
Texas A&M at Ole Miss, April 25-27
Right before both teams host MSU in consecutive weekends, these two play each other. Texas A&M is 9-5-1 with a manageable series at South Carolina before the Ole Miss series; the Rebels are 9-6 with Auburn in between them and hosting Texas A&M.
This is especially true if Texas A&M takes the series with the Rebels, but in any case, this series should make the picture much more clear for MSU in terms of who its top competition in the SEC West will be. And that competition could be on tap for MSU right after this series, if the Aggies win it before hosting the Bulldogs.
Given all but one team in the SEC West has a winning record in league play, it’s understandable that so much attention is being paid to the division, but Vanderbilt is far from out of this picture.
Second in the SEC East right now behind Georgia, the Commodores actually have a pretty favorable draw to stack up some wins: at Alabama (4-11), Auburn (8-7), at South Carolina (4-11), Missouri (7-7-1) and at Kentucky (4-11) to finish. With that tame of a schedule and just a one-game deficit to Georgia, I won’t be surprised to see Vandy atop the SEC East and as MSU’s potential competition for the SEC regular season title.