The Miami Hurricanes finished their 2021 baseball season with a dud. The ‘Canes were knocked out of the Gainesville Regional after being South Alabama 1-0, before losing to USF and USA by a combined 17-4 combined score. In 2021, Miami climbed as high as to 2nd overall in the polls after their series win over the Florida Gators, but were a rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the season.
The Miami baseball team lacked an imagine in 2021. They weren’t a power team, nor a contact and timely hitting team. They also weren’t a fast team or one that relied on pitching and defense. They were just a team of dudes who didn’t look nor play particularly that impressive for a Power 5 baseball program with the history of the Miami Hurricanes.
I want you to use the team comparisons to not only look at the data, but also to look at the players themselves. Compare Alex Toral and his .264 average and seven home runs to the players from Arkansas, Notre Dame, Texas, and Vanderbilt. Baseball is in no way a bodybuilding competition but while Miami players look like average Joe’s the best teams in college baseball look more like a football program than a pick up game at the YMCA.
Miami as a program hit .263 with 56 HR’s and 286 RBI’s with 30 steals (on 50 attempts). The ‘Canes team ERA was 4.40 with a 1.27 WHIP. The Miami defense made 52 errors on the season, too. The ‘Canes had only one regular starter hit over .300 (Christian Del Castillo) and only one hitter with double-digit HR’s (Yohandy Morales with 11).
Compare that to the Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas only hit .269 as a club but flashed impressive power with 102 HR’s and 407 RBI’s. They also stole 42 bases and held a team ERA of 3.77 while committing 45 errors on defense.
A ‘Canes rival, Notre Dame, is also a top team in college baseball in ‘21. The Fighting Irish hit .281 with 60 HR’s and 285 RBI’s but added 65 steals. The Irish had a 3.80 team ERA and only 26 errors on defense.
Vanderbilt has been dominant on offense and on the mound all season long. The Commodores hit .300 as a team with 86 HR’s and 403 RBIs while adding 84 steals. Their team ERA was a low 3.47 led by Jack Leiter and Kumar Rocker. Their defense committed 52 errors on the season.
The Texas Longhorns are back in the top-10 of the baseball world in 2021. Texas hit .282 with 62 HR’s and 377 RBI’s while adding 81 steals. The Longhorns posted a team ERA of 2.87 and a team WHIP of 1.13. Texas committed 47 errors on the season.
So what gives?
When you look at the top baseball teams from around the country, they just don’t look like Miami’s roster and obviously the stat comparisons aren’t even close, either. Miami is far behind the top programs in every offensive category compared: batting average, home runs, runs batted in, and steals. Miami also couldn’t compared in team ERA. They did tie Vanderbilt with 52 errors, but the other teams in the comparison were much more sound on defense.
Miami definitely lost a lot of pitching talent from the COVID shortened 2020 season. Miami was looking ACC Championship and College World Series bound over a short sample size. There is no doubt that roster would’ve been highly competitive. However, Gino DiMare’s strong suits are recruiting and hitting. The freshmen have to play in all college sports in the transfer era or you’ll expect to lose them to JUCO’s or other programs.
So what gives? Why do certain programs look like they’re trotting football players on the field while Miami just looks like a high school program? Is it diet and nutrition? Practice overload? Poor Strength and Conditioning in the baseball program? A lack of recruiting multi-sport players?
When Skip Bertman hired Kurt Hester to be the LSU Tigers S&C Coach over baseball back in the mid-90’s, he told Coach Hester that he wanted the most powerful program in college baseball. It was a different era of bats so comparing home run records isn’t fair, but the Tigers CWS Championship teams were loaded with former high school football players who loved to power clean and who could swing the bats.
This is an Athletic Department wide issue at Miami. The football team looks either fat or thin and lacks power and game speed, too. The basketball team could barely field a healthy enough roster to start a game, and the football team has been plagued with injuries over the past few seasons and with some major players.
Miami is slower, weaker, and more injured than the top teams in their respective sports. Winning franchises and programs have their best players on the field for the most minutes, snaps, or innings. Diet and nutrition, practice volume monitoring (collision, repetitions, density) and S&C are designed to field healthy athletes first and foremost, and then improve performance.
The Hurricanes and Blake James need to look long and hard at what they’re doing to prepare their athletes as the women’s basketball team and the men’s and women’s track teams performed poorly in 2021 along with the ‘average’ seasons from football, baseball and volleyball, and the disastrous seasons men’s basketball and women’s soccer had in 2020-2021.