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Big East Baseball Power Rankings: Week Two

Thanks to a weekend sweep and a strong showing against a nationally ranked foe, Creighton has claimed the No. 1 spot this week. Where does the rest of the league fit in?

Nicky Lopez, in his return from a torn meniscus, makes a play at short against Xavier.
Nicky Lopez, in his return from a torn meniscus, makes a play at short against Xavier.
Steven Branscombe

1. Creighton

Phil: Call me Nostradamus because the Bluejays are in the top spot, as I predicted in last week's power rankings.

Of course, I could have just put Creighton here just to fulfill my prophecy, but the Jays deserve to be here. Despite a tough loss to No. 23 Nebraska on Tuesday, the Jays hold an impressive 20-10 overall record, and are now tied with St. John's for the top spot in the Big East after sending Xavier back to Cincinnati in a dustpan.

The Jays pitching staff was, as the kids say, on fleek,  in their sweep of the X-Men. Led by strong outings from Keith Rogalla (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 8 SO) and Rollie Lacy (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R), the Jays served up a minuscule 1.00 team ERA over the weekend. They remain at the top of the conference in ERA (3.26), in part because of their shutdown bullpen. Ethan DeCaster (2-0, 1.15 ERA) is one of five players to have at least 10 appearances and an ERA under 3.00.


1. Creighton

Alex: With a dominating performance at home against Xavier this weekend and placing 1st in the Big East in regard to RPI, the Bluejays have proved worthy of the top spot this week. The matchup against in-state and top 25 foe Nebraska proved to be a bit too much for the Bluejays, but not without a bit of drama to go along with it as the Cornhuskers scored in the top of the 9th to break a 6-6 tie. Recent projections have the Bluejays as the lone Big East team in the tournament, which comes as no surprise.

2. St. John's

Phil: Although they've taken a slight step back in this week's power rankings, the Johnnies are doing just fine. They hosted Seton Hall this past weekend and, aside from a 19-4 drubbing on Sunday, the series was a success for the boys in red. Cody Stashak whirled a gem on Friday in a 5-1 win, letting up just one run on four hits across six innings, while striking out five batters. For a team that is, at best, pedestrian as a pitching staff (4.19 team ERA), Stashak is the workhorse ace the team needs each weekend. He is 5-3 with a 3.04 ERA in 50 1/3 innings. Along with those team-bests, he has struck out 45 batters, compared to 12 walks. Getting more help from the rest of the staff is going to be crucial. St John's, which is now 20-12 overall following Wednesday's win over Princeton, will go to war with Creighton this weekend in one of the biggest series of the season.

2. St. John's

Alex: St. John's consistently puts out a hellacious defense to counteract a mediocre pitching attack. Ranking in the top-100 in double plays, top 40 in fielding percentage and placing first in conference play with 4 shutouts, it's no wonder they're consistently one of the best ballclubs in the Big East. St. John's doesn't beat you with dingers and extra base hits, they do it by getting runners on and moving them home. This can prove fatal in mid-week and Sunday games without Stashak and McCormick as the rest of the pitching staff averages a 4+ ERA. St. John's will travel to Omaha this weekend to face off against Creighton in what very well will be the best series we've seen in conference play to date. No worries, Fox Sports 1 will carry the Friday game to see Lacy against Stashak in a phenomenal pitcher's duel while we'll get to experience the pitcher-by-committee match on Sunday airing on CBS Sports Network. 

3. Seton Hall

Phil: The last seven days have been filled with turbulence for Seton Hall. The Pirates peaked on Sunday, banging out 19 runs on 18 hits in a dominating win in the final game of a three-game set with St. John's. However, the Pirates tumbled back down the mountain on Tuesday, falling 3-1 in 10 innings to Monmouth, a team with a paltry 10-16 record on the season. The feast or famine offense is a real problem for the Pirates, who can pitch like crazy (3.78 ERA), but are hitting just .252 as a team, the second worst mark in the league. Consider this; first baseman Sal Annunziata showed how dangerous he can be on Sunday, going 4-for-5 with a home run, three RBI and four runs scored. However, the big hits have not come frequently for the senior from the Bronx. Annunziata posted an OPS of 0.896 last season but has seen that number plummet to 0.650. There's your problem, or at least one of them.

3. Seton Hall

Alex: Though Seton Hall dropped the series against St. John's, getting their only win on Sunday by a score of 19-4, the Pirates round out the top 3 in this week's power rankings. In all reality, this is a 3-team league, with the bottom 4 fighting for an opportunity to visit Omaha in mid-May for a chance to get to the NCAA Tournament. Personally, I love the way Seton Hall plays baseball, with reckless abandon on the basepaths and a pretty stellar pitching staff led by the trio of McCarthy, Prendergast and Pacillo with DiBenedetto slamming the door in the 9th. Seton Hall ranks 13th in the nation in steals per game with 1.93/per and ranks in the top-100 in ERA at a stellar 3.78 along with a top-100 ranking in WHIP, you've got yourself a championship-caliber ballclub. Yet every champion has their kryptonite, as Seton Hall's defense ranks dead last in double plays per game in the Big East and currently sits at 5th in fielding percentage. Fundamental mistakes can easily be overcome and once Seton Hall figures it out they'll be a hell of a team to mess with come tourney time.

4. Georgetown

Phil: Let's get the basics out of the way. The Hoyas can play fairly well. They are 16-15 overall and 3-3 in conference play and are ranked No. 161 in the most recent RPI. They have won three of their last four games and have an upset victory over Creighton under their belt. Clearly they could be a dangerous squad come conference tournament time.

(In Charlie Kelly voice) Now let's talk about Nick Collins. Can we talk about Nick Collins? I've been dying to talk about Nick Collins with you all day. Collins has been raking this season and carrying Georgetown's offense along the way. He leads the Big East in hits (47), total bases (67) and slugging percentage (.528) and is tied for the league lead in home runs (four) and batting average (.370). Let's keep that all in mind when Player of the Year discussions start to get underway.

4. Georgetown

Alex: As of right now, the Big East tourney bid is in Georgetown's lap. All they need to do from here on out is win at least one game in every series they play in and they're pretty much assured the final slot. Statistically speaking, Georgetown is not so good. The two categories they crack the top-100 in are hit-by-pitch and shutouts, the latter of which they rank 4th in the Big East with 2. Georgetown doesn't do one thing particularly well (unless you count getting beaned) but they do rank second in the conference in batting average (.277), home runs (10), hits (296) and ERA (3.73). The Hoya defense is pretty poor, as they rank second-to-last in double plays (21) and fielding percentage (.961). If Georgetown truly wants to turn it around they'll need to polish their defense and start being more aggressive on the basepaths.

5. Villanova

Phil: The resurgence is real! Sort of! In its first chance against Big East competition this past weekend, Villanova did itself somewhat proud, salvaging a win in three games against Georgetown. It's not passing with flying colors but it is definitely a start. The Wildcats are squarely in the middle of the conference in the three major statistical areas, ranking fourth in batting average (.268) and ERA (4.14), while tied for third in fielding percentage (0.972) before playing Rider in the Liberty Bell Classic title game on Wednesday. They will have a great chance to pad their record (13-18) and overtake last year's win total (16) in the next week, as they play five straight at home, although losing 6-2 to Rider wasn't a great jumping off point.

5. Butler

Alex: The Bulldogs have the most potent offense in the Big East right now, and on paper they actually put up relatively great statistics. Jeff Schank is clearly in a league of his own when he's leading the Bulldogs out to the field on Friday nights as he currently posts a 2.91 ERA and has collected 48 strikeouts thus far on the year. The Bulldogs are an offensive force, leading the conference in 13 categories, including slugging percentage (.387), DINGERS! (10) and walks (132). The downfall for Butler? WHIP. They rank dead last in the Big East, nearly allowing two baserunners on each time they step to the plate. Pair that with their relatively poor fielding percentage (.972, fourth in conference), inability to draw double plays (fourth in conference with 26) and a dead last ERA (5.63 - 235th nationally) and you've got yourself a losing season. I fully expect the Bulldogs to make a run at the last slot into the Big East tournament as they settle into conference play and begin picking up games against lesser opponents.

6. Butler

Phil: Let's be fair to the Bulldogs, They have been riding through an extremely rough part of their schedule. They started off the month with three game at St. John's, then visited Dayton, challenged No. 23 West Virginia in a three-game road series and kept the road trip going against Ball State on Wednesday night. They only won one of those games, topping Dayton, while suffering sweeps against the Johnnies and the Mountaineers. Somehow, Butler is still the top offensive team in the conference, leading the league in batting average (.286), hits (348), doubles (75), home runs (13) and RBI (181), but they just don't string enough zeros on the scoreboard when they take the field, with Butler pitchers combining for an ERA of 5.49. Jeff Shank (2.91) and Josh Goldberg (2.91) are the only players on the roster with an ERA below 4.00. Unless the pitching miraculously improves, the Bulldogs will continue to be in the cellar.

6. Villanova

Alex: Villanova doesn't lead the league in any statistical category. They've only played 3 conference games, of which they dropped two to a mediocre Georgetown team. It's incredibly difficult to rank Nova anywhere above 6 considering the small sample size they've handed over to us with shrugged shoulders. They don't get on base all that often and when they do they rarely come around to score. They've lost to teams like Incarnate Word, Niagara, Wagner and Philadelphia. They rank dead last in the Big East in RPI. I have no idea what this team is actually made of considering their slight aversion to playing conference games. I was so tempted to put them in last place but Xavier is playing so historically bad right now it'd be a disservice to the league to do so. Speaking of Xaiver, Nova is matched up against them this weekend in Philly. If you're an individual with masochistic tendencies in the Philadelphia area (as most sports fans in Philly are, or so I've heard) I'd strongly advise you to attend a game this weekend.

7. Xavier

Phil: Oh, Xavier. Poor, poor Xavier. If you're a Musketeer fan you may want to avert your eyes. Scott Googins' squad has been swept in each of its first two league series and had lost 11 straight games before an 11-6 victory over Miami-Ohio on Wednesday. And let's not get too excited about that triumph. The RedHawks are only 6-27. The Musketeers are the only team in the Big East without a .300 hitter. They had failed to score more than two runs in six straight contests before Wednesday. They have committed a conference-worst 51 errors. Starting to get the picture? If you're looking for a silver lining, perhaps the X's stolen base numbers (54-for-70) will give you a reprieve from the abyss, however brief it may be.

7. Xavier

Alex: Oh my lord this is one of the worst baseball teams I've ever witnessed. I just... I just don't know what to say without coming off like an asshole. This team is historically bad, especially when put in the perspective that they're the reigning champions. I'm sorry, I just don't know what else to say. I'm sure they're very lovely people with great character, personalities and fantastic families but as a baseball team they're just terrible. There's always next year, plus you get to play Villanova this weekend! You might get a W!