2019 College World Series: The Greatest Show on Dirt

By Lou Finocchiaro  () 

The College World Series field is set and play begins this Saturday at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

Here are odds to win for each of the eight teams with a short synopsis of each and finally Series releases based on my review of the numbers and understanding of this event. Individual game releases will be available here on VSiN later this week as well my site, GambLou.com.

ODDS TO WIN 2019 CWS (BY BRACKET)

Bracket I: Arkansas 300, Texas Tech 500, Florida St. 1000, Michigan 2000

Bracket II: Vanderbilt 300, Mississippi St. 350, Louisville 800, Auburn 1500

THE TOURNAMENT

Mandatory to handicapping this event is gaining an understanding of the bracket system for this tournament (how advantageous it is to win the first two games), the nuances of the ball park in Omaha, and finally the analytics behind each team. Together this information assimilated by Ol” Uncle Louie and delivered to you today will allow you to make a deep run in this most outstanding tournament.

Of major importance for any CWS Tournament Champion is a team’s ability to pitch, field, sacrifice, hit singles/doubles as opposed to home runs and finally score runs. This is a small ball park as it sits low next to the Missouri River and the wind blows directly into hitter’s teeth so teams that effectively pitch, field and play small ball succeed over unbalanced teams that rely on the HR and power.

BRACKET I

Arkansas is a team that I released prior to the regionals (mentioned on The Edge with Matt Youmans and Jonathan Von Tobel) 1200. Arkansas was here last year and was one game away from the championship. Coach Van Horn used to coach in Lincoln, so we know the crowd in Omaha will be “hog wild” over Arkansas. The Hogs numbers indicate that they are in the top half of their tourney field in all important categories. They are focused and they are fortunate enough to play in the bracket with no other SEC club.

Texas Tech is a perennial Omaha participant as it went 1-2 in 2016 then 2-2 in ’17 before missing last year. Tech is a “hardball program” and while its team is relatively young and inexperienced, the pitching staff is comprised of players who have been to Omaha before though most of the talented arms are underclassmen. The Red Raiders pack offensive pop, can field and their experience should help overcome their relative lack of effective pitching. If they can get by a dangerous Michigan club in the first game, these Red Raiders could be ready to surprise.

Florida State will be a crowd favorite only because the fans in Omaha recognize true greatness when they have a chance to acknowledge it. FSU HC Mike Martin will retire this year after being at the helm at FSU for 39 years. He has toted this FSU team into this tourney on many occasions (last visit was 2017) and has won the championship eight times since 1996. Unfortunately for FSU, it is my opinion that this team did all it could just to earn its way here. This marvelous group of overachievers tore through Georgia and LSU to punch one more ticket for Martin in Omaha. As much as I love the story and want a memorable tourney for Martin, it’s my judgment that they’ll have little left for these other seven squads

Michigan could well be diamond in the rough. When handicapping this tourney, I had already tossed this group of wily Wolverines out until I actually performed the research. Michigan has two of the top seven pitchers by ERA in this tourney. While the Wolverines are completely without CWS experience, they did manage to outpitch UCLA. Michigan is mispriced in my opinion, and it presents great value not only as a long shot in this tourney, but as a live dog against Texas Tech in Game 1. If the Wolverines do win the first game, you best believe Michigan could damage brackets in Omaha.

BRACKET II

Vanderbilt is superbly coached by Tim Corbin, its past experience in Omaha runs deep as it won title in 2015 and last year were eliminated by CWS Champion Oregon St. in Corvallis in the Super Regionals. By the numbers, Vandy has it all and deserves to be labeled tourney chalk. The one hesitation I have for the Commodores is that they lack CWS experience as well the side of the bracket they are on has the other SEC power in it.

Mississippi St. happens to be the other SEC team and it dominates the defensive numbers I track such as Team ERA (3.59, second best in the tourney), WHIP, hits allowed per nine innings and fielding percentage. Supplementing those defensive numbers is the fact that the Bulldogs were in Omaha last year and competed well, they return a core of their group and march into this Tournament poised to complete a chore they began last year. Led by the top pitching talent in the Tourney in Ethan Small (1.80 ERA, 90 innings pitched) MSU is a legitimate threat to win this tournament and arrives as hot as any team in the field.

Louisville is an underrated team in a brutal first round set-up. While it is hiding behind the bluster of the SEC, let’s not overlook a team that’s been knocking on the door of this championship for years. Louisville is as dominant by the numbers in all the categories already mentioned as MSU, but the Cardinals do not get the first game draw that MSU does (they play No. 1-ranked Vanderbilt). Louisville is a team that earned its way to Omaha in 2017, going 1-2, so there are some Cardinal upper classmen that have been here prior. Louisville is a super sleeper in this side of the bracket IF it can vex Vanderbilt in Game 1.

The Cardinal arrives high on belief and deep with talent. Contender.

Auburn is a team that played outstanding baseball late as well benefited by competing against the dynamic talent and depth of championship baseball played in the SEC. Analytically, Auburn is the weak sister not only in this bracket, but in this tourney and I look for the Tigers (without a lick of CWS experience) to go “two and BBQ,” which in Omaha means two games and out.

RELEASES

As mentioned, I released Arkansas 1200 prior to regional action.

Here are my suggested future positions (one per bracket) based on today’s pricing (Westgate).

Bracket I: Arkansas 300

I hate to eat this price, but the Razorbacks are the only SEC team in this bracket and they were within one game of the championship last year. They know the importance of winning the first two contests and they arrive with monumental momentum.

Bracket II: MSU 350

It’s really Mississippi State that I believe will be the one to beat in this bracket for the same reasons as Arkansas. They were in this Tourney last year, they pitch well, field/play defense and will install ace Small as the Game 1 pitcher against an overmatched Auburn group.

An all-SEC Final is my prediction

Michigan, this team is mispriced. The Wolverines can play baseball with this athletic roster and if they had a touch of experience, I’d really be all over them. This release is for Game 1, and let me be on record as saying that Michigan’s team is worthy enough to not only be here--but compete.

Michigan as dog Game 1 (only as dog).

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