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The Box Score: HellerBall

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | APRIL 30, 2015 5:00 AM

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The Iowa baseball team is hot on the trails of its second-consecutive 30-win season, with head coach Rick Heller’s unique style of baseball quickly producing results for the Black and Gold.

A deeper look between the numbers reveals just why Heller Ball has been so successful for the Hawkeyes since his term as head coach began last season.

On-base percentage — .365, 4th in Big Ten Conference 

Heller’s vision of an effective baseball team is one that borrows quite a bit from the Moneyball era Oakland Athletics under general manager Billy Beane. 

The Hawkeyes are a team predicated heavily on team speed, particularly those 90-foot sprints in base paths. If Iowa batters get on base, there’s a good chance they’re already thinking about how that next bag is going to come.

Luckily for Heller, his team is extremely apt at reaching safely.  The Hawks rank fourth in the conference in on-base percentage despite only ranking seventh in total hits. 

It also helps that they have the third-lowest strikeout total of any team in the conference, and are the second-most plunked team in league play with 50 hit batsmen in 42 games.

Sacrifice flies — 18 (4nd in Big Ten); Sacrifice bunts — 29 (4th in Big Ten)         

The Hawkeyes are perhaps the best team in the conference at manufacturing offense in any situation.

Shortstop Nick Roscetti and leftfielder Joel Booker each rank in the top 10 in conference as far as total sacrifice bunts with six apiece, and senior center-fielder Eric Toole is tied for third in individual sac flies with four each.

Iowa is not, or at least has not been up until this point in the season, been a team capable of going in to any situation and smacking the cover off of the ball, as evidenced by their rather average hit totals.

However, they are great at getting guys on base, whatever it may take to do that, and moving them up 90 feet at a time. The Hawks have attempted more steal attempts (73) than every team in the conference besides Ohio State and Rutgers, and have converted 56 of them.

Toole alone accounts for 21 of those stolen bases.

Intentional BB allowed — 17 (1st in Big Ten)

Most people don’t consider intentional walks to be a good barometer of a pitching staff that’s dealing from a position of strength, but for the Hawks, it’s all about strategy. 

Pitching coach Scott Brickman has encouraged his starters and bullpen alike to not be afraid to work around guys if at all possible, and the pitchers have heeded his advice. 

Even if it allows a runner to safely reach first, Iowa has enough depth and experience in its infield that prevent the team from giving up easy bases and runs on errors and steal attempts.

The Hawks own the second-best fielding percentage in the Big Ten (.979), a scant .001 behind first-place Nebraska.

They’ve committed only 33 errors in 42 games — the best total in the league — as well as first in fewest steal attempts against with 15. 

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa baseball team.



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