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Batting Around: Week 5

Greetings, folks. Due to some circumstances of a vocational nature I had to forego posting a Week 4 Batting Around. Much has happened in two week's time, so I'll do my best to put the SEC in perspective -- or at the very least my perspective.

1.) Florida Gators (19-1, 3-0 SEC) - #1 ranked Florida cruised to victory over the snake-bit Vanderbilt Commodores this past weekend by a combined score of 23-5. Florida leads the SEC in slugging percentage (.521) and home runs (31). Their pitching has been solid enough -- fewest walks allowed in the SEC (32) -- but their batting average against is nothing to write home about (.241). Florida still appears to be the best of best.

2.) Kentucky Wildcats (21-0, 3-0 SEC) - However, Kentucky isn't far behind. The #16 Wildcats cracked to the Baseball America Top 25 this week for the first time this season in the wake of their sweep of the two-time defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks (yes I will continue to say that all season because it appears I may not have the opportunity to do after this year). Kentucky is leading the SEC in nearly every offensive category except for the two taken by Florida above. The Wildcats are hitting .333, getting on base at a .433 clip, and have walked 93 times (3rd in the SEC). They're even leading the league in hit-by-pitches (43). This team may not be as good as their record when all is said and done, but right now I don't have a good reason to back up that statement. Therefore, I have begrudgingly moved the 'Cats up to #2 in our ranking.

3.) Arkansas Razorbacks (19-2, 3-0 SEC) - The #3 Razorbacks are just doin' what they do. Namely, winning. They've played a marginally tougher schedule than Kentucky to date, except that Arkansas' SEC sweep came against lowly Alabama. Had to give the edge to the Wildcats because 21-0 is pretty darn impressive when it comes down to it. The Hogs will be able to settle the debate, though, when Kentucky comes to town in the middle of April.

4.) South Carolina Gamecocks (15-4, 0-3 SEC) - I had been saying that something had to give for the two-time defending national champion South Carolina Gamecocks and this last week something gave in a big way. The #8 Gamecocks got swept by a team that has all too often been a thorn in their side. Kentucky is on a tear right now that is beginning to rival the Gamecocks' own run through the college world series. More than anything it's the little things that seem to weigh on USC this season. Little things like getting picked off of first base with two outs, losing a fly ball in the evening sky, or failing to get down a bunt. When your team batting average is just .285, you don't have a lot of margin for error. Despite their failings, the Gamecocks still lead the league in ERA (2.23) and opposing batting average (.180). The season is far from over in Columbia.

5.) LSU Tigers (16-4, 2-1 SEC) - The #11 Tigers edge UGA in this week's ranking by way of the fact that I respect their lone SEC opponent (Miss. State) more than I do Georgia's (Tennessee). I suspect that their #11 ranking has a bit more to do with their reputation than their performance, but, hey, that will sort itself out soon enough. Things might be turning around in Baton Rouge after taking 2 of 3 from the Bulldogs, but who the heck knows? LSU is mediocre, Vanderbilt is terrible, and Kentucky is the only undefeated team in the country. We're through the looking glass, people.

6.) Georgia Bulldogs (15-6, 2-1 SEC) - A 2 to 1 series victory over the Volunteers is starting to look a little better than it might have a year ago. A little. Lest we forget, UGA got swept by UCLA at home just one week prior. This week the Bulldogs will get a chance to prove the mettle when they travel to Nashville to take on the Commodores. Wait, I mean the week after when Kentucky comes to town. Is it written somewhere in the SEC bylaws that the 2010s are to be known as the decade in which UGA got every favorable scheduleling break in any sport ever conceived?

7.) Auburn Tigers (12-8, 2-1 SEC) - Yeah, I know they're 12-8, but their series losses are against Missouri and Arizona -- not terribly shabby. I wanted to put them all the way behind Ole Miss. I really did. I even had a snarky little snippet typed up. After perusing their schedule, though, they deserve the #7 spot.

8.) Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-7, 1-2 SEC) - The Bulldogs played LSU in Baton Rouge and the Rebels played... looks at schedule... Auburn... at home? State gets the nod.

9.) Ole Miss Rebels (15-5, 1-2 SEC) - The Rebels have plenty of time to show me something. This weekend hosting Florida would be a good start. Somehow the Rebels have managed to stay ranked at #17 in the Baseball America poll. I'm hoping that has more to do with the talent wearing sundresses than the talent wearing ball caps in Oxford.

10.) Tennessee Volunteers (11-8, 1-2 SEC) - The Volunteers may wear Creamsicle, but their team's flavor is decidedly vanilla. Few things give me more apathy than thinking about Volunteers playing baseball. Win a couple of games against Kentucky this weekend, Tennessee, and we'll talk.

11.) Alabama Crimson Tide (8-12, 0-3 SEC) - It's a race to the bottom for Vanderbilt and Alabama. I give the Crimson tide the benefit of the doubt only because the series between these two teams is in Tuscaloosa this year.

12.) Vanderbilt Commodores (7-13, 0-3 SEC) - Has it really come to this? Traveling to Gainesville to begin SEC play was probably the worst thing that could have happened to a Vandy squad that hasn't been able to get a single thing going this year. Things ain't looking pretty in Nashville these days.