Baird Is UA's Top Cat As Season Ends

May 25, 2009

TUCSON, Ariz. – The NCAA announced its 64-team bracket for the 2009 Baseball Championship on Monday, and The University of Arizona was not selected despite a strong finish, including a season-ending sweep at Oregon powered by one final outstanding weekend from Dillon Baird.

Arizona (30-25, 13-14 Pac-10) won 8 of its last 10 games overall and 9 of its last 10 in the Pacific-10 Conference, but saw its season come to an end on Sunday with a 5-2 victory at Oregon, winning it fifth-consecutive weekend series and fourth in the league. The late-season surge propelled UA into a four-way tie for fifth place in the conference.

No player turned in a better finishing weekend for the Wildcats than Baird, a junior first baseman who homered three times in the series.

Baird, a native of Prescott, Ariz., is one of four players nominated for Pac-10 Player of the Year following a remarkable season that ranks among the best in league history.

In his second year as a Wildcat, Baird compiled a .433 batting average, a .504 on-base percentage and a .716 slugging percentage. The first two figures ranks tops in the Pac-10, while the latter is second-best.

There was absolutely no equal to Baird in the Pac-10 this season from an offensive standpoint, as evidenced by his standing in overall batting average and his average in league games. Jason Kipnis, Arizona State’s center fielder who ranks second in the league in batting, checks in a staggering 53 percentage points below Baird with a .380 average.

Considering each team’s 27 games against Pac-10 foes in league action, Baird separated himself even more with his .472 batting average in such games. The league’s next best hitter in conference-only games was Washington State’s Jared Prince, who hit a full 65 percentage points lower at a still impressive .407 mark.

But, perhaps no statistics are more telling than Baird’s rank in the conference compared to his peers in those Pac-10 only games. Along with his batting average, he led the league in slugging at .815 and on-base percentage at .540.

He collected 10 more hits (51) than any other player and led all players with 32 runs batted in. Only teammate Bryce Ortega (28) scored more runs than Baird (27). He rapped out a league-best 13 doubles in league games and his 88 total bases were 25 – yes, 25 – more than any other player.

For the Wildcats, Baird led the club in batting, slugging and on-base percentage. His 55 RBI were tops on the team and his 21 doubles tied teammate Jett Bandy for the top mark. Baird’s eight home runs were second on the team, as were his five triples.

But to truly quantify Baird’s junior season, one must look at the historical rank at Arizona and in the Pacific-10 Conference.

Baird’s .433 batting average is the sixth-best in Arizona history, trailing only the spectacular seasons of Lloyd Jenney (.484, 1952), Marty Hurd (.473, 1957), John Glenn (.438, 1972), Brad Mills (.435, 1978) and Tom Clarkson (.434, 1957).

Indeed, it’s been over three decades since a Wildcat has done what Baird did this season.

In Pac-10 history, it is also the sixth-highest batting average (Arizona didn’t join the Pac-10 until the 1979 season). In fact, only one other player has reached such a high standard in this decade – Brian Baron at UCLA with a .443 average in 2001.

The other names at the top of the Pac-10 record book include the all-time mark of Portland State’s Don Lovell (.465, 1985), Washington State’s John Olerud (.464, 1988), Arizona State’s Paul LoDuca (.446, 1993), WSU’s Bob Garreston (.438, .438), USC’s Steve Kemp (.435, 1975) and Portland’s Phil Geisler (.435, 1991).

Then there is Arizona’s Dillon Baird.

He ended the 2009 season on a 22-game hitting streak and was the primary catalyst for a UA squad that led the Pac-10 in hitting (.314) – the first time the program has done so since 2005.

Baird will be one of a handful of Wildcats eligible for the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, which includes seniors Cory Burns, Brad Glenn, Preston Guilmet and Hunter Pace.

Dillon Baird Overall Statistical Rank in Pac-10 (All Games):

                    Stat        Rank      Next-Highest
Avg.            .433        1              .380
SLG%         .716        2              -
OB%           .504        1              .496                   
Runs          53           5              -
Hits             84           1              79
2B               21           t-1           -
3B               5              t-4           -
HR               8              -               -
RBI              55           3              -
TB               139         3              -

Dillon Baird Overall Statistical Rank in Pac-10 (Conference Games Only):

                    Stat        Rank      Next-Highest
Avg.            .472        1              .407
SLG%         .815        1              .670
OB%           .540        1              .521   
Runs          27           2              -
Hits             51           1              41
2B               13           1              11
3B               3              t-3           -
HR               6              t-4           -
RBI              32           1              29
TB               88           1              63

- Next-highest is listed in categories in which Baird led the conference out-right in a statistical category and indicates the second-highest statistical mark in that category in the Pac-10