Monday, June 6, 2011

Well, bummer...

It all looked like it was finally all coming together for TCU on Saturday afternoon. Oklahoma, the teamed labeled as the one to fear at the Fort Worth Regional, had inexplicably gone 0-2 and was the first team eliminated. Freshman Andrew Mitchell had given one of his best pitching performances of the season in the Frogs' victory the night before, meaning Jim Schlossnagle still had nearly his full stable of pitchers available to take down Oral Roberts and Dallas Baptist.

But then DBU's Jared Stafford out-pitched Matt Purke on Saturday night and the Patriots escaped with a 3-2 win, sending the Frogs into the loser's bracket. The original pitching strategy for the potential double-header on Sunday was for Kyle Winkler to pitch the afternoon game against ORU and then Erik Miller the nightcap against DBU. That plan was torpedoed, though, when Winkler left the game with an apparent arm injury in the 1st inning and Miller was put on the mound hours before he or the coaching staffed were mentally prepared for him to be. An innefective "start" by Miller led to Schlossnagle having to rely on his bullpen to hold ORU at-bay while the Horned Frog bats attempted to mount a comeback. It wasn't to be, though, as the 2011 TCU baseball season ended with an 8-3 loss on their home field.

So what happened? A year after the program's magical first trip to Omaha, they were ranked #1 in some preseason polls and returned three ace pitchers and a solid batting order. This was supposed to be the year that the Frogs would return to the College World Series and, shedding the Cinderella label they wore there last year, win the whole thing. Instead, their season is over- leaving TCU fans with an 88-day wait until football season.

For one thing, the bats just never quite showed up like they did a year ago. The team's batting average dropped from .334 in 2010 to .306 in 2011, and last year's squad had six regulars that had a higher average than this year's leader (Taylor Featherston at .335). The power numbers dropped off from 101 home runs last year to just 50 this year, and the team scored almost 2 entire runs less per game in 2011 than they did a year ago. But with the new bats this year, an offensive drop-off was to be expected with any team in the country.

The big difference this year was, like you've heard Ron Washington stress time after time, pitching and defense. This year's schedule was littered with losses to inferior teams in which TCU committed multiple errors that led directly to runs for the opposition. As a team, the Frogs committed 84 total errors (in 62 games) this year- after committing 78 (in 68 games) last year. I hate to point fingers, so I won't name names- but more than 30% of those 84 errors came from the same pivotal defensive position.

Pitching-wise, this year's team was actually a little better than last year's, statistically speaking. The team ERA fell from 3.55 in '10 to 3.20 this year, and the opponent's batting average from .252 to .240. The problem, though, was keeping the staff healthy. Kaleb Merck was sidelined for the year before the season even started, leaving closer duties to Erik Miller, who struggled in that role early in the year. All three of the premiere starting pitchers- Kyle Winkler, Matt Purke and Steven Maxwell- missed time late in the season, and Maxwell and Winkler (aside from the 2/3 inning he pitched Saturday) were absent for the Regionals.

So was this season a disappointment? Yes, and I think those within the program would be the first to tell you that. This team simply did not live up to it's potential. But if you're the type of fan who reacts angrily to a team not meeting your expectations (I know you're out there), I think you do have to consider the severe degree to which the injury bug bit this year's squad. I'm not sure there's a team out there that could survive going into the postseason with essentially three and a half of your top four pitchers out (Purke was on a very limited pitch count) as well as one of your top defenders and most clutch hitters (Aaron Schultz). I hate to make excuses for them, because they still had opportunities to win that they didn't come up with, but they did face pretty tall odds to replicate last year's success.


VikingFrog said...

That game yesterday was frustrating to watch.

Poor base running.

About 100 flyouts.

Hot as shit.

It would have been real tough with our pitching staff in that state they were in, but it was frustrating to see the same shit that cost us so many games during the regular season return to our team in crunch time.

VikingFrog said...

Note: not bashing the team in any way. They played great all season and the only reason we are all sitting here so upset is because of our great season last year and high expectations coming in. (can't imagine what it will be like if the football team underperforms this year!)

Congrats to the Frogs on a hard fought season.

Also, fuck every TCU fan at the game yesterday that was booing the TCU baseball team. Yes, we had some brain dead moments on the base path, but I am of the mindset that you should never boo your own team.

bscooter26 said...

I booed at my tv.

horned_frog_85 said...

I'd bet my house that the position you refer to is 2B. That guy has driven me nuts all year. going back to last season. I just don't see his strength, had the occasional clutch hit but I didn't see it when it really counted.

And Viking... sometimes its ok to boo your team, ESPECIALLY if you are a loyal fan, just like a coach should come down on his players for sloppy bone headed play swift judgement by the fans sends the same message sometimes quicker. An educated loyal fan should be on their teams side but that sometimes includes a little tough love

I'll be back next year in my same seats. This is my fourth straight reagional going back to Stillwater 4 years ago (now you want to talk ugly) ;)

Lyle Lanley said...

It was not second base

shortnkerley's said...

It should be pretty obvious to those who followed the team the position in question. It would be the guy who made the entire crowd hold its breath every time he released a throw. Not to mention I've dogged the guy all year in post game write ups. He needs a new position, plain and simple, bc he can rake.

shortnkerley's said...

I'll take that house, though. Is it nice?

CFBMN said...

I wanted HF85's house. Stupid work, pulling me away from the site. Are his initials Taylor Feath... oh, forget it.

VikingFrog said...

It's actually his season two DVD box set of Fox's hit series House.

Tanner said...

i didn't know tf did that bad, although I had to watch lots of games on gamecast this year. surprised? nope.

was a sick feeling i got yesterday watching that awful game. wink pulled himself and the unraveling commenced, culminating in a grand slam. seriously.

poor baserunning, poor base runner coaching, poor pitching and no hits will never win you a game. and this was a must win. i also agree with viking about the same shit that happened all season, which i put on the coaches' shoulders.

overall sad faced season for me. i was hoping to spend all my money again going to the magical land of omaha.

groundfrog said...

To be fair to Pena, I think just everyone in the stadium thought the CF caught that ball, hence tagging was a good move. Of all the things to second guess, that's about the dumbest.

Oh, and the feelings about our illustrious shortstop go pretty much all the way to the top....