Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bats REALLY need to come alive this weekend

Five weeks ago, the TCU baseball team was mired in a 2-5 start to the season that had us all a little worried after they'd been ranked as high as #10 in the preseason polls. At the time, I expressed my concern with the lack of offensive production. The Frogs were batting a combined .244 back on March 1st, a full fifty points off of the lowest team batting average in the Schlossnagle era- .294 back in 2004.

By winning 12 of the 19 games since then, the Frogs have been able to push their record above .500. But the productivity at the plate still eludes them, as their team average has dipped down to .240. Only two regulars, Jason Coats at .308 and Josh Elander at .304, are batting above .300- although Jantzen Witte is hitting .409 in his first 22 at-bats since returning from injury.

It's not just that the team isn't collecting enough base hits- they're also not hitting for extra bases nearly enough. A year ago, in the first season of the new "dead" bats being implemented in college baseball, TCU produced hit 215 extra-base hits- which represented nearly a third of all their hits. This year they've managed just 48 in the first 25 games, which represents less than a quarter of their overall hits and puts them on pace to just about reach 100 by the end of the regular season. It's hard to put together a rally with just walks and singles, which is part of the reason why the Frogs have exploded for 4 or more runs in an inning just 7 times this season.

I hope that this doesn't come across as being too critical- but, to lean on a cliche for a moment- it is what it is. I'm sure their lackluster offensive numbers are not news to the team, and that they are working hard to correct their problems. The football team struggled mightily in some areas of the game early this past fall, yet were able to rebound in time to make a potentially disappointing season into another successful one. Coach Schlossnagle's squad still has plenty of time to turn things around in 2012, and who knows- perhaps they've got their own "Boise" moment still lurking in the next few weeks and months.

Don't assume that things will get easier this weekend just because most of you have never heard of UNC-Wilmington. I'm not saying we're going to be watching the Seahawks in Omaha later this year, but they are certainly not a team to be taken lightly. They are 15-13 overall with a pair of wins over College of Charleston- who is 3 spots behind TCU in the RPI rankings. UNCW has an RPI themselves of #101...or 16 spots ahead of New Mexico, who recently took 2 of 3 from the Frogs.

The three starting pitchers that TCU will face this weekend- senior Tyler McSwain, sophomore lefty Mat Batts and freshman Jordan Ramsey- have a combined ERA of 3.12 and are allowing opposing hitters to hit just .248 against them. They all have the ability to work deep into games- all three went at least 7 innings last weekend in a sweep of Old Dominion. The bullpen isn't shabby, either, as the overall team ERA is just 3.57.

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