After a day like today, it is tough to sit here and objectively give grades.When the Frogs were shutout by Texas State earlier this season, it broke a string of 165 games without getting shutout.Now the Frogs have been shutout twice in roughly 1 month.At least in the last shutout, it came against a strong team, not a team outside of the top 200 in the RPI.But what makes matters worse, the Frogs got shutout AND gave up 11 runs.
All year, the Frogs have struggled on offense, had lapses on defense and have lacked consistent starting pitching.But what they have also lacked is energy, emotion, flare and excitement.And today was a day where that bubbled to the surface more than any other day.Typically, Sunday baseball consists of hot days, with a somewhat light crowd full of kids getting faces painted and hanging out on the hill (not in the stands) and it is vital for the players to create a spark and inspire themselves.And there was nothing like that today.
Then again, a case could be made that the Frogs have been mired in an energy slump for the last couple of years.There are no sparkplugs like Clint Arnold or Ben Carruthers, there are no guys showing emotion like Matt Purke fist-pumping or Bryan Holaday leading the team and there are no guys that change the game with a swing of a bat like the Matt’s (Vern, Carpenter and Curry).
Instead, this year’s team consists of a lot of quiet guys that go about their job professionally and workmanlike.There is nothing wrong with guys like Stefan Crichton, Jantzen Witte or Josh Elander who just do their jobs and are leaders by example.I just remember how fun this team used to be to watch.They all had a chip on their shoulder and they played and acted like it too.I will make the comparison that the Frogs have transformed from the Texas Rangers of the last two years to the New York Yankees the last two years.Basically we have traded all of our exuberance and fun for more talented players and depth.
It just feels like everyone on this team is playing not to lose their spot instead of just playing like they could.And why not?This team is full of underclassmen and transfers and none of them have their roles defined.Seriously, we have 9 guys trying to fill 4 spots in the lineup (Cron, Gonzales, Johnson, Jones, Jordan, Mattson, Odell, Suiter and Wright) and 4 guys trying to fill 2 rotation spots (Finnegan, Frey, Teakell and Suiter) and it seems like they get rotated in and out of the lineup so much they are dizzy.
But this is a group of college kids who are “learning to change the world” at TCU.At this point, we would accept these kids just learning to change the environment at Lupton Stadium.I just want to see Crichton or Mitchell run off the mound yelling after a strikeout like Kyle Winkler did so many times.Wouldn’t it be fun to see Josh Elander yell at the dugout after throwing a runner out.Heck, the whole reason Kevin Cron chose the number 00 was he wanted people to say “oooh, look at that ball go” when he hit homeruns.Corny?Yes.But so are the antlers at the Ballpark in Arlington.That said, it sells t-shirts, gets fans excited, and seems to create a cohesiveness amongst the team.
All I’m saying is these kids should act like kids.They aren’t professionals (not yet at least).So go out and have fun and stop worrying about the lineup.This group just seems so uptight and I think it could totally change the culture.
Putting aside the idea of having these kids act like goof balls for a second, let’s inspect the offense.Should we really be worried about an offense that is currently producing almost 2 runs less than they were a year ago?What evidence is there to make us think that this will continue?
Catcher – Josh Elander has hit .356 and .333, he should improve from his .303 right now.Catcher will be fine.
First Base – Joe Weik hit .301 with 8 homers last year.Kevin Cron has missed most of the year, but is batting .316 in 19 at bats.Point is, production was average last year offensively and subpar defensively.I don’t think it would be unreasonable to expect Cron to be equal to Weik’s production if not better this year, but for right now, let’s call it a push.
Second Base – Jerome Pena hit .263 with 1 homerun.The bar is pretty darned low for Gonzales, Johnson, Odell and Wright.For the sake of example, let’s say these guys never figure anything out and it ends up a push.
Shortstop – Taylor Featherston hit .335 and committed 27 errors for .905 fielding percentage.Keaton Jones is hitting .129 with 2 errors and a .980 fielding percentage.How do you even compare these two polar opposites?The difference currently is missing 12 hits versus saving 8 errors.Using that math, let’s say Featherston is winning and we are going backwards.
Third Base – Jantzen Witte hit .374 and .331.Davy Wright started hot, but faded a bit as of late and now Witte is back.Judging by his 9 hits in 18 at bats since his return, let’s assume Witte will return to form and be a push with 2011 Witte.
Left Field – Jason Coats hit .361 and .325 with 13 homers and 8 homers.Right now, Coats is sitting at .291 with 3 homeruns.What rationale is there to believe he won’t return to at least 2011 levels?Like Elander and Witte, let’s say Coats will be a push with 2011 Coats.
Center Field – Aaron Schultz and KVT combined to hit .290 last season.Right now, KVT is hitting .301 and has improved a lot on his defense.This will be the first full season for KVT in center, but if he is already ahead of pace, let’s assume again, at worst he will be a push with 2011.
Right Field – Brance Rivera has gone from a .324 with 7 homeruns to a .237 average with 0 homeruns.He started the season injured and has been a bit slow to return to form, but Rivera has hit .320+ 2 seasons in a row.So why would he not do it again?Let’s assume again he pushes.
Designated Hitter – Zac Jordan hit .303 last season and now he is hitting .237.Jerrick Suiter has been the DH recently and is hitting .300, but Jordan is still around.Here is another situation, there is no reason to assume any drop-off in performance, so let’s push again.
If we add all this up, no position got any worse except for shortstop.And if nothing got worse, how did the Frogs get 2 runs worse and 60 points worse in their batting average?If nothing got worse, how did the Frogs go from a Regional host with a (43-19) record to a (14-11) team on the bubble of even making the NCAA tournament?
I am not worried about this lineup and the offensive struggles.I’ll say it again. I am not worried about this lineup and the offensive struggles.What I am worried about is the body language that is exhibited by this team.
My hope is Coach Schlossnagle presses the reset bottom on the season and goes back to what he was going to do to start the year.Rivera – RF, KVT – CF, Witte – 3B, Elander – C, Coats – OF, Cron – 1B, Jordan – DH, Gonzales – 2B and Jones/Odell – SS.It should have been and probably still will be a great lineup.
But a lot of these guys have been around the block and have enough credit with the team, the coaches and the fans to be flashy.I hope someone, if not multiple guys, start showing some exuberance and cockiness.I know it’s hard to do when things are going poorly, but this team desperately needs that guy to step up and become the emotional leader.
I think TCU fans learned their lesson last year after Dallas Baptist beat TCU and Oklahoma in the Regional hosted in Fort Worth.Right now, DBU is a nice team, but not a great team like last year.Currently at (17-9), they have been unbeatable at home, but (5-7) on the road.But those road losses include games at Oklahoma State, 3 at Rice and one at Texas.They will not be intimidated and they tend to travel across the Metroplex well for games.
UNC Wilmington is a nice squad.Yes, their record is (15-12), but their RPI is currently in the top 100.They have been a really good team at home (10-4), but they have been (5-8) on the road.One of the things that stands out about the Seahawks is they get it done on the mound.They are allowing just 4.6 runs per game, so don’t expect offensive fireworks from the Frogs.Also, don’t expect them to be intimidated as they have gone on the road Ole Miss for a weekend series where they played in front of a lot of fans.
Tuesday – Dallas Baptist – 6:30PM – Central Time
Thursday – UNC-Wilmington – 6:30PM – Central Time
Friday – UNC-Wilmington – 6:30PM – Central Time
Saturday – UNC-Wilmington – 2:00PM – Central Time
TCU is #49 in the RPI with a (14-11) record-
RPI Rank – Opponent – TCU’s Record Against
#10 – *Baylor – (1-1)
#14 – Ole Miss – (1-1)
#17 – @ Cal State Fullerton – (1-2)
#28 – *Texas State – (0-2)
#69 – @ UT-Arlington – (0-1)
#87 – Texas Tech – (2-0)
#113 – @ New Mexico – (1-2)
#175 – Oklahoma State – (2-1)
#188 - @ UT-San Antonio – (1-0)
#203 - *UNLV (5-1)
* - Played both home and away
The Mountain West is #18 out of 32 conferences in the RPI -
Conference Rank - RPI Rank – Opponent – Mountain West Record - Record
1st - #113 – New Mexico – (5-1) - (11-14)
2nd - #49 – TCU – (6-3) – (14-11)
3rd - #145 – San Diego State – (3-3) - (14-15)
4th - #257 – Air Force – (2-4) - (6-20)
5th - #203 – UNLV – (2-7) - (13-15)
My Ranking of Potentially Local Regional Hosts:
RPI Rank – Opponent –Record – Projection
#9 – Texas A&M – (22-6) – Super Regional bubble
#10 – Baylor – (22-7) – Super Regional lock as of today by virtue of 1st place in the Big XII
#12 – Rice – (21-9) – Super Regional bubble
#28 – Texas State – (18-10) – None
#32 – Sam Houston State – (19-9) – None
#36 – Texas – (15-11) – None (a ways to go to get on the bubble)