Texas Baseball: Midweek Baseball Report - April 28, 2010

The addition to power in our lineup, baserunning woes, our upcoming schedule, and Tant Shepherd's improvement from last season after the jump...

LooonnnnggggBall

The Longhorns Baseball team is riding a seventeen game winning streak after a sweep of Oklahoma State and a surprisingly close victory over the UTSA Roadrunners on Tuesday night. After last weekend, I’m beginning to doubt whether or not we’re playing the smallball that has traditionally characterized Texas teams. Friday’s 14-1 blowout score certainly doesn't appear to be generated by a team that relies on sacrifice bunts. In fact, the double digit victory was powered by four doubles, a triple, a two-run home run, and a Rupp three-run homerun. Cameron Rupp, who played like a man possessed, generated three out of five runs after hitting another homerun on Saturday.  Finally, Sunday’s and Tuesday’s scores were largely manufactured  by multibase hits.

The emergence of power in our batting order hasn’t resulted in a stoppage of bunting . Rather, it has caused unnecessary outs. We’ve been bunting players to third only to have them score on multibase hits that would have generated runs regardless of what base they were on. This team relies on power hitting much more than many people expected. Three-quarters of the way through the year, the starting nine have forty-nine home runs, equal to last seasons production. Power isn't limited to the top of the order either. Etier, who has been batting last, is only one HR behind team leader Kevin Keyes, who has nine.  It’s difficult to justify having players like Rupp, who had an extra base hit in four out of nine at-bats against the Cowboys, sacrifice himself. I don’t expect Garrido to withdraw the sacrifice bunt from his arsenal, but it could become less of a factor.  On second thought, there are two constants with Augie: trips to Omaha and the belief that no player is too skilled to sacrifice himself. 

Baserunning

Baserunning was an important component on Tuesday night. Jonathan Walsh - Cameron Rupp’s probable replacement – has yet to develop the arm strength necessary to control base paths with authority. Four runners were able to steal on Tuesday. In comparison, Rupp averages an astonishing 0.47 steals/game . Garrido showed his lack of faith in the freshman when he removed Walsh when things became too close for comfort. I’m not too concerned with Walsh though, as he will have more than enough time over the summer and fall to develop his fundamentals.

Texas's baserunning, on the other hand, has digressed. The past four games had more runners caught of the bag than the rest of the season. Ouch. Having only two baserunners picked off on Tuesday is more representative of errors on the Roadrunners part than our own skill. On a number of occasions, runners took off while the pitcher watched ball in hand. Luckily, more often than not, the throw to second landed on the Longhorn logo in the outfield. It’s unclear whether this change is the result of mistakes by baserunners, a lack of base coaching, alert pitchers, appalling luck, or some sort of combination. I’m sure that baserunning will be an emphasized and corrected this week in practice.

A Shepherd and his Sheep

There was talk in the thread on Tuesday of how far Tant Shepherd has progressed this season. Shepherd really hasn’t received the acknowledgment he deserves in the media. Even with four series and two tournaments left to play, his numbers have shown great improvement. What they can't don't show is his consistency and solidarity at first base. I can't remember a throw, no matter how wild, getting past him. This should give you a sense of his improvement:

Category

AVG

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

OB%

FLD%

2009

.260

27

39

13

2

2

21

.362

.951

2010

.354 

47

57

12

2

7

27

.450

.955

Rank on 2010/2009 team

#1/#9

#1/#8

#1/#9

#1/T3

T1/T2

T3/#8

#4/#9

#1/#8

#5/#8

 

Leaving Home

After you get passed the seventeen consecutive wins in our record some other trends begin to stick out. The Longhorns have only played 12 of 42 games outside of Austin City Limits. Of those twelve games, only 3 were played outside of the Republic of Texas.  This will need to be kept in mind throughout June as the Horns season concludes with series in Manhattan and Columbia, the Big-12 Championship in Oklahoma City, and, of course, Omaha.

 

After rereading this rather negative Midweek Report, I want to clarify that I'm as high as the rest of you on the Longhorn Baseball right now. If papers, finals, and dying laptop battery weren't calling, I would write about Etier's great defense, the depth of our pitching staff, and Chance Ruffin getting a chance at the plate. 

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