Part IV takes a look at the defense. We aren't Bill James here, so we're going to look at the defense using errors as the critical statistic of defensive ineptitude. If you've got better ways to measure defense in college baseball, we'd love to hear about it in the comments section.
There's no way around it, Texas' defense in 2008 was atrocious. Aside from 2003, the 2008 squad played some of the worst defense in the Augie Garrido era. The bad news is that anybody hoping the defense would improve with the addition of Bill Buckner's son is due for a letdown, as he transferred out of the program.
Graphic proof that Texas struggled defensively in 2008, with the starting infield providing the worst defense of any Augie team since 2002 and the Horns making the most errors since the 2003 squad that played 9 more games.
The good news is that the cause of much of the 2008 struggles is pretty easy to identify, one Michael Torres. Torres tormented Longhorn fans for the first 28 games of the season before being moved permanently to DH where he flourished offensively. The result was an immediate improvement in defense. To show this we divided the 2008 season into five game increments then took the average number of errors for that stretch and finally plugged it into excel. The Horns averaged more than 1.5 errors per 5 games for 20 of the 30 games before Torres was moved (he was moved at game 28 but for simplicity sake we'll peg it at 30). After Torres was moved the Texas defense improved dramatically, never averaging more than 1.5 errors per 5 games until the end of the season.
There's not much talk about playing Torres anywhere in the field, so hopefully there won't be a repeat of the defensive struggles which devastated the Horns early in 2008. Texas probably won't miss Kyle Russell too much (defensively!) with Kevin Keyes in RF, but center is a completely different story. Danks patrolled the outfield for 3 years, and in those 3 years he committed a grand total of 3 errors. By comparison, Drew Stubbs, who certainly was no slouch in center, had 6 errors...in 2006. Throw in his speed and arm strength and it's a pretty easy logical leap to suggest replacing Jordan Danks' defense is a monumental task.
It's hard to project the rest of the Horns defensively. Travis Tucker was pretty good defensively at 2B last year making only five errors at the position. Should Tant Shepherd or David Hernandez struggle at 3B or SS, freshman Brandon Loy should get an opportunity. Tant can't help but improve on his .700 fielding percentage from last season (3 errors in 10 chances at 3B). Hernandez improved over the course of the season, averaging roughly an error every 2.3 games over the first third of the season and an error every 3.9 games the remainder of the year.
So, will the Horns be better defensively this season? The short answer is: they better be. We highly suspect the infield will be improved while the outfield may struggle, especially early in the season. But remember, it wasn't the defense that ended the Horns season in 2008 (although it certainly contributed to Texas being a 2 seed in Houston). Texas had only one error in the three regional games that mattered (discounting an easy one versus Sam Houston) but managed to score just nine runs.
Next up: Texas vs. Illinois-Chicago
2/20 -- 3:00 PM
2/21 -- 12:30 PM, 3:30 PM
2/22 -- 1 PM