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Texas Longhorns baseball to host the Stanford Cardinal

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Longhorns baseball returns to action for a four-game set against the Cardinal beginning at 6 PM tonight on the Longhorn Network.

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns beat the UNLV Rebels handily last weekend although a single misplayed fly ball made the difference between a solid sweep and an acceptable series victory. Next up is a four-game visit from the Stanford Cardinal. The Horns and the Cardinal split four games last year in Palo Alto in what has traditionally been a very fun and evenly-matched series.

Before we take a look at Stanford, I wanted to introduce a weekly component that statistically evaluates the 2016 team relative to the 2015 squad. Before the season Augie identified a few components that would make the 2016 successful: they would get on base, avoid strikeouts, walk fewer people and strike out more.

I chose seven measures to follow that will determine whether the 2016 team is improved in those categories: Batting average, ERA, WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched), OPS (on base % + slugging %), pitcher walks per 9 innings, pitcher strikeouts per 9 innings and hitter strikeouts per 9 innings.

Batting Average

ERA

WHIP

OPS

Pitcher BB/9

Pitcher K/9

Hitter K/9

2016 Total

0.279

1.8

1.233

0.820

4.8

7.8

7.31

Change From 2015

+7.88%

-45.02%

-3.42%

+7.19%

+49.77%

+22.02%

-9.66%

It is one weekend against an overmatched foe, but so far so good. The only problem for Texas pitchers so far has been too many walks, but everything else is up. Texas batters got on base more often last weekend than they did in 2015, they struck out less, and Texas pitchers struck out considerably more hitters.

So far, so good.

Stanford comes to town fresh off a series win over Cal State-Fullerton that has catapulted the Cardinal into the top 25 in the one poll (Collegiate Baseball) that doesn't have Texas ranked. Stanford outscored Cal State-Fullerton 7-5 in its offensively inept series last weekend.

The two teams played nearly flawless defense (two combined errors in three games), and every starter went at least five innings. Texas showed off its pitching depth by throwing 13 pitchers last weekend. Stanford, on the other hand, threw three starters and three relievers all weekend. Texas, by contrast, had the same number of pitchers make their collegiate debut (six) as Stanford used all weekend. Stanford pitchers didn't ring up strikeouts (21 in four games so far) but they've walked an insane FOUR batters in 36 innings. The Cardinal let the opponent put the ball in play and played solid defense.

On offense, Stanford managed just 16 hits last weekend good for a .182 batting average. Texas had almost as many extra base hits (11) as Stanford had hits (16), albeit against a less solid foe.

None of this tells us very much. Stanford had a low-scoring series against a good opponent while Texas handily beat a not great team. The Horns were sloppier but flashed way more depth and firepower. Stanford beat midweek opponent UC Davis 5-2 on Tuesday.

Stanford will probably throw junior Brett Hanewich, freshman Tristan Beck, junior Chris Castellanos and freshman Kris Bubic. The Horns will have the experience edge on Thursday and Friday with the Cardinal starting a pair of freshman in Kris Bubic and Tristan Beck. Both were impressive last weekend though with Bubic picking up a save and Beck pitching 6.1 innings of shutout ball.

The schedule for this weekend is provided below. All games will be televised on the Longhorn Network.

THURSDAY
UT – Fr. RHP Nolan Kingham (0-0, 0.00)*
STANFORD – Fr. LHP Kris Bubic (0-0, 0.00)

FRIDAY
UT – So. RHP Kyle Johnston (0-0, 2.25) 
STANFORD – Fr. RHP Tristan Beck (1-0, 0.00)

SATURDAY
UT – Sr. LHP Ty Culbreth (1-0, 1.80)
STANFORD – LHP Chris Castellanos (1-0, 1.50)

SUNDAY
UT – So. RHP Connor Mayes (0-0, 0.00)
STANFORD – RHP Brett Hanewich (1-0, 0.00)

*Kingham replaces Josh Sawyer, who is dealing with arm soreness