In one sense, much like the 2015 football team, the Texas Longhorns baseball team is to be commended for taking on an ambitious pre-conference schedule. Having already played Stanford, UCLA, and Cal from the Pac 12, the Longhorns travel to take on what looks to be one of the SEC's best teams in Texas A&M tonight. With a more cupcake-laden schedule, Texas' record would certainly be more respectable and the sky would not appear to be falling quite so clearly.
But as it stands, Augie's bunch is on pace for a potentially disastrous 2016. It's hard to point to one single problem, but I'll tentatively suggest the main issue is this -- the offense and the bullpen can't seem to perform on the same night. When one is doing okay, the other lets the team down.
This program's problems scoring runs have been discussed ad nauseam, here and elsewhere. Suffice here to say, at this point the coaching staff still hasn't figured out how to get consistent production. That said, however, it wasn't just the offense that caused the UCLA series loss.
In fact, the Longhorns put up seven runs in Friday's lone win of the weekend with the Bruins' ace starting, and followed it up with a respectable four-run performance on Saturday. They managed only three on Sunday, but it was good enough to lead 2-0 heading into the sixth inning behind a nice performance by starter Connor Mayes.
After Mayes allowed a single to begin the sixth, Augie made the call for Jon Malmin. Hindsight is, of course, 20/20 -- but that personnel decision is where Texas lost the series. Malmin couldn't record an out, giving up a walk, a single, and then another walk to bring home Mayes' runner. Beau Ridgeway came on and allowed a single, which was magnified by a rare outfielder error.
The next two batters both singled without hitting it out of the infield before Ridgeway finally recorded the first out of the inning on a foul-out, followed by a squeeze bunt that scored a run but mercifully also resulted in an out. Nick Kennedy finally came on to record the final out, but UCLA had put up a five-spot on their way to a 6-3 win.
Advanced stats in baseball are based on sometimes complicated math, but they revolve around a simple theory -- the only thing that matters in baseball is runs. Advanced stats seek to evaluate players based on the numbers that correlate most closely with the production and prevention of runs; hence batting average being disfavored but OPS being very important.
It is in that vein that I present the only stat that matters from last weekend -- Texas failed to hold UCLA under five runs all weekend. The Bruins scored 11 of their 16 runs on the weekend in the fifth inning or later. Three of the Texas relievers who have seen the most action this season are sporting ERAs of 5.40, 7.56, and 10.13. If you're going to have an inconsistent offense, you need to be confident in your ability to replace starters with reliable relievers. So far, that's not the case. And with a record of 7-9 and less than two weeks until Big 12 play starts against defending champ TCU, there's not much time to get this thing turned around.
It starts tonight in College Station. The Aggies have garnered a top five national ranking, and have done it against what is essentially the opposite of Texas' pre-conference schedule. A&M has dominated the likes of Hofstra, Pepperdine, Yale, and Fresno State in their weekend series so far. (Par for the course, by the way, for SEC teams this season -- with the notable exception of Mississippi State, which just swept No. 10 Oregon after a round-robin weekend against UCLA, USC, and Oklahoma.) (And in fairness, Florida did play Miami a couple weekends ago.) (But the overall point stands.)
You can watch the game online with SEC Network+, which is essentially ESPN3 but just for the SEC Network. First pitch is at 6:30, and this is your open thread.