clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Texas Longhorns baseball: Where did it go wrong?

This one is for the stats nerds.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Texas Longhorns baseball lost to the Texas State Bobcats, 3-2, dropping Augie Garrido's team to a 21-28 record. If Texas loses its next two games to Baylor (tomorrow and Friday), the Longhorns will have their second-worst win percentage since 1896. The worst team? 1956. It was a Bibb Falk-lead squad that went 5-13, and whose best player was current Rice coach Wayne Graham. Now, 60 years later, Texas finds themselves in another historically bad season.

On Burnt Orange baseball posts, if the majority of comments aren't simply "fire Augie", they are an explanation for why the Longhorns has fallen so far. In this post, I'll be breaking down the most common claims I see on the site, and seeing if the data backs it up.

With that said, here are five claims Longhorn baseball fans have made about why we are so bad this year:

Claim No. 1 - "Texas' hitting/pitching isn't what it used to be."

Fact check: True.

When Augie Garrido began coaching at Texas, college baseball was in an era known as "gorilla ball". In this period, there were hardly any restrictions on bats, and thus the average Division I batting average was .304 in Augie's first year in 1997. Surprisingly, Texas hit .314 that season. After 1998, bats were replaced to be slightly less powerful. This didn't have a negative effect on the Longhorns, which typically remained a average team at the plate.

Garrido's team reached their hitting peak in 2007, batting at a 8.1% higher average than the Division I average, and knocking 69 homers as well. In 2009 and 2010, other Division I teams began to hit for a better average, while the Longhorns stagnated. However, Texas scored runs by continuing to hit for power, blasting 81 homers in 2010, the most by any Texas team in Garrido's 20 years.

2011 was the first year that Texas' hitting truly plummeted. Bats were again replaced, this time dampening power enough to replicate wood. Mediocre batting averages and small ball could no longer be saved by occasional power. However, in some ways, the change actually helped Texas as a team, because it augmented a traditionally stellar pitching staff. Texas even made the College World Series in 2011. The problem was, the pitching at Texas was on the decline.

The above graph shows how Texas' pitching ERA has compared to the Division I average over time. Years that Texas was in the College World Series are highlighted in green. It's no secret that pitching is an integral part of a signature Augie Garrido team. His coaching prowess is demonstrated by the abrupt transition from a sub-par pitching team in his first three years to becoming a dominant defensive powerhouse.

Texas' on-field success is much more correlated with ERA than it is to hitting stats. Though most green years were the years of Texas' best ERA, 2010 is an outlier. Batting numbers were the highest they had been in 12 years in 2010, but the Longhorns maintained a 2.52 ERA. The Longhorns won 50 games and were Big 12 Champions, but they were upset by TCU in the NCAA Tournament.

Ultimately, Texas has had a poor 2016 campaign because one side of the game hasn't been able to compensate for the other. As the above graph demonstrates, Texas is not an elite hitting team like they were in 2007, or an elite pitching team like they were in 2010. The defense hasn't been able to take pressure off the offense, or vice versa, and this has put pressure on Augie's job security.

Claim No. 2 - "Texas isn't getting good recruits anymore."

Fact check: Mostly false.

If college baseball had basketball's "one-and-done" rule, Texas would've been even more dominant in Garrido's golden age. In this period, the Longhorns signed several high schoolers who instead skipped college to become first-round draft picks, such as No. 1 overall recruit and future MLB star Scott Kazmir in 2002. In 2012, Texas signed six top-100 high school players, but only got one -- C.J. Hinojosa, to actually come to Austin.

The above graph demonstrates that though Texas landed 14 top-100 commits in 2010-2012 compared to five in 2013-2015, only four top-100 players actually enrolled in both eras. The elite status of Texas' name is no more, but most elite players who chose UT never played a game for the Longhorns anyways. In fact, Texas' top commit  from 2008 to 2014 ended up going straight to the draft.

Though Texas signed seven top-100 players in 2011 compared to zero in 2014, the 2011 class ended up ranked only four spots better (No. 12) than in 2011 (No. 16) due to draft attrition. The recruiting class ranks take into account only the players that forego the draft. Since Perfect Game Scouting began ranking recruiting classes in 2011, Texas has always finished in the top 20. So, claiming that Texas isn't getting quality players on campus is simply not true, though the talent level committing to Texas is now lower.

Some good news is that despite the rough season, the Longhorns' recruiting class for next year is ranked #9 in the nation. However, the bad news is that the class of 2017 is #67, with only 4 total commits. While there is still time to make up ground, most top recruits are already taken for the class of 2017 (Vanderbilt already has 13 top 100 commits). Maybe Augie isn't pursuing the class of 2017 as passionately knowing that his contract will be up, but  it's a tough sell to get a recruit to play for an unknown coach regardless.

Claim No. 3 - "They have had a hard schedule"

Fact check: True -- but not an excuse.

I organized Garrido's tenure by three eras: his first three years, his eleven years of prime, and his "twilight", which has generally been a team in decline.

One reason why the Texas Big 12 win percentage dropped so dramatically is because of TCU joining the conference in 2013. Though the Horned Frogs were mediocre in 2013, TCU finished second in the Big 12 in 2014 and first in 2015. Add in the fact that Texas has had a grueling non-conference schedule the past two years and it makes sense why the win totals are going down.
However, a difficult schedule is not an excuse for how far the Longhorns have fallen. The Big 12 is a good baseball conference, but also includes historically weak competition such as Baylor and Kansas State. Being below .500 in conference play three of the last five years is inexcusable, and poor play cannot be attributed to the schedule.

Claim No. 4 - "Texas is Extremely Young"

Fact check: True.

The above graph shows Texas' average age in College World Series years, winning Big 12 record years with no College World Series, and sub-.500 Big 12 years. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a complete roster with players' class for 1997 and 1999, so those years are not included. The graph's Y-axis stands for the average player class, with "1" denoting a freshman up to "4" being a senior.

This year's team is Augie's youngest ever, with a 1.91 average class year (meaning the average player is slightly younger than a sophomore). The difference in age is not ridiculously different year by year, but it's clear that having some upperclassmen leadership is vital. Augie's 2005 championship team was his oldest at 2.43 -- I don't believe this is a coincidence.

In this table, CWS teams are again highlighted in green, while "average" team are white, and  sub-.500 Big 12 teams are red. The table is organized from youngest to oldest years in Augie's tenure. It's clear that College World Series teams tended to be older -- even the 2014 group was significantly older than this year's team or last year's team.  The sweet spot is finding talented young players mixed with seasoned veteran upperclassmen. This hasn't been the case in 2016, as there are only three seniors on the roster.

So how did Texas get so young? As Jeff Asher noted with this graph, Texas has not sent any position players to the draft in the past two years. However, Texas has had its fair share of attrition. Jeremy Montalbano is a good example. After transferring from Texas to Tulane, Montalbano has been a star in his first year playing for the Green Wave. He was deemed National Player of the Week on May 9th after hitting four home runs in one weekend. For comparison, Texas only has three players who have hit more than four home runs all season.

Claim No. 5 - Augie is too old for the job.

Fact check: Somewhat true.

Contrary to the volatile nature of college football, college baseball is a sport where coaches tend to stay for a while. In fact, there are 50 Division I coaches who have been at their schools as long or longer than Garrido has at Texas. Many of these coaches are still highly successful. Florida State coach Mike Martin is in his 70s and has held his job since 1980. His team is ninth in the nation. And then there's Wayne Graham, 80 years old, whose Rice Owls are number 15.

So saying Augie has been here too long, or is too old for the job isn't really true. However, all three Texas coaches since 1940 have declined in their final years. Even Cliff Gustafson, who resigned under allegations of fraud, went from an 82 percent winning percentage in his first 19 years to 74 percent in his last ten years. There is even a decline within those final ten years, as shown on the above graph.

So is it time for Augie Garrido to resign? Unfortunately, the answer is probably yes. The writing and the stats are on the wall and things likely won't change if the Longhorns continue to struggle on both offense and defense. Texas is going to have to show they have the intangibles -- heart, effort, and leadership, to save the season and perhaps Garrido's job.

So, to conclude, here are your baseball excuses in order of most truthful to least truthful, Longhorn fans:

1. Texas is extremely young.

2. Texas is not hitting or pitching like they used to.

3. Their strength of schedule is challenging.

4. Augie is too old for the job.

5. Texas isn't getting highly touted recruits.