The Texas Longhorns started off the last week hot with a scorching win against the Central Arkansas Bears before losing the first two games of the series against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Tech’s Kurt Wilson was the key factor when he stole home the first night and hit a walkoff grand slam on the second. Texas came back with a solid 12-1 performance on Sunday, starting their Big 12 record off at 1-2. We will see how they continue their Big 12 play this week with a three-game series against OU at Globe Life Field in Arlington. Before that amazing rivalry showdown takes place, there’s another amazing matchup slated against Texas A&M back at home at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday.
Looking at last week’s batting performance, third baseman Skyler Messinger stands out with a phenomenal batting average of .765 on 17 at bats through the four games. Designated hitter Murphy Stehly (.412) and first baseman Ivan Melendez (.571) follow the second and third best averages for the Longhorns during that span.
Melendez had a marvelous performance during his streak of 13 plate appearances this week that included a 2.152 OPS and four home runs. Apart from that, shortstop Trey Faltine (.250), catcher Silas Ardoin (.235), center fielder Douglas Hodo III (.211), and left fielder Eric Kennedy (.167) performed poorly compared to their season averages, but nothing significant enough to be worried about yet.
This week I decided to look at plate discipline for the upcoming matchups. Melendez has an above-average strikeout rate and a tremendous walk rate (K% = .160, BB% = .192). Kennedy (.125, .133) and Ardoin (.139, .104) stand out as consistent performers as well. Stehly (.114, .079) has an incredibly low strikeout rate, though followed with a below-average walk rate.
Take these metrics with a grain of salt as they haven’t had the chance to level out yet — it takes 60 plate appearances for the strikeout rate to stabilize and 120 plate appearances for the BB rate to stabilize with most of the batters around the league are sitting around 90 plate appearances right now — so we’ll get to see a better picture of their discipline as the season progresses.
On the other end, Faltine (.330, .107) has an astoundingly high strike rate thus far, and Messinger (.240, .052) has a poor walk rate. Nonetheless, during the series against Tech, Texas combined for 14 doubles, one triple, and 11 home runs, flashing some serious power.
Texas A&M’s shortstop Kole Kaler (.142, .221) and first baseman/designated hitter Jack Moss (.106, .144) pose serious threats as they are nearly in the 80th percentile for both walk and strikeout rates. You can also look out for second baseman Austin Bost (.081, .081) with a great strikeout rate on 80 at bats for the season. The Aggies opened SEC play against Auburn going 1-2 in the series. A&M hit six doubles and three homers.
OU has quality sluggers in first baseman Blake Robertson (.133, .224) and center fielder Tanner Tredaway (.087, .087), but left fielder Diego Muniz (.067, .200) stands in a league of his own. He ranks in the 98th percentile for K% and the 96th percentile for BB%, while also boasting an OBP of .527. During their series against Baylor to open Big 12 play, Oklahoma went 2-1, hitting six doubles and six homers.
This week for pitching, I decided to focus on WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched) as another metric to narrow down variables that can be controlled more directly by the pitcher. I transposed that data against OBA (opponent’s batting average) to see whether there is a fair correlation between both standards. Using the data for both metrics for all D1 players presents an R-squared value of .724 which is saying that roughly 72.4% of the variation in OBA can be attributed to WHIP.
Left-handed pitcher Pete Hansen (WHIP = .97, OBA = .222), right-handed pitcher Justin Eckhardt (.880, .208), and left-handed pitcher Lucas Gordon (.990, .196) have established themselves as quality pitchers for Texas so far this season by doing an elite job at limiting walks and hits together. Right-hand pitcher Aaron Nixon (1.2, .093) distinguishes himself with an insane OBA of .093, however, he has only pitched 13.1 innings this season. He could prove to be a highly-efficient player relief pitcher if he can once again limit his walks.
Right-handed pitchers Chris Cortez (1.19, .246) and Micah Dallas (1.05, .239), plus left-handed pitcher Ryan Prager (1.01, .194), are A&M’s top three pitchers. Prager ranks above the 80th percentile in both OBA and WHIP. Fortunately for Texas, he started on Sunday against Auburn.
For Oklahoma, right-hand pitcher Trevin Michael (1.06, .178) is a solid pitcher, but the largest obstacle is left-hand pitcher Jake Bennett (.800, .173). He has pitched the most innings at 37.1 all while holding an OBA in the 93rd percentile and WHIP in the 97th. His consistently high-level performance is an exceptional feat that will definitely be the major challenge for the Longhorns going into this series. Bennett gave up three runs in the first game against Baylor.