The No. 10 Texas Longhorns are coming off an upsetting series loss against the Kansas State Wildcats in Manhattan, with a total run difference of 10-18. First baseman Ivan Melendez was sidelined after the first game due to some shoulder discomfort and it showed in the lack of offensive production. This week, Texas enters a five-game home stretch back at UFCU Disch-Falk field, starting with a two-game series against Air Force, followed by a three-game series against Baylor going into the weekend.
Texas struggled throughout the past week with the bulk of the rotation hitting under .300. Players who started all four games this past week that above the average line were third baseman Skyler Messinger (BA = .333) and catcher Silas Ardoin (.333). First baseman Ivan Melendez (.571), infielder Jack O’Down (.600) and left-hand relief pitcher Ace Whitehead (.750) had great averages though their limited at bats came primarily against Stephen F. Austin.
This week, I attempted to take a dive into wOBA. The linear weights used in college are difficult to calculate due to the lack of available data compared to the MLB. However, using numbers from previous years, I was able to use a formula that correctly attributed weights to offensive outcomes based on the current season’s playing style. wOBA is used as a more accurate form of OBP or even OPS because it ensures that each hitting outcome is weighted with a better value based on the league’s playing style. For instance, if it was a strikeout-heavy season and homers were extremely rare, it would adjust the weights for these metrics in the calculation process. Ultimately, this sabermetric should provide better insight as to how sluggers contribute to run scoring.
For Texas, it is not surprising to see Melendez (wOBA = .593) and Murphy (.532) always stand out from the rest of the pack. Even more so, Melendez is second in the nation in total home runs. Melendez, Stehly, and shortstop Trey Faltine (.436) are also the top three sluggers by home runs per game in the Big 12. However, Faltine’s wOBA is carried by his slugging rather than his on-base percentage. Ardoin (.444), Messinger (.431), and outfielder Eric Kennedy (.454) continue to be reliably consistent batters.
For the Air Force Academy, third baseman Jay Thomason (.480) has had a breakout season, with first baseman Sam Kulasingam (.457), right fielder Gabriel Garcia (.440), and designated hitter Jake Greiving (.431) providing great numbers as well.
Baylor has a solid core with center fielder Jared McKenzie (.424), shortstop Jack Pineda (.420), infielder Tre Richardson (.414), and right-fielder Kyle Nevin (.377) as they tally the most at bats and continue to put up above-average performances. Baylor also ended a six-game losing streak with a resounding 19-2 victory over Kansas on Sunday.
This week, I focused on the three true outcomes: strikeout rate, walk rates, and home run rates. These are viewed as the only outcomes that can be affected by only the pitcher and nobody else on defense. To view this, I took visualization into 3d representation, but only accounting for players who have more than 10 innings under their belt this season.
For Texas, left-handers Pete Hansen and Luke Harrison are the only members of the staff who have outstanding numbers in all three metrics. Hansen has a home run rate of .027 which is unusually high after thinking about the some of the performances he has had recently. He has an exceptional strikeout rate, of .245, and an amazing walk rate of .037. Harrison has allowed zero home runs, followed by a .202 K Rate and .073 BB rate.
Air Force has a very low average strikeout rate of .152 while allowing a good amount of home runs at .024 and pitchers having a vast difference in walk rates. Right-hander Paul Skenes is the exception with HR, K, and BB numbers being .005/.214/. 060. Since Skenes is the Friday starter for Air Force, he’s unlikely to start either midweek game, so Texas stands a chance to use this quick series as a way to build momentum going into their series against Baylor. The academy is also coming off an 0-3 series loss against Nevada during which they gave up 32 runs with five homers.
Baylor’s right-hander Will Rigney has been pitching phenomenally well as he is currently averaging .026/.210/.067. Following him is left-hander Tyler Thomas who has rates of .021/.208/.033. Baylor’s relief pitchers allow high rates of home runs, close to .045, low strikeout rates of .120, and decently high walk rates. If Texas can wear down Rigney and Thomas, they will be sure to catch a break against the remainder of the bullpen.