Coming off a loss against the Texas A&M Aggies, and a 2-1 series win against the Oklahoma Sooners with a nail-biting final game, the No. 7 Texas Longhorns grabbed an easy win at home against the UTRGV Vaqueros on Tuesday. This upcoming weekend, Texas will host a three-game series against the TCU Horned Frogs. TCU is 20-9 at the moment and has begun their Big 12 play with a 2-1 series against Baylor, a 3-0 series against Kansas State, and a 1-2 series against West Virginia last weekend. Through their nine conference games, they outscored their opponents 58-41. For reference, Texas has gone 49-35 through its first six conference games against Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
This past week, it was a generally above average performance for Texas based on batting average. Batters above the 80th percentile with exceptional performances in batting average were right-fielder Murphy Stehly (.368), catcher Silas Ardoin (.400), outfielder Dylan Campbell (.333), and second baseman Mitchell Daly (.385).
After watching Stehly’s late-game heroics in the final game against OU with a three-run dinger to tie the game, I analyzed this week’s matchups based on ISO (Slugging Average minus Batting Average) to better visualize batters with more power and ability to hit for more bases.
With no surprise as always, first baseman Ivan Melendez (.469) leads this category and ranks third in the nation as his 13 home runs, nine doubles, and two triples help propel him in this metric. Shortstop Trey Faltine (.334) also possesses some pure strength with his 10 homers, five doubles and a triple. Stehly (.325) has hit eight home runs, 13 doubles, and a triple this season. Melendez and Stehly also currently rank fourth and 14th respectively in OPS. Ardoin (.227), left-fielder Eric Kennedy (.182), third baseman Skyler Messinger (.174), and designated hitter Douglas Hodo III (.170) continue to be reliably great batters.
Most of TCU’s batting rotation has subpar ISO rates except for shortstop Tommy Sacco (.250), third baseman Brayden Taylor (.237), and first baseman David Bishop (.200). This trio also has a shared OBP of .452, but they lack the talent to follow up and bat in further runs.
This week, left-hand pitcher Pete Hansen (ERA = 1.25) cemented himself as an enduring pitcher throughout his eight innings in the first game against OU, only giving up one run and throwing 12 strikeouts. Right-hander Tristan Stevens (.316) also proved to be another sterling option for the starting position, throwing six strikeouts, and giving up two runs through 6.1 innings in the second game in the series. Right-hander Coy Cobb (.333) closed two different games, although his lack of strikeouts means his ERA could be better attributed to the fielding. Right hander Travis Sthele (3.00) struggled last week, giving up three runs in the eighth inning against Texas A&M.
Since the sabermetric community highly praises OPS (On-Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage) as one of the best ways to measure batters, I figured that opponent batting average could use a modern-day upgrade. Especially with Hansen and Steven’s consistent performances, I was curious to calculate opponent OPS against innings pitched.
Hansen (B/OPS = 591), Stevens (.632), and left-hander Lucas Gordon (.586) have all showcased multiple times this season that they are dependable starting pitchers who possess extremely low opponent OPS rates given the total innings under their belt. Right-handers Aaron Nixon (.495), Justin Eckhardt (.609), Marcus Olivarez (.558), and Coy Cobb (.483) are all in great territory as well. I would even argue that Texas contains an incredible number of pitchers in its bullpen that have opponent OPS rates in the 85th percentile. Even more so, Hansen and Cobb have maintained their discipline on the mound with WHIP rates of .880 and .750 respectively.
TCU’s right hander Riley Cornelio (.541) could be a challenge for Texas hitters with his exceptional pitching, amassing 43 strikeouts with 14 walks on a .930 WHIP rate, and giving up 14 runs. The remaining talents in the bullpen for TCU are right-handers Brett Walker (.744), Cam Brown (.674), and Luke Savage (.492). Note that the top prospects from both matchups this week are all right-handed, which could provide an opportunity for left-handed Texas batter, Eric Kennedy, to improve his plate discipline as most pitches will break towards him.
Big 12 standings
Texas is now a 3-3 against Big 12 opponents after their 1-2 series against Tech and 2-1 series against Oklahoma. Below are the Big 12 opponents in order of when the Longhorns play them this season. The gradient scales showcase where they rank in some key metrics: OPS, FIP (Field Independent Pitching), Fielding Percentage, and SBA% (Stolen Bases Allowed Percentage).
Starting on a high note, the Longhorns lead the conference in OPS and SBA%. What is truly amazing is how far Texas leads in SBA% as they are the only team under .500, with 16 bases caught stealing, and 13 stolen bases allowed. Texas is second in FLD%, with Oklahoma State ranking first in the conference; they rank seventh and fourth in the nation respectively. Lastly, they are fifth in FIP which can be best attributed the homers routinely hit by opponents each week.