The Texas Longhorns came off a disappointing opening weekend in the College Baseball Showdown, losing all three games against the No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks, the Missouri Tigers, and the No. 10 Vanderbilt Commodores with a combined run differential of 9-21. They were able to bounce back on Tuesday with a dominating 12-2 win over the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders, nevertheless exhibiting that this team has room to grow. This weekend, Texas will host unranked the Indiana Hoosiers at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in a three-game series.
Over the weekend, center fielder Eric Kennedy seemed to be the only Longhorn able to make consistent contact with the ball. Even then, he hasn’t been able to put up jaw-dropping numbers like Ivan Melendez or Trey Faltine did last year. Through the first four games, he is 5-of-15 at the plate, including a triple and a home run, also leading the team in OPS at 1.042.
Left fielder Porter Brown and third baseman Jalin Flores have each hit their first home run of the season as well, improving their slugging averages and thus OPS ratings. However, they still lag in batting average and simply getting on base. Texas will continue to look to veterans such as right fielder Dylan Campbell, second baseman Jack O’Dowd, and shortstop Mitchell Daly to make improvements on the batting front.
Below is a graph plotting at bats versus batting average through the first four games of the season.
Indiana kicked off their season with a three-game series at Auburn with a total run differential of 16-16 although they finished the series 1-2. They too, were able to gain some midweek momentum with a 13-5 win against Miami (Ohio).
Left fielder Jesse Hunter (OPS=1.671) boasts the best batting average, hitting 7-of-14 at the plate so far, including two doubles and two home runs. Hunter has already been walked three times, hit by pitch twice, and only struck out once this season. Third baseman Josh Pyne and shortstop Philip Glasser are also batting above average. Additionally, Pyne is a bit more aggressive with three strikeouts so far and Glasser is hitting with an OPS above 1. Last of their notable batters is center fielder Bobby Whalen. Designated hitter Carter Mathison has struggled severely, going 2-of-18 at the plate, and striking out eight times.
We knew going into the season left-hander Lucas Gordon was going to be a focal point for the Texas bullpen with Pete Hansen gone. Gordon and Hansen led a great starting rotation that shined especially in the post season but were handicapped by the weaker relief rotation. On that note, Zane Morehouse and Travis Sthele had decent improvements last season but didn’t quite reach a great level of consistency.
Gordon started out strong against Arkansas, only allowing two hits, and a walk while putting up six strikeouts through his five innings. Morehouse got out to a poor start against Missouri, giving up four runs, eight hits and two walks through four innings. Sthele was hit the hardest against Vanderbilt, giving up eight runs on five hits through just three innings. On Tuesday, Lebarron Johnson Jr. got the start and performed decently well, allowing one run, three hits, and three walks, but forcing eight strikeouts.
Morehouse and Sthele pitched against more difficult teams, but Johnson may have put his hat in the circle for a chance at permanent position in the starting rotation. Morehouse and Sthele will have a shot at redemption this weekend against Indian, which has a batting average lower than that of the SEC teams faced so far.
Out of the relief rotation, nobody has been able to distinguish themselves yet. DJ Burke and Chris Stuart seem to be the best of the group, but we definitely need some more data before making any conclusions. Closer Andre Duplantier II has executed well so far allowing just one hit through his three innings pitched so far.
Below is a table plotting innings pitched against WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched) for Texas and Indiana. I prefer to evaluate WHIP as it is the more pitcher-independent statistic compared to ERA. ERA is also influenced by fielding efforts while WHIP can only be determined by the pitcher.
For Indiana’s starting pitchers, left-hander Ben Seiler kicked off the first game against Auburn, giving up four runs, four hits, and four walks with five strikeouts. Ty Bothwell’s turn resulted in two runs, three hits, four walks, and a strikeout. Luke Sinnard was able to tame Auburn’s batting a little with one run, five hits, a walk, and four strikeouts.
The trend against the Tigers definitely shows a weak starting rotation with the relief pitchers doing a better job down the stretch. If Texas can take advantage of those early innings, they are in a good position to finish with a winning record against the Hoosiers. Of the remaining bullpen, closer Adrian Vega seems to be the only other serious threat in their lineup, giving up no hits, two walks, and forcing two strikeouts in the final three innings in their first game against Auburn.