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TCU Baseball: Santa Clara Preview

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After a weird week in the Little Apple, the Frogs look to bounce back against Santa Clara at home in the Fort. Also: should we be worried about an Apri slide? Spoiler alert: Probably not.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

April Glowers?

About this time last year is when TCU hit their Omaha stride. And as we’ve pointed out, last season’s stride was defined by various heroics by Boomer White, dominant pitching, and basically just running on fumes. While it was an encouraging turnaround, and certainly eventful and exciting; it was also super stressful. This April, the start has not been as encouraging; as the Frogs are now 6-3 this month. To put salt in the wound, the 12 runs given up to Kansas State on Friday were the most given up by a TCU team since San Diego State in 2012 when the Frogs were still in the Mountain West. So, should fans be worried about the opposite of last year happening? Not really. Through 66 games last year, including the Regionals, Super Regionals, and Omaha: the Frogs averaged a measly 5.05 RPG. This year, however: TCU’s averaging a more than respectable 5.78 RPG.

To call the Kansas State series a fluke is a little unfair to the Wildcats. But in all statistically it was. We said above that the 12 runs Friday were the most TCU’s given up since 2012. That was nearly half a year before Barack Obama was reelected; one and a half years before we knew how Breaking Bad would end; and over two years before the Frogs would return to Omaha--literally, over a hundred games later. So, yes it’s rare.

It’s also rare that two of TCU’s best pitchers--Alex Young and Mitchell Traver-- who also happen to be two of the best pitchers in the Nation would lose in the same weekend. And unlike the Oklahoma State series a few weeks back; actually had more to do with their performances than anomaly innings defined mostly by bad fielding.

Going off of that: I still believe that this year’s pitching staff is better than last year’s, and the Kansas State series skews the stats just enough for the 2015 staff to fall behind the 2014 one. As of the UT-Arlington game, TCU’s  2.97 runs a game, whereas last year--through 66 games--they allowed 2.77 and had a slightly lower ERA too. However, by the end of the year, I see the 2015 staff reclaiming the statistical throne.

But let’s go back to the runs being scored. The differential of runs scored vs. runs allowed last year was 2.31, whereas this year, it’s 2.77. So to close, the Frogs just played one bad series. And there’s still plenty of baseball to be played.

We can dive deeper into stats of course, but just think of it like this: TCU’s pitching in 2015 is just as comparable to what it was in 2014--if not better--and the 2015 team is scoring considerably more than in 2014: which a lack thereof led to their downfall in Omaha. And going a little further there’s this aspect: having more run security takes pressure of TCU both defensively and pitching-wise. There will likely be no 22-inning marathons this postseason--and while that may deny us of another fun night on Twitter, we get less gray hair and clean wins in return.

Morrison and Alexander Back

Morrison was never really gone; Texas Tech was just able to play to his pitching type successfully. P-Mo’s outing Saturday was typical of himself: a 115 pitch, complete game shutout where Kansas State only had 6 baserunners the entire game. Despite his team going 1-2 on the weekend, Morrison still earned Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Honors.

Tyler Alexander, on the other hand, has been a bit of a rollercoaster all year. We talk about this a lot, sure: but only because Alexander’s potential is such a valuable asset to this team not only this year, but next year--and likely the year after.

Santa Clara Matchup

Pitcher

Record

ERA

K/9

BB/9

Friday

RHP Mitchell Traver

5-1

2.14

8.55

2.33

RHP Reece Karalus

1-3 2.96 11.86 2.31

Saturday

RHP Preston Morrison

7-1

1.99

7.06

1.69

RHP Eric Lex

2-3 5.04 3.96 4.32

Sunday

LHP Alex Young

6-2

1.51

9.06

2.08

LHP Evan Brisentine

2-2 4.15 3.92 3

First off, yay for correct K/9 and BB/9. And nay for an old third grade calculator I found at work in January that can’t handle a few extra decimals. The K/9 and BB/9 were never that far off, but it’s still a wrong stat and therefore misleading. So I apologize for that. But, moving forward--they’ll right on the money. TCU fans are almost spoiled. It’s almost impossible to say who’s having the best year of the Starting Three: but even though Traver’s close, it’s between Young and Morrison: this will be a much more interesting discussion come tournament time--but for now, let’s live in the moment.

I don't know how Reece Karalus is 1-3, but his K/9 is one of the best TCU will see all year. It'll be a true test for Traver on Friday, and Friday's game will more than likely end up being the tightest of the series. Morrison nearly has a cakewalk with his Saturday matchup, and for Sunday: even though he's facing a fellow lefty, Young shouldn't have too difficult a time himself.

Santa Clara doesn’t bring a lot to the plate. The Broncos are hitting just .255 as a team and are scoring 4.5 runs per game. Though they do have Jose Vizcaino Jr: who leads the team in BA (.339), hits (39), triples (2), home runs (6), total bases (71), RBIs (25), runs (24), and slugging (.617). Santa Clara have only won 3 of their last 10 games (and were swept recently by Pepperdine and San Francisco): albeit one of them was a walkoff win against Stanford. This weekend should be a perfect warmup for the very key Texas series next weekend in Fort Worth.

This weekend should be a good for an offense who’s really grown into itself. The outlook was positive going into the season--especially after the spring scrimmage. But now, it’s become quite comfortable. The hitting is still led by Cody Jones, who still remains one of the Big 12’s Most Exciting Players: as he leads the Big 12 in runs, stolen bases, is 4th in OBP, and aside from Kyle Davis (WVU), Stephen Smith (Tech), and Michael Tinsely (Kansas), C. Jones’ OPS is a more than respectable .930. Speaking of which, Connor Wanhanen isn’t too shabby himself. The Big 12 leader in BA (.386) is also 6th in the Nation among Power 5 schools.

Prediction

Like the Wichita State series, which also succeeding a underwhelming conference series, the Frogs should sweet this one.