Our old friends, formerly of Viva the Matadors, have a wonderful new website; Staking the Plains. So in honor of their new site, the reincarnation of a salty rivalry, we bring back the Q&A this week. It's also nice to be back to playing teams with strong blog networks so we can have these lovely chats.
Tech's baseball season is far from over; but it's not quite going the way they planned. What can the Red Raiders do to get some forward momentum? Well, I'm really glad you asked...
Tech isn't off to a bad start, but as you indicated in our Twitter conversation, it's not quite where y'all want to be? Why is that? And what's it going to take to get to where you want to be/think y'all should be?
I think this is two things. First, Dylan Dusek hasn't pitched in three or four weeks. The rumor out there is that he's got an injury, supposedly a bad blister problem, but the team hasn't confirmed this, and so Texas Tech has been using a spot starter for the Sunday game for that length of time, which bumps every pitcher up a role. Texas Tech doesn't have the depth to really deal with that at this time. He was Texas Tech's best pitcher last year and it has affected the team, without a doubt.
Part two of the equation is that Texas Tech graduated Adam Kirsch and hasn't really replaced that power at all, plus Eric Gutierrez hasn't hit for power like he did last year. Maybe it's teams walking him or pitching around him or not really having anyone behind him to protect him, but his power numbers have dropped off dramatically.
Tadlock has tinkered with the lineup lately to add Quinn Carpenter to the 5th spot as opposed to hitting lead-off and I think this is part of the equation to fix item #2, but with item #1, Dusek just needs to get healthy.
Let's talk about the "Coreys"--Corey Taylor and Cory Raley. Probably your best pitcher and offensive player respectively this season. Was this supposed to be like this? Or, if not both, are they both surprises?
Yeah, as mentioned above, this was not supposed to happen. Gutierrez was supposed to be "the guy" offensively and that really hasn't happened, while Raley is a transfer from Temple College and he's come out of nowhere for me to lead the team offensively. With Taylor, he's one of those guys that has been around the program all four year and he's worked and worked to the point where he is today. He's pitched all of his 31 innings in relief. Teams need great relief pitchers, but he hasn't been a starter. Also, as mentioned above, Dusek was supposed to be this team's best pitcher, so to answer your question, yes, this is a bit of a surprise.
Eric Gutierrez is also a heavy offensive contributor; what can we expect from him this weekend?
Gutierrez was supposed to be the masher for Teas Tech and that just hasn't happened. Gutierrez slugged at .539 in 2014 and is only at .461 this year. His on-base percentage has gone up 60 points from last year, but that power is certainly missing and that's problematic for this team as the offense really needed that home run threat. But he's still hitting well, .304 for the year, and all of the other numbers are just fine, it's the power numbers that are lacking.
As someone who's never been to a sporting event in LBK, what's the baseball culture there like? Football obviously comes first in this state--except for maybe Rice--but is baseball second in command out West?
Right now, yeah, without a doubt that's true. I think were it not for the college team, Lubbock would definitely support a minor league team. I think that would be a great destination spot for fans. Texas Tech ranks 13th nationally in home attendance (55,369 overall) and 14th in average at 3,460 per game. Those numbers weren't as good last year when the team wasn't winning as much, but the ballpark is on campus and it's a really nice venue to watch the game. The only thing that I dislike about the ballpark is the field turf playing surface, even on the base paths. I don't like this.
How does Tech win this weekend's series? How do they lose it?
If Dusek is healthy and he pitches (right now the Sunday start is listed as TBA) then I like Texas Tech's chances, at least on Friday night. Ryan Moselely has struggled recently, but Smith has been pretty good. And Texas Tech needs to hit with runners in scoring position. I don't know about the stats overall, but if I had to guess, Texas Tech hasn't hit well with runners in scoring position. Leaving too many guys on base, that's been problematic this year.
Can Tech win the Big 12 title?
No, not without a healthy Dusek. With Stephen Smith hitting lead-off and Carpenter hitting 5th, this lineup change hasn't lit a fire offensively (losing to New Mexico is proof of that and just barely beating Kansas last weekend for the weekend series) for the team. Dusek is really the key and without an ace on Sunday, no, winning the Big 12 doesn't seem likely at all.
Finally, can you give us a prediction for this weekend?
I'm all but sure that Texas Tech loses the series simply because of that dominant TCU pitching and Texas Tech doesn't come close to the depth that TCU has there. I'm thinking that TCU wins 2-1, but it wouldn't surprise me to see a sweep either. Just not real confident without Dusek pitching for Texas Tech