This is exciting isn't it? I woke up this morning with "Eye Of The Tiger " from Rocky stuck in my head. Click the link if you want to get your day started off right. We are staring right down the barrel of game one of the super regional match up between TCU and Texas A&M. And while I'll give the Aggies credit for being a passionate fan base, I will be in attendance today doing everything in my power to make them think "Wow, I wish we had this kind of home field advantage at Blue Bell Park." They may never admit it, but by God I'll have them thinking it.
The match up today is essentially one of a team that relies mostly on power hitting against one that relies on pitching and defense. A&M can straight up mash the ball and with Lupton being a pitcher's ballpark, that make the home field advantage for the Frogs that much more valuable.
Grayson Long has been the Aggies number one guy for most of the season and when he is on he can be very effective. Long lives at about 88-92 but he has shown the ability to get up to 94-95 at times. He mostly relies on his fastball and can sometimes have trouble with consistency on his change up and slider. His K/9 ratio above illustrates just how dangerous he can be. He does have 38 walks on the season which also points to his high BB/9 ratio and highlights the aforementioned inconsistency with his off speed pitchers.
Tyler Alexander on the other hand tops out at around 86 and throws his curveball around 71 changeup at 75. Tyler loves to pound the strike zone and challenge hitters. This can work really well or really badly when you are pitching against an aggressive, big hitting team like A&M. It all depends on what he can manage in terms of control. As we saw last weekend when Alexander threw a 3 hit complete game against NC State, at the moment he is pitching with the best stuff he has had all year. I feel very confident throwing him out there, but should he falter the Frogs have a bevy of good bullpen guys to keep us in it.
A&M sure does look a lot like NC State don't they? The Aggie's batting average of .305 is good enough for 9th nationally and their 68 home runs rank 5th nationally. They have five guys in their lineup who have hit 7 or more homers this year and two who have 10 HRs. They also have six guys who are hitting over .300 on the year and those same guys all have slugging percentages right at or above .500. Their most dangerous hitters are senior catcher Mitchell Nau (.377 /.468 /.507), sophmore outfielder Nick Banks (.366 /.449/.529) and junior infielder Logan Taylor (.344 /.405 /.546). A&M doesn't steal a lot of bases but Nick Banks has the most on the team with 9 in 10 attempts and Logan Taylor leads the team with 10 home runs.
TCU hit really well this last weekend and their offensive statistics ticked up in every category. In the regional, Cody Jones was his usual self (other than 0-4 on Monday night) going 8-20 and batting .400 over those five games. Evan Skoug and Derek Odell were also on fire at the plate last weekend with each of them batting .368 and going 7-19 at the plate. Odell has really stepped up so far in the postseason with both his glove and his bat, but when Odell is performing at the plate, his power makes us a much more dangerous offensive team. It was a very cool moment seeing him holding up his son celebrating the team's comeback on Monday. You know he wants more of that feeling and I hope that he stays focused this weekend and continues to deliver.
With a fielding percentage of .969, which ranks 106th nationally, this A&M team is not what would be considered....good....defensively. TCU has hung their hat on a .978 fielding clip, good enough for 10th nationally, all season long. At this point in the season, when a loss is devastating and two losses send you home, errors become more and more costly. You usually don't have to commit six errors in a game *cough, NC State, cough* in order to give away a game that you should have one. So, while these two fielding percentages don't look all that different, one or two inopportune errors can be the difference between a W and a L.
TCU can, and should, win this series. Pitching as deep as ours is built to win in the post season. We have already proved our mettle against an NC State team that could really knock the ball around and we outplayed them for the vast majority of the first two games and when it really mattered in the third game. This is an amazing day for TCU in general. Not too long ago we were having to go down to Austin to be a part of big series like this, and today the road to Omaha goes through us.