The Frogs had just about as good of a weekend as you could ask for–Outscoring Louisiana-Lafayette, Rice, and Houston by combined 27-2. The Frogs are not only pitching well, but for the first time since 2010, this feels like a team that's capable of doing serious offensive damage.
In last year's equivilant to this series, the one in LA, while the Frogs looked really good and took 2 of 3 from USC, UCLA, and Vanderbilt, it looked nothing like this year. I'm not sure how good of a team Rice actually is, and no one really is at this point, but Houston was scoring over 10 runs before this series, and ULL was putting up impressive offense numbers themselves–and yet, the Frogs allowed each of the latter only 2 runs. Add this into blanking Rice, and the 27 runs of offense they put up, it's hard not to be psyched about this team full of fresh faces.
The Good: I'm tripping' off the power
Well, a lot. We've talk about this a lot in the young season, but it bears repeating: You knew that, while the losses of Preston Morrison, Alex Young, Tyler Alexander, Riley Ferrell, etc. would hurt, Kirk Saarloos and Jim Schlossnagle would still manage to construct a respectable pitching staff.
More than anything, more than the fact they're hitting their best since 2010; the fact that TCU is simply just capitalizing on scoring opportunities better than they have since joining the Big 12 is extremely encouraging. We'll have a mid-week stats update, because that'll paint a more clear narrative as to just how well this team is actually doing offensively, but keep this in mind: TCU
HE IS NOT HUMAN pic.twitter.com/VvJkgNYvfq— Frogs O' War (@FrogsOWar) February 28, 2016
Not enough can be said about Josh Watson. Over half of his 9 hits this season have been for extra bases; 2 doubles, 2 triples, and 1 homerun. Watson, who's sort of taken a backseat to Luken Baker and Barzilli, also leads the team in RBIs (8).Elliot Barzilli may be batting under .600, but while it's not the God-like status it was when it was over .700, there's still no sign of him slowing down. Barz leads the team in slugging (.889), OBP (.621), BA (.593), and his 16 hits are nearly double what anyone else on the team has.
Complementing Barz in the bottom of the word, Dane Steinhagen has also been a brilliant bat so far in 2016. There's a reason Luken Baker is getting a lot of shine; the freshman has been walked a team-leading 6 times, but has still managed 7 hits, 2 of which have been homeruns. I'd also expect Mason Heese to play more sooner rather than later. Aside from Barz and Watson, he's made the most of his ABs more than anyone else on the team. In only 14 ABs, Heese has strung together 6 hits (including 2 doubles), 3 RBIs, and 4 runs. Finally, despite a slump by his standards, Connor Wanhanen is proving to be a very capable leadoff hitter. His BA and OBP (.267/.290) are low for his standards, but his team-leading 9 runs should give fans enough confidence that when Wanhanen is on base, he's going to find a way to score.
The Bad: The Big Lefty Question
Was there any? Sure, the Frogs are going to have to find a sure mid-week starter, but as of right now, everything is cruising. However, when Mitchell Traver comes back from injury, presumably later this month (just assume it's March), the biggest question will be as to whether or not he'll go to the weekend rotation. Now–even though Brian Howard has been dominate–Traver is
probably the ace of the team and thus the logic puts to that he'll be in that weekend arsenal once he returns; so then, the question becomes, who gets shifted out? Baker was originally the the mid-week guy, but given how well he's done–why change now?
Howard, Luken Baker, and Rex Hill have all proven to be effective weekend starters; but if you were to pick out a weakest link, it'd be Hill. It sounds pejorative, but there's no shame in being the mid-week guy. Traver took that role last year for a time period, and did very well in it. When you're playing mid-week games against teams like Dallas Baptist, it's certainly not a blowoff role, thus Hill shouldn't let it get to him should he get snuffed out in late March.
The question then remains, do you need a lefty in the weekend rotation? The common sense baseball answer is "yes–yes, you do"; however, with the way the Frogs are hitting, and given that the righties would be Traver–Howard–Baker, that trio may in fact be the exception to the rule.