Gerald Tracy of the excellent Oklahoma State blog Cowboys Ride For Free was kind enough to sit down and talk baseball ahead of his Cowboy's big series against the Frogs in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State came into the season with a little buzz; it was thought that they could be a team to contend for the Big XII title. While they have been above average - sweeping Baylor and Kansas State, they have struggled against the better teams - managing one win on the road verses WVU and getting swept at home by Texas Tech. So who do you think this team is at the midpoint of the season? One that can get hot and make a run, or one destined to finish in the middle of the pack?
It's honestly confusing as you think it is. When they play well, it's very good. But it's obviously against lesser competition. This team is nowhere good as last year's, but can win; they've got talent. The bats aren't always there and the pitching can be suspect if it doesn't get run support. They're a fourth place team in the Big 12 if they continue the streaky play. If they pick it up, it may be too late to catch up with Tech, but third is also probably their ceiling.
The Cowboy pitching has been strong - with a team ERA under 3.00 and a bullpen that is capable of holding leads, coach Josh Holliday has a lot of options. They will run into an offensive juggernaut this weekend at home in a TCU team that is averaging over eight runs per game and demolished OU pitching over the weekend. Do the Pokes have enough arms to slow down the deep and varied lineup of the Frogs over a three game set?
I want to say yes because the pitching can be good. But like I said above, if they don't get run support and start to wear down.... it can and will get ugly. Texas Tech destroyed the team for five-plus runs in three straight games. Don't be surprised if TCU does the same.
On the other hand, the Oklahoma State offense has been... less than good, averaging about five runs per game and batting .243 as a unit. Donnie Walton and J.R. Davis have been as good as advertised, and Dustin Williams has a lot of pop on his bat - though he seems to be a swing for the fences or strikeout swinging kind of guy. Is there someone that OSU fans are waiting to come around, or is this pretty much what this team is going to look like? Holliday seems to have built it around the longball - do you think that can be an effective strategy going forward?
What's super weird is Holliday teams are typically small ball teams with occasional home runs. But you're not wrong. Right now there are five guys with a .200 or less average. It's not pretty. Colin Theroux was supposed to be super good and was going to take the reigns from former catcher Gage Green, but it just hasn't worked out. For the last four years Green was the kind of the catcher that you want. He wasn't the "oh crud the catcher is batting" guy; he was the "Green will get a double to bring three guys in" guy. Colin just hasn't done much and I think a lot of people are just waiting to see it happen.
There seems to be some heat on Holliday's seat - is the criticism fair, or do you think it's a little early to start calling for his head? The Big XII seems as wide open as it's ever been in baseball, though Texas Tech is off to a great start and TCU seems to be as talented as they have ever been, though maybe a little too young to go all the way. Should OSU be a player right now, or are they on track to your goals/expectations for the team?
Firing holiday would be a massive mistake. Even if this is a down year, they'll still be that 3/4 spot in the conference. He's brought the program to new levels recently that past guys haven't done in a while. Maybe my expectations were a little high since they did lose some bats and arms, but I fully expect them to be fine next year and to still make the post-season this year. Now if next year is worse... then maybe we can talk.
Now the important questions: Is Eskimo Joe's the most overrated or underrated college dive in the Big XII? Which Big XII city is your favorite (outside of your own) and why?
It's not the most overrated, but it's certainly overrated. The cheese fries are good, but let's be honest, how do you mess up cheese fries? The burgers are dry, the food is kind of cold to be honest, and the lines are never worth it. Outside of Stillwater I like Ft. Worth and KC. I know Kansas City isn't technically a Big 12 place, but that's pretty much all Kansas is, so I'll count it. I grew up in the DFW and it's just a lot of fun, plus being anywhere near my Texas Rangers again is a plus for me.
I didn't do predictions for the OU series and got called out for it, so you have to pay the penance. How do you think this series goes - who gets the win and how?
OSU will get one win. It'll be on either Saturday or Sunday. TCU will win the series with at least one blow out, one walk off and OSU will win the one game by a boring score of like 3-2.
Thanks again to Gerald and be sure to check out Cowboys Ride For Free on the SB Nation platform!