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TCU Baseball vs Oklahoma State Preview: Shifting Tides

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It's hard not to look ahead to the Tech series next weekend, but if the Frogs can finally get it right in Stillwater, we might be in for an epic weekend in the Funk...

Regardless of sport, TCU's never been particularly good in Stillwater–or against Oklahoma State for that matter. The Frogs have lost two of their three series against the Cowboys as Conference foes. Somewhat ironically, the series they lost, in 2014 and 2015, were both College World Series years. The 2014 series, also in Stillwater, was about a month prior to the sea change that occurred and catapulted TCU to a College World Series appearance.

A sea change would bode well for the Frogs this weekend. Not because they're in worse shape than the Cowboys. They aren't. Not because the Frogs are an inferior baseball team in comparison to Oklahoma State. They're not. But a shift in how TCU, as an athletic program, plays in Stillwater. Inheriting the Aggies schedule, and thus having to play in Stillwater three out of their first four years in the Big 12, Gary Patterson has lost all of them. I'm not even going to look up to see if we've won in Stillwater in basketball–I'm just going to assume nah. And the fact that we've won just one baseball game in Stillwater should make any fan nervous. The Cowboys also gave a nice gut-punch last year to a then high-flying TCU team and embarrassed them in Fort Worth last year by taking the series.

"Show me a hero and I'll write you a tragedy"~F. Scott Fitzgerald

I wouldn't say Oklahoma State and TCU are enemies–maybe even far from it. But if you're a TCU fan, you're out of your skull if you don't want the Frogs to not only flex their muscles on the Cowboys this weekend, but somehow, annihilate them even worse then Tech did. For those who say revenge is a dish best served cold–they've never had lukewarm ghost pepper fried from Wendy's at an airpot. That's the dish the Frogs should serve Oklahoma State this weekend and thus set up what's essentially going to be the defacto Big 12 Championship next weekend.

Friday Pitching Matchup

Starting Pitcher W-L IP ERA H/9 K/9 BB/9
Luken Baker - RHP 3-1 46.1 1.75 7.0 7.4 2.9
Hatch Thomas - RHP 2-1 59.0 1.98 8.5 6.7 2.9

This weekend features a matchup between two top 15 pitching staffs. TCU's ERA is ranked 15th nationally and OSU's staff is ranked 12th. Luken Baker is coming off his longest outing of the season last weekend against Oklahoma. He went six innings giving up three runs on three hits, striking out four and walking three. All three of the walks were issued in the fifth inning though, the only inning in which Baker struggled. He's continuing to mature into a solid weekend starter. Between Baker and Horton these Freshman are pitching beyond their years, and TCU needs it. New reports are that we might not get Traver back for another month or so.

OSU is expected to go with their regular Friday starter Hatch Thomas. Hatch put together quite the performance last weekend in his start against Baylor. He went eight innings, giving up nine hits and two runs while striking out seven and walking two in what turned out to be a 12 inning victory for the Cowboys. Putting in those kind of innings on a Friday is all you can ask for from a sophomore, or anyone for that matter. OSU will be hoping that he can replicate that kind of performance to give them a chance to get ahead in this series.

Offensive Matchup

Offensive Comparison avg r h hr slg% ob% fld%
TCU 0.316 284 382 30 0.486 0.414 0.972
Oklahoma State 0.245 187 288 26 0.372 0.352 0.972

OSU doesn't have the kind of depth in their lineup that TCU does, but they have a few guys with some firepower. Donnie Walton is leading the lineup in batting average (.344), slugging percentage (.450) and on-base percentage (.443), and he's second on the team in total runs with 25. Garrett Benge (.315 BA) is second on the team in hits (40) and home runs (3). Dustin Williams is only hitting .214, but he leads the team with eight home runs and 21 walks. As a team they don't have impressive numbers, but they can clearly hit the long ball and a home run or two to go with good pitching can turn a game around quick.

Aside from the usual pillars of Skoug, Barzilli and Baker, there is another trio of Frogs that haven't been getting talked about near as much: Austen Wade, Cam Warner and Dane Steinhagen. Wade is hitting almost .400 at this point, and his addition to the lineup in the absence of Nolan Brown has been far more valuable than he's gotten credit for. He's also 7-9 in stolen bases, tied for second on the team. Cam Warner's  20 game hit streak was well publicized, but what doesn't get talked about as much are his three home runs and 10 extra-base hits. Lastly, Steinhagen has four home runs himself, with three of them coming in conference play. He's taken a major step up from last year and his average is sitting at.299, which is nothing to scoff at for the number eight hole hitter.

Not to get ahead of ourselves... | A big weekend in Stillwater sets the stage for the biggest Big 12 series in a hot minute

Team

Runs Scored

Runs Allowed

Differential

TCU

284

119

+165

Texas Tech

304

156

+126

Oklahoma State

187

119

+58

Texas

188

158

+30

Kansas State

228

216

+12

Oklahoma

184

173

+11

Baylor

196

191

+5

West Virginia

172

175

-3

Kansas

206

218

-12

Coming off a sweep of Baylor, and a midweek, 4-20 (woah, man) 1-run win against intrastate rival, Oklahoma-The Cowboys have rebounded well since getting slaughtered and swept by Tech two weeks ago-with the final Cat Stark throat cut coming in a 4-3 defeat from Oral Roberts.

The Oklahoma State v. TCU matchup pits the two best team ERAs (respectively) in the Big 12 against in each other. However, that's including non-conference games. In Big 12 play, TCU is leading the conference whereas the Cowboys are hoisting the bronze medal with a much wider gap than the stranglehold they have over the Frogs with the non-conference slate. They both have a sample size of 12 Conference games, and granted, Oklahoma State has played an offensive juggernaut in Texas Tech, but the Frogs (2.41 ERA in Conference play) have a 1.22 advantage over the OSU (3.63 ERA in Conference play).

There's no denying this weekend is a key Big 12 matchup, and probably the second most important series of the year. It's much more pivotal for the Frogs but also, a little for Oklahoma State. Getting smoked and again-swept by the Red Raiders, it's going to take a lot of luck and a collapse in Lubbock for our friends in Stillwater to win the Big 12 regular season outright.

As good as Oklahoma State is playing, to win the series on the road, in Stillwater, a place where no TCU team plays well, would set an even bigger stage for next week's showdown against the Red Raiders in Funky Town. Looking ahead, the Frogs may have 20 less runs scored than Tech, but they've also played 5 less games. Still, TCU has is dominating the differential by nearly 40 runs. Tech's RPI suits them well, and there's little denying they've played-at least a slightly-tougher schedule. But you have to like that differential. As my esteemed colleague pointed out to me via e-mail, it's crazy to think we are in a "down" year in pitching because we are in the Top-20 Nationally in the categories we're usually Top-5 in. Just goes to show (a) we're spoiled and (b) how well-oiled Schlossnagle and Saarloos have kept this machine.