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Monday Manager: Big 12 Tournament and Momentum Swings

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A sweep against Kansas State is a good start as TCU's last remaining hope for a Regional bid comes this weekend...

As the Big 12 regular season comes to a close, TCU finds itself in a position fairly similar to the one they faced two years ago. Memorial Day Weekend 2014 brought a lot of nice things: summer BBQs with friends, Champions League Finals, and Tyler Alexander pitching out of his damn mind to get TCU past regular season champs Oklahoma State to lock up a national seed, despite the mundane start they had to their season.

Even if they win the Big 12 Tournament, the Horned Frogs won't earn a national seed. Right now, they're playing for a regional bid. Now, we've said this on the Frogs O' War podcast a few times, and I've written this a few times as well, but I really like the Frogs' chances of getting one of the 16 regionals bids if they win the Big 12 tournament. Bless the goodwill of Jim Schlossnagle.

A few years ago, in the Mountain West, that wouldn't have happened. Even with their amateurish 2013 season--their inaugural season in the Big 12--you can't dispute that Jim Schlossnagle has built a powerhouse in Fort Worth. A team this young shouldn't always be this competitive, but despite losing their most important series of the year to Texas Tech and playing, at least for my money, their most uninspired Big 12 series against Baylor last weekend, this 2016 team still has a chance to make a deep run.

Momentum Swings, The Big 12 Tournament, and Beyond:

A third place finish isn't ideal, but it's also not a terrible place to be in to make a run for the Big 12 tournament championship. Everything from run differential, to the youthful crop of talent, to the more experienced veterans like Barz and Evan Skoug; and then the team's most consistent trio of Dalton Horton, Brian Howard, and Jared Janczak, is enough to make the finals.

The Horned Frogs, however, do have a few things working against them: a piping hot Texas Tech team, the looming Augie Garrido kingsmoot, which could make Texas really erratic and really dangerous in the tournament as they try to win one for their coach who has his "health and wealth"--just maybe not the best of livers (though, like anyone who went to TCU, I'm one to talk), and finally, the spottiness of their own bullpen.

Courtesy: HBO

Texas Tech is a very good great baseball team. Throw out their mediocre first weekend, and really their first couple of weeks, and you have a team that blasted Florida State on the road to split a two-game series, and a team that pretty much locked up the Big 12 regular season title a month ago. Though they scraped by the Horned Frogs with a .300 BA in conference play and had hackneyed team ERA of 4.03, the boisterous Red Raiders--excuse the pun--stepped up when they needed to and knocked teams like TCU in the mouth when they needed to most. Since taking over in 2012, Tim Tadlock has made exactly the same amount of College World Series appearances as Augie Garrido. While this is a small and unfair sample size to make a really cheeky point, for a club that made the CWS six times in the first decade of the millennium, matching Garrido--while going up against Schlossnagle's power--is reason enough to see why he's wanted in Austin. But that's not going to happen, though it's a nice sentiment to Tadlock and a testament to what he's done at his alma mater.

Finally, their problems begin and end with themselves, but more specifically, the bullpen. The run differential, TCU leading the league in pitching, and second only to Texas Tech in offense tells us that this is a really nuanced and competitive team that among many things, is not a lucky one. Even with some of the best pitching staffs in 2014 and 2015, you could make the argument that those teams had a little more luck than this one.

Team
Runs Scored
Runs Allowed
Differential

TCU

373

195

+178

Texas Tech

388

250

+138

Oklahoma State

299

198

+101

Oklahoma

311

259

+52

West Virginia

305

262

+43

Texas

263

243

+20

Kansas State

323

303

+20

Baylor

264

281

-17

Kansas

299

379

-80

They'll have to find a way to be lucky at least once if they even want to sniff where they ended up the last two seasons. They'll need better performances out of guys like Dalton Brown and Preston Guillory and they'll need Mitchell Traver to channel the Traver he was last year against Texas A&M.

Sure, there's a correlation to pitching depth, that's what 90% of it was: but you're out of your skull if you don't think there was a little luck involved in the Sam Houston and NC State regional match ups to get the respective super regional bouts against Pepperdine and Texas A&M--and survive every close game imaginable.

This youthful team, and the names you see, could very well be the team that promised--the team that's going to win the College World Series. Just (probably) not this year. However, getting the Big 12 tourney title, a Regional bid and thus a Regional win (advancement), is a damn good start. From there, it mostly depends on where they'd end up in the Supers.

Play Florida? Just get a win and I'll be thinking of twenty reasons why the Frogs are destined to win the College World Series in 2017.

Play Texas A&M? Get ready for #TCU15 to come back into to play; be ready for blood.

Play Louisville or pretty much anyone else not named Miami? Yes, even against a Mississippi State team. I think TCU has a good shot at returning to Omaha if they make it in this spot.

Don't win the Big 12 Tournament and perhaps none of this matters because D1Baseball's latest Field of 64 match ups pins the Frogs against another red hot team in the Arizona Wildcats, which is a tough matchup for a regional. Much tougher than the last time TCU had to play on the road in an opening regional, which was back in 2012 in College Station.