Every team in the loaded Big 12 has played at least three conference series heading into this weekend, meaning each is halfway, or nearly so, through their season, as Iowa State still refuses to field a baseball team. It’s been a long time coming, but better late than never, we are diving into Baseball Power Rankings!
* All stats taken from conference play only
Yeah, the Frogs weren’t very good last weekend in Morgantown, dropping a pair to the Big 12’s surprise contender on the road. But, when you look at how poorly they played overall (11 runs over 10 innings pitched by the starters, three significant and catastrophic base-running errors in the rubber match, surrendering two runs without a hit in the bottom of the ninth) it’s pretty amazing that they were even in the games at all, let alone walked-off twice. TCU is still hitting well below their ability, but the pitching has been pretty good (starting rotation) to really good (bullpen) with few exceptions. Maybe they will never play to their full potential, but if they do, they are far and away the best team in the conference, and one of the very best in the country. As it stands, they remain at the top of the standings, and the top of the rankings here.
Next Up: vs Baylor in Fort Worth
The two spot is basically a toss-up between the Mountaineers and the Red Raiders, but being as though the former still seems to be under-appreciated on the national stage, they get the all-important vote here. Finally ranked, the Eers are second in Big 12 batting average, second in home runs, and fourth in team ERA. They play good defense, have a legitimate ace in B.J. Myers, and plenty of firepower with Cramer Jackson, Kyle Gray, and Austin Cole. They’ll get a chance to fatten their record up against Kansas State this weekend on the road before hosting OU and Tech in back to back weekends and closing out conference play in Austin against Texas.
Next Up: vs Kansas State in Manhattan
The other side of the two-way toss-up is the Red Raiders, who continue to play excellent offensive baseball, pounding opponents into submission with a .300 team batting average, a .466% team slugging percentage, 76 runs, and 15 home runs, all bests in the Big 12. When they’ve lost, it’s been because they’ve been out pitched; of their four Big 12 losses, they scored more than five just one time. Speaking of pitching, it’s been the Red Raiders’ achilles heel in 2017 - with a team ERA of 4.11 they are near the bottom of the conference, and they have just 88 strikeouts as a team while surrendering 57 walks in Big 12 play. For comparison’s sake, TCU’s ratio of 110/38 is second only to Kansas (what?!) for best in the Big 12. Though Steven Gingery remains one of the best arms in the conference (3-0, 1.88 ERA), and the heart of the order is as scary as anyone’s with Michael Davis, Cody Farhat, Orlando Garcia, this Tech team is probably not as deep or well-rounded as last year’s Omaha appearing squad. That being said, they are still incredibly talented and incredibly dangerous - especially at home - and TCU’s three-game set in Lubbock could very well determine the conference crown.
Next Up: vs Oklahoma State in Lubbock
The Bears continue their resurgence under second-year coach Steve Rodriguez, who has flourished in a power five program after a successful run at Pepperdine. The Bears made themselves known at the Shriner’s College Classic, winning a pair and walking off A&M with a ninth inning grand slam. The Bears sit at seventh in the standings and are middle of the road in most of the major statistics, but have the talent to beat any team on any given night. Baylor will have played the top of the conference after this weekend’s series with TCU, and should fatten up their record with nine games remaining against the combination of Kansas, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State to move up in the rankings.
Next Up: vs TCU in Fort Worth
The Longhorns are rebuilding, but seem to be on the right track in year one post-Augie, off to a 7-8 record through the first five series of conference play. Though they were swept by Tech, they have a series win at OU, and they have a highly effective pitching staff that can shut down even the most potent of lineups. With a team ERA of 3.05 - good for second best in the conference - and a 3.39 walk to strikeout ratio, it will be the arms that carry them, as the team’s .216 batting average is a drag on their overall record. Oddly, the Longhorns lead the league in doubles by a wide margin with 29, and if the offense starts turning those two-baggers into runs, they could be dangerous come the post-season. Morgan Cooper is one of the best pitchers in the conference, leading in ERA and strikeouts. Kacy Clemens and Travis Jones are both dangerous at the plate - if they get some help, the Horns could make a run.
Next Up: vs New Orleans in Austin
I don’t know what to make of the Sooners, a team that started the season strong and looked poised to make a big leap in the standings, but has struggled against the top half of the league on their way to an early 4-5 Big 12 record. OU took two of three from Baylor (on the road) and Texas Tech (home), but dropped a pair to Texas in Norman. They will still have to see TCU and WVU, and with only three series under their belt, there’s still time to make a run for a high seed in the Big 12 Tournament. They’ve pitched well and are scoring nearly seven runs a game in conference play, but they don’t have a lot of protection in their lineup to guard against teams pitching around their best hitters. They’ll get Kansas at home before traveling to Morgantown to face WVU, and it’s likely we will have a much better idea of who they are at that point.
Next Up: vs Kansas in Norman
The Cowboys have been hit hard by the injury bug this season, and it’s shown up on the scoreboard. After being swept by the Frogs in Fort Worth, the Pokes have gone 4-5 in conference play against the bottom of the league. But with Texas Tech, Texas, Baylor, and OU all remaining on the schedule, it’s unlikely they’ll make a run to get back to the middle of the pack. OSU, which had an exceptionally pitching staff a year ago, has seen their ERA bloat to over 5.00 as they’ve allowed the second most runs and hits, and are near the bottom of the pack in both walks allowed and strikeouts. Garrett McCrain leads the league with a .442 batting average, and the team as a whole hits in the middle of the pack. Tied for second in home runs, the Pokes can still mash, but unless their power arms get healthy, their season could be over much sooner than expected.
Next Up: vs Texas Tech in Lubbock
Think things are bad for Oklahoma State? It could be worse, they could be the Wildcats. After successful football and basketball seasons for our purple brethren, the Cats have been an absolute disaster on the baseball diamond. After taking TCU to extra innings in consecutive games - throwing at least nine shutout innings in each - the K State pitching staff has reverted back to the bottom of the conference in ERA, hits allowed, runs allowed, and strikeouts recorded. With a win against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State their only Ws, Kansas State is all but out of the race. I don’t know where the team TCU played went, but the have disappeared.
Next Up: vs West Virginia in Manhattan