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Monday Morning Manager: On whether TCU Baseball can weather the storms

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The Frogs have endured a lot to start the season, and Mother Nature has played a big role in their struggles.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

TCU Baseball “swept” Kansas this weekend, defeating the Jayhawks Friday and Saturday night before having the finale cancelled due to extreme cold. With temperatures in the 20’s (IT’S APRIL, PEOPLE), the two parties - and the Big 12 Conference - decided against playing the third and final game, making it, by my count, the second cancelled game of the season and the ninth affected by weather so far this season.

It begs the question, does Mother Nature deserve some blame for TCU’s poor start?

The Frogs are off to an 18-13 start and sit at just 6-5 in conference play. They have a losing record on the road (5-6), and have already lost more games at Lupton Stadium (six) than they did in all of 2017 (four) and 2015 (four). While their hitting isn’t that far off (.266 average), they sit at sixth in the conference for average, are dead last in home runs (20), dead last in doubles (49), dead last in slugging (.383%), and dead last in hits (though that likely has to do with having played fewer games).

Former Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington once famously said, “that’s the way baseball go”. And it’s true. Weather delays have impacted the boys of spring at the collegiate and professional levels all “spring”, and several games were played in white out conditions over the first few weeks of the season. But, at some point, all those missed games, rescheduled games, and weather delays have to wreak havoc on a team, especially a young team, as they try and find their rhythm and identity. Though we don’t want to use it as an excuse, the Frogs are rolling out new starters at six of the eight positions on the field, with only Connor Wanhanen and Josh Watson remaining for the group that started the final game of 2017.

I was listening to sports radio this morning, and ESPN Baseball Insider Tim Kurkjian was talking about how some of the top teams have yet to find their groove this season because of how weather has affected them - be it playing on a regular schedule, chemistry, or skill development. I think we are seeing the same issues with the Frogs.

The Frogs aren’t the only team battling opponents and Mother Nature, but it does seem like their number has been called more often than most. But TCU has to find a way to win, no matter the circumstances, and claw their way back into the Big 12 race.

The Good:

Luken Baker. On Saturday he did this:

and then also this:

to remind everyone why he remains one of the most feared hitters in collegiate baseball despite the Frogs’ struggles. Baker can flat out mash, and bless the pitcher that has to face him with the bases loaded, in any condition. Though the wins haven’t been coming at the rate we all expected, the Josh Watson, Michael Landestoy, Luken Baker triumvirate has been better than advertised. The trio combined for ten hits, seven RBI, and four walks in the two game set against Kansas. If AJ Balta, Conner Shepherd, Zach Humphreys, or Connor Wanhanen - or some combination of that quartet - can hit at their true potential, this lineup becomes horrifying once again.

The Bad:

TCU once again struggled to bring runners home, stranding 14 across two games to bring their season total to 252 in 31 games, an average of almost one per inning.

The Ugly:

This week’s ugly belongs to Kansas, who got absolutely dominated by TCU starting pitching. Nick Lodolo and Sean Wymer combined to pitch 14.0 innings of six hit, three earned run ball, striking out 11 and walking just two batters. The bullpen was pretty good, too, allowing just three hits and two runs in their four frames.

Now, that’s what we like to see out of TCU pitching.

Next Up:

The Frogs host Abilene Christian Tuesday before hitting the road for three games against Baylor in Waco.