TCU baseball sits at 14-11 and is in the midst of a four-game losing streak, fifth in the Big 12, and preparing to host 21-10 Oklahoma over the weekend.
It’s a dramatic turn from the past four seasons, during which the Frogs were one of the most dominant teams in the sport. Four consecutive trips to the College World Series, four Big 12 Championships (two regular season, two tournament runs), and endless bats and arms to drive the bus.
But now, coming off a sweep at the hands of Oklahoma State and a frustrating 3-2 loss Tuesday night to Dallas Baptist, during which TCU pitching walked ten DBU batters, and TCU hitters left four runners in scoring position, it’s easy to see why fans are getting frustrated.
So I’m here to say: be patient. It’s a grind right now, but Jim Schlossnagle and Co. have given us plenty of reasons to believe that he can get this thing turned around, and pretty quickly.
Here are a few reasons to be patient with the 2018 TCU baseball team.
1. They’re young. This team has three seniors (Michael Landestoy, Connor Wanhannen, A.J. Balta), and 20 players that are redshirt sophomores or younger. At first glance, that’s not far off of the 2017 or 2016 numbers (eight seniors and 19 RS sophomores/younger in 2017, four seniors and 22 RS sophomores/younger in 2016).
But take one more step to look at usage, and the difference starts to appear. Here are two quick tables that show percentage of at-bats and innings pitched per class (redshirts are rolled into the lower class...i.e. redshirt sophomores are counted as sophomores).
AB Share per Class, 2016-2018
|2018 ABs (% of total)||194 (22.6%)||171 (19.9%)||226 (26.3%)||268 (31.2%)|
|2017 ABs (% of total)||0 (0%)||398 (18.2%)||728 (33.2%)||1,063 (48.6%)|
|2016 ABs (% of total)||524 (22.8%)||746 (32.5%)||781 (34%)||246 (10.7%)|
IP Share Per Class, 2016-2018
|2018 IP (% of total)||49.2 (21.7%)||92.0 (40.2%)||87.1 (38.1%)||0 (0%)|
|2017 IP (% of total)||253.1 (42.1%)||199.2 (33.2%)||0 (0%)||149.0 (24.7%)|
|2016 IP (% of total)||269.1 (46.2%)||54.1 (9.3%)||219.1 (37.5%)||41.1 (7%)|
A few things to note. First, the 2017 squad relied heavily on in the batting order, while leaning on younger arms throughout the season. Some transitions in pitching roles from 2017-2018 are probably to blame for a bit of the early season struggles this year (more on that in a moment), but it’s also worth noting that not having senior leadership in the rotation can sometimes have a negative effect.
Brian Howard and Mitchell Traver were more than just arms, they were clubhouse leaders, and it’s possible that their absence has left a bit of a hole in that regard.
A second thing to note is that based on usage, this 2018 squad looks similar to the 2016 team that probably should have won the College World Series. However, the 2016 freshman class included Luken Baker, Josh Watson, and Durbin Feltman, while this year’s class doesn’t have anyone quite at that caliber of player (at least right out of the gate). This leads directly into the next reason to be patient.
2. TCU probably expected a few more guys to be here. Shane Baz probably was never coming here, and being selected 12th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2017 MLB Draft pretty much solidified that. Baz, unlike Baker and Nick Lodolo, opted to go pro rather than head to college, and nobody can blame him for that.
However, it’s safe to say that people thought Jacob Gonzalez, son of former MLB player Luis Gonzalez, was at least 50/50 to make it on campus. Gonzalez, a 3B/1B infielder with an insane bat, was drafted in the second round of the MLB Draft, going a couple rounds before most people thought he would, and taking the $950,000 signing bonus offered by the San Francisco Giants. He likely would have been a day one starter for TCU, and would have provided a huge upgrade at the plate over other options.
The third hit to TCU’s 2017 recruiting class was shortstop Tyler Freeman. Freeman is an insanely polished middle infielder, who probably, like Gonzalez, would have stepped in and started from day one. Instead, he was drafted in the second round by the Cleveland Indians, ahead of his late third, early fourth round projections.
TCU isn’t a stranger to seeing some of their top recruits opt for the pros over heading to college, but all three of these losses on top of each other has a compounding effect on the 2018 team. For this iteration of draft attrition, it means that guys like Conner Shepherd and Coby Boulware are starting instead of Gonzalez and Freeman.
That’s not to say that Shepherd and Boulware won’t develop into big contributors, of course. Michael Landestoy is a testament to what can happen when a player works hard and gets a shot. But it will take time, thus, it’s another reason for us to be patient.
Speaking of being patient with young players...
3. I Trust Jim Schlossnagle. Schloss has had one, one, season with fewer than 39 wins since he’s been at TCU, and that was the 2013 squad that went 29-28. that team had talent all over the roster, guys like Kevin Cron, Brandon Finnegan, Riley Ferrell, Cody Jones, Keaton Jones, and several others. But it took time and it took the coaching staff developing them to make things click. We saw that during the back half of that season. After a 15-21 start, TCU won 14 of their final 21 regular season games, giving them a bit of confidence and momentum heading into the next season.
We all know what happened next.
So give this 2018 team a little time. They’ll get there.