TCU redshirt senior Austin Henry was one of only three Horned Frog baseball players to start in and play all 62 games during the 2019 season.
With that in mind, it was notable to see Henry absent from the TCU lineup during Sunday’s 4-3 walk-off loss against Vanderbilt. While he doesn’t appear to be hurting physically, Henry has had an odd beginning to his 2020 campaign. He’s gone 6-for-45 over his first 13 games while posting a disappointing .133/.259/.267 slash line.
Henry did not play against either UCLA or Vanderbilt, and while some of his lost playing time can be attributed to the rise of freshman Sam Thompson, Henry is 0-for-11 over his last four games. On the other hand, while Henry has only totaled two extra-base hits, he’s drawn eight walks for the Horned Frogs, and he’s tied for second on the team with 13 RBIs.
Regardless, it’s been a tough start to the season for Henry, who hasn’t posted a multi-hit game yet despite recording 22 multi-hit efforts in 2019. TCU fans know how important Henry’s bat will be moving forward, as evidenced by his team-leading 43 RBIs and his five-hit performance during the NCAA Fayetteville Regional last season.
So what’s given Henry trouble to open the 2020 campaign? The most notable statistic is his 31.1 percent strikeout rate, a significant increase from last season, where he only fanned 48 times in 240 at-bats (20 percent). Another glaring number is Henry’s slugging percentage, which currently lies far below the .425 line he posted in 2019.
Austin Henry—TCU— Ben Howell (@benhowell71) February 6, 2020
A hitter who blends his contact and power to create a well-rounded hitter. Could improve plate discipline and walk rate.#GoFrogs pic.twitter.com/kuuiuEHzrq
However, his walk rate of 17.8 percent is actually up about 5 percentage points from 2019, where he drew free passes at a 12.9 percent clip. Additionally, two of Henry’s six hits are for extra bases, which creates a small sample size of 33.3 percent, about 7 percent higher than his extra-base percentage in 2019 (26 percent).
Given the above percentages, Henry’s on-base and slugging numbers will eventually improve to the norm when he starts hitting safely. The biggest concern at this moment, though, is cutting down on the strikeouts. TCU currently ranks second in the Big 12 Conference with 138 strikeouts, but the Horned Frogs are first with an average of 9.2 strikeouts per game.
Henry burst onto the scene in 2019 after an excellent two-year career with Walters State Community College, where he hit .459 with 11 homers and 89 RBIs as a sophomore while also earning JUCO World Series All-Tournament Team honors. His play garnered an All-Conference Honorable Mention from the Big 12 last season, and Henry entered 2020 expected to be one of TCU’s top offensive weapons.
Thankfully, Thompson has picked up the slack with Henry’s struggles, hitting .304 with a pair of triples over his first 23 at-bats. If Henry and the Horned Frogs can bring their strikeouts down, TCU’s offense will be back on track.