The force can have a strong influence on the weak minded.
- Obi Wan Kenobi
Was Kenobi referring to:
A) The effect of a breaking pitch on a Texas batter
B) Keystone tallboys and sorority girls
C) Pretend soldiers for a galactic empire
D) Longhorn baseball fans blaming the team struggles on offense
E) All of the above
Much has been made of Texas baseball dropping a Big 12 series at Oklahoma State last weekend and rightfully so. The series loss is the first one for the Longhorns since April 2009.
While you marinate on the fact that it’s been two years since the Horns lost a conference series, I’ll rub some salt on the wound…..it was Kansas State in 2009. Always the Wildcats. Longhorn kryptonite.
Beyond the series loss, Texas fans are ready to convict the offense. Fine. Have at it. I don’t blame you and I’m not here to tell you you’re wrong.
But, (/waves hand through the air) these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
While there is no doubt that the 2011 Texas baseball team won’t be confused with a 1930’s era New York Yankees squad, to lay blame solely on what is happening in the batter’s box is a mistake.
Take a closer look at plate production:
In losses: 3.0 runs/game
In wins: 6.2 runs/game
Overall: 5.25 runs/game
2010 Overall: 6.8/game
Two takeaways out of that group…first, the offense is scoring more than twice as many runs in a win, as compared to a loss. Second, season-to-season the run production is down more than 1.5 runs from 2010.
Yes, that’s right – the part of the game that ended the basketball 2010 season is actually worse in 2011.
A more elegant weapon from a more civilized age.
Deeper into the numbers, let’s examine the strength of the team – pitching:
In losses: 7.4 runs/game
In wins: 1.8 runs/game
Overall: 3.4 runs/game
2010 Overall: 3.0 runs/game
Ruh-roh. When the Horns are good, they’re filthy. When it’s not working, it’s ugly. I don’t know about you, but I will always take filthy over ugly.
You’re reading that correctly – take the average runs scored in a win (6.2) and it’s still not enough to overcome a pitching performance loss (7.4). In the losses, Texas is allowing more than four times as many runs as they do in a win.
To no surprise, inside these pitching numbers there are some defensive lapses contributing to the total.
In losses: 1.3 per game
In wins: 0.5 per game
Half of the Longhorns’ 18 unearned runs have come in their losses. But even if you subtract that out of the total performance in losses, you’re still left with 6.1 runs allowed per game.
Overall, team defense follows similar trends:
In losses: 1.9 errors/game
In wins: .9 errors/game
Overall: 1.17 errors/game
2010 Overall: .8 errors/game
Augie Garrido is more Yoda than Kenobi, and there is more to glean here than the revelation that statistics are better in a win than a loss. Besides, that wizard’s just a crazy old man.
The first reality is that when the Horns play poorly, they do so in all phases. Blame the offense all you want, but when you lose 7-2 you don’t pitch effectively either. Pitching, defense and offense are holding hands and jumping off the bridge together.
Before making the assumption that the 2011 season is lost, consider this – the other thing these numbers prove is how high the ceiling is for this team. When they groove, they're almost untouchable.
Garrido has two months to train the Padawan learners. Over those sixty days, the team is going to win more than they lose. That’s not up for debate.
Over that stretch, don’t expect the Texas offense to be effective enough to cover seven runs. Garrido’s task is to tweak all three phases. If the pitching and defense settle into a zip code even remotely close to their winning formula above, then it’s 2010 all over again.
If, at the same time, the offense learns to steadily produce 5-6 runs per game, then it gets interesting.
(NOTE: I had one of the BC interns run stats yesterday before the ORU game. He’s now safely back in his cage at Starbucks. That means that last night’s three hits won’t taint this data. Outlier, imo.)
If you want to geek out and crunch numbers, here is some 2011 data:
2/19: 10-1 (Maryland) 2 errors – 2 unearned
2/22: 8-7 (TAMCC) 0 errors – 0 unearned
2/26: 5-4 (Hawaii) 1 – 0 unearned
3/5: 9-2 (Stanford) 5 – 4 unearned
3/12: 7-3 (Brown) 3 – 2 unearned
3/26: 3-1 (OkStU) 1 – 1 unearned
3/27: 10-3 (OkStU) 1 – 0 unearned