By virtually every account, including my own, UH baseball coach Todd Whitting is one of the most likable coaches at UH in some time. He has raised millions for projects to benefit Cougar Baseball including a new locker room, scoreboard, fieldturf, and the new baseball development facility. He should be praised for each of those accomplishments.
But putting that aside, the program has continued a slide down the mountain of mediocrity that began under Rayner Noble. But the Coogs fell off that mountain and this season will go down as the worst in the modern era.
Note: The modern era of college baseball began either when metal bats were allowed in 1975 or when uniformity in scheduling and statistics came to the sport in 1981. For this article, we will use 1981 as the start of the modern era because that’s when UH began playing 50+ games annually. For the same reason, we are excluding the 15-game 2020 season which leaves 40 seasons in the ‘modern era.’
Sure, 2021 was brutal due to the team’s record (19-34) and conference record (7-21). But statistically, this UH team was the worst ever in many ways.
Strength of Schedule – UH’s 18-35-1 (5-18-1) record in 2012 is nominally worse than the 2021 record. But that 2012 team played the 47th best schedule in the country while the 2021 team played the 100th ranked scheduled according to Massey Ratings. Adjusting for quality of competition, the 2021 team was far worse.
The 2021 strength of schedule was the second-worst in the 25 years that data is available. Before that, the Cougars played in the Southwest Conference, one of the best baseball conferences in the country. It’s unlikely any UH schedule in the modern era would be 100th or worse prior to 1997.
Batting Average – The 2021 team was the worst-hitting UH team since six years before metal bats were introduced. This team replaced the 2019 squad as the school’s worst-hitting squad since 1970. The worst two hitting teams in 40 years come from the last two full seasons played.
Whitting owns four of the worst five batting averages in the modern era and seven of the worst 10.
Worst Batting Averages
Aside: The 2020 team hit .213 in fifteen games. If you combine the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons, the Cougars hit .242 which, if it were a standalone season, would be the lowest in school history (outside of 2021 by itself).
Hits – As you might imagine, 2021 was the worst for hits and hits per game in the modern era.
Runs – Going into the 9th inning in the last game of the season, the 2021 UH team was at 226 runs for the season. But after scoring three runs in that final inning, the 2021 team moved out of a tie for the fewest runs scored in the modern era. The 2021 team is second-worst in terms of runs and runs per game.
Aside: The above are the only five times that UH has scored fewer than five runs per game since 1976. Four of those instances have come in the last nine years under Todd Whitting.
Walks – The 2021 team had the fewest walks in UH’s modern era. No Houston team, going back to the first year stats are available (1949), had fewer than 3 walks per game other than the 2021 squad.
On Base Percentage – With the fewest hits per game and fewest walks per game in the modern era, it’s obvious that the 2021 team would have the worst OBP. UH does not keep OBP as an archived stat – these numbers are what we have from the last 25 years.
Worst On Base Percentage
Aside: UH has had eight seasons under 700 total bases since 1981. The 2021 team was third-worst all time (648), one base behind the program’s second-worst (1995). The 2012 team set the mark for futility with 623 total bases.
Four of the eight years under 700 total bases have occurred during Whitting’s tenure.
RBI – No UH team in the modern era has driven in fewer runs than the 2021 team. That mark goes back to 1976, in fact.
Worst RBI Seasons
Strikeouts – The 2021 also set the mark for most strikeouts per game. Only four UH teams have ever struck out seven or more times a game going back to 1949 – all during the Whitting era. Strikeouts are up across baseball at all levels but the 2021 offense set a noteworthy record.
RPI – UH is 233rd in the RPI. By far, it is UH’s worst RPI in school history (the RPI for baseball goes back to 1997). Prior to 2021, UH had only been worse than 75th three times: 2009 (94), 2010 (88), and 2012 (153). Whitting has UH’s two worst seasons in the RPI.
Aside: Two years ago, head coach Todd Whitting demoted assistant Ryan Shotzberger. Shotz “oversaw the Cougars’ offensive development” according to his UH bio but was pushed aside so that the program could hire its first hitting coach of the Whitting era, Sammy Esposito.
A few days after the demotion, Shotz took the head coaching job at Incarnate Word. In his first full season at UIW, he has the Cardinal 235th in the RPI – just two spots behind the program that demoted him.