We are one-fifth of the way into this baseball season and I’m dumbfounded by what’s going on. The entire program – the hitting, the starting pitching, the strategy – all seem to be afflicted by a deep malaise. Everyone is in a funk and Todd Whitting needs to figure out how to get it on track.
Since coming back from Fullerton, Cougar hitting is suffering in a way we haven’t seen in years. In the last 5 games, UH is hitting .206 (35 hits in 168 at bats). And team ERA is 5.09 in that same stretch.
Perhaps worst of all, UH has led in a game for just 7 outs in the last 44.2 innings – just 2.6% of the time. Ooof.
Looking back to my preseason outlook, I suggested 5 things that would show this team could win the league and host a regional. Below you’ll find them and how we are doing in each:
1. Joe Davis returns to his freshman form. His slugging dropped 126 points last year. This is his draft-eligible year and I expect big things. After a very slow start, Davis has raised his numbers to where they were last year. We will see if he can continue to show improvement.
2. Aaron Fletcher eats up innings. Having a second starter that can go 7+ gives the coaching staff plenty of options. In 3 starts, Fletcher has managed 17.1 IP – not great but tops on the staff. He has been impressive as a Saturday starter.
3. Lael Lockhart starts to hit for a little power and becomes a consistent threat at the plate. Lael is hitting .300 and slugging .400. Those numbers aren’t bad but I was expecting something more. I think he can still become what I had hoped.
4. Starters get us 25 innings a week (in a four-game week). If they can average 26-27, we could be very dangerous. This is the real killer. In 4 games last week, our starters combined for 14.1 innings. That’s awful. This week hasn’t started out well as Hurdsman went just 2.1 last night against HBU. With 8 games in 10 days, your starters must eat up innings. It’s not happening and is hurting the team just as much as the hitting.
5. A player comes out of nowhere to help lead the Coogs to a regional. Three years ago, it was Chris Iriart. Last year, it was All-American Jake Scheiner. This year, I’m looking to Tucker Redden to be that guy. Redden hasn’t shown he can hit D1 pitching yet. But Landon Etzel is showing signs of becoming a breakout player – he’s hitting .364 in limited action and slugging .682. That’s the kind of surprise player we need – but it does depend on everyone else carrying their weight.
My expectations have plunged but I think there is still some hope that we can do damage in the league. Once we bust out of this slump, anything is possible. But we’ve got to hit and starters have to be more effective.