I have been unable to write about the Texas Tech baseball team the past three weeks, but I have been keeping up with them throughout.
Through the TCU and Texas series, it appeared that Texas Tech started to fade a bit and ran into a rough stretch. Plenty of questions rose or continued, like can Texas Tech rely on their inconsistent weekend starters? Can Texas Tech win on the road? Who can the Red Raiders trust out of the bullpen? Who will be the third, fourth and fifth starts come playoff time?
Many likely thought that despite a great chance of landing a regional, that this had been the second most disappointing season since 2014, especially since there have been two national seeds and two CWS appearances. However, if we’re upset about the position we’re in, that just shows how far the program is.
On the bright side, the team bounced back the past couple weeks and look like they could be ready for another run. Caleb Kilian has been an X factor and has come around for the Red Raiders this year. Shetter, Harpenau and Dusek have given Tech not great, but good innings for Texas Tech and the offense appears to be hitting it’s peak once again. There are still questions, but there has been some hope that Tech can still do something in June.
Thoughts on final Big 12 Standings: Well the last time we talked, Oklahoma State just needed to win two games out of the last six games of the regular season to win the Big 12 title. Easy right? Wrong. Oklahoma State lost a road series against a tough and hot Baylor squad before being embarrassed by our slumping Red Raiders a couple weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Texas needed to win four of their last six to win the Big 12 title, and they ended up winning five games to win the title outright. David Pierce did a great job last year and not a lot of people talked out it. He got his recognition this year and rightfully won Coach of the Year. We all obviously still rather have Tadlock (as did UT, as they tried to hire him), but Pierce is a damn good coach in his own right.
Thoughts on Big 12 Awards: I know some people were upset that Kody Clemens won the Player of the Year award over Josh Jung, but I’m not really surprised. Jung had the better numbers and glove all year, and in 2014, Eric Gutierrez had a similar argument.
But the reason why Clemens won, is because he had just absolutely stupid numbers in Big 12 play (which is usually what voters like to look at) and helped his team win the Big 12. I mean, he had a 1.250 (!!!) OPS and double digit homers. The only thing Jung had was average and OBP. I wish it was an overall award, not just conference mostly, but I understand their decision.
We discussed last month early in the month that the pitching awards could’ve gone to Caleb Kilian or Cody Bradford, and it went to Bradford. Kilian had a better ERA, BAVG and more wins, but Bradford had more than 30 more IP, better K/9 and BB/9, plus was just behind Kilian in ERA and BAVG. He also had two complete shutout games in Big 12 play. If you include Big 12 play, Bradford had a lower ERA. No complaints here.
Matt Kroon did really well for Oklahoma State and deserved the Big 12 newcomer of the year. Gabe Holt, meanwhile, won freshman of the year, and I don’t think it was even that close. He was one of four unanimous Big 12 freshman selections and was just raking all year, despite the slow end of the season. Holt also played defense and stole bases, unlike the likely runner-up, Zach Zubia of Texas.
The Red Raiders led all Big 12 teams with five first team selections. Josh Jung and Grant Little were among the six players that were unanimous All-Big 12 selections. The other three teams that were first team were Zach Rheams, Gabe Holt and Caleb Kilian, which we all thought had a great chance to make the first team (kinda nailed it).
The only surprise for Texas Tech I thought was that Cameron Warren didn’t make either the second team or honorable mention. Yes, Warren’s numbers were quite as good come Big 12 player, but he had the fifth best OBP, seventh best RBIs and tenth best slugging overall in the Big 12 this season. I think they made a mistake.
Thoughts on the Big 12 Tournament: Since I arrived at Tech in the fall of 2013, the Red Raiders really have not done well in the tournament in both baseball and basketball. The most amount of games they have won has been one and the farthest a team has gone has been the semi-finals.
In my opinion, the conference tournament isn’t a huge deal. I don’t like calling the tournament champs the Big 12 champs, and in my opinion, it doesn’t affect really how Tech plays in the postseason. The exceptions are when a team needs it the make the tournament. So I could care less about the result.
However, I do love what Tadlock did this tournament. He played guys he felt had a chance at starting in the third, fourth or fifth spot in the postseason to see who he can trust and who he should start. We saw Sublette, Shetter and Harpenau get (or attempt) to get significant innings in the first two games.
Thoughts on team heading into the NCAA Tournament: The best news is that offense is going to be real hard to stop. You have unanimous first team players in the third and fourth spot, a first team player and base stealer batting lead-off, a first team base clearing machine batting fifth and two very solid hitters batting second and sixth.
The offensive key will be the production we get from the seventh through ninth hitters. Michael Davis has hot and cold stretches, and Tech will need a hot stretch in June. Farhat has his moments, but hasn’t quite had the year he had last year. Braxton Fulford has started five of the last six games, but we are unsure who will start at catcher and their bat is not expected to make a huge impact.
The defense has been pretty solid and in some areas outstanding all season long, so no real concerns here. The lone concern may be behind the plate. Sam Houston State was 7-7 stealing bases in Tech’s two NCAA tournament loses last year, so the catchers need to be able to have a shot to throw out the runner and try to minimize passed balls.
Meanwhile, the pitching provides a real question mark for the team. Caleb Kilian has been great, but Davis Martin has under-performed, John McMillon has fallen out of favor and the other starters are inconsistent and/or don’t go far enough in the game.
My bet is that Davis Martin still get the first start of the postseason, with Kilian getting the second game. After that, I trust Shetter to give Tech a few good innings, and then possibly move to either Ty Harpenau or Dylan Dusek. Perhaps Tadlock will go the bold route and throw out Shetter for the No. 1 vs No. 4 seed game and risk an early loss so they get a better pitcher later in the weekend.
Thoughts on the NCAA Tournament draw: Seth will likely have more on this later in the week, but overall I think that Tech got a fairly average draw for the regional. The Red Raiders swept New Mexico State (the four seed) this season, once with a 12-0 score and once needing a walk-off home run at a neutral site. Despite the Aggies being close in one of the games, I feel fairly confident in the first game.
The next two teams are Kent State and Louisville, and both are scary teams to watch out for. This is the first time since 2012 I believe that Louisville hasn’t hosted a regional, which is very impressive on their part (like this is the first time since 2013 that TCU won’t be in the CWS). Both these teams are dangerous, and luckily Tech may not have to face on of them.
Louisville scares me a little because of how hot they are. But the Red Raiders did split with them at Louisville and did have a lead in both games. And if Tadlock saves Kilian for a match-up against them, I think the Red Raiders will have a shot to get out of the regional.