I've been promising a Big 12 Baseball primer for a few weeks now, and miracle of all miracles, here is part one. I'm going to break it up into three sections, writing up three of our conference rivals in each. We'll start at the bottom today, with three teams that our Bears should beat whenever they meet (or don't... we'll get to that in a minute).
Before we get there, though, I wanted to throw out a few Baylor tidbits I saw on the Baylor Baseball homepage. They do a great job over there, and you should definitely check them out whenever possible. I'll link to their write-up of Baylor's victory over Sam Houston State. Joey Hainsfurther got his first start for the Bears and threw five innings of no run ball. It looks like he'll take over as our midweek starter for the rest of the season.
In the article previewing today's Sam Houston State game, they mentioned a few things that I had been noticing (and mentioned on ODB a few times). The first is the Bears' very odd power outage. The team has hit three homeruns this season. Twenty-two games - three homers. All three of those (2 by Muncy, 1 by Vick) were in a single game against UCLA. That's just odd.
I wondered at the beginning of the year where our power would come from, and the answer thus far is... Logan Vick in the form of doubles. Vick is currently slugging at a .527 rate, but that number is propped up by his really impressive .338 batting average. Max Muncy is only slugging .474 (now .488 after a nice game against Sam Houston last night, including a double). Last year, Muncy finished the season slugging .511, so he's not hitting with quite the same power so far this year.
This lack of power hasn't been a problem for the team, nor do I see it becoming a problem at this point. The Bears are scoring runs at an impressive rate, and our starting lineup has good on-base skills. As the saying goes, however, "chicks dig the long ball." I do too. So do Major League scouts. When June approaches and the MLB Draft looms, I'll do a full write-up about Baylor players and their draft prospects, but from what I've read in the early going, it could improve one of our player's stock quite a bit to flash a little more homerun pop. That's for another time though.
The second (and far more important) thing I took from the article is that the Baylor Bears have played the most difficult non-conference schedule in the entire Big 12. If there's anything I really love in this world, it's people who agree with me (even more so when they back up my opinions with actual numbers!). Warrennolan is a website that does Strength of Schedule calculations for major college sports along with a few other things.
According to the site, Baylor has played the 8th toughest schedule in the country. That puts them right up there with TCU, UCLA, Rice, and Florida as far as strength of schedule goes. It puts them well ahead of such baseball luminaries as South Carolina and Stanford. The next Big 12 team on the list is Texas coming in at #19, followed by A&M at #20. This is important. As it is in most sports, the Big 12 is a meat grinder in baseball. The Bears have prepared for that by playing (and beating) some really quality competition. That bodes well for conference play.
And now on to the who's who (or is it whom?) of Big 12 Play!
Actually, this is the who's NOT who of Big 12 play. In my first case, I mean that literally.
IOWA STATE is by far the worst team in the conference. They're so bad that they don't even bother to play the game of baseball. That's right, the Big 12 Conference only fields 9 baseball teams. Screw you, math.
Now, I could be kind and gentle and sensible and presume that Iowa State doesn't field a baseball team because of scholarship restrictions. After all, scholarships for college baseball are severely limited for all major universities. However, I'm not kind, gentle, or sensible, so I'm going to say that the good people of ISU are America-hating, pinko Commies. It is our National Pastime, you know.
KANSAS actually does play the games, but I think they'd probably be better off taking the Iowa State route (ZING!). Heading into conference play, Kansas sits at 9-10 and has played pretty much no one of note. How do victories over Belmont, Middle Tennessee State, and Bowling Green sound? Not that great, huh? That's what I was thinking too.
Kansas did actually play two games against Mississippi State, a team that went to the NCAA Tournament last year, but they lost them both. In baseball, even the worst team will win about a third of its games, so it's possible that Kansas could steal a game from Baylor this coming weekend when they visit, but this is the kind of team we absolutely need to demolish to stay competitive in the Big 12. Here's hoping we do.
TEXAS TECH is another team that stands on the bottom rungs of the Big 12 ladder, although they are certainly better off than Kansas. The Red Raiders are 13-8 as I write and have played some pretty stout competition, including ten games against teams that went to the NCAA Tournament last year. In those games, however, they are 3-7, losing three to our Bears, two to TCU, and one each to Rice and Arkansas. They took two games from St. John's and one game from Arizona State.
I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the Bears' sweep this past weekend. I expected a series win, but Tech is not a terrible team by any means. They have very good athletes in their starting lineup, including Barrett Barnes, who not only has more homeruns this year than our entire team combined, but also has 11 stolen bases to go with them. This is not a team without weapons. Where Tech seems to falter is their starting pitching. Duke von Schamann and Rusty Shellhorn are pretty good (and have awesome names), but after those two the quality falls off pretty quickly. Even so, I'm glad we got a sweep early in the season, and we don't have to face Tech again. They're not exactly a freebie match-up in my eyes.
Tune in next time to learn more about Kansas St., Missouri, and Oklahoma St.