After a trip to Omaha in 2011, expectations were high for the Longhorns going into 2012. Eight games into the year, they have come up short of playing to their preseason potential, getting out of the gates to a 3-5 start.
The team still has a real shot at being good, and perhaps even another run to the College World Series. After all, last year’s team got off to a similar start, losing a game in its opening series to a ACC foe, Maryland, and then dropping their first Tuesday night game to a mid-major opponent, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The only difference is instead of a playing a weaker team like Hawaii in their next series, Texas ran into the machine that is the No. 2 Stanford Cardinals and got swept.
For now, though, they are just an average team, and the statistics back it up.
Under head coach Augie Garrido the Longhorn lineup is usually a light-hitting group that relies on small ball to score, but through the first eight games this season the team is making light-hitting look like a kind description.
As a group, the Longhorns are hitting below the Mendoza line — below .200 — at a paltry .195. This won’t get things done down the road. No matter how good a team’s pitchers are, the team still has to put runs on the board to win the game.
The lineup is capable of turning it around: They have hitters that proved their chops at the plate last season, but are just off to quicksand-slow starts.
Erich Weiss is a perfect example. Last season as a freshman, he hit a team leading .348, but so far in 2012 he cannot find his stroke hitting just .179. Weiss was a player that was expected to carry the Longhorns all season, and the team desperately needs him to break out of his sophomore slump to aid the turnaround.
However, to put it all on the shoulders of one player would be unfair. The whole team is struggling, as seen in the overall batting average. At the moment, there are only four players that are hitting above .200, unlike the final statistics from last season when 11 players finished above that line.
Players like sophomore Jacob Felts who is hitting .72 percentage points lower than last season and senior Jordan Etier who hasn’t even recorded a hit in his four games played, need bring their games up to normal levels to help an offense that looks weak.
The offense isn’t alone, however. The pitching staff is also struggling to live up to its potential. Last season, the staff had a 2.35 ERA to finish the season — although it should be noted that the team’s top three starters are gone from that team — but this year, through eight games, the team ERA is only 4.16, which, while not bad, will not get things done for this struggling offensive squad.
Not to be overlooked is the defensive side of the game. Texas has been plagued by errors early on this season with 12 in its first eight games, good for a .958 fielding percentage. While this number sounds good, for a team that was third in the country last year with a .982 percentage, this kind of defense is unacceptable and has cost them games.
Texas is built on solid defense and mentally sound baseball. So don’t expect this sloppy play to continue. But if the team wants start stacking up wins to offset their slow start, all three of these core elements would need to drastically improve.
Printed on Thursday, March 1, 2012 as: Texas troubled by sloppu play, overall lack of offense