Breaking Down Cajuns’ Baseball – 2015-2018
Following the record breaking 2014 season, what has the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns baseball team accomplished?
They won a regular season Sun Belt title, two conference tournament championships, participated in a super-regional, and hosted a regional.
All of that happened in 2015-16.
But the last two years, the Cajuns have won 35 and 34 games and missed postseason play in both years.
Now there are a lot of teams that would love to win 35 games per season. But not so this program.
"Our goals are to win 40 games, win a Sun Belt title, win a Sun Belt Tournament title, be in a regional and make some noise when we get there," head coach Tony Robichaux said Saturday morning on "The Au-Zone," hosted by Ian Auzenne. "The last two years we've won 35 and 34 games. That's unacceptable. There's a bar that's been set here and we are the ones who have set it with the success we've had. We will not lower the bar. We have to figure out a way to get over that bar again."
There has been much speculation as to why that has happened. And most fingers are pointed toward the Cajuns' offense. And, while that is accurate, there has been a hiccup in the pitching as well.
Robichaux has said many times he doesn't look at batting average much, preferring to concentrate on slugging percentage and on-base percentage. He believes they are a much better indicator of how your offense is performing.
With that in mind, here are some numbers over the last four years. It would not be fair to compare these to the mammoth numbers the offense put up in 2014 when they went 58-10, as that was something that had not been attained previously and may or may not be attained again. The 2015 team didn't put up those kind of numbers, yet they participated in a super regional and came one game short of what the previous year's team had accomplished, even with those gaudy numbers. The 2016 team didn't come close to those numbers, either, but were good enough to host a regional.
Here's what we've seen from the offense the last four years
RUNS PER GAME: 2015: 5.92, 2016: 5.56, 2017: 5.29, 2018: 4.91--The Cajuns got off to such a bad start offensively in 2018, the fact they averaged nearly six runs per game over the second half of the season couldn't get the Cajuns to the five runs per contest mark.
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: 2015: .416, 2016: .407, 2017: .398, 2018: .348 Not only did the Cajuns suffer from a power outage, they also had the fewest number of doubles since 2012, dropping from 121 in 2015 to 115 in 2016, to 92 in 2017 and 88 this past season. The Cajuns hit 57 homers in 2015, but those numbers have dropped to 45, 41 and 29 the last three seasons. The good news is the Cajuns hit 12 homers in their last eight games, giving hope for the future, as all but five of those 29 homers return next season.
ON BASE PERCENTAGE: 2015: .360, 2016: .361, 2017: .357, 2018: .323--Not only did the Cajuns not hit well enough, they didn't walk enough either and that made it even harder to score runs.
Part of the issue this past season was the fact there were five players in the lineup (sometimes six depending on the DH) who had not played an inning of Division I ball before this season. EVERYONE got off to a slow start. But the emergence of Gavin Bourgeois, Daniel Lahare and Hayden Cantrelle, made this team better offensively as the season progressed. They'll all be back, along with Hunter Kasuls, whose 50 RBI was the most in a season for a Cajun since Stefan Trosclair drove in 53 in 2015.
Now, before anyone points totally to the offense, let's look at some pitching numbers.
ERA: 2015: 3.37, 2016: 3.25, 2017: 3.33, 2018: 4.49 Now, to be fair, that ERA jumped over the last three games when the Cajuns gave up 36 runs. But the team ERA was over 4.00 at the end of the regular season
RUNS PER GAME: 2015: 3.96, 2016: 3.70, 2017: 4.01, 2018: 5.15. Again, even before the last three games, the runs per game given up was the highest in the last four years.
OPP SLUGGING PCT: 2015: .356, 2016: .340, 2017: .318, 2018: .376
HOME RUNS ALLOWED: 2015: 43, 2016: 29, 2017: 34, 2018: 37
OPP. ON BASE PCT: 2015: 312, 2016: .304, 2017: .322, 2018: .356
With the loss of Sun Belt Pitcher of the Year Colten Schmidt, along with fellow seniors Dylan Moore and Logan Stoelke and the likely departures of draft eligible pitchers Hogan Harris and Nick Lee, the biggest question mark facing the Cajuns for 2019 isn't the offense as much as it is the pitching staff.
DEFENSE: If there's anything that's been consistent over the last three seasons, it's been the Cajuns defense. After fielding .969 in 2015, the Cajuns fielded at a clip of .976, .978 and .979 the last three seasons. And, with the returning players the Cajuns have, there's no reason to believe there will be a drop off next season.
The Cajuns have never gone three straight years without post-season play since Tony Robichaux has been the head coach. Over the next couple of days, we'll take what the Cajuns have returning, and look at how that streak can continue.