At Baseball’s Halfway Point – From the Bird’s Nest
I guess I should start by channeling my inner Dennis Green.
The Cajuns are who I thought they were.
When the season started and Tony Robichaux's Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns were being ranked in everyone's Top 25 including one ranking as high as #6 I wasn't surprised.
I also wasn't buying it.
I told anyone who would listen it was possible the Cajuns would be that good by the time the regular season came to an end. But I certainly didn't think they'd start that way.
After all, the Cajuns had lost three big contributors in Blake Trahan, Tyler Girouard and Greg Davis. They had a recruiting class coming in that was highly rated, but recruiting rankings mean absolutely nothing. All recruiting classes, especially those at the level of the Sun Belt Conference (a good, not great baseball league) have a learning curve. And, I knew the Cajuns would have to grow into the club the "experts" thought they would have.
If I had told fans the Cajuns would be 18-10 at the halfway point, the majority would have been disappointed. And, they wouldn't have changed their opinion if I told them Kyle Clement was going to miss 17 games after being hit by a pitch, freshman Hunter Kasuls would go down with a broken hand right about the time he won the shortstop job and Stefan Trosclair would barely hit his weight when April 1st came around.
But those things happened and the Cajuns are still three games ahead of where they were last year at this point.
The pitching staff has been what we thought they'd be. Louisiana goes a solid nine deep and honestly, a couple of the guys who haven't pitched much would be pitching quite a bit for other teams in the Sun Belt. Freshmen Nick Lee and Hogan Harris are as good as advertised. Jevin Huval was a guy not many fans were familiar with after redshirting a year ago out of LSU-E. But he's been really good. Eric Carter has taken a major step forward.
It's quite simply, the deepest staff Tony Robichaux has ever had.
Defensively the Cajuns have had a couple of rough outings, specifically in losses to McNeese State and LSU. But overall the defense has been solid and statistically good enough to lead the SBC in fielding percentage. The errors they have made have been magnified by the fact (pardon the pun) this team has little margin for error.
From the beginning, it's been the offense that concerned me, and that was even more evident when Clement went down and Trosclair got off to the slow start. Fortunately Joe Robbins and Brenn Conrad got off to hot starts, although both have cooled lately.
At the halfway point, there are both good and not so good things to say:
The Cajuns are hitting .283 with runners in scoring position and .294 with men on base. Both of those numbers are higher than their overall team batting average of .268. The Cajuns are hitting .414 in bases loaded situations and reach base leading off an inning nearly 40 percent of the time.
But the Cajuns have only gotten the runner home from third with less than two outs 57% of the time. Good offensive teams are up around the 70% mark. The Cajuns are dead last in the league in walks received. They're second in times HBP which helps the overall on base percentage, but they get about five base runners per game. If you're on offense, you'd like to have that around seven. The lack of a plethora of base runners is probably directly related to the Cajuns stolen base percentage, which isn't good. However, if you're not going to walk a lot or have a good batting average, you have to take more chances to get runners into scoring position.
The Cajuns have hit left handed pitching considerably better than right handers this year and that's a departure from a season ago.
If the Cajuns are going to be the team at the end of the season fans are hoping for, they've got to have more players step up offensively. Trosclair is starting to heat up and Clement is back. Veteran players like Robbins, Conrad and Thurman will need to get big hits in RBI situations. And, it's time for the newcomers to hit consistently. They've had 28 games of seeing good college pitching. If the junior college transfers and freshmen can raise their batting average about ten points each, this team will be on its way to being a solid postseason club.
Until that happens, pitch. Play good defense. Get timely hits.
Anyone heard that before?