Getting Ready for Baseball – From the Bird’s Nest
(First of two parts)
Tom Petty was right.
The waiting is the hardest part.
But the wait is just about over.
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns begin year 25 with Tony Robichaux as head coach Friday evening and the Cajuns are taking a big bite early as they face #15 Texas at M. L. "Tigue" Moore Field at Russo Park.
Every year this team has question marks, This team may have more than most.
Expectations are always high. But here is a dose of reality.
First, don't expect the Cajuns to suddenly become an offensive juggernaut. This team hit .242 last year. They're not going to hit .292 this year. It doesn't work that way, although it would be reasonable to assume new hitting coach Jake Wells will make them better. But Tony Robichaux has said more times than I can count he's more concerned with on-base percentage (.323) and slugging percentage (.348). I think in that regard, you'll see (hopefully) significant improvement. The Cajuns' plate discipline should be much better, based on reports from the fall and spring intersquad play. And, Louisiana should have more pop in their bats with Todd Lott poised for a strong junior season and Handsome Monica coming back from his injury. The Cajuns had only 88 doubles and 29 homers last year. Those numbers have to get better. I think they will. And, this team is going to show significant improvement (I think) in more walks and hit batsmen (4.08/gm) and fewer strikeouts (7.91). More free base runners make it easy to score runs and we all know that was an issue last year. (4.91). If that happens, the batting average numbers won't matter much.
I'm not worried about the Cajuns' defense. Louisiana made just 48 errors last season which translates to a .979 fielding percentage. With the middle infield returning, center field in good hands, and three good defensive catchers, the defense is in good hands up the middle. The Cajuns will miss Tyler Stover's ability to save errors at first base, but the defense will be fine.
The Cajuns 4.49 ERA was high for a Robichaux squad. And, I do not have good news here. The three guys who had a sub-3.00 ERA are all gone. There is only one returning pitcher with an ERA under 5.00 (Reliever Grant Cox 4.71). While there will be some newcomers making contributions, and hopefully improvement from returning arms, this team is not going to be among the league leaders on the mound. But Robichaux believes if you do two of the three things (offense, defense, pitching) well, you're going to be good. Hopefully the offense and defense will keep things steady while the pitching staff matures.