Looking Ahead to the 2nd Half – From The Bird’s nest
The second half of the 2019 Ragin' Cajuns baseball season began yesterday with a 4-3 win over Troy.
A season of promise has been sabotaged by injuries, but there's nothing that can be done about that.
The question is, what can you do moving forward?
There is some good news to report. Eventually, the Cajuns hope to have Hunter Kasuls back at his second base position. Catcher Sebastian Toro is on the mend and should return at some point as well. Ditto OF/1B Daniel Lahare.
Head coach Tony Robichaux remains optimistic we may see Gunner Leger back in a starters' role at some point, but in the meantime, he could give the Cajuns a needed late-inning relief boost.
OF Gavin Bourgeois, 3B Jonathan Windham and RHP Austin Bradford aren't coming back this year. And, their losses have hurt. The Cajuns have had a revolving door in left field, a door that has spun even faster with the loss of Lahare. The Cajuns have gotten nothing offensively at third base since Windham went down. All Robichaux can do is plug in healthy players where he can and hope they perform.
At the beginning of the season, Robichaux felt the pitching staff would be a work in progress and hoped the hitters would be able to cover up pitching sins. To an extent, they have. But the injuries may have cost the Cajuns as much as a run per game and that's a fine line between a win and a loss.
Still, even with the injuries, the Cajuns have been much better offensively through 29 games than they were a year ago.
Here are some numbers through 29 games last year vs. 29 games this year, with 2018 listed first
BATTING AVERAGE .221/.253
SLUGGING PERCENTAGE: .301/.396
WALKS/HIT BATTERS 106/175
ON BASE PERCENTAGE: 296/.363
STOLEN BASES: 30/54
Those are some pretty significant improvements. One can only imagine where those numbers would be with consistency at the LF and 3B positions.
In conference play, the Cajuns are hitting 40 points higher than they did in the first nine games a year ago. They've averaged two more runs per game, are slugging .131 higher and their on base percentage is .062 better.
Now, I don't make up the lineup and I'm really not qualified to do so, but, when the others come back healthy, here's a possibility.
Cantrelle SS, Breaux CF, Lott LF, Kasuls 2B, Toro DH, Monica/Lahare 1B, McKinnon/Monica C, Veillon/Spears RF, Lochridge/Dupuy/Camp 3B
Now, that's only an example. But that's a lot more potential firepower than what the Cajuns have had the last couple of weeks.
Obviously, the weathering of the young pitching staff has meant for plenty of growing pains.
This year's staff team ERA of 4.56 is more than half a run higher than last year at this time. Opponents have scored 18 more runs and are hitting .011 higher. Their slogging percentage is .031 higher and their on base percentage is .004 higher. Believe it or not, this year's pitching staff has allowed fewer free baserunners than last year at this time. (183/171).
The good news here is that the staff is getting better. The five game weeks have taken its toll on the depth of the staff and there are two more of those coming up in the next two weeks. The big key moving forward is going to be consistency in the starting staff. Jacob Schultz, Austin Perrin and now, Jack Burk are more than capable when they are on. They need to be on more often.
Middle relief has gotten better as well, as Grant Cox has stepped forward and Brandon Young's velocity is returning. Caleb Armstrong and freshman Connor Cooke are becoming more consistent. The Cajuns need to get some consistency from Brock Batty and Logan Savoy and it would be great if Dalton Horton would regain his early season form. With Bradford on the shelf, Michael Leaumont and Leger will handle the back end of the bullpen and both are capable. There are enough arms, but consistency is key moving forward.
Last year the Cajuns were 12-16 and then went 21-7 the rest of the year. I also remember in 2010 when the Cajuns were 13-15 and then celebrated a regular season championship. With all the injuries, I'm not sure that can happen this year. But as the lineup gets healthier and the staff gets more consistent, this season is far from over.
Tony Robichaux said today there is nothing they can do about what has happened and this team needs to look forward.
That holds true for us, too.