No Time to Panic – From the Bird’s Nest
Not exactly where the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns hoped to be seven games into the season.
Expectations are always high for Louisiana baseball. The Cajuns' program under head coach Tony Robichaux has created the expectations with their consistent success over the 25 seasons the Crowley native has been leading the charge.
But, even at 1-6, the sky is not falling.
The Cajuns have been close..oh so close...to being 6-1. An extra innings loss, a one run loss, another extra innings loss and a pair of walkoff losses have the Cajuns in the shape they're in right now. And, that's against some awfully good competition.
It's been easy to see the bullpen has been the biggest issue. A Cajun starter has the one win. The bullpen has been charged with the six losses. In the 25 runs the Cajuns gave up to Sam Houston State last weekend, 21 were scored in the seventh inning or later.
The Cajuns and their fans have been spoiled for several seasons now with excellent pitching depth. But that tradition is, and will continue to be, tested throughout the season.
And, to compound the situation, a pair of pitchers, Austin Bradford and Brandon Young, are question marks because of health. Bradford was projected to be the Cajuns' closer and Young the #2 starter. That makes the staff paper thin right now.
But all is not lost.
Gunner Leger returns to the mound this weekend. Austin Perrin has taken a big step forward. Dalton Horton has been outstanding in his two starts. Junior college transfer Jacob Schultz has given the Cajuns quality innings and Michael Leaumont, despite being 0-2 has pitched very well.
Robichaux has proven to be one of the nation's best when it comes to pitcher development. Freshmen Connor Cooke, Chance Stone have had their moments. And, they'll hopefully only get better as the season progresses.
When breaking down the season, there is a glaring statistic that has to get better.
The Cajuns have got to quit walking people.
Louisiana has issued 40 walks in seven games. Add five hit batsmen and that's 6.4 free baserunners per game. And, that's way too many, especially for Robichaux. The Cajuns' pitching staff isn't going to strike out a lot of folks and that means balls have a chance to find holes. If you're giving free baserunners, that's not a good thing.
But, there certainly is some good news. The Cajuns' offense has gotten off to a much better start this season and I have to believe they're going to get even better. The Cajuns .256 team batting average won't scare anyone, but that's a whale of a lot better than it was after seven games a year ago. And, the slugging and on base percentages are up as well. The Cajuns averaged six runs per game over the first two games last weekend and Louisiana will win more often that not when scoring six or more runs. And, two of the Cajuns' best hitters, Daniel Lahare and Hayden Cantrelle, have yet to get untracked. We know how good they are.
Defensively the Cajuns have made some critical errors, but we know this is a good defensive team. With fewer strikeouts from the pitching staff, the defense will have to make more plays. I believe they will.
The Cajuns aren't far off. Although, with a 1-6 record, it certainly seems like it. But I got several texts and emails last week wondering if it's time to panic.
The answer is no.