I think we are far enough into the season now to start looking at some statistics. After 17 games the Jayhawks are hitting .279/.368/.422 as a team (Batting Average/On-Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage).
A .790 OPS looks good, but when the opponents are taken into consideration, the number indicates that this is likely to be a team that will struggle to score runs against top conference pitching and defense. Seven of KU’s 17 games have come against poor teams. Anyone who went to the North Dakota and/or Northwestern games knows how shallow the pitching was on those teams. Kansas has played eight games against very good teams and scored an average of 6.5 runs a game in these contests. That looks very good at first pass, but when you look deeper five of those eight games were mid-week match-ups when the Jayhawks were not facing their opponents' best starting pitchers. The closest approximation so far on the Kansas schedule of what life is likely to resemble in Big-12 conference play is this last weekend’s Arizona State series. Kansas scored 3, 4 and 10 runs in those games. If that is what the offense is going to look like this season than KU will face a lot more one win, two loss weekends.
Only players with 1+AB/game included.
I wrote about Tony Thompson’s amazing start earlier this week. Buck Afenir deserves some love here. Buck has shown improvement as a catcher. We’ve known since his freshman year that he could hit. I don’t know why Price sits him from time to time. I don’t mind him getting a break from catching duties once a weekend but I really want to see him DHing on those off days. Of the outfielders Heere, Faunce and Lytle have all gotten off to good starts at the plate. I knew Heere would be able to get on base but his .407 OBP is amazing. Lytle plays corner outfield defense well enough but struggled when placed in centerfield. As long as Casey keeps on hitting he will see more and more playing time. Faunce’s defensive struggles in center came as quite a shock to me. Price likes Brunansky’s defense in CF but he will have to hit better to play everyday. Right now it looks like Bruanansky and Faunce are sharing time in the position. Jimmy Waters has done reasonably well in limited playing time. Look for him to get more at bats in the coming weeks now that his throwing arm has regained its strength.
Outside of Thompson the infield has not provided as much offensive help as I had hoped. Narodowski started the year hitting clean-up but has not made the adjustment from Juco to D-I with his bat yet. His glove will ensure him daily play at shortstop, and his bat, while not loud, is certainly is not of the peace maker variety either. If he OPSs around .800 it will really toughen up the KU line-up. For the third straight year Robby Price is off to a slow start. Tom Hendrik talked about this during the games in San Diego. Hendrik thinks that Robby hates the cold. What is really hurting the team more than anything is the lack of production out of first base. Preston Land has had a few good games but way too often he finds himself walking back to the dug-out bat in hand. He has struck out 41% of his plate appearances. Zac Elgie is still working through his freshman learning curve and has been very inconsistent in the field.
In my eyes the two key changes KU needs to see starting soon if they are going to win 10+ conference games are more production out of first and more consistent pitching in the late innings. The team is playing better than I expected they would so far. If Preston Land and Paul Smyth get into a grove this team will jump from okay to pretty good.
There just haven’t been enough games for me to break down the pitching statistics yet. I’ll probably do that in the next week or two. Right now KU only has four pitchers with more than 12 innings of work and so the sample sizes are too small to justify even qualified conclusions.