Kansas Jayhawks (19-13) vs. Baylor (16-11)
The KU baseball team will be in Waco this weekend playing Baylor. Admittedly I am a bit beaten down right now after the rough handling the Jayhawks received during their just completed home stand. In seven games KU went 3-4. The three wins came against Chicago State and Saint Mary. The four games lost where the ones that matter most. Three to Texas A&M and one to Wichita State. I had a chance to attend five of the seven games and, objectively speaking, KU did not play poorly. Two of the A&M games could have gone either way, and while Wichita State controlled the game on Tuesday night KU kept the contest interesting by not allowing the Shockers to pull away. I know this is a cliché only drawn upon by fans of struggling teams, but I think I am not reaching too far in writing the KU is playing better baseball then their record would indicate. With a little luck and some more effective starting pitching KU can win a couple this weekend. Before the Big-12 season began I knew KU was facing three consecutive tough series. Baylor, A&M and Texas where picked by most to all finish in the top four of the conference. At the time I wrote that as long as KU came out of these series with a 3-6 record they would be okay. That is still an obtainable goal. So, my head it telling me that all is not as gray as my present mood.
Friday 6:30PM: Nick Czyz (1-3, 7.24 ERA) vs. Kendall Volz (3-2, 5.40 ERA)
Saturday 6:30PM: Andres Esquibel (2-1, 2.68) vs. Shawn Tolleson (2-1, 3.58)
Sunday 1PM: Sam Freeman (4-0, 6.75) vs. Willie Kemph (4-1, 3.41)
Media: The only KU media of which I am aware for this series is AM-1320. KLWN will broadcast the Friday and Sunday game. The Saturday game will of course be pre-empted by basketball. Baylor will provide free streaming audio through this site. Apparently there will also be streaming video although I do not think this will be made available without a subscription to CSTV.
The Bears are underachieving so far in 2008. For the talent and expectations they brought into the season the numbers they are putting up so far are surprisingly pedestrian. As a team BU is hitting .269/.370/.424, and scoring right at six runs a game. Compare this to KU, .282/.378/.426 and seven runs per contest, and KU clearly comes out ahead. Baylor is about middle of the pack defensively, which puts them a notch above KU. Baylor's pitching staff entered 2008 with a fair amount of hype but even in this area the team fails to stand out. The team ERA is only a bit below KU's standard (4.72 vs. 4.96). Both teams are surrendering 5.7 runs per game. On paper, KU comes out ahead.
A few other notes
Saturday marks the return of Andres Esquibel to the weekend rotation. Wally Marciel struggled in his last three weekend starts and was moved to the weekday rotation until he gets himself right again. Sam Freeman really needs a good game in Waco. He seems on the edge of a demotion himself. T.J. Walz has been pitching extremely well. Baylor is 17-1 vs. Kansas in Waco, so that is no good. Baylor entered 2008 ranked #15 by Baseball America with several top prospects. Bear's in BA's "Fab 50" list (top fifty prospects from each class): Shawn Tolleson (RHP - FR), Aaron Miller (OF - SOPH), Kendall Volz (RHP - SOPH), Dustin Dickerson (1B - SOPH), Raynor Campbell (3B/2B - SOPH), and Randall Linebaugh (RHP - SR). Not included on this list are probably Baylor's two best college players, shortstop Beamer Weems and closer Nick Cassavechia. So in terms of raw talent, either Baylor is stocked or they have a lot of alumni working in the Baseball America scouting department. If you want to read up more on the Bears Baseball on the Brazos provides pretty good BU baseball coverage.