I was looking for a return to the postseason for the Jayhawks this year because I knew they were going to have two of the best pitchers and at least one of the best hitters in the Big 12. Turns out, they did! Unfortunately, they didn't get much help from the rest of the squad and KU fluttered to a last place finish, missing out on the conference tournament.
Here is how KU ranked as a team in the Big 12:
As you can see, the offense wasn't terrible. KU had no pop offensively, but at least they got on base at a decent clip and had the lowest strikeout rate in the Big 12. KU hitters put the ball in play. Unfortunately, so did the KU pitchers. Not only was KU last in almost every single pitching category, they were last buy A LOT.
Ugh. 13 of the 15 pitchers on KU's roster had ERA's over 5.00, and seven of them had ERA's over 7.00.
C Michael Tinsley finished second in the Big 12 with a .377 batting average. Tinsley's average crested at .402 late in the season, on May 8. Tinsley finished sixth in on-base percentage. Tinsley was a unanimous All-Big 12 first team selection.
SP Ben Krauth finished with a 5-6 record, mostly due to the bullpen. He finished seventh in the Big 12 in ERA at 3.33 with and second in the Big 12 in strikeouts. His BB/K ratio was 103/30. He also finished third in innings pitched. Krauth was a unanimous All-Big 12 first team selection.
2B Colby Wright finished 10th in the Big 12 with a .341 average and fourth in on-base percentage. Wright was an All-Big 12 second teamer.
RP Stephen Villines was an All-Big 12 second team selection. Villines finished with a 5-1 record, 2.13 ERA, and a 47/16 K/BB ratio.
SS Matt McLaughlin was an All-Big 12 honorable mention. He played every inning of every game at shortshop for the Jayhawks this year.
KU loses only seven players to graduation: OF Joe Maroney, INF Tommy Mirabelli, SP Ben Krauth, INF Ryan Pidhaichuk, INF Colby Wright, P Sam Gilbert, P Hayden Edwards.
That's two of KU's All-BIg 12 selections this year, but that also means that the Jayhawks return the bulk of their starters in 2017.
In fairness, KU did lose pitchers Sean Rackoski and Brandon Johnson to injury before the season, and that likely depleted the pitching staff and forced Coach Price to use guys he may not have been ready to go to. However, I think it's also fair to question if Ritch Price is the right guy for the job. Next year will be Price's 15th year in charge of KU baseball, and he only has three NCAA Tournament appearances. Maybe there's a problem in the administration, I don't know - maybe baseball isn't a big enough priority and doesn't get the resources it should.
Whatever the case is, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask that KU baseball to be competitive, regularly finish in the top half of the conference, and make a semi-regular run to an NCAA Tournament appearance. Based on the performance of pitchers not named Krauth or Villines, the Jayhawks are a long way from being competitive. We'll see if the Jayhawks can find some gems in recruiting this year that can help out the pitching staff.