The Fives: Favorite Stats Through Six Weeks
Six weeks into the college baseball season, and with conference play underway, we can begin to look at what’s happened so far as if it means something, making informed predictions and, in certain cases, drawing conclusions. It’s a very exciting time. With that in mind, here are five stats from the season so far that bring me particular joy.
1. St. Joseph’s has laid down two sacrifice bunts in 18 games.
That’s the lowest sacrifice bunts-to-games ratio in Division I, and one that makes you wonder if the Hawks are playing the same sport as the Gaels of St. Mary’s College, who lay down two sacrifice bunts per game on average. It appears that no coach is as stingy with his outs as Hawks head man Fritz Hamburg, whose team is also a very efficient 13-for-16 in stolen base attempts. That reactive approach has only led to a 7-11 record, but that’s not as bad as it sounds for an Atlantic 10 team that’s had to face Loyola Marymount and Indiana. Here’s to the Hawks achieving the success their tactics deserve.
2. Yale’s Eric Hsieh is hitting .525.
I’ve joked about guys like Cincinnati’s Ian Happ and Nebraska’s Ryan Boldt hitting .500 for the entire season, and sure enough, their batting averages have descended to merely impressive levels, but here we are, in the last week of March, and Hsieh still has more hits than outs. That line is somewhat misleading because the NCAA batting title rules require only that an eligible player average three plate appearances per team game and appear in 75 percent of his team’s games; Yale’s only played 11 games so far, so Hseih’s 40 plate appearances are about half what his competitors have.
With that said, it’s not an empty .525 — he’s walked twice as often as he’s struck out and hit three doubles, which isn’t 1998 LSU power, but it’s not nothing. Perhaps more interesting is that even though he’s usually played first base, Yale lists Hsieh as a pitcher, and he has indeed made two relief appearances. Also of note is the wild nature of Yale’s season so far; four of its five losses have been by double digits, including one wild weekend where the Bulldogs lost to Richmond 30-2 on a Saturday afternoon, then beat Davidson 22-3 that night before losing to Davidson 23-2 in the Sunday finale. So maybe having Division I’s leading hitter isn’t the weirdest thing that’s happened to Yale so far this year.
3. Indiana’s Thomas Belcher still hasn’t walked anyone.
For pitchers, the cutoff for rate stat leaderboards is one inning pitched per team game, and with 22 2/3 innings over the Hoosiers’ 21 total games, Belcher just barely makes that cut. Among such pitchers, the lanky righty is the only one who has yet to walk a batter. I saw Belcher against Cal State Fullerton two weeks ago and he was outstanding, using a mix of offspeed pitches and arm angles to scare the bejeezus out of righthanded hitters while fending off lefties. And he’s not some soft-tossing pitch-to-contact guy. His fastball sits in the high 80s and he’s struck out 23 batters while allowing only two earned runs over the course of the season. Belcher’s got a while to go before we can start calling his performance “Eshelmanian,” but he’s been one of the most impressive relievers in the country thus far. A further tip of the cap goes to TCU lefthander Tyler Alexander, who has yet to walk a batter in 27.2 innings.
4. Texas A&M started the season 24-0.
Sure, you were all aware of this before, but going through the early nonconference schedule undefeated was incredibly impressive, and that “-0” in the standings stood out more and more as early-season favorites Vanderbilt, Virginia, UCLA and TCU stumbled, even if only a little. So even while the cries of “they ain’t played nobody yet” — directed at an SEC West team for a change — rang out, the Aggies did manage to beat all comers until a 6-2 loss to Alabama broke the streak. In a sport where it’s never the goal to win literally every game, streaks like that deserve special mention.
5. Throw a dart at LSU’s offensive stats and pick that.
It’s remarkable that LSU has even lost three times. Paul Mainieri’s team is leading all of Division I with a .332 team batting average, which is so high as to be almost incomprehensible. You could talk about how, 25 games into the season, they’ve got not one but two players — Kade Scivique and Andrew Stevenson — still hitting over .400. You could also talk about how three of the 20 hardest players to strike out — Scivique, Mark Laird and Alex Bregman — are Tigers, while all the other Power Five conference schools together have two players in the top 20. Or how Bregman, the team’s shining light, is actually dragging down the team’s numbers slightly with his .327 batting average and .393 OBP.
The Tigers are outhitting their opponents by 110 points, outslugging them by 195 points and outscoring them by more than four runs a game. Those numbers will likely decline as they get deeper into SEC competition, but then again, they did just drop 18 runs on Ole Miss and 16 runs on Arkansas.