By Brett Hudson
There are a few good benchmarks throughout the season that give us good reason to take a look at the stats and draw some conclusions, and conference play starting this weekend is a good one. Here we go.
Three Most Impressive Individual Stats
Justin Foscue slugging .656
Not only is the sophomore third baseman hitting the crap out of the baseball, but he’s also doing it with discipline: seven walks compared to six strikeouts.
With four doubles and five home runs on 23 hits, 39.13 percent of his hits are going for extra bags. (For context, when Rowdey Jordan led last year’s team in slugging [.518], 37.1 percent of his hits went for extra bases.) When you factor in that he leads all Bulldogs with more than 50 at-bats in batting average (.359), he’s undeniably MSU’s most valuable hitter and its most consistent: he has yet to go more than back-to-back games without a RBI.
Ethan Small is putting up 15 strikeouts per 9 innings
Friends, that’s 40 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. Fourteen hits and two walks allowed for a batting average allowed of .169 and a WHIP of 0.667.
When you really focus in on his pitching, it’s easy to see how he’s striking people out. He’s locating his fastball and his breaking pitches are sharp, but the changeup is where he really kills people. It is the change of pace that a changeup is supposed to be but it also moves so much that broadcast folk can confuse it with a breaking ball, which JT Ginn loves. (I also made the same mistake, and Ethan was nice enough to enlighten me on how disgusting his changeup is.)
Colby White has struck out 52.17 percent of the batters he’s faced
Best I can tell, the newcomer flamethrower has faced 24 batters: two of them got hits, one of them got hit by a pitch, none of them walked. Eight were retired in the field and 12 were struck out. That’s insane.
There are a lot of really impressive numbers from freshman relievers, all of them earning those guys significant bullpen roles, but striking out guys at this rate is putting him in a serious conversation about the highest leverage roles in SEC weekends.
Honorable mentions: Jordan Westburg has been hit with 5 pitches in 15 games after being hit by 4 pitches in 42 games last year….Three catchers have gotten at least 20 at-bats: Marshall Gilbert, Dustin Skelton and Hayden Jones. All of them are slugging over .500….Elijah MacNamee has already walked 11 times this year after walking 13 times last year.
Two Things To Know About the SEC Schedule
We’ll know everything in 3 weeks
Florida’s starting rotation racks up strikeouts, its bullpen just went 10.1 weekend innings without allowing an earned run and is supported by a lineup that’s left the yard 19 times already, all while drawing nearly 5 walks per game.
Auburn has taken weekend series with mid-major powers Georgia Southern and UCF, swept Cincinnati and UTSA all while compiling a team ERA of 2.15.
LSU has Antoine Duplantis’ incredible slashline of .356/.409/.593, complete with 24 RBI, yet he only leads the team in one of the three slashline stats.
Those are the three teams MSU starts the conference schedule with.
MSU’s first three SEC opponents are ranked 5/18/13 by D1Baseball and 4/17/11 by Baseball America. All the things we think we know about this team but want to see tested over a stint of awesome competition? The first three weeks of SEC play will do exactly that.
Stack wins in April
MSU’s most likely road to a top of the SEC finish puts a lot of pressure on April, because therein lies a rare opportunity to stack wins against SEC opponents.
Of the four SEC teams D1Baseball and Baseball America both projected to miss regionals, MSU gets two of them in April: Alabama and Tennessee. Then there is a series against an admittedly strong Georgia team, but it comes at home. The series at Arkansas also that month will be tough, but I still believe MSU needs to stack up as many as 9 wins in April to give itself wiggle room in terms of finishing atop the SEC. That would mean more or less splitting the months of March and May would give MSU 18 SEC wins; that isn’t always enough to win a division but isolate one weekend in those two months, make it a very good one and maybe it is enough.