By Brett Hudson
As you can imagine, with an 18-2, 2-1 team coming home after taking a road series with a top 10 team, there’s going to be a lot of positivity in here.
3 Incredible Slugging Numbers
It’s been a while….
…since Mississippi State has seen power hitting like this to start a season.
In these first 20 games, MSU has 54 doubles, 3 triples and 21 home runs, the best slugging start since at least 2007. (MSU has game-by-game stat reports going back to 2007 — that’s another way of saying there is an easy way for me to see what MSU has done through 20 games going back to 2007, but beyond that I would have to go box score by box score and ain’t nobody got time for that. Still, that’s a sample size of 13 seasons — plenty to prove MSU’s slugging start is far beyond what it usually does.)
Of the 12 previous teams in this sample, none came within six doubles of the 54 by this year’s team through 20 games; 10 of them fell short of 40. The 21 home runs is also best since at least 2007, with five of the teams since 2007 producing fewer than 10 home runs by the 20-game mark.
Slugging better than all of those teams is impressive when you consider the 2016 team ended opening weekend with 21 doubles and the 2013 team had a wild streak of a triple in six straight games. And remember those 21 home runs this year’s team has hit? That’s how many the 2012 team hit in the entire season; the 2014 team hit 16 all season.
Extra Base Hits Through 20 games, last 13 seasons
Here’s another way to look at it: let’s pretend Extra Bases are a statistic, in which a double gives you one extra base, a triple gives you two and a home run gives you three. This team through 20 games has produced 123 Extra Bases: only four of the teams since 2007 produced more than 100 in their first 20 games, but none of them can match this year’s 123. The average Extra Bases produced of the 2007-2018 teams is 81.3.
However you look at it, this team has started with more power than any Bulldog team in over a decade.
Jake Mangum is part of the power surge
I wrote last year about how Mangum attributed a more narrow stance and being more patient to delivering more extra-base hits, and he’s keeping that going from his junior to senior season.
One example: Mangum produced 16 extra-base hits as a freshman, the year he won the SEC batting title. Last year he had 22 doubles alone and is on pace for something like 27 this year, assuming MSU plays at least a dozen postseason games.
Another way of looking at this is isolated power. It’s one of the more simple Sabermetric statistics: it’s slugging minus batting average. You can see what it’s trying to accomplish, it more or less boils down to the number of extra bases produced per at-bat.
Jake Mangum’s isolated power from freshman year to the first 20 games of his senior year: .102, .061, .128, .141.
It all comes without two key pieces
It bears noting that all of this power is coming without much from Rowdey Jordan — last year’s leader in slugging percentage — or the second base position.
I noted in last week’s Full Count that I still believe Jordan can be a productive hitter, so this isn’t waving the white flag on being this good without his usual form, but it is wild to think that he could find himself soon and this lineup could have even more pop.
And on the second base thing: yes, that’s not normally a position for power hitting, but MSU has been spoiled by getting some of that from Hunter Stovall last year and would have gotten it the year before if not for his injuries.
2 Pitching Thoughts
Pounding the strike zone….
Chris Lemonis is clearly a seasoned vet when it comes to media as a head coach, and I learned that through something he said about the pitching staff.
This may not have been his exact word combination, but it’s pretty close: “If we pound the zone, we’re going to be OK.” The unfiltered version of that is, “My pitchers are better than almost any lineup we can see, so as long as they don’t beat themselves, we’re gonna win.”
This staff has been living up to that simple formula.
This staff has walked a total of 48 batters in 20 games — and 10 of those walks belong to Keegan James, who the fan base is currently putting on the hot seat in his No. 3 starter role. (I’m going to stay out of that debate for now; I want to see a little more before I make my call.)
….it doesn’t matter who
Think about this for a minute: the bullpen just covered 10 innings with a 0.800 WHIP — on the road against a top 10 team — and did it without Peyton Plumlee, the guy often mentioned in the aforementioned No. 3 starter debate.
They can turn to Cole Gordon and Jared Liebelt for saves — and really can turn to Liebelt for anything.
But they’re not limited to those options. They also had Spencer Price pitch the final inning of the third game in Gainesville, plus Riley Self got a late-game inning and Brandon Smith was thrown into a crucial situation earlier in that game.
Chris Lemonis said he is a guy who likes to have bullpen pitchers placed into well-defined roles, but the way that group is going right now, he can probably pull names out of a hat and get the job done.