Three Thoughts from the Week
Is Vandy out of reach?
Vanderbilt (18-6) is three games ahead of Mississippi State (15-9) and its final six games of SEC play are against teams with a combined league record of 18-29-1 (Missouri 12-11-1 and Kentucky 6-18).
This is something I brought up in a Full Count post a few weeks ago, how Vanderbilt has a favorable closing stretch and the Commodores could be tough to catch at the end, but this is where Vandy deserves some credit: yes, the road home in the SEC East is easier than in the West, but Vanderbilt has taken advantage of every single opportunity. Against teams at .500 or worse in league play, Vanderbilt has swept Florida, took two of three from Tennessee, swept Alabama and swept Auburn. Just because it’s supposed to be easy doesn’t mean it ever is in baseball, and there’s something to be said for having a nearly 100 percent conversion rate in spots like this.
Arkansas, however, is only two games ahead of MSU and finishes its season with series against LSU and at Texas A&M. With MSU hosting a bad South Carolina team at the end of the season and obviously having a very good track record against Ole Miss with Jake Mangum on campus, there is a slight opening for State to make that up in two weekends and threaten for the SEC West crown.
Rain helping relievers
There were a total of 33 bullpen pitches thrown by Bulldogs in College Station and Jared Liebelt took all of them. How many teams are lucky enough to more or less give the entire bullpen a week off as it hits the closing stretch?
This comes at a time when starting pitching has been really strong, so the bullpen wasn’t taxed in the Georgia series, then there was no midweek game and they’re basically given the weekend off after it. I wonder how many of these arms show a new level of life for the next few weeks, maybe through the regional, after getting a good bit of recovery time here. I also wonder how the coaches manage the upcoming midweeks, since they are an opportunity to get some bullpen arms a little work for arm health purposes. Not that midweek starting pitching has been a traditional long start kind of deal for MSU recently, but I wonder if you’ll see even more inning-by-inning stuff from them in these final two midweeks against Memphis (Wednesday) and Louisiana Tech (May 14).
Foscue his due
A quick scroll through this fine website revealed that I have yet to sing Justin Foscue’s praises on an individual basis in Full Count; I had him on the podcast to talk about his improvement and how he got here (here’s the link if you missed it), but I haven’t done it in this form, so it’s time to change that.
Folks, his slash line went from .241/.332/.353 last year to .342/.390/.623 so far this year. You know how good Dustin Skelton has been this year? He’s only hitting .310 (lol ‘only’ hitting .310) and Foscue would have to go hitless in 20 at-bats to get down to .310 — and Foscue hasn’t done that in his entire Bulldog career.
Foscue already has 17 doubles this year; 22 would be good enough for tied for 8th in single-season school history. If Foscue keeps this pace (one double every 2.82 games), Foscue would have 22 at some point during the regional. His current home run pace (13, one per 3.69 games) could have him threatening MSU’s top 5 if he holds it through an Omaha run. His current slugging percentage is .623; the only Bulldog to finish a season slugging more than .600 since the 2013 team was Brent Rooker in his Triple Crown season.
Two Trends to Monitor
Elijah MacNamee Post-Texas A&M
Let’s divide Elijah MacNamee’s 2017 season into 3 parts.
- Eight games before going to Texas A&M: 4-for-22 (.181).
- Three games at Texas A&M: 4-for-13 (.307).
- The rest of the season after Texas A&M: 16-for-61 (.262).
As you can see, MacNamee changed his sophomore season for good with three games in College Station: he got a hit in 10 of the 11 postseason games he played that season.
MacNamee is currently scuffling in a similar way — although we have a far more explainable reason for it this time around, his foot injury. That came to our attention at the Governor’s Cup game, when he was seen in a boot and was given a day off of right field duties to help that foot.
Let’s take the same splits from the 2017 season to this one:
- The four games from Governor’s Cup to the Texas A&M series: 1-for-16 (.062). If you want to include the Arkansas series before it, working under the likely assumption that the injury was there then, too, it’s 2-for-26 (.077).
- The Texas A&M series: 2-for-10 (.200).
It’s far from the hot weekend he had in College Station as a sophomore in 2017, but again, foot injury. State is looking for any reason to believe MacNamee is starting to recover from the foot injury, and maybe getting a couple of hits in a weekend series is that sign. Much like his 2017 season, the games from now until the end are what will define it.
Be it publicly, as Mangum himself did, or privately, there was some hypothesizing that Mangum would be a better hitter after he broke the SEC career hits record: now that he’s not living with the shadow of Eddy Furniss over him, he can tailor his approach to what best suits him, not to breaking a hits record.
It’s a small sample size, yes, but in the four games he’s played since he broke the record, he’s 6-for-13 (.461), and those games coming against two of the better pitching staffs in the SEC, Georgia and Texas A&M. That performance has been enough to raise a season batting average of .395 over 200 at-bats to .399 in just 13 at-bats. That’s impressive.
If a .395 hitter magically gets better as the calendar turns from April to May….man oh man.