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Texas A&M Baseball

Diamond Notes: Struggles re-emerge as A&M drops series to Missouri

April 5, 2021
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The 2021 Aggie baseball season has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Up and down, left and right, up again and right back down, much like the stock market. As soon as it felt like the latest green arrow pointing up had some staying power (following last week’s series win over Georgia, the big 2-0 victory over No. 5 Texas on Tuesday and a convincing 16-2 win to open up a three-game series this weekend at Mizzou), the Aggies took yet another plunge in their final two games in Columbia and are right back to licking their wounds after another series loss and a hapless 3-6 start to SEC play.

There isn’t much lipstick that I could put on the stink bomb that A&M laid this weekend at Missouri, and I’m absolutely not going to waste your time or mine trying to do so.

It was awful and unacceptable against the worst team in the SEC, hands down. However, if the worst team in the SEC easily handled the Aggies for 18 innings after a blowout loss on Thursday and found a way to grind its way to a series win over the team in Maroon, what does that say about A&M?

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
After defeating their archrival on Tuesday night, the Aggies could not carry the momentum into a pivotal SEC series.

Not good, Ace. Not good at all.

Yes, you want to be even-handed and congratulate A&M on an incredible shutout victory over the Longhorns. That was an incredible atmosphere and such a well-pitched game by freshman Nathan Dettmer, but they needed to go to Columbia and follow it up by handling a bad team. A&M couldn’t and didn’t do it. Period.

With Murderer’s Row in the SEC on the very near horizon, Rob Childress had better get it worked out in a hurry because it’s only getting tougher moving forward.

We’re still just three series into a 10-week conference season, but it’s clear that the Aggies had better start ripping off series wins in bunches — against the likes of Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Tennessee, among others — if they have any hope of extending their NCAA Tournament streak to 14 seasons.

Even if they can grind their way into the Field of 64, go on the road as a 3-seed and lose a Regional, is making the tournament enough?

I know that’s more of a “meta” question but a question that needs to be asked, nonetheless.

Serious questions need to be asked when it comes to the state of Texas Aggie Baseball. The location, the fan base, the resources, the administrative support ... what does A&M need that it doesn’t already have to be one of the five to 10 best college baseball programs? The Aggies are a top 20-25 program, but there is no reason why they aren’t easily among the 10 best programs.

There are so many questions and so few answers game-to-game, week-to-week right now. There’s no consistency, and you have no idea what kind of baseball team will take the field on any given day. It’s up to Childress, his staff and these players to dig deep and figure out answers in a hurry, considering that we’re heading toward mid-April, and the conference slate is getting tougher and tougher from this point.

Each week, we look back on the week that was with a “Good, Bad and Ugly” spin-off and breaking it down in four categories: Good, Average, Bad and Excellent.

Here is this week’s G.A.B.E. looking specifically at the three-game series loss at Missouri…

Good

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Targac hit two home runs on Saturday before being removed from the game in the sixth in favor of a defensive replacement.

Ryan Targac. The freshman switch hitter went 3-for-10 in the Missouri series but barreled up two pitches on Saturday and yanked both of them out of the ballpark to right field, hitting from the left side on both swings. The two dingers were his first collegiate long balls and were both no-doubters. Considering that Targac really provided pretty much all of the offensive output on Saturday, I was shocked that he was pulled in favor of a defensive replacement in the sixth inning with A&M leading 3-2. I understand wanting to get your best fielding team out there, but Targac’s bat was too valuable in that spot, in my opinion. I’m quite interested to see how he continues to progress as his first college season unfolds.

Average

Chris Weber. The third-year lefty has been good in spot duty over the last two series in place of Bryce Miller. Weber held the Tigers to just two runs and battled his way into the sixth inning before the wheels came off. The inning started with a Kalae Harrison fielding error at shortstop, followed by a single and a sacrifice bunt, moving the tying run to third and the go-ahead run to second. Childress went to the pen, and Alex Magers immediately hit a man, allowed a two-run single, intentionally walked a guy and gave up a three-run homer. Just like that, another close game turned blowout. It all started while Weber was on the mound, but most of that doesn’t go against him. I would think that Weber would be fourth right now if Rob Childress were power ranking his starting rotation. While this Tuesday is too soon to start after pitching on Saturday, I bet you’ll see Weber serve in relief this coming weekend and could be in line to reclaim that Tuesday starting role if Dettmer does what we expect him to and slide into the weekend rotation.

Bad

Bost/Coleman combo behind Frizzell. The duo of Austin Bost and Ty Coleman, tasked with protecting A&M slugger Will Frizzell, was pretty good in Thursday’s win and then had a miserable 18 innings at the plate in the two losses. They each drove in a pair of runs in the 16-2 win but managed just one hit and no RBIs combined in the two losses in Columbia. Bost went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Coleman went 1-for-11 with two RBIs and two runs. The Aggies, quite frankly, don’t really have anywhere to turn right now if these guys aren’t getting it done at the plate in the middle of the lineup. It’s got to be a lot better, and it really needs to come from these two guys.

Hitting in key moments. On Thursday night, in a 16-2 win, the Aggie amassed 11 hits with runners on base (.393) and eight hits with runners in scoring position (.400). Then, POOF, it all went away.

Facing starters on Friday and Saturday with ERAs in the 7s and 5s, respectively, A&M’s offense went a miserable 2-for-28 (.071) with runners on base and 1-for-16 (.063) with runners in scoring position. It’s the key to a successful offense: getting men on and driving them in.

Angelina Alcantar, TexAgs
Jonathan Childress could see his role change if he doesn’t pick it up quickly.

Jonathan Childress. The third-year freshman lefty once again looked like the shell of his pre-SEC self, lasting just 3.0 innings and taking the game two loss, allowing four earned runs on five hits with a walk and just one strikeout. I hate to say it because I know how gifted he is, but I believe Jonathan Childress’s days as a weekend starter for the Aggies are over. At least for now.

I’ve covered the entirety of the Rob Childress era, and he rarely allows a weekend starter to stay in the rotation after three consecutive poor starts. I can think of Brooks Raley when he hit a wall late in his sophomore (and final) season in Aggieland, but that’s about it.

Nick Fleece. Kyle Martin. Derrick Hadley. I’ve seen it over and over. In Rob’s “you write your own name in the lineup” approach, if you produce, you play, and if you don’t, you don’t. Unlike the offense where there aren’t many better options than the nine guys running out there right now, there are options on the mound. Namely, Bryce Miller returning from illness and the emergence of Nathan Dettmer (see “Excellent” category below). With the way Weber has pitched in two spot starts the last two weekends, I would think he would have a better chance of holding onto a weekend spot than Jonathan Childress at this point.

I can’t quite figure out if it’s technical or a confidence thing, but Jonathan Childress is getting hit around the ballpark. He isn’t fooling anybody with his high-80s to low-90s fastball or his assortment of secondary offerings. Perhaps a move to the Tuesday spot or into the pen would serve him well and allow him a chance to breathe and sort out the issues.

The bullpen. Six different arms combined for 9.2 innings of relief in the three games at Mizzou, allowing eight earned runs on nine hits, walking four and striking out 11. Lefty Chandler Jozwiak has been great most of the year but came off of an impressive outing against Texas by allowing four runs (three earned) in four innings of work on Friday, turning a close game into a blowout for the Tigers. Alex Magers relieved Joz on Friday but then came on Saturday with a 3-2 lead and allowed three earned runs in 0.1 IP, letting Mizzou blow it open once again. The bullpen has been quite good for much of the season, but it let the team down this weekend.

Excellent

Ray Alejo. The sixth-year senior had himself a weekend when there wasn’t much to write home about. Alejo hit in the six-hole in the first two games of the Mizzou series and moved into the two-hole on Saturday, racking up extra-base hits like a mad man. The center fielder went 3-for-5 with three doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored in the blowout win over the Tigers on Thursday. He followed it up with a 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Friday but bounced back with an impressive 3-for-5 game on Saturday, including a pair of two-baggers and a triple. All in all, that’s six hits in 13 at-bats (.462 average), and all six knocks went for extra bases. Alejo is second on the team behind Will Frizzell in all three slash-line categories, sitting at .348/.420/.517. I think we all would have been thrilled if I told you that Ray’s OPS was sitting at .937 in early April.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Frizzell remains as the only hitter in the Aggie lineup that truly strikes fear into opposing pitchers.

Will Frizzell. Big #50 continues to consistently produce for the Aggies, whether he’s hitting second or third. Frizzell went 5-for-10 (.500) in the Missouri series with a homer, three RBIs and four runs. Will has been arguably the best power hitter in the SEC this season, slashing a ridiculous .355/.448/.673 through 30 games. If the Ags can grind their way into postseason play and assuming they get to at least 60 games played in ’21 (and assuming that Frizz’s current statistical pace holds), you’re looking at an 18-homer, 46-RBI, 78-hit, 16-double season. It has been a good while since we’ve seen a year like that from a power production standpoint. This has always been Will’s potential if he stays healthy.

Nathan Dettmer. I’m cheating a little and stealing from Tuesday’s win over Texas, but we had to stop down and say some nice things about this incredible freshman. Dettmer went out and “shoved” against the Longhorns to the tune of seven shutout innings of mound dominance. He allowed just three hits and two walks, punching out six to lead the Aggies to an impressive win over the over-ranked Longhorns (No. 5 at the time).

Mark it down: Dettmer is the Aggies’ Friday night starter in 2022 and ’23, and the son and step-son of a couple of pitchers is clearly well beyond his years when it comes to acumen and ability on the mound. I would be pretty surprised if Dettmer isn’t in the weekend rotation this week against Alabama, despite the likely return of Bryce Miller from COVID-19 protocol.

Dustin Saenz. This is a portion of what I wrote about Thursday night’s performance from Saenz in my post-game thoughts piece: “A week after an 11-strikeout effort to shut down Georgia’s bats last Friday at Olsen Field — and working on one day’s short rest tonight against Mizzou — the Corpus Christi native came out and pitched his guts out for seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits and three walks with 10 strikeouts. Location, location, location! Saenz has been so good of late in commanding his full arsenal and assortment of pitches while keeping the Tigers off-balance and guessing most of the night. Saenz never faced more than five batters in a single inning all night. That’s impressive in its own right but even more ridiculous when you consider that Mizzou got the leadoff hitter on base against him at a .429 clip (3-for-7). But once Missouri reached base, Dustin was at his best, holding the Tigers to a 1-for-9 (.111) showing with runners on base. Mizzou was 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position against Saenz. Just a huge game one start to get the Aggies off on the right foot in another series without the services of Bryce Miller.”

What more do you need to say? The fourth-year junior lefty has been brilliant and stepped up his game in the absence of Miller. The stuff has always been there, and now he has the maturity on the mound and the confidence to go along with it. I always feel good when Dustin is on the mound. He’s been incredible in pretty much every start outside of the Florida game, and I expect him to continue producing and giving the Aggies a good chance to start 1-0 each weekend moving forward.

The Five Factors: Offense

Here’s a look at what the Aggie bats did in five critical situational areas in the win over Texas:

  • Two-outs: .111 (1-for-9)
  • Runners on: .182 (2-for-11)
  • Runners in scoring position: .000 (0-for-6)
  • Leadoff OBP: .250 (2-for-8)
  • Two-out RBI: 0

Here are the five key split stats in the series loss to Missouri:

  • Two-outs: .297 (11-for-37)
  • Runners on: .232 (13-for-56)
  • Runners in scoring position: .250 (9-for-36)
  • Leadoff OBP: .333 (9-for-27)
  • Two-out RBI: 2.7 PG (8 total)

Here are A&M’s updated season totals to this point in all five areas:

  • Two-outs: .263 (87-for-330)
  • Runners on: .291 (148-for-508)
  • Runners in scoring position: .291 (95-for-326)
  • Leadoff OBP: .380 (97-for-255)
  • Two-out RBI: 2.5 PG (74 total)

The Five Factors: Pitching

Here are the raw numbers from what the Aggie pitching staff did in five critical situational areas vs. Texas:

  • Two outs: .111 (1-for-9)
  • Runners on: .000 (0-for-10)
  • Runners in scoring position: .000 (0-for-5)
  • Leadoff OBP: .333 (3-for-9)
  • Two-out RBI: 0

Here are the five key split stats vs. Missouri:

  • Two-outs: .179 (5-for-28)
  • Runners on: .304 (14-for-46)
  • Runners in scoring position: .310 (9-for-29)
  • Leadoff OBP: .520 (13-for-25)
  • Two-out RBI: 1.3 PG (4 total)

Here are the updated season totals for Aggie pitching to this point in all five areas:

  • Two outs: .221 (72-for-326)
  • Runners on: .232 (107-for-462)
  • Runners in scoring position: .224 (65-for-290)
  • Leadoff OBP: .386 (102-for-264)
  • Two-out RBI: 1.4 PG (43 total)

Parting Shots

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Nathan Dettmer could move into the weekend rotation as the freshman continues to get better with every start.

It’ll be fascinating to see if Childress starts Dettmer Tuesday night on the road against Sam Houston State or if he saves him for this weekend. If you don’t see Dettmer announced as the starter, you can take it to the bank that he’s headed into the weekend rotation in place of Jonathan Childress. Still, even if Dettmer does start the game in Huntsville, I could see Rob use that as his bullpen day and have him work about three innings and STILL start him on Sunday against Alabama.

Sam Houston State is not good this year (12-13 overall; 9-7 in Southland). However, they have won six in a row versus bad teams, so they will come in confident heading into this “Super Bowl” type of game for their program every year. It’s certainly not a throw-away game for A&M. I would start Dettmer and let him get you off to a good start, but then get him out of there and have him fully ready to go in his first SEC start this weekend.

The lineup. Oh, the lineup. It needs work. As soon as it looks like Bryce Blaum had locked up the leadoff spot and thrown away the key, he goes 0-for-9 in the last two games at Mizzou, and who knows where his head is at right now. Ty Coleman has come back to Earth, but I think he still warrants an everyday assignment and a chance to work through his recent issues at the plate. I like Frizz back in the three-hole as we saw on Saturday. I would go with something like this...

1. Blaum - 3B (R)
2. Alejo - CF (R)
3. Frizzell - 1B (L)
4. Bost - DH (R)
5. Targac - LF (S)
6. Ty Coleman - 2B (R)
7. Britt - RF (R)
8. Hoehner - C (R)
9. Harrison - SS (L)

That’ll do it for this go-around. Another all-important week for the up-and-down Aggies with a trip to Sam Houston State on Tuesday followed by three at home vs. Alabama this weekend. Keep it right here on TexAgs for the most complete and robust coverage of Aggie Baseball throughout the entirety of the 2021 campaign.



Key notes from Justin Seely interview on TexAgs Radio

  • Nathan Dettmer was fabulous on Tuesday against Texas. He is starting to shape into what we think he can be. He is only going to continue to get better. He's starting to believe in himself now. That's great news.
     
  • Chandler Jozwiak was fantastic on Tuesday and gave his all on Friday. He gave us a chance to have the bullpen together on Saturday.
     
  • We got the two home runs and a great pitching performance on Tuesday. We jumped out early on Thursday and were able to put the game on ice early. Those were good. We thought we'd continue the trend on Friday and Saturday. We got up 2-1 on Friday, and it fell apart on us. We never recovered after that.
     
  • Saturday is the game we should have taken care of. That's definitely the disappointing part.
     
  • I can't say that I see something that makes me go, 'Oh boy, we're in for it.' I think our players are coming with pretty consistent energy, and they have since the Rice game. I don't see one thing in particular and don't have that answer.
     
  • We went through a similar deal in 2017, and we ended up making it to Omaha. What I hope will happen, and what I believe will happen, is we'll get our pitching more lined up this week.
     
  • Thursday, we put the ball in play when we had runners in scoring position. It wasn't always pretty, but putting it in play was great. Our strikeouts need to come down, especially in run-scoring spots. We did not do that on Saturday. We'll address that from a coaching standpoint.
     
  • If you look at what Missouri did in the five-run inning they had on Saturday; they moved the ball. They dropped the ball where we weren't, and the wheels fell off from there. The three-run home run was a residual effect of everything that happened before. Moving the baseball is key.
     
  • Two years ago, we put the ball in play more than anybody, but we didn't hit it hard. Right now, we're hitting the ball hard, but we're also striking out. We need to find the happy medium.
     
  • Ryan Targac has been just fine against left or right-handed pitching. The game is starting to slow down for him. We needed a left-handed bat in the lineup with him. You saw on Saturday that he is incredibly strong. He can impact the ball like Nick Banks. There is nothing stopping him from hitting both sides.
     
  • I feel like we've gone to Sam Houston State quite a bit. We go there on Tuesday night. I've known a lot of their coaching staff since I was in my 20s, and I've obviously known Michael Barash since he was young. They have a good team and are feeling good about themselves. We'll have to play with the energy we need to play with.
Discussion from...

Diamond Notes: Struggles re-emerge as A&M drops series to Missouri

1,862 Views | 3 Replies | Last: 7 mo ago by fieldtrailer
moriarty90
How long do you want to ignore this user?
They had an opportunity to fire RC earlier in the year and let the asst make a run at it this year but now it's to late for that and we just have to watch this contract year expire - it's a shame that a program with so much fan support, local Texas talent and being in a great baseball conference has been wasted over the many years of confusing leadership style, no identity and being unable to adapt to the simple metrics of baseball

and now his handle of the pitching staff has to be questioned even by his supporters. & if we have to hear "but he is such a nice guy" one more time to explain it ,,,,
SchizoAg
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AG
I think it's stupid to consider firing a coach after consecutive "COVID years".

It takes a different skillset to be successful during a "COVID year" than it does during a normal year. We should optimize for the latter, not the former.

Case in point: If Bryce Miller hadn't been out due to COVID, he would have pitched last weekend. Who's to say that we wouldn't have won or even swept the series, with improved pitching?
fieldtrailer
How long do you want to ignore this user?
AG
"I was shocked that he was pulled in favor of a defensive replacement in the sixth inning with A&M leading 3-2. I understand wanting to get your best fielding team out there, but Targac's bat was too valuable in that spot,..."



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