Story Poster
Photo by Baylor Athletics
Baylor Baseball

Inside the Numbers: At the Halfway Mark, Has Baylor Baseball Improved?

April 2, 2024
4,265

Heading into this spring, Pro Baseball Radar ranked Baylor’s schedule over the first month of the season as the toughest of anyone in the country. After the Bears dropped three straight contests to Nebraska, Oregon and No. 5 Tennessee and were swept at home by No. 22 Indiana, they’ve been chasing a winning record ever since.

Baylor Athletics
Over a quarter of Baylor’s roster has either missed significant time or are out for the season with injuries.

Just when you think you have this year’s team figured out or are about to pronounce them dead, Mitch Thompson’s squad fights back and lives to see another day.

Baylor is currently 10-17 overall and 5-7 in conference play. They’ve picked up series wins over No. 23 Texas Tech and Cincinnati, swept Oral Roberts and stole a game over Texas in Austin.

As for losses, the Bears were swept by Houston in a disappointing fashion and have dropped midweek matchups to No. 17 Dallas Baptist, Abilene Christian, Sam Houston and UTSA.

At this point last year, Baylor was 9-18 and 2-6 in conference against a much easier slate. Instead of non-conference losses to the Cornhuskers, Ducks and Volunteers – all three of whom are now ranked, according to CBN – the Bears were swept at home by Mercer, lost a series to Central Michigan and split a four-game set with Youngstown State.

While improvement hasn’t necessarily been evident to the eye, I’ll compare Baylor’s numbers so far this season to those of the Bears at the halfway mark of last year throughout this article.

As an important caveat, Baylor has been snake-bitten by injuries so far this spring, and you can’t look elsewhere before you start there. Whether it comes across as an excuse or not, this program isn’t in a place where it can afford to lose about a quarter of its roster.

Within the first week of the season, outfielders Hunter Simmons (Sr.) and Gavin Brzozowski (RSo.) and infielders Jack Little (So.) and John Youens (Fr.) were lost for the year. Simmons, Brzozowski and Little were all expected to be major contributors.

Since then, starting first baseman Will Pendergrass (RJr.) and left-handed pitcher Jackson Elizondo (Fr.) suffered injuries that will likely be season-ending. Infielder Cole Posey (Sr.) and outfielder Caleb Bergman (So.) have also been banged up on and off throughout the spring.

Lefty Sam Crain (RJr.) hasn’t been able to get on the mound so far this year, and pitchers Jared Matheson (Sr.) and Gabe Craig (RJr.) have also been dealing with injuries.


Offense

Heading into the spring, the coaching staff, the players and myself all predicted that the lineup would be Baylor’s strength this year. Less than a week into the season and four season-ending injuries later, that stance had to be reevaluated.

At the halfway mark, the Bears are 10th in the conference in batting average (.261) but second to last in runs scored (142) and extra-base hits (64). At this point last year, Baylor held a .255 team batting average, scored 144 runs and hit for more power with 75 extra-base hits. 

Baylor Athletics
Gonzaga transfer RF Enzo Apodaca (RJr.) has been Baylor’s best position player so far this spring.

The disappointment on offense has been a mix of a lot of different things – injuries to key players, veterans underperforming and young players not taking advantage of opportunities.

Currently, Baylor’s pitching staff is able to keep the Bears in many games, but when the young pitchers inevitably struggle and put the team behind in an early deficit, the lineup cannot overcome it.

There hasn’t been a ton of consistency in the bottom of the batting order – namely with two starters hitting below .200 in Tyriq Kemp (Jr.) and Mason Greer (Sr.), but there have been a handful of guys toward the top who have performed well.

Outfielders Enzo Apodaca (RJr.) and Ty Johnson (Jr.) have both been welcomed additions, as they both play elite defense and are solid hitters atop the lineup. Apodaca, who transferred from Gonzaga, has been Baylor’s best player so far, leading the Bears in virtually every offensive category.

Designated hitter Wesley Jordan (Jr.) was known for his light-tower power heading into the season, and he’s been as good as advertised. After a slow start, Jordan is routinely crushing baseballs. He currently leads the team in batting average during conference play (.385) and has reached base in a team-high 19 straight games.

Utility player Daniel Altman (Sr.) wasn’t expected to play much this season but has been thrust into a starting role after the injuries suffered by others and has run with his opportunity. Altman is third on the team in batting average (.328), on-base percentage (.427) and runs batted in (15).

Third baseman Hunter Teplanszky (Jr.) leads the team in strikeouts (31) and dealt with an extremely rough patch in mid-March but has appeared to return closer to form in recent weeks, going 6-for-12 at the plate with seven RBIs and four extra-base hits in the series against Cincinnati.

Jack Mackenzie - SicEm365
3B Hunter Teplanszky (Jr.) went 6-for-12 at the plate with seven RBIs and four extra-base hits in the series against Cincinnati.

With this year’s squad, there aren’t any underclassman position players who have excelled and shown signs of a bright future like there was last season with Teplanszky, Brzozowski and Freshman All-American Kolby Branch before his untimely departure to Georgia.

Most of this year’s lineup has been upperclassmen, and granted, most of those guys have limited experience at Baylor. But it’s definitely disappointing to me that there haven’t been many young position players you can point to and say, “You can build around him.”

Do I believe this lineup has the bones to, at the very least, be a middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team next year? Maybe. However, I think if Simmons elects to use a medical redshirt and returns, the Bears should have a really strong core of outfielders with Apodaca, Jordan, Johnson, Brzozowski and Simmons.

As for the infield, Teplanszky has struggled a bit to start the year, but I think there’s optimism he can get back on track and finish the season on a strong note. Aside from him, I’m currently thinking the coaching staff should look to add at least two-to-three impact infielder transfers this summer.


Pitching & Defense

On the mound, last year felt like a revolving door of underperforming pitchers who struggled to throw strikes consistently. All three of Baylor’s starters at the halfway mark last season had ERAs above 8.00 and opposing batters were hitting at least .300 against them.

As a whole, the team ERA was 7.41, and the Bears had surrendered 300 hits and 190 free passes across just over 240 frames midway through 2023.

One notable difference about this year’s team, despite the record, is that the pitching has been much improved – at least most of the time. The Bears currently have a 5.75 team ERA, have issued 174 free passes and have allowed 256 base knocks in 236 innings on the mound.

Baylor Athletics
RHP Collin McKinney (RFr.) is coming off the best outing of his young collegiate career. He retired 14 straight batters and struck out a career-high 10 Bearcats in Saturday’s win.

At this point last season, Baylor had lost by at least seven runs on eight separate occasions. In 2024, that’s been the case five times. And in four of those five blowout losses, the majority of the runs surrendered came in the last few frames.

Mason Marriott (Jr.) has finally taken the next step to show he can compete with some of the conference's best pitchers on Friday nights. 

Thompson has consistently gotten good outings from veterans Drew Leach (RJr.) and Kobe Andrade (Sr.).

Out of the bullpen, Ethan Calder (So.) and Patrick Hail (RJr.) have become the go-to arms in winnable conference games. And there’s been a strong nucleus of young pitchers who have outperformed expectations: Collin McKinney (RFr.), Mason Green (Fr.), RJ Ruais (Fr.) and Stephen Sepulveda (Fr.).

There are genuine reasons for optimism on the mound moving forward, especially if the coaching staff is able to supplement the current talent with a few more additions from the transfer portal this offseason, as well as putting an emphasis on keeping all of the younger guys in the green and gold.

Defensively, the Bears have been about the same; they are currently sporting a .966 fielding percentage, as opposed to last year’s clip of .968 – which are both good for around the middle of the pack in the conference.

One of the bigger differences is that five of Baylor’s 32 errors came from on the mound last spring. This year, that number has been raised to eight of 33, which have mostly been from errant throws on failed pickoff moves.


My Thoughts

First and foremost, I do believe this team is better than last season. By how much? I’m not entirely sure. I think the record, being roughly just a game better, and the improvement not being visibly apparent at times makes it difficult for myself or for those who closely follow the team to give a definitive answer.

Baylor Athletics
Baylor is currently 5-7 in conference play. At this point last year, the Bears were 2-6.

I think the consistency you’d probably like to see just isn’t there on a nightly basis. The Bears have routinely won a series against a quality opponent over the weekend and then will drop a midweek game on the following Tuesday to a team they should beat. Every time it feels like Thompson’s squad is about to turn a corner, they take a step back – sometimes small, sometimes large.

Baylor, however, has a real stretch over the next few weeks to get close to .500 for the first time in the Thompson Era with eight of its nine next games coming against Houston Christian (9-18), Incarnate Word (15-11), BYU (11-14) and UT-Arlington (12-16). 

Whether the Bears will take that step forward remains to be seen, but the opportunity most definitely lies in front of them. Looking ahead, my goals for the end of the season are that Baylor plays its best baseball in April and May, that a strong nucleus of young pitchers continues to arise and that this squad is one of the 10 teams to make the conference tournament.

These last two months will be massive for Thompson’s Bears. It’s imperative that this program finally starts to gain some steam and take some much-needed momentum heading into a crucial offseason where the coaching staff will continue to build a team that needs to be competitive enough to be vying for an NCAA Tournament bid next spring.

Discussion from...

Inside the Numbers: At the Halfway Mark, Has Baylor Baseball Improved?

2,867 Views | 21 Replies | Last: 18 days ago by Oldbear83
Dukebear1
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Thanks for thoughtful article! Things are trending up, but from a really low start.
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
We'll know more tonight. We'd better crush HCU like an overripe grape.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
1st inning pitching is not impressive, 24 pitches into the game Ruais has given up 2 hits, one a home run to the 2nd batter.

Two pitches later we go to the bottom of the 1st HCU leading Baylor 1-0.

That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Bears get a lead-off walk, do nothing else. 1-0 18-loss HCU after 1.

That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Well, our pitching is not impressive. After an inning and a half, HCU had 3 runs on 5 hits, while Baylor is looking for its first hit.

That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Bears tie it up at 3. Good hitting, not gonna talk about our pitching ...
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
New pitcher for the Bears, but just as the starter gave up a moon shot to the 2nd batter, yup the new guy did it as well.

Top of the 3rd, 1 out, 4-3 pups lead the Bears again.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Bear bats have been cold, but two walks to start the bottom of the 7th and Jordan hit by a pitch load the bases with nobody out, great chance for Baylor here.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Altman hits a line drive triple to give Baylor it's first lead, 6-4 man on third and nobody out.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Grounder and late called strikeout means Altman is still at third but with two out, as the pups bring in their third pitcher of the inning.

Another insurance run would be nice.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Greer grounds into what should have ended the inning, but an error on the throw allows Altman to score and move Greer to second. 7-4 Bears with Kemp batting and Greer on second with two outs.

Kemp walks.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Castle bats with two on and two out.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
7-4 Bears going to the 8th.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Bears load the bases with one out then two hits score three more to make ten to four Baylor with men on the corners and one out.

Greer knocks in another run, 11-4 now as HCU brings on their ninth pitcher of the night.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Kemp takes the walk, bases loaded again with one out.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Throw to home for the force out, but another bad puppy throw misses first and scores two more.

Inning finally ends after that but we go to the ninth, Bears lead the puppies 13-4.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Strikeout followed by single, followed by single, Leach struggling a bit to finish here but let's see what happens.

Third straight single,bases loaded with puppies and one out.

Bergman catches the sac fly men on the corners for HCU but two out now
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Sharp looking pop fly is caught, Bears start slow but finish well, only outhit HCU by one hit but 13-5 on the scoreboard.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
ImABearToo
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Congrats Bears. Go sweep incarnate Word this weekend, then beat Dallas Baptist mid week and head to Provo for a series with the Mormons. Who knows, lots of baseball left this year. Sic em!
Levi Caraway
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Staff
Oldbear83 said:

Sharp looking pop fly is caught, Bears start slow but finish well, only outhit HCU by one hit but 13-5 on the scoreboard.
We have game threads on the premium side for every game if you want to join.
Oldbear83
How long do you want to ignore this user?
Levi Caraway said:

Oldbear83 said:

Sharp looking pop fly is caught, Bears start slow but finish well, only outhit HCU by one hit but 13-5 on the scoreboard.
We have game threads on the premium side for every game if you want to join.

I read the premium side but want the regular joes to be able to know what is going on.
That which does not kill me, will try again and get nastier
Refresh
Page 1 of 1
 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.