Riley Report: taking stock before SoCon play begins

This isn’t going to be a long post. Just some observations…

Team record as of March 23, 2016: 9-12 (8-8 at Riley Park, 1-4 on the road)

  • Batting average: .226
  • On-base percentage: .318
  • Slugging: .307
  • Number of players with 10+ at bats who are hitting .300 or better: 0
  • Number of players with 10+ at bats and an OBP greater than .350: 3
  • Number of players with 10+ at bats who are slugging .400 or better: 1 (Mike Deese)
  • Stolen bases: 8 (caught 5 times, picked off 4 times)
  • Number of pitchers used so far this season: 16
  • ERA: 5.25
  • K/9: 8.03
  • BB/9: 4.77
  • Unearned runs/game: 0.62
  • BAA: .278
  • Defensive efficiency: 66.55%
  • Current RPI: 193 (out of exactly 300 D-1 teams)

It’s not the prettiest of pictures, to be sure. The Bulldogs have struggled across the board, but particularly on offense.

There are 300 Division I baseball programs this season. The Citadel’s team OPS of .625 ranks 270th.

That number looks even worse when compared to other SoCon schools. UNCG is ranked first nationally in OPS (with a .982 mark); three other league teams (VMI, Mercer, Samford) are also in the top 15 in that category, with two others (ETSU and Western Carolina) in the top 50. Furman’s ranking of 146 is next-to-last in the conference, but still more than 120 spots ahead of the Bulldogs.

Now, park effects have something to do with that, and The Citadel has played most of its games in a pitcher’s park. Still, there is a big difference between an OPS of .625 and one of .761, which was what the Bulldogs finished with last season (and which was also last in the league).

There is hope, though. In 2015, The Citadel had a higher OPS in conference play (.784) than overall, so perhaps that could also be the case this year. For the Bulldogs to be successful in league play, it will have to be — but the improvement must be considerably more dramatic.

Also, the Diamond Dogs also have to get better at baserunning.

As far as pitching/defense goes, the numbers are mediocre. The Bulldogs have had some really ugly performances, including four games in which they have allowed 12+ runs. However, not all of the pitching has been bad.

From my (admittedly distant) vantage point, it seems to me that Fred Jordan and Britt Reames have thrown a lot of guys into the mix on purpose, to see exactly what they’ve got. It’s one way to figure out who may be useful — if not in the rotation, then in the bullpen.

While The Citadel is only 9-12, the pitching staff has done a fair job of holding leads. The Bulldogs are 4-1 with a lead after six innings, 7-1 after seven innings, and 8-0 after eight innings. The Citadel is 2-1 when tied after the 6th.

Conversely, the Bulldogs are not exactly the comeback kids, at least not yet. That’s not a surprise given the offensive struggles. The Citadel is 3-10 when trailing after six innings.

I wish the Bulldogs had a little more depth in its starting rotation; for one thing, it would be nice to have a better record in midweek games (1-5). There is also always the possibility of one of the weekend starters going down with an injury or losing effectiveness.

On several occasions this season, The Citadel has pieced together a start with what amounts to a “bullpen game” (to borrow a phrase from Tony La Russa). The problem with having seven or eight guys throw an inning or two each is that at least one of them is bound to not have his good stuff that day. That can be true of a normal starting situation as well, of course.

That DER of 66.55% I mentioned in the stat-pack above is in line with recent defensive numbers for The Citadel. It’s not great, but it could be worse. It’s also a little early in the season to get a true statistical marker for defensive play. Just watching the games, the defense appears to be respectable (at least to me). Opponents are 15-26 on stolen base attempts, which is a good percentage as far as the Bulldogs are concerned.

I’m not going to sugarcoat things. Early returns for this season have not been very promising. However, things may not be quite as bad as they seem on the surface.

The overall record is not good, but it is worth noting that the opposition has been very solid. The Bulldogs have played nine different opponents, and those teams have a combined record of 106-79.

There is room for improvement on the pitching staff, and the offense really, really needs to get going. We’ll see if they can get something started this weekend at VMI.

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