It's almost here Bulldog fans. We are now just one day away from the start of the 2013 season and I cannot remember a season with so much hype coming in. Last year pitching was the talk of the town. It single-handedly got MSU a SEC Tournament Championship and into a regional. Hitting took a significant dip with freshman and sophomores dominating the lineup and injuries taking consistent and productive hitters out of the lineup.
But this year things seem to be changing. With another year under most of the player's belt, look for numbers to improve drastically. Now let's look at what we saw from the young pups last season.
Since Head Coach John Cohen arrived in Starkville, the problem with the Bulldogs had been the lack of depth at pitching and quality arms. MSU was near or at the bottom in conference in most pitching categories. But hitting wasn't as bad. But the Bulldogs came into last season losing quality hitters like Nick Vickerson, Jarred Parks and Ryan Collins.
Solid hitters like C.T. Bradford, Daryl Norris and Brent Brownlee all were injured during the year last season and made an inexperienced lineup even more inexperienced. Norris and Brownlee would come back and play around half of the ball games, but one of the Bulldogs most productive hitters in 2011, Bradford, missed the majority of the season with his injury. That loss would be felt more than Norris and Brownlee.
State would go on to hit a league worst, .251 and have only one player on the team bat over .300. That player was sophomore shortstop Adam Frazier who was one of the league leaders in batting average at .371. One could argue that there was no one in the league as cool and consistent at the plate than Frazier as he had a solid .482 on base percentage.
Wes Rea and Hunter Renfroe both were big bats that failed to produce their potential based on having to play everyday and being rushed into competition, but both came on late in the season and showed that there is a lot to be excited for in the future. The two combined for 32 extra-base hits and nine home runs to produce most of the power. But both also struggled with the breaking ball and struck out nearly twice as much as most of their teammates.
Now on to this season. I believe you could see the batting averages come up significantly with a few more home runs although homers aren't the bases of this roster. As I mentioned in my speed post Tuesday, Cohen built this team on small ball and playing with percentages. The ultimate goal for this team is to get on base and make plays there.
Rea and Renfroe will see a huge jump in their percentages. Both have developed well over the summer and look to be major factors in the coming year. The addition of a healthy Bradford and Norris make it even more dangerous. Frazier held the lead-off position very well last season and you could see him stay there with Bradford at the two. Catcher Mitch Slauter is coming off a solid Junior year but was most known for his prowess behind the plate. I think he steps it up a notch at the plate this year as well.
Add in another solid power hitter in Trey Porter and you have a very deep lineup. With Porter struggling at times last year, there was some concern about him. But according to Cohen, Porter is looking as good as he ever has and is poised for a big senior year.
The other players that should contribute and improve on last year are Demarcus Henderson, Matthew Britton, and a redshirt Nick Flair. Henderson really progressed over the year and was a hero for the Bulldogs several times, especially in the SEC Tournament. Britton was criticized many times during the year as a true freshman, but he is a kid with great potential in the field and at the plate and gave State the walk-off base hit in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament against LSU. Nick Flair was a highly thought-of player that MSU snuck in late in the process last year but was forced to redshirt due to injuries. He has a solid approach at the plate and can make a difference in the field.
So rest easy, dawgs. I believe that this year's team will make a big-time jump at the plate this year. It is not where they want to ultimately be, but with the strong depth at pitcher it should no doubt add a new element to this already dangerous Bulldog club...
ONE DAY REMAINS