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Looking at Mississippi State Baseball: John Cohen and Lack of Power Hitting

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One common complaint about Cohen's teams has been a lack of power hitters, but how bad has it really been?

One common complaint MSU fans have had about Cohen's teams is that his teams have struggled to hit for power.  The point of this post isn't to argue whether that criticism is true or not, but to show just how much Cohen's teams have lacked power.  I looked back at the previous five seasons, and used MSU's rankings in slugging percentage and isolated power to see how much power MSU has hit with under Cohen compared to the rest of the SEC.

Slugging percentage only counts hits, so it doesn't give hitters credit for getting a walk (which this year's team was really good at) or for getting on base when a fielder makes an error.  It does give hitters more credit when they get a home run than when they get a triple.  Isolated power is the almost the same thing, but only counts doubles, triples, and home runs.  These statistics aren't perfect ways to evaluate how much power a team has (there really isn't one), but they are the best ones that are available.

Slugging Percentage

2015: 14th

2014: 12th

2013: 5th

2012: 11th

2011: 9th

Isolated Power

2015: 14th

2014: 13th

2013: 8th

2012: 12th

2011: tied for 9th

Observations

  • This isn't going to surprise many people, but these statistics confirm the belief that MSU's power hitting has been really bad over the last five years, especially at getting extra base hits.  There has been one average year and four years of being one of the worst power hitting teams in the SEC.
  • The average power hitting year was when MSU finished second in the College World Series, which is the same year outfielder Hunter Renfroe had a breakout year and got drafted in the first round.  Cohen can have competitive teams without having a lot of power hitters, but having more would make his teams better.
  • Texas A&M and Missouri weren't in the SEC until 2013, so rankings from 2011 and 2012 are only out of 12 teams.
  • Cohen's first two teams actually had better power numbers.  I took them out because Cohen didn't recruit any of the hitters on his first team except for Jarrod Parks, who barely played.  Cohen did recruit a few of the starters in his second season, but the majority of his players weren't his recruits until 2011.
  • Slugging percentage doesn't account for hitters like Robson and Vickerson who use their speed to bunt for hits or beat out ground balls.  How much worse would it be if only hits that made it to the outfield counted?
  • These stats don't account for strength of schedule.
  • Why has Cohen, who has a history of being a successful hitting coach before becoming a head coach, struggled so badly to recruit power hitters?  Dudy Noble is a big baseball park, and deserves some blame.  Completely blaming Dudy Noble is going too far.

MSU's pitching and defense was bad during Cohen's first two seasons, and he was able fix that.  He acknowledged to the media today that MSU's power hitting has been problematic, and he is emphasizing it in recruiting.  Wes Rea was MSU's best power hitter, and was a senior this year.  It is up to players like Reid Humphreys, Cody Brown, Brent Rooker, and Gavin Collins to hit for power next year.  Hopefully a few recruits or other players step up next year as well.