After the end of last season, I went on a rant about how MSU did not have very much power in the lineup during the last five seasons. From 2011, when the new bats were adopted, to 2015, MSU finished near the bottom of the SEC in slugging percentage and isolated power (these stats measure power hitting), with the exception of 2013. 2016 has been different. So far, MSU currently ranks 2nd in the SEC in slugging percentage behind Texas A&M. MSU ranks 6th in isolated power. This is largely because MSU leads the SEC with 102 doubles. The main point is that this is by far the best power hitting team MSU has had since college baseball started using the new bats.
In my rant at the end of last season, I mentioned that Wes Rea was the best power hitter last season, and he needed to be replaced since he was a senior. The most accomplished hitter returning was Cody Brown, who can hit the ball well, especially against right handed pitchers. However, he only had one home run last year. Players such as Collins, Humphreys, and Rooker had shown the talent to become productive hitters, but I wasn't sure how many of them would actually have a breakout year in 2016. The table below shows how much the lineup has improved since last season. These stats are against SEC competition only.
|Batting Average (2015)||On Base % (2015)||Slugging % (2015)||Batting Average (2016)||On Base % (2016)||Slugging % (2016)|
The improvement of Collins and Humphreys, and adding Lowe and Mangum to the team, is why MSU is hitting for more power. Collins is hitting better because he is actually healthy this year. He had a very good year as a freshman, but played with an injured hand last year, and the stats indicate he wasn't close to being fully healthy. Humphreys was injured as well, but it sounds like that mostly kept him from pitching instead of hurting his hitting. He probably improved simply because he got better over time. Despite getting off to a slow start, Lowe has been better in SEC play than Rea was last year. Mangum basically took the open spot Vickerson left in the outfield. Mangum's slugging percentage is a little deceiving. It is high because he hits lots of singles. Even with that being considered, Mangum does have more power than Vickerson did. The best part of this is that in 2013, the team hit with more power mostly because of Renfroe. This season, it is four players that are responsible for the improvement of the lineup. You could give a few other players, such as Kruger and Rooker, some credit for this as well.
One thing to consider is that MSU still has Auburn and Arkansas left on the schedule. ERA isn't a perfect stat to evaluate pitchers (that being said, there isn't a perfect stat), but Arkansas has the lowest ERA in the SEC, and Auburn's is 11th. After the next two weekends, the 2016 numbers above could show even more improvement.
Note: All stats are from hailstate.com, secsports.com, and thebaseballcube.com.