Losing makes me a very sad panda. Time is quickly running out for the Aggie Baseball team to find themselves a spot in the NCAA tournament in 2013. While things were still looking OK on that front a few weeks ago, dropping a fourth straight SEC series has A&M on the outside looking in for the time being as far as the NCAA postseason goes. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that the Aggies have had their share of chances to right the ship and get back on track for a regional berth, but missed opportunities are really the story of this season.
The Ags made the trip to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks this weekend, and although the series started on a positive note for A&M they were unable to maintain that momentum and find that elusive series win. It is going to be difficult to win an SEC series on the road when you only score 8 combined runs in 3 games, with 4 of those coming on a Jonathan Moroney grand slam on Friday night. In fairness, Arkansas has a very, very good pitching staff, but the hitting - and particularly hitting with runners on base - continues to be a problem for A&M.
The Aggies were blown out for the third straight Saturday, which speaks to the pitching issues that have continued to get worse as the season has progressed. More concerning is that it came at the hands of an Arkansas team that has really struggled at the plate in 2013, showing just how inconsistent the A&M pitching staff has been outside of Daniel Mengden. We are used to having very good to outstanding pitching under Rob Childress, so seeing a team ERA of 3.82 in 2013 is a bit concerning to say the least. You're not going to win very many games when you only have 1 consistent starting pitcher and can not manage to hit the ball with runners in scoring position. Period. End of story.
I could break down each of the 3 games from this series, but Aggie Athletics does a fine job with recaps and I'm going to defer to them so that we can talk instead about RPI, what's left on the schedule for A&M, and what has to happen for the Aggies to find themselves in a regional come June. Here are your Friday, Saturday and Sunday breakdowns from the series at Arkansas courtesy of Aggie Athletics.
Let's Talk RPI
Somehow or another, the Aggies find themselves at #34 in the latest RPI rankings (Boyd's Pseudo-RPI's, that is) after losing the series at Arkansas. In all honesty, that is far from a terrible position to be in from an RPI standpoint, but we'll talk shortly about what will hold the Ags back unless they finish the season on a serious hot streak. Oklahoma, for example, is currently leading the Big 12 (which is an abysmal baseball conference this year, by the way) and they check in at #40 in the RPI. The Sooners are virtually guaranteed a postseason berth at this point, unless they tank to finish the season. Rice is another team that sits below A&M in the RPI, with the Owls at #45, and despite the fact that the Aggies beat Rice earlier this season the Owls are very likely to find themselves in a regional as well. So let's jump in and look at some more RPI-related numbers that begin to explain the problem for A&M.
First, let's take a look at the Aggies' opponents so far this season who are currently in the RPI Top 100 and see how A&M has fared against those teams. Record against RPI Top 50 and Top 100 is one thing that the committee will use in determining postseason bids. We'll start with the Top 50.
|Opponent||Current RPI||A&M Record Against|
|Cal State Fullerton||6||1-2|
So yeah, that's not good. A 5-12 record against teams in the RPI Top 50 is far from impressive, although interestingly the Aggies do have 3 road wins against Top 50 teams. Regardless of those wins on the road, that record is a negative as far as A&M's postseason resume goes. What about teams in the 50-100 RPI range? Well...
|Opponent||Current RPI||A&M Record Against|
|Sam Houston State||80||1-1|
Nope. Not good there either. A combined 3-6 against teams in the 50-100 range of the RPI means that the Aggies are a combined 8-18 against RPI Top 100 teams this season. That's an issue, and the Aggies don't really have many opportunities to remedy that before the end of the year.
When I said that there is something else holding the Aggies back from a regional berth as of now despite a decent RPI, this is what I was referring to. We all knew how good the SEC was at baseball coming into the season, but we weren't counting on A&M having the pitching issues that have played out this season. That's resulted in just a 7-11 record in conference play for A&M which puts the Aggies tied for 9th in the SEC standings. A decent to good RPI is not going to rescue you from that, as the 2011 LSU team found out. That Tigers team finished the season with an overall record of 36-20 and an RPI of 25, but a conference record of 13-17 and a 9th place finish in the SEC standings (tied for 5th in the SEC West) led the selection committee to leave LSU out of the postseason. A look at the 2013 SEC standings shows that the Aggies may find themselves in a similar spot.
|STANDINGS||SEC Win||SEC Loss||SEC %||Games Back||Overall Win||Overall Loss||Overall %||Last 10||Streak||Next Game|
|Vanderbilt||16||2||0.889||--||35||6||0.854||8-2||W-2||at Louisville (4/23)|
|South Carolina||11||7||0.611||5||31||10||0.756||7-3||W-4||vs Gardner-Webb (4/23)|
|Florida||10||8||0.556||6||22||19||0.537||8-2||L-1||South Florida (4/23)|
|Kentucky||7||11||0.389||9||24||15||0.615||2-8||L-6||at Western Kentucky (4/23)|
|Tennessee||5||13||0.278||11||17||21||0.447||4-6||L-3||at Middle Tennessee State (4/23)|
|Missouri||5||13||0.278||11||13||22||0.371||4-6||W-1||Murray State (4/23)|
|Georgia||4||14||0.222||12||15||26||0.366||4-6||L-2||vs Georgia Tech (4/23)|
|Mississippi State||10||8||0.556||5||32||10||0.762||8-2||W-2||vs Memphis (4/23)|
|Mississippi||10||8||0.556||5||29||12||0.707||6-4||W-3||at Arkansas State (4/23)|
|Alabama||9||9||0.500||6||24||18||0.571||5-5||W-1||at Southern Mississippi (4/24)|
|Texas A&M||7||11||0.389||8||22||19||0.537||3-7||L-2||at Texas State (4/23)|
|Auburn||6||12||0.333||9||24||16||0.600||6-4||L-2||at Missouri (4/26)
Yep. There's your problem. The Aggies' conference record and position, combined with that record against RPI Top 100 opponents, is what will keep A&M out of the NCAA tournament unless the Aggies go on an incredible hot streak to end the year. Here's who the Aggies have left on their 2013 schedule.
|Texas State*||174||April 23|
|Grambling State||283||April 30|
|UT-Pan American||220||May 14|
So the Aggies have 9 games left against teams in the Top 100 of the RPI, with a very important series against Alabama on the road coming up next weekend. If the Aggies could find a way to win that series, we may be having a slightly different discussion come this time next week. A&M really needs to find a way to sweep Missouri at home before hosting a scary good LSU team the following weekend. The Aggies close the season on the road at Tennessee, another series in which A&M could greatly benefit from a sweep.
We said going into the season and earlier this year that a conference record at or above .500 would likely give the Aggies a good chance to make the postseason. I still believe that may hold true, but it will be an uphill battle for A&M to bring their conference record up to or above .500. Sweeping teams like Missouri and Tennessee would go a long way to making that happen, but have you seen anything from this A&M team in the last month that makes you believe that will happen? Yeah, me neither.
The Aggies make the short trip over to San Marcos tomorrow night (Happy Birthday to me, but I'm not going) to take on the Bobcats. Texas State has not had a particularly impressive season, and the Aggies certainly can't afford to drop any of their 3 remaining midweek games. A&M will then hit the road again this weekend for the aforementioned big series at Alabama.
On a positive note, Mikey Reynolds (knee injury) made pinch hit appearances over the weekend against Arkansas and A&M is hoping to have him back in the lineup next weekend in Tuscaloosa. Cole Lankford also returned to the lineup this past weekend after dealing with an illness. A&M needs their 2 best hitters - Reynolds and Lankford - if they are going to have any chance of starting an unlikely hot streak to grab a regional berth in 2013.