Ags Lose Again - Offense in Limbo

The Texas Aggie offense continues to woander aimlessly through the 2014 season after dropping the series opener to Alabama 5-1. Aggie Websider's David Sandhop takes a look at why the offense is sputtering and why the Aggies are losing.

The Texas Aggie offense once again sputtered and limped to a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Alabama. The loss leaves the Aggies fading at 4-6 in SEC play with the toughest portion of the schedule ahead.

OK, so after last year the staff made a conscious decision to get more big bats and bigger bodies in the lineup, and de-emphasize speed in recruitment. So you see big 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4, 220+ lb. guys like Will Nottebrok, Ronnie Gideon, GR Hinsley in the class along with last year's emergence of freshman Hunter Melton who's another hitter with a big stick. I'll even put Jonathan Moroney in that big boy category for the sake of discussion.

So let's look at the lineup last night....

None of those "big boys" are in the lineup at all. All five of those guys aren't playing which is a coach's decision because they are all healthy to my knowledge. Most of those guys play at positions where big guys play...third base, first base, left field, DH, catcher.

Instead, the Texas A&M staff played a 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior in left field. They had a 5-foot-9, 165-pound natural 2nd baseman playing 3rd base. They had a 6-foot, 180 lb. player at first base, a 5-foot-10, 200 lb. senior catcher, and a 5-foot-9, 210 lb. DH.

The kicker here is that only a couple of these guys in the lineup have speed, and Childress has them hidden in the No. 8 and No. 9 hole. Blake Allemand has recently moved up in the order and has above average speed, but that's about it.

But back to my point...why did the staff shift their strategy to recruit big bats for the middle of the lineup and then play the very same short, slap hitters with station-to-station speed from last year?

Last night's lineup had only TWO newcomers that weren't on the team last year...freshman Nick Banks in right field and JUCO 2nd baseman McLendon who was a late signing in the summer when he impressed with the local Brazos Valley Bombers.

Remember, this was a team that struggled offensively last season and the staff vowed to change that and recruited big boppers. But those guys aren't playing, obviously.

So the question will be asked...but what if those big boppers simply don't perform? How can you justify playing hitters that are struggling? Valid question.

Well, let's start with Nottebrok who started the first three weeks of the season. Sure his .230 average doesn't match the .250-.260 average of his replacement, but he also leads the team in home runs in half the at-bats and also leads the team in extra base hits in half the at-bats. Yes, I would rather have a deep ball once every 4.2 at-bats versus a slap single by his replacement every 3.9 at-bats.

Let's look at the reigning all-time single season RBI man in Texas Collegiate League history, GR Hinsley. He hasn't started a game since the second week of the season. In that game, he went 1-for-2 with a walk and the one out was a screaming liner to shortstop w a runner on 2nd. That was it. He pinch hit once in the Fresno series, but he's been on the bench ever since. He's even been left off the travel roster in recent trips.

I mean, at this point what is the staff thinking? The veteran group of station-to-station slap hitters aren't scoring runs. Yeah, they may be putting the ball in play and getting their share of bloop hits, but that doesn't score runs. The opposing outfielders are cheating up so much that scoring from 2nd base on a single is a challenge. They have to string 2-3 hits with an error or a walk to plate a run. The season is just about over. If this team loses today's DH, you can wave goodbye to the postseason barring an improbable turnaround.

So who possibly could give you that new look...that spark that ignites a rally? Uh, I don't know. Maybe some of those big home run/gap hitters that are collecting dust on the bench.

What we do know is that a lineup that has been playing together for three years without much success won't likely have success in year 3 and 4. Think about this. Last night's lineup had FOUR seniors, THREE juniors, a sophomore and one freshman. That is a VERY experienced lineup by college baseball standards. Yet, they aren't scoring runs. So what will change the second half of the season? It's not like these are a bunch of young guys waiting for the light bulb to go off and have a monster April and May.

But the bigger point made here is that this staff just doesn't have a vision or a theme for this offense going forward and we saw that this past recruiting season when they got the idea to build a lineup with power, and then after two weeks through the season they reverted back to the old lineup. They did nothing in recruiting to enhance a smaller, faster lineup.

That's why this team can't score. They don't have the speed to be aggressive and take advantage of infield singles and slap hits to manufacture runs. They don't have the power to drive in runs in bunches. They are in no-man's land, and that's because there's no long-term vision with the offense...period.

This team had high expectations to start the season. Texas A&M was listed on most preseason Top 25 lists. The team was returning a core of veteran pitchers, and some highly-regarded hitting recruits that were supposed to give the lineup some pop. But they can't do it when they don't play. As a result, this has been one of the most disappointing seasons to date, and unless a major change is made in the lineup, the chance for a major turnaround looks unlikely. It's not the players' fault. It's the strategy and the lack of vision on offense. The current lineup is not built to score runs.

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