The Top of the Order – There's no doubt that part of A&M's offensive issues have come from the lack of production at the top of the order. The "typical" 3-4-5-6 hitters of Brooks Raley (.382), Luke Anders (.341), Dylan Petrich (.472), and Caleb Shofner (.538) combine to hit .423, but Kyle Colligan (.178, ..250 OBP) and Brodie Greene (.211, .268 OBP) aren't getting on base in front of them. The worm may be turning though, as those two seem to be zoning in and hit .417 and .363 in their last three games, respectively. A&M may be able to have enough success at the bottom of the order to win this weekend, but four games against Top-10 clubs loom next week, and the top of the order must get going.
Share the wealth – The Aggies have been scoring in spurts, which is just fine when the Ws roll in…but can it be better? The sixth inning is becoming famous for the 2009 club: They've scored 37 runs in this frame, compared to 33 total scored (in any inning) by their opponents. While they've consistently outscored teams the rest of the way too (44 runs elsewhere in the game), spreading this production earlier in the game will provide the ability for the outstanding pitching staff to pitch with even a bit more confidence; which is a scary thing for the opposition.
Raley Time – Brooks Raley is proving to be one of the best pitchers in the country, and his dual-threat ability brings both versatility and confusion to the Aggie lineup. Raley's 2.25 ERA and .233 batting-average-against are both excellent numbers, especially for a ground-ball pitcher, and combining that with some excellent offensive stats (.382 average, six doubles, .417 OBP, 5 SBs) make him a threat all weekend. What's a coach to do? One would think that Childress would love to have his bat on Friday nights and, given the strength of #1 hurlers in the Big 12 this year, he may very well need it. Does that make Raley a dual P/DH on Friday, or do you look at a move to pitching later in the weekend or game? Holding him out for a later weekend start is challenging, as any kind of injury can throw the rotation into disarray; specifically something happening late in Saturday's contest when it's too late to plan around. Raley could be outstanding out of the bullpen, but is that his highest and best use? Does the development of Ross Hales help this conundrum? Clearly these are challenges that have been in Childress' mind for months, and the rest of us get to speculate, but one thing is certain – Raley is one of your best arms and bats, and must play consistently in both roles.
The Bullpen – The Aggie bullpen has been beyond fantastic this season, especially in the weekend series. The relievers combine for an already outstanding 2.25 ERA, and are stranding nearly 65% of inherited runners, but that ERA shrinks to a ridiculous 1.19 in the Ags seven weekend games. In fact, the bullpen hasn't allowed an earned run in the last five weekend contests, which include last weekend's stacked field at Minute Maid Park. Such a number can't possibly hold up, but it will be interesting to see at what point the muscle breaks so that more can be built.
Stat Lines – Utah enters the weekend 4-4, after earning a win last night at Sam Houston State, who beat Rice on Tuesday night…Aggie batters have a 2.44:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, while Aggie pitchers have a 3.52:1 mark…Kyle Thebeau's 83 appearances are three away from tying the A&M career record (Chris Russ, 86)…Kyle Colligan has started in 61 consecutive games…A&M currently boasts a .981 fielding percentage…Rice's shutout of A&M was the Ags' first blanking since 2006…A&M and Utah are 2-2 all time, with three meetings coming in this decade (A&M leads 2-1).
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