Oregon State Preview

It's a common name among college baseball circles, but this year's Oregon State team does not carry the same swagger of previous years' squads. Aggie Websider's Lanny Hayes discusses the matchup Texas A&M will face in the first game of their 2009 postseason run.

Texas A&M's first opponent at the 2009 NCAA regional team hails from Corvallis, Oregon, and is a program that college baseball fans are very familiar with.

Oregon State has won two of the last three national championships, claiming titles in both 2006 and 2007.

Their 2009 club, however, isn't the '06 or '07 club. Just six players still remain that have regional experience (the Beavers failed to make the field in 2008), and this team is statistically different than the others.

Perhaps different, yes, but make no mistake – this team is dangerous and a serious threat to win the Fort Worth regional. The number three seed is undoubtedly RPI driven, but the Iterative Strength Ratings (a separate ratings system used by www.boydsworld.com for years) has Oregon State as the #9 team in the country. For comparison, TCU is #8 and A&M is #15; placing three theoretical one-seeds in the same regional pod. Don't forget that their '07 team won the national championship out of a #3 seed.

Offensively, Oregon State's offense is best compared to the style of Texas or Kansas State. Their season batting average is a relatively pedestrian .275, and they're not going to wow you with power as they've hit just 22 homeruns in 1733 at bats (one per 78), and only 24.3% of their hits are for extra bases (compare those #s to …. For A&M).

When the Beavers get on base, though, they do the right things to move them around the diamond. They average 6.82 runs per game, and achieve this total through mostly traditional small ball tactics (50-for-66 in Stolen Bases, 59 sacrifice hits). The team is incredibly patient at the plate (283 walks, compared to 332 strikeouts) and will not beat themselves often.

Texas A&M's biggest key to victory, on the hill, will be to keep the leadoff man from reaching base each inning. It's significantly harder to play an effective small ball game with an out already on the board, and the math bears that out. With one out and a runner on second, Oregon State has two 27.5% chances to get a basehit (based on their season #s). With two outs, obviously, that figure is cut in half. Brooks Raley is a traditionally a groundball pitcher, and will need to exhibit the control he featured in the season's first ten contests to keep this offense off base early in the game.

On the mound, the Beavers plan to start sensational freshman Sam Gaviglio (9-1, 2.84 ERA). Gaviglio has shown incredible control and keeps hitters off base (just 39 hits and 7 walks allowed in 57.0 IP, for a 0.81 WHIP). Opposing batters are hitting just .192 against him. When he does allow hits, nearly half have been for extra bases, though he's given up just four homeruns all season. He's plunked just four batters, and struck out 49.

OSU's bullpen features six pitchers who've thrown at least 17 innings during the season, and nearly all of them have solid, if not spectacular, stat lines. All told, OSU's pitching staff has a sensational 3.69 ERA and have struck out 401 hitters, versus just 182 walks. Opponents are batting .237 against Beaver pitching.

If there's any consolation to facing an arm like Gaviglio, it could be the psychological one. How will the freshman, starting just his sixth overall game, respond to the pressure of the NCAA tournament? If he fades, A&M could find themselves in a great situation. If he's on his game, the day could become very long for Aggie fans.

A&M's offensive keys against Oregon State are simple in statement, but are areas that the Ags have struggled with this year. First, with opportunities at a premium, they must cash in with runners in scoring position. This doesn't necessarily mean a high batting average (you can, after all, score runners without basehits), but the runners-in-scoring-position batting average will be a tell for this day. Second, A&M will need to constantly apply pressure against the OSU battery and defense, and coax them into mistakes. The Beavers haven't made many of them this year (.976 fielding percentage), but opposing baserunners have successful swiped over in over 67% of their attempts. Gaviglio has also struggled keeping runners at bay (8 successful swipes in 9 attempts), and it's possible that the added pressure could be just what's needed to make the stud freshman crack…at least enough for an A&M victory.




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