Publication note: This story was written prior to the mid-week game.
FAYETTEVILLE – Hog fans have been all doom and gloom when it comes to baseball.
Hanging around some of the naysayers makes it fee like this is a team hovering around 20-20. The problem seems to be centered around assessing the season by series, and until pretty far into this season, it had been years since Arkansas lost a regular season series.
This is a habit Razorback fans have to break. The Gloomsday fans dominating Twitter would convince anyone to drop Arkansas all the way out of the Top 10, yet, when the polls came out, the Hogs moved up a spot to No. 4.
So why can a rather large section of fans react to this season like Chad Morris just walked in to take over baseball with John L. Smith as his pitching coach while the rest of the world sees a College World Series contender?
There are two main reasons:
1) Because Arkansas fans are living and dying by series results, they aren't stepping back to look at the season as a whole.
The Razorbacks currently have 34 wins and have the second best record in the SEC by two full games. On May 1 of last season, Arkansas was 34-8. On May 1 this year, Arkansas is 34-10.
But fans don't see this. They see two series losses and grossly overreacted to a series opening loss to Ole Miss last weekend.
Arkansas still plays in the SEC, the toughest conference in baseball, and just came through in the clutch with one of the most epic walk-off home run scenes in school history, but Hogs fans just can't keep that in perspective.
2) Razorback fans can't get past what they see as a team that doesn't follow up good pitching with great hitting.
This one feels more valid than trying to convince yourself that a team ranked No. 4 in the country with a record almost even with the team Arkansas fans thought walked on water last year at the same point in the season.
Yes, it's been an odd weather season with strong winds keeping balls in the park and what feels like a non-stop string of chilly days and nights making the air heavy. However, what appears to be missing is timely hitting as far as good, solid base hits and key walks.
This one is a little harder to draw out by the numbers. It takes someone with a lot more free time to dive that deep into the game-by-game statistics.
However, there are a few numbers that can provide a certain level of support. For instance, Arkansas has 67 home runs, more than triple its opponents, yet only has 86 doubles.
That seems out of whack. Logic says there should be way more doubles than home runs.
Surely last year's team had a much higher ratio of home runs to doubles. Wrong.
Arkansas finished last year with more home runs than doubles at 109-101. The Hogs hit only 11 triples on the season, which this year's club will tie with one more triple.
Of course, we all know the batting average was amazing last year. Everyone was knocking the cover off the ball.
Wrong again. This year's team hits .277 while last year's team posted a final average of .267.
The best hitter on the 2021 team was Brady Slavens at .284. The Hogs have three hitters over .300 this year, including Caden Wallace at .302, Chris Lanzilli at .318, and Michael Turner at .323.
Plus, Jalen Battles is knocking on the door at .283. That's essentially half the line-up hitting as good or better than last year's best hitter.
So, is this team better than last year's?
If we're judging strictly on record, then the answer is yes. Yet, on paper, this team should be better than its predecessor.
There's just something missing. From the on field product to the fans in the stands, the juice just isn't there.
We saw a glimpse of it Saturday night against Ole Miss, but the energy isn't consistent. My wife and I were wondering what happened to the beer hats and all the flags, but later on I realized I don't recall watching a game where the bases were loaded.
This team just doesn't put pressure on a quality team on a consistent basis like it did last year, and neither do the fans. In both respects, there's a reputation of being the elite of baseball, but it feels like both groups are sleep walking through a high percentage of the season.
At some point there has to be sense of urgency. It's the final stretch, so this team and its fan base have to find what made it the most intimidating tandem in all of baseball. If not, this could be one of the shortest seasons in a while, no matter that the statistics tell us should happen.
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