You may not recall, but in a February post this year previewing the 2014 Big 12 baseball season, I projected that Oklahoma State would successively run the gauntlet that is Big 12 baseball and win its first conference championship under the Big 12 banner.
With two weeks to go in the regular season, the Cowboys own a share of the conference lead along with TCU. Both teams are 13 up and five down in the standings with six league games left on the regular-season schedule.
TCU has been virtually unbeatable over the last 20 games. The Horned Frogs are 19-1 since April 1 thanks, in large part, to good timely hitting and exceptional starting pitching. Junior weekend starters Preston Morrison and Brandon Finnegan have combined for an 8-1 record in Big 12 games and ERAs of 1.32 and 1.38, respectively.
Prior to April, they were a very pedestrian 15-12 through all games. TCU began its conference season losing its first two series, two games to one, against Texas Tech at home and at Oklahoma State. Kansas dealt the Frogs a 5-1 setback in mid-April; other than that, TCU has been perfect since the Oklahoma State series back in late March.
Interestingly, Oklahoma, the 2013 Big 12 postseason tournament champions in 2013, will have a lot to say about which team ends up on top of the conference standings. The Sooners play both teams over the next two weekends.
As red hot as TCU has been over the past month and as dominant as the pitching has been for the Horned Frogs, you’re probably wondering how I could be so quick as to anoint the Cowboys as the league champions.
Here are five reasons why I’m sticking with my preseason prediction of Oklahoma State as the favorite:
- As good as TCU has been over its last 20 games, Oklahoma State has been equally as good. The Cowboys are 17-4 over the same time span.
- Through all games, TCU leads the conference with a staff ERA of 2.28. In conference games only, though, Oklahoma State owns a league-best ERA of 2,32 and has four members of its pitching staff with ERAs under 2.00.
- OSU finishes up the regular season against the conference’s two worst teams: at Kansas State this weekend and against eighth-place Oklahoma to close out its Big 12 schedule. TCU arguably has a tougher closing schedule: hosting Oklahoma this weekend and at Baylor the weekend after. Using Oklahoma as the comparator, the Sooners have a 20-8 record against TCU since 2000 and are 6-5 at TCU during that span. Against Oklahoma State since 2000, Oklahoma is 3-11 in games played in Tulsa (which is where the Cowboys and Sooners will play the final two games of their three-game series on Friday and Saturday, May 16 and 17) and 25-26 in all games since 2000.
- In the head-to-head series between Oklahoma State and TCU in late March, OSU won two of the three games (that series was played in Stillwater). The Cowboys also lost two of the three games they played this season against Baylor in Waco, which is where TCU will be the final weekend of the regular season. Baylor is a better team than its has performed this season. You really don’t want to have to count on two or three must wins at Baylor to win the regular-season crown.
- If the Cowboys and the Horned Frogs split their remaining Big 12 games and finish in a dead heat at the top of the league, the tiebreaker will go to Oklahoma State by virtue of its head-to-head series win over TCU this season.