Hitting and run production have not been lacking for the Kansas Jayhawks early in the 2015 college baseball season, but the pitching staff has not been as fortunate.
After being projected in the preseason coaches poll to finish in the basement in Big 12 baseball a year ago, the Kansas Jayhawks blew the top off that prediction and finished the season six spots higher in third place in the league standings.
The Jayhawks’ outstanding 2014 season appears to have done nothing to change the experts’ opinions of what to expect this season.
Kansas got off to a rough start to the 2015 season, being swept by top-25-ranked LSU in its opening series. Through nine games this season, the Jayhawks are 3-6. The Jayhawk bats have been sound in the early going, and they are scoring runs, averaging almost six per game. The problem has been that Kansas is giving up too many runs to its opponents.
The Jayhawk pitching staff ranks dead last in the conference with a team earned-run average that is close to seven.
The biggest issue for head coach Ritch Price and Kansas this spring appears to be rebuilding the starting rotation after losing four top arms to last year’s Major League Baseball draft. The Jayhawk starters this season are averaging less than five innings a start, which means that the Kansas opponents are getting into the Jayhawk bullpen very early in games.
Right-hander Drew Morovick is the lone returning starter this season with any experience for the Jayhawks, Morovick, a 6-5 senior, made nine starts for KU a year ago and posted a 10-4 record with a 5.00 ERA in 77.1 innings. So far in 2015, he has made three starts and has a 1-2 record with an ERA over 5.0.
Offensively, Kansas should not have much trouble getting men on base and scoring runs. With the pitching suspect so far, however, the issue is: Can the Jayhawks outscore their opponents? The Jayhawks have a good balance of right-handed and left-handed hitters and a nice complement of gap-to-gap power.
The Kansas offensive leaders 10-games into the season are left-fielder Connor McKay, who was hitting over .400 entering this week. First-baseman Blair Beck has provided the power bat early on with three home runs and 21 total bases in the Jayhawks’ first seven contests. Sophomore catcher Michael Tinsley has four multi-hit games for Kansas in the early going, and had a slugging percentage of .545 at the beginning of this week.
Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles previewing all nine teams in Big 12 baseball for 2015. Next up: Kansas State Wildcats.