Ask Mike: Amazing Pitching, Woeful Hitting & Towel Waving in the Dugout

By Mike Irwin
on 2024-02-26 20:09 PM

Q. Our first question is from Mousetown who says: Okay, you guys have everybody mad at me so here’s something nice. Our pitching staff is as good as I’ve seen. Hats off to Matt Hobbs. We could win the CWS with these guys, but not with the strike out-ground out batters we have. We have two hitters. Kendal Diggs and the new 3rd baseman. The middle part of our lineup killed us against Okie St. Our hitting coach is not cutting it. Yeah, I’m mean again.

A. I don’t see this reaction as unreasonable. My only criticism of it is that baseball is not like other sports. It’s too early to start making assumptions about Arkansas team batting. They opened up last year struggling at the plate and ended up winning the SEC. However they didn’t make it out of their own regional. I do agree that pitching alone will not keep this team in the top 5 or even top 10.

We’ll have to wait and see how it goes moving forward.

Q. jkelly107 says: Arkansas has one of the best teams in collegiate baseball. I would think we could have any hitting coach we wanted. Is Nate Thompson a great coach or a great recruiter or maybe both?

A. Depends on who you talk to. Almost everybody agrees that he’s a very good recruiter. The issue is his home run oriented approach to hitting. Some say it’s based on solid analytics developed for major league teams. Others say it doesn’t work as well on the college level. Thompson’s critics say his approach leads to strike outs, pop ups or weak ground balls with running on base. The batters strike out looking for home run pitches or instead of trying to make solid contact with the ball they are overswinging trying to hit home runs. Clearly Dave Van Horn is not buying that theory or he would change the philosophy.

Q. PorkRyan says: We are hitting .15 below our last years batting average. What you are seeing is what happens when you don’t hit home runs and score 2-3 runs at a time. It’s modern day analytics right in your face yet people still can’t see it.

A. This is what the proponents of power hitting stress. It works if you are hitting home runs. If you are not you better figure out why not and make corrections or change the philosophy. Right now Arkansas has 4 home runs in six games. You really need about 1.5 home run per game to make this philosophy pay off.

Q. hawgredneck asks: How soon do we get Peyton Stovall back? It can’t be soon enough. Our .250 team batting average is scary bad.

A. The earliest he could be back is in two weeks. It could be another month. I agree. They need him back as a lead off hitter. Stovall can hit the longball but he’s a very good at hitting hard liners into the gaps and sharply hit ground balls through the infield holes.

Q. K Money says: No reason to fret ladies and gentlemen… this pitching is immaculate, the defense is elite, and once the bats warm up (and they will)… This team IS as advertised. Go ahead and book your hotels.. #Omahawgs

A. K Money could end up being dead on with this or as the season progresses he will look like a sunshine pumper. I don’t think the hitting is a disaster but I end to agree with those who say DVH needs to figure out a way to have fewer runners left on base which will win more games.

Q. Hogkiller has this reaction to Hagan Smith’s domination of Oregon St.: That was a once in a lifetime performance against a stacked lineup of 7 guys hitting over .335 and had hit 14 Home Runs and 11 Doubles in their 1st 5 games. I’ve been around this game 60 plus years. That was UNBELIEVABLE.

A. I can’t say it any better than that. This wasn’t a good pitcher with good stuff dominating a mid major lineup. As he pointed out Oregon State is loaded with hitters and power hitters. I’ve never seen anything like that on the college level.

Q. Razorback Susie says: Arkansas starting pitchers in Arlington were stunning. 17 combined innings. Gave up just 6 total hits. NO RUNS. 4 WALKS. 33 STRIKEOUTS. AND THE BULLPEN WAS GREAT TOO. JUST GOTTA HIT BETTER.

A. Again those numbers are hard to comprehend. Hagan Smith was amazing but Brady Tygart and Mason Molina stepped up big time too.

Q. RazorAlex88 wants to know: What are y’all’s thoughts on Arkansas baseball playing in these tournaments early in the season against really good competition? Really hard to go through those unscathed but surely it should be beneficial for the team. Like iron sharpening iron.

A. The Arlington tournament is great for the program. There were over 10,000 Arkansas fans there on Friday and Saturday nights. I agree they will get more out of it than playing mid majors at home. The disappointment for some fans this year is beating a top 10 Oregon St. team, then losing to unranked Oklahoma State and almost losing to unranked Michigan. It’s all about the hitting issues right now and how hard will that be to correct.

Q. smalltownhog95 asks: Do you know if part of Nate Thompson’s job as a hitting coach is to shake a towel around in the dugout like a madman when we take the field? I’m assuming he’s trying to communicate something to the fielders or signal a shift but I don’t think I’ve seen any other teams do it that way. Could you clarify?

A. At games I’m either in the press box or on the concourse so I don’t see this. Credit Alyssa Orange who told me that Thompson is positioning the outfielders while Dave Van Horn does the same thing with the infielders. Later this was confirmed to me by associate AD Kevin Trainor. So your guess is correct. Thompson is communicating and signaling shifts when necessary.

Q. Axle wants to know: Why hasn’t the outfield camera at BWS been raised 5 or 6 feet so that tv viewers can actually see home plate? Can’t yell at the ump if the plate isn’t visible. In most SEC parks you can see it.

A. You’ve got a good eye. I registered a similar complaint to the athletic department back in the Jeff Long days. Before SEC schools started supplying live game video in various sports for use by ESPN3 streaming service I set up a center field camera so the school could show each pitch from behind the pitchers. I quickly noticed that he shooting platform was too low and it need to be moved several feet to the left right next to the edge of the batter eye.

I can only assume that there have not been enough complaints for something to be done about this but you are also correct in that the camera platform positioned correctly and at the right height at most other SEC ball parks.

Q. Hogdogger asks: What has happened to Makhi Mitchell? He has played some very good ball the last 3 games. I’m wondering what happened to step up his game. Is he the new leader for this team?

A. Some say when Brazile and Graham went down with injuries Mitchell sensed that he needed to step up and he did. I have made the point many times both this year and last year that he was a lot better player that what we were seeing night in and night out. Ever since he went off on Musselman in a time out in the game he has looked a lot better. Maybe they got something worked out with that minor dust up.

Khalif Battle has also come on strong as of late. It’s a mystery to most as to what was going on with him most of the season, He spend a lot of time on the bench and even missed games entirely. I’ve been told it was because Muss was trying to convince him to improve his defense. But who knows? This team has been ahead scratcher to me for along time.

Q. The real Hogules asks: How’s Arkansas’ NIL collective doing, when compared to the rest of the SEC? Specifically the football and men’s basketball program.

A. Some say that Arkansas is behind and trying to catch up with schools like Missouri and Ole Miss who were more aggressive with NIL collectives. Personally I think people inside the athletic department tried to run their NIL program based on NCAA rules while Tennessee and others just said to hell with any rules and did what they wanted. Now schools like Arkansas, that followed the rules, are trying to catch up with these new collectives.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: Can you give your best interpretation of the latest (this week’s) court ruling regarding NIL? How did state laws in Virginia and Tennessee play into this?

A. The court ruling is an injunction which will allow Tennessee and any other NCAA school to continue to ignore an NCAA rule prohibiting the offering of NIL deals until after a recruit signs with a school. In other words it’s open season on the open buying of players until the lawsuit is decided. What a shock that a school with a long history of getting caught violating NCAA recruiting rules has basically turned college football into a sport where talent goes to highest bidder. The NFL doesn’t do this. High schools across this country have put rules in place to prevent this. If something is not done these power hungry schools with their win at all cost boosters are going to ruin college sports.

Q. How soon do you think an athlete will come back from his/her pro career and finish out their college eligibility? They’re not amateurs anymore and the courts keep clipping NCAA ability to manage any rules.

A. A great job of looking ahead to another aspect to all this looney NIL nonsense. Let’s say a Tennessee running back declares for the NFL draft and either doesn’t get drafted high enough or gets cut during training camp calls up the school and says I want to come back. How mush NIL money will you give me. Yes there are rules to prevent this but what’s to stop lawyers in Tennessee (or any other state) from suing the NCAA claiming an anti trust violation.

Q. BWS says: After yesterday’s loss against Vanderbilt, it appears that the women’s basketball team will likely miss the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year. Mike Neighbors runs a system that seems to emphasize too much on shooting three pointers and not on rebounding and defense, which seems to be an Achilles heel in ballgames. With the addition of Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC next year, do you feel a change in leadership is needed to compete in the SEC?

A. It doesn’t matter what I think. Hunter Yurachek makes that decision. I mentioned last week that the words is, Neighbors job is safe for another year primarily because there are bigger priorities for the athletic department. Making a change at this point would cost money at a time when that money needs to be spent on football and men’s basketball.

Q. Razorbackborn75 says: I just read a article about allowing the fans to be a part of practice, possibly charging 5 to 10 dollars for membership to our new collective. NIL would benefit but would there be some kind of violation by doing that? Would a coach be willing to open up for the NIL?

A. According to an athletic department spokesman what you are suggesting would be against NCAA rules on NIL. For some schools that wouldn’t be a problem. They’d do it and then sue the NCAA if they tried to stop it. Arkansas is not like that.

Q. Dr. Strangepork wants to know: This past weekend results which was the most impressive event? M/W SEC track championships? Herron’s perfect game? Hagen Smith’s dominating 17Ks? Baseball’s starting pitchers dominating? Record crowds at Bogle? Or ALL the above!

A. I’d go with Hagan Smith’s 2 hitter against Oregon State. Striking out 17 of 21 batters faced especially when you consider who he was going up against. The perfect game by Herron would be next followed by Khalif Battle’s 42 points against Missouri. Track is big but they’ve done this so often fans have come to expect it. It’s a problem for them but it’s a good problem to have.

(Last updated: 2024-02-26 20:09 PM)