Ask Mike: Fay Regional Thud, DVH’s New Hitting Philosophy & Mike Defends Angry Hog Baseball Fans

By Mike Irwin
on 2024-06-03 17:18 PM

Q. Our first question is from mousetown who asks: Okay you tell me, what went wrong with this baseball team? Were they overrated to begin with? Was there too much hype?

A. First of all the hype came from a high preseason rating. Followed by beating number seven Oregon State in week two. They went to number one and stayed there because of their hot start. 20-2 at one point. As the season developed we started to see that Arkansas’ schedule was front loaded with underperforming SEC teams. When the schedule got tougher, the losses started to mount. The team ERA went up and it took a dramatic turn from the Kentucky series on. Arkansas went 5-9 over the last month.

From the beginning this team had hitting issues but the pitching was so good that the Hogs got away with it. When the competition got better and the arms started getting a little fatigued, for the most part, the hitters could no make up for it. There were exceptions. They swept Texas Tech in a midweek series with hitting not pitching. They took two of three from Mississippi State with hitting. But as we saw in the two losses at the Fayetteville Regional, hitting could overcome pitching issues.

Was this team overrated? Well DVH did say in his post tournament presser that Arkansas needs better athletes. He was talking about hitters, not pitchers. Guys that can hit and run the bases with speed.

Q. Mark Modisette says: 33-3 at home this season and 1-2 in the regional.

A. That’s still a shocker to me. I said last week that Arkansas would advance because no team all year had beaten them twice at Baum. That’s still true. It took two teams beating them once to end their season.

We saw in SEMO a dangerous team with 98 home runs coming in and a .294 team batting average. Their pitching did not look good on paper. Well, Sunday it as good enough to hold Arkansas to three runs. I thought all of SEMO’s pitchers did a good job of locating and keeping Arkansas off balance by changing speeds and throwing different pitches.

The team that shocked me was Kansas State. They looked to be the weakest team in the regional with the second worst team batting average in the field of 64 and the lowest home run total of any team in the regional. Their pitching was okay but certainly not outstanding. So what did Kansas State do? They hit 7 home runs in their first two games with a team batting average close to .400. So how good are they? Will they be this year’s North Carolina State which won the Fayetteville Super Regional in 2021 and could have won a national championship if COVID protocols had not taken them out ?

Maybe this regional was just a whole lot tougher than many of us believed it to be going in. Or maybe this Arkansas team just laid a big ole egg. We’ll see how Kansas State does in the Charlottesville regional.

Q. RazorAlex88 asks: What would you suggest to remedy the woes of our baseball team’s hitting? Too many K’s and men left stranded this baseball season.

A. My remedy doesn’t matter because I’m not coaching the team. DVH’s remedy is apparently to recruit better athletes, especially outfielders, and rely less on home runs and more on singles and doubles with better base running. He said he actually started that process with last season’s recruiting and he was really happy with the four guys he signed with those skills. But he lost all of them to the MLB draft. He said they ended up with $7 million in signing bonuses.

So he went to the portal to try to get what he needed but he ended up with home run type hitters.

Q. Eddy Lynn wants to know: Is Dave Van Horn finally going to change the hitting coach coach or will it be more same ole, same ole. Guys trying to hit home runs every at bat.

A. There are rumors that Nate Thompson is going to be the next head coach at Missouri State. He was the hitting coach there seven seasons ago when DVH hired him. That job has been open for a few weeks. Stories out of Springfield indicate that assistant coach there is expected to be promoted to that job but it hasn’t happened yet.

Dave Van Horn talked about Thompson in Sunday’s press conference. He said that Thompson is open to change and as I have already indicated Van Horn said the hitting philosophy is going to change. So that should make a lot of fans happy who have been critics of this team’s hitting over the past few years.

Q. KyHog says: I’m all Hog living in Kentucky but this team was such a disappointment I really don’t care if any of these guys come back. Van Horn should do what Calipari did. Build an entirely new team for next season.

A. That’s a bit of an overreaction. A baseball team needs more than nine players so I don’t favor DVH having to replace his entire team. But he did say that a lot of his batting lineup will have to be replaced. Some are out of eligibility, some will get drafted and there might be a player or two that transfer. We will have to see but Van Horn did said say he expects to have an entirely new outfield with some changes in the infield. Helfrick will be back at catcher. Look for him to add one or two more catchers through the portal.

Q. Hawgredneck says: I wonder where all those, “don’t worry, everything is fine” fans are now. I got so tired of reading about, “this game doesn’t matter,” “Hoover doesn’t matter.” It mattered.

A. There’s no way to prove that the Sunday loss to A&M or the two losses at Hoover had anything to do with getting bounced in the Fayetteville Super Regional but I don’t like the mindset of throw away games. When Arkansas started losing more than it was winning, to me, the players needed to step up and stop the bleeding. In that situation I don’t think you can’t afford to have throw away games.

Q. sglies says: Home regionals in 2021, 2023 and 2024 and none of those teams advanced to Omaha. In 2022 the road to Omaha took us through Stillwater and Chapel Hill and we made it. Are we back to the old days where it’s better not to host?

A. I hope not. I’d like to think that your players want to reward their fans by giving them the biggest wins of the season in a regional and super regional in front of 11,000 plus. But there is something to be said for playing in front of another team’s fans with no pressure to please the the home team.

The bottom line, I think some teams thrive on that pressure while it hurts others.

Q. Marty Byrde’s proxy wants to know: Is DVH’s support still as strong as ever or are Hog fans starting to get antsy sort of like Kentucky fans were with Cal? We’re smarter than the latter-right?

A. It’s hard to say. I’ve been told Cal still had the support of a lot of their basketball fans when he took the Arkansas job. I think a lot of the negative reaction since has come from the fact that he left for a rival SEC team.

DVH has support and I haven’t read much fire or retire DVH stuff on social media today but there are a lot of folks saying you better make some changes, which, as I have pointed out, he’s apparently going to do.

Q. WVHogfan says: The other day we saw Mississippi State players taunting Tennessee players. Which SEC teams athletes and coaches exhibit the worst sportsmanship and which teams exhibit the best sportsmanship? I am asking about the players and coaches, not the fans.

A. Two or three years ago Tennessee was the bad boy team. But as I pointed out last week Tony Vitello has mellowed out and is actually a lot more like DVH these days. On the other side of your question, I think Arkansas is probably the SEC team that is most respected for its sportsmanship.

Q. Armon Abee says: Baseball has broken my heart too many times. Next year I’m all in with Cal until the basketball season is over. Until then I’m not going to give baseball more than a passing thought.

A. That’s probably an extreme reaction based on the shock factor of getting bounced out by two teams Arkansas would have probably destroyed early in the season. My guess is, by the time baseball rolls around next February you will be curious about the new hitters and pitchers DVH has brought in and if they are top 5 you’ll get hooked all over again.

Q. HL McCamish says: Some of our fans have lost it. People calling for Van Horn to retire or get fired. What’s wrong with them?

A. They’re fans. High expectations brings this type of reaction when they are hit with something that is so hard to accept. Most of the “fire DVH” crowd aren’t really serious. They just need an outlet for their frustrations. Some are serious and frankly that comes with the territory when you are a coach. I’ve always said, don’t get into that line of work unless you are prepared for some hard push back from fans. No matter how successful you are it will probably happen to you sooner or later.

(Last updated: 2024-06-03 17:18 PM)