Pitching & Defense, Changes Within The NCAA & Mike’s Trip to Hawaii


Q. Our first question this week is from sGiles who wants to know: Were you as worried about game three of the Ole Miss series as I was? No scoring after the 5th and no scoring for them after the 4th. I can’t believe that one run lead held up for five innings.

A. It held up because of the bullpen combo of Zack Morris and Brady Tygart.

Each went three tough innings. Each gave up just a single hit. However they did have six combined walks and that’s what made it a nail biter. DVH has said this often. These guys get themselves into jams but they’re very good at getting out of them. It also helps when you’ve got the best defense in the SEC backing them up. There were three double plays in that game, including one in the 5th triggered by Robert Moore, that was hard to believe.

Q. Alex4Hogs88 says: A very gritty series win! Walk off last night. Surviving a bases loaded in the 9th today with that Elko guy at bat. Is Ole Miss better than their last place standing suggests? Do we need to get on blood pressure medication for next weekend at Auburn?

A. Yes, Ole Miss is better than a typical last place SEC West team but they needed to win this series and after losing it, it remains to be seen if they can make the SEC tournament. On paper they are a below average pitching team and can really hit the baseball.

So what happened this weekend?

Ole Miss scored 10 total runs. That’s 3 1/3 per game. Arkansas cut their typical run production in half.

But the Rebels are 10th the SEC in pitching with an ERA of 5. Arkansas scored an average of just 4 runs in the series. Again, by the numbers, Arkansas won the series with pitching and defense.

As for the Auburn series. With a sweep they could take the lead in the West. Win the series and they will still be a game back. If Arkansas win he series they’d go from two to three games up on Auburn.

Auburn is one of only two SEC teams with a win over Tennessee. They have a much better team batting average but have just one more hit and one fewer extra base hits than Arkansas. On paper the difference should be pitching. Arkansas has a much better ERA. But as we’ve seen Arkansas often doesn’t take advantage of average or below average pitching. Maybe that will change this weekend. Arkansas is 1-2 in SEC road series. Their only win was at Missouri.

Q. Hogapalooza wants to know: When was the last time we had a bullpen and a defensive unit like this in the same season in those two categories?

A. Lets take a look. Pitching and fielding stats only go back to 2003 on the Arkansas
baseball website.

Based on the last 19 seasons there is one team that compares to this one in both categories. The 2013 team had the best ERA of those years, 1.89, and the 5th best fielding percentage of 9.74.

The 2022 Hogs have best fielding percentage of .984 and the 5th best team ERA of 3.27. So I would say the 2013 Razorbacks, who made it to the finals of the College World Series, is the closest comparison in pitching and fielding to the current team. I could not find bullpen stats for those years.

Q. J.Wayne asks: Can You explain Van Horn’s decision to put Kendall Diggs into Saturday’s game. It might end up being the biggest move he’s made all year. He’d only played in a few games and I don’t remember him doing much but clearly coach saw something in him.

A. His numbers were actually pretty good going into game two. He had appeared in 13 games. Started in 8. He had 9 hits and 8 RBI. His batting average was .270 which is a tick below the team average. DVH said he inserted Diggs into the lineup because he had been looking exceptionally good in workouts. Yes it paid off. We don’t know how much just yet but the team was down emotionally. DVH said so. They needed a spark and there’s no better spark than a walk off home run.

Q. It didn’t look good after the game one, 4-2 loss to the Rebels. Tom Grunden posted this: Gotta learn how to hit. 11 strikeouts is way too many. Need timely hitting. It’s gotta be all in their heads because the talent is there.

Q. Lynn Ricky McDaniel saw a different problem. He says: This is our worst hitting team we have had in years, we start just about every at bat in the hole 0-2 which leads to strike outs. DVH better get some recruits that can hit.

A. So which is it? I can only give my opinion but I think the first explanation is closer to reality. In the 10 games Arkansas has lost it’s mostly been due to a lack of timely hitting. Winnable games lost at the plate.

In 8 of this teams 10 losses Arkansas scored fewer runs than its season average.
In only two of the losses did Arkansas give up more runs than its season average.

I think, on paper, this is a very talented hitting team. But in 7 of 10 losses they’ve scored 3 runs or less. Four are with 2 runs or less. The Friday Ole Miss game is a good example. Arkansas had two hits in that game. One of them a two-run home run.

How about the Friday A&M game? Arkansas had 5 hits but scored just one run with 7 runners left on base.

The pitching was great. Just two runs given up. Arkansas fans are fighting with each other on social media with a lot of them being called haters for simply pointing out that this team needs more RBI singles and doubles. Too many guys are coming to the plate in RBI situations and coming up empty.

Yes, this is still a top 5 team but that ranking is mostly due to pitching and defense.

Walk off home runs are exciting. They are fun. I don’t think anybody is trying to argue that there haven’t been some really good moments in this baseball season. But some of these fans understand that a lack of key hits is an issue with this team.

Q. H. McCamish asks: How about a shout out for the softball team? SEC Champs for the second straight year. But what do they have to do to win it outright and not share the title like last year?

A. Just don’t get swept by A&M. Arkansas would have to lose all three games and Alabama would have to sweep Missouri to finish in a tie with Arkansas. That doesn’t seem probable. Arkansas is doing in softball what Tennessee is doing in baseball. They are destroying the competition. Right now I’d say they have the best program on campus. We’ll see if they can get to the softball World Series and make a run at the title.

Q. Oliver Pace wants to know: What do you think about the new QB commit? I hear a lot of talk about run-pass QBs but most are more run or more pass. This kid looks like he’s a legitimate weapon at both.

A. You’re referring to Kennesaw (Ga.) North Cobb, 2023 four-star quarterback Malachi Singleton. I agree with that assessment 100 %. In his highlight reel he’s a physical runner like KJ Jefferson. He’s got good size at 220 pounds. Really good feet. He can cut left and right on a dime. Stop and accelerate to full speed quickly. But he also reads defenses well. Spots open receivers and finds them on target. In the last two seasons This kid has thrown 24 touchdown passes and run for 25 touchdowns and he’s got his senior season still ahead. That’s the definition of a run/pass quarterback.

Q. T.L. Slaten: Are you a Cowboys fan? I am and I was almost certain that Burks was going to Dallas. Kind of a bummer seeing him going to Tennessee.

A. I used to be a Cowboys fan. Not anymore. I would have loved it if Burks had gone to Kansas City but he’s in a good situation. Yes, the Titans traded A.J. Brown to get Burks because it will save them a lot of money. $3.5 million a year instead of 25 million. But the bottom line, they would not have made that trade if they didn’t think a lot of Burks.

What they’re getting is an outstanding receiver who is about has unassuming and humble as a pro athlete is going to be.

Here’s what he had to say about taking over for Brown.

“I’ve looked up to A.J. all my life. I’ve watched his highlights and kind of mimic myself on certain things after him. I wouldn’t say I’m his replacement, but at the same time, like I said, I’m just thankful for the opportunity that they believed in me.

To make that trade and believe in me to go out there and represent their organization like it’s supposed to be represented. That’s what I’m gonna do.”

Q. John wants to know: Why was Burks draft party in Searcy? He was sitting next to an older lady who I’m guessing might be his grandmother maybe? I think Burks is gonna be a great pro. I hope he has a great, healthy 10 year career & makes a boatload of cash.

A. That’s where his great grandmother lives. She doesn’t travel a lot and he did it for her. He’s a very considerate young man. She’s very important in his life. His projected initial contract is four years for an average of $3.57 million with a cap of $2.6 million in his rookie year. He also gets a $7.6 million signing bonus. As for a boatload of cash, the real money will come if he gets a second contract. The kind that A.J. Brown has.

Q. Razorback Redneck says: You’ve been a frequent critic of the NCAA. What’s your reaction to Mark Emmert’s decision to retire?

A. He was fired by the Board Of Governors. There’s nine of them from various Universities. This is part of an effort to salvage the NCAA. Whoever ends up with this job is going to have to oversee a major change in direction by the NCAA. Member schools and member conference are going to have a greater say in how they want to operate. Also the NCAA in cooperation with member institutions is going to come up with a better way of handling NIL. The chaos that exists right now threatens the future of college athletics. The NCAA caused this problem and Mark Emmert in particular has provided zero leadership on the situation. I think the new NCAA president will have two or three years to solve a bunch of problems within college athletics. If he doesn’t get the job done a new organization could be created to replace he NCAA.

Q. R-Man on Twitter asks: Have you heard anything about more scholarships for college baseball and additional coaches? It’s a growing sport but It seems like those proposals keep getting voted down.

A. As a part of some changes coming within the NCAA a special committee is looking into and is expected to approve additional scholarships and the addition of a fourth assistant coach for teams. It’s been a long time coming. So called mid majors, schools with limited athletic budgets, have consistently voted against it. I’m hearing that the power five conferences are no longer going to accept this. Faced with those conferences ditching the NCAA it looks like the suits in Indianapolis are going to approve it without a vote.

Q. robs4516 says: I can’t remember the last time I heard about a football player being academically ineligible. Have the eligibility requirements changed or is the staff just doing an excellent job working with the athletes?

A. That is due in part to the NCAA’s academic progress rule put into place several years ago. Coaches generally do a much better job of staying on top of academics because of that. It’s cut and dried. They know what each athlete has to do in the classroom to remain eligible.

But Sam Pittman and his staff to a great job by openly encouraging their players not just stay eligible but to excel in the classroom.

Q. Lanny asks: Can you explain the USFL? Why are the games played in Birmingham, Alabama? Why are there teams from Pittsburgh, New Orleans & Michigan, yet all the games are played in Birmingham? Why don’t the teams call themselves Birmingham Northeast, Birmingham Gulf Coast and so on?

A. It’s financial. Playing in one stadium eliminates travels costs. Also Legion Field has no regular tenant. For decades it was sort of Alabama’s version of War Memorial in the annual Iron Bowl game between Auburn and Alabama. I have no idea what the stadium rental is but it can’t be much.

As for the names I like your idea. It’s more honest. Every team should having Birmingham in its name.

Q. About the recent Garth Brooks concert, Kdogstew2u says: Curious as to whether you think future “big act” will be booked or was this a one and done? I’m guessing the city of Fay wants more shows. Every hotel and restaurant was slammed in Fay, Springdale, and Rogers.

A. Don’t look for it to happen anytime soon. A spokesman for the athletic department said it was a big success but at the most it might be a once every four or five year deal.

Q. @mousetown asks: Why do you wear Pig Trail polo’s on the air sometimes and Pig trail pullovers at other times. Somebody told me that you are hyper sensitive to weather even indoors in a TV studio.

Q. That is true. If it’s 65 or below outside I will wear long sleeve a long sleeve shirt or a pullover even though it’s 72 in the studio. I guess it’s psychological. I cannot stand cold weather. Winter depresses me. In the mid 80’s I almost took a job in Hawaii but I wasn’t willing to give up my job covering the Razorbacks. If you like something enough you have to make sacrifices for it. Right?

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