Kentucky Wildcats Baseball: Louisville Regional Preview (Part 2)

USA TODAY Sports

This is Part 2 of a two-part preview of the teams competing in the Louisville Regional this weekend. Part 1 covered the overall season for each team. Part 2 will examine each squads' offense and defense.

In Part 1 of the preview for the Louisville Regional we looked at the overall body of work of each participant, looking at rankings, ratings, and success against the College World Series Field.  Today we'll take a closer look at the offense, pitching, and defensive ability of each team.

Offense


Louisville Kentucky Kansas Kent St.
Runs/9 6.7 8.0 5.8 6.8
AVG 0.286 0.302 0.284 0.287
OBP 0.381 0.401 0.371 0.373
SLG 0.402 0.453 0.382 0.408
SB/Attempts (%) 121/153 (79.1) 63/81 (77.8) 39/57 (68.4) 74/94 (78.7)

No surprise, Kentucky boasts the best offense in the regional, leading all schools in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging.  Louisville and Kent State have nearly identical offenses and Kansas is also similar, although the Jayhawks don't hit for as much power and have a lower success rate when stealing.  Speaking of steals, this regional features 3 schools that excel at taking extra bases off the pitcher.  The Cardinals stole the second most bases in baseball this year and did so with an impressive 79.1% success rate.  Kentucky and Kent State stole fewer total bases, but did so at equally impressive rates.  We can expect some excitement on the bases this weekend as managers try to squeeze out an extra run.

Pitching


Louisville Kentucky Kansas Kent St.
Runs Allowed/9 3.4 5.1 4.1 4.8
ERA 2.85 3.98 3.51 3.74
WHIP 1.24 1.40 1.28 1.26
K/9 8.4 6.1 5.7 7.4
BB/9 3.7 3.1 2.6 3.4

The Cardinals lead the way in run prevention, allowing the fewest runs and boasting the best ERA.  They allow a similar number of baserunners as Kansas and Kent State do, but the Louisville pitching staff has one of the best strikeout rates in the country.  Kentucky is last almost everywhere which isn't a surprise - the Cats have some good pitching, but they've had injury issues and have struggled on defense all year.  Kansas does not issue many walks and Kentucky is second best in that area - a big positive.  The Louisville staff walks a lot of guys in addition to getting a lot of strikeouts.  That drives up pitch counts and indeed, UL only has two players with 75+ innings pitched this year.

There is some reason for optimism for Kentucky: in the SEC Tournament the Wildcats held their opponents to 3.5 runs per 9 innings despite some really terrible defense and they were exceptional in the two games started by A.J. Reed and Kyle Cody: 3 total runs in 18 innings against Alabama and Florida.


Defense


Louisville Kentucky Kansas Kent St.
Def. Efficiency 0.711 0.695 0.705 0.716
Fielding % 0.970 0.968 0.971 0.967
CS/SBA (%) 32/80 (40.0) 17/51 (33.3) 24/74 (32.4) 18/75 (24.0)

The Cardinals are pretty good at turning balls in play into outs with a 0.711 defensive efficiency and look at that caught stealing rate - 40% is an extraordinary mark.  All that action on the basepaths that I mentioned earlier?  Gonna be hard to do against Cardinal catchers.  Interestingly, Kentucky's fielding percentage is pretty much in line with the other three teams.  In combination with the defensive efficiency, that suggests that the Wildcats are roughly as good as the other squads at handling routine chances, but don't get to as many balls in play.  That's also supported by the high WHIP of the pitching staff. The one area where they are pretty solid is throwing out would-be base thieves. Micheal Thomas has been pretty good at controlling the running game this year and he'll need to continue his success from the SEC Tournament this weekend (4 CS in 6 attempts).


Summary

Kentucky leads the way offensively, Louisville does so in pitching and defense, Kansas and Kent State do a few things well and a few things poorly.  It's always tempting to favor pitching over hitting, but Kentucky bludgeoned SEC staffs all spring and they aren't going to be intimidated by Louisville's power arms.  One thing to watch is how much Kent State and Kentucky try to run on Louisville - both teams like to run but the Cards are really good at throwing out runners.  The Cards want to run more than anyone - if I were doing a GOG question I might set the over/under on UL steals for the regional at 10.

Don't Forget to Vote!

A.J. Reed is a semi-finalist for the Golden Spikes Award this year.  You can help him win by voting for him at usabaseball.com.  Vote as many times as you like!

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