The calendar says it's May Day. Dance around the maypole or march with your comrades, but don't cry Mayday yet for the 2015 Mizzou Baseball season.
About 5 weeks ago I asked the question Is Mizzou Baseball's current success sustainable? With just three weeks left in the regular season, has the answer changed?
Don't panic . . .
Everyone including the players are wondering whether this 5-game losing streak is the end of the magic carpet ride for this team.
Don’t panic just because the Tigers have lost five straight games. Those 5 losses were to Missouri State and Vanderbilt. The Bears are currently ranked 10th in RPI and 16th in the D1Baseball.com Top 25. The Commodores are ranked 19th in RPI and 10th by D1Baseball.com. Mizzou is better than they've been the past two seasons, but these five games proved they're just not at that elite level quite yet.
There's still time . . .
There’s still time for Mizzou to secure at least 3rd place in the SEC East, if not 2nd or even 1st. Then again, there's also plenty of time for Mizzou to drop to .500 or worse in the SEC and tumble into 5th or 6th place.
They play Ole Miss (24-22, 10-11 SEC) this weekend, a team in 5th place in the SEC West. The Rebels are the kind of SEC team the Tigers have been taking 2-of-3 most weekends, and they ought to be able to at least do that this weekend . . . unless the team has lost their confidence and allows this tough stretch to turn into a full-fledged late season swoon.
The one remaining midweek game is this Tuesday against SEMO (29-15, 19-5 OVC). Any other year I'd say this game should be Missouri's to win, but considering Mizzou's struggle in midweek games, no sane person would bet on the Tigers. But, as Tex Little would say, that just means they're due.
Next weekend the Tigers play the Bayou Tigers on the road at LSU. D1Baseball has them ranked #1 in the country, with an RPI ranked at 5th. If Missouri were playing at their 2015 peak, they'd have a shot at pulling off a 2-out-of-3 games upset. If TJ's Tigers rebuild their confidence against Ole Miss and SEMO, they'll have a shot at pulling off a surprise at LSU. If, however, they the head into Baton Rouge with their tails between their legs, it could be another bloodbath like this past weekend in Nashville.
The final weekend will be against Kentucky (25-18, 10-10 SEC) at Taylor Stadium. The Wildcats are not listed in D1Baseball's Top 25, but are ranked 31st in RPI. Kentucky has won 5 of their SEC series, including winning 2 of 3 against both LSU and Florida. This is a series Mizzou ought to win, but they'll need to be playing their best to do so. The crowds will likely suffer for the Kentucky series because many of the students will have left town by then, so this would be a good time for the townies to show up and support the team.
So, it's reasonable to think the Tigers could go on a 7-3 run to finish out the regular season, but it's also not unreasonable to think they could stumble through a 3-7 run. The former would give Mizzou a high seeding in the SEC Tournament and virtually guarantee an NCAA invite. The latter could drop them out of the top 4 seeding they need to get a first round bye in the SEC Tourney and an uncomfortable seat on the bubble for the NCAA Regionals.
Reverting to the mean?
Someone on the RockMNation Watercooler board suggested this losing streak shows Mizzou is simply "reverting to the mean." In other words, they've been overachieving and now they're playing more like the Tigers of the past few years.
Some of the numbers might support that idea a little, but for the most part it doesn't appear that's the case.
The team ERA was at 2.22 when I posted that article 40 days ago. The ERA is now 3.56. The team batting average has gone up from .245 to .256, but it’s still 2nd worst in the SEC. These two stats tell you what you need to know about why this team is good but maybe not good enough. The offense is improved over last season, and continues to get stronger as the season progresses. The pitching is still good, but not as dominating as it was earlier in the season.
Only time will tell whether this 2015 team - or the Mizzou Baseball program - will revert to mean or rise to become a consistent competitor in the SEC. As for that other question everyone's been talking about this season, the steps this team takes in one direction or the other over these next few weeks could also play a key role in determining who will lead this team in the future.