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Reliable bats, pitching-by-committee key as Mizzou runs record to 4-2

Missouri couldn’t secure a weekend sweep, but is starting to see some bats step up in Bieser’s fourth year.

Twitter: @MizzouBaseball (Chad Keys)

Welcome to Three True Outcomes, where we’ll examine the past week in Mizzou Baseball through the lens of the three true outcomes — strikeouts, walks and home runs. How did the Tigers whiff, how did they take advantage of what was given to them and what did they knock out of the park?

Before we get started with the actual piece, a bit of a preamble for you non-baseball folk. There’s a way of describing certain hitters who tend to be feast-or-famine when it comes to their plate approach. These players are called, “Three true outcome hitters,” because of their propensity for accomplishing one of three things at the plate — a strikeout, a walk or a home run.

These are the three outcomes a batter can have in an at-bat that involve no one but them. They are the ones who decide if they swing enough to strike out or if they hold up enough to get a walk. They are the ones who swing the bat with enough power for a mighty dinger. Every other outcome a hitter can have involves other players on the diamond — thus, these three are the only “true” outcomes.

Each week, I’ll be examining the past week of Missouri baseball through the lens of these outcomes. For strikeouts, we’ll examine the ways that the Tigers whiffed in the past week. What did they do poorly or fail to take advantage of? For walks, we’ll see what they were able to take advantage of — what were some of the less obvious ways they were able to find success? For home runs... well, that should be obvious. What were the things Missouri did exceedingly well?

That’s the synopsis. Now let’s get to the outcomes. We’ll be moving in the following order: Strikeout → Walk → Home Run.

Too. Many. Strikeouts.

The Missouri offense wasn’t as prolific in week two as it was against Jacksonville State, and one thing stands out immediately: the increase in punch outs. The Tigers struck out 20 times over the course of the Jacksonville State series, but saw that number jump to 32 in Corpus Christi. Some of it likely has to do with the level of competition, but it’s still a troubling trend, nonetheless.

In my season preview, I talked about Missouri’s need for more power, and how it could lead to an uptick in total run production. Missouri has always been a decent on-base team under Steve Bieser and doesn’t strike out too much, so a slightly more aggressive plate approach wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. However, the Tigers have only managed four home runs on the season and are slugging .363 as a team. It’s still early so there’s no reason to panic, but without a power surge, the strikeouts are a bit worrisome.

Pitching By Committee

It’s early (as I’ve already pointed out), but all indications suggest that Steve Bieser won’t have to worry too much about his pitching staff in 2020. Ian Bedell wasn’t as dominant in his second start of the season, but went 6 innings with 5 strikeouts and no walks, only surrendering 3 runs (two of which came on a home run.) That’s good enough to win most of the time, and Missouri’s lack of run support did him in.

Konnor Ash was the real star of the mound this weekend, though, going 7 innings with 9 strikeouts against Utah. It was a really encouraging outing for Ash, who struggled against Jacksonville State last weekend. And after a rough start for Spencer Juergens (9 hits, 4 runs in 2 innings), sophomore Andrew Vail and freshman Spencer Miles combined for 7 scoreless innings of relief. All in all, Missouri’s relievers pitched 11 innings of one-run ball in Texas.

It seems Bieser will have some depth to play with on this year’s staff. He’s settled on Bedell and Ash as his top two starters, and each have turned in dominant performances in the first two weeks. Now all that’s left to do is find another consistent rotation member or two and let the talent sort itself out.

The Zimmerman-Belk One-Two Punch

I talked extensively in my offense preview about the need for senior Peter Zimmerman to step up into the role of enforcer in Missouri’s lineup, and the first two weeks have been a showcase for the DH. He’s slashing .318/.500/.591 on the young season. He still only has one home run, but has turned into a doubles machine. Most notably, he’s only struck out three times to go along with five walks, which has contributed to a major boost in his on-base numbers.

The big surprise of the season, however, has been Pepperdine transfer Brandt Belk. He’s slashing a monster .400/.536/.600 to go along with 3 stolen bases. Belk has started five of the six games, and Bieser has him hitting fifth right behind Zimmerman. I’d argue if Belk keeps these numbers up that a shift in the order may be called for (maybe Belk hitting second with Zimmerman just behind or at number four?) Either way, Zimmerman and Belk have been excellent over the first two weeks, and their continued success will be important for the overall health of the Missouri offense.