For the second weekend in a row, the Tigers will be hosting a formidable SEC foe, this time it’s Texas A&M (18-9, 2-4). Let’s take a look at this A&M and what the Tigers will be facing this weekend.
The 2021 A&M offense is characterized by a boom or bust mentality. They strike out a lot, but they also hit the ball out of the ballpark quite a bit. Currently, they lead the SEC in strikeouts, but they also are third in the conference in home runs.
The leader of this high-powered Texas A&M offense is first baseman, Will Frizzel. The senior leads A&M in both HR and RBI while batting out of the 2-hole is currently slashing .340/.438/.660. That’s good enough for an OPS of 1.098, and it’s easy to see why he’s the leader of this lineup. Frizzel also does a great job of drawing walks as well as he’s second on the team with 17. If he does have a weakness, it falls right in line with the rest of this A&M team as his strikeout rate is at 21% for the year.
After Frizzel, there are still plenty of bats in the Aggie lineup that are capable of doing damage. Currently, six different guys in the lineup have an OPS over .800, and the likes of outfielders Austin Bost and Logan Britt lead the way behind Frizell. Both have 4 HR and SLG% ver .550. 2B Ty Coleman also had a strong series last weekend with 2 HR and 5 hits, so be on the lookout for the hot hand.
Here’s what the A&M lineup looks like as a whole on the season:
While the Aggie offense is characterized by a lot of strikeouts, the pitching staff is, too. Currently, they are tied for 1st in the SEC in punchouts as a staff and they’ve mowed hitters down all year.
On Thursday night, the Tigers will be seeing Aggie ace LHP Dustin Saenz on the mound. Saenz isn't like the Vanderbilt arms with overpowering fastballs that the Tigers saw last weekend, but he will consistently sit in the low nineties and he has great control. Currently, Saenz leads the Aggies in strikeouts, but that’s mostly due to his fantastic breaking pitches. He mixes up pitches well enough to keep hitters off balance and that’s given him a lot of success this year.
Saenz’s biggest flaw is that he doesn't typically go deep into games. In just two of his 6 starts this year, he has pitched 6 full innings. However, he has consistently delivered, giving up more than 3 ER just once this year. Apart from his abysmal start against a Florida team that will likely host a regional ( 3.0 IP, 5 ER, 8 H), Saenz has been just about everything you could ask out of a Friday night starter in the SEC. His ERA sits at a respectable 3.34, he strikes out batters at a great rate of 12.9 K/9, and he hasn’t walked many batters either as he sports a 2.8 BB/9.
After Saenz, the Aggies will send Jonathan Childress to the bump for Game 2 on Friday. Childress’ fastball has more life than his Friday counterpart Saenz’s, but like Saenz, Childress makes his money with his breaking pitches, specifically his curveball. The 6’4 lefty uses a big sweeping hook that freezes hitters and gets them to chase. However, he has struggled in his last two starts against SEC foes, Florida and Georgia.
In those starts, Childress went just 5.0 IP and surrendered 8 ER. Whether Childress just needs to make a few adjustments or his stuff doesn’t play as well in the SEC is yet to be determined, but the Tigers should have a chance to rough him up based on recent performance.
Recent issues aside, Childress is still having a good year on the mound. Up to this point in the season, he has a 3.38 ERA with 44 K to just 11 BB, which are all numbers Steve Bieser would probably die for from his pitching staff at this point in the season.
Here’s a clip of that devastating Childress (No. 21 ) curveball mentioned earlier:
Finally, for Game 3 on Saturday, Chris Weber will get the ball for the A&M. Weber is another lefty, but he’s been the easiest to hit this season for opponents. Currently, he has a 4.58 ERA and he’s pitched five full innings just once this year. None of the A&M starters go particularly deep into games, but the lack of longevity Weber provides sticks out like a sore thumb in the SEC.
Despite this lack of sustained success this year, the junior is coming off his best start of the year. In 4.1 IP against Georgia, he gave up just one ER and struck out four while walking just one batter. Knowing how the Tigers hit last weekend, Weber could be liking his chances to continue that success against Mizzou this weekend.
After the weekend starters, A&M has a strong bullpen— guys like Alex Magers and Chandler Jozwiak have been reliable out of the pen all year. Due to the aforementioned shorter starts, the Tigers will likely see a lot of the Aggie bullpen this weekend. Obviously, the key for Mizzou will be to get to the starters early and avoid the really dominant arms that anchor the backend.
If the Tigers are going to take care of this dangerous lineup, they’re going to have to get more bust than boom from the Aggies. If Miles, Halvorsen, and Hise can all pound the zone and hit their spots, they should be able to capitalize on the tendency of this lineup to punch out. However, if they miss their spots, you can expect that A&M will deposit quite a few balls over the outfield fences.
Offensively, they’re going to have hit like they did on Tuesday in Lawrence. That game didn’t have the ending that most would’ve hoped, but scoring 9 runs is something that the Tigers haven’t done in a while. Additionally, if they can get SS Josh Day back from his injury, that would be a great lift as well offensively.
Overall, this series has the chance to be a defining moment for this Mizzou team. They don’t have to go play in front of the raucous College Station student section, and they get the chance to put together some wins on their home turf. The Tigers have been beaten up this year by just about every team on their schedule, but winning 2 out of 3 against a talented A&M could give them the confidence that they can win in the SEC and send a message to the conference that if you’ve got to play the Tigers, you can’t just assume you’re going to win.
Thursday | 6:30 pm | SEC Network +
Friday | 6:30 pm | SEC Network +
Saturday | 3 pm | SEC Network