New position brings new opportunity

New position brings new opportunity

By Tyler Davis

Coach Ken Henderson has six options for his starting outfield but one of his best picks may be a player who has not played in the outfield since Little League.

Freshman catcher Jake Hand started six of the last seven games in right field, and the other at catcher. He is hitting .333 in those games with one RBI from the sixth hole. Hand needs to stay in the lineup.

It is good to see Hand getting at-bats because of his production, but moving a catcher to right field is not ideal. Hand will likely be the starter behind the plate after senior catcher Matt Jones graduates.

Advertisement

Hand strictly played catcher in high school, and said he’s comfortable in right, but it took some getting used to. Jones needs to call the pitches because he is a better defensive option, and can go on hot streaks at any time.

It is possible Henderson may keep Hand in right field, even after Jones graduates. Hand has only caught one runner stealing out of 10 attempts. He’s a good hitter, but his defense needs improvement if he wants to be an everyday catcher.

Henderson recruited catcher Nick Hutchins for next season and freshman catcher Nick Rybarczk has yet to play this season. Next year’s recruits have three eligible players to play outfield, so it’ll be interesting to see if Hand continues to start in right field, or goes back to his comfort zone.

Freshman center fielder Dyllin Mucha is the only outfielder that does not need to worry about losing his job at this point. Even though he did not have his best series against Wichita State University, his batting average is more than 25 points higher than the next starting outfielder, junior Parker Osborne.

Osborne and Mucha are the best two defensive players in the outfield. Both of them have perfect fielding percentages, and Osborne makes some web gems in left field.

Even though he is cold as of late, there aren’t many options in left field. Henderson has a defensive mindset, and he won’t move another player there just because of hitting.

Osborne has proven to be a better choice than senior Donny Duschinsky, but junior Tyler Rolland could start more often. Henderson will not plug a player from another position into that role, so it’s Rolland or Osborne.

Advertisement

Henderson cannot have two infielders playing the outfield just because they are better hitters. Even though the outfield is primarily tracking down fly balls and getting the ball into the infield as fast as possible, the Salukis would see more errors.

Rolland was hitting .196 by the end of March, but has improved his average to .241, while Osborne’s average has slipped by 53 points this month. Rolland would also add a left-handed batter to the lineup every day.

Rolland’s batting average is nearly 30 points worse than Osborne, however his on-base percentage is more than 50 points better. Sabermetrics, or the statistical analysis of players, tells you Rolland should start more often.

Left-handed batters are scarce in baseball, and Mucha is the only starter batting from that side. Henderson needs to start Rolland and give more diversity to his lineup.

Aaron Graff can be contacted at [email protected], @Aarongraff_DE or at 536-3311 ext. 269

Advertisement