Skilled, explosive, deep — these are the best ways to describe the Michigan baseball team’s hitting core so far this season.
The lineup has put up numbers through the opening stretch of the season that would make most baseball fans do a double take. The statistics across the board have been flashy and show the Wolverines certainly know what they are doing at the plate.
Michigan has averaged more than nine runs per game through its first twelve games and has yet to be shut out. The team batting average is .297, just a shade under the coveted .300 mark, which shows that this team isn’t exactly a slouch when it comes to its hitting ability.
The team’s on-base percentage (obp) currently sits at .408 and its slugging percentage (slg) is .503. When the Wolverines step up to the plate they get on base — and also hit the ball pretty dang hard in the process.
This impressive start to the season has been the result of a remarkably consistent starting nine.
“(The lineup) is a hard out top to bottom,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “It’s hard to pitch to all nine guys.”
Individually, six of the nine starters are currently touting a batting average over .300, and six of the nine also have at least one home run.
This offensive consistency is spearheaded by graduate infielder Matt Frey who has put up a .395 batting average, a .533 obp and .582 slg through 12 starts. Frey leads the team in both batting average and obp, though he has been out slugged by the likes of leadoff hitter junior outfielder Clark Elliot and fellow graduate student, outfielder Joe Stewart.
All these numbers on their own seem very impressive, and they are — hitting a baseball is considered one of the hardest things in sports for a reason — but it is important to look at these statistics in the context of the college baseball landscape at large. And much of the field is more than stacking up.
The Wolverines 9.25 runs a game are good for just 25th best in DI college baseball. It’s a solid showing, but that still leaves many teams that have shown greater proficiency at putting runs on the board. And that is their highest ranked offensive category.
Michigan comes in at 55th in batting average, 43rd in obp and 32nd in slg. While none of these rankings suggest that the Wolverines secretly boast a subpar offense, they do show that the team has not yet proven to be one of the best the sport has to offer.
The NCAA at large has had a strong start to the season in the batter’s box, but the first dozen or so games don’t necessarily reveal what the rest of the season will hold. Michigan knows it has a talented group, and this offense intends to stand the test of time.
When asked if the team expected to perform at this high of a level before the season started, junior infielder Ted Burton didn’t hesitate with his response.
“Yes,” Burton said. “You look at our batting practice, the way we go about ourselves, and all of our approaches. We’re an older lineup … a lot of power and discipline.”
As the season continues, it is likely the offensive performance of many teams will cool down from this hot start. The teams at the top will be the ones that can show continued consistency through the mid and late season.
Once the season settles into it’s usual rhythm, the Wolverines have the opportunity to prove just what they are capable of.
And this offense could prove to be something significant.