By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
Back in the chill of January, there was the Ole Miss preseason baseball press conference.
The phrase “through the roof” was tossed around as players projected what the future might hold for their offensive numbers.
There was genuine excitement for new coach Cliff Godwin, brought in to assist with hitting and offense, and players were brimming with confidence.
Productivity was not good in 2011, and the Rebels missed postseason for the first time in eight years.
Batting average is up 19 points, strikeouts are down almost 100. No team in the SEC has fanned fewer times than Ole Miss.
That’s tangible evidence of improved offense.
But runs are up by just 12, tangible evidence that more improvement is needed.
On-base percentage is up slightly from .360 to .364.
The roof has not been endangered.
A modest climb in the standings – one game – has followed modest gains in the numbers.
Back in January there were more questions about pitching.
At times pitching has been very good, but it’s taken some tactical efforts to get that way, like moving R.J. Hively around. That strengthened the first level of the bullpen but created stress for a time in the Sunday starting spot.
Bottom line is pitching hasn’t been dominant enough to carry an offense with inconsistent scoring.
There have been success stories on this team: Alex Yarbrough’s season-long pursuit of the .400 average, the improvement of freshman Auston Bousfield and sophomore Will Allen, Matt Snyder spending much of the season in the .350 range, and Tanner Mathis surging to get there now.
A truly dynamic offense, though, is more than one year in the making and is achieved not only through hitting by also through recruiting, strategy and other factors.
While having more speed on the roster this season, the Rebels have the fewest stolen base attempts in the league.
Maybe running more gets you to home more, maybe not, but there’s a disconnect here between the batting average and the runs.
Bianco says confidence is an important component of offense. There’s a spark, then a fire and so on.
Sometimes confidence is as strong as your last series, and it’s not a confident picture – five runs while swept at Vanderbilt – that the Rebels carry into this week’s SEC tournament.
Even while Ole Miss won three games against Tennessee the previous weekend, it wasn’t a great series for scoring runs.
The Rebels will need something to happen early against Kentucky on Tuesday to build that belief system into one that more closely resembles the one in January.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs daily at Djournal.com.