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Texas A&M Preview. Part 2: On the Bump

Note: I will be making a guest appearance on Eugene's 95.3 The Score on "The Writer's Block" with Jay Jones and George Schroeder of the Register Guard at approximately 9:20 AM tomorrow (Friday) morning. If you're in the Eugene/Springfield area, you may want to tune in and lend an ear. 

From the initial preview of A&M that went up Monday, to a podcast on the Aggies, to a look at the regional atmosphere at Lupton Stadium, Building the Dam has the Forth Worth Regional and the first round matchup with Texas A&M covered. Here is the second installment of our game-day preview, which focuses on the Aggie pitching staff-- or ace Brooks Raley, that is. The first installment of the preview, focusing on the offense, can be found here.     

The Texas A&M Aggies--a team that was projected to win the Big 12 conference at the beginning of the season--enters the Forth Worth regional at 36-22 after finishing at sixth in the Big 12 with a 14-13 conference record.

A big reason why the Aggies have had a consistent level of success this year has been the pitching of sophomore lefthander Brooks Raley. Raley will get the ball on Friday afternoon in Fort Worth against the Beavers, and along with OSU starter Sam Gaviglio, will likely determine the outcome of the game with his performance.

From all the scouting reports that Building the Dam has received from various sources around the college baseball blogosphere, Raley is the ace of their highly touted pitching staff, yet can be very hittable on certain days. When the Aggies played Texas, Raley gave up nine hits and eight runs in six and a third innings of work-- and Texas's strong suit isn't it's offense. It's highly possible that Raley could pitch lights out and work late into the game, yet he may also lay an egg and give the Beavers an advantage.

Raley's performance this season has seemingly been a microcosm of Texas A&M's season. The team was picked to win the College World Series at the beginning of the year with the #1 overall ranking from Baseball America, yet they have not handled adversity well. Now, I realize that Raley is 7-2 on the year this season, but he's also a larger part of this team than most ace pitchers-- he's a regular in the bating order as well, and is hitting .315, playing in the outfield when he doesn't pitch.

While the 7-2 record looks great, Raley hasn't picked up a win since April 17-- he's taken a no decision in four of his last five outings. In his latest outing against Oklahoma in the Big 12 tournament, Raley gave up six hits and seven runs-- all in one inning of work. That's no misprint, as I did a double take and had to double check the sources as well. If you were curious, Texas A&M went on to win the game by a score of 17-15. That's the Big 12 for you-- I don't think Oregon State could ever survive in a game like that.

Due to the double-elimination nature of the tournament, the Aggies will surely be playing to win the first game against Oregon State. That means that the bullpen is seemingly wide open back of Raley, save for Saturday's announced starter, freshman Ross Hales.

Some options for pitching coach extraordinary Rob Childress include Alex Wilson, Kyle Thebeau, Barret Loux, and Nick Fleece. Wilson could be the guy to start a potential third tournament game for A&M, but could see action Friday.

Reliever Stats:
Alex Wilson 3.89 ERA, 23 app, 85.2 ip, 72 h, 43 r, 116 k, 22 w
Kyle Thebeau 3.61 ERA, 23 app, 52.1 ip, 50 h, 24 r, 32 k, 13 w
Nick Fleece 3.62 ERA, 25 app, 27.1 ip, 26 h, 11 r, 32 k, 8 w
Barret Loux 4.12 ERA, 12 app, 48.0 ip, 43 h, 21 r, 62 k, 21 w

Texas A&M hasn't had to rely on their bullpen much back of Raley so far this season. In Big 12 play, Raley worked into the seventh inning of games on average, throwing one complete game.

As you can tell from the stats above, Texas A&M's pitchers have some great strikeout to walk ratios, and the team ratio (3.4 k/w) is tops in the Big 12. The Aggies have the third best team ERA in their conference at 4.34.

A big key for Texas A&M in the game against Oregon State is going to be Brooks Raley, as the performance they get out of him will likely be indicative of the team's performance, at least in regards to limiting Oregon State's small-ball offense. 

--Jake (jake.buildingthedam@gmail.com)