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Oregon State Baseball: Do they have an achilles heel?

Do they have the sluggers to make a deep postseason run?

UCLA v Oregon State Photo by Andy Bao/Getty Images

It’s no secret that this Oregon State baseball team is really, really good. With a record of (39-9) they are ranked either #1 or #2 in the nation according to every major poll. Over the last month they’ve turned it up a notch and are clearly the best team of the Mitch Canham era. Cooper Hjerpe has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the nation with a 2.08 ERA and 9-1 record (12 starts). Offensively Jacob Melton, Wade Meckler, Justin Boyd, Garret Forrester and Travis Bazzana are leading the way. And the cherry-on-top is the Beavers defense which has been unreal this season, they lead the NCAA in fielding percentage by a significant margin. With that being said they do have an obvious achilles heel.

That fatal flaw this season? Power hitters, or lack thereof. Looking ahead to postseason baseball the Beavers will have to face and beat elite competition if they want to get to Omaha and achieve their ultimate goal of winning the College World Series. Oregon State fans know all to well how a bad bounce or erratic calls can change the game in the postseason. And when Oregon State starts facing other elite teams they’ll need to generate runs and in my opinion they’ll need to generate extra base hits at a much higher frequency to make a deep postseason run.

Oregon State has racked up 494 hits this season. It’s an impressive number, but less than a third of those have been extra base hits. Jacob Melton is the Beavers star and he’s done his part leading the team with 64 RBI & 12 HRs. He has twice as many home runs as the next closest Beaver. Melton’s slugging percentage of .709 highlights his value, but Justin Boyd (.531) is the only other starter with a slugging percentage greater than .500.

As the regular season winds to a close I decided to take a look at the top contenders for the 2022 CWS. Without a doubt Tennessee has been impressive this season and are worthy of their #1 ranking in D1 Baseball’s poll despite their recent struggles. Just take a look at how the top-7 teams compare in a few of the major stats below.

*All stats courtesy of NCAA.com (as of 5/10/2022)

CONTENDER COMPARISON

TEAM ERA

  1. Tennessee - 2.26
  2. Arkansas - 3.38
  3. Oregon State - 3.45
  4. Miami - 4.09
  5. Virginia Tech - 4.19
  6. Oklahoma State - 4.23
  7. Louisville - 5.38

HITS ALLOWED PER GAME

  1. Tennessee - 6.03
  2. Arkansas - 7.19
  3. Oklahoma State - 7.79
  4. Oregon State - 7.91
  5. Miami - 8.04
  6. Louisville - 8.88
  7. Virginia Tech - 9.07

TEAM BATTING AVERAGE

  1. Virginia Tech - .315
  2. Louisville - .309
  3. Tennessee - .306
  4. Oregon State - .297
  5. Miami - .296
  6. Oklahoma State - .285
  7. Arkansas - .277

TEAM SLUGGING PERCENTAGE

  1. Tennessee - .602
  2. Virginia Tech - .576
  3. Louisville - .521
  4. Miami - .485
  5. Arkansas - .480
  6. Oklahoma State - .471
  7. Oregon State - .449

RUNS SCORED PER GAME

  1. Tennessee - 9.2
  2. Louisville - 9.1
  3. Virgina Tech - 8.8
  4. Miami - 8.0
  5. Oregon State - 7.7
  6. Oklahoma State - 7.3
  7. Arkansas - 7.1

HOME RUNS PER GAME

  1. Tennessee - 2.31
  2. Virginia Tech - 2.00
  3. Louisville - 1.52
  4. Arkansas - 1.48
  5. Miami - 1.40
  6. Oklahoma State - 1.33
  7. Oregon State - .81

Even compared to other elite teams the Beavers fair pretty well in pitching stats like ERA and hits allowed. They also are decent when looking at runs scored/batting averages. But Oregon State just falls off a cliff when it comes to power-hitting (Slugging & HRs). Now maybe not having a bunch of big sluggers on the roster won’t be the Beavers undoing in the postseason. Timely hitting with elite defensive and strong pitching is a recipe for postseason success.

This team has a lot of similarities to the historic 2017 Oregon State baseball team. That team finished the regular season 56-6 and destroyed all type of records! The 2017 team hit only 31 HRs though and had a not totally impressive slugging percentage of .406, both figures lag behind this current squad. Some will argue that it wasn’t a lack of power hitting that did in the Beavers in 2017 (thanks for nothing Greg Street); but I don’t think it helped! The 2018 squad bounced back and won the championship. 2018’s slugging percentage? A much-improved .490.

Oregon State baseball will be back in the postseason hosting a regional in 2022. They have the type of team that can compete for a championship. Will they be able to generate enough extra base hits in the postseason? Will their lack of “power hitters” ultimately be their achilles heel? We’ll find out this June. The 2022 NCAA DI Baseball tournament selection show is just a few weeks away.