Is it time to Panic? I'm not sure but we are desperately creeping close to panic mode.
Auburn is starting to spin its wheels a little a bit and at a very in opportune time. But should we be worried?
-Last Night we lost to Samford. A team Auburn beat 18-7 earlier in the season (in a game where the Bulldogs trotted out 8 different pitchers)
-In that loss, Auburn had only 2 hits, (solo Home Runs). However, that's 2 hits. At home. To Samford.
-With the loss to South Carolina on Sunday, Auburn has now lost its last 2 SEC series. We are sitting at a cool 8-10, good enough for 8th place in the league
-Joseph Sanders, one of our top hitters (some might argue our best hitter), is now gone for at least 3 weeks after getting nailed by a pitch Tuesday, cracking his jaw.
-Statistically, we are spiraling in the wrong direction. Here's a quick snap shot of where Auburn was statistically in the SEC, before heading into the Vandy Series and compared to where we are now:
|STAT||PRE VANDY RANK||TODAY||CHANGE|
|Ground in DP||5||5||E|
So we've dropped in Batting Average, now have the worst team ERA, On Base has dropped, and we aren't getting as many hits (the biggest drop from 3rd in the SEC to 9th). We're not fooling anybody anymore either, our Batter's Kd have dropped from 5th to 9th.
-All of our Starting PItchers have ERAs howing around the 5.00 mark. Grant Dayton (4.81); Dexter Price (5.03); Jon Luke Jacobs (5.79), Paul Burnside (6.69) and Taylor Thompson (8.64). That doesn't even include guys who have been moved to bullpen roles and have made spot starts: Ty Kelley (5.78), Chris O'Neal (6.50). Woof.
-Our remaining SEC Series (LSU, UK, Ole Miss, and Alabama) is pretty much a murderers row, with three of those teams ranked in the Top 25 and also some of the top hitting teams in both the SEC and the NCAA.
Honestly, as much as I personally would like to panic, we can't and we really don't have any reason to panic, yet.
-Yes, our pitching is terrible. But we knew that since the FSU series and when we heard Corey Luckie wouldn't be back thanks to injuries.
-Even with those pitching problems, we're still 8-10 and 25-15 overall. We have 15 games to go. Realistically, we need to just win 7 of those. That would put us at 32-23 overall. Reaching our magic number of 30 wins.
-Further expanding on that 7 win magic number. We have only 3 non-cons left (2 against Troy, 1 against GA Southern). Let's say hypothetically we win those three. Then all we need to do is take 1 of the remaining series against Ole Miss, UK, LSU, and Alabama and avoid getting swept in the others. That would give us those 4 remaining wins. Which is definitely doable.
-Continuing with that hypothetical. That would give us a 13-17 SEC record. Will it be good enough to make the Tournament? Probably
-Remarkably, Auburn is in good shape, still, to make the SEC Tournament. We currently sit 8th in the League. And own head to head tie breakers with the 3 of the 4 teams below us (Vand, Miss State, Tenn) and if we take the UK series that would give us the H2H with all 4.
-Yes the offense will take a hit without Joseph Sanders. However, and I might get flack for this, our defense should improve. With Sanders out of the lineup, what will also be missing will be his 10 errors.
-The biggest thing? Auburn controls its own destiny. Essentially, win and your are in. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is.
SO WHAT NOW?
-There seems to be two problems facing Auburn for the final stretch of the season: Replacing Joseph Sanders and finding some stability in the Pitching.
-Replacing Joseph Sanders isn't going to be easy. The best solution, to me, would be to insert Dan Gamache into the lineup. His natural position (or maybe its better to say, his High School position) is Short Stop. When he's seen playing time it's normally been at 2B (1 game) and at DH (3 games). Then again, no other player has played 3B this year (Sanders started all 41 games we've played)
-Last night Wes Gilmer took Sanders place when he went down. However, that could also be because Gamache was already in game playing 2B.
-Gamache is hitting .417 on the year with a HR and just 2 KOs. So, I say, let's give the kid a shot.
-Finally, pitching. Jay Tate made a point of this:
BASEBALL LOSES TWO AT USC: Auburn (25-15, 8-10) played well at times, but again struggled on Sunday because of pitching problems. The bottom line is that a third weekend starter doesn't exist. Grant Dayton is consistently good and Jon Luke Jacobs oscillates between good and below average. Without a third guy, though, the Tigers will struggle to finish .500 in the league.
2 things. 1st .500 in the league would be a blessing at this point.
-Second. We have that third guy. I think the time has come to move Dexter Price to the starting rotation. He's been solid, sometimes dazzling in midweek games, it's time to give the kid a shot.
My perfect rotation for the remainder of the year would look like this:
The Rest of the 'pen would just be matchup duty. Single out kind of guys.
I guess we'll see what happens when the Tigers face LSU this weekend.