Looking into baseball's offense

BY JACOB SHEYKO | MAY 06, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa baseball team has just seven games remaining on its regular-season schedule. In other words, they have seven games to secure a spot in the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2010.

At this point in the season, we know just about everything there is to know about the Hawkeyes. Most trends will continue until the season concludes, making it a prime opportunity to see how Iowa got here, and what to expect in the future.

*Stats are up to date as of May 4.

Batting average: Jake Yacinich — .345 (4th in the Big Ten)

Believe it or not, there was a time when Jake Yacinich was hitting below .300. That seems like such a long time ago, given that one could make the argument as of now, he’s the Hawkeyes’ most complete hitter. He’s also most likely the one hitter you want at the plate with a chance to win the game.

The Des Moines native shares the top spot in Iowa’s batting average with Tyler Peyton, he leads Iowa in triples, stolen bases, and on-base percentage, if you exclude catcher Jimmy Frankos — who has just over one-third as many at-bats as Yacinich.

What’s also amazing with Yacinich is how much he has improved since last season. He’s increased his batting average by .059 points, and his on-base percentage by .071 points; he’s driven in more runs than last season and increased his stolen bases from 4 in 2013 to 22 this season.

Hit by pitch — 65 (1st in the Big Ten)

Unlike Yacinich’s uptick in batting average over the past month, there is really no simple reason for this statistic. Iowa doesn’t just lead the Big Ten in this category, it dominates — the team behind the Hawkeyes has been hit just 51 times.

It sounds ridiculous, but getting hit by pitches has actually been crucial to Iowa’s offensive success. The Hawks likely wouldn’t lead the Big Ten in on-base percentage if they weren’t plunked so consistently — the Hawks rank third in the Big Ten in walks, but they lead the on-base percentage race by a landslide.

Whether this is occurring because of crowding the plate, “taking one for the team,” or pure dumb luck is really unknown. But there’s no arguing that it’s helped Iowa at the plate.

Runs batted in: Jake Mangler — 38 (5th in the Big Ten)

With this many runs batted in, one would expect Mangler to hit in a more opportunistic spot in the lineup such as fourth or fifth. But Mangler has consistently hit in the second spot in every game he’s played in this season.

This is a testament to two things. Whether or not you want to argue if clutch hitting really exists, one cannot argue that Mangler has not come through when runners are on base.

But it’s also a testament to Iowa’s offensive balance. Unlike most teams, Iowa offensive production doesn’t drop off the map once you get through the first half of the lineup. Instead, it remains fairly similar to the front end, getting on base and putting runners in scoring position for Mangler to knock in.

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