How Are The Hogs Playing So Well

They are only Tied for 5th in the League in Batting Average
Tied for 10th in the League with Doubles
They’re 11th in the League with ERA
They’re 10th in the League in WHIP
They’re 12th in the League in Strikeout to Walk Ratio
Yet, they’ve Won Three Straight League Series – And Swept Teams Texas

They are a really good team, that’s how.

Statistics aside, this team has a lot of talent, is very good defensively, has multiple dangerous hitters 1-9 (perhaps 1-12), and collectively hits for power.

(3 of the 5 categories you listed are primarily the result of inconsistent starting pitching. Pitching, overall, has been good, because the bullpen has been very good).

But, possibly the biggest two reasons: this just team knows how to win and has excellent coaching.

Hogs lead the nation in HR’s right now though.
Probably lead the nation dbl plays hit into also, lol.

Just win baby is all that matters.

We were actually one of the lowest to hit into DP’s before this weekend.

This weekend was bizarre in many ways

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Of the 10 top HR-hitting teams, five are in the SEC and another one is tied for 11th.

They had hit into only one ground-out double plays until the Auburn series. They have been good at two-out and two-strike hitting.

But what they are really good at is the bullpen. They don’t give up runs late in the game. If the other team can’t score past the sixth inning, dang it’s hard to hold a lead.

Dave Van Horn does not make mistakes in late-inning situations. He manages his bullpen to perfection.

If you want to look at one player for why they are winning the close games, look at Kevin Kopps.

Pitching coach Matt Hobbs all but predicted it, too, when I talked to him in the middle of January in an interview for our baseball preview. Here are a few paragraphs pulled from that story for the HI Baseball Preview:

From a piece I wrote in January:

Kopps missed the 2018 season with Tommy John surgery. He didn’t just rebuild his throwing arm during that rehabilitation. He gained size and strength almost everywhere. Always broad-shouldered, Kopps became thicker.

The Sugar Land, Texas, product was good in 2019, making a team-high 30 mound appearances. But something happened to his devastating cut fastball in the fall of 2019 and it was still off in the covid-shortened 2020 season.

“He was elevating pitches,” Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. “He was getting hit. We saw it last year both in the fall and before the season was stopped.”

Kopps had a career ERA of 3.57 in his first 52 games, but it ballooned to 8.18 in seven appearances last spring. He was on the way to the bench as the Hogs prepared for the start of SEC play, but the plug was pulled on the season.

That’s a tough spot for a team captain, but it might have been a simple problem. He’d added too much strength.

“He’s made some adjustments,” Van Horn said, “but a part of it has just been him losing some bulk. He looks great right now. He was really good in the fall and so far in his bullpens as we’ve started back in January.”

Kopps came to school in 2015 at 6-0, 195 pounds. He was up to 205 last year. He’s just a shade under 200 now.

Pitching coach Matt Hobbs just beams with excitement for Kopps.

“I think in three months, you are going to be writing a special story about Kevin,” Hobbs said. “He was good for us in 2019. That cutter was a difference maker with movement.

“Guys were seeing fastball and there were a lot of swing and misses. It was an amazing pitch.”

It wasn’t there last year, in the fall or once the season began.

“It was off by six or seven inches, the vertical movement,” Hobbs said. “Give Kevin credit, because he got in the weeds and improved that pitch.

“We saw a different guy in the fall. He performed great against our hitters.”

Of course, the Hogs had the data to know exactly what that cutter is doing now or what it wasn’t doing all of the previous year.

“What was happening to that pitch, it had vertical lift, and it was staying in the middle of the plate,” Hobbs said. “And, when it did have downward movement, it was below the strike zone. That pitch wasn’t good in ‘20, not the same pitch.

“The fastball was flat and the cutter was not the same.

“He went to work and figured it out. He invested time and reinvented himself.”

No one is surprised Kopps figured it out because he’s a workaholic. He’s a three-time captain.

“Kevin is a big-time leader for us,” Van Horn said. “Everyone on our team looks up to him. He takes care of his business. They all see how hard he works. It’s always been that way.”

Late Inning scoring:

Arkansas has won the late innings in a big way. Here is a breakdown:

6th – 39-12
7th - 15-9
8th - 30-8
9th - 13-4

Extra Innings, 4-0

That’s 101-33 after the 5th inning. That is winning baseball.

They are fielding at a .982 clip. That’s winning baseball, too.

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This is a fight when you play this team and you better knock them out because they Will get back up after a knockdown and be aggravated .

They also have The Uncanny ability to when they smell blood like when you walk us or make an error it is amazing how they go in the attack Mode ,that’s how they are winning ,When teams make the smallest mistake,we burn them for it in a big-time way. They just know how to win, they SEE it, BELIEVE it and then ACHIEVE it.

True, but look at the late inning numbers. You are talking about offense, but look at what this team allows as the game progresses. Runs allowed 12-9-8-4-0.

Oh no doubt it’s a total mindset of the team to get the job done in all areas, this team doesn’t beat itself,you are going to have to beat them.They believe they can because they have done it, no panic on this team.

Every college team has flaws as the numbers above suggest. Here are some of the numbers that stand out to me that make Arkansas good:

• 1st in fielding
• 2nd in on-base percentage
• 2nd in slugging
• 4th in runs scored
• 1st in home runs
• 4th in opponent batting average
• 3rd in double plays turned
• Fewest runners picked off and second-fewest times caught stealing

The team doesn’t beat itself very often. There are multiple areas that can offset nights when one area isn’t performing well.

Wiggins and Kopps with lots of helpers may have the best bullpen in Razorback History. We do not have the dominant starters of the past like Campbell, Knight, etc. but we have the hitting, fielding and bullpen able to overcome early deficits as game after game our starters get beat by the opponent’s starters. Is there a chance that our starters will get well, work out the kinks, or get some help from bullpen stars moving to be starting stars? This is a really good team and could be a great one with a little better starting pitching. I like it.

Wicklander has been pretty good two outings in a row now.

Probably time to move Pallette back ahead of Vermillion

Kopps is out of this world right now
So good out of the pen
Would you consider moving him to starting?

I don’t think there’s much chance of Kopps moving out of the bullpen. He pitched three times against Auburn and typically pitches twice a week. If he starts, that option is taken away.

Can you imagine what the opposing team thinks when we pull our starter out for what ever reason, and in comes Kopps!
His ability to come in relief and shut teams down, is such an advantage.

Games are nine innings, and it doesn’t matter if you take the lead in the first or the ninth, as long as you’re ahead at the end of 27 outs. Coming from behind isn’t good for our blood pressure, but this team has proven it can do it repeatedly. A lights-out bullpen hides a multitude of sins.

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Kopps has found his pitch again. That moving sinking cutter. Looks like fastball coming then woop it’s gone.

And then, there’s the intangible. We’ve done it so often, that you know other teams are aware of it. So, even if the score is, say, 3-6 in the 5th inning, they can’t help kind of looking for that other shoe to drop, so to speak.

It’s hard to quantify how big a factor that truly is, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Older Hog fans (like myself) certainly know that it cost us more than a few games against Texas back in the SWC days. No matter how good we were - and how much we told each other that “this year, we’re just better than Texas” in years when that probably was the case…no lead every felt save.

It was like they were vampires and unless you put that silver stake in their hearts, they would rise and break our hearts more seasons than not. Sure - sometimes they were just better; in fact, often. But regardless of the talent differential, one way or the other, if we got ahead, you just assumed Texas would make a late run at us. For me, that was one of THE most satisfying things about the Nolan era…he flipped the script on Penders and the Horns. It was they that knew we were gonna beat them, some how, some way.

I like that we’re on the good end of that now. Well, with everyone but LSU (in baseball); we’ve still got a few demons to get rid of with them. But I’m not so sure this team really worries so much about LSU because there are so many other “boogie men” in the SEC.

I’ve spoken to Kevin and Matt Hobbs about it in the past day and I’ll have a lot more on it soon.

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