For NC State to get through the Ft. Worth Regional, it is almost certainly going to have to beat TCU, so let's get to know the Horned Frogs better. I caught up with Frogs O' War contributor Marshall Weber to go over the (many) strengths and (few) weaknesses of TCU. The other half of this Q&A will be up over at Frogs O' War. Try saying that out loud. Frogs O' War Frogs O' War Frogs O' War.
BTP: TCU has a lot of good pitching options to work with -- how will the Frogs order their rotation this weekend?
MW: I think they're going to keep it like they've been doing as of late. And that's going Tyler Alexander (LHP), Preston Morrison (RHP), and then close it out with Alex Young (LHP). Especially starting the series off at night, they'll wait to use Morrison's ground ball (think Greg Maddux approach) for the second game. Should TCU lose their second game, you might see the hard throwing righty Mitchell Traver. But my gut would say, in that case, they'd still stick with throwing the lefty, Alex Young, who's arguably been the best pitcher for the Frogs all season.
BTP: The thing that really stands out to me about TCU's pitching staff is the top-to-bottom ability to avoid handing out walks. Is this a skill that TCU actively develops, or is it more the result of who they target in recruiting?
MW: I think it's a little of both, really. They know they kind of pitcher they want, but even then, TCU is made up of an electric arsenal of arms. You have ground-ball savants like Preston Morrison, who will beat you tactically. Traver and Ferrell will beat you with power. And the starting lefties; Alexander and Young will beat you with a low-walk count, and high K/9s. Trey Teakell out of the bullpen is another arm to watch. The team's approach in the postseason is going to be exciting to watch, and hopefully, it gets a little experimental.
BTP: Is there any reason in particular for Cody Jones' improvement at the plate? And who outside of Jones do think will be most important for TCU this weekend, on the offensive side?
MW: It's pretty amazing. Perhaps something he's eating? Everyone who's watched Cody these past few years knew what kind of player he'd be if he got his timing down and became a better hitter. He fields as good as anyone, and he lead the Big 12 in stolen bases.
Aside from that, TCU's lineup is punchy and versatile. Freshmen Connor Wanhanen and Evan Skoug have been superb in their respective freshman campaigns. But more than anything, what makes TCU's lineup is its unpredictability. (X) Guy could be in a slump, but since there's no assigned role really (as in this player always bunts), it gives them a freedom at the plate, and that often produces great dividends for the team.
BTP: The Frogs' running game looks relentless. How many of these kids will have the green light as soon as they get on?
MW: Haha, going along with what I said above, anyone in this lineup is capable of doing pretty much anything. Look for Cody (Jones) to steal a few this weekend, however.
BTP: Obviously not much has gone severely wrong for TCU in 2015, but when the Frogs do get out of sorts, what tends to be the reason?
MW: TCU's deceivingly worrisome on defense. They have on of the best defenses statistically on paper, but sometimes they'll have an absolute meltdown inning, and that's been the cause of the majority of their losses. Think "the quicksand" scene from The Replacements.