The dings of metal bats have faded from J.O. Christian Field and have long since been replaced by the sound of wooden bats, as summer leagues are well into swing around the country.
I, however, am still writing about UConn baseball to fill the void before football preview season starts in earnest.
In this three-part series, I’m going to look first at how Hook C alumni are performing this summer in the MLB; next, at UConn players grinding away in the minors; and finally how current members of the team are performing in their respective summer leagues around the country.
Everyone’s favorite World Series MVP George Springer is still living like a king with the world champs, whether it’s smoking back to back jacks with his all-star teammate Alex Bregman or laughing uncontrollably at his other All-Star teammate Justin Verlander dancing to a Drake song on his private jet.
The former first-round pick from New Britain hasn’t exactly lit the league on fire in 2018 however, posting his worst offensive season since 2014 with a .249 average, .333 on-base and .415 slugging.
The hero of the 2017 postseason has little cause to worry, though. He’ll have plenty of time to figure out his swing as a part of the Astros’ flamethrower of a lineup, which leads the league in run differential with +188 and OPS+ with 116.
In fact, there may be signs that Springer is coming out of his half-season slump, even in the few games since the break. In his last two games the left fielder has gone 2-7, drawing a pair of walks, but the big fireworks came on Saturday night.
Springer skied a grand slam into the rocks at Angel Stadium to cap a 7-0 victory, giving Astros fans hope that he can soon return to smashing baseballs on a regular basis.
Here’s a fun stat about former UConn and current Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed:
Year G HR
2014 25 1
2015 134 9
2016 90 4
2017 53 6
2018 89 12
Sometimes the simplest statistics are the best to describe a players’ season, but we can get more in depth about the former second round draft pick’s power surge in 2018: Ahmed owns a 0.8 offensive WAR, .430 slugging percentage and a 127 OPS+ against left handed pitchers, all the best marks of his career.
Hitting like that combined with trademark slick fielding has made Ahmed a key piece of the Arizona’s run at the postseason this year. Defensive advanced stats are far from perfect, but Ahmed leads the D-Backs in defensive runs saved, ranking fourth in the league in fielding percentage at the shortstop position.
The Boston Red Sox boast the fifth best bullpen in the league ERA-wise, in no small part due to the third former member of UConn’s 2011 Super Regionals team we’ll talk about: Matt Barnes.
The tall righty has posted career highs in ERA (2.36), K/9 (13.3) and is on pace to pitch by far his most innings yet in a Red Sox uniform.
Barnes has done this by increasing his spin rate, making his pitches even nastier by adding over an inch of horizontal movement to his four-seam fastball while holding his curveball steady at 7.2 inches of drop, which makes professional baseball players look like they’re playing an entirely different sport:
Matt Barnes, Curveball "Swings." 😀 pic.twitter.com/LyDmZFwWIg
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 21, 2018
Another Hook C alumni putting it all together this season is Scott Oberg, relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies.
The former All-Big East start at UConn has experienced almost straight linear improvement in his four years in the league so far, reflected in practically every major pitching metric:
Year Age ERA IP FIP WHIP K/BB
2015 25 5.09 58.1 5.76 1.526 1.42
2016 26 5.19 26 4.49 1.423 1.82
2017 27 4.94 58.1 3.5 1.611 2.29
2018 28 3.10 29 3.15 1.172 2.88
Oberg has played a crucial role in the Rockies’ current seven game winning streak as well, appearing in five of those games and picking up four wins, allowing just one earned run while striking out six and walking just one.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org