The Tide travels south to take on arch rival Auburn this weekend. With only seven games left in the season, 'Bama has a disappointing 25-24 record, 8-16 in conference play. The season concludes next weekend as the Tide hosts highly ranked Vanderbilt at the Hoover Met. The men in Crimson probably will need to win two games out of the last six to slip into the SEC Tournament.
Auburn has a .282 team batting average with 89 doubles, 16 triples, 16 home runs and 43 stolen bases (out of 72 attempts.) The Tigers have a .384 slugging percentage and a .369 on base percentage. AU has drawn 186 walks and have struck out 305 times.
Anfernee Grier lead the Tigers with a .367 batting average and in doubles with 22. Robert Daniel is hitting .318, and is the only other player over .300 on the season, Robert leads the team with 30 RBIs, and is tied for the home run lead with three. Damon Hacker has a .286 average, as does Melvin Gray. Gray leads the team with 13 stolen bases.
The Tigers are much stronger on the mound, carrying a team ERA of 3.27. Keegan Thompson is 7-3 with a 3.17 ERA, followed by Cole Lipscomb (6-2, 2.44 ERA.) Rocky McCord is 5-3 with a 3.34 ERA, while Justin Camp leads the team with seven saves, a 2-0 record and a 1.54 ERA. Robby Clements is 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA and Dalton Bentz checks in at 3-1 and a 2.27 earned run average. In 432 innings AU has walked 179 batters and struck out 376.
Alabama is hitting .278 as a team with 93 doubles, 17 triples, 23 home runs and 51 stolen bases ( in 73 attempts.) The Tide has a .393 slugging percentage and a .353 on base percentage. Casey Hughston leads in average at .356 and in home runs with six, and RBIs with 37, and has added 12 doubles, four triples and 10 stolen bases, Mikey White is second in average at .344 and leads in doubles with 18, triples with six, and runs scored with 42. J.C. Wilhite is hitting .297 while Kyle Overstreet is at .287 and has driven In 34 runs. Chandler Avant has brought his average up to .286, followed by Cody Henry at .278 and Georgie Salem at .264. Salem leads the team with 15 stolen bases. the Tide has drawn 163 walks and has struck out an astronomical 390 times.
The 'Bama pitching staff has a 4.12 ERA over 443 innings pitched, allowing 417 hits while walking 212 and striking out 385 batters. Geoffrey Bramblett leads the team wins at 6-3 and has an ERA of 4.15. Jake Walters is 4-3 with a 2.45 ERA in 44 innings. Taylor Guilbeau is 2-5 with a 3.82 ERA and lead the team with 64 strikeouts. Ray Castillo is 3-0 with four saves and a 2.85 earned run average. Thoma Burrows leads the team with 21 appearances and has four saves to go with an 0-3 record and 4.03 ERA. Mitch Greer has a 3.26 ERA over 16 appearances, Jay Shaw, Jake Hubbard, Will Carter, J.C. Wilhite and Alex Watkins should all be available as well.
Alabama is in a position to compete in what should be several close ballgames. However, for the Tide to steal a few road wins it must eliminate silly mistakes and mental errors that plagued 'Bama in the Arkansas series.
First, Auburn is not a particularly good offensive team. In fact, the Tigers are not in the Top 50 in any offensive category. The Tide cannot afford to give away base runners with walks, an issue that has hurt 'Bama all season (Auburn has drawn 186 walks, 8th in league play.) When the ball is put in play, Alabama must continue sound defensive play, where the Tide are 40th in the nation in fielding percentage.
Second, as Roger notes, Auburn's pitching is quite good - 35th in the country, and trailing only LSU, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M in the SEC (all Top-10 teams.) The Tide must show discipline at the plate, avoiding strikeouts of their own. The Tide are 3rd in the SEC in strikeouts, whereas Auburn has fanned nearly a hundred times fewer and is 9th in that category. As with issuing walks, Alabama earned far too few walks this season. Tide hitters have the second fewest BBs in the SEC (166,) despite hits, slugging, and average all being in the top third of the league.
The opportunities are there for Alabama, as this is a competitive series. Still, for the Tide to take the series it must play one game at a time and play very patiently. Auburn's game is predicated on pitching, defense, and going deep into the count. Alabama must match the Tigers in this deliberate affair -- the season literally is riding on it.