We're only two weeks into conference play in Big 12 baseball - and only one week for Missouri - and Baylor and Texas have already started to separate themselves from the other teams in the league.
Baylor sits atop the conference standings with a perfect 6-0 record against Big 12 teams after three-game sweeps of both Texas Tech and Kansas, both at home in Waco, Texas. Texas is right behind the Bears, at 5-1, sweeping three games at then-nationally ranked Oklahoma and taking two out of three last weekend at Kansas State.
The thing that is wrong with this picture is neither Baylor nor Texas is the highest ranked team from the Big 12 in the latest USA Today/ESPN weekly college baseball poll. Texas A&M is, ranked No. 6 with a 19-5 record overall and 2-1 in league games. Baylor comes in at No. 23 in this week's poll and Texas claims the No, 25 spot.
Another debatable point is the quality and credibility of Baylor's six conference victories. First of all, they have been against the two worst teams in the league standings at this juncture. Second, the Bears have yet to play a conference game away from Waco, and host a third consecutive home series this weekend when Oklahoma State comes calling. Ironically, the only teams below OSU in the standings at this stage are - you guessed it - Kansas and Texas Tech.
After this weekend's games, and perhaps beginning with the series with Oklahoma State, we will have a better idea of how good this Baylor team really is. One thing we can count on, even at this early stage, is that both Texas A&M and Texas will be there at the end, as they were last season when the Aggies and Longhorns tied for the regular-season crown.
Because of an interesting quirk in the scheduling, this weekend's slate of games has a intriguing resemblance to a position - or you could possibly call it a shakeout - round, with Kansas State at Oklahoma, both 2-4 in league games; Missouri at Texas A&M, both with two wins and a loss in the Big 12 going into this weekend; and Texas Tech (1-5) at Kansas, still seeking its first conference win. Oklahoma State at Baylor is the lone exception, as far as conference games go. Texas goes out of the conference, taking on California, one of the eight College World Series teams from last season, in a four-game series in Round Rock, Texas.
With lots of baseball still to be played, it's way too early to draw any meaningful conclusions on how the conference race will end up. In the early going, though, several Big 12 players are drawing attention on the national stage.
Baylor junior first baseman Max Muncy went 9 for 18 at the plate last week, including two home runs, nine runs batted in and seven runs scored, in leading the Bears to four wins, including their weekend sweep of Kansas. In addition to earning Big 12 Player of the Week honors this week Muncy was named the National Hitter of the Week by the National Collegiate Baseball Association.
Other Big 12 players who have notable national stat lines are Texas Tech's Jamodrick McGruder. While the Red Raiders are off to a slow start against conference foes, there is nothing slow about the season McGruder is having. The junior infielder/outfielder ranks in the top ten nationally in five different offensive categories: triples (third), walks (eighth), stolen bases (eighth), runs (ninth) and on-base percentage (tenth).
Baylor pitcher Trent Blank is tied for the national lead in wins with six, and Andrew Heaney, a left-handed pitcher for Oklahoma State, is second-best in the country with 65 strikeouts. Heaney also is one of only two pitchers with three complete games so far this season.
One thing we can do at the stage of the season is assess where the schools stand currently in the Power Rankings, which don't necessarily follow the conference standings.
2012 Big 12 Baseball Power Rankings (through games of March 27)
1. Texas A&M - This team is deserving of its top-10 national ranking.
2. Texas - Longhorns look as if they've finally begun to gel as a team.
3. Baylor - Early success is a bit misleading, but the Bears will ride the momentum of a 6-0 start in league play.
4. Oklahoma - Not as good as last year's Sooner team, but better than their 2-4 start.
5. Missouri - The real test will be when the Tigers finally venture out on the road after 18 straight home dates.
6. Kansas State - This is a team not to be taken too lightly. They will win their share of games and be a challenging opponent for all the teams in the conference.6.
7. Oklahoma State - Very young team; will take its lumps this season in building for the future.
8. Texas Tech - Red Raiders have some stars, but not enough of them to crack the top half of the highly competitive Big 12.
9. Kansas - Got off to a great start but have since come back to reality.
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