With his polish at the plate, Luken Baker makes the image of another hitter pop into TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle’s mind.
“The closest I’ve been around it personally would be Matt Carpenter,” Schlossnagle said. “Very similar in terms of their approach.”
Carpenter had a feel for the strike zone that Schlossnagle recognizes in Baker, the freshman designated hitter whose three-run home run in the ninth inning Sunday helped send the Horned Frogs to a 5-3 victory against Texas Tech in their College World Series opener.
“I’ve said many times, you’re in the dugout and — stupid me, as the head coach — it’s a 2-0 count and you see a fastball that you think, ‘How did he not swing at that?’ Schlossnagle said. “And then you go back, look at the video, and it wasn’t a good pitch to hit in a 2-0 count. So his concept of the strike zone is advanced beyond his years. And that’s a scary hitter.”
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Freshman DH Luken Baker leads the Horned Frogs in average (.380), slugging (.570), on-base percentage (.486), runs (57), hits (90) and runs batted in (60). He is second in home runs with 10.
Carpenter was a scary hitter, too. He hit .333 with 23 doubles, six triples and 11 home runs as a senior in 2009, walking 51 times with a .470 on-base percentage and a .662 slugging percentage in 58 games.
Now consider Baker’s freshman year.
He’s hitting .380 with 15 doubles, no triples, 10 home runs, 44 walks, a .486 on-base percentage and slugging .570 in 64 games.
“I’ve been around some pretty special freshmen in 26 years — coached two USA national teams,” Schlossnagle said. “I’ve seen it before. But it’s only like five or six guys. Those guys are all playing in the big leagues. The combination of work ethic, humility and confidence on a baseball field — all the great ones have that. I’m not telling you he doesn’t have his warts, because nobody’s perfect. But he’s special.”
Baker’s run of power began May 15 with a home run in the finale of a series at Baylor. Since then, he’s hit seven home runs and TCU has gone 15-2.
It’s hard to take a guy who has no strike-zone discipline and teach him strike-zone discipline, and he has that as good as anybody that I’ve ever coached.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, on Luken Baker
Schlossnagle said in May that while he loved Baker’s patience, but he was encouraging him to be more aggressive in certain situations.
To be Carpenter-like.
“Matt didn’t hit double-digit homers until his last year or two, and he didn’t hit hardly any home runs in the big leagues until last year,” Schlossnagle said. “That’s a learned skill. You can learn and be more aggressive. But it’s hard to take a guy who has no strike-zone discipline and teach him strike-zone discipline, and he has that as good as anybody that I’ve ever coached.”
For College World Series analyst Joey Cora, an image of another hitter came to mind.
“I was talking to Cora about it in the ESPN meeting,” Schlossnagle said. “He said, ‘Man you sound like you’re describing Miguel Cabrera.’ But he’s not there yet. At our level, it’s very similar.”