There is a long-held formula for success in Major League Baseball, which says that a good team should strive to win two-thirds of their home games and play .500 ball on the road. Over the course of a 162-game MLB season, a team doing just that will win about 95 games — highly respectable, and a surefire playoff berth.
That math cannot be extrapolated literally to collegiate play due to its comparatively short 56-game season and imbalanced schedules, but the formula itself can be. And USC baseball so far has only lived up to half of the bargain.
What I’m saying here is no great secret. USC has a mere 10-8 record at home this season, and an 0-3 mark at home in Pac-12 Conference play.
The Trojans know that if they are going to have the success many projected them to have, they need to take care of business within the friendly confines of Dedeaux Field.
“We’re supposed to win at home,” sophomore pitcher Kyle Davis told Annenberg TV News on Monday. “We just need to protect our home field and know what we have to do here because we have a different mindset here.”
Indeed, for the Trojans to have any success in the arduous Pac-12 conference this season, they know they cannot afford weekends like this past one. The Trojans were swept at home by the Washington Huskies, suffering a pair of blowouts (an 8-2 loss followed by a staggering 19-4 loss) to start the weekend before a disheartening 14-inning affair in the finale on Sunday.
The Huskies, as it turns out, are one of the better teams in a very good conference, currently sitting atop the Pac-12 by two games with an 8-1 record. USC’s 3-6 record slots them ninth in the conference.
What made this past weekend all the more disappointing for USC was the Trojans’ success on the road to open their conference slate. The Trojans went 3-3 in trips to Oregon and Stanford, taking one from the Ducks in Eugene and earning an impressive series win in Palo Alto, complete with a come-from-behind extra-innings win in the Sunday finale.
That’s .500 ball on the road, and as previously mentioned, that gets it done.
USC heads to Tempe, Ariz. this weekend, and after that they leave Los Angeles just once more this season for a trip up to Pullman, Wash. to take on Washington State in early May. In fact, after this weekend, 12 of the Trojans’ 18 remaining conference games will take place at Dedeaux. In total, 15 of their remaining 23 games will be played at home.
Assuming the Trojans can keep splitting road series, their fate will come down to how they play at home.
They welcome Utah and Arizona in their next homestand, the only two teams lower than USC in the current Pac-12 standings. To say the Trojans need to finish those six games with something more than a 3-3 split is a dramatic understatement.
This is a Trojan team that many expected to see in a regional come postseason play. It’s still early, but so far it would be a lie to say the Trojans are on track to do that.
Right now, they’re looking like a .500 baseball team. Sadly, a .500 record would actually make them one of the better USC teams of the last decade, but it is not the team that was expected back in February. The Trojans started the season with seven straight wins, an impressive streak that included a 6-1 victory over third-ranked Cal State Fullerton.
There’s still two grueling months of Pac-12 play left for the Trojans to prove themselves. But that needs to start sooner rather than later.
Nick Burton is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Any Given Saturday,” runs Thursdays, ironically. To comment on this story, or to explain to Nick that this makes no sense, visit dailytrojan.com or email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.