Baseball Preview: Pacific

Cal State Fullerton has won four straight weekend series but the Titans have lost two of their last three games after struggling in the final two games against Cal State Northridge, losing 4-2 on Saturday and holding on to win 17-15 on Sunday and getting blasted 14-4 by USC on Tuesday night.

Next up for Fullerton this weekend is a road trip to Stockton to play a series with the Pacific Tigers (8-25, 2-7). Pacific is in last place in the conference after starting their Big West season by being swept at UC Davis and losing 2 of 3 at home to UCSB and at Cal Poly.

 

LINEUP

Pacific is the worst hitting team in the conference, hitting .242 as a team with no regulars hitting over .300, a team OBP of .325 and a team SLG % of .342. The Tigers are averaging 4 RPG for the season and have scored 4 runs or less in 8 of their 9 Big West games. Pacific doesn’t have much power with only 10 HR’s (although they are averaging two 2B’s per game), isn’t patient at the plate (112 BB’s in 33 games – 21 by one player), strikes out too much (close to 8 times per game) and doesn’t bunt much to try to manufacture runs with only 14 SAC’s. But, the Tigers will run to try to get runners into scoring position (34-46 SB’s).

Pacific has been poor defensively, making 68 E’s in 33 games that have resulted in 49 unearned runs. The infield defense has been especially porous with 46 E’s. Their best area defensively has been one of the most important – catching, where runners are successful at stealing bases barely half the time (22-42).

Infield and DH

C Joe Oliveira (RH - .276-0-9-12) was the 1st team all Big West catcher after hitting .327 last season but has not been hitting as well this year and has already struck out 24 times. Oliveira is a rarity for a catcher because he is the leadoff hitter and the table setter for the lineup. He easily leads the team both in walks (21) and SB’s (12-14), is a good athlete and has played some OF over the past three years (8 times this season). Kurt Wideman (RH - .237-2-14-0) is the backup C and has started 7+ games at C, 1B and 3B, usually hitting 6th or 7th. Wideman is one of the few hitters in the lineup with power potential (5 HR’s last year) but is an all or nothing hitter with 19 K’s this year and 35 K’s last year when he hit .205. Both have been good at throwing out baserunners but average at blocking pitches, allowing 39 WP’s/PB’s.

The 1B, 3B and DH spots have been a platoon situation between Wideman, Mike Walker (LH - .203-0-6-1), Brian Martin (LH - .288-0-9-0), Brett Manning (LH - .194 in 31 AB’s) and Jason Haar (LH - .153-0-7-1) with Haar only able to DH due to an arm injury that has prevented him from pitching. Part of the problem with shuffling all of these players around the diamond has been poor defense. Manning has been in the lineup each of the last 9 games at either 1B, LF or DH since returning from an injury, hitting 8th. Walker recently returned to the lineup from an injury and has been hitting 3rd and playing 3B vs. RHP. Wideman started games at 1B and 3B last weekend. Martin started games at 1B and DH and hit 5th and has been the best hitter in Big West games, going 8-22. Noah St. Urbain (7-22) would be likely to pinch-hit against LHP’s and is 5-9 in Big West games.

2B Adam Ching (RH - .278-2-17-1) is a four year starter who has hit between .280 and .310 every year and is one of the better players on the team. Ching bats 2nd and is the best defensive player in the infield. Ching has been struggling with making contact, striking out 23 times, and has hit only .167 in Big West games.

FR SS J.B. Brown (LH - .247-1-13-1) started out the season playing 3B but was shifted over to SS due to the struggles there of Jonathon Lewis (RH - .097-0-2-1). Between the two of them they have made 18 E’s (10 by Brown). Brown bats 9th and has been a poor hitter, leading the team with 29 K’s, but is hitting .290 in Big West games.

Outfield

Pacific has been using a few players in LF with Manning and John Joines (RH - .191-2-7-1) seeing the most time there recently. Nick Longmire (RH - .288-2-14-5) and Mike McKeever (RH - .296-1-17-3) have been the regulars in CF and RF. Longmire has decent speed and usually hits 5th or 6th but has also struggled with making contact, striking out 24 times, and is hitting .231 in Big West games. McKeever hits cleanup and is one of the few power bats in the lineup leading the team in SLG % and easily leading the team with 14 doubles but is only hitting .206 in Big West games.

PITCHING

Pacific has the worst ERA in the Big West at 6.53, nearly a run worse than the next team, and is allowing nearly 8 RPG. But, Pacific’s starting pitching has started to improve during conference games while the performance of the relievers has continued to be poor. The Tigers SP’s have an ERA of 3.81 in Big West games while their RP’s have an ERA of 9.31 with only one reliever who has pitched at least 10 innings having an ERA under 6.50 for the season.

Starters

Fri SP – FR Tyler Waldron (RHP – 2-3, 4.50 ERA, 8 starts, 52 IP, 63 H, 12 BB, 39 K) started the season off slowly but has been pitching much better recently. Waldron allowed 17 R’s in his first three starts. Since then, he has pitched a CG 3 hit SHO with 11 K’s against Minnesota, had a no decision against Stanford and in three Big West starts has allowed 8 R’s (6 ER) and 26 H’s in 23 1/3 IP. Waldron allowed 3 R’s in 7 1/3 IP to UCSB, leaving with a lead that the bullpen gave up in a 5-4 loss, and pitched a CG, allowing 1 R and 7 H’s to Cal Poly in a 3-1 win. Waldron has very good control and is usually around the plate, allowing hitters to hit .303, but keeps the ball down has only allowed only 3 HR’s.

Sat SP – JC transfer Mark McCain (RHP – 1-2, 3.62 ERA, 11 apps, 5 starts, 50 IP, 55 H, 12 BB, 43 K) started the season in the bullpen but when he had a chance to make his first start, he made the most of his opportunity in holding Minnesota to 1 R in a CG win with 15 K’s. McCain lost his next start to Stanford and in three Big West starts has allowed 9 R’s and 24 H’s in 19 1/3 IP. He has pitched well the past two weekends, getting no decisions in allowing 3 R’s in 7 2/3 IP against UCSB in a 4-3 win and allowing 2 R’s in 5 IP against Cal Poly in a game where the bullpen allowed 6 R’s in the last three innings. McCain also has good control, is the hardest thrower on the staff and has allowed batters to hit .282.

Sun SP – JR Joey Centanni (LHP – 0-1, 4 apps, 3 starts, 18 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 4 K) was one of the best FR pitchers in the Big West two years ago (6-4, 2.77 ERA in 88 IP) but struggled with injuries last year (0-5, 4.32 ERA, 6 starts) and has just recently been healthy enough to return to the rotation. Centanni has been on a strict pitch count since returning and has gone no further than 5 IP in any of his starts. He held UC Davis to 2 R’s in 5 IP and allowed 3 R’s in 5 IP to Cal Poly. Centanni is the typical “crafty lefty” and relies on control to get hitters out but has struggled with his control in returning from his arm injury.

Relievers

Pacific’s SP’s have been keeping them in games during the Big West schedule but the bullpen has been a disaster. The Tigers lost their first eight midweek games due to their lack of pitching depth before picking up a midweek win against Nevada last week. The only LHP likely to see action in this series is David Rowse (0-2, 8.04 ERA, 12 apps, 16 IP, 31 H, 8 BB, 12 K), who was a SP most of last season in going 2-7, 7.08 ERA in 83 IP. The other relievers are RHP’s David Hovey (0-0, 5.56 ERA, 11 IP, 19 H, 3 BB, 6 K), Larry Holscher (1-3, 6.75 ERA, 1 SV, 10 apps, 21 IP, 33 H, 12 BB, 14 K), Cole Akins (1-5, 7.20 ERA, 1 SV, 12 apps, 4 starts, 30 IP, 52 H, 6 BB, 25 K), who started the year in the rotation but was ineffective and replaced by McCain, Thomas Berolzheimer (0-2, 7.20 ERA, 1 SV, 14 apps, 20 IP, 30 H, 3 BB, 21 K) who is the hardest thrower of the relievers, Hunter Carnevale (1-3, 7.67 ERA, 12 apps, 27 IP, 36 H, 11 BB, 11 K), who went 2-5, 5.99 ERA in 77 IP as a SP most of last season, and Corey Kohnke (1-3, 10.95 ERA, 11 apps, 4 starts, 25 IP, 34 H, 17 BB, 18 K).

OUTLOOK

Fullerton has traditionally beaten Pacific soundly every season, winning 16 straight games and 31 of the last 33 against the Tigers. Pacific has been more competitive in Big West games than either their overall record or their conference would indicate, only getting blown out twice in seven conference losses, and that is directly attributable to their starting pitching. The higher scoring that these games are, the stronger the likelihood that Fullerton will win because Pacific probably has the worst lineup that the Titans will see this season. Fullerton is a prohibitive favorite in this series much like they were last weekend. Pacific might be able to sneak out a win because they are playing at home and because of their starting pitching but it would not be much of a surprise if Fullerton swept this series.