Cal Poly SLO Preview: Pitching

Cal Poly had pretty high expectations for their pitching staff going into the season because they returned most of their pitchers from last season and were getting Matt Leonard back from a medical redshirt after he was a weekend SP in 2007.

But, the results haven't lived up to what the Mustangs hoped they would be and part of that has been due to the injury bug once again biting Cal Poly with Steven Fischback, their best SP in 2008, injuring his shoulder during the off-season and being forced to miss this season.  Cal Poly has a staff ERA of 5.83, which ranks 7th in the Big West, and the Mustangs are 8th in BA at .309 and have allowed the 2nd most walks in the conf and are allowing over 4 BB's per game.  It is unusual for a team to be around 20 games over .500 with such poor pitching but Cal Poly has been bludgeoning teams offensively and asking their pitching to do just enough to win games.  The Mustangs have allowed more than 5+ R's in 22 of their previous 26 games but are still 17-9 during that time.  The SP's for Cal Poly have a 6.83 ERA in the last six weekend series and have allowed their opponents to hit .333.  The Mustangs have been getting outstanding work from the three relievers who will pitch in close games this weekend who have gone 5-2 with 2 saves and a 2.57 ERA over the last six weekends.

Starters

Fri SP – JR DJ Mauldin (RHP – 4-3, 4.74 ERA, 11 starts, 80 IP, 99 H, 20 BB, 57 K, .306 BA, 4 HR) has one of the better arms on the Cal Poly staff and was the closer last season (2008 – 5-5, 4.08 ERA, 4 saves, 21 apps, 57 IP, 59 H, 24 BB, 49 K).  Mauldin has been a workhorse this season and is 5th in the conf in K's and has thrown over 120 pitches in six of his starts.  In his first six starts Mauldin was outstanding and allowed no more than four runs in any start with a 2.89 ERA.  However, it looks like the high pitch counts have caught up with Mauldin and he has a 7.07 ERA in his last five starts.  He allowed 7 R's in 6 1/3 IP last week against USF, 5 R's in 8 IP at UCSB two weeks ago and 8 R's in 7 1/3 IP against UC Davis three weeks ago.  Mauldin has good control and is usually around the plate, which is why his hit total is so high, and pitches inside and is 5th in the conf with 11 HBP's.  He does a poor job of holding runners on and has allowed 12-13 SB's.  

Sat SP – Soph Matt Leonard (LHP – 5-1, 7.01 ERA, 11 starts, 60 IP, 71 H, 31 BB, 31 K, .302 BA, 8 HR) was one of the weekend SP's two years ago (2007 – 3-5, 5.85 ERA in 15 starts) as a FR but redshirted last year after elbow surgery and his stuff has been slow to come back.  Leonard has been inconsistent this year and got off to a good start but has struggled lately.  He allowed 3 R's or less in four of his first five starts but has a 8.37 ERA in his last six starts.  He pitched poorly at Irvine (8 R's, 4 2/3 IP), allowed 11 R's in 10 IP against Northridge and Pacific and pitched better against UC Davis (3 R, 7 IP) and UCSB (4 R, 6 1/3 IP) before pitching poorly against USF last weekend (7 R's, 5 1/3 IP).   Leonard is prone to getting the ball up and leads the staff with 8 HR's allowed.  He does a solid job of holding runners and has allowed 5-9 SB's.

Sun SP – FR Mason Radeke (RHP – 4-1, 5.81 ERA, 1 save, 10 apps, 7 starts, 48 IP, 67 H, 13 BB, 35 K, .335 BA, 3 HR) got off to a later start than the rest of his teammates after not being eligible until after the winter quarter so his arm is a little fresher than the other two SP's.  He pitched poorly in his first two starts and allowed 14 R's in 8 1/3 IP but has been the most effective of the three SP's since then by going 4-1 with a 4.68 ERA, taking advantage of the run support that Cal Poly's offense has provided against the opponents Sunday starters.  Radeke has good control and his best pitch is his changeup but he has been getting too much of the plate and allowing too many hits.  He does a poor job of holding baserunners and has allowed 8-8 SB's.

Relievers

The strength of the Cal Poly pitching staff has easily been their bullpen and specifically the trio of SR Eric Massingham (RHP – 7-1, 1.91 ERA, 3 saves, 17 apps, 33 IP, 26 H, 13 BB, 26 K, .218 BA, 1 HR), SR Jared Eskew (LHP – 5-1, 4.12 ERA, 1 saves, 16 apps, 7 starts, 59 IP, 79 H, 19 BB, 52 K, .315 BA, 2 HR) and JR Mark DeVincenzi (RHP – 5-1, 3.50 ERA, 1 save, 24 apps, 44 IP, 51 H, 18 BB, 46 K, .287 BA, 1 HR) who have accounted for over half of Cal Poly's wins.  The usual method for the Mustangs has been for their SP's to hang in there and keep them in the game and bring in these pitchers to finish things off and have the offense score runs late for the win. 

Massingham had been a SP the past two seasons (2008 – 2-5, 5.86 ERA, 13 starts, 81 IP, 101 H, 21 BB, 45 K) but has thrived in his role as the closer this season.  He has done a good job of keeping the ball down to get ground outs and has been very tough to hit.  Because he was previously a SP he has the endurance to go several innings.  Massingham has won three extra inning games in the last five weeks and threw 9 1/3 scoreless innings in those three appearances.  He won his start against Fullerton two years ago (7 IP, 3 R) but was knocked out early last season (2 R, 3 1/3 IP).  

Eskew has been a starter and reliever the past two seasons (2008 – 5-4, 4.11 ERA, 17 apps, 9 starts, 70 IP, 89 H, 20 BB, 50 K).  He started the season in the weekend rotation with mixed results before being moved into the role of midweek SP for a few weeks along with a reliever on the weekends.  Eskew has a 2.08 ERA in 6 apps and 13 IP in weekend series since being moved into the bullpen six weeks ago.  He doesn't throw hard but does a very good job of using his offspeed pitches to keep hitters off balance.  Eskew does holds runners well and has allowed 6-11 SB's.  He had an outstanding start against Fullerton last season (7 IP, 1 R, 4 H).

DeVincenzi has been used early and often and leads the conf in appearances.  He is a hard thrower and prone to being a little wild and leads the staff with 10 WP's.  DeVincenzi will usually be brought into the game in the middle innings before Massingham comes in to finish the game.  He is the most likely of the three relievers to pitch in multiple games in a series and has pitched in 11 of 18 games in the last six weekend series.

The other pitchers in the bullpen are JR Kevin Castner (RHP – 0-0, 7.11 ERA, 11 apps, 13 IP, 14 H, 12 BB, 15 K, .286 BA, 0 HR), FR Kyle Anderson (LHP – 0-1, 7.30 ERA, 3 midweek starts/apps, 12 IP, 22 H, 7 BB, 10 K, .400 BA, 0 HR), FR Mark Langenour (LHP – 1-1, 9.42 ERA, 9 apps, 14 IP, 17 H, 15 BB, 12 K, .293 BA, 2 HR), FR Jeff Johnson (RHP – 0-1, 10.23 ERA, 9 apps, 4 midweek starts, 22 IP, 28 H, 13 BB, 15 K, .315 BA, 7 HR) and Soph Buster Mueller (RHP – 1-1, 21.86 ERA, 5 apps, 7 IP, 17 H, 13 BB, 5 K, .556 BA, 3 HR).  Castner is the hardest thrower on the staff with a mid 90's fastball and was drafted in the 10th round but returned to school (2008 – 1-2, 5.46 ERA, 20 apps, 30 IP, 24 H, 25 BB, 40 K, .216 BA).  He would be the most likely of these pitchers to come into a game after the main three relievers although his wildness has kept him from having a bigger role.  The other four pitchers are primarily midweek pitchers and most likely would only pitch in games this weekend that are one sided.