UCLA Preview: Pitching

UCLA anticipated having a good pitching staff after bringing back most of their pitching staff from last season except for their Friday SP and bringing in two very high profile recruits. The pitching staff struggled early as the coaching staff was figuring out which pitchers would work best in which roles and some of the pitchers were shuffled from the rotation to the bullpen and vice versa.

The Bruins have been pitching much better lately and that is a big reason why UCLA has played better after their very poor start.  UCLA is #23 in the country with a 4.21 team ERA, #19 in hits allowed per game and #8 in strikeouts.  The Bruins have allowed five runs or less in 19 of the last 22 games and the leaders on the pitching staff are their FR SP's who are the starters on Fri and Sat.  UCLA thought they would have a deeper bullpen with so many experienced pitchers but that hasn't been the case.

Starters

Fri SP – FR Gerrit Cole (RHP – 4-5, 3.34 ERA, 12 starts, 73 IP, 48 H, 30 BB, 93 K, .189 BA, 7 HR) was drafted in the 1st round last June and surprised everybody by ending up on campus and turning down a signing bonus worth several million dollars.  Cole is a pure power pitcher and uses a high 90's fastball, curveball and changeup to get hitters out.  He is averaging 11.5 K's per 9 IP (9th in the country) and averaging 5.9 H allowed per 9 IP (4th in the country).  The only things that have gotten Cole into trouble are the occasional HR and some bouts with wildness because he leads the team in BB's and WP's.  Cole had a 1 hitter going into the 9th inning last Friday but he allowed 5 BB's in the game and along with a dropped fly ball, that was enough to saddle him with a 3-2 loss despite 11 K's.  He lost the previous start 3-2 at Oregon when the defense let him down again and contributed to two unearned runs.  In his prior start at Oregon State, Cole allowed 5 R in 5 IP due to 6 BB's in one of his shorter outings of the season and he was removed after 121 pitches, his highest pitch count prior to last Friday against Cal when he threw 122 pitches in 8 1/3 IP.  Baserunners are 4-7 in SB attempts against Cole.

Sat SP – FR Trevor Bauer (RHP – 8-3, 2.68 ERA, 18 apps, 8 starts, 87 IP, 71 H, 20 BB, 79 K, .225 BA, 4 HR) was supposed to be a HS SR but decided he wanted to get his college career started a year early and he has shown that he was more than ready to pitch at the college level.  Bauer has a four pitch mix with a low 90's fastball and very good control but doesn't mind pitching inside to keep hitters off the plate and has 8 HBP's.  He started the season working out of the bullpen and as a midweek SP but was so effective that he pitched his way into a weekend SP role.  Bauer has been dominant in his last four starts with a 2.06 ERA and 22 H allowed in 35 IP with three CG wins and he left the other start after 8 IP with a lead only to see the bullpen blow the game.  The coaching staff has been allowing him to build up fairly high pitch counts because Bauer has thrown 120+ pitches in each of his last three starts.  He is 3rd in the conf in IP and 6th in the conf in ERA and K's.  Baserunners are 4-7 in SB attempts against Bauer.

Sun SP – JR Charles Brewer (RHP – 3-5, 3.96 ERA, 12 starts, 64 IP, 71 H, 17 BB, 61 K, .291 BA, 6 HR) has a low 90's fastball with a solid curveball and changeup.  He was off his game against Cal last week and was knocked out of the game early, allowing 4 R in 3 2/3 IP.  In his previous five starts Brewer had a 2.67 ERA with 25 H allowed in 30 IP.  Brewer doesn't usually pitch deep into games and is often taken out after about 6 IP.  He has solid control but he will pitch inside and leads the team with 10 HBP's.  Brewer has been able to do a better job of keeping runs off the board than last year (2008 – 9-4, 5.10 ERA, 19 apps, 13 starts, 97 IP, 108 H, 31 BB, 69 K, .281 BA, 12 HR) because he has done avoided giving up HR's and big innings.  He is outstanding at controlling the running game and has allowed only 1-7 SB's.  Fullerton saw quite a bit of Brewer last year when allowed 9 R in 5 2/3 IP in two midweek games before beating Fullerton in a regional game when he allowed 3 R in 5 IP.

Relievers

The closer for UCLA is JR Gavin Brooks (LHP – 0-3, 4.70 ERA, 8 saves, 23 apps, 31 IP, 27 H, 19 BB, 30 K, .243 BA, 1 HR), who has had an interesting season and career.  Brooks was a SP in his first two seasons (2008 – 6-3, 5.07 ERA, 14 starts, 71 IP, 68 H, 53 BB, 62 K, .252 BA, 9 HR) before control problems caused by some issues with his mechanics resulted in Brooks moving to the bullpen this season.  He allowed 10 R (7 ER) in his first two apps but has been solid most of the time since then with a 2.83 ERA in his last 21 apps.  Brooks has a fastball that sits in the upper 80's but tends to have issues with his command of his secondary pitches (curve, changeup).  He leads the Pac 10 in saves, including six in conf games, but has blown two saves and has allowed 8 BB's in 12 2/3 IP in conf games.  Brooks is another pitcher that Fullerton has seen plenty of.  He was dominant with 12 K's in a CG 2-1 loss in the 2007 super regional but allowed 8 R on 6 H and 6 BB in 6 IP in his two other apps against the Titans.

Of the four other relievers that UCLA would be likely to use, three of them are also LHP's – Soph Matt Grace (3-2, 4.06 ERA, 20 apps, 3 starts, 38 IP, 40 H, 10 BB, 30 K, .268 BA, 3 HR), Soph Rob Rasmussen (3-2, 6.75 ERA, 1 save, 14 apps, 6 starts, 40 IP, 49 H, 21 BB, 45 K, .304 BA, 6 HR) and SR Brendan Lafferty (0-2, 6.00 ERA, 18 apps, 27 IP, 37 H, 17 BB, 29 K, .333 BA, 1 HR).  Grace was used early as a midweek SP and was ineffective in that role but has thrived in the bullpen and in eight apps in conf games has a 1.15 ERA in 16 IP, allowing only 7 H and 3 BB with 15 K's.  He allowed 6 R on 7 H and 4 BB in 4 2/3 IP in three apps against Fullerton last season (2008 – 0-0, 3.55 ERA, 17 apps, 33 IP, 31 H, 20 BB, 18 K, .248 BA, 7 HR).  Rasmussen was in the weekend rotation earlier in the season but was ineffective in back to back starts against USC and Arizona and has been pitching out of the bullpen since then.  He allowed 6 R on 10 H in 5 IP in 2 apps against Fullerton last season (2008 – 0-2, 5.60 ERA in 18 IP).  Lafferty was the most effective reliever for UCLA last season (2008 – 4-3, 3.74 ERA, 3 saves, 33 apps, 67 IP, 61 H, 30 BB, 56 K, .254 BA, 6 HR) but has struggled this season and has been passed up by others in the bullpen.  Lafferty has allowed 4 R on 6 H and 5 BB in 6 IP in 4 apps in his career against Fullerton. 

The only RHP that would be likely to pitch this weekend would be SR Jason Novak (1-1, 7.91 ERA, 16 apps, 19 IP, 24 H, 12 BB, 20 K, .300 BA, 1 HR).  Novak was also much more effective last season (2008 – 1-1, 3.60 ERA, 4 saves, 20 apps, 35 IP, 31 H, 17 BB, 28 K, .238 BA, 3 HR) but has pitched decently in limited innings in conf games (5 apps, 6 IP, 2 R).  Novak has allowed 6 R on 8 H and 4 BB in 9 2/3 IP in 4 apps in his career against Fullerton, although he did allow only 1 unearned run in 4 IP in an appearance in last year's regional game that UCLA won.  The midweek SP for UCLA is Garrett Claypool (RHP – 2-1, 3.10 ERA, 12 apps, 6 starts, 29 IP, 23 H, 10 BB, 37 K, .217 BA, 5 HR), who usually throws 5-6 innings during the week and doesn't usually pitch during weekend games.  Claypool has allowed 3 R's on 6 H and 3 BB in 4 1/3 IP in two apps his career against Fullerton.