Baseball Preview: UCSB Pitching

UCSB expected to have a strong pitching staff last season with the nucleus of a good weekend rotation returning but the two returning SP's underperformed, the bullpen was poor and the staff ERA was 5.56 and a very mediocre 7.04 in conf games.

The pitching has been better for the Gauchos with the staff ERA nearly a run better at 4.69 with solid pitching most of the time from each of the weekend SP’s.  UCSB’s bullpen has been poor again this year, except for a recent strong stretch by one of their relievers, and blown leads and the occasional poor outing each weekend from one of the SP’s has resulted in several 1-2 series losses that could have been 2-1 series wins.  The pitchers for the Gauchos have usually done a good job of throwing strikes and have issued the 3rd fewest walks in the conf but they aren’t striking out many batters except for their Friday SP and are last in the conf in K’s.  Because most of UCSB’s pitchers don’t throw hard and are around the plate, they are allowing opponents to hit .283 and have given up 20 HR’s.

Starters

FRI – JR #11 Mario Hollands (LHP – 2-2, 3.12 ERA, 7 starts, 2 CG, 49 IP, 42 H, 19 BB, 53 K, .235 BA, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP) has been throwing very well despite winning only two of his seven starts and could have had a couple of more wins with better support.  He threw a CG in a 3-0 loss to Sac State and received two no decisions after leaving with a 9-1 lead against New Mexico State when the bullpen allowed 8 R in the last three innings and after allowing 3 R in 7 IP last week at Cal Poly.  Hollands is 4th in the conf in ERA, 4th in AVG and 3rd in K’s.  He was the 2008 conf FR pitcher of the year when he went 7-3, 4.03 ERA but slumped last year and went 6-6, 4-74 ERA with 37 BB and only 49 K in 89 IP.  Hollands’ fastball was sitting in the 86-88 range last year but he put on some muscle in the off-season and now has his fastball sitting in the 91-93 range to go with a changeup and a very good slider that sits in the 85-87 range.  He was projected to potentially be drafted in the first ten rounds last year as a draft eligible Soph but slid to the 24th round and with the way he is pitching this year he is very likely to be drafted in the first ten rounds, possibly the first 5-6 rounds.  Hollands has a good pickoff move and has picked off seven runners the last two seasons but he has a slow delivery to the plate that has allowed runners to go 17-24 on SB attempts the last two years.  He has been tough on Fullerton and threw a CG in 2008 when he allowed 2 R on 4 H and he went into the 9th inning last year with a 4-3 lead before tiring and taking a 5-4 loss.

SAT – JC transfer #20 Nick Capito (LHP – 4-2, 3.79 ERA, 7 starts, 2 CG, 40 IP, 59 H, 11 BB, 22 K, .307 BA, 5 HR, 8 HBP, 0 WP) has taken over the second spot in the rotation with strong control and is 9th in the conf in ERA.  He doesn’t throw hard but he has good command of the strike zone and keeps hitters off balance but because he is around the plate so much he is prone to giving up hits and has allowed at least 7 H in every start.  Capito is unusual for a crafty LHP because he pitches up in the zone and induces more fly outs than ground outs (67/46).  In his first six starts he allowed 2 ER or less five times and threw two straight CG’s with 131 pitches in his previous outing before his start last week at Cal Poly and he wasn’t sharp, allowing 9 R (6 ER) on 11 H and 4 BB.  Capito does a solid job of holding runners with two pickoffs and has allowed 4-6 SB’s.

SUN – JR #28 Jesse Meaux (RHP – 5-1, 4.38 ERA, 7 starts, 1 CG, 49 IP, 58 K, 9 BB, 21 K, .282 BA, 2 HR, 5 HBP, 2 WP) was originally the midweek SP and only joined the weekend rotation three weeks ago and is tied for the conf lead in wins.  He doesn’t throw hard but has excellent control and does a good job of keeping the ball down with a 59/43 ground out/fly out ratio.  Meaux has allowed 3 R or less in five of his starts, including a CG 10-3 win at Cal Poly when he allowed 8 H and 0 BB and got 16 ground outs.  Because Meaux does not throw hard, when he is off he is prone to giving up hits like he did in his two of his three starts prior to Cal Poly when he allowed 5 R on 10 H against UCLA and 9 R on 10 H at Sac State.  He does a poor job of holding runners and has allowed 16-17 SB’s the last two seasons.  Meaux has not pitched well against Fullerton and has allowed 9 R (7 ER) on 6 H in 2 2/3 IP in two appearances.   

Relievers

The bullpen has been a major problem for UCSB this season with blown leads contributing to several of their series losses.  Things have started to get stabilized at the back end of the bullpen but there are still issues in middle relief.

Closer – JR #34 Greg Davis (RHP – 1-0, 2.63 ERA, 0 saves, 8 apps, 1 midweek start, 14 IP, 10 H, 1 BB, 14 K, .196 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 0 WP) has taken control in the bullpen by throwing very well recently.  Before allowing a run on Tuesday against Pepperdine he had thrown ten scoreless innings in his previous five appearances, allowing only 4 H and 0 BB with 12 K and having very good command.  He finished last Sat’s game at Cal Poly with four scoreless innings and five K’s and he had three no-hit innings in a midweek start against LMU before the Cal Poly series.  

SR #31 David Meals (RHP – 2-4, 6.52 ERA, 1 save, 13 apps, 19 IP, 26 H, 5 BB, 14 K, .333 BA, 3 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP) was effective as the closer in the non-conf part of last season but got hit hard during conf games (’09 stats – 3-2, 5.70 ERA, 5 saves, 43 IP, 43 H, 19 BB, 27 K).  He was still being used as the closer until Davis took over recently and Meals is now coming into games in middle relief.  He threw 2+ innings at Cal Poly and took the loss by allowing a run in the bottom of the 10th.

JC transfer #41 Connor Whalen (LHP – 0-0, 2.84 ERA, 10 apps, 6 IP, 12 H, 8 BB, 8 K, .387 BA, 0 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP) is the only LHP in the bullpen and is the lefty specialist.  With Fullerton having several LH hitters in the middle of the lineup Whalen figures to come into a couple of games this weekend.

The other two middle relievers have starting pitching backgrounds.  JC transfer #23 Nick Loredo (RHP – 0-2, 7.63 ERA, 6 apps, 5 starts, 31 IP, 38 H, 13 BB, 14 K, .302 BA, 6 HR, 5 HBP, 0 WP) was in the weekend rotation the first month of the season but after poor starts against Northern Illinois and New Mexico State was replaced by Meaux.  He has made one relief appearance in the last three weeks and made the start against Pepperdine and allowed 7 R (5 ER) in 3 1/3 IP.  SR #12 Mike Ford (RHP – 0-1, 6.75 ERA, 9 apps, 13 IP, 17 H, 4 BB, 7 K, .298 BA, 3 HR, 7 HBP, 1 WP) was 2nd team all-conf in 2008 (6-4, 2.96 ERA) and big things were expected from him last year but he had trouble with minor injuries and his mechanics in the fall before last season and has never recovered.  He started 2009 in the rotation and ended up in middle relief by the end of the year after going 4-5, 6.75 ERA.