Baseball Preview: LBSU Pitching

The foundation of Long Beach's program over the years has been a dominant pitching staff that takes advantage of the spacious dimensions at Blair Field. Last year the wheels came off the tracks for the Dirtbags and their team ERA was in the middle of the pack in the conference at 5.18.

There was hope going into this season with the return of Troy Buckley as the pitching coach after a two year absence during which he was working in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system along with the return of two starting pitchers who are projected to be pretty high draft picks.  The team ERA for Long Beach has come down to 4.42 (3rd in the conf) and batters are hitting over 30 points less with the opponents AVG coming down from .303 to .269 (2nd best in the Big West).  The starting pitching has been a little inconsistent but has generally been solid.  What has sunk the hopes for the Dirtbags to get back to the post-season has been a group of relievers and midweek starters that has been responsible for eight losses when Long Beach was tied or had leads late in games and gone 4-6 during midweek games.

Starters

Fri SP – Soph #24 Andrew Gagnon (RHP – 5-5, 2.83 ERA, 12 starts, 76 IP, 72 H, 22 BB, 59 K, .242 BA, 4 HR, 11 HBP, 5 WP) was drafted in the 10th round out of HS and didn’t pitch up to that level last year (’09 stats – 3-7, 6.32 ERA, 13 starts, 73 IP, 96 H, 23 BB, 44 K, .327 BA, 5 HR, 11 HBP, 9 WP).  He has had a great deal of improvement this season and is 3rd in the conf in ERA and AVG and 8th in K and IP.  Gagnon has a low 90’s fastball and good control (2 BB or less in 9 of the last 11 starts) but he will pitch inside and has hit 11 batters (3rd in the conf) and he has done a much better job of missing bats, lowering the AVG that teams are hitting against him by 85 points.  He started the season as the Sat SP but moved into the Fri spot after the first three weeks and has a 2.43 ERA in conf games and allowed 3 ER or less in seven of his last eight starts, with his only poor start at Riverside last month when he allowed 7 R in 5 2/3.  Gagnon does not do a good job holding runners (19-28 SB’s the last two years).  He allowed 6 R in 2 2/3 IP in his start against Fullerton last season.

Sat SP – JR #36 Jake Thompson (RHP – 5-2, 4.99 ERA, 12 starts, 79 IP, 86 H, 21 BB, 67 K, .286 BA, 2 HR, 10 HBP, 11 WP) is projected to be drafted in the first five rounds next month but hasn’t been consistent, which has been a big issue for him during his three years in the rotation (’09 stats – 4-7, 5.61 ERA, 14 starts, 85 IP, 103 H, 13 BB, 42 K, .302 BA, 9 HR, 10 HBP, 5 WP).  He has a 7.11 ERA in conf starts and allowed 5+ R in 3 out of 4 starts before having a strong start against Stanford, allowing only 1 R before giving up a 2 run HR with two outs in the top of the 9th.  Thompson is 2nd in the conf in K and has a low 90’s sinking fastball and has done a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark this year.  He pitches inside and has hit 10 batters (7th in the conf).  Thompson does a very good job of controlling the running game (6-15 SB’s the last two years).  He has allowed 12 R on 19 H in 11 IP in his two starts against Fullerton in his career.

Sun SP – JC transfer #22 Branden Pinder (RHP – 4-5, 4.15 ERA, 12 starts, 74 IP, 82 H, 16 BB, 41 K, .293 BA, 9 HR, 15 HBP, 2 WP) has done a solid job and is 10th in the conf in ERA.  His fastball sits in the mid 80’s and he relies on very good control and spotting his fastball to get hitters out.  Pinder pitches inside and he leads the Big West with 15 HBP’s.  He had a very good stretch in the middle of the season where he had five straight starts when he allowed 2 R or less but he has started to wear down and get the ball up, allowing 5+ R in three of his last four starts.  Pinder has done a solid job at holding runners (5-8 SB’s).  He allowed 5 R (4 ER) in 6 IP in his start against Fullerton earlier this season.

Relievers

The bullpen has only recorded three saves and has been responsible for eight losses as well as a poor midweek record and is one of the main reasons why Long Beach will not be playing in the post-season for the second straight season.  The two main options that the Dirtbags will use late in games are SR #44 Jason Markovitz (LHP – 2-1, 2.95 ERA, 20 apps, 1 save, 20 IP, 16 H, 11 BB, 29 K, .213 BA, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP) and SR #39 David Brown (RHP – 2-2, 4.26 ERA, 19 apps, 1 save, 19 IP, 20 H, 10 BB, 11 K, .274 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP).  Markovitz is tough on LH hitters but both walk too many hitters and Brown has been prone to giving up the big hit in key situations.
Other relievers that could see action this weekend are FR #32 Nate Underwood (RHP – 2-1, 3.86 ERA, 11 apps, 4 midweek starts, 28 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 6 K, .237 BA, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP), who threw four scoreless innings against USC on Wed, FR #16 Eddie Magallon (RHP – 1-1, 4.04 ERA, 1 save, 11 apps, 4 midweek starts, 36 IP, 31 H, 7 BB, 22 K, .240 BA, 5 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP), who three scoreless innings for the save against Stanford on Sunday, JC transfer #27 Cris Trout (RHP – 1-0, 3.93 ERA, 20 apps, 18 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 17 K, .191 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP), JC transfer #38 Kenny Arnerich (RHP – 0-3, 5.65 ERA, 17 apps, 14 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 8 K, .310 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP), and situational LHP #49 FR Ryan Donohue (0-1, 5.40 ERA, 9 apps, 3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 5 K).