Ben Eshleman

JP's Weekly Walk-Off: UCLA

The Beavers take their number one ranking to Los Angeles to take on UCLA. JP will get you ready for the weekend series.

They say all good things must come to an end, and the Beavers’ amazing 23 game win streak did indeed fall in Seattle last Thursday.  However, the more important streak remained in tact, as the Beavers rallied to win another conference series to continue to build the stranglehold they have on the Pac-12 standings at the mid-point of the conference schedule.  This weekend brings both a key series at second place in the conference standings, UCLA, and the Beavers’ final road trip outside the state of Oregon.

THE WEEK THAT WAS

The Beavers let one get away in the opener, and struggled all weekend long to take advantage of their offensive opportunities, but managed to grind out a gritty series win against a good UW team.  It pains me to say UW is actually good, since their a-hole coach could not express the same honestly last year about the Beavers come tournament selection time, but that’s what makes me at least better than the festering bucket of puss that Lindsay Meggs is.

  • Thursday:  UW 3 – OSU 2
  • Friday:  OSU 5 – UW 2
  • Saturday:  OSU 3 – UW 0

THE WEEK AHEAD

Game Times:

  • Friday: OSU (LHP Heimlich 5-1, 0.83) at UCLA (RHP Canning 3-2, 2.77) 6:00pm PDT
  • Saturday: OSU (RHP Fehmel 4-1, 2.79) at UCLA (RHP Ceja 1-3, 2.79) 6:00pm PDT
  • Sunday: OSU (RHP Thompson 8-0, 1.03) at UCLA (RHP Olsen 2-1, 4.02) 1:00pm PDT
  • Tuesday:  OSU (TBA) vs. UO (TBA) 5:30pm PDT

Notes:

  • Canning was the Friday starter last year at Goss and was a hard-luck loser after a complete game 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K effort.  Ceja worked 1 inning of relief last year (1 hit, 1 K on Sunday), and Olsen will be facing OSU for the first time.
  • The Beavers swept last season’s series at Goss without allowing a run, and have won 7 of the last 10.  The Beavers’ have won three of the last five series at UCLA, last road series win was 2013.
  • Jackie Robinson Stadium facts: natural grass; 330 down the LF/RF lines, 370 to the power alleys, 395 to center.  Spacious foul ground, particularly behind the plate (55’ from the plate to the backstop).
  • Saturday’s game will be broadcast on ESPNU; no video will be available Friday or Sunday.

 OPPOSING PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • RHP Griffin Canning: last week’s Pac-12 pitcher of the week (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 12 K vs. Stanford) – is second in the conference and 10th nationally in strikeouts.
  • DH Kyle Cuellar: .390, 8 2b, 1 HR, 19 RBI (batting .429 in conference)
  • 1B Sean Bouchard: .331, 11 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, 24 RBI

RANDOM TOPICS OF THE WEEK

Bruins notes…

The Bruins rank 2nd in the conference in HR, with Bouchard leading the team (and 2nd in the conference with 6), and from there 10 different players account for the team’s other 18 long balls.  Eight players have account for the team’s 11 Pac-12 homers.  Comparatively, just 5 OSU players have hit one out of the park this season (just 3 in conference).

With the cloudy situation surrounding the health of Stanford’s Tristan Beck, Friday night starter Griffin Channing looks quite likely to be the first Pac-12 player taken in the upcoming MLB draft.  He’s been a bit inconsistent, and if you just look at the numbers you’d say “well, he sucks compared to Luke and Jack”… but, the kid has a great arm that is going to get him big money come June’s draft.

The Bruins’ bullpen has just two saves on the season – one recorded 2/28 and the other 3/28… so it appears they’re a week away from being due for another.

Beaver notes…

Jake Thompson’s 8-0 record leads the nation.  He has as many or more victories than 16 different D1 teams.

Mulholland, Heimlich, and Thompson are 1st, 3rd, and 7th in the nation respectively in ERA.  OSU’s nation-leading ERA (1.74) is nearly ¾ of a run lower than second-ranked Central Florida (2.48).  Only ten D1 teams carry an ERA lower than 3.00.

It seems surprising (see table below) to see the Beavers only ranked 5th in the conference in fielding, but this is far from a middle of the road defensive team (57th nationally).  The fact that Washington (1), USC (14), UCLA (29) and Stanford (31) are all also fielding exceptional defensive teams has pushed our conference ranking lower than normal.  And, frankly, I would say that there are nowhere near 56 teams better defensively than OSU.  The Beavs committed over 1/3 of their season total for errors (11 of 31) in the first six games of the season when they had not had much time on a natural grass field and were in the midst of a good deal of lineup experimentation.

While I agree that Grenier at SS and Madrigal at 2B is probably our strongest combination defensively, I was a little surprised by some of the “what took Casey so long to figure that out” reaction that followed that lineup move after game 1 in Seattle.  Yes, the throw was pretty bad and the timing was awful (and, not to throw KJ under the bus, but I can’t help but wonder if a guy like Jared Norris who was a really polished fielder at 1B would have known he wasn’t going to get his foot on the bag and get to that ball, and could/would have mitigated the damage by just taking care of getting to the throw) but some acted as if Nick has been a liability at SS (not so much on Blitz but in other corners of the internet), which is the furthest thing from the truth.  Four errors for a middle infielder that has predominantly been at SS through 32 games is a very good number.  For a bit of a comparison to his 1 error every 8 games figure;

  • Trever Morrison (2014-16): 1 error every 6.0 games
  • Tyler Smith (2012-13): 1 error every 4.8 games
  • Joey Wong (2008-09): 1 error every 7.6 games
  • Darwin Barney (2005-07):  1 error every 2.6 games

While we may or may not get the sort of definitive answer about Drew Rasmussen’s status and timetable to return to action that we’ve all be anxiously awaiting, I do expect we’ll know more this weekend than we have to date.  Coach Yeskie mentioned (I want to say in one of the pre-game shows last weekend and D1Baseball’s Kendall Rodgers also made mention of said appointment via Twitter this week) that Drew was slated to have an appointment with his doctor in LA this week.

Could this be the final “green light” to return to game action?  Maybe.  Of course there is often a discrepancy between “healthy enough to pitch” and actually “ready to pitch” after a long lay-off.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Would not shock me if he made his return this weekend, but I’m not expecting it, as another part of the equation is the coaching staff will look to find the right situation(s) to get him back into game action, somewhat akin to what we’ve seen with Mitch Hickey and the gradual progression of working from low-pressure situations at first into now looking like that illusive right hand option late in games we have been missing.

Speaking of missing… still no word on Max Engelbrekt’s status that I’ve seen, but it is becoming a concern.  The only tidbit out there was “sore back” warming up a couple weeks ago, and that is always as scary as arm issues, given how tricky back issues can be.  Again, I say keep your fingers crossed.  As good as Mulholland has been, it goes without saying that the bullpen takes a hit every game Max isn’t available.

 PAC-12 NEWS/NOTES/STATS

Pac-12 Offensive Category Team Rankings

Ave.

Slg %

OB %

Runs

2B

3B

HR

BB

K*

OSU

2

3>

5

5

6

T-2

T-10

8

1

UCLA

11

7

7

4

7

10

2

4

7

*1st = fewest/best 

Pac-12 Pitching/Defense Category Team Rankings

ERA

Ave.

K

BB*

WP*

HBP*

HR*

Fld.

SB*

OSU

1

1

3

2

3

1

2

5

3

UCLA

5

2

2

7

8

6

10

3

T-7

*1st = fewest/best 

Look for Washington to bounce back and pile up wins on the Palouse against Wazzu this weekend.  The Cougs were not expected to compete for a top-half of the conference finish, but were expected to be better than they have been.  They’re in a monumental tailspin having lost 11 of their last 14 and I look for the Dawgs to prolong their misery for another weekend.

Utah took the opener on the road against UA Thursday, giving the ‘Cats just their second home loss in 21 games at Hi Corbett.  I’m not shocked as I think Utah is a really solid team that suffered a lot having to spend the first month of Pac-12 play with road series at Washington, Stanford, and OSU (in between that mess they did win a home series against Oregon).  UA has been so good at home, but I think the Utes get one more, and with Wazzu, UC-Riverside, USC, and ASU at home (UCLA on the road), I really think despite their current 15-17 (6-10) record, they will play their way into at least “on the bubble” talk.  Don’t think they’ll have enough to get into the tourney but I think they’ll make it interesting.

USC has dropped 11 of their last 13, but I think they get a series win at Cal.  I’m just not a big believer in Cal as I mentioned last week – their 7-5 conference start that had them up in the standings last week had a lot to do with drawing ASU and Wazzu at home early in the schedule.  After giving up 56 runs their last 5 games I’m really not going too far out on a limb with expressing skepticism about the Bears chances of success (even though USC has plenty of warts of their own).

The most intriguing match-up of the weekend not involving OSU is definitely ‘Furd at Oregon in a battle of two teams that are not very good at hitting but have quality pitching.  All I can say is: Go Dancing Trees!

ASU mercifully gets a break from conference play this week and hosts CSU-Bakersfield.  Their series sweep over Wazzu last weekend stopped the 4-11 (2-10 in conference) free-fall that OSU kicked off the first weekend of conference play.

PARTING SHOTS AND PREDICTIONS

I honestly have a hard time figuring out exactly what to make of UCLA.  The book on them to open the season was “good but not very deep pitching, very limited offensively” and it mostly played out that way as they dropped 11 of 15 late February to mid March.  But, you look at the numbers and their runs per game and batting average are way up in conference play.  HOWEVER, I will point out the impact of scheduling, as Cal and ASU (9th and 11th in ERA and 7th and 9th in fielding) gave up 68 runs on 72 hits and 12 errors in those 6 games.

Now, that’s not to totally discount what UCLA can do at the plate – takes pretty good hitting to make even kinda crappy pitching look that bad.  And, Canning is a “real dude”, very legit Friday night guy. While Ceja worked his way up to one of their late innings options last year after little use as a freshman and sophomore he didn’t have much of a track-record (none as a starter) and Olsen didn’t do a lot last year in relief and as an occasional mid-week starter (had not gone more that 3.1 IP prior to this year) but they have been a sneaky solid 2-3 combo thus far behind the bell cow of Canning.

Now, in my defense, I’m one uncharacteristically bad “Nick makes that play 97 1/2 times out of 100” throw away from my sweep prediction last week coming true! But, I know… I varied from what seems like my usual “take the fairly easy way out” road and didn’t offer a 2-1 prediction like I had pretty much every week - and the streak ended.  My bad.  So, on the record, I say: Beavs take 2 of 3 in La-La land. 

As always, if you have questions/comments/suggestions you’d like me to cover, by all means feel free to let me know either on the board or you can always e-mail me at jp@beaverblitz.com.

NUMBERS TO GNAW ON…

OREGON STATE

UCLA

Wins and Losses

Overall Record

30 – 2

17 – 16

Pac-12 Record

14 – 1

9 – 6

Home

13 – 0

13 – 8

Away/Neutral Site

17 – 2

4 – 8

Last 5 Games

4 – 1

4 – 1

Last 10 Games

9 – 1

5 – 5

Streak

Won 2

Won 2

Offensive Stats (Pac-12 games in parenthesis)

Runs/Game

5.59  (5.73)

5.45  (7.13)

Batting Ave.

.294  (.308)

.260  (.300)

OB %

.370  (.370)

.356  (.391)

SLG %

.404  (.418)

.386  (.427)

HR Per Game

0.38  (0.33)

0.73  (0.73)

Stolen Bases

32 – 41  (12 – 17)

23 – 37  (9 – 16)

Pitching Stats (Pac-12 games in parenthesis)

Team ERA

1.74  (2.11)

3.76  (4.67)

Opponent Bat. Ave.

.190  (.195)

.235  (.281)

Team WHIP

0.97  (1.06)

1.29  (1.36)

K per 9 Innings

8.36  (7.85)

8.34  (7.67)

BB per 9 Innings

2.66  (3.38)

3.82  (3.20)

HR Allowed Per Game

0.38  (0.33)

0.70  (1.00)

Defensive Stats (Pac-12 games in parenthesis)

Fielding %

.975  (.980)

.978  (.979)

Stolen Bases Allowed

11 – 14  (5 – 6)

28 – 36  (10 – 10)>

Rankings

RPI*

1

67

SOS*

28

20

ISR*

1

44

Polls**

1 – 1 – 1 – 1 – 1

NR – NR – NR – NR – NR

*RPI via NCAA.com - SOS via Warren Nolan - ISR via boydsworld.com

** Polls = ESPN/Coaches - Baseball Writers - D1 Baseball - Baseball America - Collegiate Baseball  [NR = Not Ranked; RV = Rec’d Votes]


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