Mark Kuykendall

JP's Weekly Walk-Off: Cal

The Cal Bears come to Corvallis this weekend to take on the #1 ranked Beavers. JP digs into the match-up between the two top teams in the PAC 12.

The Beavers dropped their first home game of the season to USC, but took care of business to record their 11th consecutive winning weekend of the season and maintained their spot as the consensus #1 team in the country.  This weekend brings the Cal Bears to Corvallis for a series that pits the top two teams in the conference standings in terms of wins for one of those classic matchups of a team with great pitching against a team that lives and dies with their power-hitting.

THE WEEK THAT WAS 

  • Friday:  OSU 3 – USC 1 – Had not Oregon’s David Peterson struck out 20 in his start against ASU, Luke Heimlich almost certainly would have won his second consecutive (and third of the year) Pac-12 pitcher of the week award via his 8 IP of 1 hit, 1 run ball.
  • Saturday:  USC 7 – OSU 5 (10 innings) – Most everything that could go wrong did; the bullpen took its first loss of the season, an uncharacteristic Grenier error led to 2 unearned runs that put the Beavers in the position to have to go extra innings, and the bats went stone cold when it mattered most managing just 1 base runner their last 4 times at bat (after recording 9 hits and 5 walks the first 7 innings).
  • Sunday:  OSU 10 – USC 1 -  Jake Thompson was dominant once again (8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 11 K) and the Beaver ultimately took advantage of USC’s lack of pitching depth to post their first blow-out win in nearly a month.
  • Tuesday: OSU 4 – UO 1 – Little used Jordan Britton came up big for the Beavers earning his first career win with 5.2 IP of 2 hit, 1 run ball, and Brandon Eisert picked up his second save via 3.1 IP of hitless 6K relief.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Game Times:

  • Friday: OSU (LHP Heimlich 6-1, 0.78) vs. Cal (LHP Horn 3-4, 3.77) 7:05pm PDT
  • Saturday: OSU (RHP Fehmel 4-2, 3.92) vs. Cal (RHP Matulovich 4-1, 4.89) 1:35pm PDT
  • Sunday: OSU (RHP Thompson 9-0, 1.07) vs. Cal (LHP Ladrech 2-1, 2.83) 12:05pm PDT

Notes:

  • OSU hasn’t released its projected starters all season, so once again I’m simply going by the rotation that has been in place.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change this week (more on that later).
  • Ladrech picked up the win in the series finale’ last season working 7.2 innings of no-hit relief work. Matulovich did not appear in the 2016 series and Horn is a freshman.
  • The Beavers were swept at Evans Diamond last season, snapping a 9-game win streak at Cal.  OSU has won 7 of the last 10 series and have won 6 consecutive at Goss (15-3 dating back to 2005) against the Bears.
  • All three games this weekend will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Network.

OPPOSING PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • 1B Andrew Vaughn: .355, 4 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 45 RBI – ranks 7th, 3rd, and 1st in the conference in average, RBI, and HR respectively
  • RF Jeffrey Mitchell: .316, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 18 RBI, 9 SB
  • 2B Preston Grand Pre: .436, 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI in 13 games (missed February and March with a hand injury)
  • Closer Erik Martinez: 3-2, 1.33 ERA, 6 saves, .165 opponent average, 28 K in 27 IP

RANDOM TOPICS OF THE WEEK

Cal notes…

The Bears are just 2-7 on the road in conference, picking up single wins against Utah and Washington while being swept at UCLA.  Those two Pac-12 wins plus a three game sweep at sub-.500 Pepperdine in early March account for their five road wins in 20 attempts this season.

With their pitching stats, it is not a big surprise that Cal is just 5-19 when they score fewer than 6 runs.   

Vaughn and Karas rank 1-2 in home runs in the conference, while 8 other Bears have gone deep at least once to create the team’s conference-leading total of 34.  Interestingly, while Cal leads the conference, their total only puts them in a tie for 110th nationally.    

The Cal starters have been OK - the bullpen aside from closer Martinez… not so much.  In Pac-12 play they do not have a reliever other than Martinez with multiple appearances with an ERA below 4.15.  That is not a good thing when your starters average 5.1 (Horn), 5.2 (Matulovich) and 5.0 (Ladrech) IP per start. 

When it comes to OSU’s approach against Horn I wish I was smart enough to craft a quote like John Wooden’s brilliant “be quick, but don’t hurry” – as the Beavs need to maintain their aggressiveness, but show patience.  Horn’s stat line shows 35 walks, 11 wild pitches, and 3 hit batters in shy of 60 innings – command is an issue, so let him burn himself out and get into a bad bullpen if he’s throwing balls out of the zone as he has most of this year this year.  Additionally, I wonder if he’s hitting a bit of that “freshman wall” where the grind of D1 ball starts to get to a lot of kids at this point of the season, as his effectiveness has dropped his last three starts (22 H, 17 R, 11 ER, 12 BB, 2 WP, 2 HBP in 19.2 IP).  Best of all for the Beavs, Cal extended him to 128 pitches last weekend (a 5-2 loss at UW where he took the loss and  was touched up for 2 HR) for his longest outing of the year by a fair bit.   

Beaver notes…

Not that Pat Casey ever is all that willing to tip his hand about anything heading into a series, but both his comments and those of Nate Yeskie to the media this week sounded a good deal like they are strongly considering a change in the rotation.  And, we may have gotten a hint last Saturday which way they might be heading.  On the pre-game show that day, Coach Casey indicated that they went into the weekend with the plan that if they got Drew Rasmussen up in the pen, they were absolutely going to use him.  The follow-up point he raised was that had they not gotten him up and used him Friday, they were going to start him Saturday with Fehmel to follow. 

While the staff put it out there two weeks ago at UCLA that Drew would be working on a 30 pitch limit if used, Casey went out of his way to absolutely avoid putting a number on what sort of a limit they had on him last weekend – he would only go so far as to say (Saturday pre-game) that after only throwing 10 pitches Friday, if needed, they would not hesitate to use him again that weekend.  Where I’m going with this is that it seems perhaps sooner than we (or at least I) might have initially expected, they may well be looking to get Drew in the weekend rotation and didn’t want to tip their hand at all in terms of how his limit might be ramping up and how long they might use him once he does get a start. 

If 30 was the limit two weeks ago, my thought would be 50 would be the ballpark figure two weeks later of where a “hard cap” might kick in (perhaps that’s a bit on the low side, but in the ballpark). Though, obviously, everything would be dependant on how his mechanics and stamina hold up as his pitch count grows as much as simply the statistical results and keeping guys off base.  The last thing you want from a guy working back from injury is to let him get tired to the point the mechanics start to falter leading to a tweak here or there creating another set-back.   

Shifting gears… how crazy is it that Luke Heimlich has allowed 4 or fewer hits in 8 of 11 starts this season?!  Jake Thompson (“victimized” by two 5-hitters) has “only” done so in 7 of his 11 starts.  Really, when 1/3 to 1/2 of the conference teams struggle to find a reasonably serviceable guy to pitch the 3rd game of a weekend, it is sort of rude to roll out a guy like Thompson that would be a #1 on 90% of the staffs in the country.  Shades of 2005 when the Beavs opened with Buck, wanted to go lefty on Saturday’s in between the right-handers and threw Maxwell (who clearly was the 3rd best option, but he got a phenomenal amount of run support on his way to an unlikely 11-1 record), and came back with Jonah Nickerson for game three. 

PAC-12 NEWS/NOTES/STATS

Pac-12 Offensive Category Team Rankings

 

Ave.

Slg %

OB %

Runs

2B

3B

HR

BB

K*

OSU

3

5

3

T-6

5

T-3

11

T-5

1

Cal

4

2

5

4

4

8

1

8

8

*1st = fewest/best 

 

 

Pac-12 Pitching/Defense Category Team Rankings

 

ERA

Ave.

K

BB*

WP*

HBP*

HR*

Fld.

SB*

OSU

1

1

4

2

3

2

2

4

3

Cal

8

9

11

10

10

9

T-9

9

8

*1st = fewest/best 

UCLA got a complete game shut-out from Griffin Canning to open their series Thursday at USC.  The Bruins need to keep winning as their 11-8 mark in conference is solid, but at 22-20 over-all their total wins is their bigger worry.  

Utah (who really let me down last week dropping 2 of 3 at home to previously really pitiful Wazzu) has the non-conference series this week, and rebounded a bit taking game 1 Thursday against UC-Riverside.  At 20-19 (9-12) the Utes’ margin for error is getting slim but I still like their chances to get in the tournament.

Stanford has won 9 in a row and has swept their last two conference series – they’re making a legit run to host a regional in Mark Marquess’ final season.  They’re at ASU this weekend, and should be able to pick up at least two there.

Arizona has been swept its last two conference series (Utah and Stanford) and with UW coming to town, they can ill afford to fall any further below .500 in conference play (9-12 entering the weekend).  Even with their RPI still in the top-15 and a solid 28-15 record, a sub-.500 conference record stands out as a big wart on a post-season resume’. I mentioned last week the ‘Cats once-potent offense only managed 10  runs the week before against Utah… last week it was a mere 6 against Stanford.  Bad trend, but UW has been pretty bad on the road so I think UA wins this series.

And, of course, everyone’s second favorite team this weekend is Wazzu, as they host the Ducks.  The ‘Cougs were looking rather pathetic a few weeks ago and looked like maybe they’d packed it in for the year, but they’ve managed solid 2-1 series wins over Utah and UW the last two weekends.  Go ‘Cougs! 

PARTING SHOTS AND PREDICTIONS

This one feels a lot like last weekend, in that OSU has a massive advantage in pitching.  But, the Beavs (until the wheels finally came of the cart for USC in the 8th Sunday) did little last weekend to show they are in a place where they can get after poor to average pitching and build a comfortable lead.  And, Cal poses much more of an offensive threat that the Trojans. 

But, while the Pac-12 ended last weekend with 5 of the top 34 fielding teams in the country (OSU at 34, but the updated Pac-12 stats moved them ahead of Stanford after the Cardinal had an error Tuesday) and the edge in fielding has been really too close to call the last several weeks…this week they face a team that really does not field well. 

Big edge in pitching and defense, and that should spell success even against a team with superior power offensively – particularly at home.

Once again I’m going with what I now think of as a “choose your own adventure” style prediction:

A)    JP picks an OSU series sweep because you figure he has jinxed OSU if he doesn’t show total confidence.

B)    JP picks a 2-1 OSU win because you figure he’s jinxed OSU if he’s too confident and breaks from his pattern of a lot of 2-1 predictions early in the year that actually were sweeps.   

Whichever branch you take, you still end up with me saying we definitely win this series. 

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

CAL

Wins and Losses

Overall Record

35 – 4

21 – 21

Pac-12 Record

18 – 3

12 – 9

Home

16 – 1

16 – 6

Away/Neutral Site

12 – 2

5 – 15

Last 5 Games

4 – 1

2 – 3

Last 10 Games

7 – 3

6 – 4

Streak

Won 2

Won 1

Offensive Stats (Pac-12 games in parenthesis)

Runs/Game

5.33  (5.29)

5.17  (6.10)

Batting Ave.

.287  (.293)

.287  (.299)

OB %

.370  (.370)

.368  (.392)

SLG %

.392  (.397)

.422  (.446)

HR Per Game

0.36  (0.33)

0.81  (0.86)

Stolen Bases

39 – 48  (16 – 21)

47 – 67  (24 – 34)

Pitching Stats (Pac-12 games in parenthesis)

Team ERA

1.89  (2.30)

5.03  (5.51)

Opponent Bat. Ave.

.190  (.198)

.273  (.276)

Team WHIP

0.97  (1.06) 

1.59  (1.61)

K per 9 Innings

8.25  (7.81)

6.29  (6.14)

BB per 9 Innings

2.66  (3.26)

4.88  (4.72)

HR Allowed Per Game

0.36  (0.33)

0.74  (0.76)

Defensive Stats (Pac-12 games in parenthesis)

Fielding %

.977  (.981)

.969  (.961)

Stolen Bases Allowed

13 – 17  (7 – 9)

34 – 50  (18 – 26)

Rankings

RPI*

1

75

SOS*

34

35

ISR*

1

61

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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