Cal Preview

Despite the fact that they have played just four home games in the last two months, the Stanford Cardinal enter their third Pac-10 series with a gaudy 26-5 overall record and half game lead in the Pac-10 conference. While the Cardinal look to continue their season-long surge, David Esquer's Cal Bears will try and keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive against their century-old rival. We've got a full preview of the second Stanford-Cal series of 2004.

California Golden Bears (20-20, 6-6 Pac-10) vs. Stanford Cardinal (26-5, 4-2 Pac-10)

**All Games at Stanford Sunken Diamond

Probable Starters and Times:

Friday: RHP Adam Gold (6-3, 3.28 ERA) vs. LHP Mark Romanczuk (6-1, 4.04 ERA), 6 PM.

Saturday: RHP Mike Padgett (3-4, 4.53) vs. TBA, 1 PM.

Sunday: TBA vs. TBA, 1 PM.

It may be debatable whether there is a Bay Area spring baseball series more enjoyable to watch that the biannual Stanford-California romp. For Stanford Cardinal Baseball fans, the fact that their team is 26-5 and the consensus #2 team in the country (with a series win over #1 Texas) adds to the excitement. While the Cardinal enter the series looking to gain some separation in the Pac-10 race and build momentum for their yearly postseason run, the Cal Bears arrive at Sunken Diamond needing a big series win to keep afloat with a record over .500.

In early March, the Cardinal swept a non-conference series between the teams in Berkeley, much to the chagrin of Cal Head Coach David Esquer. In five years facing his alma mater, Esquer, who played on the 1987 Stanford team that won the title, has only defeated the Cardinal in one series as the Head Coach of Cal, back in 2001. The Bears have played inconsistent baseball the entire season, but a series win at Stanford might give them the boost they need to finish the season strong and make the 2004 NCAA Tournament.  

To do it, Cal is going to have to keep the ball in the park. Stanford has already hit 49 homers through 31 games, including 10 from Jed Lowrie and 9 from John Mayberry, Jr. Offense has led the way for Stanford, but the pitching staff has more question marks at this point in the season than any in recent memory. However, Mark Marquess has more viable arms than any time in recent memory as well. Look for most of them to be in action this weekend against the Bears.

Things to Watch:

1.    The Rivalry. Stanford has won 17 of the last 18 series dating back to 1995. You have to think that is motivation enough for both teams.
2.    Stanford's "1997" Lineup. Remember in 1997 when the Cardinal hit a school record 102 HR? This team has enough firepower to challenge it. In the warming months of April and May at Sunken Diamond, 5 HR in a day game isn't unreasonable.
3.    Cal on the road. The Bears haven't played all that well at cozy Evans Diamond, sporting just an 11-11 mark. While their record on the road isn't any better (9-9), Cal has won its last two series at two of the more talented schools in the conference in USC and Arizona St.


Who's Hot?

1.    Jed Lowrie, Stanford 2B. Call it a season-long hot streak- hit HR #10 on Tuesday.
2.    Brian Hall, Stanford RF. Does a 16-game hitting streak qualify? To be completely fair, you could substitute most names in the Stanford starting lineup in this spot and it would be accurate.
3.    David Nicholson, Cal 2B. Hitting .399 through 40 games qualifies him.
4.    David Weiner, Cal CF. The redshirt senior leads Cal with 15 RBI in 12 conference games.
5.    Jesse Ingram, Cal RHP. Ingram has settled nicely into the closer role and leads the conference with 7 saves, striking out almost a batter an inning.
6.    David O'Hagan, Stanford RHP. Stanford's closer isn't too shabby either, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.60 ERA to boot.


Stanford Cardinal  

By the Numbers:

*    Stanford's starting lineup has 7 players with an on-base percentage over .390.
*    The Cardinal have won by 3 or more runs in 22 of their 26 victories.
*    Sam Fuld is hitting just .279 but has an OBP of .395.
*    Freshman Jeff Stimpson has the lowest ERA on the club, giving up only 1 earned run in 16 innings for an ERA of 0.54.
*    The Cardinal have lost a grand total of one game at home this year, and that was in February to #1 Texas.
*    26-5. The only number that matters.

Here is all your need to know about the Stanford Cardinal. Danny Putnam is putting up numbers that over the course of the full season would close to equal his 2003 numbers, which were amazing. Putnam hit .348 with 16 HR and 66 RBI last year. He has maybe the fourth best hitting numbers on the team in 2004. This team hits the ball as well or better than any of the last five teams at Stanford that have gone to the College World Series. The number seven hitter has a 16 game hitting streak (Hall). Jed Lowrie and John Mayberry, Jr. were both named to Baseball American's Mid Season All-America Team. They might be two of the five best sophomore hitters in the country. (NOTE: Mayberry was hit on the hand by a pitch on Tuesday and was taken out of the game as a precaution, but hopefully he will be fine this weekend.) What if Sam Fuld finds his form soon too?

But guess what? Pitching and defense isn't bad either. The biggest weakness on this team has been the perceived lack of starting pitching. Granted, as Joe Ritzo has said before, there isn't a Jeremy Guthrie, a Jason Young, a Kyle Peterson, or a John Hudgins on this team. Mark Romanczuk, however, has been very good outside of a few starts. Just two weeks ago he struck out 10 UCLA hitters. Jeff Gilmore has a 5-1 record after playing in only two games in 2003 while Blake Holler, despite failing to get out of the fifth inning in his last two starts, has done a good job as a freshman in the third starter position. But the element that this pitching staff has that the last three or four years' teams have not had is a truly deep bullpen. David O'Hagan has exceeded high preseason expectations as the closer. Matt Manship has come on recently to the point where he may start Sunday's game. Jeff Stimpson has the lowest ERA on the team and has been a stopper on the few occasions where O'Hagan wasn't available. Greg Reynolds, who didn't play in his first game until March, has looked like he could be a valuable member as the regular season proceeds. Even Mark Jecmen, who has struggled throughout his three years at Stanford, has put a few nice outings together, including 2 scoreless innings against Santa Clara on Tuesday. Plus, the .972 fielding percentage for the Cardinal helps out the staff immensely.

So, how could this team go wrong? Well, think about the last three years. Each year the Cardinal has had a bit of an April-May swoon in which a hot team cooled quickly. Stanford needs to be careful not to fall into a lull or get complacent, as there is a long way to go in the 2004 season.

Stanford Starting Lineup

CF Sam Fuld   .279, 1 HR, 18 RBI, .395 OBP

3B Jonny Ash   .383, 4 HR, 25 RBI, .445 OBP

2B Jed Lowrie  .388, 10 HR, 43 RBI, .497 OBP

LF Danny Putnam  .336, 8 HR, 29 RBI, .411 OBP

1B John Mayberry, Jr. .369, 9 HR, 38 RBI, .438 OBP

Donny Lucy  .327, 5 HR, 25 RBI, .397 OBP

RF Brian Hall  .347, 7 HR, 31 RBI, .416 OBP

DH Chris Carter  .218, 4 HR, 18 RBI, .353 OBP

SS Chris Minaker  .262, 1 HR, 13 RBI, .299 OBP

Sam Fuld continues to be an excellent leadoff hitter despite the subpar average, as he's scored 38 runs through 31 games and is posting an on-base percentage of .388…We knew Jonny Ash was good, but a BA of .383 good?...Right now Jed Lowrie is the best 2B in the country…Don't forget about Danny Putnam. He has almost gotten lost in the shuffle with others having huge seasons. He is quietly having a great season too…Many people questioned John Mayberry, Jr.'s decision to turn down first round money from the Seattle Mariners to come to Stanford, but at this pace he might be right back in that round in 2005…Donny Lucy is one of the more unsung heroes offensively, posting career highs in HR and RBI…The streakiest hitter on the team, Brian Hall, continues to add to the reputation by putting together a long hit streak. He was Pac-10 Player of the Week last week…Chris Carter has played himself into the lineup lately. How do you keep that raw power out?…Chris Minaker seems to have a hold on the starting SS position now. Over the last few years, its been proven that Mark Marquess is much more concerned about his SS making the routine plays and being solid in the field than hitting a ton.

Pitching Notes:

Mark Romanczuk has gotten off to a solid start. He might not be flashy on the mound, but his offspeed is much improved over 2003 and his control is much better. He has given Stanford consistent starts as the ace, except last week…While its still officially listed as TBA, don't be surprised to see Jeff Gilmore move back into the #2 spot and Matt Manship into the #3 position after his scoreless 4.1 IP of relief at OSU. Much like last year, hitters aren't doing much against him, as he sports a .214 opponents batting average…Blake Holler is definitely still in the mix, but his last two starts he has failed to escape the 5th inning. That might be enough to send him back to the pen…Jeff Stimpson has been terrific lately; good enough to garner Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week honors last week for his effort at Oregon State.

California Golden Bears

By the Numbers:

*    Team batting average of .296, ERA of 4.39, .960 fielding percentage
*    Exactly .500: 20-20 overall, 11-11 at home, 9-9 on the road, 6-6 Pac-10.
*    4 Pac-10 series: 2 wins on the road (ASU, USC) and two losses at home (OSU, Washington)
*    39th in the ISR (Boyd's World), 7th best Strength of Schedule, RPI of 59.
*    20-20 overall.


The Cal Bears are a mystery of sorts. There is not a much better way to put it. On paper, not much stands out. Average hitting team, average pitching, average defense. They don't hit a lot of HR, they don't steal a lot of bases. The one thing they have done since playing Stanford in March is surprise teams on the road. Cal went to Arizona St., a team that was in the Top 10, and frankly beat up the Sun Devils, winning the first two games. However, they returned home and got beat up by Oregon St., and lost a series to Washington. Last weekend, they regrouped and took 2 of 3 in Los Angeles from the Trojans. A very tough team to figure out.

Historically in the David Esquer era, the Bears have not fared well against the Cardinal, but they have managed to take a game from Stanford at Sunken Diamond three of the last four years. This year, the Bears hope to learn from the three non-conference games that they dropped to Stanford just over a month ago. In that series, the Bears kept it close in Game 1, but quietly went down in the next two games, scoring just five runs in the process

Friday starter Adam Gold has come down a bit from early in the season when his ERA was under 2, but he still is one of the better right handers in the conference. The junior has a 6-3 record with an ERA in the low 3s, and will be perhaps the toughest test for the Cardinal. If its close in the late innings, Cal's Jesse Ingram will be called on out of the bullpen. The Junior righthander has a Pac-10 high 7 saves this year, following up on his 2003 career high 8 saves. The back of the rotation has question marks, as Mike Padgett gets the Saturday start but the Sunday starter is listed as TBA. Possible pitchers include Kyle Crist, Matt Brown, or Brent Hale, all right handers.

Offensively, its going to be a David vs. Goliath matchup in this series, with David Nicholson and David Weiner leading the way. Weiner has come on and been the Bears leading power hitter in Pac-10 play, hitting 3 HR and knocking in 15. Nicholson has been the table setter all year long with his very consistent plate performance. Allen Craig has been critical getting on base ahead of the David's with his .435 OBP.

California Starting Lineup:

1B Allen Craig   .319, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .435 OBP

2B David Nicholson .399, 1 HR, 18 RBI, .455 OBP

CF David Weiner  .343, 7 HR, 33 RBI, .384 OBP

C Chris Grossman .311, 1 HR, 21 RBI, .406 OBP

LF Justin Nelson  .299, 7 HR, 32 RBI, .403 OBP

RF Brian Horwitz  .252, 4 HR, 21 RBI, .372 OBP

DH James Holder  .305, 5 HR, 18 RBI, .377 OBP

SS Jeff Dragicevich .267, 2 HR, 14 RBI, .342 OBP

3B Matt Einspahr  .146, 1 HR, 3 RBI, .167 OBP

Allen Craig has shifted from SS to 1B, but his offensive production is in the Top 3 on the team. He gets on base and that is why he leads off…Nicholson handles the bat well and doesn't strike out often, but his glove work sometimes leaves something to be desired…Weiner seems like he has been around forever, but this year has finally regained the form he showed in an All-Pac-10 freshman year in 2000…Grossman's power numbers are way down from last year when he hit 8 HR, and he only has 10 extra-base hits, surprising for a cleanup hitter…Nelson is a power threat and also walks a lot. He does strikeout often too, as he has struck out 20% of the time he has stepped in the box this year…Horwitz has been great in the odd years (2001, 2003) but struggled in the evens (2002, 2004). Emblematic of Cal's season to some extent…Holder is a guy who has just 5 HR, but has some pop for a hitter at the bottom of the order…Dragicevich has been moved around in the IF like his brother was at Stanford, but hasn't produced as much offensively as he would like…Einspahr has started in just nine games but most have been recently.

Pitching Notes:

Adam Gold is better than he showed the last time against Stanford (6.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 2 ER) but was victimized by some bad defense. Great strikeout numbers, over 1 an inning….Mike Padgett was starting on Friday nights at the beginning of the year but has been pretty mediocre despite winning two Pac-10 games…Jesse Ingram is by far and away the best pitcher in the bullpen. He has been awesome this year: 2.31 ERA.

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