The Cardinal's season-high eight-game winning streak ended on Monday at Santa Clara, but they've swept their last two Pac-10 series, including a three-game sweep of Cal last weekend. Over that span, Stanford has a +27 run differential, as the team is scoring 8.56 runs per game and allowing 5.56 per game. Tyler Gaffney, Colin Walsh, Stephen Piscotty, and Jonathan Kaskow have been at the top of the lineup, in that order, for the last eight games, and for good reason: they have all been producing. Kaskow, the team's best hitter, is batting .469/.559/.630 with one home run and 18 walks to 15 strikeouts. He's having a spectacular junior season and leads the Pac-10 in batting average by more than 20 points.
The trio of Brett Mooneyham, Jordan Pries, and Brian Busick have formed the starting rotation over the last three weekends and have done a solid job, averaging close to six innings per start. Junior right-hander Danny Sandbrink, who has struggled this year with a 5.56 ERA in 10 appearances, had an encouraging performance on Monday at Santa Clara. The righty went five innings and gave up two earned runs on three hits on 79 pitches. It was arguably his best performance of the season. I was incorrect in saying that, after beginning of the season struggles, Sandbrink would bounce back quickly and be involved in the Stanford pitching staff, but maybe he's finally made some sort of adjustment that'll allow him to be more successful.
The Huskies have lost six of eight, including four of six to Cal and Arizona State. They trail Stanford in most offensive and defensive categories, including average (.299 to .282) and ERA (5.23 to 5.83), though the teams' ERAs are last in the conference. Nobody especially stands out in the Washington lineup, but second baseman Doug Cherry is batting .371/.432/.468 with two homers, while designated hitter Chase Anselment is batting .347/.424/.507 with 10 doubles.
Their four main starting pitchers, ace Andrew Kittredge, Forrest Snow, Geoff Brown, and Ben Guidos, have all given up significantly more hits than innings pitched, though Kittredge does have 67 strikeouts in 64.1 innings pitched. Of these four pitchers, none have a fielding-independent pitching, which I'll explain later, of under 4.53. As a whole, the Washington pitching staff has given up 55 home runs in 40 games, worst in the Pac-10. In fact, the next worst team, Stanford, has given up only 27 home runs.
Fielding Independent Pitching
Defense-independent pitching statistics (DIPS) measure a pitcher's efficacy based on plays that do not involve fielders. These plays are under only the pitcher's control because fielders have no effect on the outcome.
Fielding-independent pitching (FIP) takes into account only the things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible – strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed. The main reason why FIP is more reliable in evaluating pitchers than traditional statistics, such as earned-run average (ERA), is that traditional statistics measure what happens at the surface level – runs batted in and wins as two examples. New-school stats measure each player's contribution to those surface-level stats, while removing the contributions of their teammates and the random fluctuations of chance.
Collegesplits.com keeps track of many college players' statistics, including FIP. Here is a table of several Stanford pitchers' FIPs so far this year (does not include Monday's game at Santa Clara):
Brett Mooneyham's ERA is more than two runs higher than his FIP, suggesting that he's pitched better than what the results have indicated. He's striking out more than one batter per inning but also walking about one per inning. He's constantly pitching with runners on-base, but allowing less than one hit per inning. So, if he can lower his walk rate, he'll have much more success.
Jordan Pries' ERA is lower than his FIP, suggesting that he's been a bit lucky so far this year. Both his strikeout and walk rates aren't spectacular as he pitches to contact, but batters have a .268 Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). Normally, batters are above the .300 mark in that category, since it is a difficult statistic to maintain at an extremely high or low level. Still, Pries has been Stanford's most consistent pitcher, as he's started every weekend for the Cardinal and usually goes deep into games.
Another FIP that stands out is that of Scott Snodgress. The lefty's ERA is more than three runs above his FIP, while batters have a .354 BABIP against him. Similar to Mooneyham, he's averaging more than a strikeout per inning, but a little less than a walk per inning. If he limits his walks, combined with the likelihood that his BABIP will take a hit, he will also be more effective.
Keys to the Series
Stanford is 8-1 in one-run contests this season. It is quite unusual for a team to sustain this type of success in close games over a long period. The Cardinal, who have been a statistically superior team, especially as of late, should take advantage of any opportunity to build leads and avoid keeping the Huskies in the game where they might have a chance to win late.
Will the Stanford offense, which is not known for its power with 22 home runs overall, be able to score via the homer in this series, especially considering that the Washington pitching gives up a lot of long balls?
The Huskies are scoring 5.63 runs per game, but will likely have to score more to have a chance in this series. They certainly have an opportunity to do so, considering that while Stanford's pitching can be good, it is by no means dominant and is prone to the bad start every so often.
Friday at 6:00 p.m.
LHP Brett Mooneyham (1-4, 5.83 ERA) vs. RHP Geoff Brown (1-3, 5.04 ERA)
Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Safeco Field
RHP Jordan Pries (3-1, 3.39 ERA) vs. RHP Andrew Kittredge (5-3, 5.97 ERA)
Sunday at 12:00 p.m.
RHP Brian Busick (4-1, 3.89 ERA) vs. LHP Ben Guidos (1-4, 6.56 ERA)
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