At the start of the 2016 season, the State College Spikes relied on starters like Dailyn Martinez to power the team through its games. However Martinez was promoted in week four and left most of the work to right-hander Ronnie Williams and left-hander John Kilichowski, two huge contributors to the Spikes staff.
But when Williams and Kilichowski were both promoted to the Peoria Chiefs in week eight, manager Johnny Rodriguez needed a starter to step up. Steven Farinaro took advantage of the opportunity.
Although Farinaro had been with the Spikes from the beginning of the season, he started off in the background, often overshadowed by Williams and Martinez. But following the promotions, the 21-year-old took control on the mound. He was able to replace Williams’ commanding presence and eventually help lead his team to the championship trophy.
The right-hander led the Spikes and the NYPL in wins and finished the best in the league with his 9-1 record. In doing so, Farinaro set the new Spikes’ single-season wins record and helped the team to its own record-breaking total of 50 (in 76 games) and home field advantage in the playoffs.
The California native finished his 2016 very strongly on a big stage by allowing just two hits and two walks over six scoreless innings in the Spikes’ 3-0 Game 1 win over Hudson Valley in the NYPL finals. Including his last four starts of the regular season, Farinaro did not allow an earned run over his final 31 innings on the mound.
As a league-leading pitcher with several awards and record-breaking moments, Steven Farinaro is our choice as The Cardinal Nation’s State College Starting Pitcher of the Year for 2016.
How He Got Here
Farinaro was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2013. The 11th round pick was selected straight out of high school, hailing from Head-Royce School in Oakland, California. He joined the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in 2013 and moved up to State College in 2014. Farinaro jumped back and forth between Johnson City and the GCL Cardinals during the second half of 2014 and 2015 and was shifted to the bullpen. For 2016, he returned to the Spikes, once again in a starting role. Prior to this season, Farinaro posted an 8-9 record and 19 saves in 37 appearances over 103 1/3 professional innings.
Farinaro by the Numbers
In his 2016 season with the Spikes, Farinaro went 9-1 with a 3.46 ERA over 14 starts. The 6-foot, 170-pounder produced 83 1/3 innings of work, the most of any State College pitcher this year. Farinaro yielded 100 hits and 38 runs, and gave up no home runs. He walked 18, hit two batters and struck out 53, posting a 1.42 WHIP. The right-hander was slightly less effective against left-handed batters (.319) than right-handers (.288).
Why Farinaro Stands Out
Farinaro stands out not just in State College, but in the New York-Penn League. In August, he was named the NYPL Pitcher of the Week for his spectacular performance on the 17th, throwing seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts, a personal single-game record.
“It was a surprise to me, but it was great news. I’ve never had that honor before in my career,” Farinaro said after hearing news of his award. “Once I knew that, I put it in the back of my mind and just tried to focus on getting our team another win.”
Farinaro also was presented State College’s Pitcher of the Year honor in the home season finale on September 4.
Farinaro had a fast-moving, commanding presence on the mound, and said he kept a “one pitch at a time” mentality throughout the season.
Manager Johnny Rodriguez said that he also led by example in the locker room, stating that he is “an outstanding player and person” and that he “works very hard to do the best that he can for his team, always pushing himself to be a little better each and every day.”
Other Starters Considered
With a pitching staff full of relievers and slightly lacking starters, there were very few for the Spikes that compared to Farinaro and his commanding presence on the mound.
Carson Cross was in relatively close competition with Farinaro, remaining a steady option for the staff throughout the entire regular season. In his second season in the Spikes’ rotation, Cross made 14 starts just like Farinaro, but posted a worse record (5-6), though also having a lower ERA (3.24). Throwing 80 2/3 innings this season, Cross did a considerable amount of work for the Spikes, but got in trouble at times when teams took advantage of his inconsistencies (27 walks). The right-hander gave up 80 hits, four of which were home runs, and 39 runs, 29 earned. Cross struck out 53, the same as Farinaro, and hit four batters. The 24-year-old was a solid second option for the Spikes throughout the season.
Bryan Dobzanski posted a 4-6 record in 13 starting appearances, finishing the season with a 3.93 ERA over 71 innings of work. He gave up 81 hits, including three home runs, and 36 runs, 31 earned. However the 6-foot-4 right-hander was similar to Cross, often struggling to keep his ball placement consistent, with 26 walks and six batters hit by pitches. Dobzanski struck out just 37 batters.
Although Ronnie Williams only remained in State College for seven starts, his impressive 4-2 record and 2.72 ERA was promising for the parent Cardinals. It was no wonder that he was quickly promoted to Peoria after tallying 33 strikeouts over 46 1/3 innings. Williams walked seven and gave up 37 hits, in addition to yielding 17 runs, 14 earned. He did however hit five batters and yield one home run in his time here. If Williams had not been promoted in week eight, he would have been in close competition with (if not beating) Farinaro in the race for Starter of the Year.
Link to master article with all 2016 award winners, team recaps and article schedules for the remainder of this series. Of course, that will include our selection as the State College Spikes Player of the Year.
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