A weblog covering the San Diego Padres.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

As I was saying, USC

So yeah, I went to this baseball game this afternoon. Nothing big, just a USC vs. UCLA baseball game. Rivalry time. It was also on TV, but I hurried to the stadium the moment I figured out it was a beautiful day and I should catch the game.

When I arrived, it was still scoreless, and USC freshman star Ian Kennedy was having fits and starts. Ian gave up 7 hits, mostly line singles, but he was taking all day out there. If there's one thing I really don't like about college baseball it's the game length. Pitchers especially are allowed to dilly-dally, which can get annoying when a single batter can be up for nearly ten minutes for no apparent reason.

Rant aside, Ian got out of a couple spots, and got stronger the later he got into the game. After a conference in the sixth, with two outs, I heard Coach Mike Gillespie yell to the bullpen "two more batters". Two batters later, after seven and a third innings, Ian was done. Either he has a pitch count or batter count or I don't know, but he was really hitting stride when pulled.

Luckily, with the game still close (USC was leading 1-0), Gilly brought in little-used Michael Friedman, who promptly retired five of the next six batters to notch his second save in as many days. Considering the junk coming out of the bullpen at times this year, I was shocked to find Michael's pitched just 10 innings so far. The three times I've seen him pitch this year he's been just short of amazing. He's got some fun movement on his pitches, he works quick, and doesn't get into walk counts.

Friedman's line so far:

O.00 ERA
1-0, 2 Saves
10.2 IP
2 H
1 BB
10 SO
.057 OPP BA

Granted, this is a very small sample size, but I was excited about him 3 outings ago before I ever looked up his numbers.

Now, back to the game. It was a very close game, with both pitchers scattering several hits, and surviving team errors. The Trojans got their first run in the sixth when master of singles Daniel Perales drove petcopadres superstar Joey Metropoulos home with, what else, a single.

In the eight inning, the Trojans closed the game out with a 4-run flurry jumpstarted by a Jeff Clement monster homerun over the scoreboard in right center. After some basehits and errors, the Trojans played smallball, sacrificing two runs home. And then added another run just for kicks.

It was a surprising end to what had been a pitcher's duel. UCLA simply did not have the ammo to play that way for more than seven innings. Usually it's the other way around, as USC has been bopped in the head in the first and ninth innings this year.

Kennedy is now 4-0 on the year.

I think this USC team is interesting for various reasons. Off the top of my head I've been surprised to see such a consistent roster from day to day. Six of the regular nine hitters have started every game this year. There would be seven if Jeff Clement hadn't gotten mono before the year.

Also, the team is fairly young, and the byproduct of what I think was a purge of sorts. I'm intrigued to see Baron Frost, a very good catcher, playing leftfield and third base this year. And freshman Daniel Perales starting from day one in centerfield. Blake Sharpe has given USC a solid bat at short, if you can ignore his 10 errors (typical USC shortstop). Did I mention Michael Moon is at second base? He used to be at third, and subbed at short from time to time.

I'm still having trouble with Jon Brewster as a DH, as he isn't much of a hitter. I think Gilly keeps trying to have Billy Hart, the former Trojan backup QB, overtake Brewster, but he just hasn't been able to get the job done.

What I've enjoyed most lately is the growth of Cyle Hankerd. At one point the kid was striking out every other at bat, but he's been hitting everything in sight the last 4 games, and drawn walks to boot. His strikeout rate (18 in 48 ABs) is still very high, but it was worse, and he is a freshman.

Jeff Clement has two homers in the last two games, but his numbers are still way down (.259/.354/.494). If his last few games become a pattern, then he's back to form and there's nothing to discuss.

The pitching staff is another story. Aside from the fabulous Kennedy, things are still a work in progress. I'm actually a bit more high on Josh Rummonds and his 6.54 ERA than Bobby Paschal and his 4.23 ERA. He's (Rummonds) a bit of a victim of bad luck, as he's walked just 11 batters in his 31 IP, whereas Paschal's walked 16 in his 27 IP. Bobby actually had a good outing against Stanford recently, but then he started putting guys on base and his day was effectively over.

The real problem for USC is when it goes to the bullpen. Here are some of the ERAs, names hidden to protect identity:



The good thing is some guys have started to separate themselves from the pack. Namely Friedman, and Clayton Wentworth. Clayton's improved dramatically from his previous two seasons. He's walked just 13 in his 28 innings, and has managed to fan more than one batter an inning (30K/28.1 IP).

The jury's still out on Cole Ganser, who has a 3.38 ERA, who has walked an amazing 9 batters in his 10.2 IP, while allowing 6 hits. I don't know what's happened to Jon Williams, but he went from last year's steady reliever in a shaky pen (headed by born-again Wentworth) to shaky reliever (6.95 ERA).

Other notable stats and observations:

Baron Frosh has 14 doubles out of his 31 hits. Doubles machine!

Former whiff artist Michael Moon has 15 BB to his 10 K.

USC has a 12-13 record.

Lastly, Ian Kennedy's line:

1.88 ERA
4-0, 1 Save
43.0 IP
33 H
62 K/15 BB
7 2B
2 HR
.210 OPP BA

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