Grading Beaver Baseball: The Relievers

Zack Reser was one of the primary relievers during the year. - Andy Wooldridge

Continuing a look back at the 2014 baseball season, the relievers are the next group to grade. A number of other players threw this year, but this list is focused on the pitchers that threw more meaningful innings.

Jake Thompson

Thompson started the year as the 4th starter in the rotation, and performed well. He started by throwing 7 shut-out innings against Pacific, gave up 1 run in 6.2 innings against Washington, but in his next appearance he struggled, giving up two runs to Wright State. He bounced back well in a matchup with University of Portland, but in his next start against Ohio State he got chased early and would not see another start until the Beavers played Portland again. Those starts were separated by three weeks and that start would only go for three innings before he got the hook. He did get some more relief appearances, but he did not seem to exhibit the same control that he had shown early in the season.

In the Corvallis Regional coach Casey called Thompson's number for the final game of the season and the freshman brought his best stuff. By some accounts he was throwing mid-90s and it was shown with his fastball beating the UC Irvine hitters. He would succumb to some wildness though and his season ended with a loss.

Thompson played exceedingly well for a freshman, and there was not much starting time to be had with the pitching crew in front of him. Even in the season-closing loss he pitched well, until the aforementioned wild inning. It was a good year for a freshman, and sets him up nicely next season to battle for a starting spot.

Grade: B

Zack Reser

Reser came in and was the best reliever for the first two-thirds of the year. When coach Casey was looking to bring someone on before it was time for Schultz to close, Reser was often one of the first men to step to the mound. He gave up no earned runs in conference play, which consisted of 8 appearances with 8.1 innings pitched. He first gave up an earned run at Sacramento State, one at Oregon, and then 3 in the dismal first loss to the Anteaters.

Despite putting up pretty good stats, he did start to fade at the end of the year, struggling to throw strikes, making some appearances where all he did was walk a player and then head back to the dugout. His K% for the year was 13.1% and his BB% was 6.54%. For reference, Scott Schultz's percentages are 15.5% (K%) and 5.81% (BB%). He is a couple percentage points away, and that does not properly show his slump at the end of the season.

After two years of minimal success, Reser did finally break through. There have some been brief discussions about moving Reser to the starting rotation, but for a guy who had trouble locating at times, he might be better off staying in the bullpen. It was a solid year and a massive improvement for the former Westview HS pitcher, and he deserves a solid grade.

Grade: B

Max Engelbrekt

If Zack Reser was the reliever for the opening of the year, Max Engelbrekt was the reliever for the closing games of the year. He started off slow, getting beat up in the early goings of the season, most notably in a loss to Michigan State. After his early struggles he rode the pine until the coaching staff felt that there was a low pressure opportunity to get him some time. He was asked if his back injury from the previous season was not yet fully healed, but he insisted that it was never an issue and that he had just been pitching poorly.

In an appearance against the University of Oregon Engelbrekt finally made an appearance and struggled with the first batter, but eventually defeated him. This seemed to give him more confidence. He gave up a run in the game, but it was unearned and he seemed to settle into the game. At this point he returned to a form similar to the 2013 campaign. He may have even deserved more time, especially in the short post-season run, as by the end of the year he was one of the better relievers that Oregon State could offer.

Once he turned that corner he was a productive player for the Beavers, but unfortunately his early season woes lowered his rating.

Grade: C+

Brandon Jackson

Jackson was the second righty reliever out of the pen, after Scott Schultz who was sometimes called into starting, and then Jackson would generally be the first to enter. He kept that position until the end of the year when he was called into the final regional game against UC Irvine to try and get the Beavs out of a jam. He hit the batter to score a run, but it still demonstrated Casey's trust in him. Generally when he entered the game Beaver Nation could feel safe that he would help protect the lead, and I personally tended to believe in him.

Jackson also had some of the better strikeout stuff in the bullpen with his sidearm slot. Some of his off-speed stuff would really break and some of them were so sharp that they still stick in my memory.

Strikeout at 1:58

With a K% of 16.3% on the year Jackson was getting opponents to swing and miss, but he did have an ERA of 3.97, as he gave up 5 earned runs in only 11.1 innings pitched. It was a decent year for the senior from Roseburg, and his most obvious mistake was (unfortunately) in the regional game. Overall he did end up meeting expectations though, and even slightly exceeding them.

Grade: B+

Trent Shelton

I had not originally planned to add Shelton onto the list, but after looking at other stats Shelton actually had the second most innings pitched out of the non-Scott Schultz relievers overall, and had the 3rd highest amount of at bats in conference play. He did not do anything that really stands out, which is good for a reliever, but at the same time he did not have a huge impact on games.

For Shelton, the the most telling stat is that he had an overall season ERA of 4.72 which was 4th among the freshman (Kevin Flemer, Mak Fox, and Jake Thompson were ahead of him in that order). His conference ERA was a whopping 12.27 although he was the only freshman pitcher besides Thompson to get much timeon the mound against Pac-12 opponents.

Casey did have trust in the freshman though, as he was the first reliever in the final game against UC Irvine and Shelton responded by striking out the batter. It was a solid campaign in his first season in collegiate play, but he did not leave much of an impact positively or negatively on the season to merit anything other than a passing grade.

Grade: C

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