Another regular season in the books and yet another OSU baseball team moving into the postseason!
At a personal level I found this season a strange one in many ways. For a good amount of the season I was thinking while this team has a ton of solid to really good talent they needed more time to mature. I wasn't sure it would happen this season. As such I felt that the team underachieved in many ways and did not expect a lot towards the end. The way the season ended though (yes even with a couple rough single game losses to Utah and WSU), and now looking back I don't feel I gave the team enough credit. The team equaled last season's record totals and ended on a very high note.
I know all season I have been concerned, and complained about the pitching performance and still stand by this. This team's weak link has been the pitching depth. I do realize the LOB and small ball was not stellar by any means, but do think the offense tapped into a more aggressive line up pretty well, especially later in the season. But the pitching rotation just plain struggled and lost some important games such as the first Stanford game, the second WSU game, and the second Utah game. Whereas the offense actually came through and won some important games such as the Oklahoma game, the first Utah game, and both the WSU wins.
That all said I believe there is potential for this team to make some noise in the postseason. I don't know if they have the full team chemistry and leadership to go deep into the postseason, but do feel with the way the team ended the season with winning 4 out 5 rubber games and sweeping Oregon that the team showed more resolve than I honestly thought they had it in them to show.
As the stats go (see the bottom of this post for a detailed listing of stats) I think the numbers actually do very much tell the story. Overall the offensive and defensive numbers were up this year (and nicely up within the national rankings), but the pitching numbers were not as good. This just reflects the fact that for the most part, especially at the end of the season the offense was fairly solid (not lights out great but solid), and the pitching was the weaker part of play. For example this season's ERA was 3.51 versus last season's average of 2.93 and this was a drop in 40 spots in the national ranking, and 369 Ks per nine innings versus last season's 405 and this was a drop of 64 spots, all of which is not the standard for Oregon State baseball.
And to break down the season I have again gone back to the "keys" I outlined in my preseason preview.
Pitching: At the mid-point of the season Pat Casey summed up the pitching "hasn’t been anywhere near where it needs to be.’’ (Oregon Live). I would argue that it never did end up getting where it needed to be. The rotation had three REALLY solid starters in Ben Wetzler (3.39), Jace Fry (2.48), and Dan Child (2.75). While their numbers were not as good as we have seen from OSU starters in the past they formed a very good pitching staff core. Additionally I thought their pitching style and on-the-field leadership bonded well with the strong defense the team fielded.
The issue though became what happened behind these three? Well in terms of Tony Bryant (4.03) and Matt Boyd (3.71) we saw that once conference play started these important go to guys struggled. Additionally I was looking for that "wildcard star" and the "young guns" to play an important role and for the most part we saw neither happen. The younger pitchers fell out of the rotation, and this makes sense in a way since I assume they are pretty raw. At the same time it still was confusing at times to see Carlos Rodriguez and Riley Wilkerson not play a larger role than they did. Zach Reser also seemed to give us glimpses but did not come around enough to be a key player this year. I fully expect to see someone out of these three step it up next year. And then also throw in that Adam Duke battled injuries again and could not be the star we were hoping for yet.
Okay, so enough of the doom and gloom here. One thing I will say I found to be exciting is that Scott Schultz (2.92) and Taylor Starr (3.80) both stepped up their game and could be important players for a nice postseason run.
Offensive Leadership: It is interesting that at the mid-way point (before conference play) that we had Dylan Davis (.252) and Michael Conforto (.343) really the focal point to the offensive side of things (yes I am not forgetting Smith, but more about Tyler below). As I figured there did became a bump in the road because of youth, but was surprised that Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Conforto actually did not lose a beat all season and improved. Davis though did struggle and I wonder if his OSU career might be taking a Matt Boyd turn towards a focus on pitching.
Beyond Conforto we had a pretty solid core of hitters in Tyler Smith (.350) and Ryan Dunn (. 299), and it was great to see Danny Hayes (.317) get back on track. If we can find a fairly solid lead-off-getting-on-base hitter and if Dunn can step it up a notch in postseason I honestly believe we have a fairly dangerous top of the order.
Ryan Barnes (.277) and Kavin Keyes (.235) have been a bit back and forth, but it has been nice to see Keyes picking up his game a bit. If Keyes can continue his road to improvement and then add in some once in awhile power from Barnes I think the order could be even more well rounded in the postseason.
That all said I want to end this section highlighting the fact that we have a pretty exciting couple of years upcoming with the OSU RBI record holder Conforto, and on both sides of the ball too!
Replacement of Key Skill Positions: Going into the season I was a bit concerned about how this would play out on the defensive side of things. Over the course of the season there was a little tinkering with line ups here and there, but I thought it turned out to be a solid core of players on the defensive side. Ryan Dunn was exceptional and I really became impressed about how well Kavin Keyes worked himself into the first base position.
As for catcher, Ryan Gorton was involved in the defensive play of the year and also brought some nice spark to that position. I also was impressed overall by Jake Rodriguez's play behind the plate. Mostly I was just surprised by how well the rotation between Gorton and Rodriguez went at this position. I felt initially there really needed to be one specific player behind the plate but in the end they complemented each other well and worked well with different pitchers.
Next season I do wonder about how the infield will be reworked with the for sure loss of Ryan Dunn and John Tommasini and what I assume will also be the loss of Tyler Smith.
Pac-12 (11) Conference Title Chances (NOW UPGRADED to Postseason Chances!): With a strong finish the Beavs did indeed make noise within the conference, but alas there was a little too much too-little-too-late to it all. But what a solid finish to the season to end up only two games out of first within a closely fought conference this year.
Where does that leave the team for the remainder of the 2012 campaign? Personally I think they can still make some noise. The team won series against Stanford, UCLA, and Oregon and I personally think that translates to being able to play with any team out there right now. That said getting this terrible draw to Baton Rouge is not doing the team any favors. But I do believe in a small way it is a bit of a win-win in the end. For if the team moves on it is of course a great thing being a bit of an underdog, but I also think if they don't move out of the Regional (and they play well) that it can be an excellent point to build on next year. The team has some young players that should only mature more over the summer and into next year, and if they don't quite meet their expectations I think this could light a bit of a fire in their bellies for the next season.
And in the end I will be on pins and needles rooting for the team this Friday. Go Beavs!
Oregon State Baseball 2012
Home: 18-6, Away: 15-11, Neutral: 5-1, Pac-10: 18-12
-Team batting average: .283 (opponent batting average: .264), which was 108th in the nation.
-Hits: 531 (opponent hits: 489), which was T121st in the nation.
-Doubles: 107 (opponent doubles: 83)
-Triples: 9 (opponent triples: 14)
-Runs: 351 (opponent runs: 249), which was T51st in the nation.
-HRs: 34 (opponent HRs: 19)
-RBIs: 318 (opponent RBIs: 225)
-Team slugging average: .404 (opponent slugging average: .355), which is 75th in the nation
-Strikeouts: 330 (opponent strikeouts: 369)
-Base on balls: 249 (opponent base on balls: 192), which was T31st in the nation.
-Stolen bases: 39 for 57 attempts (opponent stolen bases: 27 for 63)
-LOB: 484 (opponent LOB: 418)
-OB%: .386 (opponent OB%: .348), which was 35th in the nation.
-Team ERA: 3.51 (opponent ERA: 5.35), which was 62nd in the nation.
-Strikeouts: 369 (opponent strikeouts: 330), which was 129th in the nation for strikeouts per nine innings.
-Hits allowed: 489 (opponent hits allowed: 531), which was 78th in the nation for hits allowed per nine innings.
-Doubles allowed: 83 (opponent doubles allowed: 107)
-Triples allowed: 14 (opponent triples allowed: 9)
-HRs allowed: 19 (opponent HRs allowed: 34)
-Base on balls: 192 (opponent base on balls: 249), which was 118th in the nation for walks allowed per nine innings.
-B/Avg for opponents: .264 (opponent B/Avg against OSU batters: .283)
-Pick offs: 6 (opponent pick offs: 3)
-HBP: 52 (opponent HBP: 79)
The Beavers ended the season with 53 errors and a fielding % of .977 (as compared to the opponents total of 68 errors and fielding % of .968 versus the Beavs). The OSU fielding % ended at 18th in the country (out of the D1 schools ranked). These numbers greatly improved overall from last season up from 60th in the nation to 18th is a pretty nice improvement.
Photos (from top to bottom)
Dylan Davis batting with Max Gordon on base, OSU versus Illinois, March 10, 2012
Dan Child pitching, OSU versus Illinois, March 10, 2012
Scott Schultz pitching, OSU versus Oklahoma, March 11, 2012
Michael Conforto batting, OSU versus Oklahoma, March 11, 2012
Tyler Smith fielding, OSU versus Oklahoma, March 11, 2012
Danny Hayes batting with Ryan Dunn on base, OSU versus Illinois, March 10, 2012
Tony Bryant pitching and Ryan Dunn fielding, OSU versus Oklahoma, March 11, 2012
Ryan Dunn fielding, OSU versus Oklahoma, March 11, 2012