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The Heimlich Maneuver

Pat Casey and Nate Yeskie made a tough but correct call in moving Luke Heimlich to the bullpen.

Andy Wooldridge

Coming into the year the common theme around the OSU baseball team was that it was full of underclassmen and that one would make the rotation. Luke Heimlich had the first shot as the third starter and did not have a good start to the season. The Beavers lost both of his starts and the coaching staff went looking for a spark. They found one in Drew Rasmussen who needs no extra hype at this point.

Rasmussen, he of the perfecto, has been terrific and had been all year. He led the team in strikeouts out of the bullpen early on and his stuff was electric. With him in the starting role it has expanded his impact on the game and was clearly the right move by Pat Casey. Rasmussen was proving to be the most talented pitcher on the staff and denying him more time on the mound with a struggling starting rotation would have been a mistake.

While that has made an immediate positive impact there has been another side effect that has been boosting OSU as well. That is the revitalization of Luke Heimlich as a reliever. He has been the first left-handed reliever out of the bullpen and has upped his standing considerably since then. Here are his numbers from as a starter and after:

Innings Pitched H R ER BB K AB BF HBP
Starter 9.1 12 10 9 3 5 36 43 1
Reliever 20.2 9 6 4 4 20 68 74 2

ERA WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched) K% BB% AVG AGAINST
Starter 8.90 1.65 11.6 7.0 0.333
Reliever 1.78 0.64 27.0 5.4 0.132

Not only is it a positive shift for Heimlich it is exceedingly positive. His strikeout percentage has shot up and his WHIP has dropped by a full point. Not to mention the dramatic shift in ERA, or batting average, really any metric that can be used has drastically improved. It has been obvious in games too,  for instance in his last game against Washington State he essentially acted as a 2nd starter going about as long as the starter Travis Eckert.

Part of the success might be attributed to a lower arm angle as well, as it may be deceiving more hitters with his medium velocity fastball. It seems a tad questionable from a development standpoint as he is only 18 and will likely add some ticks on his fastball once he continues to mature a bit. It might not be the best long-term choice but it is working right now. He has even utilized a submarine approach a couple times although that has been less successful.

The Beavers needed a strong lefty out of the bullpen and the coaches have added one after moving Heimlich to the pen and it has worked out extremely well for him as well as the team. Hopefully he continues to grow in that role and can continue to grow as an overall pitcher.