Sunday, April 25, 2010

Facing the facts of Ohio State's pitching Part I

For the longest I've tried to stay from writing too many opinionated entries, usually preferring to hit on issues with little substance when going outside of the who, what, when, and where of Ohio State baseball.

Well the time has to come abandon ship and exposure the joke that is Ohio State pitching and rise points and facts that Bob Todd is either to ignorant or arrogant to realize.

Four of Ohio State's last five games have seen pitching performances worthy of a team that losses to NAIA and DII schools, hardly reminiscent of a team heading to a Regional.

In examining the horrors of the ongoing mess over the next few days a closer look will be had at:

Injuries; just exactly how many pitchers have gone under the knife under Todd's watch.

Depth; is this year really that different than years past from a depth perspective? Is this a sudden problem?

Development; a year-by-year look at the current pitches and their progression or regression.

Usage; who's being rested properly, just how many times is a pitcher being thrown on short rest.

Roles; are the players in the best possible roles to succeed?

Coaching & Leadership; What do Todd's action reflect on the players and program?

Get ready for a rocky ride.


The least concrete area of focus could be argued as the most important. There are too many variable here to pinpoint any blame for the rash of pitchers going under the knife here in Columbus, but it is a reason why we're in the mess that we are.

While it is impossible to know how a pitcher arrived to Columbus health-wise (except for Cole Browm) and if instruction at Ohio State is too blame, the fact is under the last five seasons, too many pitchers have lost playing time due to needing repair for one reason or another.

Below is the list of pitchers who have needed surgery in the last five seasons:

Andrew Armstrong (off-season surgery no return yet)
Eric Best (off-season surgery)
Ross Oltorik (surgery out for the season)

Josh Barrera (surgery out for season)
Theron Minium (surgery out for season)

Dan DeLucia (Tommy John surgery after 17 IP)

Matt Selhorst (Tommy John surgery after 2 IP)

Every program will have a pitcher go down throughout the year. It happens. What needs to be addressed is how frequent severe injuries are occurring. While Best was able to recover and return to pitching, whether or not he is 100% is different, the rest being complete or near-complete seasons lost isn't a good look.


In today's Columbus Dispatch, Coach Todd is stated as saying "This has been the worst-case scenario for us. This has been agonizing. All of a sudden, you have a lack of pitching depth.''

Uhhh sorry I'm calling shenanigans. All of the sudden?! You can get away with that to 99% of Dispatch readers, but that isn't going to fly here.

Coach Todd has used 8 pitchers to handle all but 7 innings this season in Alex Wimmers, Drew Rucinski, Theron Minium, Jared Strayer, Dean Wolosiansky, Eric Best, and Brett McKinney. While Strayer is recovering from a leg injury and has been out the last weeks (Bobinski and Shinn were/are still available), for Coach Todd to say "all of the sudden you have a lack of pitching depth" is ridiculous.

In 2009 the top nine pitchers tossed all but 12 of the 535 innings or 97.7%
In 2008 the top 10 pitchers tossed all but seven of the 457 innings or 98.4%
In 2007 the top nine pitchers accounted for 477.2 of 521.2 innings or 91.5%
In 2006 the top eight pitchers tossed all but three of the 479 innings or 99.3%
In 2005 the top nine pitchers tossed all but one of the 498 innings or 99.7%

It is fairly obvious Todd will count on nine pitchers on average per season to toss roughly 95% of the team's innings. When you have a track record of having at least one pitcher go down per year due to an injury, (as unfortunately Ohio State does) combined with one's philosophy of having a thin staff, it's going to bite you in the ass.

This isn't a "sudden problem", this is a philosophical problem in how Todd builds his pitching staff. Remember Armstrong had surgery mid-summer, the writing was on the wall that Armstrong would not be healthy until very late in the season. Also the staff knew of Barrera's departure, as well as the fact that Brown was coming in off labrum surgery. There was time to prepare accordingly, Todd has none to blame for the "sudden lack" other than himself.

Remember last year the issue of having a paper-thin staff would rise time and time again? Well that was with Hale, and for spurts Oltorik and Armstrong. How is having last year's nine pitchers, any different than 2005 or 2006 when even more of a workload was called upon by just as thin staff? Oh that's right, those teams weren't being embarrassed to the national audience or had 20 runs hung on them at ease.

Now if Todd would have stated "We have a lack of quality arms" completely avoiding the lie of it being a sudden problem, and admitting there are few viable options, then there would be no issue. Well outside of him not manning his duties as the head coach properlyn as still the responsibility falls on him to have a program with quality arms either through recruiting or developing so he is not void of blame but that is coming tomorrow.

In closing today's in-depth look, here is the rundown of pitchers who have donned the Scarlet & Gray that would have eligibility for the 2010 year if still here but are not for one reason or another.

Josh Barrera
Taylor Barnes
Josh Edgin
Brad Hays
Tom Popadak
Jake Weber

While in some cases it was the player's desire to no longer player, or other issues, for six possible pitchers to no longer be with the program is sad. A fact cemented by the bringing onboard of three pitchers from last Autumn's walk-on tryouts.


BaseballBucks33 said...

This sucks but you are right on Chris and their are a lot of facts to back it up. I hope Coach Todd retires after this year,this program is in schambles right now and it is a damm shame. This program needs some new blood or engery to turn things around. Ross Oltrick is also leaving after this yr to play football. You can't really blame him can you. Boy what a mess this team is right now.

Go Bucks!!

Chris Webb said...

People may doubt me, which is fine, but I truly have no preference one way or the other regarding Coach Todd's future.

Whatever is in the best interest of the program and student-athletes is the #1 priority.

If the program has peaked and a Regional every other year is the ceiling for Ohio State baseball, then fine.

If not, hopefully things are visited in-depth in late June.

I just worry that a level of content has set in. Take away last season and Ohio State is just 38-36 since 2007 in Big Ten play.

Is it fair to exclude the 2009 season? Probably not.

But what reflects the state of the program more closely? I'm leaning towards the up-and-downs of 3 of the last 4 seasons.

BaseballBucks33 said...

I agree with you i don't have anything personal against Coach Todd,i just want what is best for this program and it's players. They deserve better than they have been getting in these last couple of seasons. That Big Ten record is not good enough for me but maybe it is ok for others. You tell me cause i know my answer. I want this program to do so well that at times i come off like an idiot but all i tell is the truth about what i see. Coach Todd has been awesome for this program but maybe the game has passed him by. The thing is the program will not move forward until he makes a move. I understand coach has the right to leave on his terms but how much longer can we wait????

I also would love to see a lineup change for the game tomorrow. It will not happen but this is what i would try.

2b Kovanda
3b Rupert
lf Hurley
rf DeLucia
dh Dew
cf Stephens
c Burkhart
1b Streng
ss Engle

I know one thing double plays have been a KILLER this year. We have hit into 45 already in 35 games.

Powerdog18 said...

Big Ten Stats for Ohio State

1st in grounding into DP
9th in fielding DP
6th in fielding %
10th in steal attempts
9th in doubles
5th in triples
6th in home runs.

Other mistakes that don't show up in the stats, like throwing to 3B instead of 2B when you have no chance of getting the runner at 3B.
Last Saturday with 1 out in the first inning a slow grounder was hit up the middle with man on 1st, CF threw to 3B, runner advanced to 2B, next hitter grounds to 2B and only play is at 1B no DP chance. 1st inning cound have ended with only 1 run scored. (Same thing happened in the Indiana and Northwestern games) 2nd inning no one covers 2B on 1st to 3rd move, run scores from 3B. 2nd inning could have ended with still only 1 run scored.

Pitching is not the only phase of the game that needs improvement.

Chris Webb said...

You're correct Powerdog.

Unfortunately the areas you listed are nothing new to Buckeye baseball. There has always been porous left-side defense, a batting order that doesn't reflect the true talents of the team, game-planning that goes little outside hit-and-run, a passive approach on the bases, and fundamentally unsound baseball (though this year is a bit over the top than before)

In short those things have gone on for awhile, but the talent usually overcomes it.

Unfortunately what we are not used to is the performance of the pitching. It is nothing against the current student-athletes, but as a whole the staff of the past three seasons are a shell of the previous three years and even moreso of teams further back.

While usage and injuries have undoubtedly dwindled the available talent and stunted growth, as a whole the quality depth isn't there, which I personally feels is on the recruiting end.

Wimmers is in a long line of aces that have had undeniable talent. Luebke, Madsen, Lewis, etc, we'll always have an ace.

Unfortunately, outside of Rucinski, there isn't the DeLucia, Shuck, Hale, Newmann, Loretta and company to complete a rotation, and the current bullpen isn't near a Meister, Fausnaugh, Barker, healthy Best and such.

Now with Oltorik, and Armstrong would it be there, obviously yes. But the continued concern is BT does little to build a staff that can sustain an arm going down, and that falls directly on his recruiting abilities. There is no excuse for a player to be on your roster for three years and not yet have enough innings to throw a complete game. There is no excuse for needing three arms from walk-on tryouts.

While I appreciate and respect your view as the other factors effect the pitchers, my focal point is off the field, pitching at OSU is in a steady decline.

Also sorry about the last few days, my laptop crashed on top of everything of late. Awesome.