Monday, April 25, 2011

Examining the Buckeyes at Big Ten's Midpoint I

To catch up on things, I'm attempting to look at the Buckeyes team as it enters the back-half of the Big Ten schedule. To be honest, I really do not know what to make of the team collectively.

Some Big Ten statistics are great such as the few hits the opposition has collected, the slugging percentage, batting average, opponents average. While some statistics are ugly and don't match the supplementing numbers such as ERA and runs scores.

Maybe when more digging comes up some sense could be made of where the team stands in the Big Ten picture, but for now an individual breakdown of the team is the best bet to start at, which today we begin with the starting pitchers.

Outside of Drew Rucinski continuing the line of stellar Friday night starters for Ohio State, following in the likes of Alex Wimmers, Cory Luebke, and Dan DeLucia, the remaining starting pitchers as a whole have overwhelmingly underperformed.

When looking at where the top three starters for each Big Ten school stands in ERA this is what you have:

Illinois: 16, 19, 27
Indiana: 6, 9, 14
Iowa: 5, 15, 21
Michigan: 4, 13, 30 (With Sinnery not Mills, Mills is 28 with Sinnery 4 after 2 starts, 2 complete games)
Michigan State: 7, 12, 22
Minnesota: 8, 18, 24
Northwestern: 11, 26, 27* (* Brooke misses qualifying by a few innings but would be 27th with a 5.90 ERA)
Penn State: 2, 3, 22* (Johnson would be 22nd if qualified, has eight starts like Brooke)
Purdue: 10, 17, 20
OSU: 1, 25, 29 (Wolosiansky was 23rd)

Ranking the teams by their total may paint some picture, it may not. Again I really don't know what to make of the numbers, and things are skewed a bit such as inserting Sinnery over Mills, but a few thoughts can be made. What is blatantly obvious is Ohio State's lack of success behind Rucinski, which we know as the Buckeyes are just 3-5 in non-Friday Big Ten games, (1-3 in game two, 2-2 in game three) with the one Friday loss being the 5-4 extra-inning affair.

Going away from where they stand in the Big Ten, here is where the four starters stand side-by-side

Rucinski: 48.1 IP, 45 H, 11 BB, 30 SO, 19 R, 177 AB, .254 BAA, 1.16 WHIP, 29.5 AB/XBH
McKinney: 34.1 IP, 39 H, 11 BB, 22 SO, 39 R, 141 AB, .277 BAA, 1.46 WHIP, 15.6 AB/XBH
Wolosian: 44.1 IP, 46 H, 26 BB, 26 SO, 34 R, 170 AB, .271 BAA, 1.63 WHIP, 24.3 AB/XBH
Gr Greve: 39.0 IP, 57 H, 22 BB, 26 SO, 38 R, 163 AB, .350 BAA, 2.02 WHIP, 12.5 AB/XBH

Rucinski is obviously having a stellar season. When balls are put in play with Drew on the mound his BABIP is .304, which you take from a starter. Where Drew really stands out is the balls that are put in play off his bat are really struck well as evident by the few extra base hits surrendered, a total which includes zero home runs. More evidence of this is that Drew has a 37-24 groundout/airout ratio in Big Ten play. Rucinski will keep Ohio State in every Friday night game, there isn't much more to say about him than what the number say.

McKinney's struggles take a bigger picture and more diving in. His numbers as a whole suggest a better result than his 5.77 ERA when looking at WHIP and K/BB. But looking closer you see many cracks lead to a big hole, or more often a big inning for the opposition. Stretching out his WHIP, WP, BB/9, XBH/9 those numbers over nine innings and McKinney is allowing 13 runners on base via walks or hits. Those 13 H/BBs, plus 27 outs equal 40 ABs. With 40 ABs McKinney would give up 2.5 extra base hits which when both rounded out, equals the times McKinney will have a wild pitch. Which means those 13 runners on base will usually have five opportunities to advance a base. The odds are greater for McKinney to have a bad innings than most, and it shows as each of the last three weekends have seen McKinney have an inning where he has allowed at least three runs, the Indiana second, the Michigan State first and fourth, and Penn State first. Outside of those blow-ups, McKinney has allowed just four runs in 11.2 innings in conference.

Wolosiansky struggles are obvious both by the numbers and by watching him pitch. As has always been the case with Dean, too many balls are put in play, too few bats are being missed. With more than a hit per inning, and a walk every two, not much wiggle room is there for fifth-year senior. And like McKinney wild pitches are an issue with seven, but unlike the sophomore, Wolosiansky has three walks, a total that matches his hit batters. There really isn't much to dig in here. Wolosiansky simply isn't helping himself. His BABIP is .312 which when given his rate of extra-base hits, would be an additional four XBH if those 26 BBs were balls put in play over 100 at-bats. Like Rucinski, Wolosiansky isn't particularly struck hard, he's is more bleed to death by papercut. It comes down to Wolosiansky needs to attack hitters more often, and trusting himself in the strikezone.

With Greve it isn't a matter at this point in his career that he doesn't have the stuff to get batters out. For the rookie its a matter of developing into a pitcher. While he does boast the best K/9 and has more swing and miss stuff, he doesn't have the command of the others often leaving too many balls up in the zone where it can be well struck, see his the XBHs per ABs, and the 23 flyouts to 17 groundouts in conference. Be it predictability by putting himself behind in the count, still learning the ropes, Greve is getting hit the hardest. But early on he is also being the victim of spotty defense more than any. The 10 unearned runs that Greve has been a victim of ties Wolosiansky, but Greg has pitched five less innings meaning quite a few more erros with him on the mound. Of late, as the defense has improved, so to was the freshman on the mound with the limited extra outs. Moreso in the Big Ten Greve's stuff quite isn't there.

That is a rundown of the Ohio State starting pitchers. Some of it may make sense, some may not. Some of the math may not add up, but oh well. The major thoughts to take is that Rucinski is having a great year and gives OSU a chance every Friday. McKinney is spotty and often it is his undoing rather than the opposition beating him. The same with Wolosiansky. Greve may be a year away.

If you had to grade the staff at this point it's unfortunate but hard to give a better grade than D+. The expectation of Greve after the fall season was a bit premature, but Ohio State has a history of freshman coming in and playing strong with JB Shuck, Luebke, DeLucia, Jake Hale etc. Much more was expected from Wolosiansky in his fifth season. Rucinski has proved when healthy he can be a very good pitcher and has done just that. McKinney is an enigma that thus far hasn't helped the Buckeyes in the way he can.

Seemingly after every strong Rucinski start, a big inning does the Bucks in on Saturday, with Sunday being a mixed bag often determined by the bullpen. Fittingly OSU 2-2 Sunday Big Ten slate goes hand-in-hand with their Friday and Saturday marks, and continues the theme of this being an average team.

Going forward if the Buckeyes want to make a run to finish in the top six, the Saturday guy, be it McKinney if he stays, or Wolosiansky if inserted back, is the key to Ohio State's success. As you can see by the conference ERA ranks, only NW has a #2 whose ERA is 25th or worst among starters.

No comments: