Column: Dominant pitching making the case for the Beavers
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 01:02
What do the seven Oregon State baseball teams that made the NCAA Tournament since 2005 — including two national champions — all have in common?
None of them got off to as hot of a start as this year’s squad.
The No. 6 Beavers are 8-0 for the first time since 1962. That ’62 team was led by two-time All-American Cecil Ira, who ended up pitching 28 innings for the Eugene Emeralds in the entirety of his professional career.
Nothing against Ira and the Beavers of 50 years ago, but this Beavers team has the potential to be the best ever.
Jumping the gun? Maybe. OK, probably. But this team said it was “Omaha or bust” before the season started, and they’re showing they meant it.
The success of the Beavers in the first eight games has been the brilliance of the pitching staff — the starters and the bullpen.
The earned run average for the Beavers is currently sitting at 1.12. As in, the pitching staff has allowed nine earned runs in eight games.
Oregon State looked good in its opening weekend in Palm Springs, Calif., but took it to a whole new level in the Beavers’ four-game series in San Diego over the weekend.
The Beavers outscored San Diego State 22-2. Wow. I think the bathtub community from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” could still understand the significance of that stat.
There are seven relievers on the team who have appeared in a game so far in 2013. Those seven have thrown 30 innings. Want to take a guess as to what the ERA of the bullpen (keep in mind, the bullpen was the Achilles’ heel for the 2012 team) is? It’s 0.00. No earned runs allowed by the relievers.
On top of the unreal bullpen statistics in the early going, the starting rotation has been equally impressive, particularly for two pitchers.
Senior Matt Boyd and freshman Andrew Moore came into 2013 with three starts between them (Boyd started three games in 2009).
Of last year’s three starters, only one is currently pitching. Sophomore Jace Fry is going through recovery from Tommy John Surgery and junior Ben Wetzler is dealing with back issues.
Boyd and Moore needed to step up, and that’s exactly what they did. Boyd is sitting on a cool 1.17 ERA, a 2-0 record and 13 strikeouts in 15 innings. Moore’s numbers are even better: a 0.66 ERA, a 0.66 WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched).
The ironic thing about those two is they are essentially competing against each other. Both will start now while the Beavers are playing in the four-game series against nonconference opponents. But once Pac-12 play starts, the rotation cuts down to only three pitchers. Wetzler will be back soon, junior Dan Child has a spot, so that leaves just one more spot.
I don’t think head coach Pat Casey envisioned Moore coming out of the gate this strong, but he’s proved himself to be a worthy candidate.
The 8-0 record might be a bit fluky. OSU is obviously still going to be a real threat to win the Pac-12, and to make a College World Series appearance. Still, the Beavers were ranked No. 6 in the preseason for a reason.
The pitching won’t be able to keep up this kind of production, especially the bullpen. That’s a fact.
What they have done is prove they’re elite — easily one of the top-10 pitching staffs in the nation right now. And they’re doing it without the two best pitchers from last year’s team.
It’s still way too early to throw out the “best team at OSU” prognostication.
But what they have done is enough to start that conversation.
Warner Strausbaugh, managing editor