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Grading out the pitching - Week 1

From time to time I'll type up an evaluation of the KU pitching staff.  As I believe starting pitchers and relief pitchers need to be evaluated differently, I'll be using two different systems.  For the starters I'll use the ESPN Game Score system, and for the bullpen I'll use a system called Relief Points.

Starting Pitching
The ESPN Game Score system uses this formula:
Start with 50 points.
Add 1 point for each out recorded, (3 points per inning).
Add 2 points for each inning completed after the 4th.
Add 1 point for each strikeout.
Subtract 2 points for each hit allowed.
Subtract 4 points for each earned run allowed.
Subtract 2 points for each unearned run allowed.
Subtract 1 point for each walk.

OK, that seems pretty complicated.  I simplify it like this:
0-29    Ineffective
31-39    Poor
40-49    Subpar
50-59    OK
60-69    Good
70+    Excellent

How did the KU starters fare in week one vs. University of Hawaii-Hilo

Zach Ashwood (72) Excellent.  Zach gave the team six innings of one hit baseball, and only surrendered one unearned run.  Three walks are a blemish, but they are more than offset by seven strikeouts.

Nick Czyz (60) Good.  Nick's game was very good in all aspects except for its brevity, he only lasted 4.1 innings.  During the short stint Nick kept UHH off the scoreboard, and struck out seven batters, while giving up only three hits.  His blemish, four walks.  This may account for why he was not efficient with his pitching.  He had thrown 81 pitches when he was pulled.  If Czyz is going to pitch deep into games he is going to need to keep his average pitches per inning under 15, otherwise he is going to make a lot of early exists and tax the bullpen.

Wally Marciel (56) OK.  Marciel was the first KU starter to surrender runs, and he also failed to go deep, getting the hook after five innings.  Marciel also struggled with location, giving up three walks in five innings, and needing 76 pitches to get to that point.  His three hits and six strikeouts are both excellent.  For a freshman getting his first NCAA start this really is a very good performance, but Marciel is going to need to step up his performance if he is going to stay in the weekend (top three) rotation.

Andy Marks (71) Excellent.  A great start to the season for the sophomore left-hander.  Marks spent last year in the bullpen and is looking to crack the weekend rotation in 2007.  Coach Price allowed him to throw longer than the first three pitchers (88 pitches) and he responded with six shutout innings of three hit baseball.  His six to one K/BB ratio was excellent.

Andres Esquibel (46) Subpar.  This was the Juco transfer's first start for KU.  He got the job done, but it was considerably more ugly than the other performances.  Esquibel gave up two earned runs in five innings, but it could have been worse.  His eight hits and one walk gave him a WHIP of 1.80 for the game.  His pitch count remained reasonable (72 pitches for 23 batters faced, or 3.13 per batter) which seems to indicate that he wasn't struggling with location.  More likely is that the UHH hitters were handling his stuff and kept the pressure on him by swinging their bats.

For the week then, two excellent, one good, one OK start and one subpar starts.  Given the concerns most have for the KU pitching staff this has to be seen as a positive opening week.

Bullpen
For relief pitching I'll use Relief Points as the measure of effectiveness.  This system focuses only on runs scored and runs prevented.  It measures relief pitchers ability to produce outs and prevent inherited runners from scoring.

Add 2 for each out recorded.
Subtract 10 for each earned run charged against.

For runners inherited while on first base who do not score, add one per out recorded.
For runners inherited while on second base who do not score, add two per out recorded.
For runners inherited while on third base who do not score, add three per out recorded.

For runners inherited while on first base who do score, subtract seven.
For runners inherited while on second base who do score, subtract five.
For runners inherited while on third base who do score, subtract three.
note: If runs are unearned, divide total by half.  All runs equal ten points.  The difference between the points charged to the current reliever and ten are charged to the pitcher who originated the baserunners.

So, this is a bit confusing,

Example one - A pitcher enters a game with runners on 1st and 2nd with one out.  He records the final two outs of the inning (+4) and prevents both runners from scoring (+1+1+2+2).  Score +10.

Example two - Reliever A enters the game with the bases loaded and no outs.  He gives up back to back sacrifice flies and leaves the game with two outs and a runner on third.  A new reliever (B) gets the final out without allowing the last runner to score.  Reliever A receives +4 points for the two outs.  He receives +2 points for recording two outs without allowing the runner from first to score.  He looses -3 points for allowing the runner on third to score, and -5 points for allowing the runner on second to score.  Score -2.

A relief pitcher with a season total of zero Relief Points can be seen as someone who has neither helped the team, nor hurt the team.

How did the KU bullpen fare in week one vs. University of Hawaii-Hilo.  Well, pretty damn well as a team.

Tomas Marcin (+34) - In this freshman's first NCAA action he came in for two long stints (2.2 and 2.0 innings) and shut down the UHH.  While he failed to record a strikeout, his 4.2 innings and ability to hold two inherited runners gave him an impressive score for the series.

Paul Smyth (+27) - The frontrunner for the closer job had a very solid series as well.  In three innings he gave up no hits and only one walk, while striking out three batters.

Matt Lane (+24) - Lane was a middle man last year and hopes to move into a set-up slot in 2007.  He pitched four shutout innings in Hawaii over two appearances, giving up two hits and a walk while striking out four batters.

Ryotaro Hayakawa (+18) - One of the few seniors on the team, the Japanese pitcher had a very solid weekend.  Three shutout innings, two hits and three strikeouts.

Hiarali Garcia (+2) - The only Jayhawk who struggled at all out of the pen during the first week.  Garcia looked great in his first appearance (2 shutout innings) but was unable to record an out in his second appearance in game four, giving up a run and leaving men on first and second.  Fortunately Smyth picked him up and prevented further damage.

Bottom Line
Given that the KU pitching staff is entering 2007 as one enormous question mark, with only one returning starter and three relievers, this impressive first week of work is unexpected and very encouraging.  Let's hope it was not aberration.  It is possible that UHH's lineup was incredibly weak, but I'd rather think that the KU pitching staff is perhaps more solid than I expected it would be.

I'll get the 2007 season preview pieces covering the Starting Pitchers and Bullpen posted as soon as I can make the time.  Those chapters will allow me to go into more detailed descriptions of these pitchers.