Bumped. Welcome to our new digs everyone. GO BRUINS. -N
I'm not going to do my usual series preview because this week we've got a Q&A with Jake from Building the Dam. Jake gave us a look at the two time defending national champions Oregon St. who enter this weekend a half game up on the Bruins in the Pac 10 standings.
(Questions are in bold)
The Beavers figured to be carried by their pitching in 2008, but entering this weekend the three Oregon St. starters have ERA's of 6.09, 5.18 and 7.69. Why have the starters struggled and how have the Beavers managed to win with such abysmal pitching?Mike Stutes was supposed to be our ace coming into this season, which he is to some extent, but he hasn't been as effective this year as he was his sophomore and junior seasons. It's hard to tell whether he has just backed off the gas since it's his senior year, or he really is struggling due to a mechanical problem or something to that extent. As for Jorge, I think he's still in post-Omaha shock. He was close to unstoppable in his freshman campaign, and after being named MVP of the CWS and picking up other post-season honors, he's had a tough time finding his footing on the rubber after being on Cloud 9. The third starter is usually Tanner Robles, but we've also seen James Nygren, Josh Osich, and a few others in that position. They're freshmen. Even though the coaches will probably tell you that they could be more effective, the true reason for the high ERA would be lack of experience.
Oregon St.'s Goss Stadium has a very unusual field that is all FieldTurf with the exception of the mound and plate. Have you noticed this becoming a home field advantage for the Beavers and what type of team does the turf favor?
Goss Stadium has a FieldTurf infield, with a natural grass outfield. There are cutouts for the mound and the plate. Living in the northwest, it's a great asset to the program to be able to practice outdoors more often and schedule more games. Many high schools are now installing FieldTurf surfaces, as natural grass baseball fields and the state of Oregon are not the best combination. So it's not that unusual around here. As far as speed, the turf plays fast when it is first installed, since the "grass" is still somewhat matted down. It's now a year and a half old, so the turf will play slower now than it did last season. But you're still going to see more natural hops and quicker speeds than you will on a natural grass field. Since the Beavers are accustomed to the turf and the Bruins aren't, I'd say that the advantage goes to the Beavers. But when it comes down two it, it's not that hard to adjust between grass and turf.
Starting this weekend, Oregon St. will play 12 games in 17 days to finish the season. Do you see this affecting how Coach Casey uses his bullpen this weekend knowing how much work they have ahead of them?
You have to take into account that only six of the twelve--half-- are league games. The Beavers need every win they can get, but I expect Pat to play to win the UCLA series before he worries about who he's going to throw against Utah Valley. We have a deep bullpen with a lot of freshmen, so they'll likely get some work in those midweek games. We should be able to go with the normal rotation again next week against USC, and likely the week after that against Pacific. If our starters don't get into trouble, we should be alright. But that's been happening a lot lately...
Until the postseason last year, Oregon St. struggled to score runs. This season they lost two of their best hitters from last season and yet they are batting over .300 as a team. How have the Beavers turned around their offense and which players have been the keys to the offensive turnaround?
First of all, the addition of assistant coach Pat Bailey has helped tremendously. Pat oversees the Beaver offense, and is a big reason for the Beavers increased performance at the plate. But beyond that, some particular players are just stepping up. Lonnie Lechelt was a liability on offense last season, and now he's one of our best hitters. Same with Drew George. He's hitting the ball much better. And Ryan Ortiz has stepped in to fill the shoes of Mitch Canham beautifully at the plate. There is still room for improvement though, and there are some guys that are under-achieving. Joey Wong and Jordan Lennerton are the ones that come to mind.
What unheralded Beaver should we keep an eye on this weekend?
Well, that's a tough one. Right fielder Daniel Robertson has the potential to break out any day, and the Beavers desperately need Joey Wong to start hitting the ball better. Same goes for Jordan Lennerton. I'd say watch out for freshman closer Kevin Rhoderick, even though he is somewhat of a "heralded" player. He's a beast.
Finally, you know I can't let you off without putting you on the spot. What's your prediction for this weekend?
I'm not much of a predictions guy, but I know that the Beavers desperately need to win this season. They were in the same circumstances last year when they came down to your place and swept a series that got the Beavers into the tournament. Without those wins they would have probably been left out of the post-season, and would not have gotten a chance to go to Omaha. They hope to do the same thing this year. I'll let the players decide the result.
A big thanks to Jake for the answers which mixed up the regular and sometimes boring series previews with something interesting and new. He's going to post my answers before Saturday's game so I'll link it once it is up for anyone interested.
Here are the starters for this weekend:
Friday, May 9 - 5 p.m. - at OSU's Goss Stadium
UCLA's Tim Murphy, LHP, Jr. (3-5, 3.64) vs. OSU's Mike Stutes, RHP, Sr. (2-6, 6.09)
Saturday, May 10 - 1 p.m. - at OSU's Goss Stadium
UCLA's Charles Brewer, RHP, So. (6-4, 5.45) vs. OSU's Tanner Robles, LHP, Fr. (3-1, 5.18)
Sunday, May 11 - 1 p.m. - at OSU's Goss Stadium
UCLA's Gavin Brooks, LHP, So. (5-2, 5.03) vs. OSU's Jorge Reyes, RHP, So. (3-2, 7.69)