UCLA understandably dropped in the polls after losing three straight to (in order) Vanderbilt, TCU, and $C. The Bruins are now #11 in Baseball America top 25 (were #6). The first order of business is to beat Pepperdine in Malibu Tuesday afternoon (1st pitch 3 pm).
There would normally be a pretty clear path to achieve this goal. Put Griffin Canning on the mound for his normal midweek start, let him work his magic as a starting pitcher (he is so much more effective as a starter than a mid-game reliever) and chalk up another W. But for the first time this season, Canning threw in a Sunday game (to the tune of 41 pitches). This will clearly have a ripple effect on the pitching strategy employed by Coach Savage tomorrow. Canning threw 75 pitches last Tuesday, and 86 pitches the previous Tuesday. But that was in the context of not pitching at all on the prior weekends.
If Canning goes tomorrow, he will presumably be on a very short leash. At the same time, Coach Savage will want to set up his staff for the opening weekend of conference play this Friday-Sunday at home against Washington. The good news is that all of this is in Coach Savage's hands. That is all we can ask.
This will be UCLA's (using this is so much easier than Bruins, to not run afoul of Fox's red marker) 4th midweek game of the season. The Bruins are 3-0, with a win at Northridge, and two wins at home against Long Beach State and Northridge.
In the prior three midweek games, the Bruins have scored an average of 4.3 runs per game, while giving up an average of 1.3 runs per game. That is a very comfortable margin of victory. In no small part this has been due to the lights out pitching from Canning when he is a starter- 2-0 with 4 earned runs allowed in 16.1 innings on 12 hits. He also has 20 K's against 2 walks as a starter- that is pretty phenomenal for a freshman (or a sophomore or a junior or a senior). Canning's ERA as a starter is 2.20, and his WHIP is an almost microscopic 0.87.
Canning's comparable stats as a middle reliever are 0-1, with an ERA of 10.81 and WHIP of 2.40. Clearly, Canning seems to have a much more comfortable presence on the mound as a starter. But he will presumably not be going 6 innings tomorrow, if he starts at all. Canning has started every midweek game this season, as last year's midweek starter, Grant Dyer, has become David Berg's 8th inning setup pitcher this season. Again, Canning pitched for the 1st time on a Sunday in yesterday's game, so we are in uncharted waters.
This will also be Pepperdine's 4th midweek game of the season. The Waves are 0-3, with losses at Long Beach State (1 run loss, compared to UCLA's 1 run win), at home to #21 UCSB, and on the road at #23 Cal State Fullerton. Pepperdine has scored an average of 2 runs per midweek game, while giving up an average 4 runs per midweek game.
Pepperdine's midweek starter has been freshman Kiko Garcia. He has had a season with many parallels to that of Canning. Garcia is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA. But if you break it down by starter vs. reliever, he has the same profile as Canning (i.e. much better as a starter). As a starter, Garcia has given up 5 earned runs in 12 innings, with 17 batters reaching base. That is an ERA of 3.75 and a WHIP of 1.42. That is not Canningesque, but it is pretty respectable for a midweek starter. Coming out of the pen, Garcia has given up 7 earned runs in 4 innings, with 12 batters reaching base. That is an ERA of 15.75 and a WHIP of 3.00.
We thus have seen very similar midweek pitchers this season at UCLA and Pepperdine, with both Canning and Garcia having much more success as starters than as relievers. Canning has been super, Garcia good as a starter (I prefer super). Both teams have not scored a lot of runs in midweek games, and neither team has given up a lot of runs in midweek games. Both teams have had 1 run games against Long Beach State.
But there is one area where the teams are markedly dissimilar. The Bruins are 3-0 in midweek games. The Waves are 0-3 in midweek games. Let's hope that trend continues tomorrow.
Go Bruins !!