I feel like the Easter Bunny has brought me a broken record for Easter. I get to talk about yet another SEC series loss for MSU and what MSU is going to do with their rotation.
When things aren’t going well in just about anything, everyone wants to point a finger. I think some MSU want to point a finger at the offense- and that kind of confuses me a little bit. OK- yeah you can maybe blame the offense for the Sunday loss. But to say that we’re “not getting it done offensively in the SEC” seems a little bit off base considering that we have outscored our first two SEC opponents despite not winning those series and then we scored just as many runs as Arkansas did this weekend. It’s also odd because there are only two SEC teams hitting over .300 as a team right now- MSU and LSU. And yes, we are ninth in SEC only games- but we have had to face the top pitching staff in the SEC in Arkansas and LSU and Kentucky have been some of the better pitching staffs in the SEC thus far. Because of that, I believe that we will see improvement as the season goes on, but as it is it just seems to me that some MSU fans just WANT to blame the offense and that’s a little bizarre to me. Especially since we are averaging over 4 runs a game in SEC only games. Let’s not beat ourselves up too much because we couldn’t light up the scoreboard on the road against the top pitching staff in the SEC- one that we have usually struggled with in general. Heck, I was pretty happy that we beat their first round pick and reigning SEC pitcher of the week Ryan Staneck.
Nonetheless, let’s talk about what could make the offense better. Besides not playing a top 10 team on the road. The reality is, our offense goes as Adam Frazier goes. If he is hitting, we’re rolling. If he is going, odds are good that CT Bradford is hitting too. And then you have Renfroe and now Wes Rea is back. There is a reason why the leadoff and number two hitters are called table setters, and if they get on we are in business. And as I said last week, if we do not start off in a hole in the first inning, it really helps our offense out a lot. There is nothing a pitcher loves more than to go out to the mound with a big lead because he knows that all he has to do is throw it and let his defense make plays. Back to Frazier- he is too good of a hitter to stay in this funk for long, and I would not be surprised at all if he hits really well this upcoming weekend.
So, you’re probably thinking that I’m going to point my fingers at the starting pitching. Honestly, that’s kind of hard to do because it’s not their fault that Jacob Lindgren went down with an injury, which forced us to throw Ben Bracewell in an emergency start, and it also messed up how we used our bullpen on Friday night- which probably cost us that game as well. In fact, I thought Luis Pollorena pitched really well and battled. Yes, he had a lot of walks, but the strike zone was erratic for whatever reason and he still battled through and gave us a chance to win. Now, Cohen should have taken him out at the top of the seventh inning after he had thrown 120 pitches or whatever it was. I think Cohen has too much faith in Luis- but Cohen and Butch HAVE to know his limitations. Because otherwise, we’re putting ourselves in a real bad spot. I’m sorry- we can’t ask him to throw 165 pitches. Kendall Graveman was awesome. He out pitched the top draft prospect in the SEC on the road. Ben Bracewell had to make an emergency start, and he struggled. Sometimes that happens when you have to ask someone to do something that they are not comfortable with. That being said, if there is ONE good thing that came out of Sunday for MSU it’s that Ross Mitchell is capable of being a starting pitcher- and at least we figured that out before we lose any more SEC series.
Anytime you have injuries to your pitching staff, it ultimately will thin out your bullpen. Either because your relief pitchers are hurt or because you have to move a relief pitcher to the rotation. What it means for MSU is that we are going to have to use Johnathan Holder and Ben Bracewell more and probably in more than one inning. Chad Girodo and Myles Gentry have been solid overall as well. If it were me, I would probably start using John Marc Shelly in SEC games as well. Tuesday’s game against South Alabama might be kind of used as a tryout of sorts- I would maybe use Will Cox for three innings and then maybe Trevor Fitts for three. If at all possibly, I would probably bring Brandon Woodruff in as well and see what happens. The good thing about South Alabama is they are a top 20 RPI team so, even if we lose that game, it’s not a bad loss but of course, we should try to win it if we can. The good news is it sounds like Jacob Lindgren will be back soon, and if that happens, we can move Ross or Luis back to the bullpen.
Going forward, we have Florida coming in, and they are very much like us in that they have struggled with injuries. Despite the fact that they have a losing record, they seem to be putting it together a little bit though, and of course, they have a pitcher named Jonathan Crawford who MLB.com named as a top 50 draft prospect. As long as they have a winning record, I think they are a regional team. I think coming back to Dudy-Noble Field will be good for our team and it may be just what they need right now. Also, with Florida, we know that they don’t like us- so there’s a better than average chance you will see something happen because I would imagine that there is still some bad blood there.