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Baseball Positional Preview: Pitchers

We close our look at the 2010 Tiger baseball team by focusing on the pitchers, a group that returns almost everyone from last season.  Except for Louis Coleman.  Last year, the Tigers posted a team ERA of 4.02 and this year's team returns two of the three weekend starters, its closer, and top two arms out of the bullpen.  Hell, they even return the primary midweek starter.  It feels so different because we'll miss one of our all-time greats, but the staff is still solid top to bottom.

The numbers, for reference, after each pitcher are the W-L ERA IP K/BB.

R Anthony Ranaudo (Jr) 12-3 3.04 124.1 142/23
R Austin Ross (Jr) 6-8 5.18 83.1 76/22
R Joey Bourgeois (So) 12-2 5.90 87.0 98/28 (JUCO)
L Chris Matulis (So) 6-2 4.82 46.2 39/15

Another year, another weekend rotation without a left-handed pitcher.  I'm not sure who Chris Matulis pissed off, but his good work as the midweek starter last year was rewarded by getting left off the postseason roster and seeing the weekend slot given to a JUCO transfer who posted a 5.90 ERA.  There's talk of attitude problems and let's face it, his numbers aren't that great given that he's usually facing Directional State U. in the middle of the week.  Still, we really could use a lefty starter just to mix things up a little bit, so Bourgeois shouldn't feel too comfortable as the current #3 starter.

Austin Ross was a popular whipping boy last season, but I liked what he gives the team.  He's a solid pitcher who tends to rely on his offspeed stuff instead of his fastball.  His peripherals were pretty good, such as nearly a 4/1 K/BB ratio, and he's only one year removed from a 2.58 ERA.  Expect his ERA to settle in a little closer to 2.58 than the 5.18.  He should be just fine.

The Friday starter, Anthony Ranaudo, is the most talented Tiger hurler since Ben McDonald and might even be taken with the number one overall pick in the MLB draft like Big Ben.  He's never been The Man before, so that is the natural progression for him this season, but does anyone think that will be a problem for him?  Ranaudo's stuff if overpowering as evidenced by his huge K/BB ratio.

R Daniel Bradshaw (Jr) 4-0 3.04 50.1 33/11 (1 save)
R Matty Ott (So) 4-2 2.68 50.1 69/6 (16 saves)
R Paul Bertuccini (Sr) 2-0 3.86 25.2 31/15 (2 saves)
R Shane Riedie (So) 0-0 8.10 6.2 9/4 (1 save)
R Ben Alsup (Jr)  1-0 6.14 29.1 24/10
R Mitch Mormann (Jr) 10-3 3.40 76.2 71 K (JUCO)
L Michael Turnbull (RSFr)

I should not there are five true freshmen pitchers on the roster I did not list.  Four of them are lefties.  I don't follow baseball recruiting so I really don't know how good any of these guys are, but I expect one or two of the lefties to step into a situational relief role.  But the freshmen will likely be eased into the lineup as there are five returning pitchers in the pen.  I included two newcomers, Turnbull and Mormann, because they most certainly will see action.  Turnbull is a redshirt and a lefty, and Mormann was a JUCO All-American.  He will likely start in the pen but could see the occasional start based on his performance.

One of the keys to last season was the emergence of Matty Ice as a dominant closer.  His truly absurd 69/6 K/BB ratio speaks to his dominance, and it allowed Mainieri to move Coleman to the rotation.  The reason Coleman was able to stay in the rotation is that Bradshaw thrived in the swingman role that had been previously filled by Coleman.  Bradshaw has the ability to pitch a lot of innings on short rest, as he demonstrated in the postseason.  He's an incredibly valuable pitcher as a "long reliever", but he will pitch lots of high leverage innings.

Riedie and Alsup did not see a lot of high leverage innings last season, as Mainieri shortened his pen to the few pitchers he trusted.  With a full offseason to work on their stuff, they get a second chance to work into the coaching staff's good graces or else risk getting passed by the freshmen.  One of them needs to step up.  And then there is Bertuccini, the Demouy of this team.  Bert rarely pitches even an inning, but he usually comes in to bail the team out of the toughest of jams.  He's every bit as important to this team as the stars like Ranaudo or Ott. 

Ross and Ranaudo will anchor the rotation, while the #3 job should be up for grabs all season long.  Throwing three righties didn't seem to hurt last year, so being a southpaw likely won't help Matulis get into the weekend rotation, only some shutdown starts will.

You can see the use of this bullpen almost becoming rote.  Bradshaw will come in for an inning or two, Bert will only come in with runners on and the pressure on.  The rest of the pen will get low leverage innings until another high leverage Chad Jones guy emerges.  And then Ott will close the door in the ninth.  Ranaudo will be leaned on heavily, but the other starters need only go 5 or 6 innings.  Get to the pen, and they will slam shut the door. 

The only way to get to LSU is to get to them early.  This team will not likely blow many leads. How often can you say this about LSU? The strength of the team should be its pitching.