If you’re expecting this article to conclude anything other than “Good offense, bad pitching,” I’m sorry to disappoint. This has been the story of Georgia Tech baseball for decades now, and isn’t likely to change any time soon with 3 starters departing for the pros this off-season. It wasn’t just Tech, however. Pitching was down throughout the ACC, and subsequently hitting stats were up. The Jackets were at the pinnacle of this hard-slugging conference, leading the league in On-base percentage plus slugging, or OPS.
Before going further, if you need a refresher on these stats, please read this post here.
Pitching Stats Sorted by FIP
The pitching summary really hurt to look at. Not necessarily because the pitching stats were bad, though they were, but because Brant Hurter was so incredible before his season-ending elbow injury. His stats are simply incredible. Over 48.1 innings he gave up just FIVE extra-base hits. That is an incredible suppression of power. His 2.73 FIP was on par with Connor Thomas’ incredible 2018 FIP, and Hurter had the ERA to match. He lowered his walk rate from last year while boosting his strikeout numbers, and held opposing offenses to a minuscule 1.06 WHIP. The loss of Hurter, more than the loss of Curry, hurt the team’s chances of advancing far into the playoffs. Hopefully he can come back and be himself again at some point.
Connor Thomas was the rock of the rotation again, though his numbers were not as spectacular as last year. He still kept the walks down, but the strikeouts regressed. Curry was Curry. I found it funny that his FIP and ERA were exactly the same number, but that’s who Curry is. A consistent pitcher year to year who is a little above average. He did a better job of limiting the homers this year.
The bullpen was just a mess. Hughes was better this year but still couldn’t keep the ERA down. English was good but was used sparingly. Then there are the freshmen. Bartnicki was a big time recruit, and the talent was obvious when he pitched, but he didn’t put it together this year. Cort Roedig struggled early, but his late season showings were impressive. I would have liked to have seen his early to late season splits.
With Curry, Willingham, and Thomas drafted. The rotation is a question mark...again. Roedig looks to be in line to get a spot, but the rest is up in the air with Hurter’s injury and Bartnicki’s struggles. Will a freshman step up? Or will next year’s team be another Danny Hall special?
Georgia Tech Hitters Sorted by wRC+
This one was much more fun. Except for the fact that the two guys who are head and shoulders above the rest are going to be gone. This was an interesting lineup, constructed of two guys lighting the world on fire and most of the rest of them solidly above average. I was shocked that Radcliff was 3rd on the team in wRC+, but that really speaks to the importance of power. Webb, Guldberg, and Waddell all had shockingly similar profiles. High on base skills, but poor power. Each had an ISO below .100. While their overall profiles are productive, if Tech can’t find some power next year, the team is going to leave men on base quite a bit, much to the chagrin of Tech fans. There are merits to the approach, however, as these types of players chew up pitching and drive up pitch counts, getting starters out early. And college bullpens are...questionable at best.
Kyle McCann actually bested Joey Bart’s insane wOBA from last year, but his wRC+ was lower due to an increase in runs throughout the ACC. It was simply an crazy season near the top of the ACC in both On Base Percentage and Slugging. The slugging crown, however, goes to Tristin English, who slugged .710!! That’s an insane number. I can’t believe I actually typed it. English did this on fewer homers by being an absolute doubles machine.
Baron Radcliff has the highest upside going forward, but he has to do something about the 29% strikeout rate. McCann did manage his season sitting at 26% K rate, but the quality of his contact was unreal. Radcliff’s walk rate and OBP are fine, but he has to more consistently tap into his power if he wants to take it to the next level.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the improvement of Nick Wilhite this year. His wRC+ last year was negative which is impressively bad. He improved dramatically this year, and was an above average run creator in the conference. Combined with his defense, he added a lot of value to the team.
For the lineup, the 2020 season will hinge on how well it can replace its power. If someone can step up, it’ll be another season atop the conference in hitting.