N.C. State's starting pitchers struggled out of the gates in 2013, with Carlos Rodon yielding three opening day homers, the plethora of starters that tried to earn a job behind him struggling to work through the fifth (and even sometimes the first) inning, and Logan Jernigan breaking his pitching hand. Nine different pitchers ended up making starts for the Pack, but it was Rodon who shouldered most of the load again and again, throwing 21.5% of the team's total innings for the season.
The eight hurlers not named Rodon that started a game combined for a grand total of nine wins (or one less than Los) in the games they started, with a deep and dominant bullpen picking up the slack. Of the team's 50 wins, 31 were registered in relief. The Pack pen even bolstered the club to seven consecutive come-from-behind wins during one stretch of the season. Given that four of the five pitchers that made 20 or more relief appearances won't return in 2014, last year's lack of consistent starting pitching behind the Pack ace would seem to be a cause for concern, but Jernigan's stuff is Saturday starter worthy if he can find the plate, advanced metrics suggest Brad Stone's freshman campaign was better than his 5.49 ERA indicates, twin transfers add experienced depth, and the class of 2013 has some promising arms.
- Ethan Ogburn: 5-3, 2.70 ERA, 38/14 K/BB ratio and .211 opponents' batting average in 60 IP
- Ryan Wilkins: 6-2, 4.21 ERA, 47/12 K/BB ratio and .233 opponents' batting average in 47 IP
Ogburn had impressive but misleading overall numbers, as he enjoyed strong outings against lesser out-of-conference opponents but struggled inside the ACC. The splits are pretty ridiculous: 6.00 ERA against the ACC and a 0.92 ERA against everyone else. The senior did save his best for last, going five shutout innings in relief to propel the Pack to the CWS in the super regional, 17-inning affair against Rice.
Only four of Wilkins' 24 appearances came as a starter, so perhaps he is miscast in his inclusion above. Nonetheless, a versatile, veteran swingman who can fan a batter an inning as a closer one day (he also had a pair of saves) and as a starter the next, is a commodity that Elliott Avent may miss in 2014.
- Rodon: 10-3, 2.99 ERA, 184/45 K/BB ratio and .200 opponents' batting average in 132.1 IP
- Stone: 3-2, 5.49 ERA, 60/24 K/BB ratio and .234 opponents' batting average in 60.2 IP
- Jernigan: 1-1, 1.56 ERA, 30/28 K/BB ratio and .187 opponents' batting average in 34.2 IP
- Karl Keglovits: 1-0. 4.05 ERA, 6/6 K/BB ratio and .260 opponents' batting average in 13.1 IP
After a shaky start Rodon grew stronger as the year went on, posting a 1.77 ERA over his last 10 starts and finishing the season with an NCAA-high 184 strikeouts, a mark that has been bested just six times in the last decade and set the N.C. State single-season record. Stone's Omega Wolf-computed fielding-independent pitching (FIP) was 3.89, or over a run and a half lower than his actual ERA. His performance should come closer to matching his advanced metrics in his sophomore campaign. Jernigan, on the other hand, had a FIP of 4.53 due to his frightening walk total. Dude was lucky to escape his bouts of wildness again and again. When he went down with the broken hand, he had walked 14 batters in 14 innings. He improved his control upon his return, walking 14 over his last 20.2 innings, but that's still way too many. If he is going to consistently work deep into games and cement himself as a solid #2, he simply has to throw more strikes. The imposing Kegs (6-6, 220) is probably pegged for a long relief role, but his three starts are fourth most of returnees, so you've got to figure he's on the depth chart somewhere. Unless there is an injury or implosion, he probably doesn't get his shot at a weekend gig until next year.
Who's got next?
- Eric Patterson: 6-3, 3.03 ERA, 69/15 K/BB ratio and .236 opponents' batting average in 74.1 IP (@ Temple)
- Patrick Patterson: 2-7, 4.43 ERA, 51/23 K/BB ratio and .248 opponents' batting average in 69 IP (@ Temple)
- Lots of freshpersons, the Lake Norman Needle
Temple was very, very bad at baseball, posting an 18-28 record against what Warren Nolan tabbed as the 241st "toughest" schedule in the country. Still, Eric Patterson accounted for a third of the team's wins and posted the best ERA of an Owl starter since the immortal Pete Moore posted a sub-two ERA in 1999. He held Virginia Tech to a run in 3.1 innings in an early-season outing, stymied a decent Richmond squad (7.1 IP, ER), and nearly no-hit LaSalle (9 IP, H, 0 ER), which basically means he's Rodon-lite, since Los tossed seven innings of no-no against the Explorers. Okay, not really. But he can probably help. Lefty bro Patrick is another guy whose metrics suggest he pitched better than the stats indicate; his Omega Wolf-computed FIP was a stellar 3.26. He had a couple of ugly outings, and that's all it takes to tarnish a season in a small sample size. Patrick was much better as a freshman, posting a 3.51 ERA. He adds depth to the rotation if needed or gives Avent another lefty in the pen with Grant Sasser gone and Travis Orwig recovering from TJS.
I'm not sure anyone (other than chip24sbp) pegged Stone as a weekend starter as a freshman, so you just never know how things will unfold as the season progresses. There are definitely some promising young arms from the class of 2013. Joe O'Donnell, Cory Wilder, and port-sider Ryan Williamson all have the potential to contribute from day one. Wilmington Hoggard's O'Donnell threw a 20-strikeout no hitter in Legion ball and ranked as Perfect Game's 154th best senior. Wilder has the perfect athletic pitcher's frame at 6-4, 205 pounds and played shortstop in addition to his work on the mound, where he posted an even 1.00 ERA. The Baseball Draft Report ranked him 127th overall in the class of 2013; he also sported a 4.0 GPA. Williamson was 16-0 with an ERA well under one in his junior and senior seasons combined and spurned the Texas Rangers to toe the rubber at State.
Johnny Piedmonte (the Lake Norman Needle) is interesting due to his size (6-8, 212); batters just don't see the ball coming at them from up there that often. The ACC academic honor roll awardee missed last season due to TJS but looked pretty good over the summer in the Southern Collegiate Baseball League, posting a 2.79 ERA in six starts. His control was a bit off (18 walks in 29 innings), which is to be expected following surgery, but he proved difficult to square up, allowing just 20 hits. Though he is listed as a sophomore on the official roster, Piedmonte should have four years of eligibility remaining.
The 2014 Pack may lack for proven, experienced depth on the staff after Rodon, but Avent has assembled 17 arms, including eight potential UNC lefty-loaded-lineup-killing southpaws. Three or more reliable starters and a deep bullpen should emerge from this group; we'll take a look at the pen in our last installment of the preview series later this week.