Thursday, May 21, 2009

Long Beach State Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton is heading down the home stretch of the season with only one series left for the Titans to take care of business and potentially wrap up a national top eight seed that would guarantee hosting a regional and a super regional if Fullerton won their regional. After a 4-7 slump in the middle of the season, the Titans have rebounded to win 16 of their last 19 games including a sweep of UCSB and series wins at Cal Poly and against UCLA in their last three weekend series. Fullerton is looking to continue their solid play this weekend at Goodwin Field as they wrap up Big West play against their archrivals from Long Beach State. The Dirtbags have won their last two series against the Titans and Fullerton would like nothing better than to end Long Beach’s season on a negative note by winning this series and go into the post-season with more momentum.

Long Beach (25-26, 11-10) knew they were going to have a rebuilding year after losing eleven players to the draft last June and returned only three pitchers with over 20 IP last season (two of them were middle relievers) and two starting position players along with several reserves. The Dirtbags figured they would probably get off to a slow start but couldn’t have expected that they would struggle as much as they did in losing their first five series to USC, Cal, South Carolina, Washington State and Wichita State. Long Beach started playing better when their schedule eased up some and they bounced back to win five out of six series. The Dirtbags looked like they might be potentially playing their way into consideration for a regional when they were scheduled to play at UCSB, a series that was moved to Fullerton due to fires in the Santa Barbara area a couple of weeks ago. Goodwin Field wasn’t a hospitable place for Long Beach as the Gauchos swept the Dirtbags to start them on a 1-6 skid that included a series loss at home last weekend to Cal Poly.


Long Beach has had trouble offensively due to injuries and having so many new starters in the lineup and is hitting .295 (6th in the conf), has scored 313 R’s (7th in the conf and only 200th nationally), has a .398 SLG % (7th in the conf and only 251st nationally) and has hit only 23 HR’s (8th in the conf and 267th nationally) due to playing in one of the best pitcher’s parks in the country. The Dirtbags were struggling with making contact during non-conf games and were averaging 7 K’s per game but have cut that number down to averaging around 5 K’s per game during Big West games. Long Beach has struggled offensively in conf games and despite scoring 13 runs last Saturday has hit only .279 and averaged under four runs per game in the five series when they were not hitting against the poor pitching staffs of Pacific and UC Davis.

A few areas that the Dirtbags have excelled at are in being patient at the plate, stealing bases and moving runners over. Long Beach is among the leaders in the conf with 171 BB’s and 71 HBP’s. The Dirtbags will put runners in motion early and often and are far and away the leaders in the conf and are 10th in the country with 116 SB’s. The Fullerton catchers will be tested by Long Beach but Dustin Garneau and Billy Marcoe have often been up to the task of stopping the opponents running game by throwing out runners 61% of the time. Long Beach will move runners over by playing little ball via the hit and run and bunting and are sixth in the country with 58 SAC bunts.

With all of the players that Long Beach lost from last year it was not surprising that the Dirtbags struggled defensively to start the season but they have been playing better defensively as the season has gone on. Long Beach has committed 62 errors for a .968 fielding % but have been better during conf games with a .972 fielding %. The infield defense has become more solid and so has the OF defense, which is necessary at Blair Field with all of the space to cover in the outfield. The catchers for the Dirtbags have been solid at stopping the running game (35-61 SB’s, 4th in the conf) and blocking pitches and have allowed 36 WP’s/PB’s (3rd in the conf).



C/DH – JC transfer Kellen Hoime (RH – .262-0-19-5) was sharing time pretty evenly with Soph John Hill (LH – .264-1-7-1) during non-conf games but Hoime is a little better defensively, although he made three errors last weekend, and has started behind the plate in 13 of the last 15 games. Hoime was hitting better earlier in the season but has worn down a little bit down the stretch and is only hitting .196 in conf games including 2-11 last weekend. Hill has been the DH in the last three games that Long Beach has faced a RHP due to injuries to other players and has hit better in conf games at .286. Hill would likely hit 6th and Hoime 7th when both are in the lineup and both are willing to take a HBP (8 for Hoime, 6 for Hill in 53 AB’s). Baserunners are 26-41 against Hoime (11-20 in conf games) and 13-18 against Hill. Hoime has also picked off four runners so Fullerton will have to be watching for Hoime trying to catch runners sleeping on the bases.

1B – JR Steve Tinoco (RH – .359-4-29-5) leads the team in SLG % and usually hits in the middle of the lineup but he is questionable for this weekend due to a concussion he suffered in batting practice prior to last Tuesday’s game against UCLA. If Tinoco is unable to play he would be replaced at 1B by JR Taylor Krick (RH – .321-2-28-7), who is a versatile player and has played 1B, 2B and 3B during his career. Krick does lots of little things well like occasionally stealing bases and he leads the team with 9 SAC’s. Krick usually hits 8th but hit 5th last weekend due to all of the injuries for Long Beach and went 5-11.

2B – FR Derek Legg (Both – .315-1-19-11) has stepped right into the lineup from day one and has played well both offensively and defensively. Legg usually hits 5th but due to the lineup shuffling caused by injuries batted 2nd last weekend. Legg handles the bat well and has good speed.

SS – Soph Devin Lohman (RH – .314-4-34-13) looks like he could be the latest in the long line of shortstops at Long Beach who were selected in the first few rounds of the draft. He has struggled at times defensively and has made 12 errors but has been a force offensively and usually bats 3rd. Lohman is a threat on the bases and is 10th in the conf in SB’s. He leads the team in OBP and gets on base often by BB’s (2nd on the team) and HBP’s (leads the team). The one thing that Lohman has had trouble with is making contact and he is 2nd in the conf with 46 K’s.

3B – Taylor Krick has been starting at 3B most of the time during conf games after Rylan Sandoval was suspended from the team. If Tinoco is unable to play it would open a spot in the lineup for FR Kirk Singer (RH – .289 in 38 AB’s). Singer can play SS or 3B and is solid defensively. After only going 4-22 for the season Singer started and hit 9th in all four games last week due to Tinoco’s injury and he went 6-12 against Cal Poly and had seven RBI’s in Long Beach’s come from behind win last Sat.


LF – Soph Jonathon Jones (RH – .293-1-23-14) has good speed, is 9th in the conf in SB’s and was the starting CF last season (2008 – .343-0-18-6) but has been moved over to CF this year. Jones was hitting leadoff earlier in the year but has settled in at 2nd in the lineup. He missed all four games last week due to a concussion suffered when he was hit in the face with a pitch against UCSB and is questionable for this weekend. If Jones is unable to play, JC transfer Tre Dennis (LH – .239-1-13-10) would play LF. Dennis has good speed but is not as good offensively as Jones is.

CF – Soph Jordan Casas (LH – .322-0-24-22) has gone from a part-time player last season (2008 – .302 in 53 AB’s) to one of the team leaders offensively. Casas has moved into the leadoff spot and is 2nd in the conf in SB’s. He is also dealing with injury issues and was hit in the hand last Friday while trying to bunt (leads the team with 9 SAC’s) and it was thought that he had broken a finger but he was able to put a splint on his hand and play Sat and Sun, when he went 4-10.

RF – JR TJ Mittelstaedt (LH – .318-6-46-6) is one of the more experienced players on the team and is having an outstanding season after a subpar 2008 when he only hit .219. Before this year he hadn’t shown much power but Mittelstaedt has been a very good run producer in the cleanup spot and is 6th in the conf in RBI’s. With the increased power has come more strikeouts and he is 8th in the conf in K’s. Mittelstaedt has always been known for drawing lots of walks and this year is no exception because he is 7th in the conf in BB’s. He is 7-19 with 4 RBI’s in his career against Fullerton.


Long Beach is usually among both the conference and national pitching leaders due to having talent on the mound and a very favorable park for pitchers. However, this year the Dirtbags are only 4th in the conf with a 5.11 ERA, 6th with a .294 BA and have allowed 36 HR’s, numbers that are all very high by their usual lofty standards. Long Beach did not pitch well during the first five series that they lost and allowed seven runs per game while going 4-11. The Dirtbags started to pitch much better during their stretch of five series wins in six series and allowed three runs per game while going 13-5. The wheels have started to come off in the last seven games, however, and Long Beach has allowed 70 runs while going 1-6. Long Beach has been getting very good pitching on Friday nights and their bullpen has been pretty reliable but they have struggled with getting consistent outings from their Sat and Sun SP’s.


Fri SP – JR Adam Wilk (LHP – 7-3, 2.77 ERA, 13 apps, 11 starts, 88 IP, 88 H, 18 BB, 54 K, .265 BA, 4 HR) was a middle reliever during his first two seasons (2008 – 0-0, 1.26 ERA, 15 apps, 14 IP) and his role wasn’t decided on for the first couple of weeks but once he was moved into the rotation he became the best SP on the team. Wilk is 3rd in the conf in ERA, 5th in IP, 6th in wins, 8th in K’s and 10th in BA. He has outstanding control and does a good job of changing speeds and keeping the ball down and making batters hit lots of ground balls. Although he allows a hit per inning, because he does such a good job of keeping the ball down he has allowed only 10 extra base hits. Wilk has allowed 3 R’s in each of his last three starts, has gone at least 7 innings in six of his last seven starts and has not allowed more than 3 R’s in any of his last ten starts. He has allowed baserunners to go 8-13 on SB attempts. Wilk has allowed 2 R on 4 H in 1 1/3 IP in 3 apps against Fullerton.

Sat SP – Soph Jake Thompson (RHP – 4-6, 5.35 ERA, 13 starts, 77 IP, 91 H, 12 BB, 39 K, .294 BA, 7 HR) is the only SP back from last season (2008 – 2-5, 4.95 ERA, 13 starts, 67 IP, 90 H, 21 BB, 42 K) but he struggled with some health related issues in the middle of the season and has not been able to develop any consistency and is tied for 3rd in the conf in losses. Thompson has a low 90’s fastball and very good control but he doesn’t miss too many bats and has had trouble keeping the ball down, resulting in too many extra base hits (20 2B’s, 7 HR’s). He pitched well in his three starts against Northridge (6 1/3 IP, 2 R), Pacific (7 IP, 3 R) and Davis (7 2/3 IP, 2 R) but didn’t make it out of the 3rd inning the last two weeks against UCSB (3 IP, 7 H, 5 R) and Cal Poly (2 1/3 IP, 6 R, 6 H). Thompson does a good job of holding runners and has only allowed 3-6 SB’s. He allowed 5 R on 7 H in 3 IP in his start against Fullerton last season.

Sun SP – FR Andrew Gagnon (RHP – 3-6, 6.17 ERA, 12 starts, 70 IP, 91 H, 20 BB, 41 K, .323 BA, 5 HR) is a talented pitcher with a low 90’s fastball who was drafted in the 10th round last June but has also had trouble with being consistent and is tied for 3rd in the conf in losses. Much like Thompson, he pitched well in his three starts against the three bottom teams in the conf (Northridge, Davis, Pacific) when he allowed 8 R on 20 H in 17 IP but struggled against the three of the better teams in the conf (Irvine, UCSB, Cal Poly) when he allowed 19 R on 25 H in 14 IP. Gagnon has good control but also like Thompson has been around the plate too much and has not missing too many bats and has been getting his pitches up and allowing extra base hits. He has allowed baserunners to go 8-12 on SB attempts.


The closer is JC transfer Charlie Ruiz (RHP – 2-2, 3.75 ERA, 11 saves, 26 apps, 24 IP, 20 H, 12 BB, 41 K, .217 BA, 1 HR), who has done an outstanding job and is 2nd in the conf in saves and 5th in appearances. He has a low 90’s fastball and a good slider and has an excellent K/IP ratio although he has been a little wild and leads the conf with 11 WP’s despite only throwing 24 innings due to the movement on his slider. Ruiz will usually only throw one inning and rarely goes beyond that. He has only allowed 3 ER in 11 apps in conf games and they all came in a blown save in the final game of the UCSB series.

Long Beach has a pretty deep bullpen after Ruiz and they will using quite a few arms during the weekends, especially on Sat’s and Sun’s. The middle relievers most likely to see action this weekend are SR David Born (LHP – 2-0, 2.89 ERA, 28 apps, 19 IP, 12 H, 12 BB, 20 K, .185 BA, 1 HR), SR Dustin Rasco (RHP – 0-2, 4.32 ERA, 1 save, 27 apps, 25 IP, 23 H, 6 BB, 28 K, .232 BA, 4 HR), SR Anthony Carrillo (RHP – 0-0, 3.15 ERA, 14 apps, 20 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 12 K, .291 BA, 0 HR) and FR Josh Corrales (RHP – 1-2, 6.64 ERA, 1 save, 16 apps, 20 IP, 25 H, 9 BB, 11 K, .325 BA, 0 HR). Born and Rasco have both been tough to hit, don’t usually pitch much more than an inning and would be most likely to be brought into games in the 7th and 8th innings if Long Beach has a lead. Born leads the conf in appearances and Rasco is 3rd. Rasco has allowed 0 R on 3 H in 2 2/3 IP in three apps in his career against Fullerton. Carrillo and Corrales would be most likely to be brought into the game earlier and pitch multiple innings.

Other relievers who are available for Long Beach are midweek SP JC transfer Jeff Lease (LHP – 2-2, 6.98 ERA, 11 apps, 6 starts, 30 IP, 48 H, 12 BB, 25 K, .381 BA, 7 HR), JR Jason Markovitz (LHP – 1-1, 4.42 ERA, 17 apps, 18 IP, 21 H, 8 BB, 13 K, .318 BA, 1 HR), JR David Brown (RHP – 2-0, 5.68 ERA, 14 apps, 19 IP, 25 H, 10 BB, 10 K, .333 BA, 3 HR) and SR Tyler Topp (RHP – 0-1, 9.90 ERA, 12 apps, 20 IP, 42 H, 5 BB, 13 K, .429 BA, 1 HR). Topp was expected to contend for a weekend SP role after being a solid middle reliever last season (2008 – 2-2, 3.65 ERA, 12 apps, 37 IP, 38 H, 9 BB, 34 K) but has had a miserable season. He threw three scoreless innings in his only appearance against Fullerton last season.


Any hopes that Long Beach had of making it into a regional were squashed the last two weekends against UCSB and Cal Poly so the Dirtbags are playing for pride this weekend and are hoping to finish with a winning record and in the top third of the conference standings. Fullerton has much higher aspirations for this season and is playing to host post-season series at Goodwin Field. Also, the Titans are looking for revenge after losing the last two series to the Dirtbags and do not want to lose three straight series to Long Beach for the first time since 1996-1998. Injuries and inexperience have caught up with Long Beach down the stretch and they are not playing well right now while Fullerton has gotten over their midseason slump and are coming into this series with lots of momentum. Long Beach has a chance to pull off the upset in this series with the way that Wilk has been pitching on Fridays and will be motivated to finish this season with a series win but Fullerton is on too much of a roll to pick against the Titans and Fullerton should win two of three games this weekend.

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