Thursday, May 13, 2010

Long Beach State Series Preview

By FullertonBaseballFan

Cal State Fullerton (31-14, 15-3) moved one step closer towards winning the Big West championship last weekend with a sweep of UC Riverside (6-4, 9-1, 6-0) and followed that up on Wednesday with a 10-7 win at Pepperdine. The Titans continued their strong hitting by batting .396 on the weekend and have hit .391 and averaged nearly 10 runs per game while winning 13 of their last 14 games. Leading the way at the plate against Riverside were Christian Colon (7-12, 5 RBI), Gary Brown (6-12, 2 HR, 5 RBI), Carlos Lopez (6-10, 1 HR, 3 RBI) and Corey Jones (6-8, 1 RBI).

Unlike last week against San Diego and Pacific when the Fullerton pitching staff struggled in three of four games, they were dominant in holding Riverside to five runs and a paltry .204 average in the series. Fullerton received a boost from the return of Noe Ramirez on Friday night (6 IP, 3 R, 7 H) after a three week absence, got strong outings from Daniel Renken (5 IP, 1 R, 5 H) and Colin O’Connell (4 hitless innings) in a game that started on Saturday and ended on Sunday due to a power outage and the sweep was finished by Dylan Floro in a CG shutout that earned him Big West pitcher of the week honors. Fullerton’s magic number to win the Big West is four and they could clinch at least a share of the conference championship this weekend by winning all three games (or win the title outright if Irvine also loses a game) and would like nothing better than to finish things off against their long time rivals, the Long Beach State Dirtbags.

Long Beach (22-23, 7-8) shared the conference championship with Fullerton in 2008 but lost quite a bit of talent off of that team and had a poor season in 2009, finishing 25-29, 11-13 (tied for 5th) for their first losing season since 1988. The Dirtbags expected to contend for a spot in a regional this year with a much more experienced team with seven starting position players and two weekend starting pitchers returning. Long Beach got off to a slow start losing 2 of 3 games twice in the first three weekends (including an 8-1 loss to Fullerton opening weekend) before hitting their stride by winning four straight weekend series, including the conference opening series against Pacific. The Dirtbags have hit the skids since the Pacific series and have lost four of their last five series, including series losses to lower level Big West teams UC Davis and Cal Poly. Long Beach lost a non-conference series last weekend to Stanford when they lost two one run games before coming back to win the final game. The big news this week at Long Beach occurred when Mike Weathers announced his retirement after nine years as head coach of the Dirtbags with assistant coach Troy Buckley taking over after the season, which means Long Beach will have even more motivation this weekend in this rivalry series.


Long Beach was a poor hitting team in 2009 when they hit .289 with a .370 OBP and .394 SLG % and averaged six runs per game (7th in the Big West in all of those categories) while hitting only 24 HR’s (8th in the conference) and striking out seven times per game (3rd most in the conf). The Dirtbags got off to a slow start at the plate this season and are hitting only .286 and averaging six runs per game in non-conf games. Long Beach’s bats heated up once Big West play started and they hit a scorching .346 in their first five conf series and averaged nearly eight runs per game, both of which are second to Fullerton in conference games. As a result of their recent hot hitting the Dirtbags have upped their team average up to .308 for the season (4th in the conf). Long Beach doesn’t hit the ball out of the yard often with only 23 HR’s (next to last in the Big West) playing in cavernous Blair Field but they do have good gap power and are 2nd in the conf with 108 doubles. The Dirtbags have long been known as a little ball team and were 2nd in the Big West in 2009 with 118 SB’s and 61 SAC’s and are still bunting quite a bit with 45 SAC’s but they aren’t running quite as much or as successfully this season with 52 SB’s in 87 attempts.

Long Beach’s defense was around the middle of the pack in 2009 with a .966 FLD % and 68 errors and the Dirtbags defense has been a little better this season with a .970 FLD % and 51 errors. What has hurt Long Beach is they have tended to make untimely errors that have led to 48 unearned runs and turned several wins into losses, such as the final game of their series at Cal Poly when the Mustangs scored the winning run on an error. The primary culprit has been infield defense with 40 errors by their infielders despite having an experienced infield. The Dirtbags have very good outfield defense, which is necessary with the large dimensions at Blair Field, and their OF’s have committed only one error all season.


Long Beach is the third straight conference team that Fullerton is playing that has an experienced infield. The only new starter for the Dirtbags is at 3B.

C – SR #3 Kellen Hoime (RH – .220/.280/.275, 1-14-6; ’09 stats – .252/.338/.291, 0-19-5) started 16 of the last 18 games in 2009 after splitting time earlier in the year and has been the regular C this season. He is in the lineup for his defense, will usually bat 9th and has 6 SAC’s. Hoime has struck out nearly one-third of the time. Long Beach has allowed 41 WP’s/PB’s and runners are 22-33 on SB attempts against Hoime. He went 0-2 in the first game against Fullerton and is 0-7 in his career against the Titans. Backup Joel Thys (Both – .171 in 41 AB’s) has started 11 games.

1B – SR #6 Steve Tinoco (RH – .349/.403/.430, 1-41-1; ‘09 stats – .343/.379/.543, 5-30-5) is 5th in the conf in RBI and was 2nd on the team in HR’s and SLG% in 2009. He started off slowly in the run production dept but has gotten hot during the conf season and has 22 RBI in 15 Big West games despite usually batting 7th. Tinoco is average defensively and has made five errors. He went 3-4 in the first game against Fullerton and is 6-19 with an HR in his career against the Titans.

2B – Soph #8 Kirk Singer (RH – .325/.409/.544, 5-19-5; ’09 stats – .317 in 41 AB’s) didn’t play much last year and was still in a utility role earlier this year backing up at 2B, SS and 3B until his hot bat forced Long Beach to make a switch and Singer was inserted into the lineup at 2B. He usually hits 2nd and is 2nd on the team in HR’s and SLG. Singer has good range but is used to playing on the left side of the infield and has made eight errors.

Soph #4 Derek Legg (Both – .207/.280/.244, 0-9-1; ’09 stats – .304/.382/.376, 1-20-11) started last year as a FR and was starting earlier this season before the lineup was shuffled. He has 7 SAC’s so he will usually be asked to drop a bunt down when the situation calls for it and will usually bat 8th or 9th. He went 0-2 in the first game against Fullerton and is 2-15 in his career against the Titans.

SS – JR #5 Devin Lohman (RH – .415/.482/.565, 1-24-7; ’09 stats – .307/.409/.432, 4-36-14) has had an outstanding season, is projected to be selected in the first 5-10 rounds of the draft and is the latest in a long line of SS prospects at Long Beach. He will usually hit 3rd and is in the top ten in the Big West in AVG (2nd), OBP (2nd), 2B (6th), H (9th) and SLG (10th). Lohman started the season off well and has gotten even hotter in conf games, hitting .455 against Big West opponents. He was 2nd in the conf in 2009 with 48 K’s but has done a much better job of making contact and has struck out 25 times this year. Lohman has struggled defensively and leads the conf with 14 errors. He went 0-2 in the first game against Fullerton and is 2-13 in his career against the Titans. Lohman is questionable for this weekend after injuring his hamstring in the first inning last Friday against Stanford and missing the rest of the series and the midweek game against USC. If Lohman is unable to play, Singer would play SS and Legg would play 2B.

Soph #7 Joey Terdoslavich (Both – .326/.382/.500, 6-40-3; .293-5-25-2 in 2008) sat out last season after transferring from Miami and has been making up for lost time and is in the top ten in the Big West in HR (10th) and RBI (7th) while hitting cleanup. He got off to a very slow start but has been hitting much better lately and has hit .371 with 2 HR and 14 RBI in conf games. Terdoslavich has decent range at 3B but has made nine errors. He went 0-2 in the first game against Fullerton.


Long Beach returned all of their OF’s from last season so it was expected that this would be a strong area for the Dirtbags and their OF’s have delivered.

LF – JR #40 Jonathon Jones (RH – .317/.394/.469, 2-21-6; ’09 stats – .307/.388/.375, 1-23-15) has good speed and was the starting CF in 2008 and has been the LF the last two seasons. He was one of several hitters who got off to slow starts but he has gotten hot in Big West games, hitting .352 with 11 RBI while usually batting 5th. Jones handles the bat well and is 3rd in the Big West with 8 SAC bunts. He went 0-3 in the first game against Fullerton and is 8-20 in his career against the Titans.

CF – Soph #12 Brennan Metzger (RH – .331/.433/.479, 1-19-9; ’09 stats – .258/.389/.337, 1-9-11) has good speed and has been hitting leadoff after being a part-time player in 2009. He is a scrappy player who will do whatever he can to get on base (leads the Big West with 17 HBP’s) and will run when he gets on base (10th in the Big West in SB’s). Metzger has very good range in CF. He went 1-3 in the first game against Fullerton.

RF – SR #23 TJ Mittelstaedt (LH – .323/4/.395/.500, 1-27-6; ‘09 stats – .316/.416/.551, 6-46-6) led the team in HR’s, RBI’s, BB’s, OBP, 2B’s, 3B’s and SLG in 2009 and was one of the few bright spots in a miserable season for Long Beach. He got off to a very slow start and was hitting under .250 during the non-conf season but has heated up during Big West games, hitting .442 with 14 RBI despite hitting in the 8th spot in the order most of the time, although he has hit 3rd the last three games with Lohman out. Mittelstaedt is average defensively but will make plays on everything that he gets to. He went 1-4 in the first game against Fullerton and is 10-30 with 4 RBI’s in his career against the Titans, including 3-11 last season when all three hits were triples.

DH – JR #20 Jordan Casas (LH – ’09 stats – .308/.335/.362, 0-25-22) was the leadoff hitter and CF in 2009 and was 2nd in the conf in SB’s but he has struggled, been benched for awhile and is just now starting to play better after going 12-38 over the last 10 games. Casas is 3rd in the Big West with 8 SAC bunts and will usually hit 6th but hit at the top of the order the last three games with Lohman out. He went 0-2 in the first game against Fullerton and is 6-28 in his career against the Titans.


The foundation of Long Beach’s program over the years has been a dominant pitching staff that takes advantage of the spacious dimensions at Blair Field. Last year the wheels came off the tracks for the Dirtbags and their team ERA was in the middle of the pack in the conference at 5.18. There was hope going into this season with the return of Troy Buckley as the pitching coach after a two year absence during which he was working in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system along with the return of two starting pitchers who are projected to be pretty high draft picks. The team ERA for Long Beach has come down to 4.42 (3rd in the conf) and batters are hitting over 30 points less with the opponents AVG coming down from .303 to .269 (2nd best in the Big West). The starting pitching has been a little inconsistent but has generally been solid. What has sunk the hopes for the Dirtbags to get back to the post-season has been a group of relievers and midweek starters that has been responsible for eight losses when Long Beach was tied or had leads late in games and gone 4-6 during midweek games.


Fri SP – Soph #24 Andrew Gagnon (RHP – 5-5, 2.83 ERA, 12 starts, 76 IP, 72 H, 22 BB, 59 K, .242 BA, 4 HR, 11 HBP, 5 WP) was drafted in the 10th round out of HS and didn’t pitch up to that level last year (’09 stats – 3-7, 6.32 ERA, 13 starts, 73 IP, 96 H, 23 BB, 44 K, .327 BA, 5 HR, 11 HBP, 9 WP). He has had a great deal of improvement this season and is 3rd in the conf in ERA and AVG and 8th in K and IP. Gagnon has a low 90’s fastball and good control (2 BB or less in 9 of the last 11 starts) but he will pitch inside and has hit 11 batters (3rd in the conf) and he has done a much better job of missing bats, lowering the AVG that teams are hitting against him by 85 points. He started the season as the Sat SP but moved into the Fri spot after the first three weeks and has a 2.43 ERA in conf games and allowed 3 ER or less in seven of his last eight starts, with his only poor start at Riverside last month when he allowed 7 R in 5 2/3. Gagnon does not do a good job holding runners (19-28 SB’s the last two years). He allowed 6 R in 2 2/3 IP in his start against Fullerton last season.

Sat SP – JR #36 Jake Thompson (RHP – 5-2, 4.99 ERA, 12 starts, 79 IP, 86 H, 21 BB, 67 K, .286 BA, 2 HR, 10 HBP, 11 WP) is projected to be drafted in the first five rounds next month but hasn’t been consistent, which has been a big issue for him during his three years in the rotation (’09 stats – 4-7, 5.61 ERA, 14 starts, 85 IP, 103 H, 13 BB, 42 K, .302 BA, 9 HR, 10 HBP, 5 WP). He has a 7.11 ERA in conf starts and allowed 5+ R in 3 out of 4 starts before having a strong start against Stanford, allowing only 1 R before giving up a 2 run HR with two outs in the top of the 9th. Thompson is 2nd in the conf in K and has a low 90’s sinking fastball and has done a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark this year. He pitches inside and has hit 10 batters (7th in the conf). Thompson does a very good job of controlling the running game (6-15 SB’s the last two years). He has allowed 12 R on 19 H in 11 IP in his two starts against Fullerton in his career.

Sun SP – JC transfer #22 Branden Pinder (RHP – 4-5, 4.15 ERA, 12 starts, 74 IP, 82 H, 16 BB, 41 K, .293 BA, 9 HR, 15 HBP, 2 WP) has done a solid job and is 10th in the conf in ERA. His fastball sits in the mid 80’s and he relies on very good control and spotting his fastball to get hitters out. Pinder pitches inside and he leads the Big West with 15 HBP’s. He had a very good stretch in the middle of the season where he had five straight starts when he allowed 2 R or less but he has started to wear down and get the ball up, allowing 5+ R in three of his last four starts. Pinder has done a solid job at holding runners (5-8 SB’s). He allowed 5 R (4 ER) in 6 IP in his start against Fullerton earlier this season.


The bullpen has only recorded three saves and has been responsible for eight losses as well as a poor midweek record and is one of the main reasons why Long Beach will not be playing in the post-season for the second straight season. The two main options that the Dirtbags will use late in games are SR #44 Jason Markovitz (LHP – 2-1, 2.95 ERA, 20 apps, 1 save, 20 IP, 16 H, 11 BB, 29 K, .213 BA, 1 HR, 2 HBP, 2 WP) and SR #39 David Brown (RHP – 2-2, 4.26 ERA, 19 apps, 1 save, 19 IP, 20 H, 10 BB, 11 K, .274 BA, 0 HR, 2 HBP, 3 WP). Markovitz is tough on LH hitters but both walk too many hitters and Brown has been prone to giving up the big hit in key situations.

Other relievers that could see action this weekend are FR #32 Nate Underwood (RHP – 2-1, 3.86 ERA, 11 apps, 4 midweek starts, 28 IP, 23 H, 5 BB, 6 K, .237 BA, 2 HR, 0 HBP, 2 WP), who threw four scoreless innings against USC on Wed, FR #16 Eddie Magallon (RHP – 1-1, 4.04 ERA, 1 save, 11 apps, 4 midweek starts, 36 IP, 31 H, 7 BB, 22 K, .240 BA, 5 HR, 4 HBP, 1 WP), who three scoreless innings for the save against Stanford on Sunday, JC transfer #27 Cris Trout (RHP – 1-0, 3.93 ERA, 20 apps, 18 IP, 13 H, 7 BB, 17 K, .191 BA, 1 HR, 3 HBP, 1 WP), JC transfer #38 Kenny Arnerich (RHP – 0-3, 5.65 ERA, 17 apps, 14 IP, 18 H, 8 BB, 8 K, .310 BA, 0 HR, 1 HBP, 1 WP), and situational LHP #49 FR Ryan Donohue (0-1, 5.40 ERA, 9 apps, 3 1/3 IP, 4 H, 5 BB, 5 K).


The complexion of this series changed on Tuesday when Mike Weathers announced his retirement. What began as a series with Long Beach playing out the string and not playing for much but pride in a rivalry series changed to the Dirtbags trying to go out and win a series for their outgoing coach in his last series against their rivals. Besides that additional motivational factor and playing this series at home, not much else favors Long Beach this weekend.

The Dirtbags have been hitting well during the Big West season but have been able to be cooled off by front line pitching like they were last weekend in the first two games against Stanford. As well as Long Beach has been hitting the ball, Fullerton has been even better at the plate and the Titans bring the better offense into this series. In the field, Fullerton has been a pretty consistent fielding team most of the time while the Dirtbags have been struggling with being error prone in their infield, which is not good with the pressure that the Titans put on teams with their offense.

Long Beach’s pitching has improved this season with Troy Buckley returning to coach their pitchers and their rotation has usually been more consistent than they were in 2009 but the front end of the Fullerton rotation has been clicking on all cylinders despite some shuffling around due to injuries. Also, the back end of the Dirtbags staff has been finding ways to blow games all season while the Fullerton pitchers have been reliable at the end of games.

Fullerton has been on an extended roll by going 24-5 after starting the season out at 7-9. Long Beach’s season has sputtered out over the last month after they played well in the middle of the year but the Dirtbags have the hitting and front line pitching to win this series if they start clicking on all cylinders this weekend. Fullerton has dominated Long Beach in the four meetings over the last two seasons by a combined score of 34-8 and as long as the Titans continue to play like they have the past two months and don’t get too wrapped up in the emotion of a rivalry series, Fullerton should win this series.

No comments: