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On Pitchers And RPI

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As difficult as it might be to believe, something good did develop from the Owls' 7-1 loss to Texas A&M in College Station on Tuesday night. The Owls' pressing concerns over righthanded relief have been discussed at length in this space, but against the Ags the Owls took a small step forward in building righthanded bullpen depth to complement southpaws Abe Gonzales, Doug Simmons and Holt McNair, all of whom have produced beyond expectations.

Jr. RHP Boogie Anagnostou enjoyed arguably his best outing of the season, surrendering only one hit through four innings before his defense failed him with one out in the nightmarish fifth. His fastball was lively and his command of his breaking ball superior, but of greater importance is the fact that Anagnostou felt good about himself following his performance. When The OG lifted Anagnostou in the fifth, he instructed him that he could be used in relief against East Carolina. If Anagnostou continues to throw strikes and trust his defense, as wobbly as it has been of late, he will be a factor down the stretch and into the postseason.

For a second consecutive Tuesday, a freshman RHP emerged to give The OG another option to consider. Last week in Huntsville it was Jeremy Fant; last night College Station native Chase McDowell made his first mound appearance in two months and worked two shutout innings of one-hit ball, fanning two in the process. Just as Fant earned another look last night, expect McDowell to earn the same once the Owls return to action following their finals hiatus.

How the pitching staff unfolds remains the biggest mystery relative to the 2010 Owls. The OG pointed out that he used just five pitchers - Jeff Niemann, David Aardsma, Wade Townsend, Philip Humber and Josh Baker - in Omaha during the Owls' national championship run in 2003, thus if the Owls were to avoid the losers' bracket in a regional or at the CWS, five trustworthy pitchers could be sufficient. The Owls appear to currently have five pitchers that fit that tag: So. LHP Taylor Wall, Sr. RHP Mike Ojala, Sr. RHP Jared Rogers, Fr. RHP Tyler Duffey and Gonzales. I would argue that supreme talent had more to do with the Owls' needing just five pitchers to work their way through the bracket in Omaha seven years ago, but The OG's point is well taken. Would the Owls be better off if they could extend the number of reliable pitchers to eight in advance of the postseason? Yes. So, who are the other three?

Anagnostou should be on that short list. Simmons, given the right circumstances (which don't include the bases loaded with one out) should be, too. McNair has carved a niche as a situational lefthander, but it would be wonderful if another RHP filled that final void. Fant? McDowell? Or perhaps Fr. J.T. Chargois, should he suddenly create some tilt on his curveball? All are viable options, so expect The OG to continue auditions in search of the final candidate.

Of course, something terribly troubling unfolded at A&M, and it had nothing to do with defense. The ugly loss to A&M hurt because it represented the Owls' final chance to gain a significant RPI boost. Currently the Owls are on the outside of the bubble looking in with regards to hosting a Houston Regional, and while the setback had minimal negative impact on their RPI (down to 29 from 26), the Owls won't get another shot to drastically improve their RPI over their final 15 games of the regular season. Here is their remaining opponents' current RPIs:

East Carolina (3): 68
TSU: 252
@Marshall (3): 134
@Oklahoma State: 130
Southern Miss (3): 105
@Houston: 79
UAB (3): 136

There were whispers that Rice should consider swapping its date with TSU for a non-conference game with Texas State (RPI: 46) in order to make up an earlier date that was rained out. Rumors of such a move have not been broached, let alone confirmed, but given the daunting possibility of being a No. 2 seed in Austin or Baton Rouge, Rice should consider all options that might boost its slim hopes for opening the NCAA Tournament at The Reck.

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3 Comments

What about Fazio? I don't get why he doesn't pitch more often. Outside of his opening week troubles he has been solid. And his stuff is filthy.

C: There are some lingering concerns over his lack of velocity (against Corpus Christi, Fazio was around 85-86), command (11 BB in 16.2 IP) and confidence. It might take Fazio a full summer of pitching to regain the swagger he had last fall, when everyone who saw him pitch was positive he would be a significant contributor this season. - MK

We have not seen much of Matt Evers. Is he injured?

I'm curious about J.T. Chargois, was he recruited as a pitcher only or to be a position player. His pitching seems to be good but what is batting like.

Haw far along has Mike O recovered percentage wise.

I don't fully understand the RPI numbers. Is a high number good or bad.

James: Evers is healthy, but behind the other southpaws listed. Chargois is an all-around talent slowed by preseason illness and a reoccurring eye issue. I'd expect him to be a key contributor for Rice next season. Ojala is no longer on a pitch count, but will likely be limited to six innings this weekend. And the lower the RPI number the better. If the Owls can work their way into the low-20s, they might have an outside shot at hosting a regional. That will take some fortuitous luck. - MK

While Coach relied on only five pitchers in the games we won in Omaha in 2003, Matt Ueckert and I pitched in our losing effort against Stanford in the second game of the championship series. I am utterly insulted! (Not really, of course.)
Always enjoy your write-ups, MK. Keep up the great work.

Steven: That's what I get for trusting AP write-ups on those games (it'd be nice if riceowls.com had the actual box scores). I sincerely apologize for the oversights. - MK

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