May 14, 2013 5:10:42 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University baseball has a serious problem going into the postseason - the starting pitching has been very inconsistent.
Throughout the seasons of what will be their third consecutive postseason berth, MSU coach John Cohen and his staff including pitching coach Butch Thompson has made the program revolve around pitching depth and defensive prowess and in a season where the College World Series in Omaha was a legit goal, MSU's starting pitching has seriously began to show signs of faltering in the final month of the season.
Let's break each of the three weekend starters down individually:
Friday night starting pitcher: Luis Pollorena (6-3, 3.86)
Apr 12, 2013 - at Texas A&M: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 3 2B in 95 pitches of a 3-2 victory.
Apr 18, 2013 - vs. AUBURN: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2B in 66 pitches of a 6-3 victory.
Apr 26, 2013 - at Vanderbilt: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 2 2B in 118 pitches of a 3-1 loss.
May 04, 2013 - vs. ALABAMA: 4.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 2B, HR in 82 pitches in 10-6 victory.
May 10, 2013 - at Ole Miss: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB , 3 K, HR in 77 pitches of 3-0 loss.
TOTALS - 1-2, 27 IP, 27 H, 15 R, 14 ER, 14 BB, 21 K with a 4.67 ERA
Pollorena has easily been the most consistent starting arm for No. 24 MSU (37-15, 14-13 in Southeastern Conference) but the statistics also show the senior left-hander has been hit hard over the last month by allowing a home run in each of his last two starts and averaging three extra-base hits in each of his last five starts.
Pollorena was somewhat of a hard luck loser at Vanderbilt against projected first round draft Kevin Ziomek but a defensive out at third base to end a 2-run third inning could've been a lot worse and then possibly meant four straight outings without a quality start.
"To have him hook up with a guy like (Ole Miss ace Bobby) Wahl on Friday night, it really is, in some way, that's the identity," MSU John Cohen said. "Our kids, I don't view them as underdogs in any way, but here's a kid with a heart of a lion. You gotta have some kids like Luis who are overachievers in every aspect of his life."
While what Cohen preaches about Pollorena is more than true when it comes to grit and ability to grind out innings, the problem is if he continues to battle in the Friday night role then he'll continue to see SEC aces in the opposing dugout that have a first round draft pick arsenal and therefore, the margin for error for the 5-foot-7 southpaw from Laredo, Texas is extremely small. Pollorena will see another version of himself this Thursday night as the University of South Carolina put out a more identical version of Pollorena in the form of 5-foot-8 senior left hander Nolan Belcher (7-5, 2.23) and saves its ace Jordan Montgomery (4-1, 1.86) for Saturday.
Saturday starting pitcher: Kendall Graveman (5-5, 3.00)
Apr 13, 2013 - at Texas A&M: CG, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 2 HR in 110 pitches of 9-3 victory.
Apr 19, 2013 - vs. AUBURN: 7 IP, 10 H, 3 R, ER, BB, 5 K in 106 pitches of a 3-1 loss.
Apr 26, 2013 - at Vanderbilt: 5 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 3 2B in 99 pitches of 5-2 loss.
May 04, 2013 - vs. ALABAMA: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, BB, 3 K, HR in 72 pitches of 5-4 victory.
May 11, 2013 - at Ole Miss: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, K, 2B, 3B in 87 pitches of 10-8 loss.
TOTALS - 1-3, 31.1 IP, 42 H, 20 R, 16 ER, 8 BB, 18 K, 4 2B, 3B, 3 HR with a 4.60 ERA
Simply put, following possibly the most dominant month by an SEC starting pitcher short of Louisiana State University's Aaron Nola, Kendall Graveman has been hit hard in the last month. The senior right hander is giving up over a base hit and nearly 1.5 base runners per inning on the mound leading to an increase in his ERA from 1.99 to 3.00. Graveman has given up eight extra-base hits and over four runs in each of his last three starts. He'll face South Carolina's ace Jordan Montgomery on Friday and will need to be more like the Graveman in late March to early April for the Bulldogs to come away victorious.
Sunday starting pitcher: Jacob Lindgren (4-2, 3.91)
Apr 20, 2013 - vs. AUBURN: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K, 2B in 106 pitches of 6-0 victory.
Apr 28, 2013 - at Vanderbilt: 0.2 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, K, 2B in 21 pitches of 8-3 loss.
May 05, 2013 - vs. ALABAMA: 3 IP, 7 H, 2 R, ER, BB, 4 K in 59 pitches of 7-6 victory.
May 12, 2013 - at Ole Miss: IP, 2 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, K in 29 pitches of 7-6 victory.
TOTALS - 1-1, 12.2 IP, 17 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 5 BB, 17 K with a 6.39 ERA
Lindgren has just been the most enigmatic starting weekend pitcher of the 2013 season for MSU. The proper perspective analogy here is Dr. Lindgren has been one of the more dominant SEC starting pitchers after outings against Auburn and the first two months of non-conference play. Mr. Jacob has had serious struggles just getting the first three outs of a ball game. It's simply been a command issue for Lindgren and while that doesn't show up in his K/BB ratio, it does show up in his counts to hitters before he allows base runners and his pitch counts in the few few innings of starts.
"I just felt like they were doing a great job of taking some marginal pitches and creating some advantage counts and it just wasn't going to happen for him," Cohen said Sunday after Lindgren's outing at Ole Miss. "I don't know if it was more of a Lindgren thing (to pull him after one inning) or we were not going to go a weekend without pitching Jonathan Holder."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
5. Pulitzer finalist Martin to deliver reading Thursday ENTERTAINMENT