Mantra Southern Miss: When surrogacy overtakes ERA, it’s a good thing
You can beat the Southern Miss baseball pitchers sometimes, but know this: The Golden Eagles pitchers, one of the smartest bunch, don’t fight on their own.
USM’s pitching staff ranks No.1 nationally in strikeouts to steps, which could be the most underestimated of all pitching statistics. The Southern Miss pitchers whipped up 522 batters, while walking just 122 in 466 innings. That means they struck out 4.28 times more hitters than they walked. No college baseball team is even close.
Senior right-hander Hunter Stanley, set to start against Florida State in the first round of the Oxford Regional on Friday, leads the way after striking out 119 batters while walking just 16 in 93 innings. This means Stanley has batters swinging and missing quite often, while constantly throwing the ball over the plate. It is not easy.
And, imposing as it is, it might not be the most impressive statistic for Southern Miss pitchers. Pitchers play varsity baseball for two reasons: pitching well and getting a college education. Get This: All four of the Golden Eagle Weekend starters have a GPA that is above the Earned Points Average (ERA). OK, I’ll grant you that, that’s an esoteric statistic, but it is none the less impressive.
Keep in mind that the lower the ERA the better and the higher the GPA the better. An average ERA for a varsity pitcher is about 4.5 earned runs per nine innings. An average GPA is probably around 2.5. Now consider:
Stanley, an exercise science student, has an ERA of 2.42, up from a cumulative GPA of 3.9. No. 2 starter Walker Powell, Conference USA pitcher of the year, has an earned-run average of 2.53 and a cumulative average of 3.1. He has already graduated in Business Management and is one class away from his Masters in Sports Management. # 3 starter Ben Ethridge, a freshman majoring in sports management, has a cumulative GPA of 3.4, up from 2.65 ERA. And the fourth starter, Drew Boyd, has an ERA of 3.76 and a perfect GPA of 4.0. He is in pre-med and has yet to get anything less than an A in any grade since he started elementary school.
According to Christian Ostrander, the Eagles’ pitching coach, “They’re all a lot smarter than me, for sure.”
A great starting pitcher paved the way for Southern Miss to reach a 37-19 record, a national ranking and the No.2 seed at Oxford. Strikes, especially clutch strikes, have been patchy at times, although they improved late in the season. Relief throws, strong at the start of the season, have fallen in recent times. But a good starting pitcher was the only constant. When your four main starters have a collective earned run average of less than three points per game, you should win a bunch. USM a.
My question to Ostrander: How is intelligence taken into account in the performance of a pitcher? Is the intellect important?
“Oh yeah,” Ostrander replied. “IQ is definitely a factor. He plays a role in it. You prefer to have smart guys who can pitch. But the other thing is that the same discipline that plays a huge role in balancing athletics and academics applies to pitching. I’m talking mostly about hard work. These guys really, really worked, both physically and mentally. They got better. What they’ve done this season is truly phenomenal. The numbers don’t lie. That strike-to-goals ratio is about as good as I’ve ever seen. This is what I am most proud of.
The launchers attribute Ostrander’s tutelage.
“Don’t Fight has been hammered into our heads everyday,” said Powell. “Walking people makes you beat. Coach Oz stresses it every day: don’t give them first base. ”
Spring semester is over, but Boyd, the only left-hander among USM’s top four starters, was studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) last week at the Conference USA tournament. He is a senior academic, but just a sophomore eligibility due to a red shirt year, then recovering the 2020 season which was aborted due to COVID-19. He wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, much like the famous Dr. James Andrews, who performed Boyd’s Tommy John surgery between his high school career in Oak Grove and his college career.
“Drew is a thinking man’s pitcher,” Ostrander said. “He’s not dominating you, although you had better respect his fastball. He’s a thinker and a competitor, who moves the ball, changes gears and just knows how to throw.
According to Boyd, the son of USM’s latest three-sport letterer Larry Boyd, “Coach Oz emphasizes the mental part. We all work hard physically to get ready for games, but once you’re on the mound to kick off a game, it’s a lot more mental than physical.
Ostrander said, “I tell them you work out physically for six days and go through the screening reports to prepare for then on the seventh day. Day 7 is the one you start, it’s a fun day. This is when all this work pays off.
It pays off a lot more often when you hit a lot more hitters than you walk. At Southern Miss, in 2021, it was the case.
– Article credit to Rick Cleveland of Mississippi today –