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Monday - July 24, 2006

It's official

Okay, it's official: Skip Johnson is the new UT pitching coach.

Posted by Joanna at 6:27 PM | Permalink

Tuesday - July 18, 2006

New pitching coach?

KVUE reported this evening that UT is close to signing Navarro College's head coach Skip Johnson as the new Texas pitching coach. We've had quite a few players transfer in from Navarro (in Corsicana) over the last few years. Among them: Clay Van Hook, Joseph Krebs, Sam Anderson, D.J. Jones, and Jesen Merle (who I'm pretty sure still holds a special place in my sister's heart as her all-time favorite Texas player).

Posted by Joanna at 11:50 AM | Permalink

Monday - July 17, 2006

Alumni news: Ontiveros and Emond

Sad to report that the Coastal Bend Aviators released Jeff Ontiveros about a week ago.

The Quebec Capitales announced over the weekend that they traded Ben (Benoit) Emond to the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the Northern League for a player to be named later. I was very intrigued by that name...the Cracker-Cats. What in the world is a Cracker-Cat? I found their web site (Ben's not yet listed on their roster as I post this) and am guessing, based on their logo...

[Cracker-Cats logo]

...that a Cracker-Cat might be something like an oil wildcatter. That's what the oil derick and fancy oil-drop dash brings to mind, at any rate. Doing a cursory web search for the term only revealed that Edmonton baseball team, though.

Posted by Joanna at 10:56 PM | Permalink

Lunchtime news

I ate lunch at my desk today so decided to look around for news on some of our Texas Exes. And, so...

And, regarding a current player: Pitcher enjoying healthy vacation by Eric Ransom (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram), July 7, 2006. It sounds like Randy Boone is planing a return to Texas for his senior season. Quote:

Boone said all signs point to him returning to school. One more strong season at Texas could increase his draft stock, and his bargaining power once he turns pro.

However, two of his roommates from Austin have signed contracts. Drew Stubbs and Kyle McCulloch were both drafted in the first round. A fourth roommate, Carson Kainer, was selected in the 13th round by the Cincinnati Reds, but will attempt to return to the Longhorns next season after undergoing a kidney transplant.

"I've talked to Carson a couple of times since the draft," Boone said. "He's going to come back, and his situation made me realize my position was nothing to complain about."

And, that does it for my lunch hour. Later...

Posted by Joanna at 12:57 PM | Permalink

Saturday - July 15, 2006

USA Baseball: Preston Clark

Preston Clark was instrumental in the USA Baseball National Team's 13-3 victory over the Southwest Slashers (link). He hit a solo home run for the first run of the game in the 2nd inning and followed that with a 2-run single in the 5th.

Posted by Joanna at 10:16 PM | Permalink

Not about the Horns: Oregon State update

There was lots of talk as the Beavers were making their way to the CWS championship about what their coach would do. Would someone else steal him away from Oregon State? 'Looks like Oregon State decided not to mess with success. They very nearly doubled his salary and gave a 10-year contract extension to Pat Casey. His base salary is going up from $120K to $230K (link). Wow.

Posted by Joanna at 5:08 PM | Permalink

Friday - July 7, 2006

Coach Holiday leaving for North Carolina State

'Guess the point at the end of my post about the pitching situation is proven nicely by the fact that I was wrong about whether or not Coach Holliday was on his way out. Esther called me a couple of minutes ago to say he was leaving. So, I fired up the TexasSports page and sure 'nuff.

Posted by Joanna at 10:56 PM | Permalink

Monday - July 3, 2006

Preston Clark makes Team USA

Preston Clark made the final roster for Team USA. He and Roger Kieschnick (Texas Tech) are the only two Big 12 players on the final roster (link).

Posted by Joanna at 7:58 AM | Permalink

Saturday - July 1, 2006

Thoughts on the pitching situation

I received a question via email from someone who did not identify himself (or herself) a few days ago:

any rumblings out there that there is a pitching coach change in the wind????

I generally don't answer email when people don't identify themselves. All I got was an AOL screen name with no real name attached. But, it's a variation of a question I got a lot this year and addresses something I've been mulling since relatively early in the season.

What did happen to the pitching this year?

Frankly, this is the sort of thing I hesitate to get into in this space because I'm not a coach. I don't have access to any of the most basic info the coaches have. I have no way of knowing, for example, if a pitcher is suffering from a headache or if his arm's a little tired or if there's something going on in his personal life that might cause his mental game to be off. There's no way a person who just sits in the stands and watches the games can know these sorts of things. It's always easy to second-guess decisions made on the field. 20-20 hindsight and all. And, just to be clear, even though it's stated in black and white at the bottom of the main page, I do not have any sort of special "in" with anyone on the team or any muckity-muck alumni types.

But, I did sit in the stands all season long. I generally see about 95% of the innings played at Disch-Falk. The only times I miss any innings are when they play those mid-week afternoon games early in the season...when I have trouble getting away from my office. And, I generally miss all the away games but listen to the radio broadcasts most of the time. I'm not a casual fan that shows up for the tail-gate party and only sees 2 or 3 innings of 5 or 6 games. When I go to a game, I watch the game. I get to the park early and keep score...pitch-by-pitch. And, I stay for the whole game. I don't take snack breaks. The point is: I'm there.

With that in mind, I do have a few thoughts on the matter.

First, links to year-end stats: 2005 and 2006. Go take a look at the numbers.

Some observations on those numbers:

  1. Winning percentage for 2005: .778. For 2006: .661.
  2. The team ERA went up from 2.80 to 3.89. That's a pretty big jump. When you look at that jump, I don't suppose it's all that surprising that the Horns didn't make it back to the CWS.
  3. The team played 10 more games last year than they did this year. They did go to a Super Regional and the CWS so that explains that.
  4. In 2005, Buck Cody appeared in 47% of the games, Clayton Stewart in 57%, and J. Brent Cox in 58%. In 2006, we only had one pitcher who approached those numbers: Austin Wood appeared in 56%. Eight other pitchers (Boening, McCulloch, Alaniz, Walker, Boone, Parigi, Kasparek, and Krebs, in ascending percentage order) appeared in 31-37% of the games played. So the load was more evenly distributed.
  5. Last year, the primary starters (Alaniz, Boone, Kasparek, and McCulloch) accounted for 35 wins (63%). Stewart (middle reliever) and Cox (closer) accounted for 17 (30%) and Buck Cody had the other 4. On this year's team, the primary starters (Alaniz, Boening, Kasparek, and McCulloch) accounted for 24 wins (58%). The rest were scattered around pretty evenly among 6 pitchers. I would guess that 1 or 2 of Kasparek's wins came in relief as well.
  6. In 2005, the four primary starters accounted for 429 innings (66%) pitched. In 2006, they pitched 334 innings (61%). Again, some of those innings in 2006 for Kasparek (and a few for Alaniz and McCulloch) belong in the relief category so that number should actually be lower.

Bullets 4 and 5 seem to indicate that we didn't have anyone step forward to dominate. McCulloch's record was 12-4 last year with a 2.92 ERA. This year he went 8-5 with a 3.61 ERA. He was our "ace" both years.

What accounts for such changes? Offensively, the team's batting average was .302 last year, .296 this year. Slugging was .443 last year, .438 this year. On-base percentage was .382 last year, .380 this year. All those numbers are very close to each other. The place where you see big difference is in fielding percentage (.978 last year vs. .967 this year). But, errors aren't shown in ERA, right? However, I do think unearned runs affect earned runs. Once an opponent gets an edge, they usually take advantage. You play differently when you've given up a run...regardless of whether or not that run was earned. So that probably did make a difference. No telling how much, though.

Fielding percentage aside, the main thing we seem to be left with is the fact that we lost Clayton Stewart (a very reliable and solid middle reliever) and J. Brent Cox (an outstanding closer). How did the coaching staff react to those losses?

Again, I emphasize that I'm just an interested observer with no special knowledge on the day-to-day happenings with any of the players. But, from where I was sitting, it sure looked like the coaches tried to force the issue. Particularly with respect to the loss of Cox. They'd gotten used to having Huston Street and J. Brent Cox in the bullpen. They'd had that amazing luxury for 4 seasons. And, since there are no closers in the high school ranks, you kinda have to think they got a bit lucky there. You watch a kid, evaluate his skills and his apparent mental toughness. And, then you try him out as a closer. (Brief aside: most of the kids who come to pitch at Texas were the primary starter on their high school team. But, everyone can't be a starter at the next level so you try players out in different roles. Also, Texas occasionally has snagged a decent closer from the junior college ranks.) Street and Cox had what it took. But they were gone. Where to find that on the current squad? How 'bout Kenn Kasparek?

I can see where that idea was enormously appealing. I mean, he's 6 foot 10 inches tall. How cool would it be if you could bring him in to close games? The other teams would be at an immediate disadvantage. As it turned out, though, Kenn didn't seem at all comfortable in the role. He wanted to do it. He knew his team needed him to do it. But, he generally seemed to need an inning or two to get settled in. A closer doesn't have that sort of time available to him. And, then, he needed more time to recover. He could not throw on Friday for an inning and then bounce back on Saturday for another one or two. After a few weeks, the coaches acted like they'd seen the light. They gave Kenn a start and he was solid. He got the win. They said they were done with the experiment...that it was clear he was more suited to the starter role and they'd leave him there. But, they didn't. A week later, there he was back in the bullpen and he didn't get another start for weeks. And, he wasn't the pitcher they needed coming out of the bullpen. They went back and forth and he struggled both as a starter and in relief. Until the coaches finally were forced to realize very late in the season, that it just wasn't working. They gave up on the experiment a second time...this time they really did mean it. And, guess what? They got three quality starts out of Kasparek in the last three games in which he appeared. And, he got better with each start.

So, here's where I do think the coaches made a mistake. If you don't have a closer, you probably shouldn't waste 75% or your season trying to force the issue. Nope. You change your mind set. You go with your strengths. You win games early. Especially when you've got the offensive numbers that Texas has. If you can get a quality start out of a pitcher and your offense is putting runs on the board, that puts that much less pressure on the bullpen. And, maybe you can get away without having a dominating closer. And, maybe you win 4 or 5 more games during the season. Maybe. Just imagine if Kasparek had started all season long. How different might things have gone?

One of the sad things about the situation was that when Randy Boone came back from his injury, you could see that he was probably the guy they'd been looking for all season. He's not Huston Street or J. Brent Cox. But, he seems to have the tools. Kenn's talents were wasted for much of the season.

But that's just one fan's opinion. I may be completely wrong. I'm very curious to see how things go next season. Very curious.

As for the original question: I hear no rumblings. People don't send me rumblings. And, if they did, I certainly wouldn't post 'em here or send 'em to anonymous folks who send me vague questions via email. That said, I doubt very seriously that Coach Holliday will be leaving any time soon. But, shrug. I honestly have no way of knowing that.

Posted by Joanna at 11:45 AM | Permalink

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