Mississippi State's Pitchers

Kyle Laferriere-US PRESSWIRE

Ask any baseball analyst and they'll tell you that starting pitching is the most valuable thing to have. Apparently, Mississippi State didn't get that memo. While their starters are solid, the strength of their pitching is in the bullpen. Ross Mitchell, Chad Girodo and Jonathan Holder are the best of a very deep group.

We've already looked at the Mississippi state offense, which was solid, if a bit underwhelming. For a team with a middle of the road offense to get this far, they must have quite the pitching staff, right?

At a glance, yes. The first 6 guys listed on their pitching stats all have ERAs under 2. That is a combined 212 2/3 innings with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP and just over a strikeout an inning. As a team, the Bulldogs played about 580 innings. So nearly 40% of their total innings have been pitched at elite levels. The strange thing is those 212 innings include just 2 starts.

The Bulldogs top 3 starting pitchers are Kendall Graveman, Jacob Lindgren, and Luis Pollorena. Graveman is a RHP, the other two are LHP. Graveman is the team ace, having thrown 98 innings with a 2.94 ERA and 3 CGs. His peripheral numbers, however, aren't great. His WHIP is 1.23 (good, not great) and he averages just 5.7 K/9 (not good). He has the ability to go deep in games, but he doesn't really generate outs on his own. While he gave up just 32 ER, he gave up 11 UER (unearned runs), meaning his RA would be a full run higher than his ERA. This means we should be able to put the ball in play consistently, and put pressure on MSU's defense.

Most likely, we'll see Pollorena in game 2. He threw 77 innings, with a 4.32 ERA. His WHIP was 1.42, but he is up near 7 K/9, which is much better than Graveman. He also gave up just 3 unearned runs. Despite Graveman's superior numbers, Pollorena probably has better stuff. Control, however, is Pollorena's problem, as he walked over 4 batters per 9 innings. Again, we should be able to get baserunners against him, which allows us to play "Cavalier baseball" and put pressure on the defense.

If the series goes three games, we may see Lindgren in game 3. We may not, because Lindgren has been dealing with a knee injury. Lindgren threw just 56 innings in his 14 starts, compiling a 4.18 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and over 10 K/9. Of the three starters, Lindgren probably has the best pure stuff. If Lindgren can't go, we'll see Trevor Fitts. Fitts started just 3 games this year, but he started the third game of the regional. In 23.2 innings, he compiled a 2.28 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 7.3 K/9.

So that's the starters. Solid, but unspectacular. Now we get to discuss the 212 innings of spectacular relief work we mentioned earlier. The Bulldogs bullpen begins with LHP Ross Mitchell. Mitchell is 12-0 on the season and is actually 2nd on the team in IP, with 83. In those 83 innings, he allowed just 61 hits, giving him a WHIP of just over 1, to along with his 1.41 ERA. Mitchell, however, struck out just 43 batters, for a K/9 of well under 5. Generally speaking, that type of success is unsustainable. Still, he's done it for 2 years in a row, so there's obviously something to it.

If one of the starters gets into trouble, Mitchell is the first man out of the pen. Behind Mitchell is fellow LHP Chad Girodo, who's numbers are as impressive as Mitchell's. Girodo threw 41 innings with a 1.10 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 11.6 K/9. Both Mitchell and Girodo are often used as long men out of the pen. Both, however, can also come in to help setup for closer Jonathan Holder.

And, man, what a closer he is. Holder is one of 5 finalists for the "Stopper of the Year" award. Holder threw 46 innings, with a 1.17 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and nearly 16 K/9. Sixteen strikeouts per 9 innings is truly outstanding. Holder also racked up 17 saves. If the Bulldogs can get to the 8th or 9th inning with a lead, it is going to be difficult for the Hoos to get back against Holder. Holder is a RHP.

One other guy we are likely to see is RHP Ben Bracewell. Bracewell started the final game of the Regional, though he threw just 3.1 innings before giving way to Girodo. Bracewell worked mostly out of the pen this year, compiling a 1.49 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 in 30.1 innings over 20 appearances (2 starts). If the Bulldogs are forced to go to Mitchell and/or Girodo early in game 1, Bracewell may see some action in game 2.

Considering the strength of the Bulldog's bullpen, the Hoos are going to need strong starts to the games and to the series. They can't let Graveman go deep into game 1, because it will save that bullpen for the rest of the series. And we certainly don't want to fall behind in any game, because with such a deep bullpen, MSU can really shorten the game.

Playing in the ACC, the Hoos have faced good pitching all year long. UNC and FSU both have pitching staffs that top MSU's 11th ranked staff. The Hoos swept FSU and took 2 of 3 over UNC (in Chapel Hill). Also, the Bulldogs haven't faced an offense as good than the Hoos. (Of course, there aren't very many offenses as good as than the 3rd ranked Hoos.) So, without a doubt, the Hoos aren't threatened by the MSU staff. Still, the Hoos should be wary.

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