3 Guys Taking Intriguing Roles
It seemed pretty clear that the coaches saw something brewing for this dual-sport freshman, with 12 of his 17 at-bats coming since March 13. They wouldn’t have forced him into so many pinch-hit chances if they hadn’t, much less the Sunday start. But the way he’s produced (four hits against Auburn, two of them doubles) adds yet another interesting layer to what has been yearlong intrigue around the designated hitter role.
Josh Hatcher was smoking people to take a hold of the DH spot, but Auburn is heavy on left-handed pitching and the left-handed Hatcher had the understandable matchup issue. In the Friday game, when Auburn got 7 innings from right-handed pitching, Hatcher got two hits; Saturday, Auburn’s first 4.1 innings came from leftys and Hatcher struck out twice. Sunday, Auburn had 5.1 innings thrown by leftys and the right-handed Cumbest gave them three hits and an RBI for their trouble.
If Cumbest can continue to mash like this, especially against southpaws, then he makes himself a very attractive DH candidate to platoon with Hatcher. This development also makes it a pretty interesting conversation when you include the next guy.
The junior catcher continues to hit, which of course is a good thing: six more hits in the Auburn series pushed his batting average up to .319, and his 17 RBI are already more than the 13 he had last year. But here’s what’s interesting about what Skelton did this weekend: he caught all three games.
Skelton’s bat is too good to take out of the lineup, that much is obvious. It used to be easy to rest his legs by sticking him at DH, allowing Hayden Jones or Marshall Gilbert to take a game and get their respectable bats some ABs in the process. But now, with Hatcher and Cumbest hitting this well and Landon Jordan still on the bench, maybe that DH spot isn’t available.
Is the only way for Skelton to be in the lineup daily to put his legs through the ringer and catch every single game? It may not stay this way for the duration, but I would argue it’s that way right now.
There are countless advantages to having Friday and Saturday starters as good as Ethan Small and JT Ginn, but among them is little need for the bullpen on those days. That need is even smaller when MSU can turn to Jared Liebelt to fit whatever hole is necessary.
In both of MSU’s SEC weekends so far, the Bulldogs have made Liebelt the first man out of the bullpen on Friday and Saturday. Both times, Liebelt went a short stint in the Friday game and took a longer stretch on Saturday, taking 26 and 25 pitches to cover 2.2 and 2 innings and finish wins. There’s a lot of reasons why this role is interesting and effective.
First of all, it helps that Liebelt is getting the job done. The man’s got a 0.921 WHIP, he’s allowed two walks in 15.2 innings (think about that for a second) and his ERA over those two Saturday SEC outings is 1.93.
It also helps that he’s able to take crucial innings in Friday and Saturday games because, let’s not forget, this bullpen is deep. The way Liebelt’s been going right now, guys such as Cole Gordon, Colby White, Brandon Smith and others can keep themselves available for Sunday, when MSU may need strong bullpen arms to win a rubber match. The trickle-down effect of Liebelt taking big chunks of innings on Friday and Saturday is significant, and if this is his role for the season, this bullpen has a chance to be epic if he continues performing like this.
2 Stats You Should Know
Rowdey Jordan murders Auburn
The young man from Auburn has made a habit of killing his hometown school, and reversing his own fortunes as he does it.
Then this year, Rowdey took a .167 batting average into the Auburn weekend and went 6-for-13 (.461).
Rowdey Jordan’s career numbers against Auburn: 9-21 (.428), 8 RBI, four doubles.
Small and Ginn are ridiculous
They have combined to cover 25.1 innings with a 3.20 ERA and they’ve been efficient as they do it: they’ve covered at least 6 innings in each of their outings and neither of them have seen a 100th pitch. Their strikeout-walk ratio against SEC competition is 35-7.
They’re both top 10 in the SEC in batting average allowed (Small 7th, .154; Ginn 9th, .183) and innings pitched (Ginn T-4th, 38.1; Small 9th, 36). Small leads the league in strikeouts (58) and strikeouts looking (17); Ginn leads the league in wins (6).
As if there were any doubt: through two weeks, Mississippi State has the best starting pitching 1-2 in the SE