By Brett Hudson
The reception to last week’s random post of 3 things we know and 2 things we don’t was so positive — when combined with this helpful suggestion — has brought it back to be a weekly thing through baseball season. So each Monday I’ll do a full count: a set of 3 of one thing and a set of 2 on a different thing.
Hopefully there’s a good balance of changing topics to keep things fresh but also making recurring topics of your favorites, so let me know if you have a favorite that I should consider making a recurring thing.
3 Things We Know About JT Ginn
The moment will never be too big for him
JT Ginn is not the average high school kid, used to pitching in front of a few dozen people in high school games against the team down the street. He pitched for the USA Baseball U18 team and won a gold medal and he was in the Under Armour All-American Game.
Of course there is a grandiose argument to be had about the early specialization of young athletes, whether it helps or hurts, but there’s one thing that it undeniably helps: mental composure. Once you’ve played in championship games with the letters U, S and A across your chest — and won the hardware at stake — you’re prepared for a lot.
Ginn proved that when he threw 7 scoreless innings in front of 9,000-plus against Southern Miss; he proved it again in taking down a Texas Tech lineup that I believe to be SEC quality (although I admit they sure don’t look like it right now). He’s eventually going to have to pitch against LSU in Dudy Noble Field, plus in Oxford, College Station and Fayetteville — I haven’t mentioned Super Bulldog Weekend yet, have I?
Ginn has shown enough to know if he fails, it won’t be the moment. He’s capable of bringing his good stuff when it’s needed most, and that’s half the battle.
The fastball command is there
Beside watching him with my own two eyes and being perfectly able to draw that conclusion for myself, here are two numbers to support that claim.
First: 19 innings this year, three walks but six wild pitches. That tells me he pounds the zone but does have the ability to mistime the occasional breaking ball and let it get away from him. When one carries that, they have to be able to hit the zone with the straight pitches, and Ginn certainly does that.
The other number is the pitch count. He’s taken 5 innings with 68 pitches and 7 innings in each of his last two starts with exactly 86 pitches each. (How uncanny is that? Two consecutive starts, same innings and same pitch count?) Let’s compare that to the starts some of the SEC’s better pitchers are off to:
- Texas A&M’s John Doxakis needed 196 pitches to cover 14 innings over his last two starts. Ginn? 172 to cover 14.
- Vanderbilt’s Patrick Raby threw 94 pitches in 5.2 innings against Cal State Fullerton and 66 pitches in 4 innings against Pepperdine.
- Tennessee’s Garrett Stallings has gone in between 7 and 8 innings in all three starts but has yet to do so in as few as 86 pitches, which Ginn has already done twice.
There is no reason to force him into hitting
Part of the excitement of landing a prospect like Ginn is the two-way ability, and trust me, I’m very much down with that. I’m in no way suggesting Ginn give up hitting, I just think he’s proven he doesn’t have to hit to be of significant value.
This is a two-way street. Yes, a part of it is he’s so good pitching right now. But three guys got DH at-bats in two games in Frisco and there are at least two or three options beyond them, Ginn not included. Now, if all those guys fall flat at some point, Ginn becomes a more attractive option. But maybe this is a year that he keeps himself warm as a hitter, routine batting practice sessions and all that, and trains himself to compete for a semi-regular hitting spot in 2020.
It’s not like MSU is always going to return almost all of the bats from an Omaha team. There will be opportunities for Ginn to hit, but it’s entirely possible this exact roster doesn’t require Ginn to hit to win.
2 Numbers To Know
No free bases
Yes, this Bulldog pitching staff is striking out batters at an incredible clip: 136 in 11 games, 12.3 per game. There is evidence to suggest this is something that hasn’t been done in as long as 15 years, maybe more.
But strikeout numbers can, and will, change. We’ll dive into the incredible nature of striking out batters like this if they continue to do it a few weeks into SEC play. But one thing that in theory won’t change is walks: if you can hit the strike zone, you can hit the strike zone, period.
This pitching staff is hitting the strike zone all the time.
It has walked a total of 25 batters in 11 games — 2.27 per game. To prove that’s in elite company, it’s the best by a Bulldog bunch since the 2007 team walked 2.76 per game for the entire season. Of the 11 teams in between now and 2007, all but one of them were above 3.3 walks per game and five of them were above 3.75 walks per game.
Considering the entire staff has a batting average allowed of .179 and they don’t allow walks….kind of a bleak picture for opposing lineups, isn’t it?
Jake Mangum record watch
- He’s now 61 hits shy of tying the SEC record for career hits, set by LSU’s Eddy Furniss in the mid 90’s. Based on his current average of .356 and his current pace of 4.09 at-bats per game, assuming he plays every game, he’ll reach that mark in the first game of the South Carolina series on May 16, the final series of the regular season. That date is cool with me because it’s a home game and that would be a great moment, but it’s also the first game after the final game of the Ole Miss series. And boy would it be poetic for him, famed Ole Miss killer, to break that record against them.
- He is only 44 hits shy of tying the MSU career record, which currently belongs to Jeffrey Rea. Using the same pacing mechanism from earlier, he’ll reach that mark in the final game of the Arkansas series on April 20 — again, strange poetic justice around Ole Miss, as that’s the game before the Governor’s Cup game in Pearl.
- Mangum is also tied for 5th in school history in career doubles with 54. He’s currently doubling once per 9 at-bats, meaning he would need an additional 153 at-bats to tie Travis Chapman’s record of 71. If he plays in every game and continues to average 4.09 at-bats per game, he’ll have no trouble recording 153 at-bats this year; now it’s on him to continue averaging a double per 9 at-bats, or at least something close to it so the postseason games can get him there.