IT ALL STARTS ON THE MOUND
Brisbane’s front line saw 12 different pitchers throw a first pitch this season
A starting pitcher, for lack of a better description, is the pitcher who starts the game. He is the man on the mound throwing the first pitch after the umpire says “play ball”.
The Brisbane Bandits had 12 different pitchers this season that started at least one game. Anyone who takes the hill anytime after the opening pitch is coming on in relief of that starter, and is likely to have come out of the bullpen.Starters are not only categorized as such because they throw the all-important first pitch, but also because they are the ones who make the first attempt at going the distance of the game. Starting pitchers are expected to throw the majority of the innings in any particular matchup, and are not in line for a win unless they go at least five complete frames.One reason a starting pitcher would not go the entire nine innings of a game might be because he is struggling, but another could be due to his pitch count. Pitch counts are implemented so that starters don’t hurt themselves, or do not require an excessive number of days of rest beyond what they already need before they can start another game.
The guys who head to the mound to start games must usually rest for three or four days between their turns on the hill because of the strain it takes on the body and the arm to launch upwards of 100 pitches over the plate. Bandits starters were mostly kept to a 100-pitch maximum this year. For that reason, teams have numerous starting pitchers, making up their rotation.Fan favourite Alex Maestri was the leader of the pack for Brisbane. The Bandits ace started nine games, more than any other guy on the staff. He finished with a 3.25 ERA, ranking among league leaders with 63 2/3 innings pitched and 53 strikeouts on the year. The Italian Stallion pitched the third complete game of the Australian Baseball League season, a two-hitter earning him Player of the Week honours for Round 8 of ABL action. He was runner-up for the award the following week for another one of his stellar performances.With seven games started during the season before he headed back to Japan, Yohei Yanagawa logged the third highest number of innings for the Bandits.
The right-hander from the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks had an immense presence on the mound during his time in Brisbane. He went 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in his 35 2/3 innings with 43 strikeouts during the year and would still rank among the top of the league if he had enough innings to qualify.The performances of both Yanagawa and Maestri earned them spots on the World Team roster for the inaugural ABL All-Star Game, which took place in Perth in December.Steven Chambers made six starts for the Bandits this year, with two additional appearances out of the bullpen.
The 21-year-old right-hander pitched 33 innings, striking out 23 batters along the way. He was the Sunday starter for the majority of the season, but was shuffled around later on and will look to build on his time in the rotation for next year.Making just five starts for Brisbane after being shut down for the beginning of the season by his affiliated club was Ryan Searle. The Cubs farmhand made a strong impression in a short time however, going 3-1 with a 3.66 ERA. He tossed the league’s fourth complete game of the year and finished up with 32 innings pitched, allowing just 21 hits and nine walks, fanning 34 batters. The 22-year-old will look to make an even bigger mark during the 2012-13 season.The first pitch this year was thrown by Simon Morriss, who eventually went from the starting rotation to the relief corps. The righty started five games in total, appearing In 15 before the end of the season. In the starting rotation, Morris went 23 innings, striking out 18 batters. For the season he threw 37 2/3 innings, the second-most on the staff, walking just 12 batters while striking out 28.Starting three games apiece were Chris Mowday and Josh Warner. Mowday began the season in the closing role but made the transition to the rotation at the end of the year.
The 30-year-old right-hander fared slightly better in relief, posting a 3.24 ERA in 16 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, but was effective on the mound throughout the season.Warner was a spot starter for the Bandits, and went just 8 2/3 innings over his three starts. In total for Brisbane this year, he tossed 12 2/3 innings, fanning 12 hitters along the way. The 19-year-old will compete for a spot in the rotation amongst next year’s staff.Sean Jarrett and Justin Staatz each made two starts for the team. Jarrett came into the season a couple weeks after it began and took a spot in middle relief before making an attempt at taking over as the closer. The Colorado native found greater success in his two games started on the mound, notching two wins and going at least six innings in each game, walking only one batter and whiffing nine.The other right-handed American starter for Brisbane, Staatz, came to the team on loan from his club ball squad. In his two starts he made a lasting impact, throwing 13 1/3 innings and putting up a 0.68 ERA.
He was the recipient of two no-decisions with the Bandits, for lack of run support, but was named a runner-up for Player of the Week honours for his eight-inning shutout performance in Round 8.Trent Baker, Andrew Marck and Jason Kilby made one start apiece for the Bandits, spot starting as called upon and rounding out the list of starting pitchers for Brisbane throughout the 2011-12 season.Next year’s competition for the rotation will boast an impressive list of guys with experience in the role, especially as the team will hope to welcome back James Albury and Drew Naylor, both coming off of Tommy John surgery.If a team starts with its starting pitchers, there are plenty of positives to build upon from this season and a lot to look forward to for next year. Just as former major league outfielder Mickey Rivers said, “Pitching is 80 per cent of the game and the other half is hitting and fielding.”