Spring, Baseball

Go Figure: Is the Eagles Lineup Good Enough?

On Saturday afternoon, in the first game of a doubleheader, looking to claim Boston College baseball’s first conference series win of the year, Dante Baldelli strode to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. The 6-foot-4, 175 pound sophomore entered this season having hit just .085 in 71 plate appearances a season ago, recording a measly five hits.

He promptly teed off, launching a walkoff grand slam well over the left field fence, the perfect reflection of the steps the Eagles’ (9-12, 4-5 Atlantic Coast) offense has taken this year. Baldelli has been one of many success stories in the BC lineup, thriving at the plate in his second year—he now has six multi-hit games in his last nine, and boasts the fourth-best average (.313) on the team.

Some players haven’t needed a year under their belt, which is especially clear in the case of Chris Galland. The freshman quickly won a starting spot and ran with it, piling up 25 hits in his first 16 games and an impressive 13-for-13 mark on stolen bases. The usual suspects are thriving as well, like Jake Palomaki—the senior boasts a .418 mark and 13 extra-base hits.

Overall, the Eagles are hitting .274/.362/.375, with their batting average ranking among the highest marks in head coach Mike Gambino’s tenure. They hit almost 20 points lower last season and haven’t cracked .270 over the course of a season since 2011-12, Gambino’s second year at the helm. The record of that team, though, was just 22-33, the reason being that the pitching staff coughed up almost 40 more runs then they scored.

In the context of this season, BC faces a similar dilemma. The pitching staff has a clear and stark divide between the rotation and the bullpen, and it’s causing plenty of problems. The rotation of Jacob Stevens, Brian Rapp, and Dan Metzdorf has pitched well so far, but the back end of games has been an adventure to say the least. Starters boast an ERA of 4.30 almost four full points lower than the relievers (7.95), a serious contrast that reflects the struggles the Eagles have had with protecting what should be unattainable leads.

Take this statistic for instance: In games that BC scores 11 runs, it is a perfect 3-0. In games that it plates eight, nine, or 10 runs, its record dips to just 1-4. The Eagles are in slugfests on a regular basis, and can’t seem to pull them out.

Another problem emerges when you look at BC’s underlying statistics on offense. Yes, the Eagles rank fifth in the conference in batting average, but other numbers reflect poorly. They’re one of the least patient teams, currently last in walk percentage. They also don’t get on base consistently, sitting 11th in on-base percentage, or hit for power—11th in slugging percentage as well.

BC manufactures runs the old fashion way, leading the league in stolen bases and are middle of the pack in sacrifice hits, but it hasn’t always worked. Despite moments like Baldelli’s walk-off home run, the Eagles are still just 10th in the league in scoring thus far. With a pitching staff that is dead last in a lot of categories, from ERA to batting average against, it is easy to be pessimistic.

At the end of the day, however, through 21 games—the Eagles are right on pace with where they should be in terms of record. They have a minus-13 run differential, which, per Bill James’ Pythagorean Theorem of Baseball, would place them right around nine and a half wins at this point in the season. The path forward is clear: In order to make a postseason run, the pitching needs to elevate to where the hitting has been through the first month or so of the year.

Featured Image by Lucas Bassoli / Heights Staff

March 26, 2018