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Big Series With ASU On Deck


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Welcome to Dirtbags Baseball blog! I was introduced to Long Beach State baseball in 2002 when my nephew, Neil Jamison, joined the team (and university) as a freshman. I started the blog in March of 2004, and generally discuss the team, current players and those that have moved on to professional baseball - as Neil has done in the San Diego Padres organization. Living in San Diego County, and with Neil moving to the next level, I won't be attending as many Dirtbags games. But, mostly from a distance, I'll remain a Dirtbags fan. I welcome tips on stories and information concerning the Dirtbags (current, past and future). I can be contacted at


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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Big Series With ASU On Deck

The Dirtbags face a big test right out of the gate as they meet the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe January 28-30. ASU is ranked 9th by Baseball America, and 11th by Collegiate Baseball (Long Beach State is 22nd and 14th, respectively). Winning this series, on the road, would likely move the 49ers to 9th or 10th in Collegiate Baseball, and the mid-teens in Baseball America. It would also likely make an important impression on key opinion makers, and quiet some of those who doubt that the Dirtbags have enough talent to sit in the Top 10 this season. Those key opinion makers include voters in the "polls" that actually are polls [NCBWA (baseball writers), and ESPN/USA Today (coaches)], the writer's at Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball who decide their rankings, and the members of the NCAA committee that seed post-season play.

Winning this series will be no easy task. The Sun Devils, who have racked up quite a few frequent flier miles for flights to Omaha (if not too many recently), field a very good team this season. Here's what Baseball America has to say about them:
9. Arizona State Sun Devils

2004 Record (Ranking): 41-18 (23). RPI: 5.
Coach (Record): Pat Murphy (401-196, 10 years).

Offense: SS Dustin Pedroia departs with his .393 average and grinding intensity atop the lineup, but plenty of run producers remain from an offense that ranked 12th nationally in batting a year ago. Preseason first-team All-American Buck ranked second on Team USA with a .412 average over the summer, and Larish, a first-teamer before the 2004 season, should bounce back to his sophomore success (.372-18-95) while moving back to the infield. Gosewisch hit safely in 44 of his 59 games in '04.

Pitching/Defense: Urquidez led the Pac-10 in wins while ranking third in ERA, seventh in strikeouts and eighth in innings. The strong-armed Zinicola flashes a low-90s fastball and power breaking ball that could make him a rotation stalwart, or land him in the closer's role. Averill went 5-3, 1.70 over the summer in the Cape Cod League. Six-foot-3 freshmen Drew Bowman, a lefthander, and Seth Garrison, a righthander, could push for rotation spots.

X-Factor: This is a strong club across the board, but how a talented freshman class adjusts to the college level is important. Romine, son of former major leaguer Kevin, possesses the defensive skills to replace Pedroia at shortstop. Sferra, whose father, Jay, is a Sun Devils assistant, is a speedy, scrappy player in the Pedroia mold. Strong debuts by the duo of sons and the emergence of Bowman and Garrison on the mound could make this an Omaha team.
The pitching matchup Friday evening is set, unlike Saturday and Sunday. Junior LHP Cesar Ramos will go against Senior RHP Jason Urquidez (who, like Jered Weaver, lists his hometown as Simi Valley). Here's how their statistics stack up from last season:
Player     ERA  W-L  App GS CG   IP  BB SO HR WP HBP B/Avg

Ramos 2.29 12-4 19 19 1 133.2 35 97 4 4 13 .226
Urquidez 3.41 12-3 19 17 1 97.2 47 94 11 2 6 .251
They pitched in very different home ballparks. Blair Field is definitely a pitcher's park. In fact, it's one of the top 10 most difficult parks for scoring runs. In order to fairly compare their ERAs, some adjustment must be made for "park effect." Thankfully, Boyd Nation (at has developed a formula (the 2001-2004 results are here). As Boyd explains:
The numbers represent a percentage; a game scored in a park with a park factor of 125 will feature one-fourth more runs than the same game scored in a park with a park factor of 100.
Using the weighted average park factor for all stadiums ASU and Long Beach played in during 2004, ASU comes in at 106 and the Dirtbags at 88. As a result, Cesar's ERA would need to be increased by multiplying it by 1.2 (106/88, rounded) to fairly compare it with Urquidez'. The result is 2.75 for Cesar versus Urquidez' 3.41. Urquidez struck out .97 batters per inning, compared with Cesar's .73. But Urquidez walked .48 per inning, while Cesar gave passes to only .26 batters per inning (a low 2.34 per nine innings). Urquidez was prone to the long ball. He gave up a team high 11 homeruns. These two appear to be very well matched, with the edge going to Cesar.

The rest of the starting pitching for the weekend is a huge question mark. The Dirtbags are likely to go with Cody Evans (a JC transfer), and Jared Hughes (who transferred from Santa Clara after his freshman year, in which he was injured most of the season and pitched only 6 innings). There is no way to tell how either will do moving to this level of play (though Jared would likely have been drafted in the 1st round out of high school had he not committed to Santa Clara). It is possible Neil Jamison will start in place of one of these two. Though it is clear the senior can pitch at this level, it would be his first college start - a very different role from setup or closer.

ASU's starters on Saturday and Sunday don't seem to be set, nor is their effectiveness much more certain than the Dirtbags'. Soph Zachry Zinicola and Junior Erik Averill both pitched primarily in relief last year, with each making 4 starts. Zinicola posted a team low ERA at 3.36 in 55.1 innings. Averill's ERA was a lofty 5.19 in 76.1 innings. Opposing batters posted a .246 batting average against closer Zinicola, while they hit .280 against Averill. The other two potential starters are freshman, and thus have no D-I experience.

The Dirtbags will need stellar pitching. Last season, ASU posted a .325 team batting average. Long Beach State, which hit .297 as a team, had only 2.5 players at .325 or better [Jason Vargas at .354, Sean Boatright at .330 (in 100 at bats), and Brad Davis at .329]. The 49ers did have 4 other regular players between .312 and .320. Each team has lost key hitters. With the Dirtbags replacements, it seem likely they will hold their own and may improve some at the plate. Losing
Dustin Pedroia is a big blow to the Sun Devils, but if Jeff Larish bounces back to his soph. form (.372 versus .308 last season) they are likely to be just as good at scoring runs, if not better. I hope the 49ers bring their "A" pitching game, and the usual cliche's hold true: "good pitching stops good hitting"..."85% of winning baseball is pitching"....yada, yada.

The second and third games of this series are likely to give both teams a great first look at how their roster changes will work out in live competition.

posted on 1/18/2005 by Jeff Agnew

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