Editor’s note…. Please help me in welcoming PMac into the fold. This is the first of what we hope to be many more articles from him here on the site. And he’s a Clemson Baseball guy, which makes it even that much better!
Clemson opens the 2020 baseball season next Friday, February 14, with a three game series against Liberty. Here are three things to watch for as the season unfolds.
Quality Pitching Depth: In years past, Clemson has struggled with quality pitching depth. Monte Lee has called this his deepest pitching staff since he has been at Clemson. Monte said he has eight guys in contention based on what they did in the fall, but wanted to watch it play out to see who their Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and mid-week starter would be.
The scrimmages were set up:
Friday – Mat Clark vs. Sam Weatherly
Saturday – Davis Sharpe vs. Keyshawn Askew
Sunday – Carter Raffield vs. Spencer Strider
Tuesday – Nick Clayton vs. Mack Anglin
From an interview with Monte Lee recently recorded, it seems like Sam Weatherly has cemented his place in the starting rotation. Weatherly has always had the stuff, but at times has lacked control. If he can put it all together, he has a chance to be the Friday night starter that Clemson has sorely lacked.
Another name with a lot of upside is Spencer Strider. He is coming off Tommy John surgery, but looks to be someone that can fill a role in that weekend rotation. Monte hinted at the likelihood of starting Strider and then bringing in someone like Mat Clark or Davis Sharpe for long relief. They want Strider in a starting role so he has the ability to properly warm up before games vs. bringing him in from the bullpen. His pitch count will be low to start the year, so one would assume Mat Clark or Davis Sharpe would fill the long relief role on days he pitches to start out.
Monte has also been high on Keyshawn Askew, Carter Raffield, and Mack Anglin. It seems the Tigers pitching could be a strength of this team.
Lineup: Clemson has always had “that guy” who was returning in Monte Lee’s previous years. Logan Davidson, Seth Beer, Chris Williams, Grayson Byrd, etc. This year is different. There are a lot of unproven pieces of this puzzle that Monte is trying to figure out.
Sam Hall looks to be the starting shortstop and Bryce Teodosio will start in center. Other than that, there will be a lot of new faces. Monte has suggested that James Parker (sophomore from Anderson) has really came on in the fall, and will be in the lineup.
Monte has spoken highly of redshirt freshman Mac Starbuck, who could be a possibility at second. First base looks to be Davis Sharpe, Bryar Hawkins, or Chad Fairey. Kier Meredith will be in the Opening Day lineup in left, along with Teodosio in center, but who will play rightnow that Michael Green is no longer a part of the team? There is a lot of youth in this lineup coming into the year, which means a ton of questions.
Offensive Approach: Clemson fans have been outspoken about the high strikeout numbers in the Monte Lee era. I was intrigued to compare Clemson’s strikeout numbers to participants at the College World Series in 2019.
- Clemson – 550
- Vanderbilt – 603
- Louisville – 442
- Mississippi St – 432
- Texas Tech – 509
- Michigan – 568
- FSU – 620
- Auburn – 553
- Arkansas – 581
Vanderbilt obviously won the CWS in 2019, so striking out isn’t the end all, be all. What is a problem however, is when you strike out a lot AND you don’t get a lot of hits.
Clemson has lacked pure hitters 1-9 in their order for a while. Last year, Clemson had five hitters get over 50 hits with Grayson Byrd leading the charge with 79. Logan Davidson followed with 69, then Kyle Wilkie with 67, Sam Hall with 64, and Bryar Hawkins with 54. Then we plummet to 40 with Teodosio.
In contrast, Arkansas had eight players with over 50 hits, with another coming in at 43. Three of those hitters had over 80 hits.
Clemson must find consistency throughout the lineup to create pressure. It’s not just striking out which makes the offense at times unbearable, it’s when the strikeouts occur.