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Friday, April 10, 2009

Gorski as consistent as they come

With June’s major league baseball entry draft only two months away, now is as good a time as any to check up on the major league potential of Kutztown University’s own Darin Gorski. The left-handed starting pitcher was ranked as the fourth best prospect in Division-II by Baseball America and has been outstanding so far this season. Gorski is a junior and could return for his senior season, but the odds are pretty good that he will get drafted in the early rounds of the entry draft.

I did an extremely in-depth analysis of each of Gorski’s pitching appearances since his arrival at Kutztown prior to the 2007 season. He has made 33 appearances in his career (as of April 9), which includes 25 starts. His numbers, which I’ll get to in more depth shortly, have been noticeably consistent over the last three seasons, but it’s not hard to see the progressive improvements from start to start. Since only 10 of his 166 1/3 career innings pitched were of the relief variety, I’m going to scrap them and focus only on his contributions as a starter.

Gorski made just six starts in his rookie season back in 2007. In 30 1/3 innings of work as a starter, he struck out in impressive 27 opposing hitters, while walking 13. His ERA was 2.67, WHIP was 1.12, and opponents hit just .191 against him. An ideal pitching prospect would strike a lot of people out, induce ground balls, and avoid walks and fly balls. Gorski proved he had potential to meet those requirements in his freshman campaign, but his 3.9 BB/9 and 30:26 GO/FO ratio needed improvement.

The southpaw went on to make 12 starts in 2008 and, although he showed improvement in several categories, his numbers through 2 seasons all but mirrored his stats after his freshman campaign. In that sophomore season, he struck out 83, walked 27, and allowed 63 hits in 81 1/3 innings of work. His ERA was 2.43, his WHIP was 1.11, and opponents hit .210 against him. His K/9 improved to 9.2 and his BB/9 was slightly better at 3.0. Although he struck out hitters at a higher rate, Gorski allowed his GO/FO ratio to even out at 101:101. Because homeruns are hit at a much lower rate in division-II (as opposed to the major leagues), Gorski can thrive despite the 1.00 GO/FO ratio. However, that is a figure that will need improvement as he works his way through the minor leagues.

Gorski’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) increased from .244 his rookie season to .265 his sophomore year. For you advanced stats beginners, this means that balls hit into the field of play by opposing hitters were falling in for hits at a higher rate. On the other hand, his left on base percentage (LOB%) increased quite a bit from 67% to 74%. BABIP is widely considered to be all but uncontrollable by the pitcher and the 74% LOB% is probably closer to where his career average will end up. All that being said, it’s safe to say that Gorski pitched better his sophomore season, but was a bit less lucky.

Heading into his junior season, there was plenty reason to believe Gorski was the real deal and would be even better. So far, he has not disappointed. In seven starts, he has tossed 44 innings, allowing 27 hits, while striking out 51 and walking 13. Although there is still quite a ways to go this season, his 1.23 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .172 opponent batting average, 1.77 fielding independent ERA (FIP), 10.4 K/9, and 2.7 BB/9 are all career bests. His GO/FO ratio has remained right on his career average at 34:35.

Taking a look at Gorski’s numbers in 25 career starts, it is clear to see what is attracting major league baseball scouts. In 155 2/3 innings of work, he has allowed just 111 hits, while striking out 161 and walking 53. Despite the 135:136 FO/GO ratio, he has allowed only 6 career homers, including none thus far in 2009. His career ERA is 2.14, WHIP is 1.05, FIP is 2.87, opponent’s batting average is .196, K/9 is a whopping 9.3, and BB/9 is 3.1.

That’s about all you need to know about Darin Gorski. It looks like he will be an early round pick in the entry draft, which is set for June 9-10. Meanwhile, Gorski and the Kutztown University Golden Bears, ranked in the top 15 in Division-II, will look to win the PSAC Championship, before heading off to compete at the Regional and National level.

Keep up with Darin’s progress and that of the Golden Bears at Kutztown University Vital Sports or by logging on to the official KU Athletics website at

*This story was also posted at RBI Magazine and can be seen here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Now Accepting Donations!

I recently announced that I would be spending less time posting here at KU Vital Sports and more time actually earning some pocket change by covering Major League Baseball for RBI Magazine.

Although that is going very well, I do miss covering KU Athletics. Unfortunately, I write for KU Vital Sports without any compensation whatsoever. The chance to make some cash at RBI Magazine only made sense.

That said, I put a donations tab in the upper right of this site. If I can earn a few bucks here and there via donations, I'll use that incentive to continue banging out articles and analysis.

Thank you for supporting KU Vital Sports. Go Golden Bears!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Analyzing The Hitting

Mark Renda

You might recall the projections I made for the 2009 KU baseball season based on advanced stats. How are they looking, you ask? Depends on how you look at it. Some of them appear to be not even close, while others are right on the money. The big difference maker (as is always the case) is Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). A high one will inflate a hitter’s numbers, while a low one will distort them to the lower end of the spectrum. Generally, BABIP will revert close to the player’s average, but since most of these players will see less than 500 career at-bats, sample size is an obvious problem.

That all being said, BABIP is something we can look at to see what is probably going to happen as the season wears on. Since we are almost exactly halfway through the season, now is as good a time as any to take a look at a few of the team’s every day players.

Chad Lightcap – In his senior season, Lightcap is struggling to live up to the impressive numbers he put up the last three years. After notching a 1.013 and 1.050 OPS the last two seasons, respectively, he sits at .964 through 73 at-bats in 2009. The most notable area where has struggled is the strikeout department. After improving his K-rate from 17.4% in 2007 to 12.6% last season, it has ballooned to a whopping 28.8% so far this year.

Fortunately for KU fans, there is still a lot to like here. Lightcap’s walk rate has actually increased quite a bit. Despite his strikeout rate, an OPS almost 100 points lower than last season, and a huge drop in his slugging percentage, his OBP is actually not far off last year’s pace. His BABIP is a little bit higher than last season, which is actually not a good sign since he is struggling, but the K-rate appears to be the main issue. Once Lightcap begins turning his strikeouts into balls in play, he should be back to the player we’re used to seeing.

Corey Buletza – The Golden Bears’ leadoff hitter and centerfielder has been outstanding so far in 2009, showing a lot of improvement in his sophomore campaign. His OBP is up about 40 points to .383 and his OPS has jumped from .699 to .849. His strikeout rate is down about 8% to 10.2%, but is being mostly offset by a decline in walk rate. Buletza has walked just 4 times so far this year, a decline of over 3%.

His projections originally came in expecting him to be better than he was last year, but were worse than what he is actually putting up. This is mostly due to his .380 BABIP, which is well above the .338 mark he saw last season. I suspect that he won’t maintain the .380 BABIP and his numbers will drop slightly by the end of the season. That said, even with a slight decline, he will still be a more than capable leadoff hitter.

James Quigley – The team’s top option at designated hitter has put my projections to shame by maintaining an impressive BABIP. After putting up a .408 mark in 2008, he is up to .419 this season, albeit in just 52 at-bats. It is hard to imagine that staying above .400 for much longer, but a figure more in the .380 range seems possible. Thanks to the improved BABIP, his OBP and SLG are both well beyond where they were last season despite a slightly higher K-rate and a worse walk rate.
Expect a dip in BABIP, but not enough to really hurt Quigley’s production. He has proven to be a valuable commodity in the middle of the Kutztown order.

Brett Wigder/Mark Renda – The Wigder/Renda platoon at shortstop may not appear to be very productive on paper, but it’s not hard to see why either is struggling at the plate.

Wigder has seen a drop in BABIP from .333 last season to .235 this year. After being on base over 42% of the time last year, his OBP is down to .276 in 2009. Poor plate discipline appears to be the culprit here as his walk rate is down to 5.3% from 17.3% last season. On the plus side, his strikeout rate is down almost 10%. Wigder’s BABIP will likely improve down the stretch and his numbers should only improve.

Renda has also seen a drop in batting average this year, but has actually been more productive than in 2008. He is a prime example of why batting average is not a very good statistic to use in evaluating players. His OBP is up a ton to .391, his SLG is up to .378, and all this comes despite a bit of a BABIP decrease. Renda’s walk rate is up 5% and his K-rate has increased only slightly. Basically, Renda is turning singles from last season into walks and extra base hits this season. The fact that he is playing better than last year despite a lower BABIP means only good things are coming for him down the stretch.

Jared Frey – Frey, the team’s first baseman and cleanup hitter, has, as expected, seen somewhat of a balancing act by his BABIP. If you recall from the season preview, his BABIP was .406 in 2007, but dropped all the way down to .271 last year. This season, it sits at .299, which is still lower than where I think it will be by the end of the year.

His OBP is up a ton from last season thanks to an improved walk rate and the aforementioned better luck on balls hit in play. Frey appears right on track with my pre-season projection and should only get better as the year goes on.

Jeff Kistle/Mike Dugan – Like the first platoon we discussed, the Kistle/Dugan duo in right field has not blown the socks off of anybody this year. However, one half of this platoon has been way better than the other.

Kistle has seen a monstrous turn around in the BABIP department, as it is all the way up to .371 this year. However, his stats have not really mirrored that improvement as expected. His OBP is up slightly, but his slugging percentage is actually down to .321. We know Kistle needed to improve his strikeout rate and he has actually been a lot worse in his second season. As if his 37.5% strikeout rate wasn’t enough, his walk rate is also down slightly. Kistle will need to find a way to put the ball in play a bit more, or he will end up on the short end of the platoon.

Dugan has seen his production improve after a very impressive job in 149 plate appearances as a freshman. A lower strikeout rate and better walk rate appears to be the main reasons for his improvement. Dugan is one of the few to have maintained his BABIP from last season. However, despite only a .005 jump in that department, his numbers have increased more significantly than expected thanks to the improved K/BB figures. His OBP is up to .444 from .396 and his slugging is up over 20 points to .411. His .855 OPS is equivalent to the team average and, more importantly in terms of playing time, is light years ahead of Kistle.

Matt Kulbacki – Like Frey, Kulbacki was a victim of the “roaming-BABIP” his first two seasons at KU. Unlike Frey, his BABIP is actually even further off the map this season. After hitting .366 with a .419 BABIP in 2007, his average dropped to .276 with a .267 BABIP last year. This season the average is up to .377 thanks to a ridiculous .462 BABIP. Despite a lower walk rate and almost doubling his K-rate from the last 2 seasons, Kulbacki’s OPS is 1.026 this season as compared to .860 last year.

Obviously, KU’s top catcher is tearing the cover off the ball, but there is no way this keeps up. His homeruns are actually down from last year, and, as mentioned, he is not walking as much and is striking out way too much. His 3.25 K/BB ratio is second worst on the team behind only Kistle. Kulbacki is a great power hitter and will produce, but not at his current pace.

Mike Kacelowicz – After putting up a BABIP of .340 in 2007 and a .339 mark in 2008, predicting his numbers seemed pretty simple for 2009. Yeah, right. The team’s two-hitter and second baseman sports a .400 BABIP so far and has blown away his numbers from the last two years. Despite also seeing an increase in K-rate, he is one of the few Golden Bears to actually improve in the walks department. His OPS is up over 100 points to .940 and he’s been on base 46.3% of the time. He also has 8 steals, and in the irrelevant stats department, he is already closing in on his career highs in runs and RBIs.

Shayne Houck – Well this should be fun. I have no historical statistics to compare the club’s freshman third baseman to, so I’m flying blind on this one. Houck has been the team’s MVP at the plate so far this year, hitting a ridiculous .430, while clubbing 4 homers. His 1.235 OPS leads the team and his .538 OBP is outstanding.

If you read this entire article, you probably know where I’m going next: BABIP. His .465 mark is tops on the team and is all but unsustainable. Put it this way, since 1995, the highest BABIP among Kutztown players with at least 120 at-bats is .455 by Rob Ferry back in ’95.

That all being said, Houck is obviously an excellent hitter who will continue to produce. His K/BB ratio is one of the best on the team, he is hitting the long ball, and he is getting on base in several different ways. Houck appears to have one heck of a future ahead of him.

That will do it for now. Hopefully that is a good recap of the first half of the season and a good preview of the second half. I’ll get a similar analysis of pitching up as soon as I have some time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spring Fun

I'm not promising anything for softball and baseball season this year, but I will occasionally work up some updates and analysis.

Good luck to the Golden Bears!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dream Season Comes To An End

The greatest season in Kutztown University men's basketball history has come to a close. The Golden Bears advanced as far the Sweet 16, but fell on Tuesday night in the Atlantic Regional Championship to top-seeded Gannon by a score of 84-73.

David Ben, in his final game as a Golden Bear, became the first KU men's basketball player to reach the 2,000 point mark in his career.

Kutztown concludes the season with an overall record of 28-5, with 3 of the 5 losses coming at the hands of Gannon. Tuesday was the final game for seniors Dave Ben, Andre Woodlin, and Mark Bower.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Men's team upends IUP

The KU men's basketball team beat seventh-seeded Indiana University of Pennsylvania 92-86
on Sunday evening and will now advance to the Atlantic Regional Championship against top-seeded Gannon, who barely snuck by fifth-seeded Alderson-Broaddus in the semi-finals. That game will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Golden Bears, the three seed in the tournament, are now just one win away from the Division-II Elite 8. Kutztown is 0-2 against Gannon so far this season.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

KU Men Win Regional Opener

The men's basketball team defeated West Virginia State 99-88 on Saturday afternoon in the first session of the Atlantic Regional Tournament. The Golden Bears now advance to a second round showdown against seventh-seeded Indiana (Pa.). That game will be held tomorrow at 5 p.m.