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Baseball Q&A With Building The Dam

At that very moment, Beavers Head Coach Pat Casey was absorbing even more knowledge, if that was even possible. Bo knows negative nothing compared to him, a giant of his profession and HOF lock.<em> (photo by Andy Wooldridge)</em>
At that very moment, Beavers Head Coach Pat Casey was absorbing even more knowledge, if that was even possible. Bo knows negative nothing compared to him, a giant of his profession and HOF lock. (photo by Andy Wooldridge)

The Diamond Dawgs are in Corvallis for a three game set with the Beavers this weekend, weather permitting. Stats can only tell you part of the story; to see behind the box score and truly understand the foe one must refer to the experts, the fine folks versed in all-things OSU athletics Building The Dam.

Oregon St. has become synonymous with winning baseball. Head Coach Pat Casey has created the gem of NW baseball, earning the premiership after back-to-back national championships while amassing almost 600 wins at OSU alone. If Coach Meggs has half the success at Washington that Casey has enjoyed he would go down as the greatest, with a statue and field named after him.

You can read the answers to their questions here. Taking the series from Oregon two weeks ago was step one, now it's time to complete the Oregon sweep. Baseball America has both the Oregon schools ranked - OSU #22, UO #23 - so it will be interesting to see how they compare after seeing the bird-legged *ucks.

To the meat and potatoes...

Head Coach Pat Casey is a man who demands your utmost respect, on and off the field. With back-to-back national championships he knows what he is doing, and has brought credibility and clout to NW baseball. A true gem I am so very glad is up here in the Pac-12. With that being said, how does he win so many games?

Coach Casey teaches and preaches the fundamentals and the percentages, with the intent of gaining whatever small advantage he can. His approach is also to put the pressure on the opponent to have to make the right plays, and make them efficiently, again, with the idea that they won't always do that. He plays the game as though his team will have to scratch out a win even when they don't, and so his players quickly get used to executing in pressure situations.

OSU doesn't allow stolen bases, yet are honest folk who rarely attempt to steal anything themselves, only crossing the line when hungry. Do the horses exist on the roster, or is another factor at cause here philosophically?
There just isn't much speed on this year's team. When he has some speed, like last year with Brian Stamps, Casey will use it, putting pressure on the opponent, but when he doesn't, he won't buck the percentages.

Looking at the schedule the Beavers seem to have the same unnerving ability as the Dawgs to lose games they should win. Both teams should have under five losses, under three in my opinion. Even though OSU dropped the last two against Arizona after winning the first, they were close games, and Cal was swept easily for a quality triplet beforehand. Has Casey tightened things up mentally going into the conference slate?

It's been more a matter of a lot of young pitchers gradually improving. Oregon St. started the season with no experienced starting pitching, and a lot of inexperience in the bullpen as well, and it put a lot of pressure on both the defense and the offense. And they were on the road for the first 3 weeks of the season, all 4 game weekends. We didn't expect to see the pitching really start to come around until they got to actually be at home for a few days before the Nike College Showcase, and that's when the pitching, and some other things, got addressed.

I'll ask the same of you regarding San Diego State: "(they) took it to Oregon State pretty good shortly thereafter. What worked well, and is it still of particular "relevance", or have the Beavers already evolved significantly since opening day?"

Oregon St. was hitting the ball a fair amount early in the season, but not stringing hits together, squandering a lot of scoring opportunities. They've improved on that of late. But again, the greatest difference has been starting pitching that has finally been able to get well into the game more times than not. Time is the only remedy for inexperience on the mound.

Pitching and defense win championships, so I'll start there. Dan Child is going to give Tyler Davis his first big test as a starter, and the Friday slot appears to be in good hands as well. It's Sunday that - according to the stats - appears to be up in the air, or at least it did. What should we expect from the weekend rotation?

Ben Wetzler is the Friday night guy, and he's turning into a typical solid first Oregon St. starter, and Child has really begun to find command of his pitches. The third starter is freshman Jace Fry, who wasn't ready at the start of the season due to back surgery. He's probably almost a month behind where most pitchers are, and is still "catching up". Fry has a lot of potential, but at this point, each outing is an adventure.

The game plan all along is to get the game to the point where the Beavers can turn the game over to Matt Boyd, and Tony Bryant, and then Cole Brocker came up with some good outings, giving the bull pen some real depth. Then all of a sudden, Brocker got rocked last weekend, and it had a lot to do with losing the series to Arizona. If both Wetzler and Child can go 7+ innings, then Oregon St. can throw a lot of arms at the third game. If Washington can get to either one of them, then they can tip the scales in the third game by forcing Casey to go deep into the bull pen earlier than planned.

UW is 5-1 vs. LHP, 10-6 vs. right handed starters and will be putting three RHP's on the bump themselves. Has Wetzler been able to keep RH power hitters like Berry and Camporeale on the ground? Is OSU weaker to one or is it a mute point?

Wetzler has been mostly able to spot his pitches pretty well, but has had the occasional bad inning. Child is the one more vulnerable to getting hit hard, as he has a lot of velocity, but you can't always just throw the ball hitters at this level. The Huskies' strong record against leftys only makes the prospects for Fry's outing all the more of an adventure.

Looking at a team ERA over four (4.12) has to be putting a frown on the Skippers face still, with the bullpen holding the majority of the debt. They had a mini-implosion early on in the season, with four pitchers still owning an ERA above ten. Have they righted the ship?

The bullpen ERA got skewed by starting pitching that couldn't get 5 innings in, and too many guys from the bullpen had to go too many innings, or go out there when they never should have been in the game. The ship has been at least partially righted by getting more innings out of the starters.

The Beaver defense is hard to get a read on. On one hand they are in the top 30 nationally for double plays with a gun behind home that prevents any form of pillow theft, yet hold a .966 fielding % on 31 errors in the other. Three players hold eighteen of the total errors - Ryan Dunn has eight - though; is it really just them?

Again, pitching problems caused some of the errors by letting too many balls get put in play, increasing the number of not only chances, but tough chances. The Beavers got hurt statistically by getting a glove on balls that would have gone threw against a lot of teams, thus avoiding the error when they either couldn't quite make the play, or tried to make a tough throw with a ball a lot of people wouldn't have had a chance to throw. And there was a feeling of having to make up for pitching and hitting problems with ill-advised attempts at heroics in the field.

Generally, Beaver fans are satisfied with the defense, and as the pitching improves, so too do the defensive statistics.

While the power numbers are eye-popping for some, No. 2 hitter Tyler Smith is the man who I don't want to see on base adding to his team stolen base lead. He is 6th in the nation with a .463 AVG and boasts a .538 OB% which is good enough for No. 12 in the land. Tied for the team lead in runs (20) with Ryan Dunn, Smith must look just like a spark plug. Does he have a hole in his game, or are the Dawgs just resigned to seeing him on base half the time?

Smith is the real deal, though he isn't a real power threat. The best way to deal with Smith is to work the order so that he is coming up with 2 outs a lot after the first inning, so that he's still on base when the third out is recorded.

Ryan Barnes and Michael Conforto both have a hitting streak going, with Conforto displaying some impressive power. Is this a true indication of the power base? Any unsung hero's, guys who just do all the little things that don't show up in the stats?

You've got the power pretty well pegged. This is mostly a classic Casey small-ball team, with only a little power, mostly from Conforto, sprinkled in here and there.

In general, where do you think the best match ups will be for OSU (pitching versus UW hitting, UW pitching versus OSU hitting, something else)?

I expect the Beavers will hit the ball, and score some runs. The key will be if their pitching can keep the ball on the edges of the plate. If they do that, the OSU defense should keep UW from big innings. Which is important to the objective of getting into position to put a couple of the games in the hands of Boyd and Bryant at the end, where the Beavers have their best advantage.

Washington's offense appears to be somewhat feast or famine, and the key for the Huskies I expect will be getting a big inning here or there, making the Beavers play from behind, which completely changes the complexion of the game for the Oregon St. offense.