Mike Bianco’s teams have become known around the conference for one thing.
Okay, two things, but we won’t get into the other one.
Pitching. That’s what. But, after Tyler Myers went down a week before the season started, there was some skepticism. The 2020 Rebels had loads of talent, but with guys like Max Cioffi and Taylor Broadway, a next step was needed. Through 12 games, it appears they’ve taken that step.
Ole Miss is 11-1 and riding an 11-game winning streak. That’s come on the backs of home runs and some good relief outings. Let’s take a look at the numbers of the six relievers (#ReliefGang) with the most innings.
Jackson Kimbrell, Wes Burton, Braden Forsyth, Max Cioffi, Austin Miller, and Taylor Broadway each have thrown five or more innings this season. There are a few starter innings in the mix, but these six guys are generally the first ones you’ll see out of the bullpen as we get to conference play.
Earned run average isn’t always the best metric. But, when the top six relievers combine to allow just 1.51 runs per nine innings, it’s a testament to how dominant they’ve been. The team earned run average, 2.92, is just eighth in the conference but when adjusted for early season schedule strength, it’s all the better.
There’s a little regression in here, to be certain, as Max Cioffi and Taylor Broadway have allowed just one total earned run across 19(!) innings, but you’ve got to like where they are now.
9.7 percent walk rate
I’m cheating a little here. This is actually higher than the team walk rate of 9.3 percent. However—and this is where the cheating comes in—three of Austin Miller’s walks (the Group of Six only has 17) came in his first outing against Louisville. Miller also had two walks in his appearance in the midweek game against Southern Miss.
I’m sure you can make an argument he struggles with control when the opposition is better, but seeing as that he also struck out four in just two innings against the Mustard Buzzards, I’ll give him a pass. Since the two hits, one run and three walk day against Louisville, Miller has thrown 9.1 innings, allowed just five hits, two runs, and struck out 17(!). That’ll do.
.218 batting average against
This is down just a tick from the overall .224 BAA for the entire staff, but look closer and the numbers again look very promising going forward. Three players—Burton, Cioffi, and Miller—have averages against below .180 and two more are just above the .218 mark. It’s Taylor Broadway’s .294 BAA that skews things.
Again, I’m cheating but Broadway gave up seven of his 15 total hits in his 3.1 relief innings against Louisville on opening day (in 37 degree weather but I digress). He gave up a hit in his first inning of relief that day, settled in by retiring six-of-seven batters, then gave up three more hits in his final inning (along with an inning extending error).
Point being, Broadway was overextending in that first appearance. Very few relievers are meant to throw more than two innings, much less be sent back out to try for a fourth. Let’s say for example we cut those seven allowed hits for three, now the Group of Six allows opposing teams to hit just .195 against them.
This one sort of speaks for itself. The team as a whole has allowed 25 extra base hits, and in about 45% of the plate appearances, the Relief Boys have allowed just 36 percent of the extra base hits. If you wanted to cheat again you could knock that number down below 30 percent as two of the extra base hits came in Broadway’s first appearance against Louisville.
Winning games in the SEC is about limiting base runners, sure, but when you’ve got a weapon like freshman Hayden Dunhurst behind the plate eliminating run games, teams need two or three singles in an inning to score a run. Keeping teams balls out of the gaps and base runners off of second base may be the most important objective for relief pitchers.
Limit walks, limit doubles and home runs, and good things will come. Easier said than done, but maybe not with these guys.