As a fan, one of the hardest things to do sometimes is to watch a player who you know is talented struggle. That's what State fans did last year with Jacob Lindgren, as the talented leftie from the coast struggled to find his control as one of MSU's three weekend starters. Continued struggles and a nagging injury would chase Lindgren from the rotation and pitching altogether after the SEC Tournament, and many of us wondered what his role would be on this team coming into the 2014 season off of a 2013 where he was just 4-3 with a 4.18 ERA and 26 earned runs in 14 starts.
That role, as it would turn out, has been as a key cog in the bullpen for MSU, and the transition from starter to reliever has worked wonders for both State and Lindgren. In 2014, Jacob has racked up a ridiculous stat line: 4-1 (with three saves) with a 1.02 ERA, an opposing batting average of .125, five earned runs given up and 82 - yes that is an eight and a two - strikeouts in 44 innings. Those 82 k's place him at 42nd overall (tied with Vandy ace Tyler Beede), but when you look at that list you quickly see that his innings pitched total is much lower than everyone else near him. Lindgren doesn't have enough IP (one per team game played req'd) to register in the strikeouts per nine innings category on the NCAA's website, but if he did, he would be at the top. The 82 k's in 44 innings makes for an average of nearly 17 strikeouts per nine innings. That is an insane number. With 152 batters faced overall, he has literally struck out over half of them
If you match his innings pitched up with last year's (56), his five earned runs given up accounts for a reduction of 15 earned runs to this point in the season. If you expand the look at his numbers to his full career as a starter versus as a reliever, it's even more impressive:
In 16 starts, Lindgren went 64.2 IP with 30 earned runs and 71 K's. As a reliever, he's thrown 63.2 innings, 11 ER with 100 K's. Staggering— Robbie Faulk (@Rivals_Robbie) May 13, 2014
That's a difference in 4.21 ERA as a starter and 1.57 ERA as a reliever in one less inning pitched for Lindgren.— Robbie Faulk (@Rivals_Robbie) May 13, 2014
The difference is easy to see, even for the most basic baseball fan, and in a year where State has had to move fellow relief ace Ross Mitchell to a starting role and try to replace Chad Girodo, the shift for Lindgren has been a match made in heaven.
Jacob's move has also been enough to get scout's attention as well, as he was recently named the 41st best prospect for the upcoming MLB Draft by MLB.com. That would be good enough to put him in the top two rounds, which most likely means that we State fans better enjoy these final few weeks of watching him pitch in maroon and white. He has also been named to watch lists for the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award as well as the Olson Award for breakout player of the year in college baseball and the C Spire Ferriss Trophy (vote for him and/or Ross Mitchell here) as the best player in the state of Mississippi this year. While Lindgren may not have the big save or win total to help him win the Stopper or Olson Awards, he is certainly deserving of being a finalist based off of his sheer dominance when he enters the game.
While Lindgren's season has only been a part of what has been an impressive pitching staff yet again in 2014, it is important to note the work he's done as a setup man for Holder and as a gap filler in key innings. State wouldn't be sitting with 16 SEC wins at this point if it weren't for Lindgren, and if they are to make a run in the postseason, he will be a big part of that as well. Kudos on the great season, Big ChunKy, and when is that next Bench Mobb single gonna drop?