Mississippi State knew they were going to need a new pitching coach before they knew they hired a new head coach. Former pitching coach Wes Johnson took the same position at Arkansas, the state he is originally from, after a successful season with the Bulldogs in 2016.
John Cohen picked up Gary Henderson after he was relieved of his coaching duties by Kentucky. Henderson was Cohen’s Associate Head Coach when Cohen was coaching at Kentucky. The Wildcats then named Henderson the new head coach when Cohen took the job at Mississippi State.
Trying to figure out what the pitching will look like is a difficult task. Andy Cannizaro had nothing to do with pitching at LSU, but I would expect his theme of aggressiveness to carry over to the pitching staff.
But I didn’t watch a single Kentucky game all of last season. The Bulldogs didn’t play the Wildcats, so I had no need to watch their games. You also can’t tell a lot by looking at statistics.
While those things are all true, we can at least get an idea of what Henderson’s approach might be when it comes to working with the staff. By looking at a few stats, there are a few trends we can gather.
First off, his pitching staff wasn’t awful. The most meaningful stats to evaluate pitchers in my opinion are ERA, opponents batting average, and strikeout to walk ratio. Kentucky’s staff had a 3.97 ERA, .254 opponents batting average, and had a 418 to 180 strikeout to walk ratio. State’s was 3.35, .245, and 576 to 208. State’s numbers were better, but Kentucky has arguably the most hitter friendly park in the SEC.
The second thing we can gather is once he has a weekend starting rotation determined, at least for last year, he’s sticking with them. Dustin Beggs and Kyle Cody were his top two pitchers. They combined for a 15-4 record and a 3.16 ERA. Solid numbers from two of your pitchers. The problem was with their third starter.
Zack Brown went 2-11 in 14 starts for the Wildcats. He only won one game against SEC competition. His ERA was a hideous 6.08 and opponents hit .312 against him. Yet he was run out there every single weekend of SEC series. Brown had been the team’s ace in 2015, but he never got it together in 2016. Brown never lost the confidence of Henderson as he opened every weekend series the team played in. Despite the awful season, Brown was selected in the 5th round of the Major League Draft.
The pitching staff should be fine under Henderson. I don’t know there will be as much tinkering with the pitchers as there was a year ago. But we don’t know much of anything until we see the team take the field for the first time.