2013 Clemson Baseball Season Review

Final Record: 40-22, 3rd in ACC Atlantic division

Final Rankings: Clemson finished the season

Preseason Polls: Clemson was picked 3rd in the Atlantic Division by the league press, and were unranked by Collegiate Baseball and USA Today.

Our Expectations from the Preseason:

Now we lose our best hitters and have few established ones coming back. We have almost no power. I do not think Jack can instruct proper fundamentals and play the small ball that he prefers. We don't seem to get those bunts down anymore. We don't execute hit & run well anymore. We ALWAYS LOOK AT THE THIRD STRIKE WITHOUT MOVING THE BAT in clutch situations. We just do not execute good baseball fundamentals and the team plays as tightly wound as Jack's personality shows. Will this recruiting class fix it? I'm not certain.

I think on talent and talent alone, we'll get to the 30-35 W range. We should make the Regionals, and challenging to host one is an outside possibility. I don't see us going any further in 2013.

As it turns out, we were off on the Win total, but right on the money with the expectation of not making the Super Regional round. We stated that pitching would have to carry the team because it had no power in the lineup, which turned out to be correct. However the pitching exceeded expectations really well, and on the whole the lineup has some good contact hitters.

Unfortunately I find it hard to state that this team overachieved as a whole. When you look at the schedule, there were 5 big series that Clemson had to win: UVA, UNC, NCST, SC, FSU. You could in most years add GT, but we expected them to have a down year. Clemson won only one of those series against the Wolfpack. We followed it up with a disaster in the ACC Tournament, going 0'fer. We weren't swept off the planet, but we needed to do far better in the league.

In addition, we still get beat by middling teams who really good teams don't lose to. We lost to Liberty twice, Winthrop, William & Mary, a game against a bad Georgia team, 1-3 against Miami, and couldn't sweep the weaker ACC squads that the better teams did such as Duke and Maryland. Teams like UVA and UNC sweep those.

In the end we finished with 40 wins because we weren't swept by the best teams, and we didn't get ourselves completely killed in midweeks as in previous years, but I wouldn't say this team overachieved.

Season in Rewind:

The Tigers opened up at home against William & Mary, Wright State, and Winthrop, going 5-2 with one of the losses to Winthrop in 11 innings. In the beginning, it looked like our pitching was pretty sound but that our hitting was really going to hurt us in 2013, because we had not generated that many runs at all against some relatively weak competition. We noted in our SC series preview earlier this year that this was a major worry going into the annual series with the cluckers, and it turned out to be a good one as Clemson was shutout in 2 of the 3 games. After the 2-1 series loss, with Clemson giving up 10 unearned runs, we said this:

Mistakes. We lost this series because of mistakes and our continued inability to touch a LHP. I hate to be down on players so young, and some of them are going to be great, but this is not something new for Clemson baseball...this crap has been going on for years.

Clemson made errors in key spots in both games 1 and 3, and SC plated multiple runs after each one of them. Tanner and Holbrook put in that killer instinct that Jack Leggett has not been able to duplicate in 6-7 seasons now. Some people really hate (SC) players for acting like douches, but the truth is that they play the game the way it should be played and they make you pay when you screw up. We stay tight, like our manager, and screw up.

And if LeCroy can't teach them how to work counts and hit lefties he's not much of a better coach than Riginos was, only a recruiter.

In game 1, we faced Monty, and were shutout 6-0 at home. I'll first showcase what we said in 2012 after getting cut down by Roth, and then what was said about this game earlier this year.

Last year:

Clemson faced Michael Roth and had a poor approach at the plate in game 1, something that has been a recurring theme over the last several seasons. Roth works the away side and only comes in to keep you honest, but Clemson took the approach of swinging early and often, and basically grounded to short or 2nd all day after 2 pitches. Roth doesn't have overpowering stuff, and he throws junk that he wants you to offer at. If you cannot fight off the junk pitches until you get something to hit, you're going to have a bad day, and Jack Leggett or LeCroy apparently can't drill that into our players. Tiger pitchers had a good day, but we couldn't muster any runs and lost 3-2 in 11 innings.

This year:

The story of this one was Clemson's terrible performances at the plate. From top to bottom I saw AB after AB of no one working counts, swinging at the first pitch that came close, swinging at pitches that were nowhere close, and the continued inability of Clemson hitters to handle a junkballer lefty. Jordan Montgomery 3-hit CU in 8 innings and struck out 9 without hardly ever putting anything in the zone over the plate, then Tyler Webb came in for the 9th and struck out the side.

Montgomery mixed his pitches and locations really well against us, even if he was throwing junk we couldn't lay off. His strategy was simple, work righties on the outer half with the fastball, then come in hard with the curve at their ankles or the slider as a change of pace off that, then just throw high fastballs above their belt as fat gopher pitches that none of our guys could even touch. We kept swinging and missing them and when we did hit it, it was popped up. The lefties against him couldn't handle the hard stuff he got inside with.

Clate Schmidt pitched his ass off in Game 2 at Fluor Field, and really looked like a senior that day in the 6-3 win. Unfortunately within a month Clate would begin to struggle against the ACC competition, and eventually lost his starting role. A closer's role may suit him in the immediate future, but down the line we expect him to be a great starter again.

But now we know what kind of team this is going to have to be to win. I think we're going to get a lot better by the end of the season, but my concerns over the lineup were confirmed at this point. We cannot hit, period. We're going to have to win with pitching and defense. If we don't shut the other team's lineup down, we're going to lose a lot of games.

On the bright side, I do think that with Pohle coming back, this is the most talented pitching staff we've had here since Kevin O left Clemson for Florida. I could see several of them being highly drafted, and maybe more than one 1st round draft pick in the bunch. If you like to see good pitching as I do, you should make sure to see this group of Clemson pitchers at least once this year.

Unfortunately Pohle's arm did not respond well, and he has applied for the medical RS. He should be fine for 2014.

After the SC series, Clemson faced a Top 10-ranked NC State squad, and Garrett Boulware lit them up for the series. Clemson also pounded Carlos Rodon for 8 runs in 4.1 innings in the 10-5 game 1 victory. We were pretty encouraged by how the team looked after this series, and that hopefully the bats would continue to awaken. NC State made the CWS, so this ranks as our best series win of the season.

UVA came to Tiger Field the following weekend and we just weren't sharp enough to beat them. They play fundamental baseball very well, with great pitching and solid defense to go along with a lineup stacked with good hitters. Clemson's bullpen blew the 1st game in the series after Goose had stifled the Hoos, losing 6-5 in 11 innings. The Tigers split the next two games giving UVA a 2-1 win. This was a series that we had every chance to win and couldn't pull off.

After taking 2 against Duke, and splitting midweeks with UGA, Clemson traveled to top-ranked UNC. Firth had been relieved of his starting Sunday role at this point for Crownover, who had impressed in all his midweek appearances. The Tigers pounded out 28 hits against an outstanding NC pitching staff, but we couldn't get any when the men were on base, and our pitching took the weekend off. No Clemson starter went longer than the 4.2 innings that Crownover put in.

After facing top 10 teams for most of the month, our schedule relaxed a bit. Clemson swept BC and Wake Forest on back-to-back weekends, then traveled to Coral Gables. Miami's lineup was actually worse than ours this season, with little power and not much hitting for average either. However, their LH-dominated starting pitching staff completely shut Clemson down. Clemson won the first game 1-0, lost game 2 2-1, and finished with a 7-0 loss in game 3 after a pitiful plate performance.

Any team that throws 3 left-handed starters up against us seems to do well, and Clemson could only muster 2 runs in 3 games in Coral Gables, despite Miami having a horrid bullpen. For the weekend we managed just 15 hits, leaving 17 men on base, while striking out 26 times.

Clemson pitching did not do that badly until Sunday's game, when Schmidt and Schnell gave up a combined 6 runs. We just couldn't string the hits together to get the starters out of the game and deeper into their pen.

The series in Miami was probably the most disappointing of the season, and along with the ACC Tourney, may have cost us a real shot at hosting a Regional. I thought we were the better team and we had every chance to win this one. We needed a sweep against rebuilding GT, who we usually handle well at home, and got a 2-1 series win to set us up for a late-season run against Maryland and FSU. We got the series against Maryland, but couldn't keep it going against FSU.

Clemson started the series with their 9th-straight win, but one bad inning cost us in game 2. Crownover started off the game with his worst inning, giving up 2 runs, which was all Luke Weaver needed to beat us. Matt was pulled in the 5th due to an arm injury, causing him to miss the ACC Tournament. Schmidt came on in relief and was outstanding against the Noles, but the bats could never get going. We had men on base and couldn't score any of them. In the 6-1 loss in game 3, more of the same: 16 men LOB, including 10 RISP.

So looking back on the regular season, one could argue that if we could've gotten a hit or two with men on base, of which there were plenty, that the Tigers could've won the FSU series along with UNC and Miami. That was the difference between 40 wins and possibly 50.

Jack hates the format of the ACC Tournament (as do I) and we haven't done well in quite some time. We took what was a great chance to host and completely blew it in Durham. Clemson had UNC beaten in the 2nd game and a 90's-style Atlanta Braves bullpen explosion lost us a big lead, from which the team never recovered. Clemson looked disinterested in the Miami game and lost, going 0-3 in the Tournament and costing them any chance at hosting.

We were sent to Columbia again for the Regional round, and looked tight and disinterested once it appeared that Liberty actually showed up to play baseball. They got the lead early in two games and our energy in the dugout was nonexistent. Our plate approach was abysmal, slapping the first or 2nd pitch right at someone, and ending what we hoped would be a good showing for once in Columbia. Despite many prognosticators picking Clemson to win the Regional, we never even faced SC and were eliminated by a low-major team led by a guy Jack wouldn't offer years earlier.

-Since Sully left, taking our recruiting with him, Clemson has gone 99-83 in ACC games, including a 6-12 record in the Tournament.

-Clemson is 18-27 in one-run games dating back to late in 2010, but we did improve this year markedly.

-Clemson has failed to win 50 games once in the past six years, after winning 50 games or more in 11 of the previous 20 seasons. (Fewer games played now as well)

-Against SC:

2013: 1-2
2012: 1-4 (1-2 reg season, 0-2 Regionals)
2011: 1-2
2010: 2-3 (2-1 reg season, 0-2 CWS)
2009: 2-1
2008: 0-3
2007: 0-3
2006: 2-1

MLB Draft Results/Losses:

(Signee) OF Austin Meadows - Clemson signee went with the 9th pick in the 1st round to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

(Signee) C Chris Okey - 31st rd by Padres - will enroll at Clemson

(Signee) SS Eli White - 26th rd by Reds - will enroll at Clemson

P Scott Firth - Drafted in the 19th round by the Colorado Rockies

CF Thomas Brittle - Graduation

RP Joseph Moorefield - Graduation, hallelujah!

P Jonathan Meyer - Graduation

There are rumors that 2B Steve Wilkerson wants out, but him not getting drafted will place a damper on his hopes of leaving.

What about next year?

A first swag cut at the lineup looks like this:

2014 Prospective Lineup
Pos Name BA R H 2B HR RBI Misc.
CF Maleeke Gibson .227 20 25 3 0 16 Really must raise his OBP, or he'll hit 9th
2B Steve Wilkerson .291 36 66 16 4 37 10 SBs
RF Steven Duggar .300 39 75 10 2 30 15 SBs, once he works BBs, watch out
DH Garrett Boulware .308 39 75 12 8 45 Poor defense may force a DH move, or 1B
3B/LF Shane Kennedy .317 47 69 5 5 35 22 SBs, 37 walks
1B Jon McGibbon .285 33 59 5 0 37 Time to produce, or he'll lose this spot
LF Tyler Slaton .263 18 42 4 0 13 Must produce full-time now, or he'll lose it
C Chris Okey - Projected starter by midseason
SS Tyler Krieger .257 28 56 10 0 27 BA went up a good bit after a slow start
-3B Jay Baum .228 16 31 4 0 8 Up/down year as platoon starter
-DH/LF Joe Costigan .333 5 12 5 0 6 Still trying to figure out why only 49 ABs

Mike Triller will make a push, at least on the DH spot. Jackson Campana should also make a solid push at 1B along with incoming freshman Glenn Batson. Someone has to produce the power numbers at this position.

A major problem with the '13 team is the lack of slugging. Boulware will probably get to 12-15 HRs in '14, due to the shorter fences, and Shane Kennedy may get 8-12, but I'm not optimistic about McGibbon finally starting to hit HRs. In his last two seasons he's had a grand total of 5, along with averages of .233 and .285 this season. I would rather the ABs go to Campana, Batson, or Reader if he learns how to hit for average.

RF Steven Duggar is one that I believe could be our next high-round pick as a hitter, and once he becomes more disciplined at the plate, he's going to really take off. Shorter fences will do him some good as well in 2014.

Slaton split time with Gibson, Kennedy, and Baum in LF and was up/down. Gibson took the spot a few weeks in the season due to Tyler's hitting, and gave it back to him later. This is a spot where another freshman, possibly Rohlman, could get into the lineup.

Kennedy came in as a 2B, and if he cuts down on his throwing errors he should play the field at 3B again next season. He struggled early this year but gradually improved over the season. Wilkerson produced at the same clip as 2012 (.291 vs .296) and unless his attitude causes him to leave the team, he's a good #2 hitter who we can count on over a season. Steve must cut his errors down however.

I would not be a bit surprised to see Chris Okey starting by midseason, his defense will give his bat time to adjust to college pitching, as Boulware is really not that good at stopping stolen bases and he gets eaten alive by Goose's curveball. Garrett's bat is just too solid to drop him from the lineup.

Either Eli White or Weston Wilson, both incoming freshmen SSs, will push an infielder here. We'll have a bit of a glut on the infield as a result, so I would not be shocked if someone disappears before next season. Andrew Cox and Kyle Whitman will both be available as well.

We're going to get more power just by virtue of moving the fences in, so comparing stats between 2013 and '14 may become a little deceptive down the line. If our pitching can hold the opposition inside the park though we should have a better lineup overall and get further in the postseason.

Pitching

I currently expect Clemson pitching to be dominant in 2014. A first cut at the rotation would be:

Friday - Daniel Gossett, 10-4 2.56 ERA, 91Ks in 98.1IP

Saturday - Kevin Pohle - did not pitch in '13 due to arm injury, 7-4 3.66 ERA in 2012

Sunday - Matthew Crownover, 7-3 2.19 ERA

With a projected weekend rotation of Gossett, Crownover and Pohle, we should be among the best in the nation. In midweek games we'll start Schmidt (3-4, 5.34 ERA) and Koerner (1-1, 3.99 ERA), along with Zach Erwin (5-2, 3.45), RS Fr. Wales Toney and transfer Jake Long.

Clemson does need another solid lefty in the pen to go along with Erwin, and Alex Bostic will have to be that guy. Don't be surprised if Bostic makes a push on the midweek rotation either. If Clemson needs something in one area it would be lefty relief pitching.

Matt Campbell started the season as closer, but finished 1-1 with a 4.82 ERA and 7 Saves. He just couldn't get it going and the job shifted to Firth, Schnell, and Erwin before Zach earned a Sunday spot. Andrews (1-1, 2.87) began the season awful as a starter in the first series, and put it together in the pen. I'm not sure he has the stuff in his repertoire to be a closer, but he may be the guy next season. Schnell is also a possibility and was another go-to guy by midseason (2-0, 2.84 ERA, 2 SV). We also believe Campana has good enough stuff to warrant more opportunities in the bullpen.

The only loss to the staff of consequence is Scott Firth, who had an up/down year. Meyer and JoMo are also gone. At least Jack finally realized that JoMo wasn't any good against LH hitters this season.

A 3.21 season-long ERA will probably not be duplicated, dead bats or not, with the fences coming in at Tiger Field, but I'm not seeing a weakness in this staff.

2013 Baseball Signees

Baseball recruiting is tremendously hard to follow so we don’t know as much about these players as we would for football or even basketball, but this appears to be another high quality class engineered by Bradley LeCroy. He’s turned his focus back to the southeast where it should be, and specifically the states of GA and SC that Clemson should never have to leave to find players. For three classes in a row we have focused more on bigger guys, not the 5'9 160lb slap hitters, and for this particular class I do have hope that we finally have some power coming into the lineup for the future. The 2012 class was ranked #7 by Perfect Game, but I caution that there is so much flux with the draft that the ranking is meaningless until August.

I do not have a ranking for this current class, but I expect it is in the mid-teens.

PerfectGame.org is really the only quality site that tracks recruiting, and much of the info below comes from them.

OF Austin Meadows - 1st rd pick of the Pirates and won't attend Clemson.

1B Glenn Batson - 6'2 195

Batson batted .480 with 10 homers as a sophomore, but then missed much of his junior season due to a shoulder injury. He's was Perfect Game Underclass Third-Team All-American. The hope is that Batson will be the one with the power bat down the road.

LHP Alex Bostic - 6'4 205 - Number 94 in MaxPreps100. Expect to see him start in the pen or midweek games.

Strong athletic frame, room to get stronger. Mulit-piece leg raise delivery, high 3/4's arm slot, compact arm action, hides the ball well and has deception, throws the ball downhill. Upper 80's fastball, touched 90 mph, mostly straight, throws strikes with his fastball and spot it. Shows good curveball spin with 1/7 depth, still looking for consistent CB release point, rare change shows promise. Makings of 3 MLB average pitches and the ability to use them, some projection left.

C Chris Okey - 6'0 180 - Number 26 in MaxPreps100. We expect Okey, who was a candidate to be a very high MLB pick, to start at Catcher sometime in 2014. He's a much better defender than Garrett Boulware. He was drafted in the 31st round by the Padres.

Medium athletic build, wiry strength, very quick twitch for a catcher. Plus arm strength, very quick release, plus fundamental footwork and exchange, consistent 1.9's in game action, 1.85 best pop, easy and athletic catching actions. Right handed hitter, balanced hitting mechanics, quick hands, surprising power for his size, has bat control and squares up the ball, turns around 90+ velo easily. Has instincts for the game and performs. Top level talent.

RHP Tucker Burgess - 6'2 165

Burgess worked his way back into form as a junior after undergoing 'Tommy John surgery' on his elbow the previous year.

C Ben Boulware - 6'1 225 - Garrett's brother, on football scholarship at MLB.

Very strong well proportioned build. Open stance at the plate, very strong hands, aggressive hitter, very good bat speed, stays short to the ball for a power approach, slight uppercut, can turn on inside velocity and drive it, handles the barrel well, has very good hitting tools. 7.18 runner, quick actions behind the plate, clean transfers and a quick release, fair raw arm strength, 1.87 best pop time, will have to work on softening hands receiving. The bat plays big.

RHP Drew Moyer - 6'2 185

OF Reed Rohlman - 6'2 200 - Rohlman batted .444 as a sophomore and .346 as a junior. He's a 2012 Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention All-American.

Lean athletic build, hits from hits from a slightly open upright stance, good bat speed, knows how to use lower half, pull approach, makes consistent solid contact, hits to all fields, good baserunner, defensively, long arm action, gets behind baseball well, also pitches, high 3/4 arm action, good arm speed, has feel for cutting change up, fastball has good sinks and is deceptive, repeats delivery, good student

SS Eli White - 6'3 180 - Smith is widely rated as one of the state's top prospects for 2013. He batted .330 as a sophomore and .337 as a junior. Was drafted in 26th round by Cincinnati Reds, but is expected to enroll.

Long and lean athletic build, lots of room to get stronger. 6.78 runner, smooth defensive actions, soft hands and plenty of arm strength, fields the ball out front, good exchange and release, shows his athleticism. Right handed hitter, spread bent knee stance, quick hands, handles the barrel well, loose extension out front, hits under control, solid mid field line drive contact, projects offensively with more strength. Solid all around player who will continue to improve.

SS Weston Wilson - 6'3 195 - Wilson is a 2012 Perfect Game Underclass Honorable Mention All-American and a member of Prospect Wire's 'top prospects' team, was given a Top 10 Round MLB grade at one point. His bat and arm strength may push Krieger out of the way at SS.

LeCroy is working a potential JUCO transfer for next season as well, they expect to land one who can come in and play immediately.

I point out that all of this class will not make the team/roster, but they are all expected to enroll. This fall is going to be a very important time to settle out the next roster, what with the large class last year and the limited numbers. I would expect several to be told that we just don't have the spots or that we cannot help them financially (25% rule amongst roster players to my knowledge). Only 27 of the 35 roster players can be on scholarship, and there are only 11.7 scholarships in baseball.

With CU constantly raising tuition, the scholarship rules in place really hurt Clemson when going for out-of-staters. It is especially damaging with the Georgia Lotto paying tuition for anyone coming out of the hotbed of East Cobb. All the more reason to stay in-state when their talent is high enough. I wish the NCAA would look at the numbers for baseball and raise the allowable count, and I'm hopeful the AD or the Administration will look at some way to alleviate this tuition problem to help Clemson baseball.

Outlook for 2014

Our pitching should put Clemson in the 45-50 W range, and we should make the Super Regional round at a minimum. Honestly, I like the talent so much on this squad that I believe we can get to Omaha again. The pitching depth is there, if they pan out. It may not be this deep again in 2015. I may not like Pepicelli's coaching but with this stable of arms it should be hard not to have a top ERA nationally. What we need to have emerge is a couple of solid go-to arms in the pen, and a closer who will shut teams down. I thought it would be Campbell, but that didn't work out. Some think it will be Patrick Andrews, but I'm not sure he has the stuff. We certainly will have a wealth of arms to try in the closer spot next year, and it may be a good place to eventually work someone into a starting role the following year.

What I'm really worried about is the power hitting, and the hitting instruction overall. Note that Clemson is moving Home Plate outwards by 8 feet at Tiger Field to alleviate this problem, but a short outfield fence applies for both teams. Tiger Field has always been more of a pitcher's park, thanks to the dimensions and that wind often blows in from Hartwell. Clemson had a terrible slugging percentage in 2013, and we don't work walks like we did under Riginos. As optimistic as I am about LeCroy's recruiting, his hitting instruction has not lended itself similar feelings. Our clutch hitting was abysmal and has been for quite some time. I wouldn't want to see our BA with RISP in ACC play, nor our record in 1-run games over the last half-decade or so. This is why everyone complains of the team playing "tight" when the game is on the line. Is that ever going to change? Will we learn to play loose and aggressively as SC has under Tanner and Holbrook?

To get beyond the Supers, Clemson needs someone besides Boulware who can get the ball over the wall. Other teams will have pitchers when we get that far. When you look at the 3-4-5 spots in this lineup you are not scared, if we are to get anywhere in Omaha that has to change.

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