Even though the last game of the season didn’t go well, Clemson’s pitching in 2018 was solid and looks like a strength going into 2019. Here we’ll look at some of the major contributors from this past season.
Jacob Hennessey (4-3, 3.91 ERA)
Coach Lee surprised many when he named Hennessey the Friday starter. Hennessey didn’t disappoint, looking like the ace of the staff until an injury sidelined him the last month. The sophomore improved over his freshman numbers but ran out of gas for the second consecutive year. Preparing to pitch late into the season will be the area Jacob needs to focus the most in the offseason.
Brooks Crawford (8-2, 3.24 ERA)
Junior, Brooks Crawford moved into the starting rotation after two good years in the bullpen. Crawford didn’t blow people away early struggling to get through 4-5 innings. He picked it up the last month after Hennessey went down and became Clemson’s best starter finishing with a team high eight wins. Look for Crawford to push Hennessey for the Friday role next season.
Jake Higginbotham (6-1, 3.47 ERA)
After a couple of injury plagued seasons, Jake Higginbotham slotted into the Sunday starters role. The Atlanta Brave signee struggled at times with walks and began to wear down at the end of the season but that was expected after not pitching in almost two years. Higgy didn’t blow hitters away but kept Clemson in games. Higginbotham will be better next season, being another year removed from arm injuries. Sadly, it won’t be in a Tiger uniform as he signed with the Atlanta Braves.
Spencer Strider (5-2, 4.76 ERA)
Strider was the top pitching prospect in last years recruiting class and at times this year looked like it. Strider led the team in strikeouts (70) and opponents only hit .215 against him. The problem was he also lead the team in walks (35) and gave up too many big innings. The talent is definitely there and with Andrew See’s tutelage, Strider should step into Higginbotham's spot next season.
Travis Marr (6-2, 6.04 ERA)
Marr didn’t exactly have the best season from a numbers perspective. Opponents hit .307 off him and he had 21 walks in 44 2⁄3 innings. Marr’s value came mostly in midweek games as an inning eater. Monte Lee and Andrew See both rave about Marr and it should be noted Travis was coming off a medical redshirt year. Expect Travis to compete for the weekday starter’s role next season.
Ryan Miller (7-1, 2.51 ERA)
The MVP of Clemson’s pitching staff may have very well been Ryan Miller. This years Longman Miller came into many games and pitched multiple innings to the rest of the bullpen. The senior pitched to contact and got into jams, 63 Hits in 71 1⁄3 though always seemed to work out of it. Monte Lee called Miller the “best pitcher” he’s ever coached. Even with the loss of Gilliam, replacing Miller may be the pitching staff’s biggest hurdle next season. Miller was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 6th round.
Carson Spiers (2-2, 2.08 ERA)
Carson Spiers put together a sneaky good season mostly as the setup man for Ryley Gilliam. Spiers much like Miller pitched multiple innings many times, striking out 39 in 43 1⁄3 with batters hitting only .149. Spiers should be the leading candidate for the closers role in 2019.
Ryley Gilliam (3-3, 1.41 ERA)
Ryley Gilliam was maybe the best closer in the country this season. Garnering All-American honors after pitching with an ERA under 1.00 for most of the season. The Tigers closer had 54 K in only 38 1⁄3 innings. His best performance was weirdly enough a loss, pitching a one run four innings against Florida St. on May 5th. Gilliam was drafted by the NY Mets in the 5th round.
Clemson came in 2018 having to replace their entire weekend staff and was still able to win 47 games. Monte Lee admitted in his postseason press conference that none of Clemson’s starters where “groomed to be starters” something that showed as the season began to close out. Another factor was that no one stepped up and took over the midweek starters role. A role that it’s important especially come regional time.
The good news is that Clemson isn’t far off. Next season, weekend starters Hennessey and Crawford are back. Strider, Marr, Jones, and Weatherly now have experience. All of Clemson’s incoming freshman pitchers will be enrolling, led by highly touted Justin Wrobleski, Carter Raffield, and Davis Sharpe.
Pitching may have faltered down the stretch but with more experience and more depth it may very well be Clemson’s strength heading into 2019.