Wichita State pitchers are struggling. They lost All-American and potential first round draft pick Sam Tewes to injury and the staff has felt that load. As far as I can tell the staff - minus Tewes - are regressing to the numbers they put up last year. Their BABIP has come back down under .350 (It was .342 last year) and their K% and BB% are now identical to what they were last year. The K% is 19.6% and the BB% is at 11.3% which is honestly not terrible. For comparison, last year their K% and BB% was 19.7% and 11.7% respectively.
The line drive percentage (LD%) is also nearly what it was last year. LD% gives us an estimate of how many hard hit balls the pitching staff is giving up per at-bat. It is not exact, but it is a close approximate. The LD% for this year is 38% and last season it was 37%. So it is within the margin or error.
With luck becoming less and less of a factor we see regression to the mean in full force. That being said the Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) stat is actually considerably lower this year for the entire staff - 4.10 this year compared to 4.55 last year. The same can be said for ERA - 5.10 this year and 6.10 last year. What gives?
The answer lies with runners on base starting with the percentage of runs scored per batters faced. This ratio is high to say the least. Last season the Shockers ended with a 14.4% Runs/Per Batter Faced metric. This year that number has ballooned to 17.2%. They are allowing 17 of every 100 opposing batters to score!! The main culprit of this increase is how the pitchers have performed with runners on base.
Left-on-base percentage is a stat that tells us how well pitchers are stranding runners. The higher the number the better they are at doing just this. Unfortunately, WSU is not doing well in this department. Check out the table below comparing Wichita State pitching LOB% over the last three years including 2016.
Wichita state cannot keep opposing runners from scoring once they reach base. Overall the pitching staff is doing poorly in this category and it doesn't get any better if you look at individual players. Willie Schwanke's LOB% is down more than 10% from last year. That is insane! McGinnis, Jones, and Heuer numbers for this metric are sub 50% and they have a good deal of innings pitched and batters faced.
A team cannot compete if they cannot find some way to increase this ratio. A place to start would be looking at bringing in high strikeout guys with runners in scoring position especially later in the game. Strikeout percentage is the most important stat to look at when analyzing relief pitchers. The Shockers have some guys that might be able to do this, but some are being used as starters - and rightly so. However, there are some younger freshman that have a K% - albeit with limited batters faced. At this point though all resources should be considered.