Riptide’s Reflections | Bullpen blues

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

tulane baseball
Starter Dylan Carmouche’s last win was April 22, 2022, mainly due to the bullpen blowing leads behind him. (Courtesy of Parker Waters)

Riptide’s Reflections is The Tulane Hullabaloo’s column talking all things Tulane athletics. 

Tulane baseball’s bullpen has pitched poorly this season. The team is 3-14, but with slightly better relief pitching, the team could realistically add at least five more wins to their total. The low point of the season for the bullpen thus far was the midweek series against Campbell Camels when the 16 pitchers were used across two games and gave up a combined 30 runs. It is worth examining the bullpen in depth and seeing what to make of the relief pitchers.

There are a few things to remember before diving into the bullpen analysis. First, sample sizes are still relatively small. Second, the bullpen is not the only reason why Tulane’s record is as bad as it is. Finally, statistics can be misleading, hence the necessity for proper context and the eye test, but the numbers are good for showing general trends and ability.

The two most important stats are earned run average — which measures how many runs a pitcher gives up per game — and walks and hits per inning pitched — which measures how many baserunners a pitcher gives up per inning. The team ERA is 7.15, ranking 223 out of 295 in the nation, and the team WHIP is 1.75, ranking 211.

College is more hitter friendly than the MLB, but a middle of the pack team, one ranked 148th out of 295, has an ERA at 5.77 and WHIP at 1.59. The top 25 teams keep ERA under 3.50 and WHIP under 1.25.

Looking at the individual pitchers, head coach Jay Uhlman is using a number of different pitchers in high leverage — high pressure, that is — situations. I will categorize the bullpen into different tiers using available statistics, the eye test and contextualizing appearances. 

The top two pitchers in Tulane’s bullpen are the two Michaels: Lombardi and Fowler.

The best pitcher in Tulane’s bullpen currently is true freshman Lombardi. In his 7.2 innings pitched, his ERA of 1.17 and WHIP of .91 is by far the best out of anybody. Opposing hitters have a batting average of .148, which further illustrates just how good Lombardi is. The only concern is that he has not pitched in many high leverage situations, although he did pitch three excellent innings in a close win against the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.

“Good arm up to 91 [mph] with a breaker and a change and he’s athletic so he fields this position well … Potentially down the road, he could be a starter type [but] maybe not this year. But he’s a guy we can rely on because he’s gonna throw strikes,” Uhlman said about Lombardi.

Fowler, a transfer from LSU, has an ERA of 3.38, WHIP of 1.375 and 16 strikeouts in eight innings pitched with opposing hitters averaging .207 against him. His fastball can hit 95 mph, and he gets much needed strikeouts to get out of jams. 

The next tier are two dependable veterans: Chandler Welch and Billy Price. Both are similar in that a couple bad outings have drastically skewed their numbers, but they are capable of eating up innings and have pitched better than their stats suggest. 

Welch has both a high ERA and WHIP, — 8.31 and 1.61 respectively — but almost all of these are down to two appearances where he got shelled against UC-Irvine and Campbell University. Take away the Campbell game and his WHIP dramatically falls to a 1.31. 

Price has seven innings pitched with a 6.43 ERA — his two bad appearances came against University of South Alabama and UCLA. His WHIP is excellent however, just 1.285, and he has yet to issue a walk this season. He is also Tulane’s only high leverage left-handed pitcher, which will make his success incredibly important as the season progresses.

A tier below them are three enigmas: Blake Mahmood, Will Prigge and Colin Reilly. All three have high ERA, WHIP and opposing batting averages, but all three show good potential for the future. Prigge and Reilly are both true freshmen while Mahmood has eight career pitching appearances as a redshirt sophomore. 

Mahmood is the most intriguing option with a fastball hitting 95 mph. He has flashed great potential as he has pitched several clean innings, but he had disastrous appearances against UC-Irvine and Penn. He has pitched better than his number suggests and could be an important piece for Uhlman come conference play.

Prigge and Reilly both have the potential to be cornerstones of Tulane’s program in the future. Prigge has pitched better than Reilly this season with Prigge being better at keeping runs off the board. Reilly does have a high number of strikeouts and can provide length, which is a good sign for the future. Both should probably be used in lower leverage situations, but they could develop into great arms in the near future.

The rest of the pitchers are more low leverage arms who either have not pitched well, do not have enough appearances to make accurate judgements on them or both. This group as a whole is a mixed bag, but Uhlman will need improvement from this group especially for the back half of the season.

Uhlman has previously stated that he is looking for consistency in his bullpen and will want to lengthen out his starters, so that he uses less relievers in general. Uhlman stated early in the season that he is committed to his players and developing them into great players.

“You have what you have. We don’t have a minor league, we don’t have trades. We are going to have to continue to press forward and continue to support [our guys] and continue to try to put them in positions to be successful” Uhlman said.

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