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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pro/Con: Should Jason Stoffel be a starter instead of a closer?

    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

The University of Arizona defeats the University of Massachusetts Sunday March 8, 2009.
    Liam Foley/ Arizona Daily Wildcat The University of Arizona defeats the University of Massachusetts Sunday March 8, 2009.

    Pro: He’s good enough to start

    Tim Kosch

    Sports Writer

    Yes, Jason Stoffel is the best closer in the history of Arizona baseball. And yes, when he will be selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft this summer, he will be listed as a closer.

    But for right now, he needs to do what is best for the team. Right now, Stoffel needs to be a starter.

    Head coach Andy Lopez is a firm believer in a shutdown back-end of the bullpen, and he has every right to be. There is nothing more satisfying for a coach than when he can take the ball from his starter and hand it to his relievers with full confidence that they will keep the lead intact.

    The Wildcats have a strong finishing duo of Cory Burns and Stoffel, but they’ve proven through the first half of the season that they have the shakiest starting staff in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    An Arizona starting rotation that has struggled? It’s weird to think that, considering its past dominance.But this year has been laughable at times – and you don’t have to look any further than the past two games for proof.

    Sophomore Matt Veltmann gave up nine runs in his outing on Saturday, and that was all in the first inning without even recording an out. Yes, nine runs before recording an out. Then on Sunday, freshman Donn Roach followed up by giving up seven runs in 3 2/3 innings. Credit Roach for at least recording 11 outs, but those numbers equal Wildcat starters combining to give up 16 runs in 3 2/3 official innings.

    At that rate, a dominant eighth and ninth inning pair is a figment of the imagination since their roles are rendered meaningless.

    At the beginning of the season, Lopez toyed with the idea of making Stoffel the Saturday starter because the team needed it. But after strong performances in the fall from Veltmann, Roach and a few other freshmen, Lopez was confident enough to leave Stoffel in the bullpen – and that was the right move.

    Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out the way anyone had hoped. So what do you do now?

    Stoffel has to be the second starter. Slide freshman Kyle Simon into the Sunday slot, and use fellow freshman Bryce Bandilla as a mid-week starter. Make Burns the closer, and give Veltmann and Roach a crack at some relief appearances.

    It’s an unconventional move, but Friday starter Preston Guilmet and the Wildcat offense are desperate for help right now.

    Con: If he ain’t broke, don’t fix him

    Bobby Stover

    Sports Writer

    Why mess with a good thing?

    Arizona’s pitching staff is plagued with inexperience and has flaws that extend beyond the starting rotation. Other than starter Preston Guilmet, and maybe reliever Cory Burns, closer Jason Stoffel is the only other consistent arm on Arizona’s staff.

    While it may seem like a no-brainer to fix Arizona’s struggles in the starting rotation with a proven pitcher like Stoffel, that would only led to a new problem – what would the Wildcats do to close the game?

    So far this season, Stoffel has seen work in more than 28 innings – 12 fewer than Friday starter Guilmet – while collecting five saves and an ERA of 3.77 which happens to be lowest on the team for pitchers with more than 10 innings pitched.

    The preseason All-American is also second on the team in strikeouts (35) which is also behind Guilmet (44).

    The fact of the matter is, Stoffel is dominant as a closer and during his late-inning relief work.

    Aside from Burns, Guilmet and Stoffel, the Wildcats haven’t even been able to buy a solid performance. Only two other pitchers with more than eight innings of work have ERA’s of less than 6.68.

    It’s true that most of the poor numbers have come from starters but nearly all of the pitchers to start a game have also thrown in relief – with limited success.

    So while moving a consistent pitcher like Stoffel into a starting role may help Arizona’s early-inning efforts, it will only create a new problem at the end of games as the Wildcats’ young arms struggle to adjust to the closing role.

    But beyond all those considerations is this: Stoffel has been bred to be a closer and that doesn’t necessarily make him a good candidate as a starter.

    Take last year’s third starter Ryan Perry for instance. He struggled mightily in the rotation but flourished out of the bullpen.

    It’s a different mentality and it has become

    Stoffel’s mentality.

    Like the cliché goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. In this case that means leaving Stoffel in the bullpen.

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