As you all know, this season is the final one for the baseball team at Cal. Despite all the turmoil in the program, the team still has received a Top 25 ranking and has high expectations nationally. Who will be the top Bears on the mound this season? Here’s a look:
Last year’s NCAA Tournament team really only featured 3 starters in Erik Johnson, Justin Jones, and Dixon Anderson. All 3 return, although the proverbial fourth starter Chris Petrini is gone. His replacement is still up in the air. Touted freshman Eric Jaffe was supposed to be in the rotation, but he transferred to UCLA. But back to the Big 3. Jones is the youngest of the group as a sophomore, and is also the only left hander. He posted a 4.22 ERA and earned 10 wins last year, while striking out 6.7 per nine innings. At 6-3, Jones has the kind of body scouts crave, and he also has among the best curveballs in the conference. The “ace” of this staff is Erik Johnson, who posted the best ERA at 4.09. He actually pitched better than his ERA says he did, although control can be a bit of a problem for the junior right hander. He K’d 8.53 men per nine innings a year ago, tops among the Cal starting staff. Closing out the rotation is Dixon Anderson. Anderson throws at 89-93, but his secondary pitches of a slider and a changeup need work. The slider is the better of the two. Anderson has problems last year, as he had a 5.14 ERA. His improvement is probably the biggest key to the Bears season.
Kevin Miller is the top pitcher out of the Bear bullpen as a senior. He can start too, but has found most of his work in relief. His ERA has increased since his freshman year, from 2.90 all the way up to 4.72 as a junior last year. He features a fastball in the 80s along with a curveball and a changeup. Matt Flemer will also likely see time in relief. A 6-2 righty, Flemer was decent in 19 relief appearances, with a 4.83 ERA. His fastball also sits in the 80s, with 3 offspeed pitches to complement it. The only other pitcher with much experience is Matt Evanoff. Only a sophomore, he struggled last year with a 11.25 ERA. He did gain valuable experience, and the team will probably need him pitching this year.
Overall, this figures to be a top staff nationally. It’s rare to see a team return it’s top 3 starters, especially with all the talent in Jones, Johnson, and Anderson. The bullpen has a solid anchor in Miller, and another quality pitcher in Flemer. Depth is the only concern, but at the top the Bears are very strong.