Cal’s rotation was, to put it lightly, shaken up a little bit in the Houston regional. Erik Johnson took his usual opening role, but Justin Jones did not make a start during the series (although he appeared extensively in relief) and Kyle Porter made one of the first starts of his career. In between, both Kevin Miller and Dixon Anderson made starts and had varying degrees of effectiveness. So the question has to be asked: who takes the hill for the Golden Bears in their super regional?
Erik Johnson will be starting the opener, with little doubt coming on this decision. He’s carried the team all year, and two bad starts against Baylor do nothing to change that. He’s earned the right to start, and there should be no arguments going otherwise.
Justin Jones belongs in the same category as Johnson; unless he’s pressed into emergency relief to bail his teammates out of a jam, he’ll be starting Sunday’s game. That isn’t out of the question, though, as Esquer used him 3 times in 3 days in relief and also had pitched in relief against UC Davis. I’d still expect him to be a starter and do his typical fine work.
Of Dallas Baptist’s top 4 hitters by batting average, only one hits exclusively from the right side. That would seem to give the advantage to Kyle Porter, who’s a lefty and dominated Baylor’s left hander heavy line-up. Platoon wise, he’d be the pick.
But there are also the two seniors who got you to this point. Kevin Miller and Dixon Anderson didn’t get to the fifth inning in their regional starts, with Anderson going 4.2 innings and Miller getting a very early hook. Of the two, I’d have to give the edge to Dixon Anderson. He’s got the better stuff, he’s been throwing better recently, he’s been in the weekend rotation all year, and if his defense had backed him up he would’ve gone much deeper in his start. Miller shouldn’t be counted out though.
Right now, my optimal rotation would go Johnson-Jones-Porter, to counter Dallas Baptist’s lefties and to give the nod to the pitchers pitching best at this moment. Dave Esquer will probably go with Johnson-Jones-Anderson, his Pac-10 rotation all year. Deviating from the norm isn’t really his style, and I doubt he changes now.
Whoever the team throws out there, they’ll be a quality pitcher who’s had success this year. I might have my preferences, but I have faith that every guy in contention can get the job done against their potent offense. But the best way to settle the third starter debate is to sweep and not have to worry about picking a pitcher. Hopefully that’s the solution Cal uses. Go Bears!