clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

How has Arizona softball’s pitching fared against the best this season?

New, comments

Part 1 of 3 looks at the pitching numbers vs the best and the rest

arizona-softball-top-10-unranked-stats-comparison-pitching
Taylor McQuillin
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

The Arizona Wildcats wound up their pre-conference season against the defending champion and No. 1-ranked Florida State Seminoles last weekend. Coach Mike Candrea called it a “midterm” before the team faces the always-loaded Pac-12.

In addition to the defending champs, Arizona played a challenging non-conference schedule that included 10 games against eight ranked teams. The results against the best teams on that schedule left something to be desired as far as wins and losses. What do the deeper numbers say, though?

This is first of a three-part series looking into how Arizona’s pitching, offense and defense fared against the different levels of competition: against top 10 teams, against teams ranked No. 11-25 and against unranked teams.

The Wildcats have used all six of their pitchers, although senior ace Taylor McQuillin has pitched the bulk of the innings, as expected. She has also pitched the more stressful innings, usually going up against the opposing ace. The result is less run support, of course.

“What helps was the run production, which helps a pitcher breathe and relax,” coach Mike Candrea said after the March 9 run-rule victory over FSU behind pitcher Gina Snyder. “When you’re in a 0-0 game, one mistake can be magnified. When you have a little bit of wiggle room, it makes it a little bit easier.”

Let’s look at the numbers and see what story they tell.

The staff vs. the Top 10

As a midterm, the FSU series was a decidedly mixed result. The ‘Cats went 1-2, which isn’t terrible when considering the stature of the opponent. The primary concern was the uneven pitching against the Seminoles.

Arizona struggled to keep runners off base, especially in the first two games. Both McQuillin (1.8571) and Snyder (1.8) produced high WHIPs. The biggest culprit was the base on balls, with both pitchers averaging a walk per inning on top of at least 0.80 hits per inning.

Alyssa Denham pitched the final game of the series, and had better numbers. Her 1.2857 WHIP wasn’t spectacular, but it reflected fewer free passes than the other members of the staff surrendered. The problem for Denham was that, although she wasn’t giving up as many walks, she was giving up more hits.

All three starters were hurt by the long ball, with Denham giving up one in seven innings, McQuillin giving up one in six and Snyder giving up two in five. Without the offensive explosion and spectacular defense of the Wildcats during Snyder’s start, it’s quite possible that the team could have ended the preseason with an 0-6 record versus the top 10.

That’s not to say that there weren’t bright spots for the Wildcats in their highest-profile match-ups. While they went 1-5 overall, there were encouraging numbers from McQuillin in her other three starts against top-10 competition.

In her starts against Florida, Alabama and Oklahoma, McQuillin had an ERA of 2.10 and a WHIP of 0.9. She gave up only four extra base hits in 20 innings, although two of those were homers.

Hanah Bowen also put up encouraging numbers. In relief of McQuillin in the first game against FSU, she pitched a 1-2-3 frame with a strikeout.

Table 1: Arizona’s staff vs Top 10 opponents

Rank Opponent IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP Walks/7 INN HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN 2B 3B HR HR/7 INN W/L Win % Score Starter
Rank Opponent IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP Walks/7 INN HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN 2B 3B HR HR/7 INN W/L Win % Score Starter
5 Florida 6 4 1 1 2 0.33 0.39 0 1 1.0000 1.17 7 1.17 8.17 0 0 0 0.00 L 2-3 McQuillin
7 Alabama 7 6 3 6 2 0.29 0.29 0 0 1.1429 3.00 8 1.14 8.00 1 1 1 1.00 L 1-6 McQuillin
4 Oklahoma 7 3 2 2 1 0.14 0.14 1 0 0.5714 2.00 5 0.71 5.00 0 0 1 1.00 L 1-2 McQuillin
1 FSU 7 6 5 5 7 1.00 1.00 1 1 1.8571 5.00 10 1.43 10.00 1 0 1 1.00 L 3-5 McQuillin
1 FSU 5 4 3 3 5 1.00 1.40 1 0 1.8000 4.20 4 0.80 5.60 0 0 2 2.80 W 11-3 Snyder
1 FSU 7 6 3 4 3 0.43 0.43 0 0 1.2857 3.00 7 1.00 7.00 0 0 1 1.00 L 3-4 Denham
Totals 39 29 17 21 20 0.51 3.59 3 2 1.2564 3.05 41 1.05 7.36 2 1 6 1.08 1-5 17% 21-23
Rankings are listed according to an opponent’s rank at the time of the game. Stats per 7 innings are included to help compare between complete games and run-rule games.

The staff vs. teams ranked 11-25

McQuillin pitched all four games the Wildcats played against ranked teams outside the top 10. Not surprisingly, the team (and their ace) had better results, going 4-0.

Cutting down on the walks and the elimination of homers were the most dramatic differences that led to success in these four games. While the staff gave up 3.59 walks per seven innings against top 10 teams (and hit another three batters), McQuillin limited that to a much more manageable 1.21 per seven innings against this group of teams.

The complete elimination of the long ball in the four games against teams ranked outside the top 10 was even more impressive. After the staff gave up 1.08 home runs per seven innings against the top 10, McQuillin gave up none to the mid-tier teams.

Table 2: Arizona’s staff vs opponents ranked No. 11-25

Rank Opponent IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP Walks/7 INN HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN 2B 3B HR HR/7 INN W/L Win % Score Starter
Rank Opponent IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP Walks/7 INN HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN 2B 3B HR HR/7 INN W/L Win % Score Starter
19 Michigan 7 4 1 1 2 0.29 2.00 0 1 0.8571 1.00 7 1.00 7.00 0 0 0 0 W 2-1 McQuillin
20 Oklahoma St 7 2 0 0 2 0.29 2.00 0 0 0.5714 0.00 10 1.43 10.00 0 0 0 0 W 3-0 McQuillin
23 Minnesota 7 2 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 0 0.2857 0.00 10 1.43 10.00 1 1 0 0 W 2-0 McQuillin
19 James Madison 8 8 4 6 1 0.13 0.88 0 1 1.1250 3.50 7 0.88 6.13 3 0 0 0 W 8-6 McQuillin
Totals 29 16 5 7 5 0.17 1.21 0 2 0.7241 1.21 34 1.17 8.21 4 1 0 0 4-0 100% 15-7
Rankings are listed according to an opponent’s rank at the time of the game. Stats per 7 innings are included to help compare between complete games and run-rule games.

The staff vs unranked opponents

As a team, the Wildcats went 13-2 against the easier part of their schedule, dropping back-to-back games to North Carolina State and South Florida.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the numbers were not as impressive against unranked teams as they were against the middle tier. It would be easy to point at the inexperienced pitchers who were given starts, but those were not the hurlers who caused the numbers to spike.

Walks increased to 1.67 per seven innings against this group of teams. While that was roughly half the number allowed to top 10 teams, it was almost half a free pass more per game than McQuillin gave up to the middle-tier teams.

After McQuillin gave up zero home runs to the mid-tier teams, the staff gave up 0.68 per seven innings against unranked teams.

The defense didn’t help much, either. In 92 innings, the team gave up eight unearned runs. That was just .02 unearned runs per inning fewer than the team surrendered to top 10 competition.

Table 3: Arizona’s staff vs unranked opponents

Opponent IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP Walks/7 INN HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN 2B 3B HR HR/7 INN W/L Win % Score Starter
Opponent IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP Walks/7 INN HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN 2B 3B HR HR/7 INN W/L Win % Score Starter
South Florida 7 3 1 1 2 0.29 2.00 0 0 0.7143 1.00 11 1.57 11.00 0 0 1 1.00 W 4-1 Denham
Illinois St 5 3 1 1 1 0.20 1.40 0 0 0.8000 1.40 7 1.40 9.80 1 0 1 1.40 W 9-1 Bowen
NC State 6 5 4 4 2 0.33 2.33 0 2 1.1667 4.67 11 1.83 12.83 0 0 3 3.50 L 1-4 Denham
South Florida 7 5 0 4 2 0.29 2.00 0 1 1.0000 0.00 16 2.29 16.00 1 0 0 0.00 L 1-4 McQuillin
Illinois-Chicago 5 3 1 1 0 0.00 0.00 0 1 0.6000 1.40 8 1.60 11.20 1 0 0 0.00 W 10-1 Denham
New Mexico 5 4 0 1 1 0.20 1.40 0 0 1.0000 0.00 7 1.40 9.80 0 0 0 0.00 W 15-1 Denham
CSU-Fullerton 7 3 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 0 1 0.4286 0.00 4 0.57 4.00 0 0 0 0.00 W 6-0 McQuillin
Long Beach St 7 8 3 3 1 0.14 1.00 0 0 1.2857 3.00 6 0.86 6.00 1 0 0 0.00 W 12-3 Denham
UCSB 5 5 1 1 1 0.20 1.40 0 0 1.2000 1.40 2 0.40 2.80 0 0 0 0.00 W 9-1 Schuld
Drake 7 2 0 0 4 0.57 4.00 0 0 0.8571 0.00 10 1.43 10.00 1 0 0 0.00 W 4-0 McQuillin
Drake 7 6 3 4 3 0.43 3.00 0 0 1.2857 3.00 8 1.14 8.00 3 0 1 1.00 W 9-4 Denham
Kent St 5 1 0 0 0 0.00 0.00 1 0 0.2000 0.00 8 1.60 11.20 0 0 0 0.00 W 10-0 Snyder
Kent St 8 5 4 6 2 0.25 1.75 3 0 0.8750 3.50 4 0.50 3.50 1 0 0 0.00 W 7-6 Foreman
New Mexico St 6 5 3 3 1 0.17 1.17 1 0 1.0000 3.50 3 0.50 3.50 0 0 2 2.33 W 11-3 Denham
New Mexico St 5 2 1 1 2 0.40 2.80 0 0 0.8000 1.40 7 1.40 9.80 0 0 1 1.40 W 11-1 Snyder
Totals 92 60 22 30 22 0.24 1.67 5 5 0.8913 1.67 112 1.22 8.52 9 0 9 0.68 13-2 87% 61-30
Rankings (or lack of ranking) are listed according to an opponent’s rank at the time of the game. Stats per 7 innings are included to help compare between complete games and run-rule games.

Individual pitchers

Top 10 opponents

McQuillin pitched 27 of the 40 innings against Arizona’s elite opponents. Despite going 0-4 and having an especially rough outing against Florida State, she was by far Arizona’s most effective starter against this tier.

She gave up a total of 12 walks against top 10 teams, but over half of those (7) were in her start against the Seminoles. Of the starters, her 0.44 walks per IP were on par with Denham’s 0.43, but in far more innings.

McQuillin also had the lowest ERA of the three starters, although at 2.85 it was far higher than in her starts against the mid-tier ranked teams and unranked teams. Her 1.1481 WHIP was also the best of the three starters.

Among the starters, she was the only pitcher to average less than one home run per seven innings. Denham averaged exactly one round-tripper per seven against the top teams, while Snyder averaged 2.80.

These six games provided the most evidence for Candrea’s point that run support makes all the difference. The only win against elite competition came in the contest with the worst pitching statistics.

However, sample sizes make it difficult to make completely accurate comparisons between the three starters. McQuillin pitched four to five times as many innings as both Denham and Snyder.

Table 4: Arizona pitchers vs Top 10 opponents

Pitcher IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP 2B 3B HR HR/IP W/L GP GS
Pitcher IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP 2B 3B HR HR/IP W/L GP GS
Taylor McQuillin 27 19 11 14 12 0.44 2 2 1.1481 2.85 30 1.11 2 1 3 0.11 0-4 4 4
Gina Snyder 5 4 3 3 5 1.00 1 0 1.8000 4.20 4 0.80 0 0 2 0.40 1-0 1 1
Alyssa Denham 7 6 3 4 3 0.43 0 0 1.2857 3.00 7 1.00 0 0 1 0.14 0-1 1 1
Hanah Bowen 1 0 0 0 0 0.00 0 0 0.0000 0.00 1 1.00 0 0 0 0.00 0-0 1 0

Opponents ranked No. 11-25

Against both mid-tier and unranked opponents, McQuillin’s numbers are dramatically better than her outings against top 10 teams. That shouldn’t be news to anyone. What is a bit surprising is that she often pitched better against the mid-tier teams than she did against unranked teams.

Once again, the story was one of walks and home runs. In this case, though, it was the story of success. McQuillin was able to limit these errors in games against Oklahoma State, Michigan, James Madison and Minnesota. The result was a 4-0 record against this group—the only group that was unable to defeat her at least once.

McQuillin was at her best limiting walks in the 29 innings she pitched against teams ranked 11 to 25. In 27 innings against top 10 opponents, she gave up 0.44 bases on balls per inning pitched. Against unranked teams, that number dropped to 0.23 walks per IP in 26 innings. In her four starts against mid-tier teams, she was able to limit it to 0.17 per IP.

She gave up no home runs in her 29 innings against these four teams. That compares to three in her 27 innings against top 10 teams and one in 26 innings against unranked opponents.

Table 5: Arizona pitchers vs opponents ranked No. 11-25

Pitcher IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP 2B 3B HR HR/IP W/L GP GS
Pitcher IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP 2B 3B HR HR/IP W/L GP GS
Taylor McQuillin 29 16 5 7 5 0.17 0 2 0.7241 1.21 34 1.17 4 1 0 0.00 4-0 4 4

Unranked opponents

Candrea used all of his staff against Arizona’s unranked opponents, giving Marissa Schuld, Vanessa Foreman and Bowen starts that they didn’t see against ranked teams. Foreman struggled in her only start, but Schuld and Bowen pitched well relative to their experience.

Foreman gave up the most walks per inning with 0.38, but Denham and McQuillin were the next two on the list. Denham gave up 0.31, while McQuillin allowed 0.23 free passes per inning.

Denham was also responsible for most of the extra base hits, giving up four doubles and six home runs in 31 innings. Those home run numbers amounted to 0.19 home runs per inning pitched—nearly twice the next highest number (0.10 per IP) from Snyder and Bowen.

As with the slate against top 10 opponents, it is difficult to make hard and fast comparisons between the Arizona pitchers due to sample size, though. McQuillin and Denham pitched 2.5 to 3 times more innings than the other four pitchers against this group.

Table 6: Arizona pitchers vs unranked opponents

Pitcher IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP 2B 3B HR HR/IP W/L GP GS
Pitcher IP Hits ER Total Runs Walks Walks/IP HBP WP WHIP ERA K K/IP 2B 3B HR HR/IP W/L GP GS
Taylor McQuillin 26 14 2 6 6 0.23 1 2 0.7692 0.54 41 1.58 3 0 1 0.04 4-1 6 3
Alyssa Denham 31 25 13 14 10 0.32 1 2 1.1290 2.94 36 1.16 4 0 6 0.19 6-0 6 6
Gina Snyder 10 3 1 1 2 0.20 2 0 0.5000 0.70 15 1.50 0 0 1 0.10 2-0 3 2
Hanah Bowen 10 6 1 1 1 0.10 0 0 0.7000 0.70 10 1.00 1 0 1 0.10 1-0 4 1
Marissa Schuld 9.6666 8 1 3 1 0.10 0 0 0.9310 0.72 6 0.62 0 0 0 0.00 1-0 3 1
Vanessa Foreman 5.3333 4 4 5 2 0.38 2 0 1.1250 5.25 4 0.75 1 0 0 0.00 0-0 3 1

Comparing Arizona’s staff to Top 10 opponents

So, if the absolute numbers don’t look so bad, why has Arizona struggled against top 10 teams this season? Looking at what the staffs of those teams do might give us some insight.

None of Arizona’s top 10 opponents have lost more than four games, and all of them have won at least 20. Meanwhile, the Wildcats sit at 18-7.

The biggest differences between the Wildcats’ pitching staff and those of their top 10 opponents are home runs per seven innings, walks per seven innings and unearned runs. The first two issues are pitching issues. Defense shares the blame for the last one.

The Wildcats are giving up 0.74 home runs per seven innings this season—a total of 17 homers over 160 innings. That is not only the highest number per seven innings, it’s the highest absolute number, too.

None of their top 10 opponents have given up more than 0.66 home runs per seven innings. Unbeaten Alabama gives up only 0.30 round-trippers per standard softball game.

The walks came back to haunt Arizona far too often, as well. The Wildcats’ staff gave up just over two walks per seven innings. Of their top 10 opponents, the highest rate was 1.72 by Alabama. Most of their toughest opponents hover in the neighborhood of 1.60.

Even if the Arizona pitchers are able to improve their numbers to rival the country’s top 10, they still need to be able to depend on their defense. The unearned runs they are surrendering suggests that often isn’t the case.

The Wildcats have given up 14 unearned runs over 25 games. In absolute numbers, only Florida State’s 12 unearned runs come close, but the Seminoles have also played almost ten more innings than the Wildcats.

Arizona is averaging 0.61 unearned runs per seven innings to FSU’s 0.50. No one else averages over 0.30, and Florida gives up a minuscule 0.08.

The discussion of unearned runs takes us to Part 2 of this three-part series: Fielding.

Table 7: Comparing Arizona’s Staff to Top 10 Staffs

Team IP Hits Hits/7INN ER Total Runs Unearned runs/7INN Walks Walks/7 INN WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN HR HR/7 INN W/L Win %
Team IP Hits Hits/7INN ER Total Runs Unearned runs/7INN Walks Walks/7 INN WHIP ERA K K/IP K/7 INN HR HR/7 INN W/L Win %
Oklahoma 137 68 3.47 25 28 0.15 31 1.58 0.4980 1.28 211 1.54 10.78 12 0.61 20-2 91
Florida 170 106 4.36 40 42 0.08 37 1.52 0.6248 1.65 226 1.33 9.31 16 0.66 22-4 85
Florida St 169.3333 143 5.91 49 61 0.50 40 1.65 0.8459 2.03 160 0.94 6.61 14 0.58 25-2 93
Alabama 163 110 4.72 41 48 0.30 40 1.72 0.6764 1.76 163 1.00 7.00 7 0.30 25-0 100
Arizona 160 105 4.59 46 60 0.61 46 2.01 0.6580 2.01 186 1.16 8.14 17 0.74 18-7 70
Comparison between the Wildcats and their top 10 opponents