Make no mistake, baseball is a game of numbers.
And in this case, the numbers are beautiful, inspiring and some…downright nasty.
2.3 Hits Per Nine Innings
It’s a number that seems like a typo, really. TCU closer Riley Ferrell allowed just seven hits all season. Seven! His H/9 rate of 2.3 was less than half of fellow closer and expected top-five pick Tyler Jay’s rate (4.7), who himself had one of the most dominating seasons we’ve ever seen from a college closer. And while he pitched less than half of the amount of innings, it shouldn’t take away from the historic season Ferrell had. He’s also no stranger to historic feats. In 2014, he struck out a ridiculous 13.9 batters per nine innings. Ferrell owns a 99-mph fastball, so it’s a wonder why he isn’t talked about as glowingly.
17.2 Strikeouts Per Nine Innings
Right-hander Phil Bickford had a impressive freshman campaign at Cal State Fullerton, posting a 2.13 ERA and racking up 74 strikeouts in 76 innings. In order to make himself eligible for the 2015 draft, Bickford transferred to the Community College of Southern Nevada, where he proceeded to dominate like few have ever seen. Bickford struck out 166 batters over the course of just 86.2 innings. He struck out at least six batters in each of his 16 starts. He struck out at least nine in 12 starts. He cracked double-digits eight times, had three 12-K performances and set a career-high with 15…twice! Something that makes the Nolan Ryan-esque strikeout numbers even more impressive is the fact that Bickford averaged less than six-innings per start.
In college baseball, if a pitcher only issues 17 walks an entire season you’d say he’s having a tremendous year. So what does one call it when a pitcher, a starting pitcher mind you, issues only 17 free-passes during his entire career? This season, right-hander Thomas Eshelman came dangerously close to tying his career-high in walks, which was the eight he issued last year. Unfortunately, he walked only one batter over his final five starts, finishing the season with just six, and the lowest walk-rate (0.47) in the country. Whew! Now, before you presume that Eshelman accomplished such a feat by pitching a limited number of innings, consider that he actually tossed a career-high 114.1 innings this season, and 363.2 for his career. His career walk-rate of 0.49 BB/9 is a number we’re unlikely to see again.
.422 Batting Average
In North Florida’s season-opener and finale (both losses), outfielder Donnie Dewees went a combined 0-for-8. Not exactly the best way to start or end a season. Fortunately, Dewees went 106-for-243 in between, which in case you’re not the best at math, adds up to a .436 batting average. Unfortunately, those two games that bookended Dewees’ junior campaign do count, so he ended 2015 with a .422 average, a number that ranked second among all NCAA Division I hitters. He didn’t just hit for average, though. He also slugged 18 homers, drove in 68 runs, scored 88 of his own, and stole 23 bases. That’s an awful lot of stats crammed in to just 60 games.
.509 On Base Percentage
D.J. Stewart has been on scouts’ radar for quite some time, but the Florida State outfielder took things to another level in 2015. He was one of just five qualified hitters in Division I to post an on-base percentage of over .500. Amazingly, Stewart posted the lowest batting average (.319) of any of the five. So how’d he get to .509? Well, a NCAA-best 66 walks helped. Stewart finished with 12 more walks than the runner-up, and was the only qualified hitter who drew more than one free-pass per game (1.12). It’s no wonder the A’s have been reportedly drooling over the chance to select him in the first-round this year.
39-for-39 on Stolen Base Attempts
We’ll forgive you if you aren’t familiar with the player responsible for one of the most impressive baserunning feats of the past decade. Zach Coppola, of tiny South Dakota State, swiped a ridiculous 39 bases in a row this season without getting caught. No player in Division I who stole more than 23 can say the same. In fact, we can’t find anyone who stole more than 20 without getting nabbed at least once. Kudos to you Mr. Coppola!
18 Home Runs
The number of home runs hit by FIU’s Edwin Rios might not seem overly impressive, but consider this. Through the first 22 games of the 2015 season, he had just three home runs. Naturally, he slugged three in the Panthers’ 23rd game of the season, then hit another in the 24th. He continued to be one of the hottest hitters in all of college baseball for the next two-plus months, slugging 16 home runs between March 21st and May 14th, a span of 30 games. Despite having just three home runs and a batting average that hovered just barely above the Mendoza line after a month and a half, Rios finished the season with the third-most HR in the nation.
To the high school ranks we go! Royal Palm Beach High’s Triston McKenzie is one of the most talented pitching prospects from the prep ranks and should be a highly sought-after player come draft day. It’s no surprise, then, that he has put up some pretty eye-popping numbers. For starters, he has thrown over 90 innings, a pretty massive number for a high-schooler. He’s been incredibly productive in those innings, racking up a ridiculous 157 strikeouts, or 15.6 K/9. Those looking for this same kind of production from McKenzie at the pro level next year will likely be disappointed, as he seems a pretty safe bet to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt.