Through the first three games of the Big 12 tournament, WVU baseball coach Randy Mazey used 14 pitchers to cover 26 innings.
That is kind of an amazing number and many who are turned off by college baseball would use that stat as their No. 1 reason why they can’t buy into the sport.
Totally understand all of that.
WVU’s 8-5 first-round victory against Oklahoma State — in which the Mountaineers used a total of six pitchers — was a game that was four minutes shy of lasting four hours.
And watching it wasn’t always an enjoyable task, either, as The Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel wrote:
“The OSU-West Virginia game had nine errors, three balks, four wild pitches, 12 combined pitchers, 360 pitches and WV’s starting left fielder finally, mercifully got the last out on the mound. It was the worst-played game above pee-wee baseball I’ve ever watched. It was a damn shame someone had to win it.
“Someone needs to remind me why I take off three days every year and shell out a bunch of money to come to this.”
The majority of opinions may lean that way, but here is another train of thought on the matter: Mazey should be applauded.
I get it, his constant pitching changes can be agonizing to watch and the strategy is completely off the books when it comes to the traditions of the game.
It truly is as unconventional as getting invited to appear on a cooking show and showing up with power tools.
But, that is also a good point to be made.
It is unconventional and unusual and never-seen-before, or in Mazey’s words, the strategy is new school.
“Old school is old school. Old school doesn’t work,” Mazey said. “This is new school and it’s all about science, and technology, and data, and scouting reports, and numbers, and spin rates. You got to keep up with the times. If you don’t think outside the box and keep up with the times these days, you’ll get left behind so fast it’d make your head spin.”
Truth is, Mazey went 95 percent of the regular season trying to be old school and traditional.
He gave his pitching staff more than enough time to come together and grow and mature and work out the kinks and all of the other cliches you want to add here.
A few times, the starters were great and the relievers stunk. A few more times, the starters were terrible and the bullpen was lights out.
He tried making starters into relievers and relievers into starting pitchers.
Rarely were both great at the same time, which is what got Mazey thinking about a change.
He no longer wanted to be the coach who just kept running the ball up the middle on third-and-one or passing the ball to the big guy in the paint and hoping to get fouled.
He was no longer going to be the baseball coach who simply put blind faith into a starting pitcher and hope he lasted six or seven innings.
His starting pitchers were generally solid for three or four innings, so the choice was made to only give them three or four innings.
“When he first told us about the change, it sounded funny,” WVU pitcher-outfielder Braden Zarbnisky said. “But, everyone has bought into it. Everyone pretty much knows ahead of time when they’re going in.”
And to be honest, this strategy isn’t going to stretch over multiple seasons.
This isn’t Mazey’s version of “Press” Virginia.
It was simply an idea that was meant to help this WVU team right now.
Was it fun to watch? Not exactly, but that isn’t Mazey’s concern. He doesn’t get paid to make the games enjoyable.
He went completely unconventional at a time when most head coaches in most sports refuse the notion.
And he should be commended for it.