Without a doubt, the most unique characteristic of the 2009 baseball Tigers is the splash made by the newest member of the pitching staff, dubbed "Johnny Wholestaff" by the coaches, players and fans.
Mr. Wholestaff was cobbled together by Tim "Dr. Frankenstein" Jamieson and his trusty sidekick Tony "Igor" Vitello as a creative answer to the problem all Division I teams have faced since the 56-game season was compressed into 2-3 fewer weeks than before. The new compact season means many weeks playing 5 games in 7 days, necessitating either a really deep core of starters - or a creative alternative.
Johnny W was successful more than not over the year. My numbers differ slightly from Josh Murray's in the official press releases, mostly because of a difference in our definition of which games qualify as pure JW outings.
To my way of thinking, a Wholestaff game meets these criteria:
■ The intent of the coaches going into the game was to use the Johnny Wholestaff approach. If a starter suffers meltdown in the first inning or two and is then hurriedly replaced by a succession of 1-inning pitchers, that is not a Johnny Wholestaff game. Such games happen all the time in all levels of the game. You could call it a Johnny Wholestaff relief effort, because of the 1-inning/1-pitcher approach, but it was not a JW game overall. The 1st game in the Oxford Regional, where Nick Tepesch was intended to not only start but to pitch several innings before being relieved, does not qualify as a Wholestaff game just because he was pulled early and then replaced by a rapid succession of relievers.As I count them, the multi-faceted pitcher's numbers are as follows:
■ At least 8 pitchers are used during the game, most of them pitching 1 full inning.
11-4. 3.64 ERA, 15 G, 136 IP, 131 H, 66 R, 55 ER, 42 BB, 100 SO, 1.27 WHIPThat's good enough to tie with Gibson for 1st on the team in wins, 3rd in ERA (only Gargano, Clark and Gibson did better), and tied with Gibson and Berger in games started.
And that 1.27 WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) was bettered on the team only by Gibson (1.07) and Buehler (1.26).
There are many differing opinions about the merits of the whole Johnny Wholestaff approach, the criticisms falling into a few categories:
■ Some of the critics point out that Jamieson not only followed the 1-inning/1-pitcher approach in intentional JW games, but also fell into that habit when using the bullpen, too often pulling highly effective pitchers after only 1 inning.
■ Some were concerned that players were not being adequately developed as potential starters for next year, when the Tigers will be needing to replace Gibson, Berger and Hicks. Some of the people asking this question were related to what they saw as a JW-exiled pitcher.
■ Some just chalked it up as a desperation move by a team short on pitchers.
■ Others just plain don't like the whole concept, somehow deeming it "crazy".
A few quotes:
■ The Missouri baseball team’s Johnny Wholestaff approach to pitching this season can serve as an audition. It’s a chance for a pitcher or two to show he deserves a chance to do more. (Matt Nestor, Columbia Tribune)
■ "I've never seen anything like it," Texas Tech coach Dan Spencer said. "We didn't get the full effect of it because we couldn't hit their left-hander. But I think coach Jamieson looked at his team and decided he didn't have a third pitcher who can give 'em four to five innings but that they've got a bunch of guys who can give 'em one. It's hard to game plan against so many pitchers. The front part of your lineup gets one pitcher and the back part of the lineup gets somebody else. It's hard to prepare
■ "I am intrigued about Missouri's possible pitching approach on Saturday against AJ when they will apparently throw 9 pitchers (one each inning). I thought it was crazy when I first heard about it, but evidently they have been pretty darn successful with it. I guess we will see how it goes." (Techsan2007, at RaiderPower.com)
■ “Johnny Wholestaff has been pretty consistent all year.” (Tim Jamieson, April 15th, InsideMizzou.com)
■ “Anybody that does that, obviously they’re struggling with their arms. We just need to take advantage of it. If we bring our bats tomorrow, I think we’ll be OK.” (Aaron Miller, Baylor Bears)
■ "We've got several pitchers who have proved they can be effective for one inning. Some of them have also proved they're not so effective for 2 or 3 innings. But one inning is what we need." (Tim Jamieson, on KFRU's The Closers)
■ "From my perspective there's no way to prepare for it." (Tim Jamieson, Omaha
■ “They threw nine different guys; I haven’t seen that done since I coached in junior college, but I think they are 6-1 this year when they do that, and they don’t feel comfortable with one guy out there in their third game, and so it’s pretty effective.” (OSU Coach Frank Anderson, after losing to JW)
■“Some pitches have similar action and stuff, but everybody’s got their own little run or little sinkers and they throw their own pitches. But going from the two quality arms they had throwing yesterday to them throwing lefties, them throwing righties coming from every side, I mean, you don’t see that every day. It’s tough to change." (Tyrone Hambly, Okie State)
■ "It brings us closer together." (Brad Buehler, JW closer)
■ "Johnny Wholestaff made things fun" (bolivartiger, Tigerboard.com)
■ "First of all the is NO coaching involved in the Johnny Wholestaff approach. NONE. Anybody can throw 9 pitcher out there for an inning. . . I really hope Johnny Wholestaff is retired. If this approach is so effective, why don't you see anyone else do this? Baseball has been around a long time, but I bet nobody can name a successful team who has used the Johnny Wholestaff approach in the past. This really is a Little League approach to pitching." (BBFanatic, Tigerboard.com)
Personally, I thought it was great. It was a creative solution to the compressed schedule problems, and - always my ultimate measuring stick - it was fun. I enjoyed seeing the quotes from the players and coaches who were the losers against Johnny Wolestaff, trying to explain it all away.
As the stats above suggest, in many ways the inidivual pitchers actually performed at a higher level as part of Mr. Wholestaff than as individuals.
And it gave us a chance to see a lot of different MU pitchers in a lot of different situations. Never forget: Johnny Wholestaff isn't a real person (in case you were confused by that masterful patchwork photo). JW is made up of a lot of individual contributors, each playing their own unique part in the whole:
■ Ian Berger was the most frequent starter of JW games, with 6
■ Tyler Clark led the team by being credited with 3 of Johnny's wins, although the criteria for deciding who was the winning pitcher seemed to change depending on who the official scorer was.
■ Kelly Fick and Ryan Gargano tied for the ERA lead, at 0.63, with an identical 14-1/3 IP
■ Ryan Clubb shared with Fick and Gargano the lead in most innings pitched (14-1/3)
■ One of the keys to the success of Johnny Wholestaff was the low number of walks. JW as a whole averaged only 2.8 BB per game, led by that same trio of Clubb, Fick and Gargano, each surrendering only 0.14 BB per inning pitched.
■ Johnny struck out 6-2/3 batters per game, led by Jeff Emens with 14 Ks in 14 IP.
■ Ryan Clubb was used in the most consistent role in the pitching order, appearing in the 5th inning 8 times in 13 JW appearances.
■ Brad Buehler was used most consistently in the closer's role, pitching the 9th inning in 7 games.
■ Phil McCormick was the only JW pitcher left in for more than 2 innings (2-2/3 vs. Baylor).
■ The member of the MU pitching staff used LEAST as a member of Johnny Wholestaff? That one should be obvious: Kyle Gibson, who threw only 1 inning, getting the start in the SLU game. Unfortunately, that 1 inning gave Gibby the distinction of the worst ERA in Johnny Wholestaff games, at 27.00
■ In 5 of the 15 games, at least one pitcher threw longer than the standard 1 inning.
The real truth about the 2009 Tigers is that the only thing that could turn a struggling team with embarrassing losses into an amazing team driving hard toward 3rd in the Big 12, was TEAMWORK.
The closest this squad had to a player who could carry the team on his back was Kyle Gibson, who compiled an 11-3 winning record.
It seemed that when the team struggled and flat, everyone did it together. And when they really started going good, it was a whole team effort.
For every game ignited by a Greg Folgia home run (he led the team with 12), there were games sparked by Austin Holt getting plunked, walked, and generally running the basepaths like a maniac.
While Kyle Mach drove the offense over and over again, leading the team in average (.335) and hits (75), his hits helped move guys like Aaron Senne and Michael Liberto (leading the team with 46 and 40 walks, respectively) around the bases.
And then there were all the guys who were willing to do whatever whenever:
Scooter Hicks, the all-purpose pitcher, with 8 starts, 3 saves, and a 5-3 record
Ryan Ampleman, back-up catcher, part-time DH, and then stepping in as the regular starting catcher when Coleman went down
Rex Meyr, trotting out yet again to be the pinch runner.
And, again, all those pitchers who put in their 1-and-done contributions to the Johnny Wholestaff effort
Speaking of contributors to the JW effort, let's not forget the guys who probably worked harder than anyone else to make that work: Trevor Coleman, managing a different style of pitcher inning after inning, game after game; Ryan Ampleman, Andreas Plackis, Ben Turner and even Dan Pietroburgo, the ex-catcher turned team manager, warming up pitcher after pitcher, inning after inning.
Read more of our 2009 Tip of the Cap awards:
Part 1: Success
Part 2: By the Numbers
Part 3: Quotables
Part 4: Johnny Wholeteam
Part 5: And the winner is . . .
And check out our Tip of the Cap awards from years past