Sporting WCA

Cats Face Off Versus Max Hunter and the Clayton Greyhounds

Jeff Shultz

Editor’s note on FIP: Years ago, famed sabermetrician/baseball statisticians Tom Tango and Voros McCracken devised a formula in 2001 for measuring how effective a pitcher is without regards to his defense. This was the first Fielding Independent Pitching stat, and it was dubbed FIP. It was truly revolutionary because, as Voros noted, “There is little if any difference among pitchers in their ability to prevent hits on balls hit in the field of play.” Essentially, FIP uses only a pitchers walk total, strikeout total, and home runs allowed total, combines them with the total innings a pitcher has pitched, adds a constant (generally 3.2 is a good constant), and generates what a pitchers ERA would be if fielders were taken out of the equation. How good a pitcher’s defense is behind him effects how many runs he allows, so FIP is a better measure of a pitcher’s ability on any given day.

DJ Stewart, Westminster’s ace, has a FIP of .84. Clayton’s senior ace and Wildcat nemesis Max Hunter has a FIP of .40. So what makes Clayton’s Hunter so talented? Let’s take a look.

First off, the lefty has been clocked at 86 way back in July of last year. He regularly works in the low to mid 80’s, which is not only notable for a high school pitcher, but particularly notable because he does it from the left side. He also does not have a traditional pitcher’s frame, as he stands at 5-10 and weighs in at 210 pounds.

The second piece of Hunter’s three pitch mix is a 1-7 (think numbers on a clock) slurve-like breaking ball Hunter drops down in the low 60s. He can run it up to around 70 and keep his opponents on their toes.

The most important pitch for the 5′ 10″ pitcher is a deceiving change up he will throw in the low 70s. When he matches the arm speed of his fastball, he can be extremely difficult to square up. He keeps hitters off balance with the change, generating off-balance swings and lots of whiffs.

What Hunter, a Dartmouth commit, does best is locate his pitches in the zone, getting ahead early. With 17 walks on the season, Hunter has had his share of off days, taking a pair of losses against Ladue in back to back starts and one against Parkway Central. In the Parkway Central loss he gave up just 3 hits and 2 walks, but in the combined 8 innings against Ladue, he gave up 6 runs on 10 hits and 3 walks.

Ladue was easily the best offense Hunter faced, with 6 regulars hitting over .300. The Wildcats did not play them, but the cats have a superior offense this year, with anywhere from 7 to 9 regulars hitting over .300, depending on the day. They also have prodigious power, with Kevin Graham and Weston Schad, presently at 21 and 17 extra base hits, respectively, leading the charge. Hunter against the Wildcat offense will be fun to watch, and if the Wildcats figure him out early, the game will be all but over early.

The Greyhounds have only 4 hitters over .300, but they do have one of the best hitters in the state, Bryant Thompson. Thompson leads the area with a .589 average, and he has 12 extra base hits in 86 PA.

The Wildcat offense exploded last week in the district final against St. Charles, scoring 12 runs. DJ did not allow an earned run, just two unearned ones. DJ may be the best ace the Wildcats have had since Jacob Turner, and he has topped out at 93 MPH on the gun. DJ also has a nasty slider and a good fading change up, and he will look to be very effective against Clayton.

With a solid performance from DJ and a regular day from mashers DJ Stewart, junior Kevin Graham, Senior Weston Schad, and Sophomore catcher Jimmy Obertop, the baseball Cats should have a great day against Clayton, with first pitch at 4:30. Come on out to Shaw Park and cheer on the cats as they hunt for their record 32nd win!