The Oregon pitching staff has underwhelmed to say the least. None more so than Matt Krook, whose return was supposed to elevate the Ducks’ rotation to elite. The lefty has struggled with control and consistency, and two poor starts in a row have resulted in his banishment to the bullpen.
Krook’s 3-3 record and 4.70 era are nothing to boast about. His team-high 39 BB and 7 wild pitches are also contributing factors that give us reason to doubt the effectiveness of the highly touted redshirt sophomore. But looking at his underlying stats – along with those of the rest of the starting rotation – the headlines don’t tell the whole story.
Even with a painfully high 1.58 WHIP and 7.97 BB/9, Krook is easily the strongest strikeout pitcher of the starters. He doesn’t lead the team, but his 11.45 K/9 ratio does. Ratios can be deceiving, but 56 Ks in 44 innings is hard to argue with. He is freezing batters too. Batters have struck out looking 15 times, only three fewer than Cole Irvin, who has logged nearly twice as many innings and 17 more strikeouts.
With plenty of batters reaching base with Krook on the mound, it’s evident that he is hurting himself more than batters can possibly dream of taking credit for. He has held opponents to an impressive .188 average and has kept the ball in the yard, not allowing a home run all season - leading the starters in both categories.
Earlier this season, I compared Krook and Irvin through their first three games in their return seasons from Tommy John surgery. Considering that Irvin has almost completely returned to the top of his game – evidenced by his complete game effort last weekend – I think it’s fair to use the comparison again. And hopefully project what we can see from Krook in the future.
At the end of 2015, Irvin’s line was 2-5, 4.10 era, 79 ip, 77 hits, 43 runs, 2 hr, 24 bb and 44 K. Through five fewer games, Krook’s numbers are comparable if not more impressive. Besides the walk total that he has already soared past, and an innings total that he unlikely to match, he is positioned to best Irvin’s line in every category. He has only allowed 30 hits – the fewest of the starters – and has one more win and 12 more strikeouts, with approximately four starts to go.
With inconsistent team play and the MLB draft looming over his head, Horton told reporters that Krook has been pressing lately. The recent dip in performance should flip the switch in the hurler’s head. With two years of eligibility left, he doesn’t need to declare at the end of the season.
Krook has been bumped from the starting job for this weekend’s series against Arizona State, but some extended rest might be exactly what the doctor ordered for the potential ace. With Cole Stringer or Matt Mercer rumored to be in line for the start, Horton could be short a starter for non-conference action against Gonzaga to kick off next week.
The Zags are batting a solid .301 as a team, but we shouldn’t expect Krook to remain on the sidelines for long if Oregon is serious about a late playoff push.
Top Photo by Gary Breedlove