November 30, 2009
With the decade winding down in just a matter of weeks, we've done our part in bringing you the best of the decade for several categories in college baseball. It doesn't stop now, though. In our latest best of the decade feature, we take an inside look at the best starting pitchers of the decade.
10. Brian Matusz, San Diego
Matusz was unable to guide the Toreros to Omaha, but still had an amazing career for coach Rich Hill and USD. Matusz didn’t waste any time making a statement in the WCC. As a freshman, the talented left-hander started 13 games and had a 4.25 ERA in 89 innings. He also struck out 93 and walked 39. As a sophomore, Matusz took a step forward with a 2.85 ERA in 123 innings. He struck out 163 and walked 37 and struck out 11.9 batters per nine innings. He capped off his college career in style as a junior by compiling a 12-2 record and a 1.71 ERA in 105 innings. He struck out 141 and walked 22 and struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings. Matusz helped put the Toreros on the national map for good.
9. Mike Pelfrey, Wichita State
Wichita State pitching coach Brent Kemnitz is one of the best in the business and helped Pelfrey get where he is now in the big leagues. Pelfrey had a fantastic career for the Shockers and is part of a huge list of great former pitchers. As a freshman for the Shockers, Pelfrey started 16 games and had a 2.49 ERA in 104 2/3 innings. He struck out 98 and walked 15. As a sophomore, he started 16 games and had a 2.19 ERA in 115 1/3 innings. He also struck out 125 and walked 25. In his final season with WSU, Pelfrey compiled a 12-3 record and had a 1.93 ERA in 139 2/3 innings. He struck out 143 and walked 30.
8. Wade Townsend, Rice
Townsend was an incredible success story for the Owls. Few observers felt he would ever be one of the nation’s best college pitchers when he left high school. However, Townsend proved every doubter wrong with a strong college career. Townsend appeared in 19 games as a freshman and compiled a 2.29 ERA in 51 innings. He also struck out 51 and walked 22. As a sophomore, Townsend assumed a starter role and had a 2.20 ERA in 118 2/3 innings. He struck out 164 and walked 46. His career was finished off in style as a junior when he compiled a 1.80 ERA in 120 1/3 innings. He struck out 148 and walked 45. Townsend was part of the Rice rotation that included big leaguers Philip Humber and Jeff Niemann. He also helped Rice capture the ’03 national title.
7. Andrew Miller, North Carolina
Miller and a host of others deserve a wealth of credit for finally guiding North Carolina to Omaha. The left-hander had a phenomenal career for the Tar Heels and still is leaving his mark in the big leagues. Miller didn’t waste any time while with UNC. As a freshman, he started 15 games and compiled a 2.93 ERA in 89 innings. He also struck out 88 and walked 48. As a sophomore, he started 16 games and had a 2.98 ERA in 96 2/3 innings. He struck out 104 and walked 52. He capped off his UNC career in style as a junior by compiling a 2.48 ERA in 123 1/3 innings. He struck out 133 and walked 40 and struck out 9.7 batters per nine innings. The Tar Heels always will remember Miller’s contributions to the program.
6. Kip Bouknight, South Carolina
The talented right-hander sometimes goes unnoticed because his accomplishments occurred the first year of the decade. However, South Carolina always will remember what he brought to the table. Bouknight had an amazing ’00 season that ended with National Player of the Year honors. Bouknight finished that campaign with a 15-1 record and a 2.87 ERA. He also threw four complete games and recorded 129 strikeouts. He also walked just 33 batters. Though he only played one season in this decade, Bouknight left his mark on the Gamecocks throughout his career. He definitely is a premier arm to remember.
5. David Price, Vanderbilt
Price had an outstanding career at Vandy and showed as a freshman that he was going to be one of the nation’s best. The fabulous left-hander started 10 games his first season with the Commodores and had a 2.86 ERA in 69 1/3 innings. As a sophomore, Price took another step forward by compiling an impressive 1.92 ERA in 51 2/3 innings. He struck out 80 and walked 13. Then, as a junior, Price had his most impressive campaign. He went 11-1 and had a 2.63 ERA in 133 1/3 innings. He also struck out 194 and walked 31. Additionally, Price earned a wealth of awards, including Rivals.com National Pitcher of the Year honors. Price and teammate Pedro Alvarez put the Commodores on the national map.
4. Jered Weaver, Long Beach State
It’s a shame that Weaver never had the opportunity to pitch on the biggest national stage in the College World Series. The right-hander had a fantastic career with the Dirtbags and also is having success in the big leagues. Weaver compiled an 8-4 record and a 4.40 ERA in 92 innings as a freshman. He also struck out 74 and walked 32. As a sophomore, though, Weaver took a huge step forward. He compiled a 14-4 record and had a 1.96 ERA in 133 1/3 innings. He also struck out 144 and walked 20. In his final campaign with the Dirtbags, Weaver had a 15-1 record and a 1.63 ERA in 144 innings. He struck out 213 and walked 21. Weaver’s junior campaign alone puts him on the list.
3. Tim Lincecum, Washington
The most electrifying pitcher I’ve ever had the pleasure covering in person, Lincecum was a sensational college pitcher and also is having plenty of success at the Major League level. Lincecum had some control issues while at Washington, but more than made up for it with other great numbers and high strikeout totals. As a freshman, Lincecum went 10-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 112 1/3 innings. He struck out 161 and walked 82. As a sophomore, the righty went 8-6 with a 3.11 ERA in 104 1/3 innings. He also struck out 131 and walked 71. In his final season with the Huskies, the righty compiled a 12-4 record and had a 1.94 ERA in 125 1/3 innings. He struck out 199 and walked 63 that season. Lincecum was an unbelievable college pitcher.
2. Mark Prior, Southern California
Prior actually began his career at Vanderbilt and transferred to USC after his freshman campaign with the Commodores. He was an average pitcher as a freshman, but that was the previous decade. In his two years in the 2000s, Prior was absolutely amazing. The outstanding right-hander went 10-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 129 innings as a sophomore. He also struck out 143 and walked 43 to lead the Trojans. Prior bested that mark a season later as a junior. He went 15-1, threw six complete games and three shutouts and had a 1.70 ERA in 138 innings. He also struck out 202 and walked 18. Prior is part of a long list of great former USC pitchers and players.
1. Stephen Strasburg, San Diego State
It’s now amazing to reflect on the fact that very few power programs in Southern California wanted Strasburg out of high school. The right-handed pitcher made a magical transformation during his time at San Diego State. Strasburg is considered by some to be the greatest college pitcher ever. He compiled a 2.43 ERA in 37 innings as a freshman and took a huge step forward as a sophomore. The righty went 8-3 and had a 1.57 ERA in 97 1/3 innings. He also struck out 133 and walked 16. Then, as a junior, Strasburg earned Rivals.com National Pitcher of the Year honors by going 13-1 with a 1.32 ERA in 109 innings. He also struck out 195 and walked just 19. What an amazing college career Strasburg had with the Aztecs.