UF has become a pitching factory since manger Kevin O’Sullivan arrived in 2008.
Pitchers like Brady Singer, Alex Faedo, A.J. Puk and Jackson Kowar were stars in Gainesville before becoming first-round picks and top prospects in their respective organizations. Others, like Bobby Poyner, Shaun Anderson and Dane Dunning, are still playing in the minor leagues.
I decided to look at who had the best individual seasons using various statistics. In addition to ERA, I calculated the following:
FIP (Field Independent Pitching): The idea behind FIP is that there are only a handful of things a pitcher can control: home runs, walks, strikeouts and hit-by-pitches. It’s meant to be read like ERA. You can read more about FIP here.
K/9: This one is pretty simple since it’s how many strikeouts a pitcher has per nine innings.
GO/AO: This is comparing how many outs the pitcher gets on ground balls versus fly balls. Generally, it’s preferred that pitchers force ground balls instead of fly balls because it means that batter isn’t making as much contact. Also, fly balls can turn into home runs, which obviously can’t happen with a ground ball.
BB/9: Same thing as K/9 except with walks. Good pitchers usually don’t give the other team free baserunners very often.
From there, I ranked every Florida pitcher in each category. To make some sort of composite (but not definitive) ranking, I averaged each pitcher’s rank in every stat and put them in order from there.
I only used pitchers who pitched at least 45 innings in a season to limit pitchers with small sample sizes. Unfortunately, this means there won’t be any pitchers from the shortened 2020 season.
With that said, here’s my ranking of the 10 best seasons by Gators pitchers since 2013:
10. Alex Faedo (2016) and Brady Singer (2017)
We have a tie for 10th between arguably two of the most recognizable pitchers UF has produced in Faedo and Singer.
Faedo and Singer have similar statistical profiles, as they both had low ERAs (2.26 for Faedo versus 2.55 for Singer) but FIPS that were middle of the road compared to other UF pitchers (17th for Faedo, 19th for Singer). Both were also pretty good at limiting walks.
Where they differed, however, was in K/9 and GO/AO. Faedo dominated batters with his stuff more often than Singer, striking out almost 11.5 batters per nine innings, the fifth-highest total. However, when he wasn’t striking out opponents, he struggled with keeping the ball on the ground with the seventh-lowest GO/AO ratio.
Singer didn’t cause swings and misses at the same rate as Faedo, but he consistently forced ground outs during his UF career. His GO/AO was the fifth-best in this span.
This won’t be the last time we’ll see these two on this list.
9. Bobby Poyner (2015)
As much hype as the starters UF has produced get, the Gators have had plenty of solid relievers.
Poyner was a rock in the bullpen for four seasons in Gainesville. But as a senior in 2015, the southpaw elevated his game to another level.
His ERA improved from 3.47 to 2.56, and, while he struggled in SEC play in previous seasons, he was equally dominant in conference play.
Poyner, who is now in the Red Sox’s system, had total control over his pitching repertoire at all times. While he didn’t strike out opponents or force ground balls at a high rate, he rarely allowed free passes to first base. Poyner had the fifth-lowest BB/9, throwing just six walks in over 60 innings.
The Wellington, Florida, native saved his best for last with a phenomenal postseason. In Game 2 of the Gainesville Super Regional against FSU, he shut out the Seminoles in five innings of work to help send Florida to Omaha.
Once UF made it there, the senior continued his dominant form, allowing zero runs in 11 innings and striking out eight. Florida made it to the semifinals before getting eliminated by Virginia.
8. Brady Singer (2018)
After spending his freshman year as one of UF’s best relievers and winning a national title in 2017 as a key starter, there were high hopes for Brady Singer.
He didn’t disappoint. The junior took home basically every trophy imaginable. His crowded trophy case included the Dick Howser Trophy (given to the best player in the country), National Player of the Year from both D1baseball.com and Baseball America, First Team All-American from basically every outlet and SEC Pitcher of the Year.
In fact, it might be surprising that he’s not higher on this list.
The thing that really assisted Singer was that he was very lucky with what happened with the few balls that ended up in play. By my calculations, Singer had a Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP)—think batting average but remove plays like strikeouts, walks and home runs—of .257, the third-lowest of any qualifying UF pitcher. This could be interpreted as Singer being either very lucky, Florida playing quality defense behind him or both.
But while his performance on the spreadsheets wasn’t overwhelming, Singer was dominant everywhere else. The junior had an ERA of 2.55, one of the lowest by any Florida starter since 2013. Thirteen of his 17 starts were considered “quality starts” (at least six innings pitched and fewer than three earned runs allowed), and he rarely walked batters.
There’s no denying that Singer played a significant role in UF’s attempt to defend its title in 2018.
7. Alex Faedo (2017)
The so-called ace of the 2017 championship team, Alex Faedo’s best season in Gainesville was also his last one.
Faedo routinely fooled opposing hitters all season long, ranking fifth in K/9. The junior was always excellent at racking up strikeouts, as his 10.84 K/9 across three seasons is the second-highest in school history. This was his second season in a row striking out over 11 batters per nine innings.
Faedo’s statistical profile suffers from an average FIP and a high walk rate (just over three batters per nine innings), but his ability to prevent balls from being put in play in the first place is what made him so effective.
Much like Poyner in 2015, Faedo was on a completely different level in the postseason. The Tampa native pitched 27.1 innings, allowed only one run and struck out 44 batters. Against elite competition, Faedo struck out batters at a higher rate in the postseason than he did in the regular season (14.49 in the postseason, 11.43 in the regular season).
Faedo was arguably the Gators’ best starting pitcher en route to the program’s first national championship. He was later named the CWS’ Most Outstanding Player and selected by the Detroit Tigers with the 18th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
6. Logan Shore (2016)
Logan Shore was a game-changer immediately for the Gators.
The 6-foot-2 righty started 15 games as a freshman in 2014 and flourished. He had a team-best 2.16 ERA and was one of the team’s best pitchers overall. Shore was the National Freshman of the Year and Perfect Game’s Freshman of the Year.
Shore was once again very good in 2015, but his best season was as a junior in 2016.
The most noticeable difference between Shore before 2016 and during the 2016 season was that he struck out batters at a much higher rate. The Minnesota native went from having a K/9 that was near the bottom in 2014 and 2015 to 20th in 2016. That, combined with forcing more ground outs and walking fewer batters, was enough to move him into the top 10.
Shore’s standout junior season also earned him First Team All-American from multiple outlets.
He was later selected by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft and is currently in the Tigers’ farm system.
Stay tuned for part two next week. Here’s how things look so far:
Follow Brendan on Twitter @Bfarrell727 and contact him at email@example.com