Monday, February 13, 2012

It’s all about Roth and Price

Matt Price
Ray Tanner has many potential roadblocks to jump before his Gamecocks can get back to the Super Regionals, much less Omaha.  Almost the entire infield is new, Jackie Bradley Jr. is eating Clam Chowder and John Taylor’s inning-eating is no longer an option in the bullpen.  But let’s just cut right to the heart of 2012 for the Yard Cocks:  Michael Roth and Matt Price are the horses we plan to ride back to Nebraska. 

Good pitching beats good hitting is the old saying and the Garnet and Black faithful need that to be true like never before.  Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying the new position players won’t get it done.  They all seem very talented and maybe USC won’t miss a beat.  It’s just that we KNOW we are strong in the starting pitching rotation with these two guys toeing the rubber. 
Michael Roth
The new bats benefited last year’s Gamecock team in my opinion and I think that will be the case this year also.  Nobody was better at creating runs, small ball and air-tight defense than the Gamecocks in 2011.  I still go back and shake my head watching the miracles we performed in Omaha with Wingo and crew.  We need more of that in 2012 if there is a postseason run in the cards. 
When we do need to find some pop in the lineup, it is a luxury to be able to lean on an All-American in Christian Walker.  The guy played through what seemed like 400 broken bones last year and still produced when we needed it.  Also, based on what we’ve seen in the preseason from the new names like Joey Pankake and LB Dantzler, we should have enough offense to get the runs we need.  And let’s face it, we shouldn’t “need” that many if our senior starters are as good as we hope.   
That leaves the third leg of the tripod and the one causing the most anxiety, which is relief pitching of all stripes.  Carolina has a ton of good arms, but we are replacing in my opinion the best middle reliever and best closer in the nation from 2011.  John Taylor made 50 appearances and Matt Price’s shutting down of opponents scared and impressed everyone in the world except for Orel Hershiser.  At best, it will take a few weeks to get settled on who has what role in the new look bullpen.  
Ray Tanner

All in all, considering what the Gamecocks have accomplished the last two seasons, this is not a horrible set of question marks to face in 2012.  I think once we get our legs under us we’ll be fine, although the SEC is as brutal as ever.  As Coach Tanner likes to say, a five-game swing in the conference is the difference between 35-25 an 40-20.  Take our veterans, mix in the newcomers, and throw in just a pinch of chemistry and leadership and we’ll get our shot to defend those titles.  TRUST IN TANNER! 

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