Brandon Finnegan was an eighth-grader the last time the TCU baseball team beat Oklahoma.
Five years later, Finnegan, a freshman left-hander, will get the start on the mound for the Horned Frogs as they try to snap an eight-game losing streak to the Sooners tonight at Lupton Stadium.
Tough task? Maybe, but is there a TCU pitcher throwing better than Finnegan?
From a body-of-work standpoint, fellow freshman Preston Morrison has been the Frogs’ most consistent pitcher, beginning the season in the bullpen before transitioning to a starting role earlier this month. Morrison is 6-0 and has a 1.34 ERA, which is 10th-best in the country.
Finnegan, though, hasn’t given up a run in more than a month, throwing 15 straight scoreless innings, 9.2 in relief and 6.1 in a start against Texas A&M last week.
Since giving up six runs in 1.1 innings against New Mexico on March 25, Finnegan has lowered his ERA to 3.43.
So what’s changed?
From a straight statistical standpoint, it seems simple.
Through his start at New Mexico on March 25, Finnegan had given up 1.2 hits an inning (26). Since then, he’s cut that number down to just .73 hits an inning. His walk rate has risen slightly from .41 an inning to .66 an inning.
Less hits usually equates to less runs, right?
Sure, but Finnegan’s mid-season turnaround is a bit more complex than that. Finnegan’s biggest area of improvement since getting roughed up against the Lobos has been his ability to respond to adversity.
That’s where recovery rate comes into play, a simple way of measuring how a pitcher does after giving up a base runner.
For example, against Texas A&M last Tuesday, Finnegan had a recovery rate of 83.3 percent.
Translation: Of the six Aggie base-runners Finnegan allowed, five were followed by outs, giving Finnegan a recovery rate of 5-for-6.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Finnegan’s game-by-game recovery rates through March 25:
Ole Miss: 0-for-2
Cal State Fullerton: 1-for-2
Texas State: 5-for-6
Texas Tech: 4-for-7
New Mexico: 1-for-8
Recovery rate: 23-for-45 = 51 percent
Now, let’s look at his recovery rates since:
Air Force: 1-for-2
Texas A&M: 5-for-6
Recovery rate: 18-of-24 = 75 percent
As the numbers indicate, Finnegan is giving up fewer base-runners, but he’s also working better with runners on, increasing his recovery rate by almost 50 percent.
Every pitcher’s different, so it’s hard to calculate if a higher recovery rate would always translate to a lower ERA.
But for Finnegan, his ability to respond to giving up base-runners – whether they reach on walks, hits or errors – has paid dividends.
TCU (26-15) vs. Oklahoma (29-16)
When: Tonight, 6:30
Where: Lupton Stadium
Why it matters: TCU, going for its fourth straight win after sweeping Manhattan over the weekend, has lost eight in a row to the Sooners, a streak that dates back to 2007.
What to watch for: Oklahoma's Damien Magnifico is expected to make his fifth start of the season tonight. Magnifico, a sophomore from Mesquite, hit 100 mph or more 22 times in a start against Arkansas on April 10.