Wanted: The Ace

There’s something about the end of the year sit-down discussion with media that helps coaches loosen up.

Not all coaches like them, and we don’t always have these sessions.

But Mike Bianco is pretty good about being available for them unless he has a conflict and seems to relish the chance to talk about the good, bad and ugly and offer his take on what led to each result.

Yesterday when he discussed some of the 2015 team’s shortcomings he focused on pitching more than hitting.

Hitting was indeed better at the end of the season, though not the very end.

I’ve hammered home the idea of lack of pitching depth. It wasn’t only about injuries and Sam Smith pitching at less than full strength. There was a clear line between guys who could get outs and guys who struggled to do that.

It showed up in weekend games when the top bullpen arms had already been used or were being saved.

It started on opening weekend when the Rebels lost 8-1 to William and Mary. The Tribe eliminated the Rebels from the Raleigh Regional in 2013, but this wasn’t that team. W and M finished 22-30, 10-14 in the Colonial Conference.

Ole Miss allowed 13 or more runs five times, losing each game of course. The Rebels gave up 10 runs in a win over Mississippi State.

The stat Bianco used to define the line ERA. A third of the Rebels’ innings were pitched by players with an ERA of 6.00 or higher.

It’s not surprising that the incoming recruiting class has 13 pitchers. Look for different names in key roles next year.

What Bianco hopes to find either in a newcomer or the further development of his top two starters, both of whom could return, is a staff ace.

He describes an ace as a guy who approaches double-digit wins.

Christian Trent, this year’s Friday night starter, and Brady Bramlett both had 3.74 ERAs at the end of the year.

That’s not terrible, but the “ace” is going to have an ERA under 2.50 most of the time.

If your starter is about 3.74 you better have an explosive offense.

Trent went 7-7 this year, Bramlett 7-4.

Ole Miss was not explosive on offense. At times these guys pitched well enough to win, but a win was not the result.

There’s plenty of room for improvement on offense from a team that hit .265.

The MLB draft is next week, and Trent and Bramlett are both eligible. We’ll see where that leads, but is possible both could be back next season.

That would be a great start for the Rebels as they try to get back into the host conversation.

In the meantime, whether from old names or new, Bianco will look for the ace.

From the Mother Ship, Bianco wants an ace.

Denham Springs, La., native, Mississippian since 1989 with a stop in Meridian before arriving in Tupelo. Daily Journal beat writer since 1996, covering Ole Miss since 2002. Proud Northeast Louisiana alum. Follow me on Twitter @parrishalford and listen to John Davis and myself daily with The Ole Miss Beat on Rebel Sports Radio.

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