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Without Clarke Schmidt, South Carolina has no ace

South Carolina will have to replace an elite Friday starter

Clarke Schmidt

It was announced Tuesday morning the South Carolina Gamecocks will have to play the remainder of their season without junior ace Clarke Schmidt, the preseason All-American who’s been a regular starter since 2015.

Schmidt’s injury comes at the worst possible time for the Gamecocks. South Carolina is in the midst of an SEC slump — 4-8 in their last 12 conference games. It’s been the roughest stretch of conference play since 2015 when the Gamecocks missed the tournament for the first time since 1999.

The starting pitching has been the only thing keeping South Carolina in these games to begin with. Schmidt, along with Adam Hill and Will Crowe, have been a nice three man rotation this year. Unfortunately for them, the offense and the bullpen haven’t been able to keep up their end of the bargain.

South Carolina’s offense ranks 11th in the SEC in OPS (.752) and 10th in runs per game (5.2). Over the last 12 games the bullpen has a 4.18 ERA and have given up four home runs. The starters certainly haven’t been the problem, but without Schmidt the starting pitching could evolve into yet another issue.

Without sparing any details, Schmidt is the best starter South Carolina has. He’s an elite Friday starter and there’s no one left on South Carolina’s staff who can replace his production. It sounds dramatic, but just take a look at the stats of all three starters, Cody Morris and Josh Reagan.

Gamecock pitching by the metrics

Clark Schmidt 60.33 1.34 0.98 0.274 2.32 28.69% 7.38%
Adam Hill 49.66 2.36 1.23 0.315 3.36 28.22% 12.38%
Will Crowe 63.66 3.25 1.21 0.287 2.96 21.07% 6.79%
Cody Morris 21 3.43 1.00 0.279 2.96 30.34% 4.49%
Josh Reagan 35 2.83 1.11 0.292 3.87 23.61% 6.94%
If you’re unfamiliar with any of those stats in the graph, click here to browse through the FanGraphs glossary.

After reading the chart it becomes painfully clear what South Carolina will miss now that Schmidt is done this season. Schmidt is in an elite percentile in ERA, WHIP, OBP, FIP and K% among college pitchers. It’s not a ridiculous statement to say Schmidt is one of the ten best starters in all of college baseball, but if you’re skeptical you can always match up his stats with the rest of the NCAA’s here.

No one on South Carolina’s staff has been able to match Schmidt in terms of production. Hill has the stuff to be a No. 1 starter, but his control has regressed from last season. He’s allowed too many base runners this season and has had the benefit of a good infield to wrap up his ground balls.

Crowe is a good No. 2, but allows too many runs to try and match up with the No. 1’s he’ll see against LSU and Kentucky. One would assume Cody Morris would move into the starting rotation, but the freshman might be in over his head on Friday’s even though he’s had a nice rookie year.

Reagan has been a starter before with little success, but in desperate times it’s possible he’ll have to absorb some starts. Graham Lawson, John Parke, Sawyer Bridges and Brandon Murray have been too inconsistent in their starts to try and work in during this crucial stretch of the season.

However, South Carolina still has to worry about their struggling bullpen and stale offense on top of who’ll fill in for Schmidt on Fridays. The Gamecocks need someone to blossom quickly and as of right now it may be Morris, but South Carolina has more questions about their team than they do answers.