When the Big Ten announced the coaches’ all-conference selections Tuesday, a notable omission from the first team was the Buckeyes’ own senior reliever Seth Kinker.
By Andy Anders for Press Pros
Omaha, NE – Ohio State has asked senior reliever Seth Kinker to do everything out of the bullpen this season, and everything is exactly what he’s done.
The fiercely competitive righthander threw as many as 5.1 innings in games to notch wins and saved 13 contests for the Buckeyes in the regular season, pinning down an ERA of 1.62.
“He’s our go-to guy,” coach Greg Beals said.
That’s why when the Big Ten announced its all-conference teams Tuesday, it shocked many around the Ohio State baseball team when Minnesota freshman Max Meyer received the first team relief pitching spot instead of Kinker, who was named to the second team.
“The post-season honors went exactly the way I thought it would go outside of Kinker,” Beals said. “I’m obviously disappointed that Kinker’s not first-team all-conference.”
Kinker’s never been one to ponder for too long on individual honors, but even for him questions linger about the selection.
“It’s something I wonder, but I don’t talk about that stuff,” Kinker said. “He’s a freshman, I’m a senior, but it’s not about that stuff.”
Finding the lost treasure of the pirate Blackbeard would take less digging than what is required to discover a significant statistical edge for either Kinker or Meyer in this debate. Meyer saved one extra game and the pair’s ERAs are two points apart. Kinker boasts a far better record at 6-1 against Meyer’s 1-2, but Meyer’s astounding .147 opposing batting average is far below Kinker’s .218.
The relative air-tightness between the two statistically is part of what makes the nod to Meyer so bewildering, though, because Kinker’s relative value to the Ohio State pitching staff as the any-time go-to-guy seems immeasurable. He’s been the most reliable (above-mentioned 1.62 ERA) and most utilized (16 more innings than any other Buckeye reliever) member of Ohio State’s bullpen, called on whenever Beals thinks it’s time to shut it down, whether that be in the ninth inning or the sixth.
Meyer might be the closer for Minnesota’s bullpen, but it’s a committee that delivers the Gophers to that point. Hence over 20 fewer innings pitched. Kinker’s had to be his own set-up man on multiple occasions throughout the year, going at least three innings for either a win or a save against Big Ten foes Indiana, Illinois, Purdue and Penn State.
That ability to go out and deliver victory from any point sixth inning on in a ball game adds a Rollie Fingers or John Smoltz-like value to Kinker that one would think places him ahead of a statistically comparable closer on a list such as this.
Not being named first-team all-conference hurts Kinker’s chances for regional and national honors also. As Beals mentioned, when a regional or national voter sees a guy wasn’t voted first-team all-conference, that voter isn’t likely to select him for to an all-region or all-American team.
Beals and Kinker have different rationalizations why the righthander wasn’t selected. Neither put a ton of stock into it.
“Postseason honors are a popularity contest, basically,” Beals said.
One could certainly see why a Minnesota player could win such a popularity contest. The team is currently the only ranked squad from the Big Ten, and as Kinker later mentioned, success draws attention. The Golden Gophers are also covered extensively by a well-known regional newspaper in the Star-Tribune, aiding in the name recognition of its players across the Big Ten.
Kinker thinks the answer is much simpler.
“I think that he got me in saves by one and that was the difference maker,” he said.
However, as is always the case, he’s focused more on the team’s success.
“Individual awards is not the main objective in my mind. It’s performing for this team, it’s being here where we are right now,” Kinker said.
All said and done, Kinker is happy to have been awarded at all and credits his team.
“It’s an honor. It’s something for four years that you work towards,” he said. “There’s been so many plays made [when I’ve been] on the mound that have saved runs, that have stolen outs from other teams and I think that that’s the key to why my stats have been so well this year.”