Hawkeye baseball's Dermody struggling with command, run support

BY BEN SCHUFF | APRIL 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa pitching coach Chris Maliszewski praised starting pitcher Matt Dermody for his competitiveness on the mound.

But the Hawkeyes' record when Dermody starts suggests the team has been anything but competitive. Iowa was 7-7 in his starts a year ago, but is 1-7 so far this season when the left-hander toes the rubber.

"I can't say if he's pitched better or worse, or [if] he gets what he deserves," Maliszewski said. "All I can say is the facts are the facts. He's given us a chance in some of his outings, and we just haven't gotten it done."

Results and statistics from the games in which Dermody has pitched this year provide an array of possible explanations.

Whether those explanations shed light on poor pitching from Iowa's No. 2 starter or other aspects of the Iowa baseball team remains a question.

This is the second-straight year in which the junior has had a rough start to the season. He began 2011 with a 0-3 record in his first five trips to the mound. Dermody then won four-consecutive starts from the end of March through mid-April — the point at which he finds himself still struggling in 2012.

"Mechanically, Matt isn't a traditional guy in terms of being free and easy and having a fluid pitching motion," Maliszewski said about his 6-5, hard-throwing pitcher. "He's more a herky-jerky kind of guy, he has a lot of moving parts … Those pitchers that are 6-4, 6-5, 6-6, it takes them a little bit longer to get down and get their rhythm and timing and tempo going."

Perhaps that's one reason Dermody owns a personal mark of 1-4 so far. The native of Norwalk, Iowa, said he has "thrown it decently" but admitted he "definitely has things to work on, things to improve on."

His list includes better command of both his off-speed pitches and fastball. He recalled one at-bat against Nebraska on April 7 in which he had a batter down 0-2 but missed with his next offering. The pitch was a fastball, and the result was a RBI single.

Maliszewski said it was particularly important for Dermody to command his fastball, and that's the next step for the 2011 Big Ten strikeout leader.

"He's a guy that pitches in the zone," Iowa's fourth-year pitching coach said. "Now, we just need him to be in the strike zone with a little bit more fine-tuning and command … There's a big difference between a strike-thrower and a quality strike-thrower.

"If he can command his fastball on both sides of the plate, he's going to be successful."

Some statistics indicate his occasional command problems are the main reason for a record that leaves much to be desired. Dermody's 16 walks are most among Iowa's starters, and his 41 innings pitched are fewest among the group.

But other stats portray Dermody as a victim of bad luck. His 3.71 ERA in Big Ten play is the lowest on the Hawkeye pitching staff, but he is the only Iowa starter with a losing record in conference games (1-2).

He has also received paltry run support. Iowa's offense scores nearly 3 more runs per game when Jarred Hippen (5.6) or Sasha Kuebel (5.7) start than when Dermody does (2.9).

Despite those numbers, Dermody and Maliszewski both shied away from critiquing Iowa's offense.
"It would be a waste of my time to worry about what the hitters are doing," Dermody said. "I just focus on my job and try to keep the other team from scoring."

Dermody threw an inning of relief on April 10 because the second game of a scheduled double-header was rained out. He set down the side while striking out one batter in that game, and manager Jack Dahm said he felt that performance may be a turning point in Dermody's season.

"If he throws the ball like he did in that one inning on Saturday, watch out," Dahm said. "That was a sharp as I've seen him since the middle of last year."

Follow DI baseball reporter Ben Schuff on Twitter.

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