‘WHIP’ It Good
There are a lot of numbers that define Dave Manasek’s path to being named the Times-Tribune Baseball Player of the Year for 2014.
All of the facts are impressive standing on their own, but the Abington Heights senior combined them all to take the prestigious honor over a slew of worthy candidates.
“It feels super,” Manasek said. “It was a good year for the whole area, a lot of kids had good years, Max [Kranick, of Valley View], Dave Lopatka [of Dunmore\, Collin Ferguson [of Valley View]. With all that talent in the area, it’s a pretty good feeling.”
Manasek, who signed to attend Fordham in the fall, clearly belonged in that group, even before he took to the mound for his senior season.
Among all the numbers the Times-Tribune compiled in the senior’s capsule, Manasek said his WHIP, which is walks and hits allowed divided by innings pitched, of .735 was his favorite statistic.
“Last year, I walked more batters than I wanted to,” Manasek said. “I focused on my control and getting on top of the count and it all worked out pretty well.”
That took a lot of determination and work in the off-season, all in the hopes of getting better at getting ahead in the count. He would simulate games and situations and worked on his locating his fastball on certain counts.
“He was more consistent this year,” Comets baseball coach Bill Zalewski said. “He threw more strikes and put up unbelievable numbers.”
Here’s what Manasek and Zalewski thought about some of the other numbers the pitcher accumulated to go along with his WHIP:
7-0 pitching record for the Comets
Going undefeated is rare, even for a top-flight hurler, because the odds of a pitcher having command of all of his pitches every time out are against him.
“Last year I went 6-4 and lost a lot of close games,” Manasek said. “I wanted to go out and have a better year, and going 7-0 against the schedule we play was pretty good.”
0.28 earned run average
“It’s good. We had a lot of close games, and I knew I had a good defense behind me,” Manasek said.
The low ERA is a credit to Manasek’s ability to be effective, even when the opposition actually got a runner on base. Often, a pitcher’s attention on throwing strikes is reduced with runners on, but the senior kept those base runners from
“One earned run all season, I think,” Zalewski said. “Dave takes the ball, ready for the big game. His confidence grew this year.”
72 strikeouts, 13 walks in 50.1 innings
Having a variety of pitches that he could count on reliably made Manasek’s season go much better.
“[My best pitch] was a sidearm slider,” Manasek said. “I learned it last year and, this year, my break got a lot sharper. It worked pretty well.”
Coupled with his fastball and changeup, Manasek had a wide arsenal of pitches and used them wisely, as the numbers clearly show.
“Not a lot of guys can come over the top and go sidearm,” Manasek said. “It gave me a nice change of angle.”
That made it harder for opposing batters to know what to expect from him.
“When he dropped his arm down, it made it harder for right-handed batters to hang in,” Zalewski said. “It makes the batter think the ball is coming right at him.”
Anything a pitcher can do to cloud a hitter’s mind is great for the pitcher and Manasek proved that this season.
Postseason dominance: 22 strikeouts, 4 walks, 1 earned run in 18.1 innings
“We just want to get better going into the playoffs,” Manasek said. “During the regular season, we’re just trying to get better game by game. In the playoffs, it’s like we’re a different team. It worked last year and it worked this year. We just played some solid baseball.”
The Comets, as they did in 2013, captured the District 2 Class AAA title while not being the top seed. It seemed without the pressure of being top-seeded, Abington Heights just focused on playing well.
Manasek took that attitude to the mound this season, knowing his future was set by deciding on Fordham in 2013.
“I didn’t have to worry about impressing anyone,” Manasek said. “It felt great to just be able to go out and play baseball and have fun. That made it much easier.”
“It makes it easier when the future is decided,” Zalewski added. “The pressure is off, and kids are able to enjoy the moment a little more.”
It all added up to a successful season, for both the Comets and Manasek.