The Cape Cod Baseball League is now chugging right along. As it enters its second month, the Falmouth Commodores stand atop the Western Division with a 10-6 record, looking to repeat last year’s run to the championship game and end the longest title drought in the league. And while center fielder Jared King is leading the offense, right handed pitcher Craig Schlitter is unquestionably the team’s ace.
Schlitter, who hails from Guilford, Connecticut, just completed his sophomore year at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. This past season, he threw 73.1 innings, second most on the team, while striking out 55 and posting a strong 2.70 ERA. Schlitter called the Bulldogs a great up-and-coming baseball program; the school recently became a Division I school, and will complete the move next year, finally becoming eligible for the College World Series (among other things). And if Schlitter keeps pitching then like he has since he arrived in Falmouth, Bryant stands a good chance at a long run into the playoffs.
Some may recognize Craig Schlitter from my Opening Day piece, where he took the hard-luck loss despite registering a quality start. Since then, he’s only gotten better, going 3-0. Last night against Cotuit was his best outing yet, as he allowed three hits and two walks over five scoreless innings while striking out seven. The seven strikeouts gave him 21 for the year and moved him into a tie for fourth place, while the five shutout innings dropped his ERA to 1.42, good for fifth in the league. In addition, the performance kept his WHIP at 1.000 for the year. To top it all of, he nearly threw a perfect inning in the third; after striking out Cotuit center fielder Tony Kemp and designated hitter Raph Rhymes on three pitches each, he had third baseman Adam Nelubowich down 0-2 before getting him to fly out to center on the ninth pitch of the inning.
Even more impressive, though, is that opponents are hitting just .212/.274/.269 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) against him this season. For as good as that already sounds, it’s even better once you realize that offense has shot way up across the Cape. Indeed, the league average batting line is .261/.339/.399. To put that in context, when facing Schlitter, the league’s hitters have carried an OPS+ of roughly 48; they been 52% worse than average when forced to face him. On a similar note, Schlitter’s ERA+ is approximately 301, or 301% better than league average.
As a Connecticut native, Schlitter is a fan of the Yankees, but also idolizes Justin Verlander. This is his first year in the Cape League, and he called the experience “unbelievable”. He praised the league’s disciplined hitters and smart players (not that they’ve slowed him down much so far). He became a part of Falmouth’s organization when, after he scheduled an interview, his coach mentioned him to the team. They then decided to add him to their staff, a move which has paid huge dividends so far. In addition to his strong rate stats, he also leads the team in innings pitched with 19, and has performed like an ace.
Craig went undrafted out of high school, but that looks like it won’t be the case next year. With every dominant inning he throws, his stock should continue to rise. Look for him to go quickly in 2013.