ASWA balks on Mr. Baseball vote

Twenty home runs, a 94 mile per hour fastball and being named MVP of the Class 5A state championship series are a few of the achievements that helped lead to the Alabama Sports Writers Association naming Hartselle’s Luke Bole as Mr. Baseball.

Each of those facts are impressive, but when put in close comparison, the state’s top honor went to the wrong future Mississippi State Bulldog.

Some may think I’m writing as a homer, but we’ll let the stats do the talking.

Briarwood’s Ben Bracewell, who tops out at 92 mph, was 15-0 on the year with a 0.47 earned run average and 156 strikeouts in 90 innings pitched. He allowed six earned runs.

For the season, Bole was 11-4 on the mound with two shutouts, a 1.89 earned run average and 111 strikeouts in 88 and two-thirds innings. He allowed 24 earned runs.

Bracewell is the best pitcher, and the ASWA recognized that by naming him the Class 5A Pitcher of the Year. Some argue the difference is on offense. After all, Bole led the state with 20 home runs. Hartselle played 59 games. That means Bole hit a bomb every 2.95 games.

Bracewell hit 10 in 34 games. That’s one every 3.4 games — not much difference.

It must be the batting average, right? Nope. Bole hit .412, and Bracewell hit .411.

Bole does hold an edge in RBIs with 73 to Bracewell’s 42. However, check the averages again, and Bole has 1.237 a game, while Bracewell drove in 1.235 a game. So, where’s the difference?

The most common answer I’ve heard is, “Look at the competition.”

We could compare schedules all day and get nowhere, so why not cut to the chase and go head-to-head. If Bole and Bracewell are two of the best pitchers in the state, then what did each do offensively off the other?

In Game 1 of the Class 5A championship series, Bracewell struck out nine Hartselle hitters, including Bole twice. Bole allowed only one hit, which set up an RBI by Bracewell and the first run in a 2-0 Briarwood win. Meanwhile, Bole failed to reach base off Bracewell’s arm.

So, Alabama, who’s the real Mr. Baseball?

Outside the Lines is a weekly opinion column.