Trying to evaluate the LSU offense is similar to describing a typical teenager’s face. Most of the time everything seems normal and fine, but like all of us experienced, a massive breakout would occur that we could not hide.
I remember my worst experience. A few days before I started the ninth grade, Mt. Everest decided to pop up on my face. There was nothing I could do about it. I avoided chocolates and other sweets, put every type of chemical on my face that I could put my hands on. I tried everything to fix it, except trying to go all MacGyver on it and the night before school started it just smiled right back at me. I was screwed, it didn’t matter how nice my new shoes were. When the ladies caught a glimpse of the extra three pounds staring back at them on the tip of my nose, it would be a long cold freshman year for this guy. But it didn’t work out like that, sure I got a couple of jokes from the guys, but that was it. I survived, and once the beast subsided I had an all-rookie performance my first year of high-school.
The point of this embarrassing story is to prove the point that anything is fixable. The LSU offense isn’t terrible, it just has some blemishes. Overall the team is batting .316 (24th in the NCAA) and has scored 177 runs in their first 16 games. That is an average of 11 runs a game. The problem is they have only scored 10 or more runs in six games. The offense has feasted against Alcorn St (19 runs), Air Force (10 runs), twice against McNeese St (11 and 19 runs), and Grambling St. (17 runs). Their other 10 outings they are averaging four runs a game. Making matters worse, in their three losses on the season LSU has scored a total of two runs.
The core of the LSU offense is performing well, but needs to improve. Raph Rhymes leads the team in hitting with a .460 batting average. Rhymes has 29 hits (team high) on the year to only two strikeouts and leads the team in RBIs (21). Rhymes had a nine game hitting streak that ended last Sunday. Mason Katz, who already was name college baseball’s offensive player of the week, is right behind Rhymes with a .393 batting average. Katz leads the team in extra base hits (11), runs scored (19), home runs (3) and has a .493 on-base percentage. Grant Dozar is forcing Paul Maineri to put him in the lineup more often. In only 28 at bats, Dozar is batting .357. Seven of his 10 hits are of the extra base variety and his slugging percentage is a team high .750 Tyler Hanover is batting .375, Ty Ross is at .362 and Austin Nola is at .314. After those four, the batting average falls off a cliff.
The rest of the major contributors are batting .233. The biggest zit has to be Jacoby Jones early in the season. Many of us had high hope that his second year would be a significant improvement over his freshman year, but it hasn’t. Jones is hitting .262, and has a weak .282 on-base percentage. He does lead the team in stolen bases with six, but the lack of reaching base keeps that number down. Casey Yocum, Jackson Slaid, Jarred Foster and Tyler Moore are other contributors that have failed to step up.
Lack of hitting, but what types of hits has also plaques the Tigers. On the season LSU has a total of 177 hits, but only 56 of those have resulted in doubles or better. That isn’t a problem if you have a fast team, but LSU hasn’t converted. The Tigers have only stolen 12 bases (six of those by Jones) and are converting just over half their hit and run attempts. To fully understand how top heavy and power-lacking the LSU offense is. Let’s all put on our nerd faces and take a look at some advanced metrics.
The first one we will look at is called “runs created”. This stat is calculated by the following formula: hits + walks x total bases/ at bats + walks. The point of any batter is not to get as many hits as possible, but how many runs can he generate from hitting or running the base path. So what this stat does is show how many runs each of the batters has or should have accounted for. Check out the chart below:
This stats shows us that only Katz and Rhymes are accounting for at least one run a game each, but is that the production LSU needs from the heart of the lineup? Even though most of these guys have actually accounted for more runs than the stat suggest. It takes playing a good or bad defense out of the equation, and LSU has feasted on bad defenses.
The other metric we will look at is one called ISO-power. ISO is derived by the following formula: total bases – hits/at bats. The point of this stat, like the stat above, is to show the players efficiency with their hits. For reference a .250 or above ISO is excellent, .145 is average and anything below a .100 is poor. Lets take a looks at the typical players who have batted 2-7 in the LSU lineup and see their how efficient they are at the play.
The player that jumps out to me is Raph Rhymes, who bats in the middle of the lineup most games. The deficiency in his game is he has totaled 34 total bases on 29 hits. Even though he leads the team in RBIs, the stat proves he is lacking power and could potentially increase his RBI/runs total. No need to just pick on Rhymes, besides Katz and Dozar, the rest of the Tigers heart of the lineup is very weak. Where is Tommy Moffit?
The lack of producing from the plate is what has cost LSU its three losses. Most fans want to hang two of the losses on pitcher Kurt McCune, but a pitcher needs more than one run in most cases from his offense to win. What we have learned from the early season is if LSU fails to score runs early, they typically struggle from the plate. When the Tigers are trailing going into the sixth inning, the lose. Heading into SEC play, this will need to improve.
The Truth is that LSU has thrived off of bad pitching and poor defense. In only a few games has the offense come out and won the game for LSU. The poor defense and pitching is about to go away as LSU enters SEC play. If the Tigers can’t get better production from the top of the lineup, then we can’t expect the meat of the order to produce. It doesn’t matter how strong of a pitching staff you have, if you can only average four runs a game. For LSU’s sake, let’s hope they can find the right blemishing cream to fight this zit.