The Tigers dropped their first SEC series of the year last weekend at Auburn, two games to one. On Friday night, LSU had a chance to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth, but Arby Fields was “thrown out” at the plate. LSU had chances to win the game in the ninth and tenth, but two inning-killing double plays eliminated their chances to win on Saturday. The Tigers had better luck on Sunday rallying to win the game 4-3.
The series loss set LSU’s SEC record to 3-3, two games out of first place in the SEC west. The Tigers have lived and died in one run games. So far this year 37 SEC head to head games have been played, 14 of them have finished in a one run score differential, LSU played in five of those. Only one of LSU’s SEC games have ended with a score differential of more than one, Mississippi State 7-1 and that game was won by State due to a shaky five-run first inning allowed by Aaron Nola. If you take that inning out, LSU’s score different is zero (17-17).
Without question LSU has been competitive in every SEC game to date, but it is easy for the average fan to notice the struggles the Tiger’s offense has in producing runs. When previewing the Auburn series, I wrote that if LSU could score a minimum of four runs in each game they would win. Well they didn’t, and they lost. LSU’s batting average has dropped off tremendously since SEC play began. Prior to the Mississippi State series LSU was batting .313, but following the Auburn series, LSU is only batting .294. Let me break out the first chart breaking down the overall hitting in the Tigers first two SEC series.
|AUB||MSU||Total||SEC BA||OVR BA||K||BB||ExBH||TB||RC||ISOP|
Just like you thought, the hitting isn’t good. The weird thing is LSU hit worse in their series win over Mississippi State, than they did against Auburn. Looking at the stats you see the Tigers are struggling with plate discipline. LSU has 48 hits in their six games, but has struck out 37 times. The 37 strike outs is a weighted stat when you consider 17 of those strikeouts came in just one game, but still the numbers do not lie. Even when LSU is making contact, they are only playing station-to-station baseball. Only nine of LSU’s 48 hits were for extra-bases. When you only have a ISO-power average of .061, you are putting more pressure on the entire lineup to be able to consistently hit/reach base against SEC defenses and putting your pitching staff in a near “no win” situation.
It isn’t as if the entire lineup isn’t hitting, it just seems like maybe a shake up in the lineup could help put more productive bats in more efficient spots. Look at Raph Rhyme’s numbers. He is actually hitting better in SEC play (.500 batting average in SEC play compared to an overall average of .475). In his 20 official plate appearances, he has recorded 10 hits and has walked five times. That is an impressive on-base percentage of .750. Due to his high on base percentage, Rhymes has a runs created average of 7.5 in SEC play. The problem with Rhymes is that he is batting clean-up for the Tigers and his approach at the plate is more like a lead-off hitter. In 12 plate appearances with runners on base, he was come through with six hits, but they are all singles. In fact, all of Rhymes’ base hits are all singles, not what you want from your number four hitter.
For every problem there needs to be a solution. The quickest solution for LSU’s hitting woes would be to drop Jacoby Jones from the lead-off spot into the middle of the lineup. Jones has had a rough start to the season only batting .272 on the season, but has stepped up with play in recent weeks. Jones is looking more comfortable at the plate and that is turning into more power. Jones hit a solo home run on Friday night to tie the Auburn game at 3-3 and has recorded the game winning hit in two of the three Tiger’s SEC wins. Jones doesn’t have the highest batting average on or on-base percentage, but his ISO-power and runs created are more common of a power hitter than a lead-off.
The individual move will not fix the Tiger’s hitting woes, I didn’t even cover the bottom of the line-up, but a quick shift in the line-up of productive hitters could be the difference is scoring two runs or four in a given game. And that is the goal.
Check back for more statistical analyst on LSU baseball this week.